Monday, July 29, 2019

prioritizing well-being

~ Nicola Sturgeon 

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Becoming Kuan Yin - The evolution of Compassion

the Chinese character for "Benevolence."  
It is the character that represent "person" along with that of the number "2."  
Recognizing that when 2 are present, benevolence is a natural occurrence.  
Benevolence eases duality. It is one of the Maha Viharas,
 great abodes of the true heart.

To know Kuan Yin we need to let go of all that is unloved, 

judged, forged from old mind clingings. She is the unconditional love 
behind the conditioned mind.
Some ancient force is called forth in surrendering
 hindrance after hindrance of our secret wretchedness 
and obvious suffering, to yield to the light of our Original Heart.

~ Stephen Levine

Saturday, July 27, 2019

millennium blessing

There is a grace approaching
that we shun as much as death,
it is the completion of our birth.

It does not come in time,
but in timelessness
when the mind sinks into the heart
and we remember.

It is an insistent grace that draws us
to the edge and beckons us surrender
safe territory and enter our enormity.

We know we must pass
beyond knowing
and fear the shedding.

But we are pulled upward
through forgotten ghosts
and unexpected angels,

And there is nothing left to say
but we are That.

And that is what we sing about.

~ Stephen Levine
from Breaking the Drought, Visions of Grace

Thursday, July 25, 2019

from so simple a beginning

It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, 
clothed with many plants of many kinds, 
with birds singing on the bushes,
 insects flitting about and worms crawling
 through the damp earth, 
and to reflect that these forms, so different
 yet so dependent on each other in so complex a manner,
 have all been produced by simple laws.There is grandeur in this
 view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed
 by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, 
whilst this planet has gone circling on according to the fixed law of gravity,
 from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful 
and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.

Charles Darwin
from On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection

in this world of yes

love is a place
through this place of
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places

yes is a world
in this world of
yes live
(skillfully curled)
all worlds


Wednesday, July 24, 2019


Traditionally, the value of the symbol is precisely in its apparent uselessness
 as a means of simple communication.  It is ordered toward communion,
 not to communication. Because it is not an efficient mode of communicating
 information, the symbol can achieve a higher purpose, beyond 
cause and effect. Instead of establishing a new contact by a meeting of minds
 in the sharing of news, the symbol tells nothing new:
 it revives our awareness of what we already know,
 and deepens our awareness. What is "new" in the symbol is the ever new
 discovery of a new depth and a new actuality in what is and always has been.
.The function of the symbol is to manifest a union that already exists
 but is not fully realized.  The symbol awakens awareness or restores it.  
Therefore it does not aim at communication but at communion. 
 Communion is the awareness of participation in an ontological reality: 
in the mystery of being, of human love, of redemptive mystery, 
of contemplative truth,

~ Thomas Merton 
from Merton's Palace of Nowhere 
by James Finley

the conversation

A woman moves close:
there is something she wants to say.
The currents take you one direction, her another.
All night you are aware of her presence,
aware of the conversation that did not happen.
Inside it are mountains, birds, a wide river,
a few sparse-leaved trees.
On the river, a wooden boat putters.
On its deck, a spider washes its face.
Years from now, the boat will reach a port by the sea,
and the generations of spider descendants upon it
will look out, from their nearsighted, eightfold eyes,
at something unanswered.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from Come, Thief

a history

Someone first thought it:
an ox gelded, tamed, harnessed to a plow.

Then someone realized the wooden yoke could hold two.

After that, mere power of multiplication.
Railroads, airplanes, factory ships canning salmon.

~ Jane Hirshfield

wind and water and stone


The water hollowed the stone,
the wind dispersed the water,
the stone stopped the wind.
Water and wind and stone.

The wind sculpted the stone,
the stone is a cup of water,
The water runs off and is wind.
Stone and wind and water.

The wind sings in its turnings,
the water murmurs as it goes,
the motionless stone is quiet.
Wind and water and stone.

One is the other and is neither:
among their empty names
they pass and disappear,
water and stone and wind. 

