Friday, August 31, 2012

interval






Instantaneous architectures
hanging over a pause,
apparitions neither named
nor thought, wind-forms,
insubstantial as time
and, like time, dissolved.

Made of time, they are not time;
they are the cleft, the interstice,
the brief vertigo of between
where the diaphanous flower opens:
high on its stalk of a reflection
it vanishes as it turns.

Never touched, the clarities
seen with the eyes closed:
transparent birth
and the crystalline fall
in the instant of this instant
that forever is still here.

Outside the window, the desolate
rooftops and the hurrying clouds.
The day goes out, the city
lights up, remote and near.
Weightless hour. I breathe
the moment, empty and eternal.





~ Octavio Paz
translation by Eliot Weinberger
with thanks again to growing-orbits


Thursday, August 30, 2012

the ant





The ant moves on his tiny Sephardic feet.
The flute is always glad to repeat the same note.
The ocean rejoices in its dusky mansion.

Often bears are piled up close to each other.
In their world it’s just one hump after another.
It’s like looking at piles of many melons.

You and I have spent so many hours working.
We have paid dearly for the life we have.
It’s all right if we do nothing tonight.

I am so much in love with mournful music
That I don’t bother to look for violinists.
The aging peepers satisfy me for hours.

I love to see the fiddlers tuning up their old fiddles,
And the singer urging the low notes to come.
I saw her trying to keep the dawn from breaking.

You and I have worked hard for the life we have.
But we love to remember the way the soul leaps
Over and over into the lonely heavens.





~ Robert Bly



Thursday, August 23, 2012

Salk and Krishnamurti









~ J. Krishnamurti and Jonas Salk




Wednesday, August 22, 2012

a blessing







Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness 
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs. 
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness. 
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me 
And nuzzled my left hand. 
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.



~ James Wright
from Above the River: The Complete Poems and selected Prose



Saturday, August 18, 2012

death of the pretense





I was speaking recently with a woman who was planning her own suicide. She had spent the past few weeks sorting out her finances, paying off her debts, and trying to find foster parents for her young daughter, who would be left motherless after she killed herself. So many people had tried to intervene, but her mind was made up. She was definitely going to die. She had been threatening it for years, but finally it was coming true.

Her friends and family were starting to panic. I agreed to speak with her.

"That's it. I'm done here. My time on earth is over", she told me, point blank, at the start of our one-to-one session. Everything had become such a burden to her - her job, her so-called-friends, her failed relationships, her own brilliant but overactive mind, even her beloved daughter. It was all just too much. She was in so much pain, totally drained, fed up and exhausted from trying to help everybody all the time, and never getting anything back. She was the one who gave everything to everyone, but who ever gave anything to her? Where was gratitude? Where was love? Even her young daughter was just "take-take-take" - her demands were incessant. The only way out of this hell was death. Suicide was the logical solution to the problem of living. Her life insurance policy would be generous to her bereaved family.

I let her talk and talk. She had a lot to say, and I said very little. I simply got on her side, saw and felt things the way she did, allowed her to experience what she was experiencing, and allowed her experience to become mine, intimately so. It was easy, since I have known well that place of total exhaustion, that place where "I've been trying so hard to save others and have received nothing back", that desperation to die (or at least to end the burden of living), and also the sense of guilt and terrible sadness that arises from imagining loved ones trying to go on without me.

I stayed close. I did not try to play 'spiritual teacher', 'expert on suicide prevention' or even 'therapist'. I certainly did not lecture her about nonduality, the absence of the self, the perfect perfection of perfect awareness, or the non-existence of the 'I'. We did not get into intellectual discussions about the Absolute and the Relative, the illusion of free will or the ins and outs of Oneness. I did not try to fix her, to mend her, or even to 'save' her. I simply listened to her. I wanted to learn from her, not teach her or feed her new beliefs. What was it like, exactly where she was, right now?

I joined the 'Our Lives Are Exhausting And We Want To Be Free From It All' Club. We were the exhausted ones, the unloved ones, the ones who nobody appreciated, the ugly ones, the overweight ones, the ones on the verge of collapse, the ones who wanted to die. The ones who nobody understood. I wonder if anyone had ever truly met her there before? I wondered if everyone she had talked to over the years about her desire to die - therapists, friends, family - had just been trying to save her, to fix her, to get her to stay alive and live in the old way, rather than meeting her in her pain and desperation and validating her present-moment experience. Had anyone ever truly met her? Or had they been driven away by her self-pity and anger, or perhaps their own discomfort and frustrated desires to help?

