Sunday, April 8, 2018

we can receive

What I’m coming to lately is an end-of-life conviction that there is more to consciousness than what is produced in my little head, or yours. Both of us have the capacity, at times, mysteriously, to get beyond whatever this small consciousness is doing and telling us. When we are able, when we are sufficiently still and relaxed—letting it happen, not doing it—we can receive a resonance from a greater consciousness.

Many spiritual masters I’ve known, and also eminent scientists like Carl Jung, echo this belief. Just before Jung died, He said: “Man cannot stand a meaningless life. Something in us sees around corners, knows beyond time and space, so may continue in that state after our physical death. Those who fear death as the End, die soon. Those who think they will go on, die old.”

Fear is constricting. In fact, so are all those self-concerns for one’s reputation, for one’s ideas, even for what the next association is telling me. For example, am I just thinking of what I should say to you now? Or am I open to something that could be quite new, that is not really coming so much from me as from this source consciousness that many traditions have called “I”?

I’m referring to the consciousness that manages to see what things are, what I am, and to not get caught in the next reaction or judgment or association—because all of these are functions; and consciousness is not a function.

Without being in love with consciousness, we can’t reach it, and it can’t reach us while we’re preoccupied with all that is going on in our ordinary thought, our ordinary bodily habits, sensations, movements, and our ordinary emotional reactions.

These are what I am calling functions.
It’s as if we have two natures: a functional nature and what many people have been calling a spiritual nature or a soul. But that language is suspect these days because we have been so careful for the last couple of centuries to separate from the superstitions of the past that we have involuntarily cut ourselves off from the sacred, and even from God.

This narcissistic preoccupation with my story, my difficulty, which always has a kind of negative touch to it because I am complaining about what is wrong with me either physically or mentally. And the quiet, impartial, impersonal mind, consciousness, with which I could be connected, is blocked by that.

It is so important to understand awareness as a connector to something greater than me, to my source, really. My presence is the doorway to that, even at the moment that I acknowledge that I don’t know who I am and I see my lack of presence. But that is the beginning of a real wish for it, a wish to be.

And when I have that wish, then maybe something can reach me that is of an absolutely different quality. I may perceive it as an axis of light running down through my physical body, which has a different origin. Gurdjieff says the physical body comes from this earth, and this other … my essence … comes from the stars, from the sun, from higher up, in a sense, closer to the source.

We have such a resistance to even the theoretical idea that we could, right now, you and I, be breathing an air charged with the omnipresence of consciousness, the omniscience of consciousness. We’ve all had, perhaps rarely, a direct experience of a moment when I knew everything at once and I was aware not just of what I’m calling this present moment, but of past, present, future, as one eternity.

These are just words at this moment. But I remember it wasn’t just a word, it was a flash of light, of electricity from the top of my head to my toes. And it changed something in my cellular structure that persists today. I feel that now. And everybody has this possibility for a change. As you say, we have to be aware of our need, in order to be receptive to this source consciousness, to wake up in a larger sense.

I can’t reach it, but it can reach me.

It’s not a mental conception, but a deeper conviction that could draw everything and everyone together in the love of consciousness, the faith of consciousness, the hope of consciousness.

~ James George
from To let the Light In, A Conversation with James George
in Parabola Magazine

vocation to solitude

 To deliver oneself up, to hand oneself over, entrust oneself completely to the silence of a wide landscape of woods and hills, or sea, or desert; to sit still while the sun comes up over that land and fills its silences with light. To pray and work in the morning and to labor and rest in the afternoon, and to sit still again in meditation in the evening when night falls up on that land and when the silence fills itself with darkness and with stars… to belong completely to such silence, to let it soak into the bones, to breathe nothing but silence, to feed on silence, and to turn the very substance of life into a living and vigilant silence.

~ Thomas Merton 
from Thoughts in Solitude
  art by Odilon Redon, " Silence"
with thanks to Parabola


the finger pointing?

