Saturday, July 30, 2022

at the core of delusion


still I wonder: isn’t there a rock-solid unchanging
hidden somewhere underneath it all?

This unexamined self feels like an isolated, self-sufficient, permanent individual, 
essentially separate from others and all that surrounds it. Yet even a few moments
 of self-reflection suggests otherwise. My body is not the same as when I was eight
 or eighteen years old. If all humans are mortal, then my life will also end,
 exact time of departure unknown. Similarly, all my feelings of happiness and sadness
 come and go, arise and cease, changing gradually or suddenly,
 but always, inevitably, changing.

Looking closely, I also see that I’m not a self-contained, entirely independent individual.
 I need food, water, and air to survive. I speak and write a language generously passed on to me 
by others from long ago. I engage in everyday activities that were all part of my cultural training
 from childhood onward: brushing my teeth, exchanging greetings of “good morning”
 and saying “good night,” attending ceremonies, weddings, funerals.

Even at the most basic level of existence, I did not arise as a spontaneous,
 self-created human being. I was born and nurtured through the union and love 
of my parents, and they are also descendants of many ancestors before them.
 We are all “dependently related” beings, developing and aging in rapidly changing societies.

When we conduct our lives as though, all evidence to the contrary, we are separate,
 permanent, unitary selves, we find ourselves constantly living in fear of the large,
 looming shadow of change. Actions based on a mistaken sense of self, or “ego,”
 as an unchanging, isolated essence are filled with anxious struggle.
 We fight many futile battles against the way things actually are. How are they really?
 They are changing, connected, fluid. It’s as though we are standing waist-deep
 in the middle of a rushing river, our arms outstretched wide,
 straining to stop the flow.

This mistaken sense of self arises as a solidified set of beliefs about who we are
 and how the world is. When we proceed on that basis, all our life experiences are filtered
 through a rigorous, simplistic, for-and-against screening process:
 “Will this person or event enhance my permanent sense of self? 
Will this encounter threaten the ideas I’ve already accumulated?”
 Believing the inner voice of deception, we grasp and defend and ignore in service to an illusion,
 causing suffering for ourselves and others.

Letting go of the false sense of self feels liberating, like being released from a claustrophobic prison
 of mistaken view. What a relief to discover that we don’t have to pretend to be something 
we’re not! The initially surprising and challenging news of “no solid self” 
turns out to be a gentle invitation into a more spacious approach to living
 and being with others. Releasing fixation on permanence goes hand in hand
 with taking brave steps toward more communication and harmony in our lives,
 our actions, our relationships, and our work.

We might call this fluid inter-being an “open self,” one that is more sensitive
 to other living beings and nature. This open sense of self allows us to proceed from empathy
 and compassion for ourselves and for those suffering around us and elsewhere.
 With the dissolving of the seemingly solid walls of ego’s fragile tower, our experience is porous
 and permeable, less cut off and isolated. As we gradually release the old commitment
 to conquering the unconquerable, to denying the undeniable, we explore the many genuine
 and fresh possibilities in our ever-changing situation.
~  Gaylon Ferguson
with thanks to Lion's Roar
 street art



Thursday, July 28, 2022

the inward world

Riding on the inner side of the blackbird's
Wings, I feel the long
Warm flight to the sea;
Dark, black in the trees at night.
Along the railroad tracks
In men's minds wild roses grow.
Lingering as ripe black olives
I go down the stairs of the little leaves,
To the floating continent
Where men forget their bodies,
Searching for the tiny
Grain of sand behind their eyes.

~ William Duffy

Introductory notes by Robert Bly 
to The Lion’s Tail and Eyes, Poems written out of laziness and silence.

“One purpose of poetry is to forget about what you know, 
and think about what you don’t know. 
There is an old idea that only by leaving the body can a man think.
 Such a leaving concerns the body of knowledge as well as the physical body.
 After all, as Montale says, if the purpose of poetry lay in making oneself understood, 
there would be no purpose in writing it.”……. 

“The fundamental world of poetry… the inward world. 
The poem expresses what we are just beginning to think,
 thoughts we have not yet thought. The poem must catch these thoughts alive,
 holding them in language that is also alive, flexible and animal-alike as they. 

