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

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Jul 13 2018

all the way

Enlightenment all the way to enlightenment.

No responses yet

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!

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Jun 27 2018

The Story of Tea

I often get asked what a “chaikhana” is. The short answer is that it is a tea house. (Chai = tea). The inevitable second question is, why a “poetry chaikhana”? What does poetry, especially sacred poetry, have to do with tea? The act of sipping tea naturally has a contemplative quality to it, but there’s a deeper reason why I chose the name Poetry Chaikhana all those years ago. It was inspired by a Sufi story–


/ Photo by Doubtful-Della /

The Story of Tea

In ancient times, tea was not known outside China. Rumours of its existence had reached the wise and the unwise of other countries, and each tried to find out what it was in accordance with what he wanted or what he thought it should be.

The King of Inja (‘here’) sent an embassy to China, and they were given tea by the Chinese Emperor. But, since they saw that the peasants drank it too, they concluded that it was not fit for their royal master: and, furthermore, that the Chinese Emperor was trying to deceive them, passing off some other substance for the celestial drink.

The greatest philosopher of Anja (‘there’) collected all the information he could about tea, and concluded that it must be a substance which existed but rarely, and was of another order than anything then known. For was it not referred to as being an herb, a water, green, black, sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet?

In the countries of Koshish and Bebinem, for centuries the people tested all the herbs they could find. Many were poisoned, all were disappointed. For nobody had brought the tea-plant to their lands, and thus they could not find it. They also drank all the liquids which they could find, but to no avail.

In the territory of Mazhab (‘Sectarianism’) a small bag of tea was carried in procession before the people as they went on their religious observances. Nobody thought of tasting it: indeed, nobody knew how. All were convinced that the tea itself had a magical quality. A wise man said: ‘Pour upon it boiling water, ye ignorant ones!’ They hanged him and nailed him up, because to do this, according to their belief, would mean the destruction of their tea. This showed that he was an enemy of their religion.

Before he died, he had told his secret to a few, and they managed to obtain some tea and drink it secretly. When anyone said: ‘What are you doing?’ they answered: ‘It is but medicine which we take for a certain disease.’

And so it was throughout the world. Tea had actually been seen growing by some, who did not recognize it. It had been given to others to drink, but they thought it the beverage of the common people. It had been in the possession of others, and they worshipped it. Outside China, only a few people actually drank it, and those covertly.

Then came a man of knowledge, who said to the merchants of tea, and the drinkers of tea, and to others: ‘He who tastes, knows. He who tastes not, knows not. Instead of talking about the celestial beverage, say nothing, but offer it at your banquets. Those who like it will ask for more. Those who do not, will show that they are not fitted to be tea-drinkers. Close the shop of argument and mystery. Open the teahouse of experience.’

The tea was brought from one stage to another along the Silk Road, and whenever a merchant carrying jade or gems or silk would pause to rest, he would make tea, and offer it to such people as were near him, whether they were aware of the repute of tea or not. This was the beginning of the Chaikhanas, the teahouses which were established all the way from Peking to Bokhara and Samarkand. And those who tasted, knew.

At first, mark well, it was only the great and the pretended men of wisdom who sought the celestial drink and who also exclaimed: ‘But this is only dried leaves!’ or: ‘Why do you boil water, stranger, when all I want is the celestial drink?’, or yet again: ‘How do I know that this is? Prove it to me. Besides the colour of the liquid is not golden, but ochre!’

When the truth was known, and when the tea was brought for all who would taste, the roles were reversed, and the only people who said things like the great and intelligent had said were the absolute fools. And such is the case to this day.

– Ayn al-Qozat Hamadani (1098 – 1131)

Tales of the Dervishes: Teaching Stories of the Sufi Masters over the Past Thousand Years
by Idries Shah

In this way, I hope the poems and thoughts I share through the Poetry Chaikhana bring a hint of that celestial drink to your lips. These are poems not to be praised for mere artistry, not to be worshipped from afar, not to be exclusively studied or analyzed. These are poems to be tasted. They are meant to be imbibed until we feel warmth in the belly and sweetness in the heart.

