Tuesday, May 21, 2019


Young Physics Prodigies (L to R) Stanisław Ulam, Richard Feynman, and John Von Neumann at Los Alamos During the Manhattan Project 1944

A poet once said, ‘The whole universe is in a glass of wine.’ We will probably never know in what sense he meant that, for poets do not write to be understood. But it is true that if we look at a glass of wine closely enough we see the entire universe. There are the things of physics: the twisting liquid which evaporates depending on the wind and weather, the reflections in the glass, and our imagination adds the atoms. The glass is a distillation of the Earth’s rocks, and in its composition we see the secrets of the universe’s age, and the evolution of stars. What strange arrays of chemicals are in the wine? How did they come to be? There are the ferments, the enzymes, the substrates, and the products. There in wine is found the great generalization: all life is fermentation. Nobody can discover the chemistry of wine without discovering, as did Louis Pasteur, the cause of much disease. How vivid is the claret, pressing its existence into the consciousness that watches it! If our small minds, for some convenience, divide this glass of wine, this universe, into parts — physics, biology, geology, astronomy, psychology, and so on — remember that Nature does not know it! So let us put it all back together, not forgetting ultimately what it is for. Let it give us one more final pleasure: drink it and forget it all!

~ Richard Feynman
from The Feynman Lectures on Physics,  Vol. 1, 1964

Sunday, May 19, 2019

escape from himself

It appears that man has always escaped from himself, from what he is, from where he is going, from what all this is about – the universe, our daily life, the dying and the beginning. It is strange that we never realize that however much we may escape from ourselves, however much we may wander away consciously, deliberately or unconsciously, subtly, the conflict, the pleasure, the pain, the fear and so on are always there. 

They ultimately dominate. You may try to suppress them, you may try to put them away deliberately with an act of will but they surface again. And pleasure is one of the factors that predominate; it too has the same conflicts, the same pain, the same boredom. The weariness of pleasure and the fret is part of this turmoil of our life. You can’t escape it, my friend. 

You can’t escape from this deep unfathomed turmoil unless you really give thought to it, not only thought but see by careful attention, diligent watching, the whole movement of thought and the self. You may say all this is too tiresome, perhaps unnecessary. But if you do not pay attention to this, give heed, the future is not only going to be more destructive, more intolerable but without much significance. All this is not a dampening, depressing point of view, it is actually so. 

What you are now is what you will be in the coming days. You can’t avoid it. It is as definite as the sun rising and setting. This is the share of all men, of all humanity, unless we all change, each one of us, change to something that is not projected by thought.

~ J. Krishnamurti

pain and pleasure

Human beings try to avoid pain by setting up permanent zones of pleasure. 
The mind is always seeking to create permanent territories of pleasure to avoid pain. 
But these zones, what we might call 'zones of safety' don't last. 
They always fall apart, and because they are fleeting, 
then we scramble to find another zone of pleasure to help us forget our pain. 
This going round and round is what we mean by samsara. 
Hell is just resistance to life. It's counter-intuitive, but if we stop, 
become curious about the pain, learn to befriend it 
and work with it, actually learn how to be genuine friends 
of ourselves, then the pleasures of life become authentic pleasures 
as opposed to numbing agents, anesthetizing us from our genuine experience.

~ Pema Chodron, 
Dharma talk, Karma Dzong, Boulder, Colorado, 1999
 art by Edvard Munch

addiction to pattern - avoidance and repression

 You cannot learn the Self. You cannot learn consciousness. 
You cannot learn love. 
You cannot learn trust.
 But you can learn how you deny all of that. 
For this denial, there are techniques and strategies. 
There is either indulgence or repression, 
and with both there is an avoidance 
of simply experiencing 
the power and the immensity of the moment.

We are speaking of a certain kind of addiction; the addiction to a pattern.

With addiction there has to come a point 
when you see that the desire is out of your control. 
Maybe the addiction is physiological. 
Maybe it has been practiced for so long that it has its own groove.
 But what is in your control, absolutely,
 is the willingness to not move when the desire appears. 
The willingness neither to indulge nor repress 
but to not move in the fire of this impulse of thousands of years.
 Have you ever experienced this?

Then you know the beauty of this fire. 
You know that in this moment, 
there is actually a willingness to die. 
Because the addiction to mind or to habits can be so strong that
 there is the sense if you don't feed the addiction, 
you will die. 
Eventually, through the maturity of the soul,
 there is a willingness to say, "Okay, if I die I will die.
 But I am not going to follow this demon down this road again."

