Aug 15 2018

New Anthology Almost Ready

I know, I haven’t sent a poem out for the last couple of weeks. The reason is that I have been deep into the final edits on the printed proof of the new Poetry Chaikhana anthology.

The new book will be called This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World. Here’s an advanced glimpse at the cover:

I’m so pleased with how it is coming together. I hope you will be too. Like the previous Poetry Chaikhana anthology, This Dance of Bliss will feature historical sacred poets along with a few contemporary voices. Rumi, St. John of the Cross, Lalla, Goethe, Hildegard von Bingen, Dogen, Khayyam, and many other favorites. Each poem is accompanied by the same sort of short meditations, musings, and commentaries you know so well from these emails. I will share more of a sampling from the book soon.

Several of you have already asked about pre-ordering copies of the book and, yes, I will be making this new anthology available for pre-orders very soon. Pre-ordered copies will come with a discount and a few other extras. Stay tuned!

As I bring this new anthology to publication, I may not be able maintain my normal weekly pattern with these poem emails. I am also trying to keep my work hours up at my day job, which is not always an easy balance, so sometimes these poem emails have had to wait. But the new book is very nearly ready — and then we call all join in on this dance of bliss!

One response so far

Aug 15 2018

Ivan M. Granger – Holy Ground

Published by under Poetry

Holy Ground
by Ivan M. Granger

Let the vision
of the vastness
you are
leave you
in glorious
ruins.

Pilgrims will come
to imagine
the grand temple
that once stood,
not realizing

            the wreck
            made this empty plain
            holy ground.

— from Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey, by Ivan M. Granger


/ Image by Stuzal /

I thought I’d share one of my own poems with you today…

So often we imagine our spiritual journey to be one of construction. We want to build a great shining monument within ourselves. It comes as a terrible shock how much the real spiritual work is actually about tearing down our structures.

Watch a wild field at dawn. Sit among the uneven grasses and opening wildflowers. Look at that empty space all around you. It is empty, yes, empty of our own constructions. But it is filled with life. It is an inherently holy space.

The same is true of the quiet depths in the heart. No perfect construction of spirituality is needed. We need to reveal the holy life that is already the foundation of our being. With courage and supreme balance, stand back and do nothing. Staying poised, just look. Notice all those fine structures we’ve erected over a lifetime, proclaiming, “Here I am!” Look closely, look long enough, and we start to see fine cracks appear. When we don’t actively shore them up, the cracks quickly expand. And then, all of a sudden — RUMBLE — the whole facade collapses.

THAT is the moment we’re waiting for! That is when we discover the empty plain beneath our feet. And we are a part of that living space.

The saints and sages of the past, the great artists and visionaries too — we imagine the grandeur of spirit they attained. But the truth is that their greatness was attained in their own collapse, amidst the ruins… and the giddy open spaces they then discovered.


Recommended Books: Ivan M. Granger

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics Diamond Cutters: Visionary Poets in America, Britain & Oceania Poems of Awakening: An International Anthology of Spiritual Poetry
More Books >>


Ivan M. Granger, Ivan M. Granger poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Ivan M. Granger

US (1969 – )
Secular or Eclectic
Yoga / Hindu : Advaita / Non-Dualist

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4 responses so far

Aug 15 2018

a good poem

We wake up a little more
when we read a good poem.

One response so far

Aug 08 2018

New Anthology Book Cover

Last week I received the printed proof copy of the new Poetry Chaikhana anthology, and I am now deep into reading it and making final edits to the text.

Here’s an advanced peek at the cover–

3 responses so far

Jul 31 2018

Book Update

I have been very focused on completing the new Poetry Chaikhana anthology. I recently registered the ISBN number for the new book. That’s probably a detail only a publisher finds satisfaction in, but that is one of the last few steps to having a final “official” publication. Printed proof copies are on the way for final review and any last changes. Stay tuned for an official announcement soon!

