Wednesday, August 28, 2019

our group identities

When you seek to affirm your unity by denying that you have anything to do with anyone else, by negating everyone else in the universe until you come down to you: what is there left to affirm? 

 The true way is just the opposite: the more I am able to affirm others, to say “yes” to them in myself, by discovering them in myself and myself in them, the more real I am. I am fully real if my own heart says “yes” to everyone.

 I will be a better Catholic, not if I can refute every shade of Protestantism, but if I can affirm the truth in it and still go further. So, too, with the Muslims, the Hindus, the Buddhists, etc. . If I affirm myself as a Catholic merely by denying all that is Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, Hindu, Buddhist, etc., in the end I will find that there is not much left for me to affirm as a Catholic: and certainly no breath of the Spirit with which to affirm it.

~ Thomas Merton
from Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander


I find that somehow, by shifting the focus of attention, 
I become the very thing I look at, 
and experience the kind of consciousness it has; 

I become the inner witness of the thing. 
I call this capacity of entering other focal points of consciousness,


you may give it any name you like. 

Love says "I am everything". 
Wisdom says "I am nothing". 
Between the two, my life flows. 

Since at any point of time and space 
I can be both the subject and the object of experience, 
I express it by saying that 
I am both, and neither, and beyond both.

~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

the secret

Since I am
Somebody's dream, 
I have a good life.

Sometimes I go away in my sailboat on a cloud
and take a quiet little trip.

I have a secret
which I have learned how to read inside myself;
if I told it to you, 
it would make you laugh.

My heart is naked
and no one can put clothes on it,
and nothing can be put on
that will not immediately fall off.

My secret is ignorant,
it doesn't sing songs,
no lie,
it has nothing to tell you.

My two eyes 
are maps of the planet -
I see everything
and nothing upsets me.

Just now
I was in China
and saw there a great piece of happiness
that belonged to one man.

And I have been to the center of the earth,
where there is no suffering.

If on your loneliest nights,
I visit other planets
and the most secret stars of all,

besides being no one,
know that I am you
and everybody.

But if I go away
without giving you a name to remember me with,
haw will I find
the right dream to return to?

You won't have to mark down
on your calendar that I am coming back;
don't bother to write me into your notebooks.
I will be around
when you aren't thinking about me,

without hair or a neck,
without a nose and cheeks
no reputation -
there won't be anything.

I am a bird
which God made.

~ Thomas Merton
from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton

song: if you seek...

If you seek a heavenly light
I, Solitude, am your professor!

I go before you into emptiness,
Raise strange suns for your new mornings,
Opening the windows 
Of your innermost apartment.

When I, loneliness, give my special signal
Follow my silence, follow where I beckon!
Fear not, little beast, little spirit
(Thou word and animal)
I, Solitude, am angel
And have prayed in your name.

Look at the empty, wealthy night
The pilgrim moon!
I am the appointed hour,
The "now" that cuts
Time like a blade.

I am the unexpected flash
Beyond "yes,"  beyond "no,"
The forerunner of the Word of God.

Follow my ways and I will lead you 
To golden-haired suns,
Logos and music, blameless joys,
Innocent of questions
And beyond answers:

For I, Solitude, am thine own self:
I, Nothingness, am thy All.
I, Silence, am thy Amen!

~ Thomas Merton
from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton
art by Edward Hopper

Sunday, August 25, 2019

when the body and mind grow weak

When the body and mind grow weak, 
the Self gathers in all the powers of life and descends with them into the heart.
  As prana leaves the eye, it ceases to see.
 "He is becoming one," say the wise;  "he does not see. 
 He is becoming one; he no longer hears. 
 He is becoming one; he no longer speaks, or tastes, or smells, or thinks, or knows." 
 By the light of the heart the Self leaves the body by one of its gates;
 and when he leaves, prana follows, and with it all the vital powers of the body.
  He who is dying merges in consciousness,
 and thus consciousness accompanies him when he departs,
 along with the impressions of all that he has done,
 experienced, and known.

~ from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
art by van gogh

the dying now to the now


When effort is needed, effort will appear. 
When effortlessness becomes essential, it will assert itself. 
You need not push life about. 
Just flow with it and give yourself completely to the task of the present moment, 
which is the dying now to the now. For living is dying. 
Without death life cannot be.

~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

Saturday, August 24, 2019

in the flow

The man of earth abides in the flow.
The ground moves beneath him, and he knows
it moves.  His house is his vessel, afloat
only for a while.  He moves, willing,
through a thousand phases of the sun,
changing as the day changes, and the year.
His mind is like the dirt, lightened
by bloom, weighted by rain.