‘He who tastes, knows. He who tastes not, knows not… Close the shop of argument and mystery. Open the teahouse of experience.’

Have a beautiful day! I think I’m going to go to the local teahouse and order a tall glass of tea!

2 responses so far

Jun 21 2018

Denise Levertov – The Depths (Separation of Immigrant Families)

Published by under Poetry

The Depths
by Denise Levertov

When the white fog burns off,
the abyss of everlasting light
is revealed. The last cobwebs
of fog in the
black fir trees are flakes
of white ash in the world’s hearth.

Cold of the sea is counterpart
to this great fire. Plunging
out of the burning cold of ocean
we enter an ocean of intense
noon. Sacred salt
sparkles on our bodies.

After mist has wrapped us again
in fine wool, may the taste of salt
recall to us the great depths about us.

— from The Jacob’s Ladder, by Denise Levertov


/ Image by Arathrim /

A reminder of light and the depths of the great ocean of life…

=

Like many of you, I have been preoccupied by the recent news of the forcible separation of children from their families in the US. I have felt for a long time that US policies toward immigration, legal and illegal, are racist and brutal. That has been true under both Democratic and Republican administrations. But it has taken an unconscionably cruel turn with the Trump administration’s forcible separation of children from their families, with no provision to reunite these traumatized families.

This is no less than institutionalized child abuse on a massive scale. The way we treat children and the vulnerable is a fundamental measure of our collective social morality. If you are a US citizen like me, that is a crime done in our name. And, if we are silent, it is done with our tacit approval.

There has been a partial sigh of relief that the outcry prompted an apparent reversal of the child separation policies. But while the news stories may begin to shift to other topics, be cautious in assuming that this latest offense is resolved.

My understanding is that forced family separations may still occur, just with a bureaucratic delay added. Also this latest change in government policy has a Trojan horse hidden within it: Many people don’t realize this, but crossing the border without legal documentation has at worst been classified as a misdemeanor offense in the US. This policy change now makes undocumented border crossing a felony. In other words, families desperately seeking asylum must first deal with the criminal justice system, because they have had to commit a major “crime” simply to seek safety.

Others have said it before me, but if we as a nation are concerned with immigration, than we should change our military and economic policies to not create immigrant crises. When an immigrant arrives, especially without formal documentation, it is always out of desperation. That always, always deserves a compassionate response. If that creates problems in other ways, then we accept those problems and deal with them in responsible, practical ways, as any decent society should.

With the current patterns of politics, economics, and climate change, immigrant issues and refugee crises are likely to remain major concerns in the world. If you are looking for more ways you can help, here are a few organizations doing courageous work in the world worth connecting to and contributing to.

Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)
supportkind.org

Women’s Refugee Commission
https://www.womensrefugeecommission.org

Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP)
https://asylumadvocacy.org

=

may the taste of salt
recall to us the great depths about us.


Recommended Books: Denise Levertov

Denise Levertov: Selected Poems Poems of Denise Levertov: 1960-1967 Breathing the Water The Great Unknowing: Last Poems Candles in Babylon
More Books >>


Denise Levertov, Denise Levertov poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Denise Levertov

US (1923 – 1997) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic : Beat
Jewish

More poetry by Denise Levertov

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Jun 21 2018

crucial ingredient

Your life needs one crucial ingredient:

you!

2 responses so far

Jun 13 2018

Lynn Ungar – Boundaries

Published by under Poetry

Boundaries
by Lynn Ungar

The universe does not
revolve around you.
The stars and planets spinning
through the ballroom of space
dance with one another
quite outside of your small life.
You cannot hold gravity
or seasons; even air and water
inevitably evade your grasp.
Why not, then, let go?

