Thursday, October 31, 2019

watch your thoughts as you watch the street traffic

Watch your thoughts as you watch the street traffic,  
People come and go:  you register without response. 
 It may not be easy in the beginning,  but with some practice
 you will find that your mind can function on many levels 
at the same time and you can be aware of the all. 
 It is only when you have a vested interest in any particular level, 
that your attention gets caught in it and you black out on other levels. 
 Even then the work on the blacked out levels goes on, 
outside the field of consciousness.

Do not struggle with your memories and thoughts; 
 try only to include in your field of attention the other, 
 more important questions like, "Who am I?"
 "How did I happen to be born?" "Whence this universe around me?",
 What is real and what is momentary?"
 No memory will persist, if you lose interest in it; 
 always seeking pleasure, avoiding pain, 
always after happiness and peace. 

 Don't you see that it is your very search for happiness
 that makes you feel miserable?  Try the other way:
 indifferent to pain and pleasure, neither asking,
 nor refusing, give all your attention to the level on which 
"I am" is timeless and present.  Soon you will realize that peace
 and happiness are in your very nature
 and it is only seeking them through 
some particular channels, that disturbs.

~Nisargaddatta Maharaj


Like the small hole by the path-side something lives in,
in me are lives I do not know the names of,

nor the fates of,
nor the hungers of or what they eat.

They eat of me.
Of small and blemished apples in low fields of me
whose rocky streams and droughts I do not drink.

And in my streets—the narrow ones,
unlabeled on the self-map—
they follow stairs down music ears can’t follow,

and in my tongue borrowed by darkness,
in hours uncounted by the self-clock,
they speak in restless syllables of other losses, other loves.

There too have been the hard extinctions,
missing birds once feasted on and feasting.

There too must be machines
like loud ideas with tungsten bits that grind the day.

A few escape. A mercy.

They leave behind
small holes that something unweighed by the self-scale lives in.

~ Jane Hirshfield

Jane was born on this day in New York City (1953). She went to Princeton, where she was in the first graduating class to include women in 1973. She published her first poem not long after, then went off to northern California to study Buddhism for the next eight years, during which time she didn't write at all. She said: " I don't think poetry is based just on poetry; it is based on a thoroughly lived life. And so I couldn't just decide I was going to write no matter what; I first had to find out what it means to live.

comments from Writers Almanac

I sit on rocks and watch clouds


More than forty years I've lived as a hermit
out of touch with the world's rise and fall
a stove full of pine needles keeps me warm at night 
a bowl of wild plants fills me up at noon
I sit on rocks and watch clouds and let thoughts wander
I patch my robe in sunlight and cultivate silence
until someone asks why Bodhidharma came east
and I list all my possessions


Scorpion tails and wolf hearts overrun the world
everyone has a trick to get ahead
but how many smiles in a lifetime
how many moments of peace in a day
who knows a toppled cart means try another track
when trouble strikes there is no time for shame
this old monk isn't just talking
he's trying to remove your obstacles and chains


The crow and the hare race without rest 
living in the cliffs suddenly I'm old
my reflection looks thin when I walk beside a stream
my eyes have turned blue viewing mountains through pines
I gather red leaves to burn in my stove
I pick yellow flowers to put in a vase
toiling away for the wine of success
others get drunk and can't be revived


A thatched hut blue mountains green streams
visits by now are up to me
two or three peach trees and plum trees in bloom
green and yellow fields of vegetables and wheat
I sit all night in bed listening to rain
I open my paper window and doze off watching clouds
nothing is better than being free
but getting free isn't luck

~ Stonehouse
from The Zen Works of Stonehouse
by Red Pine
art by Huang Kung-wang


37. Stonehouse lived as a hermit for thirty-five years on Hsiamushan, but he also lived for three years with Kao-feng on Tienmushan's West Peak and six years with Chi-an on Langyashan near Chienyang. Although the practice was never as widespread in China as it was in India, monks were encouraged to restrict themselves to a noon meal, which they ate following their morning begging rounds. One of the most common koans asked by Zen masters is:"Why did Bodhidharma come east?" The student's answer is expected to express the essence of Zen rather than supply the Patriarch's presumed motivation.

