Mar 27 2017

Ivan M. Granger – in love with the new sun

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

in love with the new sun
by Ivan M. Granger

in love with the new sun
the cherry blossom forgets
the night’s frost

— from Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journeyby Ivan M. Granger


/ Image by A-Daly /

I wrote this poem several years ago in my Maui days, on a spring morning after emerging from a meditation. It was a time of opening for me, a time of surprising bliss, a time of settling into myself. I had gone through such terrible internal struggles up to that point, but what had kept be balanced and focused through it all had been my fierce determination to seek meaning and insight, a sense of a greater love and truth. And then one day, whoosh!, it was like I had come through the storm and found myself at rest in a wide open peaceful sea.

That struggle I went through to get there, it wasn’t even that I thought it had been “worth it;” it was is if even the struggle itself had been subsumed by that expansive bliss until it no longer existed, except as a story I had told myself.

I had the image of spring after a hard winter. Bright, blossoming with new life. And I wrote this haiku.


in love with the new sun
the cherry blossom forgets
the night’s frost

A few years back I was contacted by a young woman in San Francisco who asked my permission to use this haiku in a tattoo. I was flattered and surprised. I mean, to have these words, which popped into my mind in a moment of inspiration, tattooed onto your body, to carry them with you for the rest of your days, that is humbling indeed. More than that, it was a responsibility after the fact. I really had to sit with the haiku for a bit and decide if I thought it was worthy of such an honor.

In her email, she said that the poem spoke to her, that the cherry blossoms suggested to her that, because life is short, you need to live to the fullest and seize opportunities, and that any difficulties or sorrows are temporary. She mentioned that she had been through many hardships in her life but that she recognized the importance of not holding grudges or dwelling in the past “because every day is special… like cherry blossoms that bloom for a short time.” Clearly a wise woman, wisdom that has been hard-earned.

I gladly gave her my permission to use the poem in her tattoo. But I still had a bit of a dilemma: With this haiku being utilized in such a special way, I wanted to ask for a photograph, but, you know, I wasn’t sure exactly where the tattoo would be placed on her body. I tried to find the most diplomatic language possible to ask for a photo “if appropriate.” A few weeks later she sent back a snapshot of the lines of the haiku tattooed in an elegant script running along her lower ribs on one side.

(Whew.)

Have a beautiful day! Don’t forget to feel the new sun on your face.


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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Mar 27 2017

in the palm of your hand

It’s amazing what you find
in the palm of your hand
when you finally
release your grip.

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Mar 24 2017

Matsuo Basho – Crow’s abandoned nest

Published by under Poetry

Crow’s
by Matsuo Basho

English version by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto

Crow’s
abandoned nest,
a plum tree.

— from Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter, Translated by Lucien Stryk / Translated by Takashi Ikemoto


/ Image by Nicki Verkevisser /

Death has been on my mind. I found out yesterday that a relative of mine, an aunt I was close to when I was a teenager, just passed away. Truthfully, I had been out of touch with her in recent years, but I still found myself experiencing the entire range of responses at the news of her passing– mild shock, slowly welling grief, replaying of past memories.

When someone we feel a connection to dies, we often enter a shadow realm ourselves. It is as if we walk with that loved one to the threshold. That sense of the world’s structure that seemed so solid and unquestioned becomes suddenly fluid. When death ceases to be a distant concept and, instead, shows itself to be a present reality, everything starts to shift and slide. Any thing, any person can move in and out of the world. A loved one can step beyond our embrace. In a world of such disappearances, reality itself becomes disconcertingly intangible.

And yet there is life. Even in the presence of death and loss there is life. Sometimes because of death there is life. One without the other doesn’t fully make sense. Life and death highlight each other, strengthen each other, each giving meaning to the other.

Thinking these thoughts, I came across this haiku by Basho…

It’s usually a mistake to simplistically explain a haiku’s meaning. Its primary impact is not really comprehended by the logical mind at all. Most haiku aren’t composed with intentioned metaphors; rather, the moment naturally resonates with nature’s implied truths.

But, for the sake of play, let’s explore this one anyway…

We see an abandoned nest seated in a plum tree. The nest is an image of emptiness, perhaps even desolation or death. But the plum tree suggests life. Here at the beginning of spring, I instinctively imagine the first pink and white blossoms to be appearing on its branches. Life and death at ease with each other. Sorrow and hope emphasizing each other through contrast.