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Jul 31 2018

Emily Dickinson – Who has not found the Heaven–below

Published by under Poetry

Who has not found the Heaven–below
by Emily Dickinson

Who has not found the Heaven–below–
Will fail it above–
For Angels rent the House next ours,
Wherever we remove–

— from The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology), Edited by Ivan M. Granger


/ Image by Alice Popkorn /

These four lines by that reclusive American mystic, Emily Dickinson, proclaim a deep truth:

Who has not found the Heaven–below–
Will fail it above–

This statement has been getting mystics into trouble with orthodox religious authorities in every century. It is the assertion that heaven is not found somewhere ‘out there’–not in the future, not after death, not in some celestial otherworld. Heaven is here, now. It is within us and surrounds us, always! And–the most dangerous part of this insight—if we don’t discover it here “below,” it won’t be found elsewhere “above.”

A statement like this shatters the religious waiting game, waiting for death, waiting for the Second Coming (or for the Maitreya Buddha, or for a better rebirth, or whatever…) If the presence of Christ / Buddha-mind / fana / liberation is not recognized right here where we are, the passive expectation of it coming upon us some other day, at some other place, is sure to “fail.”

Another way of saying this is that, as we discover the heaven below, we find ourselves already dwelling in the heaven above. But, on the other hand, if we continue to deny the heaven below, we’ll fail to discover the gateway to heaven above.

Dickinson says, “For Angels rent the House next ours, / Wherever we remove–“ No matter where we go, the Divine Presence is right there with us. We just have to knock on the neighboring reality and introduce ourselves…


Recommended Books: Emily Dickinson

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry Saved by a Poem: The Transformative Power of Words
More Books >>


Emily Dickinson, Emily Dickinson poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Emily Dickinson

US (1830 – 1886) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic
Christian : Protestant

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2 responses so far

Jul 31 2018

true vision

A true vision is the voice of nature,
the intention of the universe,
uniquely tuned to our soul.

3 responses so far

Jul 27 2018

David Whyte – All the True Vows

Published by under Poetry

All the True Vows
by David Whyte

All the true vows
are secret vows
the ones we speak out loud
are the ones we break.

There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.

Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don’t turn your face away.

Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.

Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made
nor the work they have chosen

nor the one life that waits
beyond all the others.

By the lake in the wood
in the shadows
you can
whisper that truth
to the quiet reflection
you see in the water.

Whatever you hear from
the water, remember,

it wants you to carry
the sound of its truth on your lips.

Remember,
in this place
no one can hear you

and out of the silence
you can make a promise
it will kill you to break,

that way you’ll find
what is real and what is not.

I know what I am saying.
Time almost forsook me
and I looked again.

Seeing my reflection
I broke a promise
and spoke
for the first time
after all these years

in my own voice,

before it was too late
to turn my face again.

“All the True Vows” from The House of Belonging by David Whyte.  Copyright © 1997, 2004 by David Whyte.  Used by permission of the author and Many Rivers Press (www.davidwhyte.com)  All rights reserved.


/ Image by bittersweetveom /

I read this poem by David Whyte as a meditation on the alienation most of us feel at one time or another in our own lives. Too often we aren’t really present in our lives–

There is only one life
you can call your own…

He is saying that something powerful, even sacred, occurs when we stop contorting ourselves to reach for lives that are not our own. When we settle into ourselves, when we start to actually live our own lives, embody our own lives, we not only begin to really experience life deeply for the first time, we start to tap into “the one life that waits / beyond all others.”

Living this way, we find our true face, our true reflection.

I especially like the ending verses:

Seeing my reflection
I broke a promise
and spoke
for the first time
after all these years

in my own voice.

To rediscover our own voice, our true voice which has been socialized back into the shadows of our awareness, we have to break an old agreement, a “promise.” We must decide to no longer identify with the roles and expectations set up for us. Finally dropping the masks we wear, we discover our true face, our “reflection.” Then, “for the first time,” we can speak in our own voice.

Worth reading more than once…

And have a wonderful weekend! Full moon, eclipse, planets retrograde–in chaotic times with chaotic energies, dance!


Recommended Books: David Whyte

The House of Belonging Where Many Rivers Meet


David Whyte, David Whyte poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry David Whyte

US (1955 – )
Secular or Eclectic

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Jul 27 2018

The most mundane effort

The most mundane effort,
when approached with a sense of service
and a questing heart,
becomes an act of beauty.

