Tuesday, April 30, 2019

tired of judging

Written in my hut on a snowy evening

Reflecting over seventy years,
I am tired of judging right from wrong.
Faint traces of a path trodden in deep night snow.
A stick of incense under the rickety window.

~ Ryokan
from Sky Above, Great Wind: The life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan
by Kazuaki Tanahashi


being without there being a center

These days many people are finding their way into “selflessness” or “centerlessness”—
the state of being without there being a center or separate experiencer.
 People realize this state through self-inquiry, using questions like
 “Who or what is experiencing this moment?”
People may struggle for a few minutes thinking that the word “me” is the experiencer, 
but after a few affirmations, most people who engage in this type of inquiry
 can see that, yes, the idea of “me” or “I” is a particular idea that’s also being experienced. 
 Some people find it easy to discover selflessness using the perceptual doorways
 made famous by Douglas Harding’s “experiments.” We point one of our fingers
 at our face and see that we can never see, never find, what our finger is pointing at. 
 The finger points at a space, a clearing, that is the centerless universe
 that circumscribes our reality.

Moreover, if we try to find the “absence of a center,” or a “self,” or “me,” 
we can’t find what’snot there. So, contrary to what some people conclude,
 we can’t say that there is “no self,” or “no experiencer,” either. 
We are left speechless, seeing that we neither exist nor don’t exist.

Sometimes people get nervous when they first encounter the realization
 that there is no findable “me” that sits in our head, or stands behind everything out there.
 People fear that the bottom of their lives might fall out. 
But, if we look at what really happens, nothing changes at all.
 Our fear is baseless because, while we can’t find ourselves, 
equally we can’t conclude that we don’t exist. We have no basis at all for saying
 “Who we aren’t!” If we look at things, we are here—you and I—
and everyone else is exactly where they are.
 And yet we are all unfindable!

At this point you might be thinking, “I can’t think about ‘this’.” 
 And, yes, that’s precisely the case. We can’t think about “this.”
 We are beyond dualistic concepts. We can’t even say, “we are beyond.”
 Nothing whatsoever changes when we realize selflessness because a self
 was never there in the first place. We might think that something goes away
 (the self) but it doesn’t.
 There is nothing to disappear!

This realization is wonderful because it creates a sense of open, 
unbounded, freedom that’s completely fused with the infinitely complex 
mandala of our unique, empirical existence. This realization allows us to be totally
 free in the same moment that we are, effectively, trapped in the particulars
 of our moment-by-moment experience. Think about it, in this moment, 
nothing can be different. The thought we are thinking displaces every other thought,
 if we are inhaling we can’t be exhaling. The word you are reading right now 
can’t be another word, because this is the one that’s here. Your body can’t be
 in a different location in this very moment, because it is where it is.
 Every square centimeter of our life-world is filled to the limits 
with a panoramic display of colors, shapes, sensations and thought-forms. 
We are engulfed in a seamless and totalizing sea of sensations and cognition
 that has no ruptures or interruptions.

If you’re like me, your capacity for resting in the ground of being is highly conditioned.
 The external circumstances and state of my body-mind need to be “just right”
 if I’m to have any chance of resting in awareness. Even when things are just right, 
I can still be distracted by my “important” projects or necessary interests,
 like thinking that I really need to know the current updates in world news.
 It takes just a small discomfort to wish that “things were different.” 
 Frustrations, anxieties, fears, annoyances, boredoms, and vulnerabilities abound.

Gradual evolution

The path for many people is gradual. Moments of selfless awareness arise within the larger context of our life—all the events that happen from our birth, initial awakening, on into death and beyond. The first recognition of pure, primordial awareness may occur as a child, or the serene setting of a contemplative dialogue with a nondual master, after years of meditation practice, while taking in a sunset, or in dokusan with a Zen roshi. Or, perhaps we are introduced to the nature of mind by watching a YouTube video or informally in a café when a friend who knows this space shares the unfindable “this.” Sometimes the first recognition happens spontaneously without any obvious precondition. One day, everything drops away and we find ourselves in a space that’s like the open sky: beyond all concepts and feelings. Or, perhaps this realization creeps up on us, and we can’t say exactly when we first become aware of the fact that we can’t find ourselves.

