Tuesday, December 27, 2022



A person made dazed
by the cup of love
forgets all other joys.
He speaks with remembrance
in his innermost soul-
and then falls silent
to outer disputes.
~ 'Ala'  al-Dawala Simnani 

Monday, December 26, 2022


Having lived long in time,
he lives now in timelessness
without sorrow, made perfect
by our never finished love,
by our compassion and forgiveness,
and by his happiness in receiving
these gifts we give. Here in time
we are added to one another forever.

~ Wendell Berry
from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry

Saturday, December 24, 2022

this morning



. . . This morning, when I looked
at a lily, just beginning to open,
its long, slender pouch tipped
with soft, curling-back lips, and I could peek just
slightly in, and see the clasping
interior, the cache of pollen,
and smell the extreme sweetness, I thought they were
shyly saying Mary's body,
he came from the blossom of a woman, he was born
in the beauty of her lily.
~ Sharon Olds 

for a moment


Across the highway a heron stands
in the flooded field. It stands
as if lost in thought, on one leg, careless,
as if the field belongs to herons.
The air is clear and quiet.
Snow melts on this second fair day.
Mother and daughter,
we sit in the parking lot
with doughnuts and coffee.
We are silent.
For a moment the wall between us
opens to the universe;
then closes.
And you go on saying
you do not want to repeat my life.
~ Ruth Stone

it all moves


At night outside it all moves or
almost moves–trees, grass,
touches of wind. The room you have
in the world is ready to change.
Clouds parade by, and stars in their
configurations. Birds from far
touch the fabric around them–you can
feel their wings move. Somewhere under
the earth it waits, that emanation
of all things. It breathes. It pulls you
slowly out through doors or windows
and you spread in the thin halo of night mist.
~ William Stafford 

Friday, December 23, 2022

the envoy

One day in that room, a small rat.
Two days later, a snake.
Who, seeing me enter,
whipped the long stripe of his
body under the bed,
then curled like a docile house-pet.

I don't know how either came or left.
Later, the flashlight found nothing.

For a year I watched
as something -- terror? happiness? grief? --
entered and then left my body.

Not knowing how it came in.
Not knowing how it went out.

It hung where words could not reach it.
It slept where light could not go.
Its scent was neither snake nor rat,
neither sensualist nor ascetic.

There are openings in our lives
of which we know nothing.

Through them
the belled herds travel at will,
long-legged and thirsty, covered with foreign dust.

~  Jane Hirshfield
from Given Sugar, Given Salt

calm, ease


Thich Nhat Hanh

faint traces


Reflecting over seventy years,
I am tired of judging right from wrong.
Faint traces of a path trodden in deep night snow.
A stick of incense under the rickety window.
~ Ryokan
from Sky Above, Great Wind
The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan
by Kazuaki Tanahashi

every step


Treading along in this dreamlike, illusory realm,
Without looking for the traces I may have left;
A cuckoo's song beckons me to return home,
Hearing this, I tilt my head to see
Who has told me to turn back:
But do not as me where I am going,
As I travel in this limitless world,
Where every step I take is my home.
~ Dogen
 from The Zen Poetry of Dogen

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

a small boat drifting





 In the heart of the night,
 The moonlight framing
A small boat drifting,
Tossed not by the waves
Nor swayed by the breeze. 
~ Dogen
from The Zen Poetry of Dogen

Friday, December 16, 2022

acceptance and expansion



 Suzuki Roshi said that renunciation is not giving up the things of the world,
 but accepting that they go away.
 An acceptance of impermanence helps us learn how to die. 
It also reveals the flip side of loss, which is that letting go is an act of generosity.
 We let go of old grudges, and give ourselves peace. We let go of fixed views,
 and give ourselves to not knowing. 
We let go of self-sufficiency and give ourselves to the care of others.
 We let go of clinging and give ourselves to gratitude.
 We let go of control and give ourselves to surrender.

"Surrender is not the same thing as letting go. 
Normally, we think of letting go as a release often accompanied by a sense of freedom
 from previous restraints.
 Surrender is more about expansion. There is a freedom in surrender,
 but it is not really about setting something down or distancing ourselves from an object,
 person, or experience, as it is with letting go. 
With surrender, we are free because we have expanded into a spaciousness,
 a boundless quality of being that can include but not be constrained by
 the previously limiting beliefs that once defined us, keeping us separate and apart.
 We release the fruitless habit of clinging to changing objects as a source of happiness.
 In surrender, we are reconstituted. We are no longer enslaved by our pasts.
 No longer imprisoned by our former identities. We become intimate 
with the inner truth of our essential nature.
 In surrender, 
we feel ourselves not gaining distance, but rather coming closer.
~ Frank Ostaseski
from The Five Invitations
art by by Antony Gormley

the man who didn't know

There was a man who didn't know what was his.
He thought as a boy that some demon forced him
To wear "his" clothes and live in "his" room
And sit on "his" chair and be the child of "his" parents.

Each time he sat down to dinner, it happened again.
His own birthday party belonged to someone else.
And - was it sweet potatoes that he liked? -
He should resist them.  Whose plate is this?

This man will be like a lean-to attached
To a house.  It doesn't have a foundation.
This man is helpful and hostile in each moment.
This man leans toward you and leans away.