38. One of the first measures enacted by the First Emperor when he unified China in 221 BC was to standardize the axle length of carts so that all tracks would be the same width. The Five Obstacles include desire, anger, tiredness, anxiety, and doubt. And the Ten Chains include shamelessness, insensitivity, envy, meanness, regret, laziness, over-activity, self-absorption, hate, and secretiveness.

39. According to Chinese mythology, the sun is the home of a crow, and the moon is the abode of a hare. The moon is yin and represents Earth, hence its symbol is an animal of the land; the sun is yang and represents Heaven, hence its totem is a creature of the air. Stonehouse's blue eyes could refer to the Zen eyes of Bodhidharma, the "blue-eyed barbarian," who brought Zen to China. But they could also refer to cataracts. Ironically, cataract surgery was introduced to the Chinese by Indian monks about the same time that Bodhidharma arrived, but the technique had been lost by Stonehouse's time. While Stonehouse used chrysanthemums for his altar, others infused them in their wine.

40. Etiquette requires paying a return visit to someone else who visits. Apparently Stonehouse no longer held up his side of such relationships. Perhaps he didn't like leaving his hut. As previously noted, windows were usually covered with oilpaper.

the author provides similar notes for each portion of the work.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

a hat salesman and a capable ruler

A man of Sung did business
In silk ceremonial hats.
He traveled with a load of hats
To the wild men of the South.
The wild men had shaved heads,
Tattooed bodies.
What did they want
With silk
Ceremonial hats?

Yao had wisely governed
All China.
He had brought the entire world
To a state of rest.
After that, he went to visit
The four Perfect Ones
In the distant mountains
Of Ku Shih
When he came back
Across the border
Into his own city
His lost gaze
Saw no throne.

~ Chuang Tzu
translated by Thomas Merton

The Heart's Counting Knows Only One

In Sung China,
two monks, friends for sixty years
watched the geese pass.
Where are they going?
one tested the other, who couldn't say.

That moment's silence continues.

No one will study their friendship
in the koan-books of insight.
No one will remember their names.

I think of them sometimes,
standing, perplexed by sadness,
goose-down sewn into their quilted autumn robes.

Almost swallowed by the vastness of the mountains,
but not yet.

As the barely audible
geese are not yet swallowed;
as even we, my love, will not entirely be lost.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from Lives of the Heart
art by Stanley Roseman

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

a signal not a glitch

~ Johann Hari


to see this

I have come into this world to see this:
 the sword drop from men's hands
 even at the height of their arc of anger
 because we have finally realized there is just one flesh
 to wound and it is the Beloved's.

I have come into this world to see this: 
all creatures hold hands as we pass through
 this miraculous existence we share on the way
 to an even greater being of soul, 
a being of just ecstatic light, 
forever entwined and at play with Him.

I have come into this world to hear this:
 every song the earth has sung since it was conceived
 in the Divine's womb and began spinning from His wish,
 every song by wing and fin and hoof,
 every song by hill and field and tree
 and woman and child, every song
 of stream and rock, every song of tool and lyre and flute,
 every song of gold and emerald and fire,
 every song the heart should cry with magnificent dignity
 to know itself as God: for all other knowledge 
will leave us again in want and aching -
 only imbibing the glorious Sun will complete us. 

I have come into this world to experience this:
 men so true to love they would rather die
 before speaking an unkind word,
 men so true their lives are His covenant - the promise of hope.

I have come into this world to see this: 
the sword drop from men's hands 
even at the height of their arc of rage 
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh
 we can wound.

~ Hafiz
from Love Poems from God: 
Twelve Sacred voices from East and West
edited by Daniel Ladinsky

Sunday, October 27, 2019

tripping over joy

What is the difference
Between your experience of Existence
And that of a saint?

The saint knows
That the spiritual path
Is a sublime chess game with God

And that the Beloved
Has just made such a Fantastic Move

That the saint is now continually
Tripping over Joy
And bursting out in Laughter
And saying, “I Surrender!”

Whereas, my dear,
I am afraid you still think
You have a thousand serious moves.

  ~ Hafez
from I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy
by Daniel Ladinsky

To Judgment: An Assay


You change a life
as eating an artichoke changes the taste 
of whatever is eaten after.
Yet you are not an artichoke, not a piano or cat -
not objectively present at all -
and what of you a cat possesses is essential but narrow:
to know if the distance between two things can be leapt.
The piano, that good servant,
has none of you in her at all, she lends herself
to what asks; this has been my ambition as well.
Yet a person who has you is like an iron spigot
whose water comes from far-off mountain springs.
Inexhaustible, your confident pronouncements flow,
coldly delicious.

