Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Sky: An Assay

A hawk flies though it, carrying
a still-twisting snake twice the length of its body.

Radiation, smoke, mosquitoes, the music of Mahler fly through it.

The sky makes room, adjusting its airy shoulders.

Sky doesn't age or remember,
carries neither grudges nor hope.
Every morning is new as the last one, uncreased
as the not quite imaginable first.

From the fate of thunderstorms, hailstorms, fog,
sky learns no lesson,
leaping through any window as soon as it's raised.

In speech, furious or tender,
it's still of passing sky the words are formed.
Whatever sky proposes is out in the open.

Clear even when not,
sky offers no model, no mirror - cloudy or bright -
to the ordinary heart: which is secretive,
rackety, domestic, harboring a wild uninterest in sky's disinterest.

And so we look right past sky, by it, through it,
to what also is moody and alters -
erosive mountains, eclipsable moons, stars distant but death-bound.

~ Jane Hirshfield

Monday, March 30, 2020

expioring the shadow

~ Jack Kornfield and Trudy Goodman

between the shadow and the soul

I do not love you as if you were the salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way 

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

~ Pablo Neruda 
 art by Odilon Redon, Golden Cell

hands and shadows

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

Sunday, March 29, 2020

transforming darkness

~ Jack Kornfield


Friday, March 27, 2020


But loneliness is entirely different from aloneness. That loneliness must be passed to be alone. Loneliness is not comparable with aloneness. The man who knows loneliness can never know that which is alone. Are you in that state of aloneness? Our minds are not integrated to be alone. The very process of the mind is separative. And that which separates knows loneliness.

But aloneness is not separative. It is something which is not the many, which is not influenced by the many, which is not the result of the many, which is not put together as the mind is; the mind is of the many. Mind is not an entity that is alone, being put together, brought together, manufactured through centuries. Mind can never be alone. Mind can never know aloneness. But being aware of the loneliness when going through it, there comes into being that aloneness. Then only can there be that which is immeasurable. Unfortunately most of us seek dependence. We want companions; we want friends; we want to live in a state of separation, in a state which brings about conflict. That which is alone can never be in a state of conflict. But mind can never perceive that, can never understand that; it can only know loneliness.

~ J. Krishnamurti
from the talk On Love and Loneliness (1952)
national geographic photo

all these insane borders we protect

A woman's body, like the earth, has seasons;
when the mountain stream flows,
when the holy thaws,
when I am most fragile and in need,
it was then, it seemed,
God came closest.

God, like a medic on a field, is tending our souls.
Our horns get locked with desires, but don't hold yourself
too accountable; for all desires are really innocent. 
That is what the compassion in His eyes tell me.

Why this great war between the countries -- the countries --
inside of us?

What are all these insane borders we protect?
What are all these different names for the same church of love
we kneel in together? For it is true, together we live; and only
at that shrine where all are welcome will God sing
loud enough to be heard.

Our horns got locked with the earth and sky in some odd
marriage ritual; so what, don't worry. We should be proud of
ourselves for everything we helped create in this
magic world.

And God is always there, if you feel wounded. He kneels
over this earth like a divine medic,
and His love thaws the holy in us.

~ St. Teresa of Avila
from Love Poems From God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West
version by Daniel Ladinsky
art by Steve Shinn

together in a tapestry

We are all bound together in a tapestry that like the sea gives the impression of movement 

towards something but is actually just a maternal body of material...

The flowers buzz when the vibration of the bees stimulates their pistons 

and their molecules swell and their petals hum like cellos. Rocks are alive,
 the firstborn of the natural world, somber without will.

There is no freedom from this universe we were born into, because it is our

 vague source of sensation, our soul, the container of our guilt.

Skins liquefy in heat. And when a bald baby swallow dies on your palm, 

you feel warmth pouring over your skin, a kind of burning fountain 
that scalds you like pepper spray.

Do you think this is a sign of the spirit ripping its energy into you to carry

 to the other side? I do. There are no actual objects over there, no materials
 but unformed steaming clouds, colors that harmonize musically, 
no gravity exists but elasticity composed of invisible images.


~ Fanny Howe
from 'The Child's Child'
The Needle's Eye: Passing through Youth

Monday, March 23, 2020

a hand is shaped for what it holds or makes

A hand is shaped for what it holds or makes.
Time takes what's handed to it then - warm bread, a stone,
a child whose fingers touch the page to keep her place.

Beloved, grown old separately, your face
shows me the changes on my own.
I see the histories it holds, the argument it makes

against the thresh of trees, the racing clouds, the race
of birds and sky birds always lose:
the lines have ranged, but not the cheek's strong bone.
My finger touching there recall that place.

Once we were one.  Then what time did, and hands, erased
us from the future we had owned.
For some, the future holds what hands release, not made.

We make a bridge.  We walked it.  Laced
night's sounds with passion.
Owls' pennywhistles, after, took our place.

