Friday, January 17, 2020

allowing grief

Grief is one of the heart’s natural responses to loss. When we grieve, we allow ourselves to feel the truth of our pain, the measure of betrayal or tragedy in our life. By our willingness to mourn, we slowly acknowledge, integrate, and accept the truth of our losses. Sometimes the best way to let go is to grieve.

It takes courage to grieve, to honor the pain we carry. We can grieve in tears or in meditative silence, in prayer or in song. In touching the pain of recent and long-held griefs, we come face to face with our genuine human vulnerability, with helplessness and hopelessness. These are the storm clouds of the heart.

Most traditional societies offer ritual and communal support to help people move through grief and loss. We need to respect our tears. Without a wise way to grieve, we can only soldier on, armored and unfeeling, but our hearts cannot learn and grow from the sorrows of the past.
To meditate on grief, let yourself sit, alone or with a comforting friend. Take the time to create an atmosphere of support. When you are ready, begin by sensing your breath. Feel your breathing in the area of your chest. This can help you become present to what is within you.
As you continue to breathe, bring to mind the loss or pain you are grieving. Let the story, the images, the feelings comes naturally. Hold them gently. Take your time. Let the feelings come layer by layer, a little at a time.

Keep breathing softly, compassionately. Let whatever feelings are there, pain and tears, anger and love, fear and sorrow, come as they will. Touch them gently. Let them unravel out of your body and mind. Make space for any images that arise. Allow the whole story. Breathe and hold it all with tenderness and compassion. Kindness for it all, for you and for others.

Releasing the grief we carry is a long, tear-filled process. Yet it follows the natural intelligence of the body and heart. Trust it, trust the unfolding. Along with meditation, some of your grief will want to be written, to be cried out. Let the timeless wisdom within you carry you through grief and awaken a tender, open heart.

Keep in mind that grief doesn’t just dissolve. Instead it arises in waves and gradually, with growing compassion, there comes more space around it. The heart opens and in its own time, little by little, gaps of new life—breaks in the rain clouds appear. The body relaxes and freer breaths appear. This is a natural cycle you can trust—how life and the heart renews itself. Like the spring after winter, it always does.

~ Jack Kornfield
art by Van Gogh

Streets in Shanghai



The white butterfly in the park is being read by many.
I love that cabbage-moth as if it were a fluttering corner of truth itself!

At dawn the running crowds set our quiet planet in motion.
Then the park fills with people. To each one, eight faces polished like jade, for all
situations, to avoid making mistakes.
To each one, there's also the invisible face reflecting "something you don't talk about."
Something that appears in tired moments and is as rank as a gulp of viper schnapps with its long scaly aftertaste.

The carp in the pond move continuously, swimming while they sleep, setting an example for the faithful: always in motion.


It's midday. Laundry flutters in the gray sea-wind high over the cyclists
who arrive in dense schools. Notice the labrinths on each side!

I'm surrounded by written characters that I can't interpret, I'm illiterate through and through.
But I've paid what I owe and have receipts for everything.
I've accumulated so many illegible receipts.
I'm an old tree with withered leaves that hang on and can't fall to the ground.

And a gust from the sea gets all these receipts rustling.


At dawn the trampling hordes set our quiet planet in motion.
We're all aboard the street, and it's as crammed as the deck of a ferry.

Where are we headed? Are there enough teacups? We should consider ourselves lucky
to have made it aboard this street!
It's a thousand years before the birth of claustrophobia.

Hovering behind each of us who walks here is a cross that wants to catch up with us,
pass us, unite with us.
Something that wants to sneak up on us from behind, put its hands over our eyes and
whisper "Guess who!"

We look almost happy out in the sun, while we bleed to death from wounds we don't
know about.

~ Tomas Transtromer 
 from Bright Scythe, 
translated by Patty Crane
with thanks to whiskey river

Thursday, January 16, 2020

late ripeness

Not soon, as late as the approach of my ninetieth year,
I felt a door opening in me and I entered 
the clarity of early morning. 
One after another my former lives were departing, 
like ships, together with their sorrow.
And the countries, cities, gardens, the bays of seas 
assigned to my brush came closer, 
ready now to be described better than they were before. 
I was not separated from people, 
grief and pity joined us. 
We forget — I kept saying — that we are all children of the King. 
For where we come from there is no division 
into Yes and No, into is, was, and will be. 
We were miserable, we used no more than a hundredth part 
of the gift we received for our long journey. 
Moments from yesterday and from centuries ago - 
a sword blow, the painting of eyelashes before a mirror 
of polished metal, a lethal musket shot, a caravel 
staving its hull against a reef — they dwell in us, 
waiting for a fulfillment. 
I knew, always, that I would be a worker in the vineyard, 
as are all men and women living at the same time, 
whether they are aware of it or not. 