The fragment of the earth
that is now me is only on its way 
through me.  It is on its way 
from having been a tree,
a school of fish, a terrapin,
a flock of birds.  It will pass
through all those forms again.

~ Wendell Berry
from Farming Poems

to meet it

Do you know what it means to come into contact with death,
 to die without argument? Because death, when it comes, 
does not argue with you. To meet it, you have to die every day to everything: 
to your agony, to your loneliness, to the relationship you cling to; 
you have to die to your thought, to die to your habit, 
to die to your wife so that you can look at your wife anew; 
you have to die to your society so that you, as a human being, are new, 
fresh, young, and you can look at it. But you cannot meet death
 if you don't die every day. It is only when you die that there is love. 
A mind that is frightened has no love, it has habits, it has sympathy, 
it can force itself to be kind and superficially considerate.
 But fear breeds sorrow, and sorrow is time as thought.

So to end sorrow is to come into contact with death while living,
 by dying to your name, to your house, to your property, to your cause, 
so that you are fresh, young, clear, and you can see things as they are without any distortion.
 That is what is going to take place when you die.
 But we have a limited death to the physical. We know very well logically, 
sanely, that the organism is going to come to an end. So we invent a life 
which we have lived of daily agony, daily insensitivity, the increase of problems,
 and its stupidity; that life we want to carry over, which we call the "soul,"
 which we say is the most sacred thing, a part of the divine, 
but it is still part of your thoughtand therefore it has nothing to do with divinity.
 It is your life!

So one has to live every day dying, 
dying because you are then in contact with life.

~ J. Krishnamurti
from The Book of Life
photo by Kathleen Connally

a very sacred thing

The natural way of being after death of a loved one is suffering at first,
 then there is a deepening. In that deepening, you go to a place
 where there is no death. And the fact that you felt that means you went deep enough,
 to the place where there is no death. Conditioned as your mind is by society, 
the contemporary world that you live in, which knows nothing about that dimension
 – your mind then tells you that there is something wrong with this. 
Your mind says “I should not be feeling peace, 
that is not what one feels in a situation like this.”
But that’s a conditioned thought by the culture that you live in. 
So instead we can recognize when this happens, when that thought comes 
– recognize it as a conditioned thought that is not true.

It doesn't mean that the waves of sadness don’t come back from time to time. 
But in between the waves of sadness, you sense there is peace. 
As you sense that peace, you sense the essence of your children as well 
– the timeless essence. So death is a very sacred thing 
– not just a dreadful thing. When you react to the loss of form,
 that’s dreadful.

When you go deep enough to the formless, the dreadful is no longer dreadful,
 it’s sacred. Then you will experience the two levels, 
when somebody dies who is close to you. Yes it’s dreadful on the level of form.
 It’s sacred on the deeper level. Death can enable you to find that dimension in yourself.
 You’re helping countless other humans if you find that dimension in yourself 
– the sacred dimension of life. Death can help you find the sacred dimension of life 
– where life is indestructible.

Surrender can open that door for you. Complete acceptance of it. 
So honor that sacred dimension and realize that what your mind is saying, 
that it isn't right, is just a form of conditioning 
– it isn’t the truth. It is supremely right.

This is always the window into the formless. As you accept it, surrender.
 Because the form is gone, your mind becomes still when you surrender to death.
 It’s not through explanations that you accept death. You can have explanations, 
mental explanations that say, well, he or she will move on or reincarnate, 
or go to some place of rest. That can be comforting, but you can go
 to a deeper place than that, where you don’t need explanations 
– a state of immediate realization of the sacredness of death, 
because what opens up when the form dissolves is life beyond form.
 That is the only thing that is sacred. 
That is the sacred dimension.

You can get tiny glimpses of that when you lose something, 
and you completely accept that it’s gone. 
This is a tiny glimpse of death and it can give you a tiny realization
 – maybe even more than tiny, if you’re ready.

~ Eckhart Tolle

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

passing an orchard by train

Grass high under apple trees.
The bark of the trees rough and sexual 
the grass growing heavy and uneven.

We cannot bear disaster like
the rocks-
swaying nakedly
in open fields.

One slight bruise and we die!
I know no one on this train.
A man comes walking down the aisle.
I want to tell him
that I forgive him that I want him
to forgive me.

~ Robert Bly

a story of war

When you are called home, when you are somehow struck by the absolutely mysterious and irrevocable desire to know the truth of who you are, then you must be willing to put aside every story of separation.  Every story of separation is a story of war.

Human beings have been making war in every culture for a very long time.  Culture is a reflection of the individual mind, and the individual mind is a reflection of the cultural mind.  Since you are reading this, I assume you are interested in peace in your own mind.  You are not waiting for them to make peace.  This is good news, because war is fought to get others to do it our way so that we can live in peace.  When you stop waiting for them, and instead shift you attention to your own mind, then you can recognize the tendency toward war in your own mind, the tendencies of totalitarianism, hate, revenge, and holding on.  And you can recognize the suffering that those tendencies continue to deliver.

