Wednesday, March 31, 2021

love and compassion


We can reject everything else: religion, ideology, all received
wisdom. But we cannot escape the necessity of love and compassion....

This, then, is my true religion, my simple faith. In this sense, there is no need
for temple or church, for mosque or synagogue, no need for complicated
philosophy, doctrine or dogma. Our own heart, our own mind, is the temple.
The doctrine is compassion.

Love for others and respect for their rights and
dignity, no matter who or what they are: ultimately these are all we need.
So long as we practice these in our daily lives, then no matter if we are
learned or unlearned, whether we believe in Buddha or God, or follow some
other religion or none at all, as long as we have compassion for others and
conduct ourselves with restraint out of a sense of responsibility, there is
no doubt we will be happy.

~ Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama

deepest root of compassion



Bearing the unbearable is the deepest root of compassion in the world. 
When you bear what you think you cannot bear,
 who you think you are dies. 
You become compassion. 
You don't have compassion - you are compassion. 
True compassion goes beyond empathy 
to being with the experience of another.
 You become an instrument of compassion.
~ Ram Dass
 art by Susan Cohen Thompson

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

healing reconciliation



Klaas, all I really wanted to say is this: we have so much work to do on ourselves
 that we shouldn’t even be thinking of hating our so-called enemies.
 We are hurtful enough to one another as it is.
 And I don’t really know what I mean when I say that there are bullies
 and bad characters among our own people, for no one is really “bad” deep down. 
I should have liked to reach out to that [bully] with all his fears, 
I should have liked to trace the source of his panic, 
to drive him ever deeper into himself, 
that is the only thing we can do, 
Klaas, in times like these.

And you, Klaas, give a tired and despondent wave and say, 
“But what you propose to do takes such a long time, 
and we don’t really have all that much time, do we?”
 And I reply, “What you want is something people have been trying to get
 for the last two thousand years, and for many more thousand years before that, 
in fact, ever since [humankind] has existed on earth.” 
“And what do you think the result has been, if I may ask?” you say.

And I repeat with the same old passion,
 although I am gradually beginning to think that I am being tiresome,
“It is the only thing we can do, Klaas, I see no alternative, 
each of us must turn inward and destroy in himself 
all that he thinks he ought to destroy in others. 
And remember that every atom of hate we add to this world
 makes it still more inhospitable.”

And you, Klaas, dogged old class fighter that you have always been,
 dismayed and astonished at the same time, say,
 “But that—that is nothing but Christianity!”

And I, amused by your confusion, retort quite coolly,
“Yes, Christianity, and why ever not?”

~ Etty Hillesum
from An Interrupted Life: The Diaries

Monday, March 29, 2021




The word “scapegoating”
 originated from an ingenious ritual described in Leviticus 16.
 According to Jewish law, on the Day of Atonement,
 the high priest laid hands on an “escaping” goat, 
placing all the sins of the Jewish people from the previous year onto the animal.
 Then the goat was beaten with reeds and thorns,
 driven out into the desert, and the people went home rejoicing. 
Violence towards the innocent victim was apparently quite effective
 at temporarily relieving the group’s guilt and shame. 
The same scapegoating dynamic was at play when European Christians
 burned supposed heretics at the stake, and when white Americans
 lynched Black Americans. In fact, the pattern is identical
 and totally non-rational.

Whenever the “sinner” is excluded, our collective 
ego is delighted and feels relieved and safe.
 It works, but only for a while, because it is merely an illusion.
 Repeatedly believing the lie, that this time we have the true culprit, 
we become more catatonic, habitually ignorant, and culpable
—because, of course, scapegoating never really eliminates evil in the first place.
 As Russian philosopher Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote,
 “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, 
and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them.
 But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.
” As long as the evil is “over there,” we can change or expel
 someone else as the contaminating element. 
We then feel purified and at peace. 

