Monday, August 31, 2020

oh what is that beautiful thing that just happened?

At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled
after a night of rain.

I dip my cupped hands. I drink
a long time. It tastes

like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold
into my body, waking the bones. I hear them

deep inside me, whispering
oh what is that beautiful thing
that just happened?

~ Mary Oliver
photo by Eliot Porter

Sunday, August 30, 2020

room for all this

Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. 
We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem,
 but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. 

They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again
 and fall apart again. It’s just like that. 

The healing comes from letting there be room for all this to happen;
 room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy. When we think 
something is going to bring us pleasure, we don’t know 
what’s really going to happen. When we think something is going
 to give us misery, we don’t know. 

Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all.
 We try to do what we think is going to help. But we don’t know. 
We never know if we’re going to fall flat or sit up tall.

 When there’s a big disappointment, we don’t know if that’s the end of the story.
 It may just be the beginning of a great adventure.

~ Pema Chodron
art by van gogh

Friday, August 28, 2020

what survives

Rexroth and son, 1955

A long lifetime
Peoples and places
And the crisis of mankind -
What survives is the crystal -
Infinitely small -
Infinitely large -

~ Kenneth Rexroth

remembering rexroth

one of the leading poets of the San Francisco Renaissance, and he was considered a sort of father of the Beat movement, although he responded to this label by saying: "An entomologist is not a bug."  He said of San Francisco "It is the only city in the United States which was not settled overland by the westward-spreading puritan tradition, or by the Walter Scott, fake-cavalier tradition of the South. It had been settled, mostly, in spite of all the romances of the overland migration, by gamblers, prostitutes, rascals and fortune seekers who came across the Isthmus and around the Horn. They had their faults, but they were not influenced by Cotton Mather."

he loved California summer in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and almost every summer after that for the next 40 years. He said: "I have always felt I was most myself in the mountains. There I have done the bulk of what is called my creative work. At least it is in the mountains that I write most of my poetry. Life in the city in the winter seems too full of distractions and busy work. Who said poetry was emotion recollected in tranquility? I don't know about others, but I find most tranquility camped by a mountain lake at timber line.

Lying under the stars,
In the summer night,
Late while the autumn
Constellations climb the sky,
As the Cluster of Hercules
Falls down the west
I put the telescope by 
And watch Deneb
Move towards the zenith
My body is asleep. Only
My eyes and brain are awake.
The stars stand around me
Like gold eyes. I can no longer
Tell where I begin and leave off.
The faint breeze in the dark pines,
And the invisible grass,
The tipping earth, the swarming stars
Have an eye that sees itself.

The Earth will be going on a long time
Before it finally freezes;
Men will be on it; they will take names,
Give their deeds reasons.
We will be here only
As chemical constituents—
A small franchise indeed.
Right now we have lives,
Corpuscles, Ambitions, Caresses,
Like everybody had once—

Here at the year's end, at the feast
Of birth, let us bring to each other
The gifts brought once west through deserts—
The precious metal of our mingled hair,
The frankincense of enraptured arms and legs,
The myrrh of desperate, invincible kisses—
Let us celebrate the daily
Recurrent nativity of love,
The endless epiphany of our fluent selves,
While the earth rolls away under us
Into unknown snows and summers,
Into untraveled spaces of the stars.

~ Kenneth Rexroth
from Sacramental Acts

Thursday, August 27, 2020

she who reconciles

She who reconciles the ill-matched threads
of her life, and weave them gratefully
into a single cloth -
it's she who drives the loudmouths from the hall
and clears it for a different celebration

where the one guest is you.
In the softness of evening
it's you she receives.

You are the partner of her loneliness,
the unspeaking center of her monologues.
With each disclosure you encompass more
and she stretches beyond what limits her,
to hold you.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

I'm slipping


I'm slipping.  I'm slipping away
like sand

slipping through fingers.  All
my cells

are open, and all
so thirsty.  I ache and swell

in a hundred places, but mostly
in the middle of my heart.

I want to die.  Leave me alone.
I free I  am almost there -

where the great terror
can dismember me.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from The Book of Hours

too many names

Mondays are meshed with Tuesdays
and the week with the whole year.
Time cannot be cut
with your weary scissors,
and all the names of the day
are washed out by the waters of night. 

