Sunday, May 30, 2021

looking back on grief


‘Tis good — the looking back on Grief —
To re-endure a Day —
We thought the Mighty Funeral —
Of All Conceived Joy —

To recollect how Busy Grass
Did meddle — one by one —
Till all the Grief with Summer — waved
And none could see the stone.

And though the Woe you have Today
Be larger — As the Sea
Exceeds its Unremembered Drop —
They’re Water — equally — 
~ Emily Dickinson
 from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
with thanks to brainpickings

the tent

Outside, the freezing desert night.
This other night grows warm, kindling.
Let the landscape be covered with thorny crust.
We have a soft garden here.
The continents blasted, cities and little towns,
everything become a scorched blacked ball.
The news we hear is full of grief for that future,
but the real news inside here is 
there is no news at all.
~ Rumi

to witness our own limits transgressed


We need the tonic of wildness, 
to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, 
and hear the booming of the snipe; 
to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, 
and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground.  

At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, 
we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, 
that land and sea be infinitely wild, 
unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable,
we can never have enough of nature.  

We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, 
vast and titanic features, the sea-coast with its wrecks, 
the wilderness with its living and its decaying trees, 
the thunder cloud, and the rain which lasts three weeks and produces freshets. 
We need to witness our own limits transgressed, 
and some life pasturing freely where we never wander.

~ Henry David Thoreau
from Walden, 'Spring,' 1854
photos by Eliot Porter from:
Wilderness Is the Preservation of the World 

beneath hurt and grief

Whoever finds love
beneath hurt and grief
disappears into emptiness
with a thousand new disguises

~ Rumi
version by Coleman Barks

burlap sack

A person is full of sorrow
the way a burlap sack is full of stones or sand.
We say, "Hand me the sack,"
but we get the weight.
Heavier if left out in the rain.
To think that the sand or stones are the self is an error.
To think that grief is the self is an error.
Self carries grief as a pack mule carries the side bags,
being careful between the trees to leave extra room.
The mule is not the load of ropes and nails and axes.
The self is not the miner nor builder nor driver.
What would it be to take the bride
and leave behind the heavy dowry?
To let the thin-ribbed mule browse in tall grasses,
its long ears waggling like the tails of two happy dogs?

~ Jane Hirshfield

Saturday, May 29, 2021

a journey up a mountain


My observations are those of a beginner.
 As they are completely fresh in my mind and concern the first difficulties
 a beginner encounters, they may be more useful to beginners
 making their first ascents than treatises written by professionals.
 These are no doubt more methodical and complete,
 but are intelligible only after a little preliminary experience. 
The entire aim of these notes is to help the beginner
 acquire this preliminary experience a little faster. 
Keep your eye fixed on the way to the top,
 but don't forget to look right in front of you. 
The last step depends on the first. 
Don't think you're there just because you see the summit. 
Watch your footing, be sure of the next step,
 but don't let that distract you from the highest goal.
 The first step depends on the last.
When you take off on your own, leave some trace 
of your passage that will guide your return: 
one rock set on top of another, some grass pierced by a stick.
 But if you come to a place you cannot cross or that is dangerous,
 remember that the trace you have left might lead the people 
following you into trouble. So go back the way you came
 and destroy any traces you have left. 
This is addressed to anyone who wants to leave traces 
of his passage in this world. And even without wanting to, 
we always leave traces. 
Answer to your fellow men for the traces you leave behind.
If you slip or have a minor spill, don’t interrupt your momentum
 but even as you right yourself recover the rhythm of your walk.
Find your pace again the moment you get up.
 In your mind take careful note of the circumstances of your fall, 
but don’t let your body linger over what happened. 
The body constantly tries to draw attention to itself by its shiverings, 
its breathlessness, its palpitations, its shudders and sweats and cramps;
 but it reacts quickly to any scorn and indifference in its master. 
Once it senses that he is not taken in by its jeremiads, 
once it understands that it will inspire no pity for it that way,
 then it comes into line and obediently accomplishes its task.