~Czeslaw Milosz
from Collected Poems, 1931-1987
art by van gogh

Wednesday, January 15, 2020


Love flows from God to man,
Like a bird
Who rivers the air
Without moving her wings.
Thus we move in His world
One in body and soul,
Though outwardly separate in form.
As the Source strikes the note,
Humanity sings -
The Holy Spirit is our harpist,
And all the strings
Which are touched in Love
Must sound.

~ Mechtild of Magdeburg

unnameable heart

The cricket who
kept me company three days
has fallen silent
I don't know where.

There are so many
lives of which I know nothing.
Even my own.  It moves now
through my fingers toward yours
and I know nothing
I can say that will name its heart.

A boat drifts far out
on the river below the mountains,
and below it
the fish, the great fish
that the one in the boat has come for,
swims in the shadow.

Perhaps the cricket is there, inside the fish.
Stranger things have happened.
I have looked everywhere else
for my lost companion.

From here the shadow looks small,
but to the fish it is huge.
Range after range of mountains,
and still the old painters
found a place
where two could walk together, side by side.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from Lives of the Heart

Sunday, January 12, 2020


How shall I hold on to my soul, so that
it does not touch yours? How shall I gently
lift it up over you on to other things?
I would so very much like to tuck it away
among long lost objects in the dark,
in some quiet, unknown place, somewhere
which remains motionless when your depths resound.

And yet everything which touches us, you and me,
takes us together like a single bow,
drawing out from two strings but one voice.
On which instrument are we strung?
And which violinist holds us in his hand?
O sweetest of songs.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from New Poems - 1907 
Rilke met Lou Andreas-Salomé in 1897. He was 22, she was 36.
 Their love story lasted until 1901 and turned into a friendship 
that only ended with Rilke’s death in 1926. 

Your being has been the door that allowed me to reach fresh air for the first time.

the great golden hive of the invisible

Nature, and the things we live with and use, 
precede us and come after us. But they are, 
so long as we are here, our possession and our friendship.
 They know us with our needs and our pleasures,
 as they did those of our ancestors, 
whose trusted companions they were.

So it follows that all that is here is not to be despised 
and put down, but, precisely because it did precede us, 
to be taken by us with the innermost understanding 
that these appearances and things must be seen and transformed.

Transformed? Yes. For our task is to take this earth so deeply 
and wholly into ourselves that it will resurrect within our being. 
We are bees of the invisible. Passionately we plunder the honey of the visible
 in order to gather it in the great golden hive of the invisible.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from a letter to Witold Hulewicz
November 13, 1925

the ubiquity of the divine presence

Apocalypse does not point to a fiery Armageddon 
but to the fact that our ignorance and our complacency 
are coming to an end. 

Our divided, schizophrenic worldview,
with no mythology adequate to coordinate our conscious and unconscious — 
that is what is coming to an end. 

The exclusivism of there being only one way in which we can be saved, 
the idea that there is a single religious group 
that is in sole possession of the truth — 
that is the world as we know it that must pass away. 

What is the kingdom? 
It lies in our realization of the ubiquity of the divine presence 
in our neighbors, 
in our enemies, 
in all of us. 

~ Joseph Campbell 

[APOCALYPSE: from the Greek word 'apokalyptein', meaning "uncover, disclose, reveal". From apo- "from" + kalyptein "to cover, conceal"

For you, my friend, every day is an apocalypse. Every hour, every minute, every moment, the old is falling away, the known is burning itself up, and the new, the never-before-seen, is revealing itself, in all its freshness. Truly, every moment is the end of a world, the end of dreams, and the birth of the new. Seen in the light of truth, life is a constant apocalypse, a constant awakening to what is, yet the separate self, with its fear of the loss of the status quo and its clinging to form and belief, pushes 'apocalypse' into time, and even fixes it to a specific date. And when that date passes, the mechanism creates a new date. It has to. This has always been the case. It is the seeker in action. To the illusory self, the end of the world will always be 'nigh'. It's how it keeps its own illusion going. It loves the drama of it.

