Wednesday, March 10, 2021


To go forth now
from all the entanglement
that is ours and yet not ours,
that, like the water in an old well,
reflects us in fragments, distorts what we are.
From all that clings like burrs and brambles—
to go forth
and see for once, close up, afresh,
what we had ceased to see—
so familiar it had become.
To glimpse how vast and how impersonal
is the suffering that filled your childhood.
Yes, to go forth, hand pulling away from hand.
Go forth to what? To uncertainty,
to a country with no connections to us
and indifferent to the dramas of our life.
What drives you to go forth? Impatience, instinct,
a dark need, the incapacity to understand.
To bow to all this.
To let go—
even if you have to die alone.
Is this the start of a new life?

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
excerpt from  The Prodigal Son, 
The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge
art by Ruth Norman

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

no longer seeks

This Soul... no longer seeks God through penitence, 
nor through any sacrament of Holy Church; 
not through thought, nor through words, nor through works;
 not through creature here below, nor through creature above; 
not through justice, nor through mercy; not through glory of glory; 
not through divine understanding, nor though divine love,
 nor through divine praise.

...Such a Soul neither desires nor despises poverty nor tribulation, 
neither mass nor sermon, neither fast nor prayer,
 and gives to Nature all that is necessary,
 without remorse of conscience.  

But such nature is so well ordered through
 the transformation by unity of Love,
 to whom the will of this Soul is conjoined,
 that nature demands nothing which is prohibited.

Such a Soul often hears what she hears not,
and often sees what she sees not,
and so often she is there where she is not,
and so often she feels what she feels not.

~ Marguerite Porete
from The Mirror of Simple Souls

On the first of June 1310 at the Place de Grève in Paris, 
Marguerite Porete was burned at the stake,
 enduring what the great nineteenth-century historian of the Inquisition,
 H. C. Lea, called the first formal auto-da-fé in Paris.
 Condemned as a relapsed heretic, Marguerite accepted her fate calmly 
and without fear, and she was regarded with great admiration 
by those who witnessed her death, many of whom burst into tears
 during the execution. Her condemnation came as the result
 of her unwillingness to discuss or denounce the teachings
 found in her great mystical work the Mirror of Simple Souls,
 which was written in Old French. Although judged heretical,
 the Mirror was a work of great popularity and influence
 during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and beyond.

a lesson in drawing

My son places his paint box in front of me
and asks me to draw a bird for him.
Into the color gray I dip the brush
and draw a square with locks and bars.
Astonishment fills his eyes:
'… But this is a prison, Father,
Don't you know, how to draw a bird?'
And I tell him: 'Son, forgive me.
I've forgotten the shapes of birds.'

My son puts the drawing book in front of me
and asks me to draw a wheatstalk.
I hold the pen
and draw a gun.
My son mocks my ignorance,
'Don't you know, Father, the difference between a
wheatstalk and a gun?'
I tell him, 'Son,
once I used to know the shapes of wheatstalks
the shape of the loaf
the shape of the rose
But in this hardened time
the trees of the forest have joined
the militia men
and the rose wears dull fatigues
In this time of armed wheatstalks
armed birds
armed culture
and armed religion
you can't buy a loaf
without finding a gun inside
you can't pluck a rose in the field
without its raising its thorns in your face
you can't buy a book
that doesn't explode between your fingers.'

My son sits at the edge of my bed
and asks me to recite a poem,
A tear falls from my eyes onto the pillow.
My son licks it up, astonished, saying:
'But this is a tear, father, not a poem!'
And I tell him:
'When you grow up, my son,
and read the diwan of Arabic poetry
you'll discover that the word and the tear are twins
and the Arabic poem
is no more than a tear wept by writing fingers.'

My son lays down his pens, his crayon box in
front of me
and asks me to draw a homeland for him.
The brush trembles in my hands
and I sink, weeping. 