~ Octavio Paz
(Translated by Mark Strand, 
The Collected Poems of Octavio Paz, 1957-1987)


In the presence of supple
goodness, some people
grow less flexible,
experiencing a woodenness
they wouldn't have thought possible.
It is as strange and paradoxical
as the combined suffering
of Pinocchio and Geppetto
if Pinocchio had turned and said,
I can't be human after all.

~ Kay Ryan
from The Best of It

Monday, July 22, 2019

toward emptiness

In the desert,
Turn toward emptiness,
Fleeing the self.

Stand alone
Ask no one's help,
And your being will quiet,
Free from the bondage of things.

Those who cling to the world,
endeavor to free them;
Those who are free, praise.
Care for the sick,
But live alone,
Happy to drink from the waters of sorrow,
To kindle Love's fire
With the twigs of a simple life.

Thus you will live in the desert.

Mechtild of Magdeburg (1207?-1282? or 1297?)
translation by Jane Hirshfield

Friday, July 19, 2019

I come to you without me

I come to you without me, come to me without you.
Self is the thorn in the sole of the soul.
Merge with others,
If you stay in self, you are a grain, you are a drop,
If you merge with others, you are an ocean, you are a mine.

~ Rumi
art by Van Gogh

among the trees

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple”, they say,
“and you too have come into the world to do this,
to go easy, to be filled with light , and to shine.”

~ Mary Oliver

living it

First and foremost, you must listen to your own rhythm, and
 try to live in accordance with it. Be attentive to what emerges
 from deep down. Often, our actions are only imitations, 
fulfillment of an assumption of duty, or a reflection
 of what we believe a human being “should” be.
But the only certainty we may have about our life 
and our deeds can only spring from the very depth of our being.

I know that a new and kinder day will come,
 and I would so much like to live on, 
if only to express all the love I carry within me. 
And there is only one way of preparing the new age,
 by living it even now in our hearts.
We must be willing to act like a balm for all wounds.

~ Etty Hillesum

love frees

All day long a little burro labors, sometimes
with heavy loads on her back and sometimes just with worries
about things that bother only

And worries, as we know, can be more exhausting
than physical labor.

Once in a while a kind monk comes
to her stable and brings
a pear, but more
than that,

he looks into the burros eyes and touches her ears

and for a few seconds the burro is free
and even seems to laugh,

because love does

Love frees.

~ Meister Eckhart
art by: Stephen Filarsky



Water is sometimes sharp and sometimes strong,
sometimes acid and sometimes bitter,
sometimes sweet and sometimes thick or thin,
sometimes it is seen bringing hurt or pestilence,
sometime health-giving, sometimes poisonous.

It suffers change into as many natures as
are the different places through which it passes.

And as the mirror changes with the colour of its subject,
so it alters with the nature of the place,
becoming noisome, laxative, astringent, sulfurous, salty,
incarnadined, mournful, raging, angry, red, yellow,
green, black, blue, greasy, fat or slim.

Sometimes it starts a conflagration,
sometimes it extinguishes one;
is warm and is cold, carries away or sets down,
hollows out or builds up, tears or establishes,
fills or empties, raises itself or burrows down,
speeds or is still;

is the cause at times of life or death, or increase or privation,
nourishes at times and at others does the contrary;
at times has a tang, at times is without savor,
sometimes submerging the valleys with great floods.

In time and with water, everything changes.

~ Leonardo da Vinci
(art by Leonardo, The Last Supper, the face of John)


Thursday, July 18, 2019

letters from God

I have said that the soul is not more than the body, 
And I have said that the body is not more than the soul, 
And nothing, not God, is greater to one than one’s self is,
And whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his own 
funeral drest in his shroud, 
And I or you pocketless of a dime may purchase the pick of the 
And to glance with an eye or show a bean in its pod confounds the 
learning of all times, 
And there is no trade or employment but the young man following it 
may become a hero, 
And there is no object so soft but it makes a hub for the wheel’d 
And I say to any man or woman, Let your soul stand cool and composed 
before a million universes. 

And I say to mankind, Be not curious about God, 
For I who am curious about each am not curious about God, 
(No array of terms can say how much I am at peace about God and 
about death.) 