The poem with images is therefore like a lion about to come into existence.
 A person meets the poem among trees at night. On the path in front of him,
 he sees a lion who does not know he is there. The lion is changing 
from his old ancient substance back into a visible body.
 So far the tip of the tail, the ears, the eyes,
 and perhaps a paw or two have come.”

poem in three parts


Oh, on an early morning I think I shall live forever!
I am wrapped in my joyful flesh,
As the grass is wrapped in its clouds of green.
Rising from a bed, where I dreamt
Of long rides past castles and hot coals,
The sun lies happily on my knees;
I have suffered and survived the night,
Bathed in dark water, like any blade of grass.
The strong leaves of the box-elder tree,
Plunging in the wind, call us to disappear
Into the wilds of the universe,
Where we shall sit at the foot of a plant,
And live forever, like the dust.
~ Robert Bly
from  Silence in the Snowy Fields

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

a stricken deer that left the herd

I WAS a stricken deer, that left the herd
Long since; with many an arrow deep infixt
My panting side was charg'd, when I withdrew
To seek a tranquil death in distant shades.

There was I found by one who had himself
Been hurt by th' archers. In his side he bore,
And in his hands and feet, the cruel scars.
With gentle force soliciting the darts,
He drew them forth, and heal'd, and bade me live. 

Since then, with few associates, in remote
And silent woods I wander, far from those
My former partners of the peopled scene;
With few associates, and not wishing more.

Here much I ruminate, as much I may,
With other views of men and manners now
Than once, and others of a life to come.
I see that all are wand'rers, gone astray
Each in his own delusions; they are lost
In chace of fancied happiness, still wooed
And never won. Dream after dream ensues,
And still they dream that they shall still succeed,
And still are disappointed; rings the world
With the vain stir. I sum up half mankind,
And add two-thirds of the remainder half,
And find the total of their hopes and fears
Dreams, empty dreams. The million flit as gay
As if created only like the fly
That spreads his motley wings in th' eye of noon
To sport their season and be seen no more.

~ William Cowper 
 art by Picasso

the people waiting

The ship, solid and black,
enters the clear blackness
of the great harbor.
Quiet and cold.

—The people waiting
are still asleep, dreaming,
and warm, far away and still stretched out in this 
dream, perhaps . . .

How real our watch is, beside the dream
of doubt the others had! How sure it is, compared
to their troubled dream about us!
Quiet. Silence.
Silence which in breaking up at dawn
will speak differently.

~ Juan Ramón Jiménez
 from Lorca and Jiménez: Selected Poems
translation by Robert Bly
art by picasso

half life

We walk through half of our life
as if it were a fever dream

barely touching the ground

our eyes half open
our heart half closed.

Not half knowing who we are 
we watch the ghost of us drift 
from room to room
through friends and lovers
never quite as real as advertised.

Not saying half we mean
or meaning half we say
we dream ourselves
from birth to birth
seeking the true self.

Until the fever breaks
and the heart can not abide
a moment longer
as the rest of us awakens,
summoned from the dream,
not half caring for anything but love.

~ Stephen Levine
from Breaking the Drought
art by Robert Frank Hunter

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Bach cello Solo Nr.1, BWV 1007

Friday, July 22, 2022

enter singing

The cloud is free only
to go with the wind.

The rain is free
only in falling.

The water is free only
in its gathering together,

in its downward courses,
in its rising into the air.

In law is rest
if you love the law,
if you enter, singing, into it
as water in its descent.

Or song is truest law,
and you must enter singing;
it has no other entrance.

It is the great chorus
of parts. The only outlawry
is in division.

Whatever is singing
is found, awaiting the return
of whatever is lost.

Meet us in the air
over the water,
sing the swallows.

Meet me, meet me,
the redbird sings,
here here here here.

~ Wendell Berry
photo by Beth Acherman

the larger circle

We clasp the hands of those who go before us,
and the hands of those who come after us;
we enter the little circle of each other's arms,
and the larger circle of lovers
whose hands are joined in a dance,
and the larger circle of all creatures,
passing in and out of life,
who move also in a dance,
to a music so subtle and vast
that no one hears it except in fragments.