No one can claim the name of Pedro,
nobody is Rosa or Maria,
all of us are dust or sand,
all of us are rain under rain.
They have spoken to me of Venezuelas,
of Chiles and of Paraguays;
I have no idea what they are saying.
I'm aware of the earth's skin
and I know that it doesn't have a name.

When I lived with the roots
I liked them more than the flowers,
and when I talked with a stone
it rang like a bell.

The spring is so long
that is lasts all winter:
time lost its shoes:
a year contains four centuries.

When I sleep all these nights,
what am I named or not named?
And when I wake up who am I
if I wasn't I when I slept?

This means that we have barely
disembarked into life,
that we've only just now been born,
let's not fill our mouths
with so many uncertain names,
with so many sad labels,
with so many pompous letters,
with so much yours and mine,
with so much signing of papers.

I intend to confuse things,
to unite them, make them new-born,
intermingle them, undress them,
until the light of the world
has the unity of the ocean,
a generous wholeness,
a fragrance alive and crackling.

~ Pablo Neruda

English version by Anthony Kerrigan
 image by Chris Behling

to heal the wound

I think most of us have been touched
 profoundly by our situation, the reality in which we live, 
and many of us need a kind of healing.

A number of people, including myself and many of my friends --
we need a little bit of time, of space, of privacy, of meditation,
in order to heal the wound that is very deep in ourselves. 

That does not mean that if sometimes I am absorbed in looking at a cloud
and not thinking about Vietnam, that does not mean that I don't care.
But I need the cloud to heal me and my deep wounds. Many of us are wounded,
and we understand and support each other in our need for healing.

We tend to imagine that the lifetime of a person is something like
using your pen in order to draw a line across a sheet of paper.
A person appears on this earth and lives and dies.
And we may think of the life of a person just like a line we trace
across a sheet of paper. But I think that is not true.

The life of a person is not confined to anything like a line
 you draw,o not go in one direction -
direction of the right side of a piece of paper, 
but you also go in other directions.
So the image of that line crossing the sheet of paper is not correct.
It goes in all directions. Not only four, or eight, or sixteen,
 but many, many.

So if we can see through to that reality, our notion of time will change.
That is why in meditation you can feel that you are not traveling in time
but we are, we are eternity. We are not caught by death, by change.
A few moments of being alive in that state of mind is a very good opportunity
for self purification. Not only will it affect our being,
but of course it affects our action -- our non-action.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh
with thanks to louie, louie

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

and all shall be well

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;

At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.

Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well

~ T.S Eliot

from “Little Gidding,” Four Quartets

we travelers

We travelers, walking to the sun, can't see
Ahead, but looking back the very light
That blinded us shows us the way we came,
Along which blessings now appear, risen
As if from sightlessness to sight, and we,
By blessings brightly lit, keep going toward
That blessed light that yet to us is dark.

~ Wendell Berry

Monday, August 24, 2020

at the centre

When I am at the centre of my unrequited love
I cannot hold it as an object
It has no sharp edges to torture anyone
I breathe the fragrance of the longing
and the longing has no proprietor
"O my love" embraces the great wide sky
as the night picks through the constellations
lifting necklace after dripping necklace
for the delight of my true beloved
"O my love" cries out from every pore of snow
and the forest answers a from great height:
"O my love"

~ Leonard Cohen


Saturday, August 22, 2020

I learned through my body and soul

I learned through my body and soul
 that it was necessary for me to sin,
that I needed lust,
that I had to strive for property,
and experience nausea and the depths of despair
in order to learn not to resist them,
in order to learn to love the world ...

Hermann Hesse, from 'Siddhartha'

dark eyes

My love and my yearning for home
ignited in the heat of this night
like the sweet fragrance of foreign flowers
fanning the flames of a fierce fervor.

My love and my yearning for home
and all my fortune and misfortune
now stand like silent stanzas of a song
in the dark mirror of your mythic gaze.

My love and my yearning for home
have turned away from the noise of this world
and in your dark eyes
have built a vast, secret throne.

~ Hermann Hesse
from The seasons of the Soul
translated by Ludwig Max Fischer

Monday, August 17, 2020

cannot be thought, caught, or sought by understanding

For silence is not God, nor speaking; 
fasting is not God, nor eating; 
solitude is not God, nor company; 
nor any other pair of opposites.

