Friday, March 6, 2020

touch of life

There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, 
a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness.  This mysterious Unity
 and Integrity is Wisdom, the Mother of all, Natura naturans
 There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence
 that is a fount of action and joy.  It rises up in wordless gentleness 
and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created being, 
welcoming me tenderly, saluting me with indescribable humility.  
This is at once my own being, my own nature, and the Gift of my Creator's
 Thought and Art within me, speaking as Hagia Sophia, 
speaking as my sister, Wisdom.

In the cool hand of the nurse there is the touch of all life, the touch of Spirit.

Thus Wisdom cries out to all who will hear (Sapientia clamitat in plateis) 
and she cries out particularly to the little, to the ignorant and the helpless.

Who is more little, who is more poor than the helpless man
 who lies asleep in his bed without awareness and without defense?
 Who is more trusting than he who must entrust himself each night to sleep?
  What is the reward of his trust?  Gentleness comes to him
 when he is most helpless and awakens him, refreshed, 
beginning to be made whole.  Love takes him by the hand, 
and opens to him the doors of another life, another day.

(But he who has defended himself, fought for himself in sickness,
 planned for himself, guarded himself, loved himself alone and watched
 over his own life all night, is killed at last by exhaustion. 
 For him there is no newness.  Everything is stale and old.)

When the helpless one awakens strong at the voice of mercy,
 it is as if Life his Sister, as if the Blessed Virgin, (his own flesh, 
his own sister), as if Nature made wise by God's Art and Incarnation
 were to stand over him and invite him with unutterable sweetness
 to be awake and to live.  This is what it means
 to recognize Hagia Sophia.

~ Thomas Merton
from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton

soul and the old woman

What is the soul?  Consciousness.  The more awareness, the 
deeper the soul, and when

such essence overflows, you feel a sacredness around.  It's
so simple to tell one who

puts on a robe and pretends to be a dervish from the real
thing.  We know the taste

of pure water.  Words can sound like a poem but not have
any juice, no flavor to

relish.  How long do you look at pictures on a bathhouse
wall?  Soul is what draws

you away from those pictures to talk with the old woman
who sits outside by the door

in the sun.  She's half blind, but she has what soul loves
to flow into.  She's kind, she weeps.

She makes quick personal decisions, and laughs so easily.

~ Rumi
version by Coleman Barks
from The Soul of Rumi
art by van gogh

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

the I - notion

Doing away with the I - notion is the same as not desiring
 the personal attainment of enlightenment.

Not desiring that (the "last desire," the "last barrier") 
is "having it," for "having it" is in any case merely being rid
 of that which concealed what is forever that which alone we are.

Therefore not desiring personal attainment of that is
 at the same time the elimination of the I-notion 
which constitutes its concealment.
The idea of liberation automatically inhibits
 the simple realization that we are free.

~ Wei Wu Wei
from All else is Bondage

leaping beyond

For fifty-four years
Following the way of heaven;
Now leaping beyond,
Shattering every barrier,
Amazing!  To cast off all attachments,
While still alive, plunging into the Yellow Springs.

~ Dogen
from the zen Poetry of Dogen
photo from NASA

the burden of self

Yet do not misunderstand my words, I did not say that you must desire to un-be,
 for that is madness and blasphemy against God.  I said that you must desire 
to lose the knowledge and experience of self.  This is essential
 if you are to experience God's love as fully as possible in this life.

  You must realize and experience for yourself that unless you lose self
you will never reach your goal.  For wherever you are, in whatever you do, 
or howsoever you try, that elemental sense of your own blind being
 will remain between you and your God.  It is possible, of course, 
that God may intervene at times and fill you with a transient experience
 of himself.  Yet outside these moments this naked awareness of your blind being
 will continually weigh you down and be as a barrier between you and your God..
. It is then that you will realize how heavy and painful 
is the burden of self.

~ the Cloud of Unknowing
art by Victoria Burns

open space

Only in an open, nonjudgmental space can we acknowledge what we are feeling.
Only in an open space where we're not all caught up
 in our own version of reality can we see
 and hear and feel who others really are, 
which allows us to be with them and 
communicate with them properly.

We habitually erect a barrier called blame that keeps us from 
communicating genuinely with others, and we fortify it with our concepts
 of who's right and who's wrong. We do that with the people 
who are closest to us, and we do it with political systems, 
with all kinds of things that we don't like about our associates
 or our society. 
Blaming is a way to protect our hearts, to try to protect what is soft 
and open and tender in ourselves.
Blame is away in which we solidify ourselves. 
Not only do we point the finger when something is "wrong,"
 but we also want to make it "right."

We start with ourselves. We make ourselves right or wrong, every day, 
every week, every month and year of our lives.  When we feel right,
 we feel good, especially if we have people agreeing with us
 about how right we are. Suppose someone disagrees, then what? 
 Do we find ourselves getting angry and aggressive?  We might see
 that this is what wars are make of. Whether we judge ourselves
 "right" or "wrong," the judgement gives us the satisfaction 
of "knowing." This way we avoid the awkward unsettled uncomfortableness
 of continuing to look more deeply at our words or behavior.