Wasps leave their nest. Wind takes the papery case.
Our wooden house, less easily undone,
now houses others.  A life is shaped by what it holds or makes.
I make these words for what they can't replace.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from Come, Thief

we victims - our suffering

~ Gangaji

Sunday, March 22, 2020


~ Jack Kornfield


an old story

with thanks to brainpickings

Thursday, March 19, 2020

no ground to stand on

~ Ram Dass


the third body

A man and a woman sit near each other, and they do not long
at this moment to be older, or younger, nor born
in any other nation, or time, or place.
They are content to be where they are, talking or not talking.
Their breaths together feed someone whom we do not know.
The man sees the way his fingers move;
he sees her hands close around a book she hands to him.
They obey a third body they have in common.
They have made a promise to love that body.
Age may come, parting may come, death will come.
A man and woman sit near each other;
as they breathe they feed someone we do not know, 
someone we know of, whom we have never seen.

~ Robert Bly
art by  Ismail Shammout

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

peace and the scary spider

~ Gangaji 

until we know everything

We know nothing until we know everything.

I have no object to defend
for all is of equal value
to me.

I cannot lose anything in this
place of abundance
I found.

If something my heart cherishes
is taken away,

I just say, "Lord, what happened?"

And a hundred more appear.

~ Saint Catherine of Siena, (1347-1380)

she felt the need to go out into the world and help her neighbors out of love for God.  Thus she was not only and ascetic and mystic, but also and activist...She devoted herself with such dedication to the sick and poor of Siena that they called her "our holy mother."

comment by Ursula King
art by Sano di Pietro

Monday, March 16, 2020

life's joys and sorrow

~ Jack Kornfield


Sunday, March 15, 2020

the Indian parrot

There was a merchant setting out for India. 

He asked each male and female servant
what they wanted to be brought as a gift. 

Each told him a different exotic object:
A piece of silk, a brass figurine,
a pearl necklace. 

Then he asked his beautiful caged parrot,
the one with such a lovely voice,
and she said,
"When you see the Indian parrots,
describe my cage. Say that I need guidance
here in my separation from them. Ask how
our friendship can continue with me so confined
and them flying about freely in the meadow mist. 

Tell them that I remember well our mornings
moving together from tree to tree. 

Tell them to drink one cup of ecstatic wine
in honor of me here in the dregs of my life. 

Tell them that the sound of their quarreling
high in the trees would be sweeter
to hear than any music." 

This parrot is the spirit-bird in all of us,
that part that wants to return to freedom,
and is the freedom. What she wants
from India is herself! 

So this parrot gave her message to the merchant,
and when he reached India, he saw a field
full of parrots. He stopped
and called out what she had told him. 

One of the nearest parrots shivered
and stiffened and fell down dead. 

The merchant said, "This one is surely kin
to my parrot. I shouldn't have spoken." 

He finished his trading and returned home
with the presents for his workers. 

When he got to the parrot, she demanded her gift.
"What happened when you told my story
to the Indian parrots?" 

"I'm afraid to say."
"Master, you must!" 

"When I spoke your complaint to the field
of chattering parrots, it broke
one of their hearts. 

She must have been  close companion,
or a relative, for when she heard about you
she grew quiet and trembled, and died." 

As the caged parrot heard this, she herself
quivered and sank to the cage floor. 

This merchant was a good man.
He grieved deeply for his parrot, murmuring
distracted phrases, self-contradictory -
cold, then loving - clear, then
murky with symbolism. 

A drowning man reaches for anything!
The Friend loves this flailing about
better than any lying still. 

The One who lives inside existence
stays constantly in motion,
and whatever you do, that king
watches through the window. 

When the merchant threw the "dead" parrot
out of the cage, it spread its wings
and glided to a nearby tree! 

The merchant suddenly understood the mystery.
"Sweet singer, what was in the message
that taught you this trick?" 

"She told me that it was the charm
of my voice that kept me caged.
Give it up, and be released!" 

The parrot told the merchant one or two more
spiritual truths. Then a tender goodbye. 

"God protect you," said the merchant
"as you go on your new way.
I hope to follow you!" 

~ Rumi 
from  One-Handed Basket Weaving
translated by Coleman Barks


Saturday, March 14, 2020

vulnerability - Brene Brown

~ Brene Brown


Vulnerability is not a weakness, a passing indisposition 
or something we can arrange to do without, vulnerability is not a choice,
 vulnerability is the underlying, ever present and abiding undercurrent
 of our natural state. To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence
 of our nature, the attempt to be invulnerable is the vain attempt
 to become something we are not and most especially, to close off 
our understanding of the grief of others. More seriously,
 in refusing our vulnerability we refuse the help needed at every turn 
of our existence and immobilize the essential, tidal and conversational
 foundations of our identity.

To have a temporary, isolated sense of power over all events 
and circumstances, is a lovely illusionary privilege and perhaps 
the prime and most beautifully constructed conceit of being human 
and especially of being youthfully human, but it is a privilege
 that must be surrendered with that same youth, with ill health, 
with accident, with the loss of loved ones who do not share 
our untouchable powers; powers eventually and most emphatically
 given up, as we approach our last breath.

