Friday, April 30, 2021

no longer sure


It has come to this: I'm sitting under a tree
beside a river
on a sunny morning.
It's an insignificant event
and won't go down in history.
It's not battles and pacts,
where motives are scrutinized,
or noteworthy tyrannicides.

And yet I'm sitting by this river, that's a fact.
And since I'm here
I must have come from somewhere,
and before that
I must have turned up in many other places,
exactly like the conquerors of nations
before setting sail.

Even a passing moment has its fertile past,
its Friday before Saturday,
its May before June.
Its horizons are no less real
than those that a marshal's field glasses might scan.

This tree is a poplar that's been rooted here for years.
The river is the Raba; it didn't spring up yesterday.
The path leading through the bushes
wasn't beaten last week.
The wind had to blow the clouds here
before it could blow them away.

And though nothing much is going on nearby,
the world is no poorer in details for that.
It's just as grounded, just as definite
as when migrating races held it captive.

Conspiracies aren't the only things shrouded in silence.
Retinues of reasons don't trail coronations alone.
Anniversaries of revolutions may roll around,
but so do oval pebbles encircling the bay.

The tapestry of circumstance is intricate and dense.
Ants stitching in the grass.
The grass sewn into the ground.
The pattern of a wave being needled by a twig.

So it happens that I am and look.
Above me a white butterfly is fluttering through the air
on wings that are its alone,
and a shadow skims through my hands
that is none other than itself, no one else's but its own.

When I see such things, I'm no longer sure
that what's important
is more important than what's not.

~  Wislawa Szymborska
S. Baranczak and C. Cavanagh translation 
with thanks to Love is a Place

Thursday, April 29, 2021

the silent self

Image result for noise art

There is a silent self within us whose presence is disturbing
 precisely because it is so silent: it can't be spoken.
 It has to remain silent. To articulate it, to verbalize it,
 is to tamper with it, and in some way to destroy it. 

Now let us frankly face the fact that our culture is one 
which is geared in many ways to help us evade any need to face this inner, silent self.
 We live in a state of constant semi attention to the sound of voices, music, traffic,
 or the generalized noise of what goes on around us all the time. 
This keeps us immersed in a flood of racket and words,
 a diffuse medium in which our consciousness is half diluted:
 we are not quite "thinking", not entirely responding, 
but we are more or less there. 
We are not fully present and not entirely absent, 
not fully withdrawn, yet not completely available. 
It cannot be said that we are really participating in anything
 and we may in fact, be half conscious of our alienation and resentment. 
Yet we derive a certain comfort from the vague sense that we are
 "part of something" -- 
although we are not quite able to define what that something is -- 
and probably wouldn't want to define it even if we could. 
We just float along in the general noise. 
Resigned and indifferent,
 we share semi-consciously in the mindless mind of Muzak 
and radio commercials which pass for "reality".

- Thomas Merton
from  Love & Living
art by Andy Mercer


the unwinding

So we sit down, we’re quiet for a while.
And gradually the unwinding happens –
of the mind, and the body, and the heart.
And then maybe we get a glimpse, or a taste, of freedom;
and if we do, then we give our attention to that.
We surrender to that presence.
Dropping out of our heads and surrendering to stillness,
one-pointed presence, effortless vastness.
We let it take us, completely.
That’s what surrender is.

~ Jon Bernie
from  Ordinary Freedom

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

with mindfulness' rope


Those who wish to keep the trainings
Must with perfect self-possession guard their minds.
Without this guard upon the mind,
The trainings cannot be preserved.
Wandering where it will, the elephant of mind,
Will bring us down to torment in the hell of Unrelenting Pain. 
No worldly beast, however wild and crazed, 
Could bring upon us such calamities.
If, with mindfulness' rope,
The elephant of mind is tethered all around,
Our fears will come to nothing,
Every virtue drop into our hands. 
~ Shantideva
from The Way of the Bodhisattva

Sunday, April 18, 2021



The things of the world cannot affect the soul;
 they lie inert outside it, and only internal beliefs disturb it.

Nothing happens that isn’t in accord with universal nature, 
and before long you won’t exist at all, just like [your heroes]…
 fix your gaze on the matter at hand and see it for what it is,
 and then, keeping in your mind 
your obligation to be a good person 
and the demands of your humanity, 
go right ahead and do it, in the way that seems to you
 to be most just. 
But do it with kindness and modesty

describe to yourself every impression that occurs to your mind, 
so that you can clearly see what the thing is like in its entirety, 
stripped to its essence, and tell yourself its proper name 
and the names of the elements of which it consists 
and into which it will be resolved.
 Nothing is more conducive to objectivity than the ability 
methodically and honestly to test everything that you come across in life, 
and always to look at things in such a way that you consider
 what kind of part each of them plays in what kind of universe,
 and what value it has for the universe as a whole.