Until we can become comfortable hanging out with ourselves
 without leaping to judgement it will be very difficult to just be with another,
 to share and be truly compassionate. Learning to accept and live in a space
 of the awkwardness of not knowing, to replace self-judgement with gentleness
 is needed to move into the broken-open hearted  
compassion that truly reflects who we are.

~ Pema Chodron
from When Things Fall Apart

Friday, February 28, 2020

compassionate inquiry

~ Gabor Maté

looking at some flowers

Light is around the petals, and behind them:
Some petals are living on the other side of the light,
Like sunlight drifting onto the carpet
Where the casket stands, not knowing which world it is in.
And fuzzy leaves, hair growing from some animal
Buried in the green trenches of the plant. 
Or the ground this house is on,
Only free of the sea for five or six thousand years.

~ Robert Bly
from The Light Around the Body
 Shasta Daisy photographed under ultraviolet light

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

I follow barefoot


I long for You so much
I follow barefoot Your frozen tracks

That are high in the mountains
That I know are years old.

I long for You so much 
I have even begun to travel
Where I have never been before.

Hafiz, there is no one in this world
Who is not looking for God.

Everyone is trudging along
With as much dignity, courage
And style

As they possibly 

~ Hafiz
from The Subject Tonight is Love
translations by Daniel Ladinsky

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

bedtime story

The moon lies on the river
like a drop of oil.
The children come to the banks to be healed
of their wounds and bruises.
The fathers who gave them their wounds and bruises
come to be healed of their rage.
The mothers grow lovely; their faces soften,
the birds in their throats awake.
They all stand hand in hand
and the trees around them,
forever on the verge
of becoming one of them,
stop shuddering and speak their first word.

But that is not the beginning.
It is the end of the story,
and before we come to the end,
the mothers and fathers and children
must find their way to the river,
separately, with no one to guide them.
That is the long, pitiless part,
and it will scare you. 

- Lisel Mueller
from Alive Together: New and Selected Poems
 photo by ansel adams
with thanks to whiskey river

consciousness alone

~ Rupert Spira


Monday, February 24, 2020

word fog

Words, even if they come from
the soul, hide the soul, as fog

rising off the sea covers the sea,
the coast, the fish, the pearls.

It's noble work to build coherent
philosophical discourses, but

they block out the sun of truth.
See God's qualities as an ocean,

this world as foam on the purity
of that. Brush away and look

through the alphabet to essence,
as you do the hair covering your

beloved's eyes. Here's the mystery:
this intricate, astonishing world

is proof of God's presence even as
it covers the beauty. One flake

from the wall of a gold mine does
not give much idea what it's like

when the sun shines in and turns
the air and the workers golden.

art by claude monet



Sometimes farm granaries become especially beautiful when all the oats
 or wheat are gone, and wind has swept the rough floor clean. 
Standing inside, we see around us, coming in through the cracks 
between shrunken wall boards, bands or strips of sunlight. 
So in a poem about imprisonment, one sees a little light.
But how many birds have died trapped in these granaries. The bird,
 seeing the bands of light, flutters up the walls and falls back again and again. 
The way out is where the rats enter and leave; but the rat’s hole is low to the floor. 
Writers, be careful then by showing the sunlight on the walls not to promise 
the anxious and panicky blackbirds a way out!

I say to the reader, beware. Readers who love poems of light 
may sit hunched in the corner with nothing in their gizzards for four days,
 light failing, the eyes glazed. . . . They may end as a mound of feathers 
and a skull on the open boardwood floor . . .

~ Robert Bly
from What have I ever lost by dying? 

the walls and fences


Now I yearn for one of those old, meandering, dry uninhabited roads, 
which lead away from towns, which lead us away from temptation, 
which conduct to the outside of Earth, over its uppermost crust; 
where you may forget in what country you are traveling; where no farmer can
 complain that you are treading down his grass, no gentleman who has
 recently constructed a seat in the country that you are trespassing; 
on which you can go off at half cock and wave adieu to the village;
 along which you may travel like a pilgrim, going nowhither; 
where travelers are not too often to be met; where my spirit is free;
 where the walls and fences are not cared for; where your head is more
 in heaven than your feet are on earth; which have long reaches 
where you can see the approaching traveler half a mile off
 and be prepared for him; not so luxuriant a soil as to attract men; 
some root and stump fences which do not need attention; where travelers 
have no occasion to stop, but pass along and leave you to your thoughts; 
where it makes no odds which way you face, whether you are going or coming, 
whether it is morning or evening, mid-noon or midnight; where earth is 
cheap enough by being public; where you can walk and think with least obstruction,
 where you can pace when your breast is full, and cherish your moodiness; 
where you are not in false relations with men, are not dining nor conversing 
with them; by which you may go to the uttermost parts of the earth.

~ Henry David Thoreau
from his journal, July 21 1851
art by Roderick Maclver

Sunday, February 23, 2020

a thousand walls

We must not portray you in king's robes,
you drifting mist that brought forth the morning.

Once again from the old paintboxes
we take the same gold for scepter and crown
that has disguised you through the ages.

Piously we produce our images of you
till they stand around you like a thousand walls  
And when our hearts would simply open,
our fervent hands hide you.

~ Rainer Rilke
from The Book of Monastic Life
 art by marika-k