Monday, November 4, 2019

walking within the weather of love

~ Coleman Barks
 on Rumi

Friday, November 1, 2019

feel the ocean moving through you

Just remember,
You are the only faithful student you have.
All the others leave eventually.

Have you been making yourself shallow
with making others eminent?

Just remember, when you're in union,
you don't have to fear
that you'll be drained.

The command comes to speak,
and you feel the ocean
moving through you.

Then comes, Be silent,
as when the rain stops,
and the trees in the orchard
begin to draw moisture
up into themselves.

~ Rumi
version by Coleman Barks 
 art by Randall David Tipton

tangles and merges

look at love
how it tangles
with the one fallen in love

look at spirit
how it fuses with earth
giving it new life
why are you so busy
with this or that or good or bad
pay attention to how things blend

why talk about all
the known and the unknown
see how the unknown merges into the known

why think separately
of this life and the next
when one is born from the last

look at your heart and tongue
one feels but deaf and dumb
the other speaks in words and signs

look at water and fire
earth and wind
enemies and friends all at once

the wolf and the lamb
the lion and the deer
far away yet together

look at the unity of this
spring and winter
manifested in the equinox

you too must mingle my friends
since the earth and the sky
are mingled just for you and me

be like sugarcane
sweet yet silent
don't get mixed up with bitter words

my beloved grows right out of my own heart
how much more union can there be

~ Rumi
from Rumi: Fountain of Fire
Translated by Nader Khalili
art by Katey Elise

inner hospitality

When you decide to practice inner hospitality, the self-torment ceases. 
The abandoned, neglected, and negative selves come into a seamless unity. 
The soul is wise and subtle it recognizes that unity fosters belonging. 
The soul adores unity. What you separate, the soul joins. 

As your experience extends and deepens, 
your memory becomes richer and more complex. 
Your soul is the priestess of memory, selecting, sifting, 
and ultimately gathering your vanishing days toward presence. 

This liturgy of remembrance, literally re-membering, 
is always at work within you. 
Human solitude is rich and endlessly creative.

~ John O'Donohue
art by georgia o'keeffe


Thursday, October 31, 2019

watch your thoughts as you watch the street traffic

Watch your thoughts as you watch the street traffic,  
People come and go:  you register without response. 
 It may not be easy in the beginning,  but with some practice
 you will find that your mind can function on many levels 
at the same time and you can be aware of the all. 
 It is only when you have a vested interest in any particular level, 
that your attention gets caught in it and you black out on other levels. 
 Even then the work on the blacked out levels goes on, 
outside the field of consciousness.

Do not struggle with your memories and thoughts; 
 try only to include in your field of attention the other, 
 more important questions like, "Who am I?"
 "How did I happen to be born?" "Whence this universe around me?",
 What is real and what is momentary?"
 No memory will persist, if you lose interest in it; 
 always seeking pleasure, avoiding pain, 
always after happiness and peace. 

 Don't you see that it is your very search for happiness
 that makes you feel miserable?  Try the other way:
 indifferent to pain and pleasure, neither asking,
 nor refusing, give all your attention to the level on which 
"I am" is timeless and present.  Soon you will realize that peace
 and happiness are in your very nature
 and it is only seeking them through 
some particular channels, that disturbs.

~Nisargaddatta Maharaj


Like the small hole by the path-side something lives in,
in me are lives I do not know the names of,

nor the fates of,
nor the hungers of or what they eat.

They eat of me.
Of small and blemished apples in low fields of me
whose rocky streams and droughts I do not drink.

And in my streets—the narrow ones,
unlabeled on the self-map—
they follow stairs down music ears can’t follow,

and in my tongue borrowed by darkness,
in hours uncounted by the self-clock,
they speak in restless syllables of other losses, other loves.

There too have been the hard extinctions,
missing birds once feasted on and feasting.

There too must be machines
like loud ideas with tungsten bits that grind the day.

A few escape. A mercy.

They leave behind
small holes that something unweighed by the self-scale lives in.

~ Jane Hirshfield

Jane was born on this day in New York City (1953). She went to Princeton, where she was in the first graduating class to include women in 1973. She published her first poem not long after, then went off to northern California to study Buddhism for the next eight years, during which time she didn't write at all. She said: " I don't think poetry is based just on poetry; it is based on a thoroughly lived life. And so I couldn't just decide I was going to write no matter what; I first had to find out what it means to live.

comments from Writers Almanac

I sit on rocks and watch clouds


More than forty years I've lived as a hermit
out of touch with the world's rise and fall
a stove full of pine needles keeps me warm at night 
a bowl of wild plants fills me up at noon
I sit on rocks and watch clouds and let thoughts wander
I patch my robe in sunlight and cultivate silence
until someone asks why Bodhidharma came east
and I list all my possessions