This, too, is the mind, but it is the mind in service to what was betrayed. 
 It feels like a descent into hell
 because with any addiction, the impulse is strong
 to get rid of the craving, to get rid of the fire.
 How? How? How? There are millions of ways how, 
but to not get rid of it, to not go numb with it,
 to let it burn - this is the fire. 
This is the Buddha and the temptations of Mara.
 This is Christ in the desert. 
Everyone has to experience this -
 Oh my god, I am dying. Okay, so I am dying.
 I surrender. I surrender - and there is peace,
 there is freedom. You recognize what has never left. 
You recognize what is always here. In that moment,
 there is a break in the habit pattern. 
The habit may reappear, but there is something bigger than it, 
so it does not have the same hold on you. 
Do you follow this?

Justification can arise, and a kind of thrill from the adrenaline
 and the power that comes with justification. 
There can be quick excuse making, such as,
 "Well, so-and-so did it," or, "It doesn't matter," or,
 "We're all one, it is all the Self," but this is all thought.
 It is all the sirens saying, "Come, come back, 
back into where you were all-powerful, 
where you were in control, where you were God, 
where you got to say what happens."
 Don't follow any of it. DON'T MOVE. 
And an exquisite experience is revealed that can never be taken from you.

There is suffering, yes, but it is conscious suffering.
 This is very different from attempting to delay suffering. 
This is very different from following, 
indulging, or discharging suffering.
 Then suffering is spread out over time,
 and the suffering of the misidentification continues.

This willingness takes enormous resolve.
 Resolve is a little different from vigilance. 
Resolve comes after vigilance has been betrayed, 
after re-identification has set in. It is the mind's resolve
 to recognize the hell that has once again been created 
and to be here, to burn here, and in that burning, 
there is naturally redemption. 
No one is needed to come and redeem you. 
Redemption happens naturally.

Right here, in this universe, patterns of war still appear,
 and war is what we are talking about, right? 
Even though you have tasted peace, 
even though this universe has tasted peace on earth,
 how is it that conflict still has its way?
 This is true of every mindstream, especially in humans.
 War is inbred, and it has gone unmet. 
 So meet that war within yourself consciously, awake,
 refusing to budge. In meeting war, you will find peace.
 If you have tasted it, then you know it is so. 
If you have not tasted it, it may seem impossible,
 but taste it anyway and see. Just take one moment
 in the midst of one attacking pattern and don't budge.

Beneath the behavior is the energy of an emotion, 
and that emotion is fueled by some thought 
of protection from being wounded or hurt or not being seen.
 In the willingness to experience that wounded or hurt
 or not being seen, to really be wounded, really be hurt, 
really not be seen, then it is no big deal. 
Then the wound is nothing, the hurt is nothing,
 and you realize that you will never be seen.
 You are the Self. You cannot be seen. 
You are not an object.

~ Gangaji,
(excerpt from the Meeting, Immovable Resolve, San Diego, CA, January 18, 2001)


Friday, May 17, 2019

silent friend of many distances

Silent friend of many distances, feel
how your breath enlarges all of space.
Let your presence ring out like a bell
into the night. What feeds upon your face

grows mighty from the nourishment thus offered.
Move through transformation, out and in.
What is the deepest loss that you have suffered?
If drinking is bitter, change yourself to wine.

In this immeasurable darkness, be the power
that rounds your sense in their magic ring,
the sense of their mysterious encounter.

And if the earthly no longer knows your name,
whisper to the silent earth: I’m flowing.
To the flashing water say: I am.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
The Sonnets to Orpheus, II, 29
(Translation by Steven Mitchell)
art by
Teresa Evangeline

the vase

I am always holding a priceless vase in my hands.
If you asked me about the deeper truths
of the path and I told you
the answers,

it would be like handing sacred relics to you.
But most have their hands tied
behind their

that is, most are not free of events their eyes have seen

and their ears have heard

and their bodies have felt.

Most cannot focus their abilities
in the present, and 
might drop what 
I said.

So I'll wait; I don't mind waiting until
your love for all
makes luminous
the now.

~ Rabia
(c. 717-801)
translation by Daniel Ladinsky

young woman homeless

~ Terra Gardner
 in Toronto, Canada

Terra tells a very real story about life on the streets. She doesn't like shelters because she was beat up in one, so she sleeps on the streets or in parks. I hope Terra's story will stay in your heart and mind as it has with me. After this interview we took her to get some food. She is intelligent and funny, she just needs some extra love and compassion to change her life. The good news is the outreach nurse I was with is filled with that extra love and compassion and will do everything she can to find Terra some help. Please support all health and medical outreach services in your community.