~ Wendell Berry

photo Jane Goodall with a 
chimpanzee at the Tchimpounga 
Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Centre, 
Congo (Brazzaville).

presence in landscape

I am the wind which breathes upon the sea,
I am the wave of the ocean,
I am the murmur of the billows,
I am the ox of the seven combats,
I am the vulture upon the rocks,
I am a beam of the sun,
I am the fairest of plants,
I am the wild boar in valour,
I am the salmon in the water,
I am a lake in the plain,
I am a world of knowledge,
I am the point of the lance of battle,
I am the God who created the fire in the head.

Who is it who throws light into the meeting on the mountain? 
Who announces the ages of the moon?
Who teaches the place where couches the sun?

~ Amairgen 
(chief poet of the Milesians,
from Anam Cara, by John O'Donohue

Thursday, July 21, 2022

the truceless wars


 The truceless wars
among beasts, and among men, are worlds apart.
The pigeon lays down fluttering life to flash
a russet tail. The haddock becomes harp seal,
then polar bear. The squirming termite licked
from a sharp stick awakes to invent tools.
The lamb lies down within the lion, yawns
yellow-fanged, and sleeps. Life struggles to evolve
higher in us, through questioning, toward hope.
But we sow salt. We leave a ground-zero wake
of futurelessness. Take the way a life
devolves from thought to blind mouths in the dust
wasted by semiautomatic fire.
This flesh is foolscap. We think we’re so smart,
but we create nothing, nothing. Nothing.
~ Marilyn Nelson
 born in Cleveland, Ohio, the daughter of a school teacher
 and a U. S. serviceman, a member of the last graduating class of Tuskegee Airmen. 
She is the author or translatorof more than 20 books and chapbooks for adults
 and children. A professor emerita of English at the University of Connecticut,
 Marilyn was Poet Laureate of Connecticut, 2001– 2006, and founding director
 of Soul Mountain Retreat, a writers’ colony, 2004-2010.
with thanks to

keep yourself at the beginning of the beginning


Please try to help me go to the joy that is trying
to go to the beautiful helpful helpful beginning
of the beginning of the very trying freedom
that we make our great great great light
that is nothing but the laughter that is
fooling us into believing that we go
to the trash bin that is your life
that become the treasures
that live in the bottom
of the bin that is
your life yes
yes yes
yes –
try to dive
down to the
beautiful muck
that helps you get
that the world was made
from the garbage at the bottom
of the universe that was boiling over
with joy that wanted to become you you
you yes yes yes – please try to go to the colors
that kiss you great great great person of the light
that is becoming you you you yes yes – please
try to keep yourself in the bottom of the bin
yes yes – please try to go to the kissing
muck that is very true to your life yes
yes – please try to meet me there
yes yes – please try to bring
your beautiful nothing
there yes yes

~ Hannah Emerson
 author of The Kissing of Kissing
 with thanks to
photo by  John Vermette

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

the speech of lovers



True silence is the speech of lovers. . . . 
True silence is a key to the immense and flaming heart of God.
 It is the beginning of a divine courtship that will end only in the immense,
 creative, fruitful, loving silence of final union with the Beloved.

Yes, such silence is holy, a prayer beyond all prayers. 
True silence leads to the final prayer of the constant presence of God,
 to the heights of contemplation, when the soul, finally at peace, 
lives by the will of whom she loves totally, utterly, and completely.

This silence, then, will break forth in a charity that overflows
 in the service of the neighbor without counting the cost. 
It will witness to Christ anywhere, always.
 Availability will become delightsome and easy,
 for in each person the soul will see the face of her Love.
 Hospitality will be deep and real, for a silent heart is a loving heart,
 and a loving heart is a hospice to the world. 


~ Catherine de Hueck Doherty
 a Russian-Canadian Catholic social worker 
and founder of the Madonna House Apostolate.
 A pioneer of social justice and a renowned national speaker,
 Doherty was also a prolific writer of hundreds of articles,
 best-selling author of dozens of books, and a dedicated wife and mother.
 In 1932, she gave up all her possessions, lived among the multitude of poor people
 in downtown Toronto and established Friendship House with its soup kitchen.
 She gave food to them when she had none for herself –



The soul that is attached to anything, 
however much good there may be in it, 
will not arrive at the liberty of divine union. 
For whether it be a strong wire rope 
or a slender and delicate thread that holds the bird, 
it matters not, if it really holds it fast; 
for, until the cord be broken, 
the bird cannot fly. 
~ Saint John of the Cross



There is no where in you a paradise that is no place 
and there
You do not enter except without a story.

