Friday, October 18, 2019

I wearied myself searching for the friend

I wearied myself searching for the friend
With efforts beyond my strength
I came to the door
And saw how powerfully the locks were bolted
And the longing in me became that strong
And then I saw that I was gazing from within the presence
Only after that waiting and giving up all trying
Did Lalla flow out from where I knelt

Gently I weep for my mind,
caught in its illusion of ownership.
Mind,  you're not who you think you are.
You're dancing over a pit.
Soon you'll fall through,
And these things,  you've valued
And collected will be left behind.

~ Lalla

I began as a bloom of cotton

I began as a bloom of cotton,
outdoors.  Then they brought me to a room
where they washed me.  Then the hard strokes
of the carder's wife.  Then another woman
spun thin threads, twisting me
around her wheel.  Then the kicks
of the weaver's loom made cloth, 
and on the washing stone, washermen
wet and slung me about
to their satisfaction, whitened me
with earth and bone,
and cleaned me to my own 
amazement.  Then the scissors
of the tailor, piece by piece,
and his careful finishing work.

Now, at last, as clothes,
I find You and freedom.
This living is so difficult
before one takes your hand.

from Naked Song

nothing pouring into Nothing

With repeated meditation practice
the expanse of the visible universe
with all its qualities dissolves
to nothing, to where there is 
only health and great joy.

All teaching comes to this.


With passionate practices
I held the reins secure on my mind
and made breath one column.

Then the new moon's clear 
nectar descended into me,
nothing pouring into Nothing.


When will my shame fall away?
When will I accept being mocked
and let my robe of dignity burn up?

When the wandering pony inside
comes calm to my hand.


It is God who yawns and sneezes
and coughs, and now laughs.

Look, it's God doing ablutions!
God deciding to fast, God going naked
from one New Year's Eve to the next.

Will you ever understand 
how near God is
to you?

~ Lalla
from Naked Song
translations by Coleman Barks

Lalla described herself as "a somewhat something moving dreamlike on a fading road."

vanished into wonder

What is, simply is,
And "I" am nowhere to be found.

Far from the village,
Road vanished into path,
Path vanished into hillside,
Hillside vanished into Vastness,
The Known vanished into Wonder,


~ Jnaneshwar
the 13th Century Indian

a 13th century saint who, although he lived only twenty-two years, left a profound impact on Hindu spirituality. In Jnaneshwar's writings, Shiva is the formless, unmanifest Absolute, and Shakti is manifest form. Shiva is "That", and Shakti is "This" – all that arises in and as That. But the most precious gift of Jnaneshwar is his communication in words of the inexpressible truth that Shiva and Shakti are One. Shakti is merely Shiva – unmanifest, objectless, unmoving – moving into and as form. Jnaneshwar brilliantly communicates this inexpressible truth through verse, in which "He" is Shiva, and "She" is Shakti.

commentary by Chuck Surface

Thursday, October 17, 2019



"Almost the twenty-first century" -
how quickly the thought will grow dated,
even quaint.

Our hopes, our future,
will pass like the hopes and futures of others.

And all our anxieties and terrors,
nights of sleeplessness,
will appear then as they truly are -

Stumbling, delirious bees in the tea scent of jasmine.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from The Lives of the Heart

a tree within

A tree grew inside my head.
A tree grew in.
Its roots are veins,
its branches nerves,
thoughts its tangles foliage.

Day breaks
in the body’s night.
There, within, inside my head,
the tree speaks.
Come closer—can you hear it?

~ Octavio Paz
translation by Eliot Weinberger
art by Leticia Alaniz

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

the story of moths

One night, moths, who were driven by desire,
Met together to discuss their obsession
To see if it was one and the same.  They enquired:
'How can we know?'  Truth was their possession,
They thought, and sent forth one of their number to bring
Any information he could to feed their yearning.
He fluttered to and fro between the curtains of night
Till he spied a candle spluttering in a castle tower,
Then he reported back the wonder he saw on his flight.
But one amongst his friends whose knowledge gave him power
Said this messenger understood nothing at all about the candle.
So another moth was sent, he saw and touched the flame
With the tip of his wing, but his report had no handle
On the truth since the heat drove him off, he had no claim.
A third went forth, was so intoxicated with love 
He threw himself on the fire and was consumed.
The wise moth seeing how the flame fitted like a glove
The moth's glowing body, said when he resumed
His place amongst his peers: 'That moth now knows
What he can never utter nor any language ever disclose.'