That’s my first read, what I feel as I first glimpse these images in my mind’s eye.

But we can back up, clear our minds, and read Basho’s lines on a very different level.

In this haiku, each line gives us a distinct element: a crow, an abandoned nest, and a plum tree. Basho ordered his lines so first we have the awareness of a crow, which might be understood as representing the busy mind, a bird that proclaims its presence by croaking in the winter sky. Like the mind, the crow is a carrion feeder, ungainly in its movements but somehow suggestive of a mysterious hidden reality.

Next, Basho shows us that this crow has abandoned its nest. With the coming of spring, the crow has left. With the blossoming results of winter’s discipline, the mind has emptied itself, grown quiet, still.

An empty nest may be a curiosity for a moment, but its animating principle, the part that normally holds our attention has vanished, and so the vision widens and we finally notice the plum tree that supports it. Watching the empty mind, we finally expand our perception and recognize the full awareness in flower. We witness the natural, unmodified awareness of the Buddha mind that upholds mind and all creation.

Crow — empty nest — plum tree.
Mind — no mind — Buddha mind.

To those of us who have felt the loss of a loved one, perhaps we will allow some grieving part of ourselves to open and expand. And may we celebrate the life flowering all around us amidst this fluid, ever changing universe!


Recommended Books: Matsuo Basho

Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library) Haiku Enlightenment The Four Seasons: Japanese Haiku
More Books >>


Matsuo Basho, Matsuo Basho poetry, Buddhist poetry Matsuo Basho

Japan (1644 – 1694) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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Mar 24 2017

stumble

Stunned, we stumble
into deeper awareness.

No responses yet

Mar 22 2017

Kahlil Gibran – Self-Knowledge

Published by under Poetry

Self-Knowledge
by Kahlil Gibran

And a man said, Speak to us of Self-Knowledge.
And he answered saying:
Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.
But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart’s knowledge.
You would know in words that which you have always known in thought.
You would touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams.

And it is well you should.
The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea;
And the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes.
But let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure;
And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.
For self is a sea boundless and measureless.

Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.”
Say not, “I have found the path of the soul.” Say rather, “I have met the soul walking upon my path.”
For the soul walks upon all paths.
The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.

— from The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran


/ Image by jin.thai /

Isn’t this wonderful? Each time I return to this poem and reread its lines, I feel as if I am greeting old friends in the phrases. They continue to stay with me.

Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.

Especially that middle section…

The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea…

Gibran is giving us a tangible image of self as a sea of infinite depths. And it is our very nature to seek self-knowledge, ultimately to pour ourselves into it, to discover treasure within its depths.

I like his assertion that we should not attempt to weigh or measure what we discover.

But let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure;
And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.

It is as if when we measure, we think we have comprehended and possessed it, but we have in some way externalized it and defined artificial boundaries. By quantifying, we have limited what is, by nature, limitless.

For self is a sea boundless and measureless.

And his final lines–

The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.


Recommended Books: Kahlil Gibran

The Prophet The Beloved: Reflections on the Path of the Heart Broken Wings Jesus the Son of Man Kahlil Gibran: His Life & World
More Books >>


Kahlil Gibran, Kahlil Gibran poetry, Christian poetry Kahlil Gibran

Lebanon/US (1883 – 1931) Timeline
Christian
Secular or Eclectic

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Mar 22 2017

All exploration

All exploration
is self-discovery.

No responses yet

Mar 22 2017

New Interview with Ivan through Sacred Healing Telesummit

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had recorded an extended interview Susanne Steinel on the healing and transformative qualities of poetry. In that conversation, I discuss how poetry, especially sacred poetry, can be deeply healing to the psyche and help us to restore our connection to life, the world, and to spirit. I read a few of my favorite poems and discuss the healing responses we have to them simply by hearing them, speaking them. I really enjoyed this conversation, and I think you might too.

The interview will be available next week through a free telesummit called “Sacred Wounds – Sacred Shifts – Sacred Healing.” In addition to my talk, the summit will include discussions with Robert Moss, Normandi Ellis, Lynn V. Andrews, and several other fascinating teachers, healers, and shamans.

The telesummit is free. To register, click here.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about my talk or any of the conversations that are part of the summit.

Ivan

No responses yet

Mar 17 2017

Use everything

Use everything:
Joy, fear, success, suffering.
A seeker hasn’t the luxury
to waste life in pursuit
of easy, grand experiences.