If you carry out every present task by following right reason assiduously, 
resolutely, and with kindness; if rather than getting distracted by irrelevancies, 
you keep your guardian spirit unspoiled and steady, 
as though you had to surrender it at any moment; 
if you engage with the task not with expectations or evasions,
but satisfied if your current performance is in accord 
with nature and if what you say and express is spoken with true  honesty, 
you’ll be living the good life. And there’s no one who can stop you doing so!
~ Marcus Aurelius
excerpts from Meditations: The Annotated Edition by Robin Waterfield
art - Light distribution on soap bubble from Le monde physique
with thanks to brainpickings

the inter-relatedness of all things


Meditation provides a deeper appreciation of the inter-relatedness of all things
 and the part each person plays. The simple rules of this game are honesty
 with yourself about where you are in your life
 and learning to listen to hear how it is. 
Meditation is a way of listening more deeply,
 so you hear from a deeper space, exactly how it is.
 Meditation will help you quiet your mind, 
enhance your ability to be insightful and understanding
 and give you a sense of inner peace.

If you meditate regularly, even when you don’t feel like it, 
you will make great gains, for it will allow you to see
 how your thoughts impose limits on you.
 Your resistances to meditation are your mental prisons in miniature.

When I asked Maharajji how to meditate, he said, 
“Meditate like Christ.” 
I said, “Maharajji, how did Christ meditate?”
 He became very quiet and closed his eyes.
 After a few minutes,
 he had a blissful expression on his face 
and a tear trickled down his cheek. 
He opened his eyes and said, “He lost himself in Love.” 
Try the meditation of losing yourself in love…. 
~ Ram Dass
art by Carl Beam,
  M'Chigeeng First Nation

Friday, April 16, 2021

song of the barren orange tree

Cut my shadow from me.
Free me from the torment
of seeing myself without fruit.

Why was I born among mirrors?
The day walks in circles around me,
and the night copies me
in all its stars.

I want to live without seeing myself.
And I will dream that ants
and thistleburrs are my 
leaves and my birds.

Cut my shadow from me.
Free me from the torment
of seeing myself without fruit.

~ Federico Garcia Lorca
translation by W.S. Merwin

Lorca and his family at their house in Granada.

the man who lost his key

A Sufi heard a cry: "I've lost my key;
If it's been found, please give it back to me -
My door's locked fast; I wish to God I knew
How I could get back in.  What can I do?"
The Sufi said: "And why should you complain?
You know where this door is; if you remain
Outside it - even if it is shut fast -
Someone no doubt will open it at last.
You make this fuss for nothing; how much more
Should I complain, who've lost both key and door!"
But if this Sufi presses on, he'll find
The closed or open door which haunts his mind.
Men cannot understand the sufis' state,
That deep Bewilderment which is their fate.
To those who ask: "What can I do?" reply:
"Bid all that you have done till now goodbye!"
Once in the Valley of Bewilderment
The pilgrim suffers endless discontent,
Crying: "How long must I endure delay,
Uncertainty? When shall I see the Way?
When shall I know? Oh, when?"  But knowledge here
Is turned again to indecisive fear;
Complaints become an grateful eulogy
And blasphemy is faith, faith blasphemy.

~Farid Attar
from The Conference of Birds
translation by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis



~  Emil Nolde
born: 7 August 1867 Hans Emil Hansen Nolde at Burkal, North Schleswig
died: 13th  April 1956 Seebüll, North Friesland
one of the leading painters of expressionism
one of the great water-color artists in the 20th Century
Nolde is known for his expressive choice of colors

with thanks to Semsakrebsler

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

search for?

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 seeking, nor refusing, 
give all your attention to the level on which
 ‘I am’ is timelessly 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. 

Avoid the disturbance, that is all. 
To seek there is no need;
 you would not seek what you already have. 
You yourself are God, the Supreme Reality. 
To begin with, trust me, trust the teacher. 
It enables you to make the first step - 
and then your trust is justified by your own experience.

~ Nisargadatta Maharaj


As long as you chase happiness,
you are not ready to be happy, 
even if you owned everything.

As long as you lament a loss,
run after prizes in restless races,
you have not yet known peace.

But when you have moved beyond desire,
become a stranger to your goals and longings
and call no longer on happiness by name,

then you heart rises calmly
above the ebb and flow of action
and peace has reached your soul.

