Tuesday, August 14, 2012

who says words with my mouth

~ Rumi
translated and spoken by Coleman Barks

Saturday, August 11, 2012


We're always thinking of eternity as 
an idea that cannot be understood, 
something immense. 
But why must it be? 

What if, instead of all this, 
you suddenly find just a little room there, 
something like a village bath house, 
grimy, and spiders in every corner, 
and that's all eternity is. 

Sometimes, you know, 
I can't help feeling that that's what it is.

~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky
from The Brothers Karamazov
with thanks to whiskeyriver

Thursday, August 9, 2012

noninterference and surrender

On a farm you learn to respect nature, 
particularly for the wisdom of its dark underworld.  
When you sow things in the spring, 
you commit them to the darkness of the soil.  
The soil does its own work.  

It is destructive to interfere with the rhythm and wisdom of its darkness.  
You sow drills of potatoes on Tuesday and you are delighted with them.  
You meet someone on a Wednesday who says 
that you spread the potatoes too thickly, you will have no crop.  

You dig up the potatoes again and spread them more thinly.  

On the following Monday, you meet an agricultural advisor who says 
this particular variety of seed potatoes needs to be spread close together.
You dig them up again and set them closer to each other.  

If you keep scraping at the garden, you will never allow anything to grow.  
People in our hungry modern world are always scraping at the clay of their hearts.  
They have a new thought, a new plan, a new syndrome, that now explains why 
they are the way they are.  They have found an old memory that opens a new wound.  
They keep on relentlessly, again and again, scraping the clay away from their own hearts.  
In nature we do not see the trees, for instance, getting seriously involved in therapeutic analysis 
of their root systems or the whole stony world that they had to avoid on their way to the light.  
Each tree grows in two directions at once, into the darkness and out to the light 
with as many branches and roots as it needs to embody its wild desires...

It is wise to allow the soul to carry on its secret work in the night side of your life.  
You might not see anything stirring for a long time.  
You might have only the slightest intimations 
of the secret growth that is happening within you, 
but these intimations are sufficient.

~ John O'Donohue
from Anam Cara

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

buddha in glory

Center of all centers, core of cores,
almond self-enclosed, and growing sweet–
all this universe, to the furthest stars
all beyond them, is your flesh, your fruit.

Now you feel how nothing clings to you;
your vast shell reaches into endless space,
and there the rich, thick fluids rise and flow.
Illuminated in your infinite peace,

a billion stars go spinning through the night,
blazing high above your head.
But in you is the presence that
will be, when all the stars are dead.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
translation by Stephen Mitchell
from "Ahead of All Parting: 
The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke"

Saturday, July 28, 2012


And now to the Abyss I pass
Of that unfathomable grass...

Dear relatives and friends, when my last breath
Grows large and free in air, don't call it death --
A word to enrich the undertaker and inspire
His surly art of imitating life; conspire
Against him. Say that my body cannot now
Be improved upon; it has no fault to show
To the sly cosmetician. Say that my flesh
Has a perfect compliance with the grass
Truer than any it could have striven for.
You will recognize the earth in me, as before
I wished to know it in myself: my earth
That has been my care and faithful charge from birth,
And toward which all my sorrows were surely bound,
And all my hopes. Say that I have found
A good solution, and am on my way
To the roots.  And say I have left my native clay
At last, to be a traveler, that too will be so.
Traveler to where?  Say you don't know.

But do not let your ignorance
Of my spirit's whereabouts dismay
You, or overwhelm your thoughts.
Be careful not to say

Any thing too final.  Whatever
Is unsure is possible, and life is bigger
Than flesh.  Beyond reach of thought
Let imagination figure

Your hope. That will be generous
To me and to yourselves.  Why settle
For some know-it-all's despair
When the dead may dance to the fiddle

Hereafter, for all anybody knows?
And remember that the Heavenly soil
Need not be too rich to please
One who was happy in Port Royal.

I may be already heading back,
A new and better man, toward
That town. The thought's unreasonable,
But so is life, thank the Lord!

So treat me, even dead,
As a man who has a place
To go, and something to do.
Don't muck up my face

With wax and powder and rouge
As one would prettify
An unalterable fact
To give bitterness the lie.

Admit the native earth
My body is and will be,
Admit its freedom and
Its changeability.

Dress me in the clothes
I wore in the day's round
Lay me in a wooden box.
Put the box in the ground.

Beneath this stone a Berry is planted
In his home land, as he wanted.