Some how, in the face of it all, you find you want peace.  You are sick and tired of the war within your own mind.  You may even express it in a conscious prayer, a plea for help, for understanding, for deliverance, for grace.

Grace is here now.  It is knocking at your door.  You have a chance to be at peace in this moment.  You only need to accept the invitation of your own heart, fight now, regardless of outer or inner circumstances, and let yourself sink into the peace of your innermost being.

Unless all of us take the responsibility for our own inner peace, the wars will continue.  We cannot wait any longer for someone else to change, We cannot wait for someone else to forgive us so that we can then forgive them.  We cannot wait for someone else to say they are sorry.  Peace cannot be postponed.

~ Gangaji
from the Diamond in your Pocket

Tuesday, August 13, 2019


~ Buffy Sainte-Marie


beneath persona

The person, from the Latin persona, was originally the megaphone-mouthed mask used by actors in the open-air theaters of ancient Greece and Rome, the mask through (per) which the sound (sonus) came.

~ Alan Watts

Walt Whitman - 1854

There is, in sanest hours, a consciousness, a thought that rises,
 independent, lifted out from all else, calm, like the stars, shining eternal. 
This is the thought of identity — yours for you, 
whoever you are, as mine for me. 
Miracle of miracles, beyond statement, 
most spiritual and vaguest of earth’s dreams, 
yet hardest basic fact, and only entrance to all facts.
 In such devout hours, in the midst of the significant wonders of heaven and earth,
 (significant only because of the Me in the centre,) creeds, conventions, 
fall away and become of no account before this simple idea.
 Under the luminousness of real vision, it alone takes possession, 
takes value. Like the shadowy dwarf in the fable, once liberated and look’d upon, 
it expands over the whole earth, and spreads to the roof of heaven.

~ Walt Whitman
 from Walt Whitman: Poetry and Prose
 with thanks

identity and safety

You ask me how I became a madman.  It happened thus:  One day, long before many gods were born,  I woke from a deep sleep and found all my masks were stolen, - the seven masks I have fashioned and worn in seven lives, - I ran mask-less through the crowded streets shouting, "Thieves, thieves, and cursed thieves."

Men and women laughed at me and some ran to their houses in fear of me.

And when I reached the market place, a youth standing on a house-top cried, "He is a madman."  I looked up to behold him; the sun kissed my own naked face for the first time.  For the first time the sun kissed my own naked face and my soul was inflamed with love for the sun, and I wanted my masks no more.  And as if in a trance I cried, "Blessed, blessed are the thieves who stole my masks."

Thus I became a madman.

And I have found both freedom and safety in my madness;  the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us.

But let me not be too proud of my safety.  Even a Thief in jail is safe from another thief.

~ Kahlil Gibran
from The Madman his Parables and Poems
art by Leonardo da Vinci

my friend

My friend, I am not what I seem. 
Seeming is but a garment I wear - 
a care-worn garment that protects me from thy questionings and thee from my negligence.

The "I" in me, my friend, dwells in the house of silence, 
and therein it shall remain for ever more, unperceived, unapproachable.

When thou sayest, "The wind bloweth eastward,"  
I say, "Aye it doth blow eastward";  
for I would not have thee know that my mind doth not dwell upon the wind but upon the sea.

Thou canst not understand my seafaring thoughts, 
nor would I have thee understand.  
I would be at sea alone.

When it is day with thee, my friend, it is night with me; 
yet even then I speak of the noontide that dances upon the hills 
and of the purple shadow that steals its way across the valley;
 for thou canst not hear the songs of my darkness nor see my wings beating against the stars - 
and I fain would not have thee hear or see.  
I would be with night alone.

When thou ascendest to thy Heaven I descend to my Hell 
- even then thou callest to me across the unbridgeable gulf, " My companion, my comrade," 
- for I would not have thee see my Hell.  
The flame would burn thy eyesight and the smoke would crowd thy nostrils.  
And I love my Hell too well to have thee visit it.  
I would be in Hell alone.

Thou lovest Truth and Beauty and Righteousness; 
and I for thy sake say it is well and seemly to love these things.  
But in my heart I laugh at thy love.  
Yet I would not have thee see my laughter.  
I would laugh alone.

My friend, thou art good and cautious and wise; nay, thou art perfect 
- and I, too, speak with thee wisely and cautiously.  
And yet I am mad.  But I mask my madness. 
I would be mad alone.

My friend, thou art not my friend, 
but how shall I make thee understand?  
My path is not thy path, 
yet together we walk, hand in hand.