He's charming, this man who doesn't know what is his.

~ Robert Bly
from Morning Poems
photo by Lisa Kristine

my friend



I loved my friend.
He went away from me.
There's nothing more to say.
The poem ends,
Soft as it began,—
I loved my friend
~ Langston Hughes
from The Weary Blues 
with thanks to love is a place

Sunday, December 4, 2022

speech from the heart - mindful listening



If one is to do good,
it must be done in the minute particulars.
General good is the plea of the hypocrite,
the scoundrel and the flatterer.
~ William Blake

Pay attention when you speak the rest of the time, the best you're able, 
and listen to your heart. See if you can begin practicing 
letting your words come from your heart.
 A good clue for this is if you're in a conversation that lasts more than five minutes, 
so you've been talking for awhile, pause, or wake up for a second
 in the middle of it, and ask inside, "Now, what does my heart really want to say?" 
You're having this conversation. "What's in there that really wants to be said?
 Maybe I won't see this person ever again. What do I really want to say?" 
That can begin to empower your speech, to transform it 
from automatic pilot to the place where you start to wake up.
 It's fantastic. It's really wonderful to work with.

Most of us value integrity. It really lights up the heart
 to think about living in a way that comes from inside, 
where our actions, our words, and our inner being are connected. 
It's very precious. In the Buddhist tradition they're given as training precepts,
 training precepts which we practice. It's not some God -- given law that we must follow,
 but precepts which we begin to practice -- 
to begin to learn to live our life from our hearts, 
to live our life, as I said, with an uprightness of heart.


Only when the inner dialogue stops
 can the hidden parts of ourselves be seen and revealed.

~ Carlos Castenada 
as Don Juan

What we call the beginning is often the end,
and to make an end is a beginning,
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 dissident nor ostentatious.
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
the common word exact with vulgarity,
the formal word precise but not pedantic,
the complete consort dancing together.

When every phrase and every sentence
is an end and a beginning,
every poem an epitaph,
and any action is a step to the block,
to the fire, down the sea's throat,
or to an illegible stone,
that's where we start.
We die with the dying.
See them depart and we go with them,
and we are born with the dead.
See, they're returned and bring us with them.

~ T.S. Eliot
from Four Quartets

The Buddha outlined a practice for staying mindful
 of how another person is addressing us, without getting caught up in our own reactivity, 
remaining compassionate for their welfare, with a mind of lovingkindness.

... there are five courses of speech that others may
use when they address you: their speech may be timely or
untimely, true or untrue, gentle or harsh, connected with
good or with harm, spoken with a mind of lovingkindness
or with inner hate....
you should train yourselves thus:
Our minds will remain unaffected, and we shall utter no
evil words; we shall abide compassionate for their welfare,
with a mind of lovingkindness...
 ~ Buddha

~ Joseph Goldstein
excerpts taken from various talks


how rarely I have stopped to thank the steady effort

A person speaking
pauses, lets in
a little silence-portion with the words.
It is like an hour.
Any hour. This one.
Something happens, much does not.
Or as always, everything happens:
the standing walls keep
standing with their whole attention.
A noisy crow call lowers and lifts its branch,
the crow scent enters the leaves, enters the bark,
like stirred-in honey gone into the tea.
How rarely I have stopped to thank
the steady effort of the world to stay the world.
To thank the furnish of green
and abandon of yellow. The ancient Sumerians
called the beloved “Honey,” as we do.
Said also, “Borrowed bread is not returned.”
Like them, we pay love’s tax to bees,
we go on arranging the old notes in different orders.
Desire inside A C A G G A T.
Forgiveness in G T A C T T.
In a world of space and time, arrangement matters.
An hour has no front or back,
except to those whose eyes face forward,
whose tears blur thought and stars.
Five genes, in a certain arrangement,
will spend this life unrooted, grazing.
It has to do with how the animal body comes into being,
the same whether ant or camel.
What then does such unfolded code understand,
if it finds in its mouth the word important
the thing that can be carried, or the thing that cannot,
or the way they keep trading places,
grief and gladness, the comic, the glum, the dead, the living.
Last night, the big Sumerian moon
clambered into the house empty-handed
and left empty-handed,
not thief, not lover, not tortoise, just looking around,
shuffling its soft, blind slippers over the floor.
This felt, to me, important, and so I looked back with both hands
open, palms unblinking.
What caused the fire, we ask, meaning, lightning, wiring, matches.
How precisely and unbidden
oxygen slips itself into, between those thick words.

~  Jane Hirshfield
from the New York Times
print on April 15, 2012, on page SR6 of the 
New York edition with the headline: Tax Break. 

pure attention

Bless the spirit that makes connections,
for truly we live in what we imagine.
Clocks move along side our real life
with steps that are ever the same.

Though we do not know our exact location,
we are held in place by what links us.
Across trackless distances
antennas sense each other.

Pure attention, the essence of the powers!
Distracted by each day's doing,
how can we hear the signals?

Even as the farmer labors
there where the seed turns into summer,
it is not his work. It is Earth who gives.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from Sonnets to Orpheus, Part One, XII
Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy version
art by Christi Belcourt