We talked for about three hours. The more we talked, the more I simply stood in her shoes, listening and seeing things from her perspective, being with her without trying to fix her or make her wrong or even right, the more she relaxed and opened up about her true longings and hidden dreams and desires. What became clear was this: Secretly, she did not want to die at all. She knew, deep down, that who she truly is - consciousness itself - cannot die. She knew that only the false can die. Only an image of herself can die. Only dreams can die.

What she really longed for was not physical death, not the death of the body, not the end of breathing, not the cessation of the heartbeat, but the death of the false self, the death of the pretense, the death of falseness and inauthenticity. The second-hand, limited 'self' she was pretending to be - the Real Estate queen, the selfless giver, the one who 'fit in' with others, the brilliant one with the "16 track mind" as she put it - was utterly false. Her life as it was playing itself out was suffocating her, and until this point, she had only seen death, and foster homes, and life insurance policies, and psychological escape, as the solution.

It soon became clear that this woman, although 'dying' on the outside, had a rich, creative inner life that had simply never been given expression. On the inside, she was so very alive, so open to life, so sensitive to everything around her, so "wide angle" as she put it, so "connected to everything and everyone". She was a force of nature, a wild and free spirit that had totally limited itself over the years, constrained itself to 'fit in' to some second-hand idea of what is normal, or right, or proper, or true. She had been living "the wrong life", so to speak, a dead and deadening life, a life of money and numbers and predictability, and it was crushing this inner explorer, this adventurer, this poet, this visionary, this seer, this spiritual seeker, this big-hearted pilgrim that she was.

The limited self longed to die, and the "Big Self" as she put it, longed to break free. And although this is not my language (I rarely talk about Big Self or Being Aligned With The Universe), I knew that to truly meet her, I had to get into her world, into her language, and stay there, and not flinch for one moment.

The more she felt heard and understood, the more she was met without judgement, the more she relaxed, and the more she started to talk openly about her secret longing to travel, to explore, to ride out into the unknown without a map. She talked with increasing passion about those times in the past where she had felt free and alive and unburdened. There was a longing to return to that simplicity. There was a fire in her, a raging furnace of love that had been suffocated all those years in her attempts to 'fit in'.

Her suicidal depression had really been a signpost to life! The pain of life-suffocation had appeared to her as the raging desire for death. But it was not really the desire for death, was it? It was the desire for life! For more life! She longed to live, to really live, to no longer suffocate under the weight of the false image. Only one who longed to live could experience such an overwhelming urge to die. She longed with every cell of her body to end the pretense and the falseness and half-lived dreams and to open up to life in all its rawness and beauty - not to die, not to die, but to live in a real way.

What would real, fearless living look like? She had a brilliant mind, and a wide-open heart, all of which had been suffocated and wasted in the business of Real Estate. We started to explore the very realistic possibility of her selling her house and setting off into the unknown with her beloved daughter ("my angel, sent from heaven"). She had always longed to travel to New Zealand, to work there, to build a life there, to live a more simple and truthful existence there, and to expose her daughter to soul-enriching people and landscapes and possibilities. Could her dream become a reality? Was that possible?

She loved her little daughter so much, that was clear. She wanted her daughter to live and flourish and learn truth, that was clear. If she were to put her daughter into a foster home and then kill herself - which had been her plan for years, up until now - she would be teaching limitation to the one she loved more than anything. She would teach something false, something untrue. She would teach closing-off to possibility rather opening up. She would teach death, not life. She would not be teaching the deep truth of herself.

Suicide would be a false teaching, a false way of living and not living, and she knew this in the very depths of her being.

If she did not kill herself, if she let the body live, if instead she killed this inauthentic self, and stopped pretending to be the one she was not, and left this job and this life that was crushing her spirit, and set off into the unknown, and open up to the mysteries of the universe, she may finally become the mother (and sister, and daughter, and friend, and lover) she always longed to be - the one who taught and lived fearlessness, and realness, and life, and never-giving-up, even when exhausted. She would no longer be the 'exhausted one longing for freedom from all responsibility'. She would be totally, completely, unbelievably responsible in the full sense of the word - able to respond authentically to life, to herself, to her daughter. Able to answer the call that she had been denying for so long.