One response so far

Mar 17 2017

Wendell Berry – A Spiritual Journey

Published by under Poetry

A Spiritual Journey
by Wendell Berry

And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,
no matter how long,
but only by a spiritual journey,
a journey of one inch,
very arduous and humbling and joyful,
by which we arrive at the ground at our feet,
and learn to be at home.

— from The Collected Poems of Wendell Berry, 1957-1982, by Wendell Berry


/ Image by LittleLottexo /

I keep returning to the poetry of Wendell Berry. Few writers these days are truly willing to be still and to befriend the world of growing things outside the city limits. In the modern world, that’s practically blasphemy. Writers like that get labeled “poet” and “crank” so they can be safely ignored — unless their writing is unavoidably good. Wendell Berry’s words are like that.

Unfortunately for the hyperactive world, Wendell Berry’s poetry is filled with the presence and heart secretly craved by us all, making it difficult to ignore.

And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,
no matter how long…

Have a beautiful, restful weekend. Me, I will be wrapped in blankets recovering from the flu. (Sniffle. Cough.)


Recommended Books: Wendell Berry

The Collected Poems of Wendell Berry, 1957-1982 Given: Poems Selected Poems of Wendell Berry A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997 The Mad Farmer Poems
More Books >>


Wendell Berry, Wendell Berry poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Wendell Berry

US (1934 – )
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Wendell Berry

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Mar 10 2017

Li-Young Lee – One Heart

Published by under Poetry

One Heart
by Li-Young Lee

Look at the birds. Even flying
is born

out of nothing. The first sky
is inside you, open

at either end of day.
The work of wings

was always freedom, fastening
one heart to every falling thing.

— from Book of My Nights, by Li-Young Lee


/ Image by hashmil /

We are in the midst of Lent, a time for prayer and purification as we approach Easter. For many, this is a time of fasting. That started me thinking about the question of emptiness, and what that has to do with spiritual opening.

And then I was reminded of the wondrous opening lines of Li-Young Lee’s poem:

Look at the birds. Even flying
is born

out of nothing.

To take flight, birds launch themselves into apparent emptiness. Of course, successful flight requires an awareness that the sky is not truly empty, but a realm of subtle substance that can support us.

One must cultivate an inner emptiness and lightness in order to let go of the comforting certainty of the earth, to confidently leave it behind and meet that intangible space of open sky, and there dance among its secret currents.

The first sky
is inside you, open

at either end of day.

This, I think, is an important reason why practices such as fasting and other expressions of moderate asceticism are encouraged on occasion by most spiritual traditions. Forget the tormented dogmas of self-denial that tend to lead to hatred of the body — which should automatically be seen as a spiritual dead end. The real purpose of these sorts of practices is not disdain for the body but, rather, to awaken in our awareness that sense of openness, spaciousness, and inner quiet… while allowing the body to rest and regenerate and become more finely attuned to our higher purposes in life.

If we don’t cultivate awareness of the inner sky, the “first sky,” we fail to recognize that taking flight in the world around us is our natural expression. Instead, we fear that we will fall.

The work of wings

was always freedom, fastening
one heart to every falling thing.

Perhaps we can think of flight as intentionally falling without ever hitting the ground. We leap into space, letting that inner emptiness lift us up. And perhaps what we thought was fear was in reality the exhilaration of the heart encountering the openness of the living moment while we soar upon nothing.


Recommended Books: Li-Young Lee

Book of My Nights Rose The City in Which I Love You Behind My Eyes: Poems


Li-Young Lee, Li-Young Lee poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Li-Young Lee

US (1957 – )
Secular or Eclectic

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Mar 10 2017

God meets God

Each one of us does not exist
except as an empty field
in which God meets God.
We are the flash of self-recognition
that lights the face of the Divine.

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Mar 08 2017

Anna Akhmatova – A land not mine

Published by under Poetry

A land not mine, still
by Anna Akhmatova

English version by Jane Kenyon

A land not mine, still
forever memorable,
the waters of its ocean
chill and fresh.

Sand on the bottom whiter than chalk,
and the air drunk, like wine,
late sun lays bare
the rosy limbs of the pinetrees.

Sunset in the ethereal waves:
I cannot tell if the day
is ending, or the world, or if
the secret of secrets is inside me again.