Having tasted the goal, the path consists of incrementally expanding and deepening our capacity to abide more continuously and reliably in selfless awareness as we engage the full range of experiences that are delivered to us by our karmically conditioned body-mind. The scope for integrating what’s possible within the extremes of nirvana and samsara are enormous. Perhaps it has no limit.

Universal awakening: limitless integration

In Mahayana Buddhism the scope for our evolution is said to be inconceivably vast. Quantum physics leads to the conclusion: “If it can happen, it will.” Mahayana takes this further saying, “Everything can happen, and already is.”

The scope for deepening and expanding the embodied realization of selflessness is limitless. According to the Mahayana, there is no conceivable event or experience that can disturb the vast, open-minded equanimity of a buddha. For a buddha, violent emotional invasions are received as whispered teachings of “perfect wisdom.” Mental energies that would otherwise be experienced as psychological anguish and torment auto-liberate into a continuous stream of meditative quietude. Physical pain is instantly and continuously transmuted by buddhamind into super-sensory pleasure. For buddhas, energy in any form is the currency of bliss—exchangeable like dollars and euros for whatever we wish. They live continuously in a “heaven on earth.”

One of my teachers, Lama Thubten Yeshe, often used the example of atomic power. Awakened beings radiate a fusion-energy field. They live in a matrix, a holographic mandala, that penetrates other people’s psyche and transforms any environment they inhabit. The realization of buddhas is contagious, like a chain reaction. Lama Yeshe embodied this capacity himself. In the space of one or two minutes he would do a complete make-over of people’s limited conception of themselves. They would arrive at his doorstep feeling very miserable about themselves, and leave a few minutes later with a life-changing experience of their spiritual potential.

Even though we are just scratching the surface of these buddha-like capacities, it’s inspiring to see that we have everything that’s needed to follow the same path to universal awakening (mahabodhi). We are aware, and more over, we can see that we can be free in the moment without anything needing to change at all.

Pure perception

Within the vision of universal awakening, a gap between where we are now and the irreversible liberation of all mind-streams, is creatively and lovingly bridged by visioning the ideal spaces within which people can wake up and be constantly suffused and infused with the nectar of selfless awareness. This is called “pure perception.”

“Pure perception” arises naturally when we see that there is no end to the dimensions and realities that can be touched and transformed by the liberating field of selfless awareness. Ultimately, there is no other work to do. We learn to how to think, feel and live at the result-level. The type of visioning I’m talking about here comes to us effortlessly as we tune into precisely what people need in the moment in order to abide in the primordial state.

As the Buddha says in the Prajnaparamita Sutra:

Bodhisattvas are ceaselessly inspired by the conviction that the infinitely diverse structures of relativity, far from being some dangerous disease, are actually a healing medicine. Why? Because in their intrinsically selfless nature, interdependent structures perfectly express the mystery and transmit the spiritual energy of universal companionship. Not just awakened sages but all structures of relativity are dwellers in the boundlessness which constitutes all-embracing love, selfless compassion, sympathetic joy and blissful equanimity.

The wonderful thing about “pure perception” is that we can taste it now. By definition, this is the nature of pure perception. Pure perception is never something that happens in the future. The idea that “pure perception” can only happen in the future, degrades the very quality of this experience itself. In pure perception we bring an exalted appreciation to our experience of the world, including our own physical form. We see the intrinsic harmony within and between all phenomena. We experience the seamless, unimpeded flow of everything that arises and dissolves within the reality-sphere that is the mandala of our own existence. Nothing is out of place; everything gives unique expression to an infinite network of conditions that are implicated in every manifestation from the most minuscule to the most cosmic, from the most insignificant to the most magnificent. Everything is revealed as an expression of the unfindable vastness.

~ Peter Fenner

Monday, April 29, 2019

the heat of midnight tears

Listen, my friend, this road is the heart opening,
kissing his feet, resistance broken, tears all night.

If we could reach the Lord through immersion in water,
I would have asked to be born a fish in this life.
If we could reach Him through nothing but berries and wild nuts
then surely the saints would have been monkeys when they came
from the womb!

If we could reach him by munching lettuce and dry leaves
then goats would surely get to the Holy One before us!

If the worship of stone stature could bring us all the way,
I would have adored a granite mountain years ago.