~ Farid ud-Din Attar
from The Conference of the Birds

annihilate separation

How long can the moth flirt
near the mouth of the flame before their lips touch
and the moth’s soul
becomes like
a sun.

And does the moth then die? No.
In serving God one is transformed into Him.

What lovers would return to us,
what lovers would not unite beyond belief and annihilate
their separation forever if they
had the power
to do so?

That power our Lord has. How long do you think
you can just flirt with Him before you
dissolve in ecstasy?

Existence spins on His potter’s wheel;
all is being shaped into the Divine.

What lovers would
not want to die

~ Meister Eckhart

associative leaps in poetry

excerpts from the essay entitled
so much happens when no one is watching 

by Daniel Deardorff

There are three things involved in making a associative leap:
a place to leap from, 
a place to leap to,
and most importantly, that space which is in-between.

Bly suggests that the in-between , the liminal space of the leap, provides a mysterious kind of content.  Bly calls our attention to the many things that happen "when no one is watching."  Pointing toward that which must remain outside our conscious awareness is like Lao Tzu saying that "knowing with not-knowing is best."  Connecting "what happens when no one is watching" to the emphasis on associativity, we notice a similar invitation to consider the unconscious space behind the associative image.  There is a great distance, swiftly traversed, between the philosopher and the predator in the line: "Plato wrote by the light from sharks' teeth."

One key to entering the vast spaces in Bly's thought in understanding is something I've called "associative alacrity" - the adroit capacity to form unexpected correlations,  In the modern world this capacity has been so repressed that it's hard to work out any sense of it.   In Norse mythology there is an ash tree that connects many worlds.  This "World Tree," called Yggdrasil, presents a complex image that works like this: at the top is the solar bird, the great eagle; at the bottom is the old lunar serpent.  The third thing, which connects this opposition, is something much less grand, a squirrel.  Leaping from branch to root, the acrobat squirrel carries messages between the extremities.  The furry mammal presents the limbic capacity to bridge the contradictions without reconciliation.  The squirrel is the embodiment of the leaping consciousness.

Leaping in this manner, the poems of Robert Bly refuse to turn away from Heaven, and at once, stubbornly refuse to renounce the earthly life.  "In a great ancient or modern poem, the considerable distance between the associations, the distance the spark has to leap, gives the lines their bottomless feeling, their space."  The relationships formed by these leaps are not linear - they are not stops along some rational railway, or some predictable system of linked facts - they are images or feelings related by something inexplicable and mysterious.  In this kind of association the distance, the interval or the leap, provides verticality and depth, a kind of bottomless content which functions as what Lawrence Hatab called "mythic disclosure": it does not explain things but "presents an intelligible picture of the lived world and the form of human involvement with the lived world."

In ancient times, in the "time of inspiration." the poet flew from
one world to another, "riding on dragons," as the Chinese said. 
Isaiah rode on those dragons, so did Li Po and Pindar.  They
dragged behind them long tails of dragon smoke.  Some of that 
dragon smoke still boils out of Beowulf. ...This dragon smoke 
means that a leap has taken place in the poem.

The associative paths... allow us to leap from one part of the brain
to another and lay out their contraries.  Moreover it's possible that
what we call "mythology" deals precisely with these abrupt juxtapositions...
using what Joseph Campbell called "mythological thinking," 
it moves the energy along a spectrum - either up or down. 
It can awaken the "lost music," walk on the sea, cross the 
river from instinct to spirit.

It is in the interval of the leap that "so much happens when no one is watching" and this is related to Richard Schechner's idea that certain rituals require "selective inattention."  He says: "Selective inattention allows patterns of the whole to be visible, patterns that otherwise would be burned out of the consciousness by a too intense concentration.

this essay is part of a collection in the book
Robert Bly - In This World

Driving Toward the Lac Qui Parle River

I am driving; it is dusk; Minnesota.
The stubble field catches the last growth of sun.
The soybeans are breathing on all sides.
Old men are sitting before their houses on car seats
In the small towns. I am happy,
The moon rising above the turkey sheds.