  He is hidden between them, 
and cannot be found by anything your soul does, 
but only by the love of your heart.  

He cannot be known by reason, 
he cannot be thought, caught, 
or sought by understanding.  

But he can be loved and 
chosen by the true, loving will of your heart.

~ the cloud of unknowing

the singing bowl

Begin the song exactly where you are.
Remain within the world of which you're made.
Call nothing common in the earth or air.

Accept it all and let it be for good.
Start with the very breath you breathe in now,
This moment's pulse, this rhythm in your blood

And listen to it, ringing soft and low.
Stay with the music, words will come in time.
Slow down your breathing. Keep it deep and slow.

Become an open singing bowl, whose chime
Is richness out of emptiness,
And timelessness resounding into time.

And when the heart is full of quietness
Begin the Song exactly where you are.
~ Malcolm Guite
art by Joyce Huntington
with thanks to whiskey river

Sunday, August 16, 2020

you can go

There is a place you can go
where you are quiet,
a place of water and the light

on the water. Trees are there,
leaves, and the light
on leaves moved by air.

Birds, singing, move
among leaves, in leaf shadow.
After many years you have come

to no thought of these,
but they are themselves
your thoughts. There seems to be

little to say, less and less.
Here they are. Here you are.
Here as though gone.

None of us stays, but in the hush
where each leaf in the speech
of leaves is sufficient syllable

the passing light finds out
surpassing freedom of its way.

~ Wendell Berry
from Sabbaths 1998, VII

karma and reinforcing mental pathways

understanding karma has to do with the quality of mind in the very moment of action. 
When we experience a mind state of love, there comes naturally, along with it,
 a feeling of openness and love that is its immediate fruit; similarly, 
when there are moments of greed or hatred, in addition to whatever future results 
will come, we also experience the painful energies that arise with those states.
 Our direct awareness of how the karmic law is working in each moment 
can be a strong motivation to develop skillful states of mind that create happiness
 for us in the moment, as well as produce the fruit of well-being in the future.

Another dimension of the law of karma helps in understanding 
how individual personalities develop. While it is true that there is no enduring entity, 
no unchanging self that can be called “I,” it is also quite obvious that each of us
 is a uniquely changing and recognizable pattern of elements. This comes about
 because each of us has in our own way, both consciously and unconsciously,
 cultivated different mind states. If we cultivate lovingkindness, we experience 
its taste in the moment and at the same time are strengthening it as a force
 in the mind, making it easier for it to arise again. When we are angry, 
we experience the suffering of that anger as present karma and are also strengthening 
that particular pattern of mind. Just as we condition our bodies in different ways 
through exercise or lack of it, so we also condition our minds. Every mind state, 
thought, or emotion that we experience repeatedly becomes stronger 
and more habituated. Who we are as personalities is a collection of all
 the tendencies of mind that have been developed, the particular energy
 configurations we have cultivated

We tend not to pay attention to this conditioning factor of our experience, 
thinking instead that once an experience has passed it is gone without residue or result. 
That would be like dropping a stone in water without creating any ripples. 
Each mind state that we experience further conditions and strengthens it.

People sometimes wonder whether reflecting upon the law of karma 
will lead to feelings of guilt for past unwholesome actions. Guilt is a
 manifestation of condemnation or aversion toward oneself, which does not
 understand the changing transformative quality of mind. It solidifies a sense
 of self by being nonforgiving. Understanding the law of karma leads us
 to reflect wisely on the skillfulness or unskillfulness of our actions.
 In the infinite time of our births, through all the realms of existence, 
we have done so many different kinds of actions, wholesome and unwholesome.
 In view of karmic law, guilt is an inappropriate feeling, and a rather useless burden. 
It simply creates more unwholesome results. Coming to an understanding
 of karma is the basis for a very straightforward development of the wisdom
 to know whether our actions will lead to happiness and freedom,
 or to further suffering. When we understand this, it allows us to take responsibility
 for past actions with an attitude of compassion, appreciating that a particular act
 may have been unwholesome or harmful, and strongly determining
 not to repeat it. Guilt is a manifestation of condemnation, wisdom an expression
 of sensitivity and forgiveness. . 