Mirabai says, "The heat of midnight tears will bring you to God."

~ Mirabai
translation by Robert Bly

unite yourselves to the formless being

Whoever now wishes to see properly what is the excellence
 and the profit of perfect detachment, let him take good heed 
of Christ's words when he spoke about his human nature
 and said to his disciples:  

"It is expedient for you that I go from you, 
for if I do not go, the Holy Spirit cannot come to you."  
(John 16:7) 

 This is just as if he were to say: 

"You have taken too much delight in my present image, 
so that the perfect delight of the Holy Spirit cannot be yours.  
So detach yourselves from the image, 
and unite yourselves to the formless being, 
for God's spiritual consolation is delicate; 
therefore he will not offer it to anyone except to him
 who disdains bodily consolations."

~ Meister Eckhart
from Meister Eckhart - 
Selections from his Essential Writings

dance of the cells


My friend, this body is made of bone and excited protozoa 
and it is with my body that I love the fields. 
How do I know what I feel but what the body tells me?
 Erasmus thinking in the snow, translators of Virgil 
who burn up the whole room, the man in furs reading the Arabic
 astrologer falls off his three-legged stool in astonishment, 
this is the body, so beautifully carved inside, 
with the curves of the inner ear, 
and the husk so rough,

As we walk, we enter the fields of other bodies, 
and every smell we take in the communities of protozoa see,
 and a being inside leaps up toward it, as a horse rears at the starting gate. 
When we come near each other, we are drawn down into 
the sweetest pools of slowly circling smells . . . slowly circling energies . . . 
The protozoa know there are odors the shape of oranges,
 of tornadoes, of octopuses . . .

The sunlight lay itself down before every protozoa, 
the night opens itself out behind it, 
and inside its own energy it lives!

So the space between two people diminishes,
 it grows less and less, no one to weep, they merge at last. 
The sound that pours from the fingertips awakens 
clouds of cells far inside the body, and beings unknown to us
 start out in a pilgrimage to their Saviour, to their holy place.
 Their holy place is a small black stone, that they remember
 from Protozoic times, when it was rolled away from a door . . . 
and it was after that they found their friends, who helped them
 to digest the hard grains of this world . . . 

The cloud of cells awakens, intensifies, swarms . . .
 the beings dance inside beams of sunlight so thin we cannot see them . . . 
to them each ray is a vast palace, with thousands of rooms. 
From the dance of the cells praise sentences rise to the voice
 of the man praying and singing alone in his room. 
He lets his arms climb above his head, and says,
 “Now do you still say cannot choose the road?”

~ Robert Bly
(for Lewis Thomas, and his The Lives of the Cell)
taken here from The News of the Universe:
 Poems of Twofold Consciousness 
photo: red amoeba

Sunday, April 28, 2019

as the web issues out of the spider


As the web issues out of the spider
And is withdrawn, as plants sprout
from the earth,
As hair grows from the body, even so,
The sages say, this universe springs from
The deathless Self, the source of life.

~ Mundaka Upanishad

Friday, April 26, 2019

and so I smile

The story about a man who was looking for his stray camel and asking after it.

You've lost a camel - now you seek it out;
On finding it, that it's yours you won't doubt.
You've lost the camel you are used to riding;
It has escaped your hold and now is hiding.
The caravan is ready to move on;
They have all packed up, but your camel's gone -
With parched lips you are searching left and right;
The caravan set off, and soon it's night.
Your things have just been left there on the ground,
While in your search you have been wandering round,
Asking: 'Who's seen a camel come this way?
It fled its stable earlier today.
About my camel pass me information
And I'll give you a generous compensation.'
You seek a clue like this from everyone,
So all the scoundrels see you and poke fun,
Jesting: 'We saw a camel head that way,
A reddish camel, searching for some hay.'
One asks, 'Was it crop-eared and quite perplexed?
'Its saddle was embroidered,' claims the next.
Another asks, 'Did it have just one eye?'
The next, 'Was it sick and about to die?'
Each wretch in hope of a reward from you
Presents to you his fabricated clue.

Explanation of the moral of the story about that person searching for his camel.