 ***Terra Gardner was hit by a train and killed while still homeless 

feeling lost

~ Gabor Maté


If the one I've waited for
came now, what should I do?
This morning's garden filled with snow
is far too lovely
for footsteps to mar.

~ Izumi Shikibu
from The Ink Dark Moon

the beauty and precision of this

When we are mired in the relative world, 
never lifting our gaze to the mystery, our life is stunted,
 incomplete; we are filled with yearning for that paradise
 that is lost when, as young children, we replace it with words 
and ideas and abstractions- such as merit, such as past, present,
 and future- our direct, spontaneous experience 
of the thing itself, in the beauty and precision
 of this present moment. 

~  Peter Matthiessen
from The Snow Leopard

steps out of the circle

The self steps out of the circle;
it stops wanting to be
the farmer, the wife, and the child.

It stops trying to please
by learning everyone's dialect;
it finds it can live, after all,
in a world of strangers.

It sends itself fewer flowers;
it stops preserving its tears in amber.

How splendidly arrogant it was
when it believed the gold-filled tomb
of language awaited its raids!
Now it frequents the junkyards
knowing all words are secondhand.

It has not chosen its poverty,
this new frugality.
It did not want to fall out of love
with itself. Young,
it celebrated itself
and richly sang itself,
seeing only itself
in the mirror of the world.

It cannot return. It assumes
its place in the universe of stars
that do not see it. Even the dead
no longer need it to be at peace.
Its function is to applaud.

~ Lisel Mueller
 from Alive Together: New and Selected Poems

Thursday, May 16, 2019

for the asking

Augustine said his soul
was a house so cramped
God could barely squeeze in.
Knock down the mean partitions,
he prayed, so You may enter!
Raise the oppressive ceilings!

Augustine's soul 
 didn't become a mansion large enough
to welcome, along with God, the woman he'd loved,
except for his mother (though one, perhaps,
his son's mother, did remain to inhabit
a small dark room).  God, therefore,
would never have felt
fully at home as his guest.

it's clear desire
fulfilled itself in the asking, revealing prayer's
dynamic action, that scoops out channels
like water on stone, or builds like layers
of grainy sediment steadily
forming sandstone. The walls, with each thought,
each feeling, each word he set down,
expanded, unnoticed; the roof
rose, and a skylight opened.

~ Denise Levertov
from for lovers of god everywhere
by roger housden
 art by Yayoi Kusama


the fabric of things

I thought I’d lost you. But you said: I’m imbued
in the fabric of things, the way
that wax lost from batik shapes

the pattern where the dye won’t take.
I make the space around you,

and so allow you shape. And always
you’ll feel the traces of that wax
soaked far into the weave:
the air around your gestures,

the silence after you speak.
That’s me, the slight wind between
your hand and what you’re reaching for,
chair and paper, book or cup:

that close, where I am: between
where breath ends, air starts.

~ Mark Doty
art by: Dali

a standing ground

Flee fro the prees, and dwelle with sothfastnesse;
Suffyce unto thy thyng, though hit be smal...

~ Geoffrey Chaucer
from Good Counsel of Chaucer

However just and anxious I have been,
I will stop and step back
from the crowd of those who may agree
with what I say, and be apart.
There is no earthly promise of life or peace
but where the roots branch and weave
their patient silent passages in the dark;
uprooted, I have been furious without an aim.
I am not bound for any public place,
but for ground of my own
where I have planted vines and orchard trees,
and in the heat of the day climbed up
into the healing shadow of the woods.
Better than any argument is to rise at dawn
and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup.

~ Wendell Berry
from Farming Poems

thorn witness


Apparent shapes and meanings change.
Creature hunts down creature. Bales

get unloaded and weighed to determine
price. None of any of this pertains

to the unseen fire we call the Beloved.
That presence has no form, and cannot

be understood or measured. Take
your hands away from your face. If

a wall of dust moves across the plain,
there's usually an army advancing

under it. When you look for the Friend,
the Friend is looking for you. Carried

by a strong current, you and the others
with you seem to be making decisions,

but you're not. I weave coarse wool.
I decide to talk less. By my actions

cause nothing. A thorn grows next to
the rose as its witness. I am that

thorn for whom simply to be is an act
of praise. Near the rose, no shame.

~ Rumi
translation by Coleman Barks, with Nevit Ergin 
from The Glance