For if judgment hurts the teeth, it doesn't mind,
not judgment.  Teeth pass,  Pain passes.
Judgment decrees what remains-
the serene judgments of evolution or the judgment
 of a boy-king entering Persia: "Burn it," he says,
and it burns.  And if a small tear swells the corner
of one eye, it is only the smoke, it is no more to him that a beetle
fleeing the flames of the village with her six-legged children.
The biologist Haldane - in one of his tenderer moments -
judged beetles especially loved by God,
"because He had made so many."  For judgment can be tender:
I have seen you carry a fate to its end as softly as a retriever
carries the quail. 

 Yet however much
I admire you at such moments, I cannot love you:
you are too much in me, weighing without pity your own worth.
When I have erased you from me entirely,
disrobed of your measuring adjectives,
stripped from my shoulders and hips each of your nouns,
when the world is horsefly, coal barge, and dawn the color of winter butter -
then perhaps I will love you,  Helpless to not.
As a newborn wolf is helpless: no choice but hunt the wolf milk,
find it sweet.

~  Jane Hirshfield,
from: 'After'

an instrument of comparison?

Is not the mind also an instrument of comparison?  You say this is better than that; you compare yourself with somebody who is more beautiful, who is more clever.  There is comparison when you say, 'I remember that particular river that I saw a year ago, and it was still more beautiful'.  Your compare yourself with somebody, compare yourself with an example, with the ultimate ideal.  Comparative judgment makes the mind dull; it does not sharpen the mind, it does not make the mind comprehensive, inclusive, because, when you are all the time comparing, what has happened?  You see the sunset, and you immediately compare that sunset with the previous sunset.  You see a mountain and you see how beautiful it is.  Then you say, 'I saw a still more beautiful mountain two years ago'.  When you are comparing, you are really not looking at the sunset which is there, but you are looking at it in order to compare it with something else.  So comparison prevents you from looking fully.  I look at you, you are nice, but I say, 'I know a much nicer person, a much better person, a more noble person, a more stupid person'.  When I do this, I am not looking at you.  Because my mind is occupied with something else, I am not looking at you at all.   In the same way, I am not looking at the sunset at all.  To really look at the sunset, there must be no comparison; to really look at you, I must not compare you with someone else.  It is only when I look at you without comparative judgment that I can understand you.  But when I compare you with somebody else, then I judge you and I say, 'Oh, he is a very stupid man'.  So stupidity arises when there is comparison.  I compare you with somebody else, and that very comparison brings about a lack of human dignity.  When I look at you without comparing, I am only concerned with you, not with someone else.  The very concern about you, not comparatively, brings about human dignity.

So as long as the mind is comparing, there is no love, and the mind is always judging, comparing, weighing, looking to find where the weakness is.  So where there is comparison, there is no love.  When the mother and father love their children, they do not compare them, they do not compare their child with another child; it is their child and they love their child.  But you want to compare yourself with something better, with something nobler, with something richer, so you create in yourself a lack of love.  You are always concerned with yourself in relationship to somebody else.   As the mind becomes more and more comparative, more and more possessive, more and more depending, it creates a pattern in which it gets caught, so it cannot look at anything anew, afresh.

And so it destroys that very thing, that very perfume of life, which is love.

J. Krishnamurti
from a conversation with students at Rajghat School
December 19, 1952

the weighing

The heart's reasons
seen clearly,
even the hardest
will carry
its whip-marks and sadness
and must be forgiven.

As the drought-starved 
eland forgives
the drought-starved lion
who finally takes her,
enters willingly then
the life she cannot refuse,
and is lion, is fed,
and does not remember the other.

So few grains of happiness
measured against all he dark
and still the scales balance.