I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the 
Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself. 

Why should I wish to see God better than this day? 
I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment 
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the 
I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign’d 
by God’s name, 
And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe’er I go, 
Others will punctually come for ever and ever.

~ Walt Whitman
photo by Edward Weston

last instruction

"Make of yourself a light" said the Buddha,
 before he died. I think of this 
every morning as the east begins to tear 
off its many clouds of darkness, 
to send up the first signal-a white fan 
streaked with pink and violet, even green. 

An old man, he lay down between two sala trees,
 and he might have said anything, 
knowing it was his final hour. The light burns upward,
 it thickens and settles over the fields. Around him,
 the villagers gathered and stretched forward to listen. 
Even before the sun itself hangs, disattached,
 in the blue air, I am touched everywhere
 by its ocean of yellow waves.

 No doubt he thought 
of everything that had happened in his difficult life. 
And then I feel the sun itself 
as it blazes over the hills, like a million flowers on fire- 
clearly I'm not needed, 
yet I feel myself turning into something 
of inexplicable value. Slowly, 
beneath the branches, he raised his head. 
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.

~  Mary Oliver

Wednesday, July 17, 2019


If you are the amber mare
I am the road of blood
If you are the first snow
I am he who lights the hearth of dawn
If you are the tower of night
I am the spike burning in your mind
If you are the morning tide
I am the first bird's cry
If you are the basket of oranges
I am the knife of the sun
If you are the stone altar
I am the sacrilegious hand
If you are the sleeping land
I am the green cane
If you are the wind's leap
I am the buried fire
If you are the water's mouth
I am the mouth of moss
If you are the forest of the clouds
I am the axe that parts it
If you are the profaned city
I am the rain of consecration
If you are the yellow mountain
I am the red arms of lichen
If you are the rising sun
I am the road of blood

~ Octavio Paz
translated by Eliot Weinberger, 
from Collected Poems 1957-1987 


"Everything around me is evaporating. My whole life, my memories, my imagination and its contents, my personality—it’s all evaporating. I continuously feel that I was someone else, that I felt something else, that I thought something else. What I’m attending here is a show with another set. And the show I’m attending is myself.

In the ordinary jumble of my literary drawer, I sometimes find texts I wrote ten, fifteen, or even more years ago. And many of them seem to me written by a stranger: I simply do not recognize myself in them. There was a person who wrote them, and it was I. I experienced them, but it was in another life, from which I just woke up, as if from someone else’s dream.

I often find texts of mine that I wrote when I was very young—when I was seventeen or twenty. And some have a power of expression that I do not remember having them. Certain sentences and passages I wrote when I had just taken a few steps away from adolescence seem produced by the self I am today, educated by years and things. I recognize I am the same as I was. And having felt I am today making a great progress from what I was, I wonder where this progress is if I was then the same as I am today.

Just a few days earlier I suffered horribly reading a short text I’d written earlier. I remember perfectly that my scruples—at least as far as language is concerned—are only a few years old. In a drawer I found a much older text in which those same scruples were strongly accentuated. I didn’t understand myself in the past in a positive way. How did I advance towards what I already was? How can the person who knows me today not know me yesterday? 

All this confuses me in a labyrinth where I am with myself and wander away from myself.
I wander with my thoughts and I’m sure that what I’m writing now I already wrote. I remember. And I ask the being that in me presumes to exist if there might not be in the Platonism of sensations another, more appropriate amamnesis, another memory of a former life that might only be of this life…

My God, my God, whose performance am I watching? How many people am I? What is this space between myself and myself?"

~ Fernando Pessoa
 from The Book of Disquiet

by the inquiry

"By the inquiry 'Who am I?'.
The thought 'who am I?' will destroy all other thoughts,
and like the stick used for stirring the burning pyre,
it will itself in the end get destroyed.
Then, there will arise Self-realization."

~ Ramana Maharshi

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


Sometimes, when a bird cries out,
Or the wind sweeps through a tree,
Or a dog howls in a far off farm,
I hold still and listen for a long time.