~ Joseph Goldstein
from Cause and Effect - Reflecting on the law of karma 
printed in Tricycle

creating the house we live in

What we speak
becomes the house
we live in.
Who will want
to sleep in your bed
if the roof leaks
right above it?

Fear is the
cheapest room
in the house,
I would like
to see you living
in better conditions.

There is only one reason
we have followed God
into this world:
to encourage laughter,
dance and love ....

God and I are rushing
from every corner of
needing to say
we are yours.

The sun never says
to the earth,
even after all this time
“you owe me”.

I once asked a bird
how is it that you
fly in this gravity
of darkness?
she responded,
love lifts me.

I should not make
any promises right now
but I know if you pray
somewhere in this world
something good
will happen.

~ Hafiz
Daniel Ladinsky and
Robert Bly versions

 with thanks to Love is a place

Saturday, August 15, 2020

beyond words

There’s a language beyond words. Silence creates the space for it. 
Sometimes when we feel powerless to speak words that are meaningful, 
when we have to back off into unknowing and helplessness,
 but remain in the situation, silence creates the space 
that’s needed for a deeper happening to occur. 
But often, initially, that silence is uneasy. 
It begins “as a small frightened thing”
 and only slowly grows 
into the kind of warmth 
that dissolves tension.

~ Ron Rolheiser
from  The Healing Place of Silence
art by Alfredo Ramos Martinez

silence is for me a fount of healing

Silence is for me a fount of healing
 which makes my life worth living. 
Talking is often a torment for me, 
and I need many days of silence 
to recover from the futility of words.

~ C. G. Jung

Friday, August 14, 2020

essential points

~ Joseph Goldstein


the long lesson

Again I resume the long
lesson:  how small a thing
can be pleasing, how little
in this hard world it takes
to satisfy the mind
and bring it to its rest.

Within the ongoing havoc
the woods this morning is
almost unnaturally still.
Through stalled air, unshadowed
light, a few leaves fall
of their own weight.

The sky
is gray.  It begins in mist
almost at the ground
and rises forever.  The trees
rise in silence almost
natural, but not quite,
almost eternal, but
not quite.

What more did I
think I wanted?  Here is
what has always been.
Here is what will always
be.  Even in me,
the  Maker of all this
returns in rest, even
to the slightest of His works,
a yellow leaf slowly
falling, and is pleased.

~ Wendell Berry

a pastime

For more than five years, I maintained myself this solely
 by the labor of my hands, and I found, that by working
 about six weeks a year, I could meet all the expenses of living.

In short, I am convinced, both by faith and experience,
 that to maintain one's self on this earth is not a hardship
 but a pastime, if we will live simply and wisely...
It is not necessary that a man should earn his living 
by the sweat of his brow, unless he sweats easier than I do.

Some are "industrious," and appear to love labor for its own sake, 
or perhaps because it keeps them out of worse mischief; to such
 I have at present nothing to say.  Those who would not know 
what to do with more leisure than they now enjoy, 
I might advise to work twice as hard as they do - work till they pay 
for themselves, and get their free papers.  For myself I have found
 that the occupation of a day laborer was the most independent of any, 
especially as it required only thirty or forty days in a year to support one. 

The laborer's day ends with the going down of the sun,
 and he is then free to devote himself to his chosen pursuit,
 independent of his labor; but his employer, who speculates from
 month to month, has no respite from one end of the year to another.

~ Henry David Thoreau
from Walden, 'Economy,' 1854
art by Roderick Maclver

Thursday, August 13, 2020

a wisp of cloud

Fixed ideas are like a wisp of cloud or smoke, 
but nonetheless people find themselves blocked or captured by these.

 You would laugh if you saw someone tripped by a cloud,
 or if someone claimed that they were imprisoned by the air. 
But, in fact, people are endlessly being trapped by things
 no more substantial than air or clouds. 

They make a wall with their mind, and then it imprisons them.
 Inherently, there is no wall or anything to trip over. 
These things are mirages 
they've created from the thoughts they gave rise to.
 Do not insist upon your own fixed ideas.