To enter there is to become unnameable.

Whoever is there is homeless for he has no door and 
no identity with which to go out and to come in.

Whoever is nowhere is nobody, and therefore cannot
exist except as unborn:
No disguise will avail him anything

Such a one is neither lost nor found.

But he who has an address is lost.

They fall, they fall into apartments and are securely 

They find themselves in streets.  They are licensed
To proceed from place to place
They now know their own names
They can name several friends and know
Their own telephones must some time ring.

If all telephones ring at once, if all names are shouted
at once and all cars crash at one crossing:
If all cities explode and fly away in dust

Yet identities refuse to be lost.  There is a name and 
number for everyone.

There is a definite place for bodies, there are pigeon
holes for ashes:
Such security can business buy!

Who would dare to go nameless in so secure a universe?
Yet, to tell the truth, only the nameless are at home in it.

They bear with them in the center of nowhere the 
unborn flower of nothing:
This is the paradise tree.  It must remain unseen until
words end and arguments are silent.

~ Thomas Merton
from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

A person wakes from sleep


A person wakes from sleep
and does not know for a time
who she is, who he is.
This happens in a lifetime
once or twice.
It has happened to you, no doubt.
Some in that moment
some sigh with pleasure.
How each kind later envies the other,
who must so love their lives

~   Jane Hirshfield

my doubt

I wake, doubt, beside you,
like a curtain half-open.

I dress doubting,
like a cup 
undecided if it has been dropped.

I eat doubting,
work doubting,
go out to a dubious cafe with skeptical friends.

I go to sleep doubting myself,
as a herd of goats
sleep in a suddenly gone-quiet truck.

I dream you, doubt,
for what is the meaning of dreaming
if not that all we are while inside it
is transient, amorphous, in question?

Left hand and right hand,
doubt, you are in me,
throwing a basketball, guiding my knife and my fork.
Left knee and right knee,
we run for a bus,
for a meeting that surely will end before we arrive.

I would like
to grow content in you, doubt,
as a double-hung window
settles obedient into its hidden pulleys and ropes.

I doubt I can do so:
your own counterweight governs my nights and my days.

As the knob of hung lead holds steady
the open mouth of a window,
you hold me,
my kneeling before you resistant, stubborn,
offering these furious praises
I can't help but doubt you will ever be able to hear.

~ Jane Hirshfield
art by van gogh

Monday, July 18, 2022

surrender is the first step


[Since nature’s] beauties were such that even a fool
 could not force them into competition,
 this cured me once and for all of the pernicious tendency
 to compare and to prefer -an operation that does little good
 even when we are dealing with works of art
 and endless harm when we are dealing with nature.
 Total surrender is the first step towards the fruition of either.
 Shut your mouth; open your eyes and ears. 
Take in what is there and give no thought
 to what might have been there or what is somewhere else. 
That can come later, if it must come at all.

~ C. S. Lewis
 from Surprised by Joy

it offers itself so graciously to our hearts

…. We do have a deadening desire to reduce the mystery, the uncertainty of our lives…. 
We bind our lives in solid chains of forced connections that block and fixate us. …. 
Our sense of uncertainty and our need for security nail our world down. …. 
Each time we go out, the world is open and free;
 it offers itself so graciously to our hearts, to create something new and wholesome
 from it each day. It is a travesty of possibility and freedom to think
 we have no choice, that things are the way they are and that the one street,
 the one right way is all that is allotted to us. 
Certainty is a subtle destroyer.

We confine our mystery within the prison of routine and repetition. 
One of the most deadening forces of all is repetition. 
Your response to the invitation and edge of your life becomes reduced 
to a series of automatic reflexes. For example, you are so used to getting up
 in the morning and observing the morning rituals of washing and dressing.
 You are still somewhat sleepy, your mind is thinking of things you have to do
 in the day that lies ahead. You go through these first gestures of the morning
 often without even noticing that you are doing them. This is a disturbing
 little image, because it suggests that you live so much of your one life
with the same automatic blindness of adaptation.