You've lost a camel that belongs to you
And everyone is offering you a clue;
You don't know where that camel chose to go,
But that their clues are false you clearly know.
A man who hasn't lost a camel now
Competes with you in searching anyhow;
He'll claim, 'I've lost a camel, everyone!
I'll give a big reward for her return.'
To share your camel is this mimic's aim;
Because he covets yours, he plays this game.
From false clues he can't tell a truthful clue,
But, for this mimic, your words serve as cue:
If you declare, 'That clues's false!' you will see 
Him do the same, but it's mimicry.
And if a man gives clues you think are true,
Sureness which leaves no doubt then comes to you:
Such clues heal your sick soul of all its pain;
You health, strength, and complexion you regain,
Your eyes light up, your feet feel quick anew,
Body like soul, and soul like spirit too!
'You were right, truthful friend!' you then will say,
In which are signs of truthful information.
You have truth's license and you've earned salvation!'
When someone's given such a clue, you'll say:
'It's time for action, so please lead the way!
Truth-teller, I will follow from behind;
With this clue my lost camel you will find.'
To that man who did not before possess
That camel, but who seeks it none the less,
More certainty will not come from this clue
Unless it's through a man whose search is true:
He'll see from your zeal that the clue is serious,
And that your screams of joy are not delirious.

That liar has no claim, but still I say
He's also lost a camel in a way;
Desire for someone else's veils his mind,
So he's forgotten what he's left behind.
The owner runs to search; he follows there;
Through greed, the owner's pain he starts to share:
A liar in the truthful's company
Will find his lies become truths suddenly.
Where your stray camel is when you've been brought,
This mimic finds his stray, which he'd not sought;
He first recalls her when he sees her, then
He covets no more those of other men.
That mimic's search first starts thus when his eyes
Notice his own lost camel by surprise:
He only seeks to find his camel when
By chance he sees her; he'd not searched till then.

From that point he learns to move on alone,
Now having opened his eyes to his own.
The truthful man asks, 'Have you left at last?
Is your concern about me in the past?'
He says, 'Till now I simply would pretend;
Desire made me your sycophantic friend,
But now I sympathize deep in my heart,
Though, through this search, we have been led apart.
I stole descriptions of her straight from you;
My soul was stunned, though, when mine came to view.
I wasn't seeking her, if truth be told -
Copper has now been overwhelmed by gold:
My evil deeds were righteous deeds somehow -
Folly has left and seriousness rules now!
My sins became the means to reach the Lord -
Don't criticize them any more, applaud!
Sincerity made you a seeker, while
My search led me to it, and so I smile:
Your search was due to your sincerity;
Sincerity, through seeking, came to me!
I sowed my fortune's seed in fertile soil,
Although I'd thought it would be fruitless toil.
It wasn't unpaid work to my surprise:
I sowed one seed and saw a hundred rise.
A thief had sneaked into a house at night -
He saw it was his own house in the light.'

Be warm, cold one, so more heat reaches you;
Accept the rough, so smoothness finds you too!
There was one camel in reality;
Words can't reach meaning's depth...

~ Rumi
from The Masnavi, Book Two
translation by Jawid Mojaddedi

too close to be explained

The contemplative life has nothing to tell you except to reassure you
and say that if you dare to penetrate your own silence
and dare to advance without fear into the solitude of your own heart
and risk the share of that solitude
with the lonely other who seeks God through you and with you,
then you will truly recover the light and the capacity to understand
what is beyond words and beyond explanations
because it is too close to be explained:
it is the intimate union in the depths of your heart,
of God’s spirit and your own innermost self,
so that you and He are in truth One Spirit.

~ Thomas Merton
The Hidden Ground of Love: Letters 
 art by Jenny Meechan

beneath your chosen path

When the garden of your unchosen lives has enough space to breathe beneath your chosen path, your life enjoys a vitality and a sense of creative tension.  Rilke refers to this as "the repository of unlived things."  You know that you have not compromised the immensity that you carry, and in which you participate.  You have not avoided the call of commitment; yet you hold your loyalty to your chosen path in such a way as to be true to the blessings and dangers of life's passionate sacramentality.
 No life is single.  Around and beneath each life is the living presence of these adjacencies.  Often, it is not the fact of our choosing that is vital, but rather the way we hold that choice.  In so far as we can, we should ensure that our chosen path is not a flight from complexity.  If we opt for complacency, we exclude ourselves from the adventure of being human. Where all danger is neutralized, nothing can ever grow.  
To keep the borders of choice porous demands critical vigilance and affective hospitality. To live in such a way invites risk and engages complexity.  Life cannot be neatly compartmentalized.  Once the psyche is engaged with such invitation and courage, it is no longer possible to practice tidy psychological housekeeping.  To keep one's views and convictions permeable is to risk the intake of new possibility, which can lead to awkward change.  Yet the integrity of growth demands such courage and vulnerability from us; otherwise the tissues of our sensibility atrophy and we become trapped behind the same predictable mask of behavior.