No responses yet

Jul 20 2018

Hakim Sanai

Published by under Poetry

Naked in the Bee-House
by Hakim Sanai

English version by Coleman Barks

Being humble is right for you now.
Don’t thrash around showing your strength.

You’re naked in the bee-house!
It doesn’t matter how powerful
your arms and legs are.

To God, that is more of a lie
than your weakness is.

In his doorway your prestige
and your physical energy are just dust
on your face. Be helpless
and completely poor.

And don’t try to meet his eye!
That’s like signing a paper
that honors yourself.

If you can take care of things, do so!
But when you’re living at home with God,
you neither sew the world together
with desires nor tear it apart
with disappointments.

In that place existence itself
is illusion. All that is, is one.

Lost in that, your personal form
becomes a vast, empty mosque.

When you hold on to yourself,
you’re a fire-worshipping temple.
Dissolve, and let everything get done.
When you don’t, you’re an untrained colt,
full of erratic loving and biting.
Loyal sometimes, then treacherous.

Be more like the servant who owns nothing
and is neither hungry nor satisfied,
who has no hopes for anything,
and no fear of anyone.

An owl living near the king’s palace
is considered a bird of misfortune,
ragged and ominous. But off in the woods,
sitting alone, its feathers grow splendid
and sleek like the Phoenix restored.

Musk should not be kept near water or heat.
The dampness and the dryness spoil
its fragrance. But when the musk is at home
in the musk bladder, fire and wetness
mean nothing. In God’s doorway your guilt
and your virtue don’t count.

Whether you’re Muslim, or Christian, or
fire-worshipper, the categories disappear.

You’re seeking, and God is what is
sought, the essence beyond any cause.

External theological learning moves like a moon
and fades when the sun of experience rises.

We are here for a week, or less.
We arrive and leave almost simultaneously.

To be is not to be.

The Qur’an says, “They go hastening,
with the Light running on before them.”

Clear the way! Muhammed says, “How fine!”
A sigh goes out, and there is union.

Forget how you came to this gate, your history.
Let that be as if it had not been.

Do you think the day plans its course
by what the rooster says?

God does not depend on any of his creatures.
Your existence or non-existence is insignificant.
Many like you have come here before.

When the fountain of light is pouring,
there’s no need to urge it on!
That’s like a handful of straw
trying to help the sun. “This way!
Please, let this light through!”

The sun doesn’t need an announcer.
The lamp you carry is your self-reliance.
The sun is something else!

Half a sneeze might extinguish your lantern,
whereas all a winter’s windiness
cannot put That out.

The road you must take has no particular name.
It’s the one composed of your own sighing
and giving up. What you’ve been doing
is not devotion. Your hoping and worrying
are like donkeys wandering loose,
sometimes docile, or suddenly mean.

Your face looks wise at times,
and ashamed at others.

There is another way, a pure blankness
where those are one expression.

Omar once saw a group of boys on the road
challenging each other to wrestle.
They were all claiming to be champions,
but when Omar, the fierce and accomplished
warrior, came near, they scattered.

All but one, Abdullah Zubair.
Omar asked, “Why didn’t you run?”

“Why should I? You are not a tyrant,
and I am not guilty.”

When someone knows his own inner value,
he doesn’t care about being accepted
or rejected by anyone else.

The prince here is strong and just.
Stand wondering in his presence.
There is nothing but That.

— from The Hand of Poetry: Five Mystic Poets of Persia, with Lectures by Inayat Khan, Translated by Coleman Barks


/ Image by natureguy /

The cruelties of the world can make us feel like we are naked in the bee-house, entirely vulnerable, (Ooh. That image can make a person twitch with unease.) We’re not necessarily just talking about cruelties and frightening experiences, either. All experiences, even the pleasurable and satisfying, those too can overwhelm us. Trying to match human force against the endless variety of experience and sensory input is like standing naked in a bee house while boasting of our strength.