“What is essential is invisible to the eye" 
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The various languages placed side by side show that with words it is never a question of truth, never a question of adequate expression; otherwise, there would not be so many languages. The “thing in itself” (which is precisely what the pure truth, apart from any of its consequences, would be) is likewise something quite incomprehensible to the creator of language and something not in the least worth striving for. This creator only designates the relations of things to men, and for expressing these relations he lays hold of the boldest metaphors… It is this way with all of us concerning language; we believe that we know something about the things themselves when we speak of trees, colors, snow, and flowers; and yet we possess nothing but metaphors for things — metaphors which correspond in no way to the original entities… A word becomes a concept insofar as it simultaneously has to fit countless more or less similar cases — which means, purely and simply, cases which are never equal and thus altogether unequal. Every concept arises from the equation of unequal things. Just as it is certain that one leaf is never totally the same as another, so it is certain that the concept “leaf” is formed by arbitrarily discarding these individual differences and by forgetting the distinguishing aspects. This awakens the idea that, in addition to the leaves, there exists in nature the “leaf”: the original model according to which all the leaves were perhaps woven, sketched, measured, colored, curled, and painted — but by incompetent hands, so that no specimen has turned out to be a correct, trustworthy, and faithful likeness of the original model… We obtain the concept, as we do the form, by overlooking what is individual and actual; whereas nature is acquainted with no forms and no concepts, and likewise with no species, but only with an X which remains inaccessible and undefinable for us.

~ Friedrich Nietzsche
from  Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche
art from  original watercolors for The Little Prince

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

For Martin Luther King

On hearing if Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination Thomas Merton wrote this poem:
April 4 1968 

On a rainy night
On a rainy night in April
When everybody ---
Said the minister

On a balcony
Of a hotel in Tennessee
"We come at once

On a night
On a rainy night in April
When the shot was fired
Said the minister

"I've come at once upstairs
and found him lying
On the balcony ... after... the tornado...he came at once upstairs

On a --- ---
he was our hope
and we found a tornado
said the minister.

And a well dreamed white ---
said the minister
Propped a telescopic storm

and he never
(the well-deemed minister of death)
ran away

And on the balcony
Said the minister
even lovely dying.... after... the tornado
... after the tornado
... after... the tornado
... after... the tornado

~ Thomas Merton
with thanks to louie,louie

Merton's letter to Coretta Scott King


Friday, March 30, 2018


As every flower fades, so with all youth
And age brings different flowers at each stage of life,
Blooms each and every virtue and wisdom
In their time, and may not last forever.
From within every heart,  life calls, be
Ready for parting, and each new endeavor,
To bravely and without remorse
Find new beauty in the next other.
In all beginnings dwells a magic
Protecting us and helping us to live.

We shall traverse realm on realm,
cleaving to none as a home,
The world of spirit wishes not to fetter us,
He will raise us higher, to wider spaces.
We're hardly at home in one circle,
 Familiar habits make for indolence,
In someone who is ready to depart and travel,
 The crippling habit may dismiss itself.

Perhaps even the hour of death
may bring us home to new fresh spaces
The call of life to us is never ending ...
Well, my heart, bid farewell continually!

~ Hermann Hesse

in my end is my beginning

In the Beginning of Beginnings was Void of Void, the
And in the Nameless was the One, without body, without
This One - this Being in whom all find power to exist -
Is the Living.
From the Living, comes the Formless, the Undivided.
From the act of this Formless, come the Existents, each
To its inner principle.  This is Form. Here body embraces and
cherishes spirit.
The two work together as one, blending and manifesting their
Characters.  And this is Nature.
But he who obeys Nature returns through Form and Formless
to the Living,
And in the Living
Joins the unbegun Beginning.
The joining is Sameness.  The sameness is Void.  The Void is
The bird opens its beak and sings its note
And then the beak comes together again in Silence.
So Nature and the Living meet together in Void.
Like the closing of the bird's beak
After its song.
Heaven and earth come together in the Unbegun,
And all is foolishness, all is unknown, all is like
The lights of an idiot, all is without mind!
To obey is to close the beak and fall into Unbeginning.

~ Chuang Tzu
translation by Thomas Merton
from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton
art by picasso

into the unknown

There is a certain innocence about beginning, 
with its excitement and promise of something new.
 But this will emerge only through undertaking some voyage into the unknown. 
And no one can foretell what the unknown might yield. 
There are journeys we have begun that have brought us great inner riches and refinement; 
but we had to travel through dark valleys of difficulty and suffering.
 Had we known at the beginning what the journey would demand of us,
 we might never have set out. 
Yet the rewards and gifts became vital to who we are. 
Through the innocence of beginning we are often seduced into growth.

… When the heart is ready for a fresh beginning, 
unforeseen things can emerge. And in a sense, 
this is exactly what a beginning does. 
It is an opening for surprises.
 Surrounding the intention and the act of beginning,
 there are always exciting possibilities. … 
beginnings have their own mind, 
and they invite and unveil new gifts and arrivals in one’s life.
Beginnings are new horizons that want to be seen; … 
What is the new horizon in you that wants to be seen?