The small world of the car
Plunges through the deep fields of the night,
On the road from Willmar to Milan.
This solitude covered with iron
Moves through the fields of night
Penetrated by the noise of crickets.

Nearly to Milan, suddenly a small bridge,
And water kneeling in the moonlight.
In small towns the houses are built right on the ground;
The lamplight falls on all fours on the grass.
When I reach the river, the full moon covers it.
A few people are talking, low, in a boat.

~ Robert Bly

wherelings whenlings

wherelings whenlings
(daughters of if but offspring of hopefear
sons of unless and children of almost)
never shall guess the dimension of

him whose
foot likes the
here of this earth

whose both
this now of the sky

- endlings of isn’t
shall never
to begin to

imagine how(only are shall be were
dawn dark rain snow rain
- bow;

’s whis-
in sunset

or thrushes toward dusk among whippoorwills or
tree field rock hollyhock forest brook chikadee
mountain. Mountain)
whycoloured worlds of because do

not stand against yes which is built by
forever; sunsmell
(sometimes a wonder
of wild roses

with north
the barn

~ e.e. cummings

where names are not needed

You come fresh from the place where names are not needed.
In that place there's a blissful secret most of us can no
longer remember. We have forgotten. But soon you
will start to learn words. You will learn to say what you
feel and want, and with that saying you too will forget
what is so natural to you now. Or perhaps you will be
lucky, and a current of the bliss you came from will
continue to stream through your heart...remembering
the beauty of your origin.

.....each of us is unique, and each of us has to find
our own way. I suppose it's only natural that I
should want to give you some advice...

Know you are safe...
Everything is all right forever.
We are made out of light.
One day you may doubt it -
that's part of the drama...
Just remember - you are safe...

Walk in the open air.
Spend as much time as you can
in nature, in places that humans
have not built on and paved over.
The natural world will teach you,
heal you, and replenish your soul
with its beauty. It is, like you are now,
fresh from the generosity of the

Be interested in everything.
Be a generalist.
Be curious and amazed by things.
Listen to others.
Welcome new ways of seeing, but
always think for yourself.

Follow your love.
Do what you love.
Love what you love.
I'm not talking simply
about love that's affection
or passion - but love that
continually moves to heal...

Little one, you are about to start
a great adventure.
Follow your love.
Be interested in everything.
Walk in the open air.
Know you are safe.

~ Elias Amidon

with thanks to Mystic Meandering
 art: 99 names of Allah

Monday, October 14, 2019

make a fish unfish

There seem to two kinds of searchers: those who seek to make their ego something 
other than it is, i.e. holy, happy, unselfish (as though you could make a fish unfish), 
and those who understand that all such attempts are just gesticulation and 
play-acting, that there is only one thing that can be done, which is to dis-identify 
themselves with the ego, by realizing its unreality, and by becoming aware of their 
eternal identity with pure being. 

~ Wei Wu Wei 


The world is not in need of improvement.  Stated another way, the world is not the problem...
When we detach from the thinking mind, perceiving senses, doing body, happy/unhappy person we regain right view.  In that, all is well. 

You have been trained since infancy to direct your attention to what is temporary. Had anyone before revealed the Permanent to you, there would be no need to sit with Wu Hsin. 

Most people don’t sit because they are afraid of what is revealed. 

The individuals fear that they will lose their individuality, their identity. One could say that the love of Being is not yet greater than the love of being somebody … or it could be said that the fear of the not yet known is far greater than the distaste for the known. 

Either way, “I’ll pay any price” is suddenly shown to be a hollow offer.

When you become clear that you are not this body, but that it is your instrument, then worries about death dissolve. 

In essence, death dies.

~ Wu Hsin
from  the introduction to Behind the Mind: 
A Short Discourse with Wu Hsin

who looks

All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that,
and I intend to end up there.

This drunkenness began in some other tavern.
When I get back around to that place,
I'll be completely sober. Meanwhile,
I'm like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary.
The day is coming when I fly off,
but who is it now in my ear who hears my voice?
Who says words with my mouth?

Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul? 
I cannot stop asking.
If I could taste one sip of an answer,
I could break out of this prison for drunks.
I didn't come here of my own accord, and I can't leave that way.
Whoever brought me here, will have to take me home.

This poetry. I never know what I'm going to say.
I don't plan it.
When I'm outside the saying of it,
I get very quiet and rarely speak at all.

~ Rumi
translation by Coleman Barks


pocket of fog

In the yard next door,
a pocket of fog like a small heard of bison
swallows azaleas, koi pond, the red-and-gold koi.

To be undivided must mean not knowing you are.

The fog grazes here, then there,
all morning browsing the shallows,
leaving no footprint between my fate and the mountain's.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from After

Sunday, October 13, 2019

letting go of control

Letting go of control is a deeper relaxation, a floating on the ocean.  
You can become aware of where you are holding on,
 and you can just let go and allow the ocean to hold you.  
You can become aware that all your tension and clinging are unnecessary,
 and then relax and let yourself be supported.  
In this same way you can become aware of all the mental 
and emotional energy that gets exerted in holding on to a particular story,
 and you can just let it all go. 
 There is a deeper intelligence than the one you use to control, 
and it is present to be recognized in all lives, at all moments.

~ Gangaji
from: the Diamond in your Pocket

Monday, October 7, 2019

the eye begins to see

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood -
A lord of nature weeping to a tree.
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.
What's madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance?  The day's on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall.
That place among the rocks - is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.

A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is --
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.

~ Theodore Roethke
from In a Dark Time,
The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke
with thanks to Poetry Chaikhana

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

my secret

J. Krishnamurti, the great Indian philosopher and spiritual teacher, 
spoke and traveled almost continually all over the world
 for more than fifty years attempting to convey through words
…that which is beyond words. 

At one of his talks in the later part of his life, he surprised his audience by asking,
 “Do you want to know my secret?”

Everyone became very alert. 
Many people in the audience had been coming to listen to him for twenty or thirty years and still failed to grasp the essence of his teaching. Finally, after all these years, the master would give them the key to understanding.

“This is my secret,” he said.

 “I don’t mind what happens.”

~ from Eckhart Tolle's
A New Earth – Awakening to your Life’s Purpose


Your mind is an instrument, a tool. 
It is there to be used for a specific task, 
and when the task is completed, you lay it down. 

As it is, I would say about 80 to 90 percent 
of most people's thinking is not only repetitive and useless, 
but because of its dysfunctional and often negative nature, 
much of it is also harmful.
Observe your mind and you will find this to be true. 
It causes a serious leakage of vital energy.

~ Eckhart Tolle
art by van gogh

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Articulation: An Assay

A good argument, etymology instructs,
is many-jointed.
By this measure,
the most expressive of beings must be the giraffe.

Yet the speaking tongue is supple,
untroubled by bone.

What would it be 
to take up no position,
to lie on this earth at rest, relieved of proof or change?

Scent of thyme or grass
amid the scent of many herbs and grasses.

Grief unresisted as granite darkened by rain.

Continuous praises most glad, placed against nothing.

But thought is hinge and swerve, is winch,
is folding.

we call the mountain in the lake,
whose existence resides in neither stone nor water.

~ Jane Hirshfield

the heart as origami

Each one has its shape.
For love, two sleeping ducks.
For selfless courage, the war-horse.
For fear of death, the daylily's one-day flower.
More and more creased each year, worn paper thin,
and still it longs for them all.
Not one of the lives of this world the heart does not choose.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from The October Palace

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The "mystery of things"

The "mystery of things" - where is it found?
Where is it, that it does not appear
At least long enough for us to see
It is a mystery?
What does the river, what does the tree
Know about it?
And, I who know no more about it than they,
What do I know about it?
Whenever I look at things and think
What men think about them,
I laugh like a stream
Falling with a cool sound
Over the stones.
For the only hidden meaning things have
Is that they have no hidden meaning.
Stranger than all that is strange,
Than poets' dreams and philosophical ideas
Is this: things are actually
Just what they appear to be
And there is nothing about them to understand.
Yes, here is what my senses learned
All by themselves:
Things do not have meanings: they have existence.
Things are the only hidden meanings of things.