You could move through time
like a shark through water,
neither restless nor ceasing,
absorbed in and absorbing
the native element.
Why pretend you can do otherwise?
The world comes in at every pore,
mixes in your blood before
breath releases you into
the world again. Did you think
the fragile boundary of your skin
could build a wall?

Listen. Every molecule is humming
its particular pitch.
Of course you are a symphony.
Whose tune do you think
the planets are singing
as they dance?

— from Bread and Other Miracles, by Lynn Ungar


/ Image by Matt Brown /

You cannot hold gravity
or seasons; even air and water
inevitably evade your grasp.
Why not, then, let go?

We want to cement ourselves and our place within the wider reality. We want to grasp, hold, own, and so stop change and uncertainty. But reality slips through our fingers. Everything is fluid, as are we ourselves.

You could move through time
like a shark through water,
neither restless nor ceasing,
absorbed in and absorbing
the native element.

This is such a startling image. A koi or a minnow suggests a serene, easily forgotten metaphor, but a shark makes a point! Part of why a shark is so ferocious is because it is ferociously at one with its environment. They say that sharks never stop swimming, but sharks are not restless. They do not struggle and exhaust themselves amidst the ocean currents. They cruise with a quiet fearlessness through their realm.

It is a form of communion they express, “absorbed in and absorbing / the native element.” The shark is in the water and the water is in the shark. They are one.

Why pretend you can do otherwise?
The world comes in at every pore,
mixes in your blood before
breath releases you into
the world again.

It raises the question, what is a boundary? When we move through the environment at the same time that the environment moves through us, where is the border line between ourselves and everything else?

Did you think
the fragile boundary of your skin
could build a wall?

We tend to talk about unity and interconnectedness on spiritual levels, but we forget that it is just as true in the physical realm, and in every level in between. Everything we identify with, our emotions, thoughts, health, our very breath, are not possessions that exist in a private isolation. Everything is an interaction with the environment. Everything is part of the cycle of inflow and outflow.

This raises an unsettling question: How then do we protect ourselves from the disharmonies and toxicity of the world around us? There are a few ways to answer this, but I am going to give a harsh answer this time: How do we protect ourselves? We don’t. We are in the world and the world is in us. What happens in the world happens in us. The world is us and we are the world.

Whether we are talking about nature or human emotions, disharmony and toxicity is never just “out there” to be stopped at the border of the skin or one’s private thoughts and feelings. We don’t avoid, we can’t. We participate. We hurt with our fellow beings as much as we delight with them.

They. Us. Where is the boundary, really? We participate in a shared experience of being.

But– and this is important, it is not just about the outside coming in. There is also the outbreath. What is inside also flows outward into the world. This is where the power of the individual truly expresses itself. We may take in hurt, pain, poison, but we can, if we choose, pour out love, healing, joy. And that too becomes part of the natural environment in which we all swim with our porous boundaries.

I don’t want to suggest that I believe that boundaries are not real or necessary. They are. But boundaries are more like membranes than walls. Whether we are speaking about the physical body in the natural environment, the psychological self within society, or even national borders, no boundary is lasting or impermeable. Nor should it be.

The more we identify with our boundaries, the more harshly we try to enforce them as absolute and unchanging, which is inherently doomed to failure. But the more we identify with the heart, with our core, the less important those boundaries seem, and we allow them to function as living membranes of exchange, while we are free to navigate the world without fear.

Listen. Every molecule is humming
its particular pitch.
Of course you are a symphony.
Whose tune do you think
the planets are singing
as they dance?

It is not about separation of self from other. Ultimately, such a separation is impossible. There is no real separation.

We vibrate, we hum. We are caught up in a grand universal symphony. We tune each other and are harmonized by the whole.

We sing, whether we realize it or not. Which song are we singing?


Recommended Books: Lynn Ungar

Bread and Other Miracles Blessing the Bread: Meditations


Lynn Ungar, Lynn Ungar poetry, Christian poetry Lynn Ungar

US (Contemporary)
Christian
Secular or Eclectic

Continue Reading »

7 responses so far

Jun 13 2018

An empathic heart

An empathic heart
is what keeps us alive
and on the spiritual path.