~ John O’Donohue
from To Bless the Space Between Us

Monday, March 26, 2018

give up all questions except one


Give up all questions except one: 
'Who am I?' 
After all, the only fact you are sure of is that you are. 
The 'I am' is certain. 
The 'I am this' is not. 
Struggle to find out what you are in reality. 

To know what you are, you must first investigate and know what you are not. 
Discover all that you are not--
time, space, 
this or that
concrete or abstract, 
which you perceive can be you. 

The very act of perceiving shows that you are not what you perceive. 
The clearer you understand that on the level of mind you can be described in negative terms only, 
the quicker will you come to the end of your search and realize that you are the limitless being.

~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

ode to the past

Today, in conversation,
the past
cropped up,
my past.
spoiled flour,
You crouch down,
into yourself,
you smile,
congratulate yourself,
when it's a matter
of someone else, some friend,
some enemy,
you are merciless,
you frown:
What a terrible life he had!
That woman, what a life
she led!
You hold
your nose,
you disapprove of pasts
other than your own.
Looking back, we view
our worst days
with nostalgia,
we open the coffer
and run up the ensign
of our feats
to be admired.
Let's forget the rest.
Just a bad memory.
Listen and learn.
is divided into two rivers:
flows backward, devouring
life already lived;
the other
moves forward with you
your life.
For a single second
they may be joined.
This is that moment,
the drop of an instant
that washes away the past.
It is the present.
It is in your hands.
Racing, slipping,
tumbling like a waterfall.
But it is yours.
Help it grow
with love, with firmness,
with stone and flight,
with resounding
with purest grains,
the most brilliant metal
from your heart,
in the full light of day
without fear
of truth, goodness, justice,
companions of song,
time that flows
will have the shape
and sound
of a guitar,
and when you want
to bow to the past,
the singing spring of
transparent time
will reveal your wholeness.
Time is joy.

~ Pablo Neruda
 from Selected Odes of Pablo Neruda
 with thanks to Love is a Place

Monday, March 19, 2018


Freedom is not following a river.
Freedom is following a river
...though, if you want to. 

It is deciding now by what happens now.
It is knowing that luck makes a difference.
No leader is free; no follower is free
 ...the rest of us can often be free.
Most of the world are living by
creeds too odd, chancy, and habit-forming be worth arguing about by reason. 

If you are oppressed, wake up about
four in the morning: most places,
you can usually be free some of the time
..if you wake up before other people.

~ William Stafford
 from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

one body

My right hand has written all the poems that I have composed. 
My left hand has not written a single poem. 
But my right hand does not think, “Left Hand, you are good for nothing.” 
My right hand does not have a superiority complex. 
That is why it is very happy. 
My left hand does not have any complex at all. 
In my two hands there is the kind of wisdom 
called the wisdom of nondiscrimination.
One day I was hammering a nail and my right hand was not very accurate 
and instead of pounding on the nail it pounded on my finger.
 It put the hammer down and took care of the left hand 
in a very tender way, as if it were taking care of itself. 
It did not say, “Left Hand, you have to remember that
 I have taken good care of you and you have to pay me back in the future.” 
There was no such thinking. And my left hand did not say, 
“Right Hand, you have done me a lot of harm—
give me that hammer, I want justice.” 
My two hands know that they are members of one body; 
they are in each other.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
from his address to Congress entitled
Leading with Courage and Compassion,
Sept. 10th 2003
with thanks to Love is a Place

Saturday, March 3, 2018

the way it is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
~ William Stafford 

the smile

Galen, the great physician, asked one of his assistants
to give him a certain medicine.

"Master, that medicine is for crazy people!
You're far from needing that!"

Galen: "Yesterday a madman turned and smiled at me,
did his eyebrows up and down, and touched my  sleeve.
He wouldn't have done that if he hadn't recognized 
in me someone congenial."

Anyone that feels drawn,
for however short a time, to anyone else,
those two share a common consciousness.

It's only in the grave that unlike beings associate.
A wise man once remarked, "I saw a crow and a stork
flying together, and I couldn't understand it,
until I investigated and found what they shared.
They were both lame."

~ Rumi
from Rumi's Little Book of Love and Laughter
version bu Coleman Barks
photo by Sean Thomas

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

what we can learn from water

~ Raymond Tang

Monday, February 19, 2018

bring the jewel back

The purpose of the journey is compassion.

When you have come past the pairs of opposites, you have reached compassion. 
The goal is to bring the jewel back to the world, 
to join the two things together.
The separateness apparent in the world is secondary.

Beyond that world of opposites is an unseen,
 but experienced, unity and identity in us all. 

~ Joseph Campbell
from The Hero’s Journey (On Living in the World)