— from Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women, Edited by Jane Hirshfield


/ Image by GregoriusSuhartoyo /

I was thinking about which poem to select in honor of International Women’s Day. My first thought was to select a poem in honor of the Goddess, the feminine face of the Divine, a poem to the primal Woman. Perhaps a poem addressed to Kali or Durga or maybe one of the pre-Christian goddesses of Europe. But I also wanted something written by a woman poet, and most of the poems in adoration of the Goddess that came to mind are by men. I started scanning through the women poets on the Poetry Chaikhana, and I realized that it has been far too long since I last highlighted a poem by the great Russian poet Anna Akhmatova. Her writing and her life embody so much of the strength of women in a complex and often harsh world, while courageously retaining a vision of the inner life and the aspirations of the human spirit.

This is a favorite poem of mine from Anna Akhmatova. Though she wrote during some of the bleakest times of Soviet Russia, there are moments of radiant — one might even say, transcendent — joy that emerges in her poems.

A land not mine, still
forever memorable…

There is something of the mystic’s experience in these lines. An ocean. Light. Deep rest and the sense of life. A brilliant white. Wine…

Sand on the bottom whiter than chalk,
and the air drunk, like wine…

Soon, you find yourself asking, Is the day ending, or the world? Ultimately, it is you who are ending. The train of mental chatter has come to a halt. The world and what you called yourself are not as you thought at all, and both are new and alive and too vast to be called your own.

Then you know that the secret of secrets is within you. And it is so deeply familiar you must have known it before, and it is there again.

I cannot tell if the day
is ending, or the world, or if
the secret of secrets is inside me again.


Recommended Books: Anna Akhmatova

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova Poems of Akhmatova Dancing with Joy: 99 Poems


Anna Akhmatova, Anna Akhmatova poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Anna Akhmatova

Russia (1889 – 1966) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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Mar 08 2017

pacifist

Being a pacifist
does not mean being a passivist.

No responses yet

Mar 03 2017

Mary Oliver – Wild Geese

Published by under Poetry

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

— from Dream Work, by Mary Oliver


/ Image by lil-Mickey /

I have the sense that it has been a rough week for many people, so I wanted to pick a gentle poem, something uplifting, something that invites us to pause, take a deep breath, and catch a new glimpse of ourselves and the world…

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.

To me this poem is a healing balm, the way it invites us to forgive our own struggles and look beyond them to a larger, living grandeur, of which we are a part.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes…

Late winter here in Colorado…

the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting

Look up and see “the wild geese, high in the clean blue air…” Ancient purpose, animal and magnetic, lined up in chevrons across the winter sky. That eternal determination that marks our direction through the world, to be always “heading home again.”

The geese continuously call out one to another, as we all do, “over and over announcing your place / in the family of things.”


Recommended Books: Mary Oliver

New and Selected Poems Why I Wake Early Dream Work House of Light Thirst: Poems
More Books >>


Mary Oliver, Mary Oliver poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Mary Oliver

US (1935 – )
Secular or Eclectic

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Mar 03 2017

never to be missed

The present moment is always unique,
a profound mystery,
and never to be missed

No responses yet

Mar 01 2017

Milarepa – The Song of Food and Dwelling

Published by under Poetry

The Song of Food and Dwelling
by Milarepa

English version by Garma C. C. Chang

I bow down at the feet of the wish-fulfilling Guru.
Pray vouchsafe me your grace in bestowing beneficial food,
Pray make me realize my own body as the house of Buddha,
Pray grant me this knowledge.

I built the house through fear,
The house of Sunyata, the void nature of being;
Now I have no fear of its collapsing.
I, the Yogi with the wish-fulfilling gem,
Feel happiness and joy where’er I stay.

Because of the fear of cold, I sought for clothes;
The clothing I found is the Ah Shea Vital Heat.
Now I have no fear of coldness.

Because of the fear of poverty, I sought for riches;
The riches I found are the inexhaustible Seven Holy Jewels.
Now I have no fear of poverty.

Because of the fear of hunger, I sought for food;
The food I found is the Samadhi of Suchness.
Now I have no fear of hunger.

Because of the fear of thirst, I sought for drink;
The heavenly drink I found is the wine of mindfulness.
Now I have no fear of thirst.

Because of the fear of loneliness, I searched for a friend;
The friend I found is the bliss of perpetual Sunyata.
Now I have no fear of loneliness.

Because of the fear of going astray,
I sought for the right path to follow.
The wide path I found is the Path of Two-in-One.
Now I do not fear to lose my way.

I am a yogi with all desirable possessions,
A man always happy where’er he stays.