~  Kahlil Gibran
from Poems Parables and Drawings


Monday, August 12, 2019

singing image of fire

A hand moves, and the fire's whirling takes different shapes:
All things change when we do.
The first word, "Ah," blossoms into all others.
Each of them true.

~ Kukai (774-835)
translation by Jane Hirshfield

Thursday, August 8, 2019

to be gentle

It is Spring in the mountains.
I come alone seeking you.
The sound of chopping wood echoes
Between the silent peaks.
The streams are still icy.
There is snow on the trail.
At sunset I reach your grove
In the stony mountain pass.
You want nothing, although at night
You can see the aura of gold
And silver ore all around you.
You have learned to be gentle
As the mountain deer you have tamed.
The way back forgotten, hidden
Away, I become like you,
An empty boat, floating, adrift.

~  Tu Fu (712-770)
translation by Kenneth Rexroth

Monday, August 5, 2019

allowing heartbreak allows healing

There come a point where it is more important to just let our heart break
 and get on with it than to keep trying to figure out why 
we are so often in pain or who's at fault and what sort of punishment they deserve.  

It takes a lot of work to get healed, to merge the heart and the disheartened.  
But even in the least observation, it becomes clear that no one needs any excuse
 for being in so much pain.  Wherever there is expectation or broken hope,
 disappointment or loss, there is the stuff of Shakespearean malady.

Healing is entering, with mercy and awareness, 
into those areas of ourselves we have withdrawn from with fear
 and a sense of helplessness. Healing is reoccupying those parts of ourselves
 that we abandoned because of mental or physical pain.
 Healing is replacing our merciless reactions with a merciful response.

Without mercy, we don't have a chance.  
And that chance is the breadth of heart that is our birthright.

~ Stephen Levine
from Untended Sorrow
art by Van Gogh


Saturday, August 3, 2019

a room


A room does not turn its back on grief.
Anger does not excite it.
Before desire, it neither responds
nor draws back in fear.

Without changing expression,
it takes
and gives back;
not a tuft in the mattress alters.

Windowsills evenly welcome
both heat and cold.
Radiators speak or fall silent as they must.

Doors are not equivocal,
floorboards do not hesitate or startle.
Impatience does not stir the curtains,
a bed is neither irritable nor rapacious.

Whatever disquiet we sense in a room
we have brought there.

And so I instruct my ribs each morning,
pointing to hinge and plaster and wood -

You are matter, as they are.
See how perfectly it can be done.
Hold, one day more, what is asked.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from The Lives of the Heart
art by Pierre Bonnard

The gate of heaven is everywhere.

~ Thomas Merton

Friday, August 2, 2019

I worried

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers 
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn 
as it was taught, and if not how shall 
I correct it? 

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven, 
can I do better? 

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows 
can do it and I am, well, 

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it, 
am I going to get rheumatism, 
lockjaw, dementia? 

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing. 
And gave it up. And took my old body 
and went out into the morning, 
and sang.

~ Mary Oliver
from Swan: Poems and Prose Poems

among trees


I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.

Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.

Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.

After days of labor,
mute in my consternations,
I hear my song at last,
and I sing it. As we sing,
the day turns, the trees move.

~ Wendell Berry
 photo by Kathleen Connally

Tolstoy on kindness

The kinder and the more thoughtful a person is, 
the more kindness he can find in other people.

Kindness enriches our life; with kindness mysterious things
 become clear, difficult things become easy, 
and dull things become cheerful.

You should respond with kindness toward evil done to you, 
and you will destroy in an evil person that pleasure which he derives from evil.

Kindness is for your soul as health
 is for your body: you do not notice it when you have it.

Love is real only when a person can sacrifice himself 
for another person. Only when a person forgets himself for the sake of another,
 and lives for another creature, only this kind of love can be called true love,
 and only in this love do we see the blessing and reward of life. 
This is the foundation of the world.

Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, 
more beautiful than perpetual kindness.

 ~ Leo Tolstoy
from A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish 
the Soul, Written and Selected from the World's Sacred Texts


Thursday, August 1, 2019

canned goods

~ Greg Brown

floating on an idea of me

fall into the breath,
stilled mind sank into
a bright bubble, sinking
down through the sea,
through ocean bottom,
through the minds floor.
no control

nothing here of my own
floating on the idea of me
just awareness observing
thoughts, ideas, perceptions
appearing and disappearing
on the surface of
an imagined thinker

free from entanglement
watching the habitual trinkets
the call and response of senses
immersed within absolute stillness
beyond name and form
a Pure Land
 of our inherent nature

 ~ adapted form Becoming Kuan Yin
by Stephen Levine