Scorpion tails and wolf hearts overrun the world
everyone has a trick to get ahead
but how many smiles in a lifetime
how many moments of peace in a day
who knows a toppled cart means try another track
when trouble strikes there is no time for shame
this old monk isn't just talking
he's trying to remove your obstacles and chains


The crow and the hare race without rest 
living in the cliffs suddenly I'm old
my reflection looks thin when I walk beside a stream
my eyes have turned blue viewing mountains through pines
I gather red leaves to burn in my stove
I pick yellow flowers to put in a vase
toiling away for the wine of success
others get drunk and can't be revived


A thatched hut blue mountains green streams
visits by now are up to me
two or three peach trees and plum trees in bloom
green and yellow fields of vegetables and wheat
I sit all night in bed listening to rain
I open my paper window and doze off watching clouds
nothing is better than being free
but getting free isn't luck

~ Stonehouse
from The Zen Works of Stonehouse
by Red Pine
art by Huang Kung-wang


37. Stonehouse lived as a hermit for thirty-five years on Hsiamushan, but he also lived for three years with Kao-feng on Tienmushan's West Peak and six years with Chi-an on Langyashan near Chienyang. Although the practice was never as widespread in China as it was in India, monks were encouraged to restrict themselves to a noon meal, which they ate following their morning begging rounds. One of the most common koans asked by Zen masters is:"Why did Bodhidharma come east?" The student's answer is expected to express the essence of Zen rather than supply the Patriarch's presumed motivation.

38. One of the first measures enacted by the First Emperor when he unified China in 221 BC was to standardize the axle length of carts so that all tracks would be the same width. The Five Obstacles include desire, anger, tiredness, anxiety, and doubt. And the Ten Chains include shamelessness, insensitivity, envy, meanness, regret, laziness, over-activity, self-absorption, hate, and secretiveness.

39. According to Chinese mythology, the sun is the home of a crow, and the moon is the abode of a hare. The moon is yin and represents Earth, hence its symbol is an animal of the land; the sun is yang and represents Heaven, hence its totem is a creature of the air. Stonehouse's blue eyes could refer to the Zen eyes of Bodhidharma, the "blue-eyed barbarian," who brought Zen to China. But they could also refer to cataracts. Ironically, cataract surgery was introduced to the Chinese by Indian monks about the same time that Bodhidharma arrived, but the technique had been lost by Stonehouse's time. While Stonehouse used chrysanthemums for his altar, others infused them in their wine.

40. Etiquette requires paying a return visit to someone else who visits. Apparently Stonehouse no longer held up his side of such relationships. Perhaps he didn't like leaving his hut. As previously noted, windows were usually covered with oilpaper.

the author provides similar notes for each portion of the work.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

a hat salesman and a capable ruler

A man of Sung did business
In silk ceremonial hats.
He traveled with a load of hats
To the wild men of the South.
The wild men had shaved heads,
Tattooed bodies.
What did they want
With silk
Ceremonial hats?

Yao had wisely governed
All China.
He had brought the entire world
To a state of rest.
After that, he went to visit
The four Perfect Ones
In the distant mountains
Of Ku Shih
When he came back
Across the border
Into his own city
His lost gaze
Saw no throne.

~ Chuang Tzu
translated by Thomas Merton

The Heart's Counting Knows Only One

In Sung China,
two monks, friends for sixty years
watched the geese pass.
Where are they going?
one tested the other, who couldn't say.

That moment's silence continues.

No one will study their friendship
in the koan-books of insight.
No one will remember their names.

I think of them sometimes,
standing, perplexed by sadness,
goose-down sewn into their quilted autumn robes.

Almost swallowed by the vastness of the mountains,
but not yet.

As the barely audible
geese are not yet swallowed;
as even we, my love, will not entirely be lost.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from Lives of the Heart
art by Stanley Roseman

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

a signal not a glitch

~ Johann Hari


to see this

I have come into this world to see this:
 the sword drop from men's hands
 even at the height of their arc of anger
 because we have finally realized there is just one flesh
 to wound and it is the Beloved's.

I have come into this world to see this: 
all creatures hold hands as we pass through
 this miraculous existence we share on the way
 to an even greater being of soul, 
a being of just ecstatic light, 
forever entwined and at play with Him.

I have come into this world to hear this:
 every song the earth has sung since it was conceived
 in the Divine's womb and began spinning from His wish,
 every song by wing and fin and hoof,
 every song by hill and field and tree
 and woman and child, every song
 of stream and rock, every song of tool and lyre and flute,
 every song of gold and emerald and fire,
 every song the heart should cry with magnificent dignity
 to know itself as God: for all other knowledge 
will leave us again in want and aching -
 only imbibing the glorious Sun will complete us. 

I have come into this world to experience this:
 men so true to love they would rather die
 before speaking an unkind word,
 men so true their lives are His covenant - the promise of hope.

I have come into this world to see this: 
the sword drop from men's hands 
even at the height of their arc of rage 
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh
 we can wound.