...we think our own violence is necessary and even good.
 But there is no such thing as redemptive violence. 
Violence doesn’t save; 
 it only destroys all parties in both the short and long term. 
~ Richard Rohr
adapted from CONSPIRE 2016: Everything Belongs

Saturday, March 27, 2021

annals of T'AI CHI: "Push Hands"


In this long routine "Push Hands,"
one recognizes force and yields, then 
slides, again, again, endless like water,
what goes away, what follows, aggressive
courtesy till force must always lose,
lost in the seethe and retreat of the ocean.
So does the sail fill, and air come
just so, because of what's gone, "Yes"
in all things, "Yes, come in if you
insist," and thus conducted find a way
out,  yin following and becoming  
by a beautiful absence it's partner yang
~ William Stafford
from Poetry, Sept. 1992

Sunday, March 21, 2021



What we ordinarily mean by choice is not freedom.
 Choices are usually decisions motivated by pleasure and pain,
 and the divided mind acts with the sole purpose 
of getting “I” into pleasure and out of pain. 
But the best pleasures are those for which we do not plan, 
and the worst part of pain is expecting it
 and trying to get away from it when it has come. 
  when I try to act and decide in order to be happy,
 when I make “being pleased” my future goal.
 For the more my actions 
are directed towards future pleasures, 
the more I am incapable
of enjoying any pleasures at all.
 For all pleasures are present, 
and nothing save complete awareness of the present 
can even begin to guarantee future happiness.

It seems that if I am afraid, then I am “stuck” with fear.
 But in fact I am chained to the fear only so long as I am trying to get away from it.
 On the other hand, when I do not try to get away I discover 
that there is nothing “stuck” or fixed about the reality of the moment.
 When I am aware of this feeling without naming it, without calling it “fear,”
 “bad,” “negative,” etc., it changes instantly into something else,
 and life moves freely ahead. The feeling no longer perpetuates itself...

The further truth that the undivided mind is aware of experience as a unity,
 of the world as itself, and that the whole nature of mind and awareness 
is to be one with what it knows, suggests a state that would usually be called love…
 Love is the organizing and unifying principle which makes the world a universe
 and the disintegrated mass a community. It is the very essence and character
 of mind, and becomes manifest in action when the mind is whole… 
This, rather than any mere emotion, 
is the power and principle of free action.
 ~ Alan Watts
from The Wisdom of Insecurity
art by Van Gogh
with thanks to brainpickings

outside the court of religious and civic opinion



The greatest prophet of the Jewish tradition, Moses, 
had the prescience and courage to move the place of hearing God outside
 and at a distance from the court of common religious and civic opinion—
this was the original genius that inspired the entire Jewish prophetic tradition.
 It is quite different than mere liberal and conservative positions, 
and often even at odds with them. 
Prophecy and Gospel are rooted in a contemplative
 and non-dual way of knowing—
a way of being in the world that is utterly free
 and grounded in the compassion of God.

how we might maintain that same sense of prophetic freedom
 outside the contemporary political and religious “encampments” of our day.
 For those of us who are sincerely and devotedly trying to camp elsewhere
 than in any political party or religious denomination, 
we know full well that we must now avoid the temptation
 to become our own defended camp.

it means that we can
 “safeguard that little piece of You, God, in ourselves” 
as Etty Hillesum describes it.
~ Richard Rohr
excerpt from his Daily Meditation
 photo by Dorothea Lange


Thursday, March 18, 2021

the music that is always there

HD Wallpaper | Background Image ID:910503 

When I used to wake with night sweats my mind would spin in endless loops of anxiety,
 going over little irresolvable problems, like a miser counting pennies, unable to stop, to sleep.
 Even when I told myself there was truly nothing to worry about, and believed it,
 still, the wild worries persisted. The ghosts of these attacks haunted me for years.

Sometimes it's okay. 
Sometimes it's not one desperate act after another.
Sometimes we hear the music that is always there. As the old Irish homily goes:

"The most beautiful music is the music of what happens."

It is not necessary to run to a remote, quiet place to hear it. 
It is here already, always.
The essence of eternity is how we experience the present.
The witnesses are here in ourselves.
The fullness of our inheritance denies nothing.

The ravaged road goes on and on
in both directions.
Who can I ask to buy the bones?

Snow settles on hemlock and Yew.
This is enough.
To the end of my days
Without end amen.

~ Terrance Keenan
from Zen Encounters with Loneliness

not an imitation


I’ve come to see that the call of God, the love that bids us welcome, 
is always a call to become the true you. Not a doormat. The true you.
 Not an imitation of someone else. The true you:
 someone made in the image of God, 
deserving of and receiving love.
There is a Jewish proverb, 
“Before every person there marches an angel proclaiming, 
‘Behold, the image of God.’”
 Unselfish, sacrificial living isn’t about ignoring or denying or destroying yourself.
 It’s about discovering your true self—the self that looks like God—
and living life from that grounding. 
Many people are familiar with a part of Jesus’s summary of the law of Moses:
 You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself.
 Yourself. Loving the self is a required balance.
 If we fail in that, we fail our neighbor, too. 
To love your neighbor is to relate to them as someone made in the image of God.
 And it is to relate to yourself as someone made in the image of God.
 It’s God, up, down, and all around, and God is love.