~ Nizar Qabbani

Born on this date in Damascus, Syria (1923). His mother, who was illiterate, sold her jewelry to raise money to publish his first anthology, Childhood of a Bosom (1948), and he went on to become the most popular Arab poet and to publish more than 20 books of poetry. Much of his poetry was influenced by the tragic deaths of two women he loved. When he was 15, his older sister committed suicide rather than be forced into marriage with a man she did not love, and he turned his attention to the situation of Arab women. He wrote romantic, sensual poems and poetry demonstrating the need for sexual equality and women's rights. Many years later, in 1981, his second wife, an Iraqi woman, died during the Lebanese Civil War when the Iraqi Embassy was bombed. Qabbani was grief-stricken and frustrated with the political and cultural climate of the Arab world, and he lived in Europe for the rest of his life.  He died April 30, 1998.

~ comments from writers almanac

Monday, March 8, 2021

empty as the open sky


Contemplating the clear moon
Reflecting a mind empty as the open sky -
Drawn by it's beauty,
I lose myself
In the shadows it casts.
~ Dogen
from The Zen Poetry of Dogen

Saturday, March 6, 2021

the inclination of the mind



Whatever a person frequently thinks and reflects on, 
that will become the inclination of their mind.

~ Buddha

Speak and act from unwise thoughts, 
and sorrow will follow you as surely as the wheel follows the ox who draws the cart.
 Speak and act from wise thoughts 
and happiness will follow you as closely as your shadow, unshakable. 
~ The Dhammapada

Whatever we regularly think colors our experience—all day, every day.
 Once we start to watch these thoughts, we discover that 90% of them are reruns!
 Others are about problems:
 “I need to call John about the roof again. I hope he can finally fix it.”
 Some are about our preferences: 
“I like the way this person talks.” “I really hate this traffic.” 
Many are worry or self-evaluation: “Oops, I’m messing up again. 
How do I get through this?” “Wow, I pulled that off well. I hope it was noticed!”

Our life is shaped and determined by our thoughts. 
Usually we are only half conscious of the way thoughts direct our life;
 we are lost in thoughts as if they are reality. 
We take our own mental creations quite seriously,
 endorsing them without reservation.
Often our fears don’t turn out to be accurate predictions of anything.
 As Mark Twain put it,
 “My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes—
most of which never happened!”

With the letting go of unhealthy thoughts, there arises a space, a calm, 
an opening to add healthy thoughts of love and self-respect. 
With all the dignity, courage and tenderness you possess,
 say from your heart phrases of loving-kindness such as:
 “May I be filled with compassion for myself and others.
 May I hold myself with care and respect. 
May I treasure my life.
 May I be filled with kindness.” 
Plant these loving thoughts, water these seeds of well-being, 
over and over until they take root in your heart and mind.
 ~ Jack Kornfield
Australian aboriginal art

Friday, March 5, 2021



in midnight water,
no waves, no wind,
the empty boat
is flooded with moonlight.

~ Dogen

container and content



A wise man, the wonder of his age, taught his disciples 
from a seemingly inexhaustible store of wisdom. 
He attributed all his knowledge to a thick tome 
which was kept in a place of honour in his room. 
The sage would allow nobody to open the volume.
 When he died, those who had surrounded him,
 regarding themselves as his heirs, ran to open the book,
 anxious to possess what it contained. 
They were surprised, confused and disappointed when they found
 that there was writing on only one page. They became even more bewildered 
and then annoyed when they tried to penetrate the meaning of the phrase
 which met their eyes. It was:
 "When you realize the difference between the container and the content, 
you will have knowledge."
- Idries Shah
from The Book of the Book
with thanks to whiskey river

