Thursday, January 27, 2022



Contentment counters and overrides our constant tendency to grasp and chase after things. Contentment has the flavor of being at ease - grasping nothing, lacking nothing. It is being open and leisurely. In this state, we don't make anything into a big deal, while at the same time we engage with the freshness of each moment. Cultivating an attitude of contentment is engaging with and yet not grasping at causes and conditions.
We are swayed by causes and conditions when we feel a sense of lack and when grasping is present. We inevitably get sucked into the vortex of grasping and rejecting, having and lacking.  These polarities bring up all sorts of other issues, such as trying to escape from who we are or, alternately, trying desperately to be someone we're not.
There is no formulaic way to cultivate contentment or non-grasping. We need to personally explore the flavor of contentment and digest this feeling little by little, becoming familiar with it in our lives. We can't just force this attitude on ourselves and expect to be able to plow through all of our problems. Contentment is not a mere concept. We need to appreciate the depth of what it means to be content. It is not just being disinterested or detached from everything.
When we are content, we appreciate what we have, and we are able to engage fully with whatever may arise. There's a freshness to it. With contentment, we're able to avail ourselves openly of everything, without rejecting anything. In this process, there may be pain and grief, But we are cultivating the ability to feel fully, to be present to whatever arises without judgment. Allowing such feelings to move through us will make us stronger. We are incredibly resilient. Our hearts and minds will eventually accept and release whatever comes through us.
~ Guo Gu
from Silent Illumination

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

a fabrication


It’s funny how much our surroundings influence our emotions. 
Our joys and sorrows, likes and dislikes are colored by our environment 
so much that often we just let our surroundings dictate our course. 
We go along with “public” feelings until we no longer even know
 our own true aspirations. We become a stranger to ourselves,
 molded entirely by society… 
Sometimes I feel caught between two opposing selves — 
the “false self” imposed by society and what I would call my “true self.” 
How often we confuse the two and assume society’s mold to be our true self.
 Battles between our two selves rarely result in a peaceful reconciliation.
 Our mind becomes a battlefield...

These are our loneliest moments. Yet every time we survive such a storm, 
we grow a little. Without storms like these, I would not be who I am today.
 But I rarely hear such a storm coming until it is already upon me.
 It seems to appear without warning, as though treading silently
 on silk slippers. I know it must have been brewing a long time,
 simmering in my own thoughts and mental formations,
 but when such a frenzied hurricane strikes,
 nothing outside can help.
 I am battered and torn apart,
 and I am also saved.

I saw that the entity I had taken to be “me” was really a fabrication.
 My true nature, I realized, was much more real,
 both uglier and more beautiful than I could have imagined.

 I saw that I am neither young nor old, existent nor nonexistent.
 My friends know I can be as playful and mischievous as a child.
 I love to kid around and enter fully into the game of life.
 I also know what it is to get angry. And I know the pleasure
 of being praised. I am often on the verge of tears or laughter. 
But beneath all of these emotions, what else is there? 
How can I touch it?
 If there isn’t anything, 
why would I be so certain that there is?

 I understood that I am empty of ideals, hopes, viewpoints, or allegiances.
 I have no promises to keep with others. In that moment,
 the sense of myself as an entity among other entities disappeared. 
I knew that this insight did not arise from disappointment, 
despair, fear, desire, or ignorance. A veil silently lifted effortlessly. 
That is all. If you beat me, stone me, or even shoot me, 
everything that is considered to be “me” will disintegrate.
 Then, what is actually there will reveal itself — faint as smoke, 
elusive as emptiness, and yet neither smoke nor emptiness,
 ugly, nor not ugly, beautiful, yet not beautiful. 
It is like a shadow on a screen.

At that moment, I had the deep feeling that I had returned.
 My clothes, my shoes, even the essence of my being had vanished,
 and I was carefree as a grasshopper pausing on a blade of grass… 
When a grasshopper sits on a blade of grass, 
he has no thought of separation, resistance, or blame…
 The green grasshopper blends completely with the green grass… 
It neither retreats nor beckons. It knows nothing of philosophy or ideals. 
It is simply grateful for its ordinary life. Dash across the meadow,
 my dear friend, and greet yesterday’s child. 
When you can’t see me, you yourself will return. 
Even when your heart is filled with despair, you will find the same grasshopper
 on the same blade of grass… Some life dilemmas cannot be solved 
by study or rational thought. We just live with them, struggle with them,
 and become one with them…
 To live, we must die every instant.
 We must perish again and again
 in the storms that make life possible.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh
from  Fragrant Palm Leaves: Journals 1962–1966
with thanks to the marginalian 

Saturday, January 22, 2022

breath deeply with movement


~ Judy K Young

Qigong practice is focuses mastering the art of breathing. 
How we breathe has a vital effect on our well-being physically,
 mentally, and spiritually. As you gain more control of your breathing,
 you gain more mastery of the rest of your body.
Your heart beats slower and more effectively

Muscles relax

Levels of nitric oxide increase, 
which relaxes blood vessel muscles and lowers blood pressure

Deep breathing is a signal to your body that the danger is over. 
The fight-or-flight hormone production stops and your body 
returns to a neutral, peaceful state. Your mind becomes clear 
and you regain perspective. 
This peace spills over into every part of your life.

zen hospice training

From Zen Hospice training I have taken these three precious gems:


and carried them around with me everywhere, all week. 