One response so far

Jun 08 2018

Czeslaw Milosz – Forget

Published by under Poetry

Forget
by Czeslaw Milosz

English version by Robert Hass

Forget the suffering
You caused others.
Forget the suffering
Others caused you.
The waters run and run,
Springs sparkle and are done,
You walk the earth you are forgetting.

Sometimes you hear a distant refrain.
What does it mean, you ask, who is singing?
A childlike sun grows warm.
A grandson and a great-grandson are born.
You are led by the hand once again.

The names of the rivers remain with you.
How endless those rivers seem!
Your fields lie fallow,
The city towers are not as they were.
You stand at the threshold mute.

— from New and Collected Poems 1931 – 2001, by Czeslaw Milosz


/ Image by koposs /

There’s something so healing about this poem. It’s strange to speak of the healing power of forgetting, but there’s something here for us to consider.

Have you ever heard someone say, “I can forgive, but I can’t forget”? That is a person who hasn’t yet learned to forgive. Perhaps that person isn’t yet ready to forgive but doesn’t want to admit it. For some hurts, forgiveness cannot be rushed. But it must, on some level, remain the goal. And to achieve forgiveness, one must forget in a certain sense.

No one truly forgets any experience. But we can mean different things when we speak of forgetting. There is willful blindness, which should never be a goal. This is what the person who says he won’t forget is trying to avoid, but usually what they are choosing to do is to nurse old hurts in secret, deriving a sense of purpose in continued suffering.

There is another kind of forgetting that isn’t forgetting, that is to let go of the repeating cycle of internal dialog and its associated hot, binding emotions. To do so is an affront to the ego’s sense of self-importance. It requires humility, perhaps even weariness. To let go in this way makes us feel temporarily vulnerable. We usually carry our wounds like shields, imagining that surrounding ourselves with past hurts fortifies us against future injury. The truth is less direct and more elegant: Those shield walls built of past pains trap us. They limit our movement and limit our interaction with the rich drama of life. Letting go of those hurts frees us to more dynamically experience life, while simultaneously allowing us to better recognize and avoid those future hurts. Put simply, the more shielded the heart is with remembered hurts, the less it feels and knows and experiences joy.

A good reminder to myself as much as anyone: No one makes it through this life without acquiring some hurts. The well-lived life is not one that has avoided pain; it is one that has integrated that pain along with its delights and discoveries, and in that rich mixture sees the lineaments of its own face.

Of course, seeing this, we see something much bigger than we imagined ourselves to be. Approaching this immense vision of Self, we fall silent.

You stand at the threshold mute.


Recommended Books: Czeslaw Milosz

New and Collected Poems 1931 – 2001 The Collected Poems Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness To Begin Where I Am: The Selected Prose of Czeslaw Milosz A Treatise on Poetry
More Books >>


Czeslaw Milosz, Czeslaw Milosz poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Czeslaw Milosz

Poland (1911 – 2004) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic
Christian : Catholic

Continue Reading »

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Jun 08 2018

not enough

A book and a building are not enough.
The human spirit needs cathedrals of trees,
towering mountains, and fields
of spring wildflowers as places of prayer.

One response so far

Jun 06 2018

Umar Ibn al-Farid – No one speaks (from The Poem of the Sufi Way)

Published by under Poetry

No one speaks (from The Poem of the Sufi Way)
by Umar Ibn al-Farid

English version by Th. Emil Homerin

No one speaks
      unless his speech is from mine;
            no one sees
                  but by the gaze of my eye.

No one listens
      unless listening by my ear;
            no one grasps
                  but by my might and strength.

No one
      is speaking, seeing, hearing
            in all of creation
                  but me!

In the composite world,
      I appeared deep within
            every shape and form
                  adorning them with beauty.

While in every subtle sense
      not revealed by my visible guise,
            I was conceived and formed
                  but without a body’s shape.