~ Hermann Hesse
translation by Ludwig Max Fischer 

so much

It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
A wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
Something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.
But happiness floats.
It doesn’t need you to hold it down.
It doesn’t need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
And disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
And now live over a quarry of noise and dust
Cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
It too could wake up filled with possibilities
Of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
And love even the floor which needs to be swept,
The soiled linens and scratched records….
Since there is no place large enough 
To contain so much happiness,
You shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
Into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
For the moon, but continues to hold it, and to share it,
And in that way, be known.

~ Naomi Shihab Nye

Sunday, April 11, 2021

a life

That the stars are adamant
everyone understands—
but I won’t give up seeking joy on each blue wave
or peace below every gray stone.
If happiness never comes, what is a life?
A lily withers in the sand
and if its nature has failed? The tide
washes the beach at night.
What is the fly looking for on the spider’s web?
What does a dayfly make of its hours?
(Two wings creased over a hollow body.)

Black will never turn to white—
yet the perfume of our struggle lingers
as each morning fresh flowers
spring up from hell.

The day will come
when the earth is emptied, the skies collapse
and all goes still—
when nothing remains but the dayfly
folded in a leaf.
But no one knows it.

~  Edith Sodergran
translation by Averill Curdy




there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I'm not going
to let anybody see
there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
in there.

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
you want to blow my book sales in
there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody's asleep.
I say, I know that you're there,
so don't be
then I put him back,
but he's singing a little
in there, I haven't quite let him
and we sleep together like
with our
secret pact
and it's nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don't
weep, do

~ Charles Bukowski
from The Last Night of the Earth Poems
 art by Ayat Fawzy


a gardner digs in another time


 The gardener digs in another time, without past or future, beginning or end.
 A time that does not cleave the day with rush hours, lunch breaks, the last bus home.
 As you walk in the garden you pass into this time —
 the moment of entering can never be remembered.
 Around you the landscape lies transfigured.
 Here is the Amen beyond the prayer.

I have re-discovered my boredom here… 
where I can fight “what next” with nothing.

My garden is a memorial, each circular bed a dial and a true lover’s knot 
— planted with lavender, helichryssum and santolina.

to whom it may concern
in the dead stones of a planet
no longer remembered as earth
may he decipher this opaque hieroglyph
perform an archeology of soul
on these precious fragments
all that remains of our vanished days
here — at the sea’s edge
I have planted a stony garden
dragon tooth dolmen spring up
to defend the porch
steadfast warriors
~ Derek Jarman
from Modern Nature
with thanks to brianpickings
art by Emily Hughes


Friday, April 9, 2021

something unimportant

Happy as something unimportant
and free as a thing unimportant.
As something no one prizes
and which does not prize itself.
As something mocked by all
and which mocks at their mockery.
As laughter without serious reason. 
As a yell able to outyell itself.
Happy as no matter what,
as any no matter what.

as a dog's tail.

~ Anna Swir
from Talking to my body
translated by Czeslaw Milosz

without why

The Rose is without why
She blooms because she blooms
She does not care for herself
Asks not if she is seen.


The rose which here on earth is now perceived by me,
Has blossomed thus in God from all eternity.

~ Angelus Silesius
photo by albert koetsier

wordless and idea-less

Let your ears hear whatever they want to hear;
 let your eyes see whatever they want to see;
 let your mind think whatever it wants to think;
 let your lungs breathe in their own rhythm. 

Do not expect any special result,
 for in this wordless and idea-less state, 
where can there be past or future, 
and where any notion of purpose? 

Stop, look, and listen.

~ Alan Watts

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

the ice flow

Songs are thoughts, 
sung out with the breath when people are moved by great forces
 and ordinary speech no longer suffices. 
Man is moved just like the ice floe sailing here and there out in the current.
 His thoughts are driven by a flowing force when he feels joy, 
when he feels fear, when he feels sorrow. 
Thoughts can wash over him like a flood,
 making his breath come in gasps and his heart throb. 
Something like an abatement in the weather will keep him thawed up. 
And then it will happen that we, who think we are small, will feel still smaller.
 And we will fear to use words. 
When the words we want to use shoot up of themselves -
 we get a new song.

~ Orpingalik
 Inuit poet and shaman

nothing except what he is

people like us

There are more like us. All over the world
There are confused people, who can't remember
The name of their dog when they wake up, and people
Who love God but can't remember where

He was when they went to sleep. It's
All right. The world cleanses itself this way.
A wrong number occurs to you in the middle
Of the night, you dial it, it rings just in time

To save the house. And the second-story man
Gets the wrong address, where the insomniac lives,
And he's lonely, and they talk, and the thief
Goes back to college. Even in graduate school,

You can wander into the wrong classroom,
And hear great poems lovingly spoken 
By the wrong professor. And you find your soul,
And greatness has a defender, and even in death you're safe.