The ability to love yourself is intimately related to your capacity to love others. 
The challenge is creating a life that allows you to fulfill both needs. . . .
 ~ Bishop Michael Curry
found here in  Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation

Sunday, March 14, 2021

on being


~ John O'Donohue



~ Naomi Shihab Nye 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

a natural delight



The Diamond Sutra says,
"Out of nowhere, the mind comes forth."
A story of understanding coming out of nowhere.
Some of the old school buildings in Los Angeles had high ceilings
and clerestory windows. A boy was sitting at his little chair in 
kindergarten when he saw the yellow light coming in through the
high windows. Dust motes swirled in the beam of light. He noticed
how bright they were and kept watching; then, suddenly there was
no distance between him and the light. He disappeared. He didn't 
know how long he was gone; there was no time. When he heard a
voice calling, he didn't recognize the name at first; it didn't have
anything to do with him. Then he heard the other children 
laughing and wondered what they were laughing about.
It was the teacher calling him. After that, the things he saw
were beautiful in themselves.  Faces seemed more real, and 
what was real was beautiful.  He didn't really have a name 
anymore; he was the beam of light.  And it didn't have to be a
beam of light.  It could be a Coke can or another child, and he
feel that connection. His sense of yours and mine had shifted
to something like, "My hamburger is yours, your house is mine."
When the grownups around him fought and argued, he felt sad
for them, that they didn't understand, and couldn't see what he 
could see.

Usually people work hard to make things happen. 
Yet it might be that things happen by themselves, coming out of nowhere.

When you forget your carefully assembled fiction of who you are, 
you can find a natural delight in people, in the planet, the stones, and the trees.
 There is no observable limit to this beauty, and no one is excluded from it. 
Then, if you are fighting an enemy, 
you may be fighting them as well as you can,
 but you won’t be a true believer. 
You will know that an enemy is not truly other
 and that the fighting is some kind of misunderstanding. 
The worries that lead to quarrels may still be present,
 but they are not the main thing.

Your problems could be a kind of dream, 
very powerful when you are in it, and yet a dream. 
You might notice that, even deep in dreaming, 
you are near to waking up.
 And the more you are awake,
 the kinder the world might seem.

~ John Tarrant
from Bring Me The Rhinoceros
and other Zen Koans that will save your life
 photo Buddha's Footprints, by Peter Adams
with thanks to Love is a Place

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

keep letting go

‎Non-aggression doesn't mean that you're not supposed to get angry; 
it doesn't mean that you're not supposed to set boundaries;
 it doesn't mean that you're not supposed to be sharp;
 it doesn't mean that you don't have neurotic upheavals and meltdowns. 
What it does mean is that we have to keep letting go -
 until we are naked with ourselves,
 and we are making room for the person we actually are.
 And it's the exact same process with other people. 
We have to let go, let go, let go . . . Until we see and we are seen.

  ~ Reggie Ray
art by banksy


To go forth now
from all the entanglement
that is ours and yet not ours,
that, like the water in an old well,
reflects us in fragments, distorts what we are.
From all that clings like burrs and brambles—
to go forth
and see for once, close up, afresh,
what we had ceased to see—
so familiar it had become.
To glimpse how vast and how impersonal
is the suffering that filled your childhood.
Yes, to go forth, hand pulling away from hand.
Go forth to what? To uncertainty,
to a country with no connections to us
and indifferent to the dramas of our life.
What drives you to go forth? Impatience, instinct,
a dark need, the incapacity to understand.
To bow to all this.
To let go—
even if you have to die alone.
Is this the start of a new life?

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
excerpt from  The Prodigal Son, 
The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge
art by Ruth Norman

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

no longer seeks

This Soul... no longer seeks God through penitence, 
nor through any sacrament of Holy Church; 
not through thought, nor through words, nor through works;
 not through creature here below, nor through creature above; 
not through justice, nor through mercy; not through glory of glory; 
not through divine understanding, nor though divine love,
 nor through divine praise.

...Such a Soul neither desires nor despises poverty nor tribulation, 
neither mass nor sermon, neither fast nor prayer,
 and gives to Nature all that is necessary,
 without remorse of conscience.  