Yet in what the spirit sees
      clairvoyantly,
            I was rarified,
                  concealed from this subtle sense confined.

In the mercy of expansion,
      all of me is a wish
            expanding wide
                  the hopes of humanity,

While in the dread of contraction
      all of me is awe;
            wherever I cast my eye,
                  I am honored.

In joining both attributes
      all of me is proximity;
            come, draw near
                  my inner beauty.

For in the end-place of “in,”
      I still found with me
            my majesty of witness
                  arising from my perfect nature,

And where there is no “in,”
      I still witnessed within me
            the beauty of my existence
                  without an eye to see.

— from Umar Ibn al-Farid: Sufi Verses, Saintly Life, Translated by Th. Emil Homerin


/ Image by Sea-of-Ice /

In the composite world,
      I appeared deep within
            every shape and form
                  adorning them with beauty.

These lines can be compared with Platonic forms or the Jungian idea of archetypes. The world of outer appearances is built on a spiritual or energetic template. When we see beauty in the world, it is because we recognize something about that outer form that approaches the symmetry of the archetypal or divine template it embodies.

In the mercy of expansion,
      all of me is a wish
            expanding wide
                  the hopes of humanity,

While in the dread of contraction
      all of me is awe;
            wherever I cast my eye,
                  I am honored.

Here the poet gives us a vision of God as a cosmic pulse, expanding and contracting. In expansion, we feel hope, possibility, life. In contraction, we feel fear and awe. We might imagine this contraction as a gathering in, a sense of restriction and death that forces us to let go of the outer world and turn inward.

In joining both attributes
      all of me is proximity;
            come, draw near
                  my inner beauty.

In God, both expansion and contraction are joined, the universal rhythm in harmony. The inbreath and outbreath balanced. A Sufi vision of yin and yang. A vision of unity.

God is the form within all forms, the outward and inward movement of all things, and One. Through this unity the Eternal is in proximity to all things. Perhaps the poet is thinking of the line in the Quran in which God declares that He is closer than our jugular vein. We might read this as God is closer to us than our own heartbeat.

We imagine that God or the Eternal or heaven are somehow far away, in the future or the past, or only sensed through crushing spiritual efforts. But nearness is the nature of God. We just need to heed the invitation, to settle until we can sense the presence underlying everything. We just need to feel the Self that is closer than our own self. Such inner beauty!

And where there is no “in,”
      I still witnessed within me
            the beauty of my existence
                  without an eye to see.


Recommended Books: Umar Ibn al-Farid

Umar Ibn al-Farid: Sufi Verses, Saintly Life Sufi Poems: A Mediaeval Anthology From Arab Poet to Muslim Saint: Ibn Al-Farid, His Verse, and His Shrine The Wine of Love and Life: Ibn Al-Farid’s Al-Khamriyah and Al-Qaysari’s Quest for Meaning


Umar Ibn al-Farid

Egypt (1181 – 1235) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Continue Reading »

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Jun 06 2018

To find its perfection

To find its perfection
the soul must reveal
its imperfections.

No responses yet

Jun 01 2018

Karma Trinley – A Song on the View of Voidness

Published by under Poetry

A Song on the View of Voidness
by Karma Trinley

English version by Thupten Jinpa & Jas Elsner

Homage to the Adamantine Mind!

Dharma king, you who have realized
the essence; you who expound
the way of being, out of compassion:
king Buddha Samdrup,
I bow to you in my heart,
pray listen to me.

Through your kind and skillful means,
by a habit long formed, and as a fruit
of long practice in this life,
I have realized the nature of ever-presence.

When the secret of appearance is revealed,
everything arises in a tone of voidness,
undefined by the marks of identity.
Like a sky that is nothing but an image.

When the secret of thoughts is revealed,
though active, they are but mind’s sport,
naked reflections of transcendent mind
unsullied by deliberation and correction.