… Habit is a strong invisible prison.
 Habits are styles of feeling, perception, 
or action that have now become second nature to us.
 A habit is a sure cell of predictability; it can close you off from the unknown,
 the new, and the unexpected. You were sent to the earth to become a receiver
 of the unknown. From ancient times, these gifts were prepared for you; 
now they come towards you across eternal distances. 
Their destination is the altar of your heart. 

~ John O’Donohue
from Eternal Echoes


passing through


You are Life passing through your body, 
passing through your mind, 
passing through your soul. 
Once you find that out, 
not with logic, not with the intellect,
 but because you can feel that Life - 
you find out that you are,
 the force that makes the flowers open and close, 
that makes the hummingbird fly from flower to flower. 
You find out that you are in every tree, 
and you are in every animal, vegetable, and rock.
You are that force that moves the wind 
and breathes through your body. 
The whole universe is a living being that is moved by that force, 
and that is what you are. 
You are Life.
Don Miguel Ruiz

Sunday, July 17, 2022

resting in gratitude


You have made me so rich, oh God, please let me share out Your beauty with open hands.
 My life has become an uninterrupted dialogue with You, oh God, one great dialogue.
 Sometimes when I stand in some corner of the camp, my feet planted on Your earth,
 my eyes raised toward Your heaven, tears sometimes run down my face,
 tears of deep emotion and gratitude. At night, too, when I lie in my bed and rest in You,
 oh God, tears of gratitude run down my face, and that is my prayer.
 I have been terribly tired for several days, but that too will pass. 
Things come and go in a deeper rhythm, and people must be taught to listen;
 it is the most important thing we have to learn in this life.
 I am not challenging You, oh God, my life is one great dialogue with You.
 I may never become the great artist I would really like to be, 
but I am already secure in You, God. Sometimes I try my hand
 at turning out small profundities and uncertain short stories, 
but I always end up with just one single word: God. 
And that says everything, and there is no need for anything more. 
And all my creative powers are translated into inner dialogues with You. 
The beat of my heart has grown deeper, more active, and yet more peaceful, 
and it is as if I were all the time storing up inner riches.
~ Etty Hillesum
from An Interrupted Life: The Diaries
translated by Arnold J. Pomerans

Saturday, July 16, 2022

you can’t offer happiness until you have it for yourself

If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable.
 But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook,
 wash, and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace,
 and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited,
 and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings,
 and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things
 don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion
 and can embrace others. We accept others as they are,
 and then they have a chance to transform.

When we feed and support our own happiness, we are nourishing our ability to love.
 That’s why to love means to learn the art of nourishing our happiness.

The essence of loving kindness is being able to offer happiness. 
You can be the sunshine for another person. You can’t offer happiness
 until you have it for yourself. So build a home inside by accepting yourself
 and learning to love and heal yourself. Learn how to practice mindfulness
 in such a way that you can create moments of happiness and joy
 for your own nourishment.
Then you have something to offer the other person.

If you have enough understanding and love, then every moment —
 whether it’s spent making breakfast, driving the car, watering the garden, 
or doing anything else in your day —
 can be a moment of joy.

In a deep relationship, there’s no longer a boundary between you and the other person.
 You are her and she is you. Your suffering is her suffering. Your understanding
 of your own suffering helps your loved one to suffer less.
 Suffering and happiness are no longer individual matters. 
What happens to your loved one happens to you.
 What happens to you happens to your loved one.

In true love, there’s no more separation or discrimination.
 His happiness is your happiness. Your suffering is his suffering.
 You can no longer say, “That’s your problem.”

When you love someone, you have to have trust and confidence.
Love without trust is not yet love. Of course, first you have to have trust,
 respect, and confidence in yourself. Trust that you have a good and compassionate nature.
 You are part of the universe; you are made of stars. When you look at your loved one,
 you see that he is also made of stars and carries eternity inside.
 Looking in this way, we naturally feel reverence. 
True love cannot be without trust and respect for oneself 
and for the other person.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh,
from his book How to Love