It doesn’t matter how strong or capable we imagine ourselves to be. Even Bruce Lee can’t fend off a swarm of bees if they are angered. The only appropriate response is humility and awareness.

There are so many delightful lines and images in this poem, but I thought I’d focus on a short section that is not the most transfixing on a poetic level, but one that I keep returning to…

If you can take care of things, do so!
But when you’re living at home with God,
you neither sew the world together
with desires nor tear it apart
with disappointments.

That first statement — “If you can take care of things, do so!” — immediately negates the temptation to interpret the poet’s words as a justification for passivity. We are given bodies for one purpose: to interact in a world of action. We are not disconnected spectators. As body dwellers, we are inherently beings of action, and being interconnected we act with each other and for each other.

But the intensity of action and the world perceived by the senses can confuse us, leading us to imagine that reality is somehow held together by our actions and injured by our failures. This belief leads to inflation of ego in success, and a crippling psychic burden when success evades us.

And then we get caught in the cycle of taking only actions we think will succeed and avoiding all others. Our actions grow smaller, safer, more predictable. We all feel this gravitational pressure to some extent.

But– when we remember that we are first and foremost beings with vast interior spaces, beings of awareness and intention, we break that ever tightening cycle. We step free from the idea of a mechanical world of action and reaction, action graded with a pass or fail. Instead, we understand action as a form of ritual. We begin to see action as enaction. Action flows outward from those great interior halls of the heart. Action becomes expression.

Yes, we still strive to take effective action, we measure the results and improve future actions, but we are not enthralled by those results. We take action simply because it is our nature to act. And we act because the awakening heart prompts us to act. The results are left to that greater Reality. Freed from “results” and “success,” we can then act in ways that are right for the simple reason that it is right.

Right action heals in ways that even “success” cannot match.

In Hinduism, this might be called Karma Yoga. I prefer not to call it anything. It is simply the nature of being in the world.

Have a beautiful day, inside and out.


Recommended Books: Hakim Sanai

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi
More Books >>


Hakim Sanai, Hakim Sanai poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Hakim Sanai

Afghanistan (1044? – 1150?) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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5 responses so far

Jul 20 2018

filled with magic

The world is so filled with magic
that we’ve become blind to it.

One response so far

Jul 13 2018

William Stafford – You Reading This, Be Ready

Published by under Poetry

You Reading This, Be Ready
by William Stafford

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life —

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

— from The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems, by William Stafford


/ Image by Sloan Poe /

Starting here,,,

William Stafford starts his poem with this phrase and then repeats it prominently throughout. This is a poem about being present. It is a poem about noticing where we are within the present moment — and about noticing what shares the space of now with us.

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?

Let’s take a moment to stop being lost in our thoughts and our plans for the day and just notice where we are, right now. As the mind settles, the senses become our allies. They start to wake up and notice the quiet beauty and little mysteries right next to us.

Everything awaits the gift of awareness. Every phenomenon, no matter how small, is a miracle just waiting for us to notice it, so that it can lead us back to right here.

What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

This is how we can stop using the senses as one more distraction but as a gentle way to bring our awareness back to center.

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now?

Isn’t that a wonderful line? More important than anything we may do or think, it is our “breathing respect” that we bring with us into the present moment that is our true gift to the world. That sense of breathing, being present as we notice the world, means we are actually here, ourselves. This is showing proper respect to the world. Breath is communion. Breath is a living connection with the world. Breath brings us back to center in the heart within the living moment.

Breath and attention, these say, here I am. If we aren’t breathing fully, and if we aren’t paying attention, they we are saying that we’d rather be somewhere else. We have severed our connection. That is not showing proper respect.

Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

We think we are waiting for that perfect thought that somehow gives us permission to be present. We already have that permission. And thoughts don’t work that way. We just notice. We settle into ourselves. We breathe. And we become present.

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life —

This is important advice, whether talking about meditation and prayer or simply the artist’s reverie– what we notice, starting here in the present moment, that feeling of life and peace and magic, we don’t want to leave it behind. It should not be relegated to our moments of sitting still. We can learn to carry it with us as we shift into other activities and different phases of the day.