When the secret of recollection is revealed,
every memory is but an illumination
of self-knowledge in the ever-present state,
untainted by ego consciousness.

When the secret of illusions is revealed,
they seem nothing but the primordial state,
appearing in the visual field of rikpa,
untouched by the dualism of mind and things.

When the secret of abiding is revealed,
you are in the state of self-cognition,
however long you remain, free of elaboration,
the expanse unstained by laxity and torpor.

When the secret of mobility is revealed,
however much you move, you remain
within clear light, unstained by distraction,
excitement, and so on, a true self-recognizer.

When the secret of samsara is revealed,
however often one may circle, the cycles
are illusion unaffected by joy and pain.
This is the realization of Buddha’s four bodies.

When the secret of peace is revealed,
however tranquil one’s attainments,
they are but an image; this is the natural pure space,
free of the signs of being and nonbeing.

When the secret of birth is revealed,
however one’s reborn, it’s but an emanation;
meditation’s vision of pure self-generation
free of clinging and apprehensions.

When the secret of death is revealed,
however often one may die, it’s but the vision
of the ultimate, the stages of completion
perfect, free of any karmic deeds.

When the secret of bliss is revealed,
its intensity cannot be bettered;
this is the state of spontaneous bliss,
free of all traces of contamination.

When the secret of luminosity is revealed,
however bright, it’s but an empty form —
mother image of the void in space,
free of every multiplicity.

When the secret of emptiness is revealed,
though empty, it is the unsurpassed,
devoid of every contingent stain,
and free from every deception.

When the secret of the view is revealed,
however much one looks and sees,
the world remains beyond thought and word —
the expanse beyond dichotomies.

When the secret of meditation is revealed,
however much one meditates, it’s but a state —
undistracted, and in natural restfulness,
free of exertion and constraint.

When the secret of action is revealed,
whatever one does are the six perfections —
spontaneous, free, and to the point,
uncolored by strictures and moral codes.

When the secret of fruition is revealed,
achievements are but the cognition
of mind as dharmakaya,
the mind itself free of hope and fear.

This is the profound innermost secret;
guru’s blessings have entered my heart;
naked nonduality dawns within;
the secret of samsara and nirvana is revealed!

I have beheld the face of the ordinary mind;
I have arrived at the view that is free of extremes;
even if the Buddha came in person now,
I have no queries that require his advice!

This song on the view of voidness
expounding the nature of the being of all,
spoken in words inspired by conviction,
was sung in a voice echoing itself,
unobstructed, in between meditation sessions.

— from Songs of Spiritual Experience: Tibetan Buddhist Poems of Insight & Awakening, Translated by Thupten Jinpa / Translated by Jas Elsner


/ Image by ahermin /

Like many of the great poems emerging out of the Tibetan traditions, this poem combines ah ecstatic visionary element with a discourse on the nature of reality.

This is like mystic’s graduation thesis, a declaration of realization:

I have realized the nature of ever-presence.

He enumerates for us a list of secrets that, when understood, reveal the true nature of reality.

I will drop in a few of my comments on some of these, but I invite you to spend some time with each statement yourself and see what insights you gain…

When the secret of appearance is revealed,
everything arises in a tone of voidness,
undefined by the marks of identity.
Like a sky that is nothing but an image.

The language of the last line of this verse is a bit confusing, but I think what he is saying is that reality is like the wide open and empty nature of the sky. We may see images form in the clouds that float through the sky, but they are temporary and intangible. Things take form and appear to be real, but when we gain a wider perspective, the only lasting reality is that open space of blue, the canvas on which images appear and fade again.

When the secret of thoughts is revealed,
though active, they are but mind’s sport,
naked reflections of transcendent mind
unsullied by deliberation and correction.

The poetry of this verse stands out to me. We become so entranced by the content and movement of our own thoughts, but they are ultimately revealed to be “the mind’s sport.” Thoughts dance and dazzle, but they are like the glimmering light upon the surface of the transcendent mind, which remains pure and unaffected by that surface movement and all our attempts to control it.