My soul turns and goes back to the place
Where, a thousand forgotten years ago,
The bird and the blowing wind
Were like me, and were my brothers.

My soul turns into a tree,
and an animal, and a cloud bank.
Then changed and odd it comes home
And asks me questions.  What should I reply?

~ Hermann Hesse


leading a strange life

At times he heard within him a soft, gently voice, which reminded him quietly, complained quietly, so that he could hardly hear it.  Then he suddenly saw clearly that he was leading a strange life, that he was doing many things that were only a game, that he was quite cheerful and sometimes experienced pleasure, but that real life was flowing past him and did not touch him.  Like a player who plays with his ball, he played with his business, with the people around him, watched them, derived amusement from them; but with his heart, with his real nature, he was not there.  His real self wandered elsewhere, far away, wandered on and on invisibly and had nothing to do with his life.  He was sometimes afraid of these thoughts and wished that he could also share their childish daily affairs with intensity, truly to take part in them, to enjoy and live their lives instead of only being there as an onlooker.

~ Herman Hesse
from Siddhartha

throw it all away

take each step
then throw it all away again,
suddenly,  beauty

~ Hermann Hesse
from Rosshalde

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

separation left me

You went away but remained in me
And thus became my peace and happiness.

In separation, separation left me
And I witnessed the Unknown.

You were the hidden secret of my longing,
Hidden deep within my conscience deeper than a dream.

You were my true friend in the day
And in darkness my companion.

~ Mansur al- Hallaj
(9th Century)
English version by Mahmood Jamal

beneath the bark

We don't know who we are.
We are lost in the forest, and the black stars
move lazily above us as if they were 
only our dream.

But still, the second angel mumbled shyly,
there's always a little joy, and even beauty
lies close at hand, beneath the bark
of every hour, in the quiet heart of concentration,
and another person hides in each of us -
universal, strong, invincible.
Memory lives in the ocean, in galloping blood,
in black, burnt stones, in poems,
and in every quiet conversation.
The world is the same as it always was,
full of shadows and anticipation.

- Adam Zagajewski
from Three Angels
translated by Clare Cavanagh

Sunday, July 7, 2019

the deep pull of love

When I am not present to myself, 
then I am only aware of that half of me, 
that mode of my being which turns outward to created things. 

And then it is possible for me to lose myself among them. 
Then I no longer feel the deep secret pull 
of the gravitation of love which draws my inward self toward God. 

My will and my intelligence lose their command of the other faculties. 
My senses, my imagination, my emotions, 
scatter to pursue their various quarries all over the face of the earth. 

Recollection brings them home. 
It brings the outward self into line with the inward spirit, 
and makes my whole being answer the deep pull of love 
that reaches down into the mystery of God.

~ Thomas Merton 
from No Man is an Island
sketch by the author

Thursday, July 4, 2019


That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had His hand in this,

as well as friends.
Still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel
(brave even among lions),
"It's not the weight you carry

but how you carry it-
books, bricks, grief-
it's all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down."
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled-
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?

~ Mary Oliver


on another's sorrow

Wiping all our tears away.
O! no never can it be.
Never never can it be.
Can I see anothers woe,
And not be in sorrow too.
Can I see anothers grief,
And not seek for kind relief.

Can I see a falling tear
And not feel my sorrows share,
Can a father see his child,
Weep, nor be with sorrow fill'd.

Can a mother sit and hear,
An infant groan an infant fear-
No no never can it be.
Never never can it be.

And can he who smiles on all
Hear the wren with sorrows small,
Hear the small birds grief & care
Hear the woes that infants bear—

And not sit beside the nest
Pouring pity in their breast,
And not sit the cradle near
Weeping tear on infants tear.

And not sit both night & day,
He doth give his joy to all.
He becomes an infant small.
He becomes a man of woe
He doth feel the sorrow too.

Think not, thou canst sigh a sigh,
And thy maker is not by.
Think not thou canst weep a tear,
And thy maker is not near.

O! he gives to us his joy,
That our grief he may destroy
Till our grief is fled; gone
He doth sit by us and moan

~ William Blake
from The Complete Poetry and Prose
of William Blake