But such nature is so well ordered through
 the transformation by unity of Love,
 to whom the will of this Soul is conjoined,
 that nature demands nothing which is prohibited.

Such a Soul often hears what she hears not,
and often sees what she sees not,
and so often she is there where she is not,
and so often she feels what she feels not.

~ Marguerite Porete
from The Mirror of Simple Souls

On the first of June 1310 at the Place de Grève in Paris, 
Marguerite Porete was burned at the stake,
 enduring what the great nineteenth-century historian of the Inquisition,
 H. C. Lea, called the first formal auto-da-fé in Paris.
 Condemned as a relapsed heretic, Marguerite accepted her fate calmly 
and without fear, and she was regarded with great admiration 
by those who witnessed her death, many of whom burst into tears
 during the execution. Her condemnation came as the result
 of her unwillingness to discuss or denounce the teachings
 found in her great mystical work the Mirror of Simple Souls,
 which was written in Old French. Although judged heretical,
 the Mirror was a work of great popularity and influence
 during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and beyond.

a lesson in drawing

My son places his paint box in front of me
and asks me to draw a bird for him.
Into the color gray I dip the brush
and draw a square with locks and bars.
Astonishment fills his eyes:
'… But this is a prison, Father,
Don't you know, how to draw a bird?'
And I tell him: 'Son, forgive me.
I've forgotten the shapes of birds.'

My son puts the drawing book in front of me
and asks me to draw a wheatstalk.
I hold the pen
and draw a gun.
My son mocks my ignorance,
'Don't you know, Father, the difference between a
wheatstalk and a gun?'
I tell him, 'Son,
once I used to know the shapes of wheatstalks
the shape of the loaf
the shape of the rose
But in this hardened time
the trees of the forest have joined
the militia men
and the rose wears dull fatigues
In this time of armed wheatstalks
armed birds
armed culture
and armed religion
you can't buy a loaf
without finding a gun inside
you can't pluck a rose in the field
without its raising its thorns in your face
you can't buy a book
that doesn't explode between your fingers.'

My son sits at the edge of my bed
and asks me to recite a poem,
A tear falls from my eyes onto the pillow.
My son licks it up, astonished, saying:
'But this is a tear, father, not a poem!'
And I tell him:
'When you grow up, my son,
and read the diwan of Arabic poetry
you'll discover that the word and the tear are twins
and the Arabic poem
is no more than a tear wept by writing fingers.'

My son lays down his pens, his crayon box in
front of me
and asks me to draw a homeland for him.
The brush trembles in my hands
and I sink, weeping. 

~ Nizar Qabbani

Born on this date in Damascus, Syria (1923). His mother, who was illiterate, sold her jewelry to raise money to publish his first anthology, Childhood of a Bosom (1948), and he went on to become the most popular Arab poet and to publish more than 20 books of poetry. Much of his poetry was influenced by the tragic deaths of two women he loved. When he was 15, his older sister committed suicide rather than be forced into marriage with a man she did not love, and he turned his attention to the situation of Arab women. He wrote romantic, sensual poems and poetry demonstrating the need for sexual equality and women's rights. Many years later, in 1981, his second wife, an Iraqi woman, died during the Lebanese Civil War when the Iraqi Embassy was bombed. Qabbani was grief-stricken and frustrated with the political and cultural climate of the Arab world, and he lived in Europe for the rest of his life.  He died April 30, 1998.

~ comments from writers almanac

Monday, March 8, 2021

empty as the open sky


Contemplating the clear moon
Reflecting a mind empty as the open sky -
Drawn by it's beauty,
I lose myself
In the shadows it casts.
~ Dogen
from The Zen Poetry of Dogen

Saturday, March 6, 2021

the inclination of the mind



Whatever a person frequently thinks and reflects on, 
that will become the inclination of their mind.

~ Buddha

Speak and act from unwise thoughts, 
and sorrow will follow you as surely as the wheel follows the ox who draws the cart.
 Speak and act from wise thoughts 
and happiness will follow you as closely as your shadow, unshakable. 
~ The Dhammapada

Whatever we regularly think colors our experience—all day, every day.
 Once we start to watch these thoughts, we discover that 90% of them are reruns!
 Others are about problems:
 “I need to call John about the roof again. I hope he can finally fix it.”
 Some are about our preferences: 
“I like the way this person talks.” “I really hate this traffic.” 
Many are worry or self-evaluation: “Oops, I’m messing up again. 
How do I get through this?” “Wow, I pulled that off well. I hope it was noticed!”

