Tuesday, July 21, 2020

to love myself

~ Thich Nhat Hanh


Monday, July 20, 2020

the way of the heart - Rumi

Sunday, July 19, 2020

in the kingdom of insecurity

As the under-secretary leans forward and draws an X
her earrings dangle like the sword above Damocles,
As a speckled butterfly turns invisible against the earth
the demon merges with the opened newspaper.
A helmet worn by no one seizes power.
A mother tortoise escapes, flying underwater.

~ Tomas Transtromer
from The Sorrow Gondola
translations by Michael McGriff and Mikaela Grassl

at the center

The Master is not trapped in opposites. His this is also a that. 
He sees that life becomes death and death becomes life,
 that right has a kernel of wrong within it and wrong a kernel of right,
 that the true turns into the false and the false into the true. 

He understands that nothing is absolute,
 that since every point of view depends on the viewer, 
affirmation and denial are equally beside the point. 
The place where the this and the that are not opposed to each other
 is called "the pivot of the Tao." When we find this pivot, we find ourselves
 at the center of the circle, and here we sit, serene, 
while Yes and No keep chasing each other
 around the circumference, endlessly. 

Mind can only create the qualities of good and bad by comparing. 
Remove the comparison, and there go the qualities. 
What remains is the pure unknown: ungraspable object,
 ungraspable subject, and the clear light of awareness 
streaming through. The pivot of the Tao
 is the mind free of its thoughts.
 It doesn't believe that this is a this
 or that that is a that. 

Let Yes and No sprint around the circumference
 toward a finish line that doesn't exist. How can they stop trying
 to win the argument of life until you stop? When you do, 
you realize that you were the only one running.

 Yes was you,
 No was you, 
the whole circumference, with its colored banners,
 its pom-pom girls and frenzied crowds - that was you as well.
 At the center, the eyes open and again
 it's the sweet morning of the world. There's nothing here
 to limit you, no one here to draw a circumference.
 In fact, there's no one here - 
not even you.

~ Stephen Mitchell
from The Second Book of the Tao
art by Master Shen-Long
with thanks to Love is a Place


~ Kraig Kenning

Tuesday, July 14, 2020


~ Anne Gastinel & Pablo Marques

perfect accord

Some people who play solos quite well simply are no good at accompanying.  
It takes a special something to know when to keep in the background 
and when to play out to give the soloist support and when, 
occasionally, the piano has a real solo passage or phrase ... 

The thing is to think of the piece as a whole, 
not as a violin part with an accompanying piano part, 
but as one piece of music.  
You feel as if you were playing the violin part yourself, 
you are in such perfect accord with the violinist.

~ Anna Hubbard
in this letter to Mia Cunningham, Anna describes her experience of playing with Harlan.  
It might as easily describe the art of  living graciously with others.

from "Anna Hubbard - Out of the Shadows"
by Mia Cunningham

Anna and Mia,1956
(Mia left)

Monday, July 13, 2020


Blessed be the longing that brought you here and that quicken your soul with wonder.
May you have the courage to befriend your eternal longing.
May you enjoy the critical and creative companionship of the question "Who am I?" and may it brighten your longing.
May a secret Providence guide your thought and shelter your feeling.
May your mind inhabit your life with the same sureness with which your body belongs to the world.
May the sense of something absent enlarge your life.
May your soul be as free as the ever-new waves of the sea.
May you succumb to the danger of growth.
May you live in the neighborhood of wonder.
May you belong to love with the wildness of Dance.
May you know that you are ever embraced in the kind circle of God.

~ John O'Donohue

the longing

The sweetest thing in all my life 
has been the longing - to reach the Mountain, 
to find the place where all the beauty came from - 
my country, the place where I ought to have been born. 
Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? 
The longing for home? 
For indeed it now feels not like going, 
but like going back.

~ C.S. Lewis

a secret thread

You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. 
You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them,
 though you cannot put it into words: but most of your friends do not see it at all,
 and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that.
 Again, you have stood 
before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for
 all your life; and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing 
what you saw - but at the first words a gulf yawns between you, and you realize
that this landscape means something totally different to him, that he is pursuing 
an alien vision and cares nothing for the ineffable suggestion by which you 
are transported.
 Even in your hobbies, has there not always been some secret
 attraction which the others are curiously ignorant of - something, not to 
be identified with, but always on the verge of breaking through, 
the smell of cut wood in the workshop
 or the clap-clap of water against the boat’s side?

Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet
 another human being who has some inkling (but faint and uncertain 
even in the best) of that something which you were born desiring, 
and which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences
 between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood 
to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for? You have never had it. 
All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints
 of it - tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away
 just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest - if there ever
 came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself 
you would know it.
 Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say
 “Here at last is the thing I was made for.” We cannot tell each other about it. 
It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable
 want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends
 or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, 
when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work. While we are,
 this is. If we lose this, we lose all.

~ C.S. Lewis
from The Problem of Pain
art by Stushie
with thanks to Love is a Place

Saturday, July 11, 2020

from Saint Francis and the Sow

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;   
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;  

~ Galway Kinnell 


A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.

This man carries the world's most sensitive cargo
but he's not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,

His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy's dream
deep inside him.

We're not going to be able
to live in this world
if we're not willing to do what he's doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.

~ Naomi Shihab Nye
 from Red Suitcase

Friday, July 10, 2020

water and ice

There is no place to put the mind. 
A certain person once said, "No matter where I put my mind,
 my intentions are held in check in the place where my mind goes,
 and I lose to my opponent. Because of that, I place my mind 
just below my navel and do not let it wander. Then am I able to change
 according to the actions of my opponent." This is reasonable.

 But viewed from the highest standpoint of Buddhism, putting the mind 
just below the navel and not allowing it to wander is a low level
 of understanding, not a high one. It is at the level of discipline 
and training. It is at the level of seriousness. Or of Mencius' saying,
 "Seek after the lost mind." This is not the highest level either.
 It has the sense of seriousness. As for the "lost mind,"
 I have written about this elsewhere, and you can take a look at it there. 
If you consider putting your mind below your navel and not letting it wander, 
your mind will be taken by the mind that thinks of this plan.

You will have no ability to move ahead and will be exceptionally unfree.
 This leads to the next question, "If putting my mind below my navel
 leaves me unable to function and without freedom, it is of no use.
 In what part of my body, then, should I put my mind?" I answered,
 "If you put it in your right hand, it will be taken by the right hand
 and your body will lack its functioning. If you put your mind in the eye, 
it will be taken by the eye, and your body will lack its functioning.
 If you put your mind in your right foot, your mind will be taken by
 the right foot and your body will lack its functioning.

 "No matter where you put it, if you put the mind in on place,
 the rest of your body will lack its functioning."
 "Well, then, where does one put his mind." I answered,
 "If you don't put it anywhere, it will go to all parts of your body
 and extend throughout its entirety. In this way, when it enters your hand,
 it will realize the hand's function. When it enters your foot, it will realize
 the foot's function. When it enters your eye, 
it will realize the eye's function. 

Putting the mind in one place is called falling into onesidedness.
 One-sidedness is said to be bias in one place. Correctness is in moving
 about anywhere. The Correct Mind shows itself by extending the mind 
throughout the body. It not biased in any one place. When the mind is biased
 in one place and lacking in another, it is called a one-sided mind.
 One-sidedness is despicable. To be arrested by anything, no matter what, 
is falling into one-sidedness and is despised by those travelling the Way. 

The Right Mind is the mind that does not remain in one place. 
It is the mind that stretches throughout the entire body and self.
 The Confused Mind is the mind that, thinking something over,
 congeals in one place. When the Right Mind congeals and settles
 in one place, it becomes what is called the Confused Mind. 

When the Right Mind is lost, it is lacking in function here and there.
 For this reason, it is important not to lose it. In not remaining in one place,
 the Right Mind is like water. The Confused Mind is like ice, 
and ice is unable to wash hands or head. When ice is melted, it becomes water 
and flows everywhere, and it can wash the hands, the feet or anything else. 

If the mind congeals in one place and remains with one thing,
 it is like frozen water and is unable to be used freely: ice that can wash 
neither hands nor feet. When the mind is The Unfettered Mind –
 Writings of the Zen Master to the Sword Master melted and is used like water,
 extending throughout the body, it can be sent wherever one wants to send it.
 This is the Right Mind. 

~ Takuan Soho
from The Unfettered Mind:
 writings of the Zen Master to the Sword Master 
translated by William Scott Wilson

Thursday, July 9, 2020

his peaceful death and his insight


excerpts from:

Henry David Thoreau

Henry Thoreau as Remembered by a Young Friend
Edward Emerson, (1917)

Thoreau was but forty-four years old when he died.
 Even his health could not throw off a chill got by long stooping
 in a wet snow storm counting the growth-rings on the stumps of some old trees.
 The family infection became active. He lived a year and a half 
after this exposure and made a trip to Minnesota in vain for health.

 For the last months he was confined to the house, he was affectionate,
 and utterly brave, and worked on his manuscript until the last days.
 When his neighbour, Reverend Mr. Reynolds, came in
 he found him so employed, and he looked up cheerfully and, 
with a twinkle in his eye, whispered -- his voice was gone --
 "you know it's respectable to leave an estateto one's friends "
His old acquaintance Staples, once his jailer,
 coming out, meeting Mr. Emerson coming in, reported that he
 "never saw a man dying with so much pleasure and peace." 

To his Calvinistic Aunt who felt obliged to ask,
 "Henry, have you made your peace with God?" -- 
"I did not know we had ever quarreled, Aunt," 
was the pleasant answer. 

His friend and companion, Edward Hoar, 
said to me, "With Thoreau's life something went out of Concord woods
 and fields and river that never will return. He so loved Nature,
 delighted in her every aspect and seemed to infuse himself into her." 
Yes, something went. But our woods and waters will always be different
 because of this man. Something of him abides and truly "for good"
 in his town. Here he was born, and within its borders he found 
a wealth of beauty and interest -- 
all that he asked -- 
and shared it with us all.


Thoreau writes: "Explore your own higher latitudes; nay,
 be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, 
opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.
 Every man is lord of a realm beside which the earthly empire of the Czar
 is but a petty state. I do not wish to be any more busy with my hands 
than is necessary. My head is hands and feet. I feel all my best faculties
 concentrated in it. My instinct tells me that my head is an organ for burrowing,
 as some creatures use their snout and fore-paws, and with it I would mine
 and burrow my way through these hills. I think that the richest vein 
is somewhere hereabouts: so by the divining rod and thin rising vapours
 I judge: and here I will begin to mine."

Again: "If my curve is large, why bend it to a smaller circle?"

Emerson wrote of Thoreau:
 "He who sees the horizon may securely say what he pleases
 of any twig or tree between him and it."

Thoreau, living by Walden wrote:
 "In a pleasant spring morning all men's sins are forgiven. 
Such a day is a truce to vice. While such a sun holds out to burn,
 the vilest sinner may return. Through our own recovered innocence
 we discern the innocence of our neighbors. You may have known
 your neighbour yesterday for a thief, a drunkard, or a sensualist, 
and merely pitied or despised him, and despaired of the world;
 but the sun shines bright and warm this spring morning, 
recreating the world, and you meet him at some serene work, 
and see how his exhausted and debauched veins expand with still joy
 and bless the new day, feel the spring influence with the innocence 
of infancy, and all his faults are forgotten. There is not only an atmosphere 
of goodwill about him, but even a savour of holiness groping for expression,
 blindly and ineffectually perhaps, like a new-born instinct, 
 and for a short hour the south hill-side echoes to no vulgar jest. 
You see some innocent fair shoots preparing to burst from his gnarled rind 
 and try another year's life, tender and fresh as the youngest plant. 
Even he has entered into the joy of his lord. 
Why the jailer does not leave open his prison doors, -- 
why the judge does not dismiss his case, --
 why the preacher does not dismiss his congregation.
 It is because they do not obey the hint that God gives them, 
nor accept the pardon that he freely offers to all."

  He loved the River: "It is my own highway, the only wild 
and unfenced part of the world hereabouts.
" But always he looked for something behind what he saw. 
At another time he writes: "Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.
 I drink at it, but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect
 how shallow it is. Its thin current glides away, but eternity remains.
 I would drink deeper; fish in the sky whose bottom
 is pebbly with stars."


  The news of Thoreau's death came to Louisa Alcott, 
then nursing in a military hospital. In the watches of the night, 
sitting by the cot of a dying soldier, her thoughts wandered back 
to the happy evenings when Thoreau might bring his flute with him 
to please the growing girls, when he visited the elders; that yellow flute, 
very melodious in its tone, which his brother John used to play. 
In these sad surroundings she wrote: --
Thoreau's Flute We sighing said, "Our Pan is dead --
His pipe hangs mute beside the river,
Around it friendly moonbeams quiver,
But music's airy voice is fled.
Spring comes to us in guise forlorn,
The blue-bird chants a requiem,
The willow-blossom waits for him,
The genius of the wood is gone"
Then from the flute, untouched by hands,
There came a low, harmonious breath:
For such as he there is no death.
His life the eternal life commands.
Above men's aims his nature rose.
The wisdom of a just content
Made one small spot a continent,
And turned to poetry life's prose
Haunting the hills, the stream, the wild,
Swallow and aster, lake and pine
To him seemed human or divine,
Fit mates for this large-hearted child.
Such homage Nature ne'er forgets;
And yearly on the coverlid
'Neath which her darling lieth hid
Will write his name in violets.
To him no vain regrets belong
Whose soul, that finer instrument,
Gave to the world no poor lament,
But wood-notes ever sweet and strong.
Oh lonely friend, He still will be
A potent presence, though unseen,
Steadfast, sagacious and serene.
Seek not for him: he is with Thee.


  The friendship and honour one for the other ran true to the end, 
in spite of temperamental barriers in communication.
 Emerson spoke his feeling about his friend at the burial: -- 

"The Country knows not yet, or in the least part how great a son it has lost. 
It seems an injury that he should leave, in the midst, his broken task, 
which none can finish, a kind of indignity to so noble a soul 
that he should depart out of Nature before yet he has been really shown
 to his peers for what he is. But he, at least, is content.
 His soul was made for the noblest society; he had in a short life
 exhausted the capabilities of this world: wherever there is knowledge,
 wherever there is virtue, wherever there is beauty,
 he will find a home."

the entire transcript found here:

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

without identity

~ Joseph Goldstein