~ Thomas Merton
Poems from The Keeper of the Flocks,11


Knowledge always deceives.
It always limits the Truth, every concept and image does.

From cage to cage the caravan moves,
but I give thanks,
for at each divine juncture
my wings expand
and I

touch Him more

~ Meister Eckhart

every day

Every day
I see or hear
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for -
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world -
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant - 
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these -
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean's shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

~ Mary Oliver
(Why I Wake Early)

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

in this state of prayer

So let's get on with it, my friends!
Let's do the work quickly and spin the silken cocoon,
relinquishing our self-centeredness and personal willfulness
and giving up our attachment to worldly things.
Let's practice humility, prayer, purification, surrender, 
and all the other good works we're familiar with.  
We have learned exactly what to do. Let's do it!
Let it die. Let the silkworm die. This is the natural outcome 
once it has done what it was created to do. 
Then we will see God and see ourselves nestled inside his greatness 
like the silkworm in her cocoon.
Remember that when I say we "see God," I mean in the sense
in which he allows himself to be seen in this kind of union.

Everything I've been saying leads up to what becomes of the silkworm.
The soul in this state of prayer dies to the world and emerges a little white butterfly.
Oh, the greatness of God!
How magnificent that the soul, having been hidden in the greatness of God
and so closely joined with him, is so transformed.
This union, I believe, is very short. 
I don't think it ever lasts longer than a half an hour.
I'm telling you: the soul doesn't recognize herself anymore.
Think of the difference between an unsightly worm and a white butterfly.
That's how different the soul is after her transformation of union.

The soul cannot imagine how she could deserve such a blessing.
She finds herself overflowing with a desire to praise the Lord.
She longs for annihilation.  She would gladly die a thousand
deaths for him.
She is completely willing to suffer any trials presented to her.
Her desire for renunciation and solitude grows deeper.
All she wishes is that every sentient being could know God.
It torments her to see her Beloved dishonored in any way. 

~ Saint Teresa of Avila
from The Interior Castle
translation by Mirabai Starr


alone and not alone, we lived and died

Harlan and Anna Hubbard

Harlan:  And so we named a day - remember? -  and a certain train that you would be on if you wanted to marry me,
Anna:  and that you would be on if you wanted to marry me,
Both:  and both of us were on that train!
Anna:  And then,  Harlan,  we did drift away
Harlan:  on a little boat we built ourselves, that contained hardly more than our music, our stove, our table, and our bed
Anna:  in which we slept - and did not sleep -
Harlan:  my birthplace into our new life!
Anna: For a long time we had no home but that little boat and one another
Harlan:  and the music that we sent forth over the water and into the woods.
Anna:  And then we came here to this hollow and built a house and made a garden
Harlan:  and gave our life a standing place and worked and played and lived and died
Anna:  and were alone and were not alone.
Harlan:  Alone and not alone, we lived and died, and after your death I lived on alone, yet not alone, for in my thoughts I never ceased to speak with you.  I knew then that half my music was hidden away in another world.  The music I had heard, so distant,  had been the music you and I had played - the music of something almost whole that you and I had made;  it made one thing of food and hunger, work and rest, day and night.  It made one thing of loneliness and love.  That music seemed another world to me,  and far away,  because I could play only half, not all.
Anna:  And half the life that you so longed to live - was mine?
Harlan:  Was yours.  Without you, I could not live the life we lived,  which I then missed and longed for,  even in my perfect solitude.
Anna:  You will forgive, I hope, my pleasure in the thought of you alone, playing half a duet - for also it saddens me.
Harlan:  You would have laughed,  Anna, to hear how badly I played alone,  without your strong art to carry me.  My perfect music then was made by crickets and katydids and frogs.  I heard too the creek always coming down,  allegro furioso after storms,  and of course the birds - the wood thrush, whose song in summer twilight renews the world, and in all seasons the wren.  But those unceasing voices in the dark were the ones that sang for me, and I was thankful for the loneliness that had brought us two together out of all the time we were apart.

~ Wendell Berry
from 'Sonata at Payne Hollow'