The world asks of us
only the strength we have and we give it.
Then it asks more, and we give it.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from The October Palace
photo by eliot porter

beauty and art - transcending self

Beauty is the convenient and traditional name of something which art and nature share, and which gives a fairly clear sense to the idea of quality of experience and change of consciousness. I am looking out of my window in an anxious and resentful state of mind, oblivious of my surroundings, brooding perhaps on some damage done to my prestige. Then suddenly I observe a hovering kestrel. In a moment everything is altered. The brooding self with its hurt vanity has disappeared. There is nothing now but kestrel. And when I return to thinking of the other matter it seems less important. And of course this is something which we may also do deliberately: give attention to nature in order to clear our minds of selfish care.

art, affords us a pure delight in the independent existence of what is excellent. Both in its genesis and its enjoyment it is a thing totally opposed to selfish obsession. It invigorates our best faculties and, to use Platonic language, inspires love in the highest part of the soul. It is able to do this partly by virtue of something which it shares with nature: a perfection of form which invites unpossessive contemplation and resists absorption into the selfish dream life of the consciousness.

The self, the place where we live, is a place of illusion. Goodness is connected with the attempt to see the unself, to see and to respond to the real world in the light of a virtuous consciousness. This is the non-metaphysical meaning of the idea of transcendence to which philosophers have so constantly resorted in their explanations of goodness. “Good is a transcendent reality” means that virtue is the attempt to pierce the veil of selfish consciousness and join the world as it really is. It is an empirical fact about human nature that this attempt cannot be entirely successful.
~ Iris Murdoch
from  The Sovereignty of Good
photo by Ida Kar

Friday, October 25, 2019

a mind that lets go

Do everything with a mind that lets go.
If you let go a little, you will have a little peace.
If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace.
If you let go completely, you will know complete peace and freedom.
Your struggles with the world will have come to an end.

~ Achaan Chah,  (1918-1992)

(Ajahn (sometimes spelled Achaan) Chah was born into a large and comfortable family in a rural village in Northeast Thailand. He ordained as a novice in early youth and on reaching the age of twenty took higher ordination as a monk. As a young monk he studied some basic Dhamma, Discipline and scriptures. Later he practiced meditation under the guidance of several of the local Meditation Masters in the Ascetic Forest Tradition. He wandered for a number of years in the style of an ascetic monk, sleeping in forests, caves and cremation grounds, and spent a short but enlightening period with Ajahn Mun, one of the most famous and respected Thai Meditation Masters of this century.)


the great sea

The great sea
Has sent me adrift,
It moves me as the weed in a great river,
Earth and the great weather move me,
Have carried me away,
And move my inward parts with joy.

~ Uvavnuk
Eskimo woman shaman,19th c.
art: Starry Night detail 
Van Gogh

behind states of mind

~ Rupert Spira


Thursday, October 24, 2019

full surrender

The art of living is based on rhythm - on give and take, ebb and flow, light and dark, life and death. By acceptance of all aspects of life, good and bad, right and wrong, yours and mine, the static, defensive life, which is what most people are cursed with, is converted into a dance, ‘the dance of life,’ metamorphosis. One can dance to sorrow or to joy; one can even dance abstractly. But the point is that, by the mere act of dancing, the elements which compose it are transformed; the dance is an end in itself, just like life. The acceptance of the situation, any situation, brings about a flow, a rhythmic impulse towards self-expression. To relax is, of course, the first thing a dancer has to learn. It is also the first thing a patient has to learn when he confronts the analyst. It is the first thing any one has to learn in order to live. It is extremely difficult, because it means surrender, full surrender. 

~  Henry Miller
from The Wisdom of the Heart

in meditation practice

In meditation practice, we neither hold the mind very tightly
 nor let it go completely. If we try to control the mind, 
then its energy will rebound back on us. If we let the mind go
 completely, then it will become very wild and chaotic. 

So we let the mind go, but at the same time, there is some discipline involved ... 
The basic practice is to be present, right here. The goal is also the technique:
 precisely being in this moment, neither suppressing nor wildly letting go,
 but being precisely aware of what you are.

~ Chogyam Trungpa

learn self-conquest

Learn self-conquest, 
persevere thus for a time, 
and you will perceive very clearly
 the advantage which you gain from it. 

As soon as you apply yourself to contemplation, 
you will at once feel your senses gather themselves together: 
they seem like bees which return to the hive and there 
shut themselves up to work at the making of honey. 

~ Saint Teresa of Avila

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

the look of its landlord

For in this house, everything
has the look of its landlord.

While the hand moves
the shadow must follow.
Since the shadow gains its substance
from the hand
it has none of itself,
That which derives existence
from something else 
how can we say
it truly exists?