~ Hafiz
from Love Poems from God: 
Twelve Sacred voices from East and West
edited by Daniel Ladinsky

Sunday, October 27, 2019

tripping over joy

What is the difference
Between your experience of Existence
And that of a saint?

The saint knows
That the spiritual path
Is a sublime chess game with God

And that the Beloved
Has just made such a Fantastic Move

That the saint is now continually
Tripping over Joy
And bursting out in Laughter
And saying, “I Surrender!”

Whereas, my dear,
I am afraid you still think
You have a thousand serious moves.

  ~ Hafez
from I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy
by Daniel Ladinsky

To Judgment: An Assay


You change a life
as eating an artichoke changes the taste 
of whatever is eaten after.
Yet you are not an artichoke, not a piano or cat -
not objectively present at all -
and what of you a cat possesses is essential but narrow:
to know if the distance between two things can be leapt.
The piano, that good servant,
has none of you in her at all, she lends herself
to what asks; this has been my ambition as well.
Yet a person who has you is like an iron spigot
whose water comes from far-off mountain springs.
Inexhaustible, your confident pronouncements flow,
coldly delicious.

For if judgment hurts the teeth, it doesn't mind,
not judgment.  Teeth pass,  Pain passes.
Judgment decrees what remains-
the serene judgments of evolution or the judgment
 of a boy-king entering Persia: "Burn it," he says,
and it burns.  And if a small tear swells the corner
of one eye, it is only the smoke, it is no more to him that a beetle
fleeing the flames of the village with her six-legged children.
The biologist Haldane - in one of his tenderer moments -
judged beetles especially loved by God,
"because He had made so many."  For judgment can be tender:
I have seen you carry a fate to its end as softly as a retriever
carries the quail. 

 Yet however much
I admire you at such moments, I cannot love you:
you are too much in me, weighing without pity your own worth.
When I have erased you from me entirely,
disrobed of your measuring adjectives,
stripped from my shoulders and hips each of your nouns,
when the world is horsefly, coal barge, and dawn the color of winter butter -
then perhaps I will love you,  Helpless to not.
As a newborn wolf is helpless: no choice but hunt the wolf milk,
find it sweet.

~  Jane Hirshfield,
from: 'After'

an instrument of comparison?

Is not the mind also an instrument of comparison?  You say this is better than that; you compare yourself with somebody who is more beautiful, who is more clever.  There is comparison when you say, 'I remember that particular river that I saw a year ago, and it was still more beautiful'.  Your compare yourself with somebody, compare yourself with an example, with the ultimate ideal.  Comparative judgment makes the mind dull; it does not sharpen the mind, it does not make the mind comprehensive, inclusive, because, when you are all the time comparing, what has happened?  You see the sunset, and you immediately compare that sunset with the previous sunset.  You see a mountain and you see how beautiful it is.  Then you say, 'I saw a still more beautiful mountain two years ago'.  When you are comparing, you are really not looking at the sunset which is there, but you are looking at it in order to compare it with something else.  So comparison prevents you from looking fully.  I look at you, you are nice, but I say, 'I know a much nicer person, a much better person, a more noble person, a more stupid person'.  When I do this, I am not looking at you.  Because my mind is occupied with something else, I am not looking at you at all.   In the same way, I am not looking at the sunset at all.  To really look at the sunset, there must be no comparison; to really look at you, I must not compare you with someone else.  It is only when I look at you without comparative judgment that I can understand you.  But when I compare you with somebody else, then I judge you and I say, 'Oh, he is a very stupid man'.  So stupidity arises when there is comparison.  I compare you with somebody else, and that very comparison brings about a lack of human dignity.  When I look at you without comparing, I am only concerned with you, not with someone else.  The very concern about you, not comparatively, brings about human dignity.

So as long as the mind is comparing, there is no love, and the mind is always judging, comparing, weighing, looking to find where the weakness is.  So where there is comparison, there is no love.  When the mother and father love their children, they do not compare them, they do not compare their child with another child; it is their child and they love their child.  But you want to compare yourself with something better, with something nobler, with something richer, so you create in yourself a lack of love.  You are always concerned with yourself in relationship to somebody else.   As the mind becomes more and more comparative, more and more possessive, more and more depending, it creates a pattern in which it gets caught, so it cannot look at anything anew, afresh.

And so it destroys that very thing, that very perfume of life, which is love.

J. Krishnamurti
from a conversation with students at Rajghat School
December 19, 1952

the weighing

The heart's reasons
seen clearly,
even the hardest
will carry
its whip-marks and sadness
and must be forgiven.

As the drought-starved 
eland forgives
the drought-starved lion
who finally takes her,
enters willingly then
the life she cannot refuse,
and is lion, is fed,
and does not remember the other.

So few grains of happiness
measured against all he dark
and still the scales balance.

The world asks of us
only the strength we have and we give it.
Then it asks more, and we give it.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from The October Palace
photo by eliot porter