No strict dividing line between the bliss of the moment and the movement of the wider day. As we become more attuned to our meditation, we invite the meditation into our work, our social interactions, and the changing rhythms of the evening. It is all meditation. When we find the present moment in the day, it is not lost in the night.

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

Being awake and fully ourselves right now, that is what we all want. Beneath our other drives that is what we truly seek. And it is always available to us. So why do we exile ourselves from being alive in this moment? All we have to do is turn around and start here.

Be ready.


Recommended Books: William Stafford

The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems My Name is William Tell Dancing with Joy: 99 Poems Even in Quiet Places Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems of William Stafford
More Books >>


William Stafford, William Stafford poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry William Stafford

US (1914 – 1993) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by William Stafford

One response so far

Jul 13 2018

all the way

Enlightenment all the way to enlightenment.

One response so far

Jul 05 2018

Poems Once a Week (for now)

I have shifted to a rhythm of sending out poems once a week. Partly this is because I am dedicating more of my available time to completion of the new anthology. The other reason is purely financial. Recently, I shifted over to a new emailing service for these poetry emails. All seems to be going well, and they solved several technical issues that I had dealing with for some time. While their price is reasonable for higher volume of emails, they have an offer that saves considerable expense if I send out these emails once a week.

For both reasons, one email a week makes sense for now. Let me know what you think. Is one poem email per week enough? Or is it worth a bit of extra expense to switch back to several emails per week, once the new anthology is available?

5 responses so far

Jul 05 2018

Derek Walcott – Love After Love

Published by under Poetry

Love After Love
by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door,
in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread.
Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

— from Saved by a Poem: The Transformative Power of Words, by Kim Rosen


/ Image by vanillapearl /

I feel like a latecomer to Derek Walcott’s poetry. I first discovered his writing just a few years ago. In fact, this was the first poem of his that I read. I found it in Saved by a Poem (a book I highly recommend — a profound exploration of the many ways poetry can be a healing and transformative presence in our lives).

There is always more wonderful poetry to discover and explore but, once found, I never want to rush through it, so I eagerly take slow steps…

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving

This is a magical moment, when we finally encounter ourselves… when we actually see through to something essential, when we see through to something that is what we really are.

Most of the time I think we carry a reflexive fear of that meeting, so we tense up and expend a great deal of effort to avoid it. But Derek Walcott rightly says it is a moment of elation, one that inspires a deep smile and a profound sense of homecoming.

and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Is there more to say? Perhaps also a reminder to celebrate the journey that has brought us here…

Sit. Feast on your life.


Recommended Books: Derek Walcott

Sea Grapes The Poetry of Derek Wolcott 1948 – 2013 Omeros White Egrets: Poems Collected Poems 1948 – 1984
More Books >>


Derek Walcott, Derek Walcott poetry, Christian poetry Derek Walcott

St. Lucia & UK (1930 – )
Christian

More poetry by Derek Walcott

5 responses so far

Jul 05 2018

self-acceptance

How can you settle into yourself
without
self-acceptance?

No responses yet

Jun 27 2018

New Anthology Update & Request for Help with Proofreading

The new Poetry Chaikhana anthology is now at a point that I can tell you a bit more about it. The manuscript is complete and I have all of the necessary poem permissions. It is now in the final stages of editing. I now am putting the final touches on the book cover design.

It is taking its final form.

The next step is to do a final proofreading. Since the anthology includes my commentary and poet biographies, as well as the poems themselves, there is a plenty to review (and plenty to enjoy as a reader!). Volunteer proofreaders were a great help with the previous anthology-I’d love to ask once again for your help. Ideally, I would like half a dozen or more people, and I will send each person a small section of pages to look over. You don’t need to be a professional proofreader, but it helps to have a keen eye, a solid sense of English grammar, and maybe just a drop of OCD.

I will gladly send a copy of the new anthology as a thank you for your help when it is published.

If you’d like to help with the proofreading, please let me know by sending me a note at ivan@poetry-chaikhana.com. Thank you so much!

Once the proofreading is done, I still have some marketing and publishing details to take care of, and then the book goes to the printers-and we have our new book!

2 responses so far

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