And all the while, this timeless, ever-present apocalypse has always been with us, sweetly singing its song of newness and unshakeable truth. Have a great Friday, no matter what happens. 

~ Jeff Foster

Saturday, January 11, 2020

a succession of stillnesses


An ordinary mirror is silvered at the back but the window of the night train has darkness behind the glass. My face and the faces of other travelers were now mirrored on this darkness in a succession of stillnesses. Consider this, said the darkness: any motion at any speed is a succession of stillnesses; any section through an action will show just such a plane of stillness as this dark window in which your seeking face is mirrored. And in each plane of stillness is the moment of clarity that makes you responsible for what you do.

~ Russell Hoban
from The Medusa Frequency

the primacy and wonder of the dark

There is a touching innocence in the mystery of the human self.  
Even after thousands of years of experience and reflection, 
we still remain a mystery to ourselves...
there is something deeply unpredictable and unfathomable.
... Even when you approach your self tenderly 
with the candle of receptive and reverential seeing, 
all you achieve is a glimpse.  
There is something in the sacred darkness of the mind 
that does not trust the facility and quickness of light.

Darkness resists the name.  
Darkness knows the regions which the name 
can never reach or hold or dream.
  The dark must smile at the proud pretense of words 
to hold networks of identity and meaning, 
but the dark knows only too well the fragile surface on which words stand.  
Darkness keeps its secrets.
Light is diverse and plural: 
sunlight, moonlight, dusk, dawn, and twilight.  
The dark has only one name.  
There is something deep in us 
which implicitly recognizes the primacy and wonder of the dark.  
Perhaps this is why we instinctively insist on avoiding and ignoring its mysteries.

~ John O'Donohue
from Eternal Echoes
photo by Kathleen Connally

Friday, January 10, 2020

start with the little things

Start with little things.

Love the earth like a mole,
fur-near. Nearsighted,
hold close the clods,
their fine-print headlines.
Pat them with soft hands --

Like spades, but pink and loving; they
break rock, nudge giants aside,
affable plow.

Fields are to touch;
each day nuzzle your way.

Tomorrow the world.

—William Stafford
from The Way It Is
with thanks to Love is a Place

the heart's counting knows only one

In Sung China, 
two monks friends for sixty years
watch 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
artist unknown from the Yuan Dynasty

hostess to my morethanme

the trick of finding what you didn't lose
(existing's tricky:but to live's a gift)
the teachable imposture of always
arriving at the place you never left

(and i refer to thinking)rests upon
a dismal misconception;namely that
some neither ape nor angel called a man
is measured by his quote eye cue unquote.

Much better than which, every woman who's
(despite the ultramachinations of
some loveless infraworld)a woman knows;
and certain men quite possibly may have

shall we say guessed?"
"we shall" quoth gifted she:
and played the hostess to my morethanme

from Selected Poems


Monday, January 6, 2020

my beauty in you

I see my beauty in you. I become
a mirror that cannot close its eyes

to your longing. My eyes wet with
yours in the early light. My mind

every moment giving birth, always
conceiving, always in the ninth

month, always the come-point. How
do I stand this? We become these

words we say, a wailing sound moving
out into the air. These thousands of

worlds that rise from nowhere, how
does your face contain them? I'm

a fly in your honey, then closer, a
moth caught in flame's allure, then

empty sky stretched out in homage.

 ~ Jelaluddin Rumi


because loved, a pure beast came to be

This is the non-existent animal.
Not knowing that, they loved it, loved its ways,
its neck, its posture, loved its quiet gaze
down to the light within it, loved it all.

True, it was not. But, because loved, a pure
beast came to be. A space was kept, conceded.
And in that space, left blank for it, secure,
it gently raised its head and hardly needed

to be. They fed it on no kind of corn,
but always only with the right to be.
And on the beast such power this could confer,

its brow put forth new growth. A single horn.
White, it sought out a virgin's company -
and was inside the mirror and in her.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from Sonnets to Orpheus II, 4