Sitting, not always literally, as in taking the time to settle into each moment, fully. There is a groundedness to be had there, that says, yes, I am here in this place, at this moment. I sit while I walk. I 'sit' while I drive. I 'sit' while I am talking to someone. I 'sit' everywhere, nowadays . . . 

Breathing, as a way of staying anchored in the body. I can't say enough about the gift of belly breath. So much calmness to be drawn from each breath, rising and falling in the belly. Breath has become my constant companion, my best friend, that can help me survive even the most turbulent circumstances.

Listening, as in paying attention to self, and all the thoughts, and emotions, and sensations that arise, moment to moment. Listening, as in keeping eyes, and ears, and all the other sense organs fully open to receive others. This often means talking less, and putting aside the chattering 'I'. 

Three simple things, that can change your life, and the lives of those around you!
~  Marguerite Manteau-Rao

Friday, January 21, 2022

be as wood to a carpenter

To put it more simply, let that mysterious grace move in your spirit
 as it will and follow wherever it leads you.  Let it be the active doer 
and you the passive receiver.  Do not meddle with it, but let it be... 

Your part is to be as wood to a carpenter or a home to a dweller.
  Remain blind during this time cutting away all desire to know, 
for knowledge is a hindrance here.  Be content to feel 
this mysterious grace sweetly awaken in the 
depths of your spirit.   Forget everything...

~ The Cloud of Unknowing

by the true, loving will of your heart

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
Written anonymously, this practical, unemotional book of instruction focuses on stripping away all earthly ways of knowing, of passing through the cloud of forgetting and piercing the cloud of unknowing that exists between himself and God.  Widely read in the fourteen century for its beauty in aiding a contemplative experience, The Cloud, is better known than the later work, The Book of Privy Counseling which also clearly written by one who has trodden the mystical path himself and offers others a helping hand.


Wednesday, January 19, 2022

the peace that surpasses understanding



Tuesday, January 18, 2022


Imagine if all the tumult of the body were to quiet down, 
along with our busy thoughts. 
Imagine if all things that are perishable grew still. 
And imagine if that moment were to go on and on, 
leaving behind all other sights and sounds 
but this one vision 
which ravishes and absorbs 
and fixes the beholder in joy, 
so that the rest of eternal life were like 
that moment of illumination which leaves us breathless. 

~ Saint Augustine

I do not want to step so quickly


Do not
Want to step so quickly
Over a beautiful line on God's palm
As I move through the earth's

I do not want to touch any object in this world
Without my eyes testifying to the truth
That everything is
My Beloved.

Something has happened
To my understanding of existence
That now makes my heart always full of wonder
And kindness.

I do not
Want to step so quickly
Over this sacred place on God's body
That is right beneath your
Own foot

As I
Dance with
Precious life

~ Hafiz
from The Gift
translation by Daniel Ladinsky
photo by albert watson




My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption,
 a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone,
 but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die,
 they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, 
for it is the fate - the genetic and neural fate - of every human being
 to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, 
to die his own death. I cannot pretend I am without fear. 
But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. 
I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given 
something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. 
I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse 
of writers and readers. Above all, I have been a sentient being, 
a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself 
has been an enormous privilege and adventure.
 ~ Oliver Sacks
from Gratitude
with thanks to whiskey river

Monday, January 17, 2022

one truth

In all ten directions of the universe,
there is only one truth.
When we see clearly, the great teachings are the same.
What can ever be lost?  What can be attained?
If we attain something, it was there from the beginning of time.
If we lose something, it-is hiding somewhere near us.
Look: this ball in my pocket:
can you see how priceless it is?

~ Ryokan

Ryokan's love of children and animals is legendary. 
He often played games with the local children, attested to in his own poetry. 

His reputation for gentleness was sometimes carried to comical extremes. 
One tale is told that, one day when Ryokan returned to his hut 
he discovered a robber who had broken in 
and was in the process of stealing the impoverished monk's few possessions. 
In the thief's haste to leave, he left behind a cushion. 
Ryokan grabbed the cushion and ran after the thief to give it to him. 
This event prompted Ryokan to compose one of his best known poems:

The thief left it behind:
the moon
at my window.

hiding in this cage

hiding in this cage
of visible matter

is the invisible

pay attention
to her

she is singing
your song

~ Kabir
english version by Rushil Rao

Saturday, January 15, 2022

in thanks for the life of Jim Forest


Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen: Western Explorers of the Christian East

NHAT HANH: ... If you cut yourself off from something --
 a tradition, a community -- the hope of things will be lost. 
Right at that moment. So it is not a problem of a word or a term -- 
it is the problem of life. And that problem of being simultaneously
inside and outside yourself is a very wonderful idea. 
Not an idea but a way of life, a way that retain one's self and the link
 between one's self and the other part of one's self.