He has come to the gathering of his kin,
Among whom some were worth men,

Farmers mostly, who lived by hand,
But one was a cobbler from Ireland,

Another played the eternal fool
By riding on a circus mule

To be remembered in grateful laughter
Longer than the rest. After

Doing that they had to do
They are at ease here.  Let all of you

Who yet for pain find force and voice
Look on their peace, and rejoice.

~ Wendell Berry

Friday, July 27, 2012


The parched know -

real thirst 
draws rainwater
from an empty sky.

~ Ivan Granger
from Real Thirst

Monday, July 16, 2012

dispatches from the front

When told that grace is our original face
and the Beloved our true body
the "ripe buffoon" breaks through
and dances with those who reject their foolishness.
He is trying to help.  But only the wandering minstrel
and the dervishing chimney-sweep can be trusted.
Only mercy.  Only the god-drunken who are ruined
for life and can't help but love.
Only Dionysius and the lotus.

In the dark room he called out uncertainly,
"Bark twice if you are God!"

~ Stephen Levine
from Breaking the Drought

Sunday, July 15, 2012

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

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

ways you've never thought before

Think in ways you've never thought before
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
Larger than anything you've ever heard,
Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats.

Think that someone may bring a bear to your door,
Maybe wounded and deranged; or think that a moose
Has risen out of the lake, and he's carrying on his antlers
A child of your own whom you've never seen.

When someone knocks on the door,
Think that he's about
To give you something large: tell you you're forgiven,
Or that it's not necessary to work all the time,
Or that it's been decided that if you lie down no one will die.

~ Robert Bly

the cloudy vase

Past time, I threw the flowers out,
washed out the cloudy vase.
How easily the old clearness
leapt, like a practiced tiger, back inside it.

~ Jane Hirshfield

Thursday, June 28, 2012

what is there beyond knowing

What is there beyond knowing that keeps
calling to me? I can't
turn in any direction
but it's there. I don't mean
the leaves' grip and shine or even the thrush's
silk song, but the far-off
fires, for example,
of the stars, heaven's slowly turning
theater of light, or the wind
playful with its breath;
or time that's always rushing forward,
or standing still
in the same -- what shall I say --
What I know
I could put into a pack
as if it were bread and cheese, and carry it
on one shoulder,
important and honorable, but so small!
While everything else continues, unexplained
and unexplainable. How wonderful it is
to follow a thought quietly
to its logical end.
I have done this a few times.
But mostly I just stand in the dark field,
in the middle of the world, breathing
in and out. Life so far doesn't have any other name
but breath and light, wind and rain.
If there's a temple, I haven't found it yet.
I simply go on drifting, in the heaven of the grass
and the weeds.

~ Mary Oliver
from Swan - Poems and Prose Poems
with thanks to love is a place

Thursday, May 31, 2012


by Paul Stamets
with thanks to Chemin faisant

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


The uniformity of the earth's life, more astonishing than its diversity, 
is accountable by the high probability that we derived, 
originally, from a single cell, fertilized in a bolt of lightning as the earth cooled. 
 It is from the progeny of this parent cell that we take our looks; 
 we still share genes around, and 
the resemblance of the enzymes of grasses to those of whales is a family resemblance.

~ Lewis Thomas
from The Lives of a Cell

Saturday, May 12, 2012

as if it never existed

As air becomes the medium for light when the sun rises,
And as wax melts from the heat of fire,
So the soul drawn to that light is resplendent,
Feels self melt away,
Its will and actions no longer its own.
So clear is the imprint of God
That the soul, conquered, is conqueror;
Annihilated, it lives in triumph.

What happens to the drop of wine
That you pour into the sea?
Does it remain itself, unchanged?
It is as if it never existed.
So it is with the soul: Love drinks it in,
It is united with Truth,
Its old nature fades away,
It is no longer master of itself.

The soul wills and yet does not will:
Its will belongs to Another.
It has eyes only for this beauty;
It no longer seeks to possess, as was its wont -
It lacks the strength to possess such sweetness.
The base of this highest of peaks
Is founded on nichil,
Shaped into nothingness, made one with the Lord.

~ Jacopone da Todi
an excerpt from Let Annihilation and Charity Lead

Jacopone Benedetti, was born into a wealthy family in the central Italian town of Todi.  As a young man, he married and started a career as a notario, combining the skills of an accountant and a lawyer.  Legend has it that when a balcony collapsed at a wedding feast, killing his wife, he abandoned his career, gave away all his possessions, and become a wandering penitent.  He eventually joined the Franciscan Order, and discovered a gift for poetry.  He was imprisoned for five years for his opposition to the election of Pope Boniface VIII, and continued to write deeply personal and mystical poetry on prison.  He was released on the death of Boniface, and retired to a hermitage near Orvieto, where he died in 1306.