last year's language


For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
But, as the passage now presents no hindrance
To the spirit unappeased and peregrine
Between two worlds become much like each other,
So I find words I never thought to speak
In streets I never thought I should revisit
When I left my body on a distant shore.
Since our concern was speech, and speech impelled us
To purify the dialect of the tribe
And urge the mind to aftersight and foresight,
Let me disclose the gifts reserved for age
To set a crown upon your lifetime's effort.
First, the cold fricton of expiring sense
Without enchantment, offering no promise
But bitter tastelessness of shadow fruit
As body and sould begin to fall asunder.
Second, the conscious impotence of rage
At human folly, and the laceration
Of laughter at what ceases to amuse.
And last, the rending pain of re-enactment
Of all that you have done, and been; the shame
Of things ill done and done to others' harm
Which once you took for exercise of virtue.
Then fools' approval stings, and honour stains.
From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit
Proceeds, unless restored by that refining fire
Where you must move in measure, like a dancer."
The day was breaking. In the disfigured street
He left me, with a kind of valediction,
And faded on the blowing of the horn. 

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,


We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree

Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always--
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
 ~ T. S. Eliot
from  The Little Gidding
  the last of The Four Quartets

Thursday, March 4, 2021

for you


For you who
rarely visit,
though you have already arrived,
may the early evening storm
not blow so hard!
~ Ryokan
 from Sky Above, Great Wind
by Kazuaki Tanahashi
photo by Wolverson Photography

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

I knew

Although from the beginning
I knew
the world is impermanent,
not a moment passes
when my sleeves are dry.

~ Ryokan
from Sky Above, Great Wind



 causing or tending to cause objects to slip 
 liable to slip from the grasp, a position, etc.
 not to be relied upon
 liable to change; unstable

An ardent Jehovah's Witness once tried to convince me
 that if there were a God of love, he would certainly provide mankind
 with a reliable and infallible textbook for the guidance of conduct.

 I replied that no considerate God would destroy the human mind 
by making it so rigid and unadaptable as to depend upon one book,
the Bible, for all the answers. For the use of words, and thus of a book,
 is to point beyond themselves to a world of life and experience
 that is not mere words or even ideas. Just as money is not real, 
consumable wealth, books are not life. To idolize scriptures
 is like eating paper currency.

Therefore the Book that I would like to slip to my children
 would itself be slippery. It would slip them into a new domain, 
not of ideas alone, but of experience and feeling. It would be a temporary
 medicine, not a diet; a point of departure, not a perpetual
 point of reference. They would read it and be done with it, 
for if it were well and clearly written they would not have to go back
 to it again and again for hidden meanings or for
 clarification of obscure doctrines.

~ Alan Watts
from The Book on The Taboo against knowing who you are

find your real being

There will be marriage, there will be children, 
there will be earning money to maintain a family; 
all this will happen in the natural course of events, 
for destiny must fulfill itself; you will go through it without resistance, 
facing tasks as they come, attentive and thorough, 
both in small things and big. 

But the general attitude will be of affectionate detachment, 
enormous goodwill, without expectation of return, 
constant giving without asking. 

In marriage you are neither the husband nor the wife; 
you are the love between the two. 

You are the clarity and kindness that makes everything orderly and happy. 
It may seem vague to you, but if you think a little, 
you will find that the mystical is most practical, 
for it makes your life creatively happy. 

Your consciousness is raised to a higher dimension, 
from which you see everything much clearer and with greater intensity. 

You realize that the person you became at birth 
and will cease to be at death is temporary and false. 

You are not the sensual, emotional and intellectual person, 
gripped by desires and fears. Find out your real being. 

What am I? 
is the fundamental question of all philosophy and psychology. 
Go into it deeply.

~ Nisargadatta

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

a parable


Buddha told a parable in a sutra:
A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled,
the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold
of a root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge.
The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man
looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting
to eat him. Only the vine sustained him. 
Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started
to gnaw away the vine.  The man saw a luscious strawberry
near him.  Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked
the strawberry with the other.
How sweet it tasted!
~ Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki
from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings 

Monday, March 1, 2021

can't see what they can’t see



People can't see what they can’t see. 
Their biases get in the way, surrounding them like a high wall,
 trapping them in ignorance, deception, and illusion. 
No amount of reasoning and argument will get through to them, 
unless we first learn how to break down the walls of bias. . . .