~ John O'Donohue
from Eternal Echoes

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The new rule

It's the old rule that drunks have to argue
and get into fights.
The lover is just as bad. he falls into a hole.
But down in that hole he finds something shining,
worth more than any amount of money or power.

Last night the moon came dropping its clothes in the street.
I took it as a sign to start singing,
falling up into the bowl of sky.
The bowl breaks. Everywhere is falling everywhere.
Nothing else to do.

Here's the new rule: break the wineglass,
and fall toward the glassblower's breath.

Inside this new love, die.
Your way begins on the other side.
Become the sky.
Take an axe to the prison wall.
Walk out like someone suddenly born into color.
Do it now.
You're covered with thick cloud.
Slide out the side. Die,
and be quiet. Quietness is the surest sign
that you've died.
Your old life was a frantic running
from silence.
The speechless full moon
comes out now.

"I used to want buyers for my words.
Now I wish someone would buy me away from words.

I've made a lot of charmingly profound images,
scenes with Abraham, and Abraham's father, Azar,
who was also famous for icons.

I'm so tired of what I've been doing.

Then one image without form came,
and I quit.

Look for someone else to tend the shop.
I'm out of the image-making business.

Finally I know the freedom
of madness.

A random image arrives. I scream,
"Get out!" It disintegrates.

Only love.
Only the holder the flag fits into,
and wind. No flag. "

~  Rumi

version by Coleman Barks

when death is denied

When death is denied, life loses its depth. 
 The possibility of knowing who we are beyond name and form, 
the dimension of the transcendent, disappears from our lives because death is the opening into that dimension. 

People tend to be uncomfortable with endings, because every ending is a little death. 
 That's why in many languages the word for “good-bye” means “see you again.” 

Whenever an experience comes to an end -
 a gathering of friends, a vacation, your children leaving home - you die a little death. 
 A “form” that appeared in your consciousness as that experience dissolves. 
 Often this leaves behind a feeling of emptiness that most people try hard not to feel, not to face. 

If you can learn to accept and even welcome the endings in your life, 
you may find that the feeling of emptiness that initially felt uncomfortable turns into a sense of inner spaciousness that is deeply peaceful.

By learning to die daily in this way, you open yourself to life….
Whenever death occurs, whenever a life form dissolves, 
God, the formless and unmanifested, shines through the opening left by the dissolving form. 

 That is why the most sacred thing in life is death. 
 That is why the peace of God can come to you through contemplation and acceptance of death.

~ Eckhart Tolle

why we don't die

In late September many voices
Tell you you will die.
That leaf says it.  That coolness.
All of them are right.

Our many souls - what
Can they do about it?
Nothing.  They're already
Part of the invisible.

Our souls have been
Longing to go home
Anyway.  "It's late," they say.
"Lock the door, let's go."

The body doesn't agree.  It says,
"We buried a little iron
Ball under that tree.
Let's go get it."

~ Robert Bly
from Morning Poems

response and reconciliation


Ah life! Does no one answer?
His words rolled, bolts of lightning etched
in years that were boulders and now are mist.

Life never answers.
It has no ears and doesn't hear us;
it doesn't speak, it has no tongue.
It neither goes nor stays:
we are the ones who speak,
the ones who go,
while we hear from echo to echo, year to year,
our words rolling through a tunnel with no end.

That which we call life
hears itself within us, speaks with our tongues,
and through us, knows itself.
As we portray it, we become its mirror, we invent it.
An invention of an invention: it creates us
without knowing what it has created,
we are an accident that thinks.

It is a creature of reflections
we create by thinking,
and it hurls into fictitious abysses.
The depths, the transparencies
where it floats or sinks: not life, its idea.