Here at Yolmo Tagpu Senge Tson,
The tigress howling with a pathetic, trembling cry,
Reminds me that her helpless cubs are innocently playing.
I cannot help but feel a great compassion for them,
I cannot help but practice more diligently,
I cannot help but augment thus my Bodhi-Mind.

The touching cry of the monkey,
So impressive and so moving,
Cannot help but raise in me deep pity.
The little monkey’s chattering is amusing and pathetic;
As I hear it, I cannot but think of it with compassion.

The voice of the cuckoo is so moving,
And so tuneful is the lark’s sweet singing,
That when I hear them I cannot help but listen —
When I listen to them,
I cannot help but shed tears.

The varied cries and cawings of the crow,
Are a good and helpful friend unto the yogi.
Even without a single friend,
To remain here is a pleasure.
With joy flowing from my heart, I sing this happy song;
May the dark shadow of all men’s sorrows
Be dispelled by my joyful singing.

— from The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa: The Life-Story and Teachings of the Greatest Poet-Saint Ever to Appear in the History of Buddhism, Translated by Garma C. C. Chang


/ Image by worldpilgrim /

We are in the midst of Losar, the Tibetan New Year festival. It is a multi-day festival that began on Monday, February 27. I thought I’d take the opportunity to share a poem by the Tibetan folk hero, saint, and poet Milarepa.

This poem gives us several very specific esoteric references to vital heat, the “Seven Holy Jewels,” samadhi, sunyata, even the wild animals referred to are symbols. But rather than focus on those yogic details, let’s look more broadly at what Milarepa is doing with this song of enlightenment…

He worries about cold, and finds through spiritual practice inner heat. He worries about poverty, and discovers through spiritual practice the inexhaustible wealth of seven jewels. He worries about hunger, and he finds fulness in the perfect meditation of samadhi. He worries about thirst, and he discovers the wine of mindfulness. He worries about loneliness, and he finds in the bliss of sunyata (emptiness) a perpetual companion. He worries about losing his way, but then in the realization of the nondual truth of “Two-in-One” he recognizes the Path everywhere.

Milarepa is showing how, through deep spiritual practice, one’s basic desires are satisfied and all lack is filled… But notice that he is not talking about material providence. He is not saying, ‘I want food so I am given food.’ He is showing how, instead, the awakened energetic body satisfies the desire for psychic fulness which is the root of hunger. The process is not necessarily providing for him in a material sense; instead it is going right to the root of the desire, satisfying the spiritual seed of the desire. It is an acknowledgment that all desires, even for the basic necessities of life, ultimately are a spiritual hunger.

Then Milarepa shifts to a discussion of how the sounds of wild animals awaken profound compassion in his awareness. It must be understood that these animals are representations of forces within his own mind. Their “pathetic” cries, their yearning, their calling out is evidence that the mind is not yet absolutely settled. But you’ll notice that Milarepa has reached a state in which he no longer thinks of those mental forces as being himself, his true nature. Instead, they are lost animals that cannot help their hunger. And he feels compassion for those forces within his mind. And that compassion strengthens his determination to deepen his practice, to bring the mind to complete resolution:

I cannot help but feel a great compassion for them,
I cannot help but practice more diligently,
I cannot help but augment thus my Bodhi-Mind.

Here, alone, in the wilds (of his own awareness), with his fears calmed, his desires satisfied, he is utterly content. “With joy flowing from my heart, I sing this happy song…” And it is through this song itself that he offers compassionate action to the world, for the vibrations of enlightenment the poem embodies have the potential to dispel “all men’s sorrows.” Milarepa knows this because he has just described how his own sorrows have been dispelled.

And may you feel a sense of awakening and renewal. Happy Losar!


Recommended Books: Milarepa

Songs of Spiritual Experience: Tibetan Buddhist Poems of Insight & Awakening The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa: The Life-Story and Teachings of the Greatest Poet-Saint Ever to Appear in the History of Buddhism Songs of Milarepa: (Dover Thrift Edition) Drinking the Mountain Stream: Songs of Tibet’s Beloved Saint, Milarepa The Life of Milarepa: A New Translation from the Tibetan
More Books >>


Milarepa, Milarepa poetry, Buddhist poetry Milarepa

Tibet (1052 – 1135) Timeline
Buddhist : Tibetan

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Mar 01 2017

limiting details

Spirit awakens us
with utter disregard
for the limiting details of our lives.

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