 ~  René Daumal 
excerpts from Mount Analogue:
A Tale of Non-Euclidian and Symbolically Authentic Mountaineering Adventures


Thursday, May 20, 2021

the journey of grieving



[Frankl] is speaking to me. He is speaking for me. . . . 
I read this, which is at the very heart of Frankl’s teaching:
 Everything can be taken from a man but one thing:
 the last of the human freedoms—
to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances,
 to choose one’s own way. Each moment is a choice. 
No matter how frustrating or boring or constraining 
or painful or oppressive our experience, 
we can always choose how we respond.
 And I finally begin to understand that I, too, have a choice. 
This realization will change my life.

~ Viktor E. Frankl, 
from Man’s Search for Meaning

The choice to accept myself as I am: human, imperfect.
 And the choice to be responsible for my own happiness.
 To forgive my flaws and reclaim my innocence. 
To stop asking why I deserved to survive. 
To function as well as I can, to commit myself to serve others,
 to do everything in my power to honor my parents,
 to see to it that they did not die in vain. To do my best,
 in my limited capacity, so future generations don’t experience what I did.
 To be useful, to be used up, to survive and to thrive
 so I can use every moment to make the world a better place.
 And to finally, finally stop running from the past.
 To do everything possible to redeem it, and then let it go.
 I can make the choice that all of us can make.
 I can’t ever change the past. But there is a life I can save: 
It is mine. The one I am living right now,
 this precious moment. . . .

And to the vast campus of death that consumed my parents
 and so very many others, to the classroom of horror
 that still had something sacred to teach me about how to live—
that I was victimized but I’m not a victim, that I was hurt but not broken,
 that the soul never dies, that meaning and purpose 
can come from deep in the heart of what hurts us the most—
I utter my final words. Goodbye, I say. And, Thank you. 
Thank you for life, and for the ability to finally accept the life that is.

~ Edith Eva Eger
from The Choice: Embrace the Possible

with thanks to Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation

Saturday, May 8, 2021

a simple life


Simple life does not consist in the mere possession of a few things
 but in the freedom from possession and non-possession, 
in the indifference to things that comes with deep understanding.
 Merely to renounce things in order to reach greater happiness, 
greater joy that is promised, is to seek reward which limits thought
 and prevents it from flowering and discovering reality. 

To control thought-feeling for a greater reward, for a greater result,
 is to make it petty, ignorant and sorrowful. Simplicity of life
 comes with inner richness, with inward freedom from craving,
 with freedom from acquisitiveness, from addiction, from distraction.
 From this simple life there comes that necessary one-pointedness
 which is not the outcome of self-enclosing concentration 
but of extensional awareness and meditative understanding. 

Simple life is not the result of outward circumstances;
 contentment with little comes with the riches of inward understanding. 
If you depend on circumstances to make you satisfied with life
 then you will create misery and chaos, for then you are a plaything
 of environment, and it is only when circumstances are transcended 
through understanding that there is order and clarity. 

To be constantly aware of the process of acquisitiveness,
 of addiction, of distraction, brings freedom from them 
and so there is a true and simple life.

~ J. Krishnamurti
from The Collected Works Volume III Ojai 
8th Public Talk 2nd July, 1944

Thursday, May 6, 2021

choosing drifting

a shantyboat community by the river's edge.  

After building their "shantyboat," out of mostly salvaged materials, 
Harlan and Anna set out on the river, 

I had no theories to prove. 
I merely wanted to try living by my own hands, 
independent as far as possible from a system of division of labor 
in which the participant loses most of the pleasure 
of making and growing things for himself.  
I wanted to bring in my own fuel and smell its sweet smoke 
as it burned on the hearth I had made.  
I wanted to grow my own food, 
catch it in the river, or forage after it.  
In short, I wanted to do as much as I could for myself, 
because I had already realized from partial experience 
the inexpressible joy of so doing.

This is a windy day with a secret exhilaration about it. 
When I look at the rough water patched with cloud shadows, 
the boat pitching slightly in the wind waves -
 all this from a higher plane somewhere above these little affairs.  
Yet they are a part and lead into it. 