It is always on the other side and is always other,
has a thousand bodies and none,
never moves and never stops,
it is born to die, and is born at death.
Is life immortal? Don't ask life,
for it doesn't even know what life is.

We are the ones who know
that one day it too must die and return
to the beginning, the inertia of the origin.
The end of yesterday, today, and tomorrow,
the dissipation of time
and of nothing, its opposite.

Then--will there be a then?
will the primogenious spark light
the matrix of the worlds,
a perpetual re-beginning of a senseless whirling?
No one answers, no one knows.
We only know that to live is to live for.


Sudden spring, a girl who wakes
on a green bed guarded by thorns;
tree of noon, heavy with oranges:
your tiny suns, fruits of cool fire,
summer gathers them in transparent baskets;
the fall is severe, its cold light
sharpens its knife against the red maples;
Januaries and Februaries: their beards are ice,
and their eyes sapphires that April liquefies,
the wave that rises, the wave that stretches out,
on the circular road of the year

All that we see, all that we forget,
the harp of the rain, the inscription of the lightning,
the hurried thoughts, reflections turned to birds,
the doubts of the path as it meanders,
the wailing of the wind
as it carves the faces of the mountains,
the moon on tiptoe over the lake,
the breezes in gardens, the throbbing of night,
the camps of stars on the burnt field,
the battle of reflections on the white salt flats,
the fountain and its monologue,
the held breath of outstretched night
and the river that entwines it, the pine under the evening star
and the waves, instant statues, on the sea,
the flock of clouds that the wind herds
through drowsy valleys, the peaks, the chasms,
time turned to rock, frozen eras,
time maker of roses and plutonium,
time that makes as it razes.

The ant, the elephant, the spider, and the sheep,
our strange world of terrestrial creatures
that are born, eat, kill, sleep, play, couple,
and somehow know that they die;
our world of humanity, far and near,
the animal with eyes in its hands

that tunnels through the past and examines the future,
with its histories and uncertainties,
the ecstasy of the saint, the sophisms of the evil,
the elation of lovers, their meetings, their contentions,
the insomnia of the old man counting his mistakes,
the criminal and the just, a double enigma,
the Father of the People, his crematory parks,
his forests of gallows and obelisks of skulls,
the victorious and the defeated,
the long sufferings and the one happy moment,
the builder of houses and the one who destroys them,
this paper where I write, letter by letter,
which you glance at with distracted eyes,
all of them and all of it, all
is the work of time that begins and ends.


From birth to death time surrounds us
with its intangible walls.
We fall with the centuries, the years, the minutes.
Is time only a falling, only a wall?

For a moment, sometimes, we see

not with our eyes but with our thoughts-
time resting in a pause.
The world half-opens and we glimpse
the immaculate kingdom,
the pure forms, presences
unmoving, floating
on the hour, a river stopped:
truth, beauty, numbers, ideas

-and goodness, a word buried
in our century.

A moment without weight or duration,
a moment outside the moment:
thought sees, our eyes think.
Triangles, cubes, the sphere, the pyramid
and the other geometrical figures
thought and drawn by mortal eyes
but which have been here since the beginning,
are, still legible, the world, its secret writing,
the reason and the origin of the turning of things,
the axis of the changes, the unsupported pivot
that rests on itself, a reality without a shadow.

The poem, the piece of music, the theorem,
unpolluted presences born from the void,
are delicate structures
built over an abyss:
infinities fit into their finite forms,
and chaos too is ruled by their hidden symmetry.

Because we know it, we are not an accident:
chance, redeemed, returns to order.
Tied to the earth and to time,
a light and weightless ether,
thought supports the worlds and their weight,
whirlwinds of suns turned
into a handful of signs
on a random piece of paper.

Wheeling swarms
of transparent evidence
where the eyes of understanding
drink a water simple as water.

The universe rhymes with itself,
it unfolds and is two and is many
without ceasing to be one.

Motion, a river that runs endlessly
with open eyes through the countries of vertigo

-there is no above nor below, what is near is far--
returns to itself

-without returning, now turned
into a fountain of stillness.

Tree of blood, man feels, thinks, flowers,
and bears strange fruits: words.
What is thought and what is felt entwine,
we touch ideas: they are bodies and they are numbers.