Confirmation Bias: We judge new ideas based on the ease with which they fit in with and confirm the only standard we have: old ideas, old information, and trusted authorities. As a result, our framing story, belief system, or paradigm excludes whatever doesn’t fit.

Complexity Bias: Our brains prefer a simple falsehood to a complex truth.

Community Bias: It’s almost impossible to see what our community doesn’t, can’t, or won’t see.

Complimentary Bias: If you are hostile to my ideas, I’ll be hostile to yours. If you are curious and respectful toward my ideas, I’ll respond in kind.

Competency Bias: We don’t know how much (or little) we know because we don’t know how much (or little) others know. In other words, incompetent people assume that most other people are about as incompetent as they are. As a result, they underestimate their [own] incompetence, and consider themselves at least of average competence.

Consciousness Bias: Some things simply can’t be seen from where I am right now. But if I keep growing, maturing, and developing, someday I will be able to see what is now inaccessible to me.

Comfort or Complacency Bias: I prefer not to have my comfort disturbed.

Conservative/Liberal Bias: I lean toward nurturing fairness and kindness, or towards strictly enforcing purity, loyalty, liberty, and authority, as an expression of my political identity.

Confidence Bias: I am attracted to confidence, even if it is false. I often prefer the bold lie to the hesitant truth.

Catastrophe or Normalcy Bias: I remember dramatic catastrophes but don’t notice gradual decline (or improvement).

Contact Bias: When I don’t have intense and sustained personal contact with “the other,” my prejudices and false assumptions go unchallenged.

Cash Bias: It’s hard for me to see something when my way of making a living requires me not to see it.

Conspiracy Bias: Under stress or shame, our brains are attracted to stories that relieve us, exonerate us, or portray us as innocent victims of malicious conspirators. 
Brian McLaren
from Why Don’t They Get It? 
Overcoming Bias in Others (and Yourself

observation of ourselves becomes very superficial


Everywhere society is conditioning the individual, 
and this conditioning takes the form of self-improvement, 
which is really the perpetuation of the 'me', 
the ego, in different forms.
 Self-improvement may be gross, or it may be very, 
very refined when it becomes the practice of virtue,
 goodness, the so-called love of one's neighbor, 
but essentially it is the continuance of the 'me', 
which is a product of the conditioning influences of society. 
 All your endeavor has gone into becoming something, 
either here, if you can make it, or if not, in another world;
 but it is the same urge, the same drive to maintain and continue the self.
Being free of society implies not being ambitious, 
not being covetous, not being competitive; 
it implies being nothing in relation to that society 
 which is striving to be something.  
But you see, it is very difficult to accept that because you may be trodden on, 
you may be pushed aside; you will have nothing.  In that nothingness
 there is sanity, not in the other...  
As long as one wants to be part of this society, 
one must breed insanity, wars, destruction, and misery; 
but to free oneself from this society - the society of violence,
 of wealth, of position, of success - requires patience, inquiry, 
discovery, not the reading of books, the chasing after teachers,
 psychologists, and all the rest of it.
If one is capable of studying, watching oneself,
 one begins to discover how cumulative memory is acting 
on everything one sees; one is forever evaluating,
 discarding or accepting, condemning or justifying, 
so one's experience is always within the field
 of the known, of the conditioned. 
  But without cumulative memory as a directive, most of us feel lost, 
we feel frightened, and so we are incapable of observing ourselves as we are. 
 When there is the accumulative process, which is the cultivation of memory, 
our observation of ourselves becomes very superficial.  Memory is helpful
 in directing, improving oneself, but in self-improvement there can never 
 be a revolution, a radical transformation. It is only when 
the sense of self-improvement completely ceases, 
but not by volition, that there is a possibility
 of something transcendental, 
something totally new coming into being.
~ J. Krishnamurti
from talks given:
August 7th, 1955
 August 28th, 1955