Our life is shaped and determined by our thoughts. 
Usually we are only half conscious of the way thoughts direct our life;
 we are lost in thoughts as if they are reality. 
We take our own mental creations quite seriously,
 endorsing them without reservation.
Often our fears don’t turn out to be accurate predictions of anything.
 As Mark Twain put it,
 “My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes—
most of which never happened!”

With the letting go of unhealthy thoughts, there arises a space, a calm, 
an opening to add healthy thoughts of love and self-respect. 
With all the dignity, courage and tenderness you possess,
 say from your heart phrases of loving-kindness such as:
 “May I be filled with compassion for myself and others.
 May I hold myself with care and respect. 
May I treasure my life.
 May I be filled with kindness.” 
Plant these loving thoughts, water these seeds of well-being, 
over and over until they take root in your heart and mind.
 ~ Jack Kornfield
Australian aboriginal art

Friday, March 5, 2021



in midnight water,
no waves, no wind,
the empty boat
is flooded with moonlight.

~ Dogen

container and content



A wise man, the wonder of his age, taught his disciples 
from a seemingly inexhaustible store of wisdom. 
He attributed all his knowledge to a thick tome 
which was kept in a place of honour in his room. 
The sage would allow nobody to open the volume.
 When he died, those who had surrounded him,
 regarding themselves as his heirs, ran to open the book,
 anxious to possess what it contained. 
They were surprised, confused and disappointed when they found
 that there was writing on only one page. They became even more bewildered 
and then annoyed when they tried to penetrate the meaning of the phrase
 which met their eyes. It was:
 "When you realize the difference between the container and the content, 
you will have knowledge."
- Idries Shah
from The Book of the Book
with thanks to whiskey river

last year's language


For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
But, as the passage now presents no hindrance
To the spirit unappeased and peregrine
Between two worlds become much like each other,
So I find words I never thought to speak
In streets I never thought I should revisit
When I left my body on a distant shore.
Since our concern was speech, and speech impelled us
To purify the dialect of the tribe
And urge the mind to aftersight and foresight,
Let me disclose the gifts reserved for age
To set a crown upon your lifetime's effort.
First, the cold fricton of expiring sense
Without enchantment, offering no promise
But bitter tastelessness of shadow fruit
As body and sould begin to fall asunder.
Second, the conscious impotence of rage
At human folly, and the laceration
Of laughter at what ceases to amuse.
And last, the rending pain of re-enactment
Of all that you have done, and been; the shame
Of things ill done and done to others' harm
Which once you took for exercise of virtue.
Then fools' approval stings, and honour stains.
From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit
Proceeds, unless restored by that refining fire
Where you must move in measure, like a dancer."
The day was breaking. In the disfigured street
He left me, with a kind of valediction,
And faded on the blowing of the horn. 

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,


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
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
 ~ T. S. Eliot
from  The Little Gidding
  the last of The Four Quartets

Thursday, March 4, 2021

for you


For you who
rarely visit,
though you have already arrived,
may the early evening storm
not blow so hard!
~ Ryokan
 from Sky Above, Great Wind
by Kazuaki Tanahashi
photo by Wolverson Photography

Wednesday, March 3, 2021



 causing or tending to cause objects to slip 
 liable to slip from the grasp, a position, etc.
 not to be relied upon
 liable to change; unstable

An ardent Jehovah's Witness once tried to convince me
 that if there were a God of love, he would certainly provide mankind
 with a reliable and infallible textbook for the guidance of conduct.

 I replied that no considerate God would destroy the human mind 
by making it so rigid and unadaptable as to depend upon one book,
the Bible, for all the answers. For the use of words, and thus of a book,
 is to point beyond themselves to a world of life and experience
 that is not mere words or even ideas. Just as money is not real, 
consumable wealth, books are not life. To idolize scriptures
 is like eating paper currency.

Therefore the Book that I would like to slip to my children
 would itself be slippery. It would slip them into a new domain, 
not of ideas alone, but of experience and feeling. It would be a temporary
 medicine, not a diet; a point of departure, not a perpetual
 point of reference. They would read it and be done with it, 
for if it were well and clearly written they would not have to go back
 to it again and again for hidden meanings or for
 clarification of obscure doctrines.

~ Alan Watts
from The Book on The Taboo against knowing who you are