And while I say what I say
time and space fall dizzyingly,
restlessly. They fall in themselves.
Man and the galaxy return to silence.

Does it matter? Yes--but it doesn't matter:
we know that silence is music and that
we are a chord in this concert.

–Octavio Paz
awarded the 1990 Nobel Prize for literature.
Response and Reconciliation was the last poem he published
before his death on April 19,1998

translated by Eliot Weinberger

vast inner solitude

What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours — that is what you must be able to attain.

You should not let yourself be confused in your solitude by the fact that there is something in you that wants to move out of it. This very wish, if you use it calmly and prudently and like a tool, will help you spread out your solitude over a great distance.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from his Letters To A Young Poet

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

the secret beauty

~ Jack Kornfield


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

for the anniversary of my death

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what 

  ~ W.S. Merwin
 from The Second Four Books of Poems
 art by Hughie O'Donoghue

parts of a tune

One old man keeps humming the same few notes
of some song he thought he had forgotten 
back in the days when as he knows there was 
no word for life in the language
and if they wanted to say eyes or heart
they would hold up a leaf and he remembers
the big tree where it rose from the dry ground
and the way the birds carried water in their voice
they were all the color of their fear of the dark
and as he sits there humming he remembers
some of the words they come back to him now
he smiles hearing them come and go

~ W.S. Merwin
from The Shadow of Sirius

now it is clear

Now it is clear to me that no leaves are mine
no roots are mine
that wherever I go I will be a spine of smoke in the forest
and the forest will know it
we will both know it

and that birds vanish because of something
that I remember
flying through me as though I were a great wind
as the stones settle into the ground
the trees into themselves
staring as though I were a great wind
which is what I pray for

it is clear to me that I cannot return
but that some of us will meet once more
even here
like our own statues
and some of us still later without names
and some of us will burn with the speed
of endless departures

and be found and lost no more 

  ~ W.S. Merwin
from The Carrier of Ladders

Sunday, April 21, 2019

stretch out

Leave the familiar for a while.
Let your senses and bodies stretch out
Like a welcomed season
Onto the meadows and shores and hills.
Open up to the Roof.

Make a new water-mark on your excitement
And love.
Like a blooming night flower,
Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
And giving
Upon our intimate assembly.

Change rooms in your mind for a day.
All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside an equator
In your heart.

Greet Yourself
In your thousand other forms
As you mount the hidden tide and travel
Back home.

All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire
While stitching themselves together
Into the Great Circle inside of

~ Hafiz

Thursday, April 18, 2019

deep listening

What is the deep listening? Sama is
a greeting from the secret ones inside

the heart, a letter. The branches of
your intelligence grow new leaves in

the wind of this listening. The body
reaches a peace. Rooster sound comes,

reminding you of your love for dawn.
The reed flute and the singer's lips:

the knack of how spirit breathes into
us becomes as simple and ordinary as

eating and drinking. The dead rise with
the pleasure of listening. If someone

can't hear a trumpet melody, sprinkle
dirt on his head and declare him dead.

Listen, and feel the beauty of your
separation, the unsayable absence.

There's a moon inside every human being.
Learn to be companions with it. Give

more of your life to this listening. As
brightness is to time, so you are to

the one who talks to the deep ear in
your chest. I should sell my tongue

and buy a thousand ears when that
one steps near and begins to speak.

from The Glance
Coleman Barks version

 art Australian Aboriginal 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

against certainty

There is something out in the dark that wants to correct us.
Each time I think "this," it answers "that."
Answers hard, in the heart-grammar's strictness.

If I then say "that," it too is taken away.

Between certainty and the real, an ancient enmity.
When the cat waits in the path-hedge,
no cell of her body is not waiting.
This is how she is able so completely to disappear.

I would like to enter the silence portion as she does.

To live amid the great vanishing as a cat must live,
one shadow fully at ease inside another.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from After

aimless love

This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.

In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor’s window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.

This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.

The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.

No lust, no slam of the door –
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.

No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor –
just a twinge every now and then

for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.

But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.

After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,

so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.
~ Billy Collins
from Aimless Love - New and Selected Poems

humility and compassion

Can true humility and compassion exist in our words and eyes
unless we know we too are capable of
any act?

~ Saint Francis of Assisi
translated by Daniel Ladinsky