~ Robert Bly
from Morning Poems

every time

Let people realize clearly 

that every time they threaten someone
 or humiliate or unnecessarily
 hurt or dominate or reject
 another human being, 
they become forces for
 the creation of psychopathology, 
even if these be small forces.
 Let them recognize that every person
 who is kind, helpful, decent, 
psychologically democratic, 
affectionate, and warm,
 is a psychotheraputic force.

  ~ Abraham H. Maslow

those irrational fears

Most parents, when they see children not terrorized by the things that terrorize them, 
they work very hard until they've finally got you terrorized. 
They teach you those irrational fears. 
Well-meaning, but they do just the same. 

~  Abraham / Hicks

Two Look at Two


Love and forgetting might have carried them
A little further up the mountainside
With night so near, but not much further up.
They muct have halted soon in any case
With thoughts of the path back, how rough it was
With rock and washout, and unsafe in darkness;
When they were halted by a tumbled wall
With barbed-wire binding. They stood facing this,
Spending what onward impulse they still had
In one last look the way they must not go,
On up the failing path, where, if a stone
Or earthslide moved at night, it moved itself;
No footstep moved it. "This is all," they sighed,
"Good-night to woods." But not so; there was more.
A doe from round a spruce stood looking at them
Across the wall, as near the wall as they.
She saw them in their field, they her in hers.
The difficulty of seeing what stood still,
Like some up-ended boulder split in tow,
Was in her clouded eyes: they saw no fear there.
She sighed and passed unscared along the wall.
"This, then is all. What more is there to ask?"
But no, not yet. A snort to bid them wait.
A buck from round the spruce stood looking at them
Across the wall, as near the wall as they.
This was an antlered buck of lusty nostril,
Not the same doe come back into her place.
He viewed them quizzically with jerks of head,
As if to ask, "Why don't you make some motion?
Or give some sign of life? Because you can't.
I doubt if you're living as you look."
Thus till he had them almost feeling dared
To stretch a proffering hand-and a spell-breaking.
Then he too passed uncsared along the wall.
Two had seen two, whichever side you spoke from.
"This must be all." It was all. Still they stood,
A great wave from it going over them,
As if the earth in one unlooked-for favor
Had made them certain earth returned their love.


~ Robert Frost


Saturday, April 3, 2021

toward me

Existence leans its mouth
toward me,
because my love
cares for
~ Meister Eckhart
art by Coleen-Joy Page

see no stranger



See no stranger has become a practice that defines my relationships. . . .
 Seeing no stranger begins in wonder. 
It is to look upon the face of anyone and choose to say: 
You are a part of me I do not yet know. 
Wonder is the wellspring for love. 
Who we wonder about determines whose stories we hear 
and whose joy and pain we share. Those we grieve with,
 those we sit with and weep with, are ultimately those we organize
 with and advocate for. 
When a critical mass of people come together to wonder about one another,
 grieve with one another, and fight with and for one another, we begin to build
 the solidarity needed for collective liberation and transformation
—a solidarity rooted in love. . . .

Out in the world, I notice the unconscious biases that arise in me
 when I look at faces on the street or in the news. 
To practice seeing each of them as a sister or brother or family member, 
I say in my mind: You are a part of me I do not yet know. 
Through conscious repetition, I am practicing orienting to the world
 with wonder and preparing myself for the possibility of connection.
 (Sometimes I do this with animals and the earth, too!) 
It opens me up to pay attention to their story. When their story is painful, 
I make excuses to turn back—“It’s too overwhelming” or “It’s not my place”
—but I hold the compass and remember that all I need to do is be present
 to their pain and find a way to grieve with them. 
If I can sit with their pain, I begin to ask:

What do they need?
Valarie Kaur
 Australian aboriginal art

Thursday, April 1, 2021

red brocade

The Arabs used to say,
When a stranger appears at your door,
feed him for three days
before asking who he is,
where he's come from,
where he's headed.
That way, he'll have strength
enough to answer.
Or, by then you'll be
such good friends
you don't care.

Let's go back to that.
Rice?  Pine nuts?
Here, take the red brocade pillow.
My child will serve water
to your horse.

No, I was not busy when you came!
I was not preparing to be busy.
That's the armor everyone put on
to pretend they had a purpose
in the world.

I refuse to be claimed.
Your plate is waiting.
We will snip fresh mint
into your tea.

~ Naomi Shihab Nye
from 19 Varieties of Gazelle