When the secret of abiding is revealed,
you are in the state of self-cognition,
however long you remain, free of elaboration,
the expanse unstained by laxity and torpor.

This is an interesting one. The “secret of abiding” reveals itself as “self-cognition.” In other words, we come to rest, we discover stability and stillness, when we truly know ourselves. Words don’t express this truth easily. These ideas may seem to be disconnected, but there is an intimate connection we discover. The only place of rest is the true Self. It is only when we know the self that we can settle and abide.

Followed by a statement of movement…

When the secret of mobility is revealed,
however much you move, you remain
within clear light, unstained by distraction,
excitement, and so on, a true self-recognizer.

When we are a “true self-recognizer,” even in movement there is a clarity and inner stillness. We normally accompany action with psychic agitation. This is because we typically identify with the body and surface mind so, when there is movement, there is also disturbance. But identifying with the deep Self, movement is just the outer expression of that still spaciousness.

When the secret of samsara is revealed,
however often one may circle, the cycles
are illusion unaffected by joy and pain.
This is the realization of Buddha’s four bodies.

Samsara is the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth as understood within Buddhism. When the poet states that seeing through the secret of samsara, the cycles are revealed as illusion not affected by joy and pain, we can read that as a rather flat and disengaged insight, but that is not what is meant. He is not saying that there is no joy or pain or that life and death are meaningless; rather, the appearance of life and death along with the fluctuations of joy and pain are not truly part of the fundamental nature of being. Like the clouds forming and fading against the sky, those are all passing phenomena that have their own beauty and meaning, but the blissful expanse is the only lasting reality.

The mention of the Buddha’s “four bodies” is a reference to the four bodies (or kayas) a buddha recognizes upon enlightenment: the truth body, the form body, the enjoyment body, and the emanation body. Our true body or nature is of these eternal forms, and the rest is the dance of appearance.

When the secret of bliss is revealed,
its intensity cannot be bettered;
this is the state of spontaneous bliss,
free of all traces of contamination.

Sometimes we imagine the spiritual path to be one of self-denial and worldly disdain. We conjure up grim visions of enlightenment, and either embrace that or run from it. But the real experiences of mystics and visionaries and saints, as they constantly tell us, is one of bubbling delight and peace. When one’s nature is revealed, we dwell in bliss. No surface pleasure or joy can compare. “It’s intensity cannot be bettered.”

When the secret of emptiness is revealed,
though empty, it is the unsurpassed,
devoid of every contingent stain,
and free from every deception.

This was something that tripped me up for a long time. The constant refrain in Buddhism about emptiness, nirvana, the void can sound bleak. As a younger seeker I had a love-hate relationship with the teachings of Buddhism. There was clearly something uplifting, insightful, and compassionate there, an expression of profound truth. But it could also sound rather depressing.

It took my own sense of opening to finally see beyond my own mental block and recognize that that “emptiness” is actually filled with life and delight amidst vast spaciousness. It is not empty as in a suffocating vacuum, but rather it is free from the idea of separate and distinct things and beings. Within this blissful nondual space of being, there is only a living wholeness and, therefore, nothing (no objectified thing) exist there. It is empty, yet it is the unsurpassed.

naked nonduality dawns within;
the secret of samsara and nirvana is revealed!

I like that signature verse at the end. It brings us back to earth. Signed this day between meditation sessions, yours truly…

This song on the view of voidness
expounding the nature of the being of all,
spoken in words inspired by conviction,
was sung in a voice echoing itself,
unobstructed, in between meditation sessions.


Recommended Books: Karma Trinley

Songs of Spiritual Experience: Tibetan Buddhist Poems of Insight & Awakening


Karma Trinley

Tibet (1456 – 1539) Timeline
Buddhist : Tibetan

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Jun 01 2018

Love has no opposite

Love has no opposite.

Hate, fear, are not love’s opposites;
they are its denial.

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