The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability,
 how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate 
through our intimacy with disappearance, our choice is to inhabit vulnerability
 as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully, or conversely, 
as misers and complainers, reluctant and fearful, always at the gates 
of existence, but never bravely and completely attempting to enter,
 never wanting to risk ourselves, never walking fully through the door.

~ David Whyte
from Consolations:The Solace, Nourishment and 

Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words

Thursday, March 12, 2020

the peace of wild things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

~ Wendell Berry

perspectives on compassion - Dayanada Sarawati

~ Dayananda Saraswati


perspectives on compassion - Joan Halifax

~ Joan Halifax


perspectives on compassion - James Forbes

~ James Forbes


perspectives on compassion - Robert Thurman

~ Robert Thurman


perspectives on compassion - Robert Wright

~ Robert Wright


Wednesday, March 11, 2020


~ Jack Kornfield


Tuesday, March 10, 2020

sit down



Once, there was a fellow who wanted out of the Zen monastery where he was living.
In Zen monasteries you must pay constant attention to what you’re doing,
 what you’re experiencing from moment to moment. After a time, this can get to you,
 which is precisely what happened to this fellow.

He went to see the master and said,
 “I can’t take this anymore. I want out.”

The master said,
 “Okay, then leave.”

He started for the door, and the master said,
 “That’s not your door.”

“Oh. Sorry.” The fellow looked around and spotted another door.
 As he headed for it, the master said,
 “That’s not your door.”

“Oh!” He looked around for another door, and as he headed for that one,
 the master said,
“That’s not your door!”

Bewildered and exasperated, the poor fellow said, “What do you mean?
 There’s no other door. You told me I could leave, but there’s no door I can leave by.”

“If there’s no door you can leave by,”
 said the master,
 “then sit down.”

We can only be here. We can’t leave. We’re always here.
 Examine your life and you’ll see. The master’s
“sit down”
 means to start paying attention to what’s actually going on,
 instead of running away from it. This is how it is with us.
 Because we ignore our true situation, we’re never satisfied.

~ Steve Hagen



. . . it is important to understand, not intellectually but actually in your daily life,
 how you have built images about your wife, your husband, your neighbor, 
your child, your country, your leaders, your politicians, your gods
–you have nothing but images.

The images create the space between you and what you observe and in that space
 there is conflict, so what we are going to find out now together is whether
 it is possible to be free of the space we create, not only outside ourselves 
but in ourselves, the space which divides people
 in all their relationships.

Now the very attention you give to a problem is the energy that solves that problem. 
When you give your complete attention–I mean with everything in you–
there is no observer at all. There is only the state of attention which is total energy, 
and that total energy is the highest form of intelligence. Naturally that state
 of mind must be completely silent and that silence, that stillness,
 comes when there is total attention, not disciplined stillness. 
That total silence in which there is neither the observer nor the thing observed
 is the highest form of a religious mind. But what takes place in that state
 cannot be put into words because what is said in words is not the fact.
 To find out for yourself you have to go through it.

~ J. Krishnamurti 
excerpt from Freedom from the Known
art by Georges Braque

Friday, March 6, 2020

touch of life

There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, 
a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness.  This mysterious Unity
 and Integrity is Wisdom, the Mother of all, Natura naturans
 There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence
 that is a fount of action and joy.  It rises up in wordless gentleness 
and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created being, 
welcoming me tenderly, saluting me with indescribable humility.  
This is at once my own being, my own nature, and the Gift of my Creator's
 Thought and Art within me, speaking as Hagia Sophia, 
speaking as my sister, Wisdom.

In the cool hand of the nurse there is the touch of all life, the touch of Spirit.

Thus Wisdom cries out to all who will hear (Sapientia clamitat in plateis) 
and she cries out particularly to the little, to the ignorant and the helpless.

Who is more little, who is more poor than the helpless man
 who lies asleep in his bed without awareness and without defense?
 Who is more trusting than he who must entrust himself each night to sleep?
  What is the reward of his trust?  Gentleness comes to him
 when he is most helpless and awakens him, refreshed, 
beginning to be made whole.  Love takes him by the hand, 
and opens to him the doors of another life, another day.

(But he who has defended himself, fought for himself in sickness,
 planned for himself, guarded himself, loved himself alone and watched
 over his own life all night, is killed at last by exhaustion. 
 For him there is no newness.  Everything is stale and old.)

When the helpless one awakens strong at the voice of mercy,
 it is as if Life his Sister, as if the Blessed Virgin, (his own flesh, 
his own sister), as if Nature made wise by God's Art and Incarnation
 were to stand over him and invite him with unutterable sweetness
 to be awake and to live.  This is what it means
 to recognize Hagia Sophia.

~ Thomas Merton
from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton