Wednesday, February 10, 2021

a man whose eyes love opens

The other birds in turn received their chance
To show off their loquacious ignorance.
All made their excuses - floods of foolish words
Flowed from these babbling, rumor-loving birds.
Forgive me, reader, if I do not say
All these excuses to avoid the Way;
But in an incoherent rush they came,
And all were inappropriate and lame.
How could they gain the Simorgh?  Such a goal
Belongs to those who discipline the soul.
The hoopoe counseled them: 'The world holds few
As worthy of the Simorgh's throne as you,
But you must empty this first glass; the wine
That follows it is love's devoted sign.
If petty problems keep you back - or none -
How will you seek the treasures of the sun?
In drops you lose yourselves, yet you must dive
Through untold fathoms and remain alive.
This is no journey for the indolent -
Our quest is Truth itself, not just its scent!'

When they had understood the hoopoe's words,
A clamor of complaint rose from the birds:
'Although we recognize you as our guide,
You must accept - it cannot be denied -
We are a wretched, flimsy crew at best,
And lack the bare essentials for this quest.
Our feathers and our wings, our bodies' strength
Are quite unequal to the journey's length;
For one of us to reach the Simorgh's throne
Would be miraculous, a thing unknown.
At least say what relationship obtains
Between His might and ours; who can take pains
To search for mysteries when he is blind?
If there were some connection we could find,
We would be more prepared to take our chance.
He seems like Solomon, and we like ants;
How can mere ants climb from their darkened pit
Up to the Simorgh's realm?  And is it fit
That beggars try the glory of a king?
How ever could they manage such a thing?'

The hoopoe answered them:  'How can love thrive
in hearts impoverished and half alive?
"Beggars," you say - such niggling poverty
Will not encourage truth or charity.
A man whose eyes love opens risks his soul -
His dancing breaks beyond the mind's control.
When long ago the Simorgh first appeared -
His face like sunlight when the clouds have cleared -
He cast unnumbered shadows on the earth,
On each one fixed His eyes, and each gave birth.
Thus we were born; the birds of every land
Are still his shadows - think, and understand.
If you had known this secret you would you would see
The link between yourselves and majesty.
Do not reveal this truth, and God for-fend
That you mistake for God Himself God's friend.
If you become that substance I propound,
You are not God, though in God you are drowned;
Those lost in Him are not the Deity -
This problem can be argued endlessly.
You are His shadow, and cannot be moved
By thoughts of life or death once this is proved.
If He had kept His majesty concealed,
No earth shadow would have been revealed,
And where that shadow was directly cast
The race of bird sprang up before it passed.
Your heart is not a mirror bright and clear
If there the Simorgh's form does not appear;
No one can bear His beauty face to face,
And for this reason, of His perfect grace,
He makes a mirror in our hearts - look there
To see Him, search your hearts with anxious care.

~ Farid Attar
from The Conference of Birds
translated by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis

the resemblance between your life and a dog

I never intended to have this life, believe me --
It just happened.  You know how dogs turn up
At a farm, and they wag but can't explain.

It's good if you can accept your life - you'll notice
Your face has become deranged trying to adjust
To it.  Your face thought your life would look

Like your bedroom mirror when you were ten.
That was a clear river touched by mountain wind.
Even your parents can't believe how much you've changed.

Sparrows in winter, if you've ever held one, all feathers,
Burst out of your hand with a fiery glee.
You see them later in hedges.  Teachers praise you,

But you can't quite get back to the winter sparrow.
Your life is a dog.  He's been hungry for miles,
Doesn't particularly like you, but gives up, and comes in.

~ Robert Bly
from Eating the Honey of Words


Indeterminacy means, literally: not fixed, not settled, uncertain, indefinite.
 It means that you don't know where you are. 
How can it be otherwise, say the Buddhist teachings, 
since you have no fixed or inherent identity 
and are ceaselessly in process?
Life is filled with uncertainty.  Chance events happen to all of us. 
Each of us must take responsibility and make decisions. 
None of us should be imposing our ego image on others.

There's another way to live.
 Accept indeterminacy as a principle,
 and you see your life in a new light,
 as a series of seemingly unrelated jewel-like stories 
within a dazzling setting of change and transformation.
 Recognize that you don't know where you stand,
 and you will begin to watch where you put your feet.
 That's when the path appears.

~ John Cage
from Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, 
Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists
by Kay Larson


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

be open

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it's sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there's never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile


In 1926, Cummings' father was killed in a car accident. Though severely injured, Cummings' mother survived. Cummings detailed the accident in the following passage from his i: six nonlectures series given at Harvard (as part of the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures) in 1952–1953:

... a locomotive cut the car in half, killing my father instantly. When two brakemen jumped from the halted train, they saw a woman standing – dazed but erect – beside a mangled machine; with blood spouting (as the older said to me) out of her head. One of her hands (the younger added) kept feeling her dress, as if trying to discover why it was wet. These men took my sixty-six year old mother by the arms and tried to lead her toward a nearby farmhouse; but she threw them off, strode straight to my father's body, and directed a group of scared spectators to cover him. When this had been done (and only then) she let them lead her away.

His father's death had a profound impact on Cummings, who entered a new period in his artistic life. Cummings began to focus on more important aspects of life in his poetry. He began this new period by paying homage to his father's memory in the poem "my father moved through dooms of love"

Born into a Unitarian family, Cummings exhibited transcendental leanings his entire life. As he grew in maturity and age, Cummings moved more toward an "I, Thou" relationship with God. His journals are replete with references to “le bon Dieu” as well as prayers for inspiration in his poetry and artwork (such as “Bon Dieu! may I some day do something truly great. amen.”). Cummings "also prayed for strength to be his essential self ('may I be I is the only prayer--not may I be great or good or beautiful or wise or strong'), and for relief of spirit in times of depression ('almighty God! I thank thee for my soul; & may I never die spiritually into a mere mind through disease of loneliness')."

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

~ from Wikipedia

the starting point

Images, however sacred
they may be, retain
the attention outside,
whereas at the time of prayer
the attention must be within -
in the heart.  The concentration
of attention in the heart -
this is the starting point of prayer.

~ Saint Theophan the Recluse
from for lovers of god everywhere
compiled by Roger Housden

deepest prayer

A person should always offer a prayer of graciousness 
for the love that has awakened in them. 
When you feel love for your beloved and his or her love for you, 
now and again you should offer the warmth of your love 
as a blessing for those who are damaged and unloved. 

Send that love out into the world to people who are desperate; 
to those who are starving; to those who are trapped in prison; 
in hospitals and all the brutal terrains of bleak and tormented lives. 

When you send that love out from the bountifulness of your own love, 
it reaches other people. 
This love is the deepest power of prayer.

~ John O'Donohue
from Anam Cara

Sunday, February 7, 2021

one art


The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
Elizabeth Bishop
 with thanks to brainpickings

Saturday, February 6, 2021



Lead me from dreaming to waking.
Lead me from opacity to clarity.
Lead me from the complicated to the simple.
Lead me from the obscure to the obvious.
Lead me from intention to attention.
Lead me from what I'm told I am to what I see I am.
Lead me from confrontation to wide openness.
Lead me to the place I never left,
Where there is peace, and peace

~ The Upanishads






peace is every step

Peace is every step.
The shining red sun is my heart.
Each flower smiles with me.
How green, how fresh all that grows.
How cool the wind blows.
Peace is every step.
It turns the endless path to joy.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh
photo by Ansel Adams


Friday, February 5, 2021

into the stillness


There is a silence into which the world cannot intrude. 
There is an ancient peace you carry in your heart and have not lost. 
Lay down your arms and come without defense into the quiet place 
where Heaven's peace holds all things still at last.
 Lay down all thoughts of danger and of fear.

As you close your eyes, sink into the stillness.
 Let these periods of rest and respite reassure your mind
 that all its frantic fantasies were but dreams 
of fever that has passed away. 
Let it be still and thankfully accept its healing.

~ A Course in Miracles
art by Odilon Redon

behind uneasyness

Remedios Varo

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

This one time upon the earth,
let’s not speak any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be a delicious moment,
without hurry, without locomotives,
all of us would be together
in a sudden uneasiness.

The fishermen in the cold sea
would do no harm to the whales
and the peasant gathering salt
would look at his torn hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars of gas, wars of fire,
victories without survivors,
would put on clean clothing
and would walk alongside their brothers
in the shade, without doing a thing.

What I want shouldn’t be confused
with final inactivity:
life alone is what matters,
I want nothing to do with death.

If we weren’t unanimous
about keeping our lives so much in motion,

if we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would
interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death,
perhaps the earth is teaching us
when everything seems to be dead
and then everything is alive.

Now I will count to twelve
and you keep quiet and I’ll go.

~ Pablo Neruda 
from Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon

to love another

To love another as a person we must begin by granting
 him his own autonomy and identity as a person. 
We have to love him for what he is in himself, 
and not for what he is to us. 

We have to love him for his own good, 
not for the good we get out of him. 

And this is impossible unless we are capable of a love 
which ‘transforms’ us, so to speak, into the other person, 
making us able to see things as he sees them, love what he loves, 
experience the deeper realities of his own life as if they were our own. 

Without sacrifice, such a transformation is utterly impossible. 
But unless we are capable of this kind of transformation 
‘into the other’ 
while remaining ourselves, 
we are not yet capable of a fully human existence.

~ Thomas Merton
from Disputed Questions

Thursday, February 4, 2021

attention and generosity


Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer.
 It presupposes faith and love.
Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.

If we turn our mind toward the good,
 it is impossible that little by little the whole soul
 will not be attracted thereto in spite of itself.

We have to try to cure our faults by attention
 and not by will.

The will only controls a few movements of a few muscles, 
and these movements are associated with the idea 
of the change of position of nearby objects.
 I can will to put my hand flat on the table.
 If inner purity, inspiration or truth of thought 
were necessarily associated with attitudes of this kind, 
they might be the object of will.
 As this is not the case, we can only beg for them… 
Or should we cease to desire them? 
What could be worse?
 Inner supplication is the only reasonable way,
 for it avoids stiffening muscles which have nothing to do with the matter.
 What could be more stupid than to tighten up our muscles 
and set our jaws about virtue, or poetry, or the solution of a problem.
 Attention is something quite different.

Pride is a tightening up of this kind.
 There is a lack of grace (we can give the word its double meaning here)
 in the proud man.
 It is the result of a mistake.
Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.
~ Simone Weil
from First and Last Notebooks
with thanks to brainpickings

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

leaning forward



Our society is very result-oriented, 
that’s why we are so competitive. 
That’s why we are always stressed,
 because we are always looking at something in the distance. 
If you are always looking at the top of the mountain you are climbing,
you cannot be aware of the grass and flowers growing at your feet. 
We are always looking ahead, aren’t we? 
And then the actual thing, the actual living, passes us by.
We are locked inside our brains, cut off from the present moment,
always centered on something beyond our reach. 
We are imagining this mirage of happiness, satisfaction and fulfillment
which will magically appear once this and this and this happens. 
But what’s happening right now is “it”
 and it’s the only “it” we have.
The rest is just fabrication.
~ Tenzin Palmo 

blank postcards

The calendar all booked up, the future unknown.
The cable silently hums some folk song
but lacks a country.  Snow falls in a gray sea.  Shadows
fight out on the dock.

Halfway through your life, death turns up
and takes your pertinent measurements.  We forget
the visit.  Life goes on. But someone is sewing
the suit in the silence.

~Tomas Transtromer
from The Half-Finished Heaven
translation by robert bly
art by picasso