It has a name, yes,
but is not that existence
which subsists through God.

~ Fakhruddin Iraqi
from Divine Flashes

Some thought that all these loves were copies of 
our love for the landlord.

~ C.S. Lewis 
from God in the Dock

Monday, October 21, 2019

no expectations

A spirit that lives in this world
And does not wear the shirt of love,
Such an existence is a deep disgrace.

Be foolish in love,
Because love is all there is.

There is no way into presence
Except through a love exchange.

If someone asks, But what is love?
Answer, Dissolving the will.

True freedom comes to those
Who have escaped the questions
Of freewill and fate.

Love is an emperor.
The two worlds play across him.
He barely notices their tumbling game.

Love and lover live in eternity.
Other desires are substitutes
For that way of being.

How long to you lay embracing a corpse?
Love rather the soul, which cannot be held.

Anything born in the spring dies in the fall,
But love is not seasonal.

With wine pressed from grapes,
Expect a hangover.

But this love path has no expectations.
You are uneasy riding the body?
Dismount.  Travel lighter.
Wings will be given.

Be clear like a mirror
Reflecting nothing.

Be clean of pictures and the worry 
That comes with images.

Gaze into what is not ashamed
Or afraid of any truth.

Contain all human faces in your own
Without any judgement of them.

Be pure emptiness.
What is inside that? You ask.
Silence is all I can say.

Lovers have some secrets
That they keep.

~ Rumi
From: Rumi - Bridge to the Soul
Translation by Coleman Barks

Sunday, October 20, 2019

peace of Self

If one gains the Peace of Self,
 it will spread without any effort on the part of the individual.
When one is not peaceful, oneself, how can one spread peace in the world?
Unless one is happy,  one cannot bestow happiness on others. 

 Happiness is born of Peace and can reign only when there is no disturbance.
  Disturbance is due to thoughts,  which arise in the mind.  
When the mind is absent there will be perfect Peace.

The ultimate truth is so simple; 
 it is nothing more than being in one's natural original state. 
 Because people want elaborate and mysterious,
 so many religions have come into existence. 

~ Ramana Maharshi

the thought "I"

Thoughts arise because of the thinker.
The thinker is the ego, which if sought will automatically vanish.

Reality is simply loss of the ego.
Destroy the ego by seeking its identity.

Because the ego has no real existence, it will automatically vanish,
 and Reality will shine forth by itself in all its glory.

This is the direct method.
All other methods retain the ego,  In those paths so many doubts arise,
 and the eternal question remains to be tackled. 
 But in this method the final question is the only one 
and is raised from the very beginning.

No practices are even necessary for this quest.

The cause of misery is not in life without;  it is within you as the ego.
You impose limitations on yourself and then make a vain struggle to transcend them.

Why attribute to the happenings in life the cause of misery,
 which really lies within you?  What happiness can you get
 from anything extraneous to yourself?  
When you get it, how long will it last?

There are no stages to Realization of degrees of Liberation. 
 There are no levels of Reality; 
 there are only levels of experience for the individual.

It is not a matter of becoming but of being.
Remain aware of yourself and all else will be known.

~ Ramana Maharshi

Saturday, October 19, 2019

through the lenses of our thoughts

The world is not simply there. Everything and everyone we see, we view through the lenses of our thoughts. Your mind is where your thoughts arise and form. It is not simply with your eyes but with your mind that you see the world. So much depends on your mind: How you see yourself, who you think you are, how you see others, what you think the meaning of life is, how you see death, belief, God, darkness and beauty is all determined by the style of mind you have.

Your mind is your greatest treasure. We become so taken up with the world, with having and doing more and more that we come to ignore who we are and forget what we see the world with. The most powerful way to change your life is to change your mind.

When you beautify your mind, you beautify your world. You learn to see differently. In what seemed like dead situations, secret possibilities and invitations begin to open before you. In old suffering that held you long paralyzed, you find new keys. When your mind awakens, your life comes alive and the creative adventure of your soul takes off. Passion and compassion become your new companions. As St. Iraneus said in the 2nd Century: The glory of God is the human person fully alive.

~ John O'Donohue
This was the title and description that John wrote for a talk
 he was scheduled to give in March of 2008.

mind and simplicity

~ Gangaji

Friday, October 18, 2019

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."