DAN: This was very much a part of the style of Merton --
 the inside/outside. And it had very rich consequences, 
I think. For him and for others. He used to say that he would never
 become a monk again, but now that he was a monk, 
he would be a monk. Absolutely. Yes.

JIM FOREST: A man playing hide and seek with tradition.

NHAT HANH: Anyway, being a monk or not being a monk,
 that is not the problem. The problem is the way you are a monk 
or the way you are a non-monk. I think if we greet events
 in that way, we can master the situation.

In China, they tell the story of a man who lost his horse.
 He was sad and he wept about it. But a few days later the horse returned
 with another horse. So the man was now very happy. His loss turns
 out to be lucky. But the next day his son tried the new horse
 and fell and broke one leg. So now it is not good luck any more,
 but bad luck. So he deserts the other horse and takes his son to the hospital
 and is content with what he has. So they say, if you greet these events 
with a calm mind, then you can make the most of these events
 for the sake of your happiness. 
That's not me, but the Chinese! (Laughter.)
~ from a slightly edited transcript of a conversation
recorded in Paris in 1973 by Jim Forest between 
Thich Nhat Hanh and Daniel Berrigan. 
 Jim Forest died yesterday
with thanks to louie, louie

Friday, January 14, 2022

the man watching

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can’t bear without a friend,
I can’t love without a sister

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it’s with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestler’s sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke 
translation by Robert Bly

this storm is you

Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. 
You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again,
 but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, 
like some ominous dance with death just before dawn.
 Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, 
something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. 
Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, 
step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears
 so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step.
 There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time.
 Just fine white sand swirling into the sky like pulverized bones.
 That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.

~ Haruki Murakami
from Kafka on the Shore

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

calm and complete

On the days when the rest
have failed you,
let this much be yours -
flies, dust, and unnameable odor,
the two waiting baskets:
one for the lemons and passion,
the other for all you have lost.
Both empty,
it will come to your shoulder,
breathe slowly against your bare arm.
If you offer it hay, it will eat.
Offered nothing,
it will stand as long as you ask.
The little bells of the bridle will hang
beside you quietly,
in the heat and the tree's thin shade.
Do not let its sparse mane deceive you,
or the way the left ear swivels into dream.
This too is a gift of the gods,
calm and complete.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from The Lives of the Heart
art by McKenzie Birnie

a healing calm

Cry out all your grief, your
disappointments! Say them in

Farsi, then Greek.  It doesn't 
matter whether you're from Rum

or Arabia.  Praise the beauty
and kindness praised by every

living being.  You hurt and have 
sharp desire, yet your presence

is a healing calm.  Sun, moon,
bonfire, candle, which?  Someone

says your flame is about to be 
dowsed, but you're not smoke or

fire. You're infinitely more
alive.  Say how that is! This

fluttering love will not stay
much longer in my chest.  Soon it 

will fly like a falcon to its
master, like a owl saying HU.

~ Rumi
from The Soul of Rumi
translation by Coleman Barks

the storm

The storm puts its lips to the house
and blows to make a sound.
I sleep restlessly, turn over, with closed
eyes read the book of the storm.

But the child's eyes grow huge in the dark
and the storm whimpers for the child.
Both love to see the swinging lamp.
Both are halfway toward speech.

Storms have childlike hands and wings.
The caravan bolts off toward Lapland
and the house senses the constellation of nails
holding its wall together.

The night is quiet above our floor
(where all the died-away footsteps
are lying like sunken leaves in a pond)
but outside the night is wild!

A more serious storm is moving over us all.
It puts its lips to our soul
and blows to make a sound.  We're afraid
the storm will blow everything inside us away.

~ Tomas Transtromer
translated by robert bly

Monday, January 3, 2022

the eyes of others

You can't see yourself. 
You know what you look like because of mirrors and photographs, 
but out there in the world, as you move among your fellow human beings,
 whether strangers or friends or the most intimate beloveds, 
your own face is invisible to you. 
You can see other parts of yourself, arms and legs, hands and feet, 
shoulders and torso, but only from the front, 
nothing of the back except the backs of your legs 
if you twist them into the right position,
 but not your face, never your face, and in the end -
 at least as far as others are concerned - your face is who you are,
 the essential fact of your identity. Passports do not contain pictures
 of hands and feet. Even you, who have lived inside your body
 for sixty-four years now, would probably be unable to recognize
 your foot in an isolated photograph of that foot, not to speak of your ear,
 or your elbow, or one of your eyes in close-up. 
All so familiar to you in the context of the whole,
 but utterly anonymous when taken piece by piece. 
We are all aliens to ourselves, and if we have any sense of who we are,
 it is only because we live inside the eyes of others.

~  Paul Auster

your mirror

Each soul is created to serve as your mirror.

All things in the two worlds
are only your mirrors.

The heart is the mirror of your most royal
beauty -

and both of these worlds
are the case of that mirror.

~ Najm al-Din Daya Razi
from Love's Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition
translation by David and Sabrineh Fideler