It was disregarding life's call that had hurt so much over the years. Life will not be silenced. The longing for death, the certainty of suicide, was really life screaming at her one last time. "LIVE! LIVE!"

Would she listen to its scream, now, at the point where everything was nearly lost?

Suddenly, everything became so clear. There was no longer any choice. She knew what to do. She knew what life was telling her. She had always known. Yes, she was going to kill herself... but not in the way the mind had imagined. She was going to kill her old self, her limited self, her false self. That was the real suicide! That was the call of life! She was going to break up with a life that had become meaningless, empty, and most importantly not right for her and her loved ones - a life that had turned her into something she couldn't bear - and set out into the unknown, with her beloved daughter, their hearts wide open to possibility. This was not a mental decision. This was not a conclusion based on fear. This was total relief. This was sinking into the deep truth of herself. This was a deep honoring of life. This was deep rest.

Her brilliant 'mind' had only been able to conclude 'death'. It had thought there was a choice between 'life' and 'death', and it had chosen 'death'. But what did it know? The truth of her being was saying only one thing: LIVE. The mind would never understand this.

There was no choice but to live.

**

The following morning, I learnt that her adventure had already begun. She was already finding herself boxing things away, making arrangements, selling unwanted possessions, preparing for a new life, a life of freedom and possibility and newness. She was no longer preparing for death, but for more life. It was still suicide, but a divine kind of suicide - the suicide of the false, by the false. She, however, had so much to do, so many plans to make, so much to sort out - much like before - but now she was no longer exhausted, no longer depressed by it all, since finally all of her 'doing' was truthful - she was doing what she loved, and she was no longer waiting for others to 'give back' to her.

Her relationship with her daughter had shifted overnight. It had become clear: her daughter was not - and had never been - an annoying "block" to her freedom, a drain on her energies, a reason for her suicide. Her daughter was her companion, her fellow traveler, part of this divine suicide! Her daughter was no longer "getting in the way" of the life she longed for - she was now part of that very life. It was no longer "my life" versus "her life" - there was simply life. This life. Our life.

I had not taught this woman anything. I had not really 'done' anything at all. I have no clever psychological theories. I had simply listened deeply to her, reminding her of what she had always known, reflecting her own deep truth back at her, so she could actually hear it for once. Out of devastation, out of total breakdown, her truth had been given the space to emerge.

It's interesting that the word "depressed" is spoken phonetically as "deep rest". We can view depression not as a mental illness, but on a deeper level, as a profound (and very misunderstood) state of deep rest, entered into when we are completely exhausted by the weight of our own (false) story of ourselves. It is an unconscious loss of interest in the second-hand - a longing to 'die' to the false. This longing needs to be honored, not medicated, meditated or analysed away.

It's amazing what can evolve naturally when depression and the desire for suicide (which is the desire for the deep rest of yourself) are truly honored, met, embraced, held, and you do not flinch from pain or turn away from it. It's amazing what can happen when you actively listen to the one in front of you from a loving place of non-judgmental acceptance, trusting the intelligence of life itself, and allowing the divine and loving suicide of awakening to weave its mysterious magic.




~ Jeff Foster
art by van gogh


Friday, August 17, 2012

no distance between






All things in this creation exist within you, 
and all things in you exist in creation; 
there is no border between you and the closest things, 
and there is no distance between you and the farthest things, and all things, 
from the lowest to the loftiest, 
from the smallest to the greatest, 
are within you as equal things. 
In one atom are found all the elements of the earth; 
in one motion of the mind are found the motions of all the laws of existence; 
in one drop of water are found the secrets of all the endless oceans; 
in one aspect of you are found all the aspects of existence.






 ~ Kahlil Gibran
art by the author


All that spirits desire, spirits attain. 

~ Kahlil Gibran



Wednesday, August 15, 2012

treasury of the true dharma-eye





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




~ Dogen

This is one of a series of verse composed for delivery to the shogun in Kamakura in 1247
from Zen Poetry of Dogen by Steven Heine



Tuesday, August 14, 2012

who says words with my mouth











~ Rumi
translated and spoken by Coleman Barks

Saturday, August 11, 2012

eternity






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

testament




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


1.
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.




2.
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!




3.
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.




4.
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

parched




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