 Your persistence is your own narrow mind.
 If your mind is broad, it can easily embrace the entire world. 
However, if your mind is narrow, 
even a needle cannot enter.
 You have to keep letting go of your stubbornness, 
and always be deeply respectful of all life and things. 

 This is also how to become a free person. 
Always be humble. Be humble. 
The fragrance of your broad and generous mind
 will warm others’ hearts.

~  Zen Master Daehaeng

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

behind apparent opposites

Four sets of contrasting conditions that all of us are subject to
 at one point or another in our lives. The cultivation of equanimity
 involves looking deeply at our relationship to these eight conditions in life.

The first set is praise and blame
In the moment of being praised, can we be aware of our reactions?
 We may discover that we push praise away automatically, 
be­cause of discomfort, or that we take it in too much and find ourselves
 dependent on receiving more. In the moment of being blamed,
 can we be aware of our reactions? We may discover that our reactions
 include trying to justify our actions, blaming ourselves, or blaming
 the person who blamed us. We may im­mediately think the person is right.
 We may immediately think the person is wrong.

Of course we will probably feel badly when blamed.
 The question is: Can we be mindful of feeling badly
 rather than allowing ourselves to get lost in it?
 Can we be aware of the reaction instead of caught in the story about it?
 If it is use­ful information, can we learn from it?
 If it is not useful, can we let it go?
 Can we see that praise and blame are often
 out of our control?

The second is the arena of gain and loss.
 What is our relationship to gain? Is gain always positive? 
What is our relationship to loss? Is loss always negative? 
When we reflect on past experiences is it ever true that what we thought 
at the time was a gain was actually a loss and that what we thought was a loss
 turned out to be a gain? In attaching to having gained something,
 is there as well the fear that it will be lost? In attaching to having succeeded
 in something, is there as well the fear of failure?

In any culture there are fixed ideas of what it means to be successful
 and what it means to fail, of what it means to gain and what it means to lose.
 When we cling to models of success, we set ourselves up for disappointment. 
To question these models is to find an inner freedom that emerges 
out of understanding and is not based on models. 
In non-attachment we allow for wis­dom to emerge. 
We see that gain and loss are a natural part of the flux of life. 

The third set is the need to become aware of our relationship to pleasure and pain
  What is the result of running after pleasure and pushing away pain?
 Can we become more aware of the suffering inherent in the pursuit of pleasure
 and in the avoidance of pain? Or is it possible to experience pleasure 
fully without clinging to it and trying to make it last?
 In the moment of experi­encing something painful can we open to the pain
 without trying to get rid of it?

To experience liberation in relation­ship to these, we need to understand
 their changing nature. Understanding that both pleasure and pain 
arise and pass away, and seeing that both are often out of our control, 
we learn not to cling to either; and in non-clinging there is freedom. 
We open to pleasure and pain, 
yet are not overwhelmed by desire or aversion.

The last set is fame and disrepute.
 Do we need to be seen by others when we do something we think worthy? 
What is our reaction to being misjudged? 
What is our re­lationship to status?
 Being aware of our relationship to fame and disrepute
 allows us to be free from dependency on the opinions of others.

 We to
learn how to see their insubstantiality of each condition. 
Through being mindful we become more aware of the impermanence of both.
 We see the conditional nature of fame, and that lasting peace and hap­piness
 doesn’t come through being fa­mous. We see that disrepute is tempo­rary, 
and need not bring lasting unhap­piness. The more balanced we can be
 in relationship to these, the more we free ourselves from having to be seen
 by others in any particular way. When no longer swayed by changing tides
 of fame or disrepute, we discover a peace 
that doesn’t depend on how others see us.

If we can remember more and more to bring mindfulness to these occasions
 as they arise in our daily life, we can begin to see the suffering of attachment.
 We can begin to see the essential emptiness and impermanence of conditions.
 In meditation practice we may not like what arises, and yet it is the willingness
 to stay with what is happening that brings liberation.
 The less attached we are to comfort, 
the more at ease we are within ourselves
 and within this world. 

This doesn’t mean that we have to be passive par­ticipants in life. 
If it’s hot we can open the windows. But in the many times when we cannot 
change or control our experiences, can we find an inner refuge?
 This inner refuge is the capacity to be equanimous.
~  Narayan Liebenson
from the Insight Journal
Barre Center for Buddhist Studies