The pure delight of drifting.  
Each time, it was a thrill to shove out into the current, 
to feel the life and power of the river, 
whose beginning and end were so remote.  
We became a part of it, like the driftwood... 
The tension and excitement, the near ecstasy of drifting.  
We had to stop often and take it in small doses.

~ Harlan Hubbard
from Harlan Hubbard and the River - A Visionary Life
by Don Wallis
block prints by Harlan Hubbard

from 'Sonata at Payne Hollow'

Harlan and Anna Hubbard

And now, as both have known they would,
they turn toward one another, and thus they are
changed, revealing themselves now
as neither young nor old, but timeless
and clear, as each appears
within the long affection of the other. 

~ Wendell Berry


Wednesday, May 5, 2021


Can you focus your life-breath until you become
supple as a newborn child?
While you cleanse your inner vision
will you be found without fault?
Can you love people and lead them
without forcing your will on them?
When Heaven gives and takes away
can you be content with the outcome?
When you understand all things
can you step back from your own understanding?

Giving birth and nourishing,
making without possessing,
expecting nothing in return.
To grow, yet not to control:
This is the mysterious virtue.

~ Lao Tzu
from Tao Te Ching
art: Aboriginal Australia Rainbow Serpent
Middle School Art

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

a dense cloud of thoughts

For those who allow their mind to wander here and there,
 everything will go wrong.
Just as the sun cannot be seen in a densely clouded sky,
 so one’s own Self cannot be seen in a mind-sky
 which is darkened by a dense cloud of thoughts.

All the benefit to be obtained by inner inquiry
 is only the destruction of the deceptive ‘I’-sense [the ego]. 
It would be too much to say that it is to attain Self,
 which always shines clear and ever-attained.
Firmly abiding as ‘I am I’, 
without any movement of the mind, 
is the attainment of Godhood.

When scrutinized, 
among all the many qualities necessary for those 
who wish to attain the imperishable Liberation, 
it is the attitude of a great liking to be in permanent solitude
 that must be well established in their mind.

According to the outlook of different people 
the same woman is considered to be wife, 
husband’s sister, daughter-in-law, wife of one’s brother-in-law,
 mother, and so on. 
Yet in truth she does not at all undergo any change in her form.

Unless one realizes oneself to be the unattached Self, 
which is like the space that remains not even in the least attached to anything,
 though it exists inside, outside and pervading everything,
 one cannot remain undeluded.

One who has destroyed the mind is the emperor
 who rides on the neck of the elephant of supreme Jnana (self-knowledge).
 Know for certain that the turmoil of the mind
 is the sole cause of the miserable bondage 
of the cruel and fierce birth [and death].

~ Ramana Maharshi
art by Colette Baumback

Sunday, May 2, 2021

the busy edge dissolves




The object in meditation and all of our contemplative disciplines is silence. But… 
that silence is in order for you to perceive something other than yourself — 
what you’ve arranged as yourself to actually perceive this frontier
 between what you call your self and what you call other than your self, 
whether that’s a person or a landscape.

One of the greatest arts of poetry is actually to create silence through attentive speech — 
speech that says something in such a way that it appears as a third frontier
 between you and the world, and invites you into a deeper and more generous
 sense of your own identity and the identity of the world… 
Poetry is the verbal art-form by which we can actually create silence.

Silence is frightening, an intimation of the end, the graveyard of fixed identities.
 Real silence puts any present understanding to shame; orphans us from certainty;
 leads us beyond the well-known and accepted reality and confronts us 
with the unknown and previously unacceptable conversation 
about to break in upon our lives.

In silence, essence speaks to us of essence itself
 and asks for a kind of unilateral disarmament, 
our own essential nature slowly emerging
 as the defended periphery atomizes and falls apart.
 As the busy edge dissolves we begin to join the conversation 
through the portal of a present unknowing, robust vulnerability, 
revealing in the way we listen, a different ear, a more perceptive eye, 
an imagination refusing to come too early to a conclusion, 
and belonging to a different person 
than the one who first entered the quiet.
~ David Whyte
from  Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning
of Everyday Words
 photo by Aaron Burden
with thanks to BrainPickings