Dec 02 2016

Thich Nhat Hanh – Please Call Me by My True Names

Published by under Poetry

Please Call Me by My True Names
by Thich Nhat Hanh

Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow —
even today I am still arriving.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope.

The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that is alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing
on the surface of the river.
And I am the bird
that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily
in the clear water of a pond.
And I am the grass-snake
that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant,
selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo,
with plenty of power in my hands.
And I am the man who has to pay
his “debt of blood” to my people
dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.

My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and my laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart
can be left open,
the door of compassion.

— from Call Me by My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh, by Thich Nhat Hanh


/ Image by AlicePopkorn /

This is a lovely, unflinching meditation on how all of being and all of human experience weaves together into a single tapestry of the whole. It can even draw comparisons with Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” where everything, terrible and beautiful, is one, is witnessed, and is found within oneself.

Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow —
even today I am still arriving.

Most of us have learned to anticipate what will happen next, and we end up mentally dwelling in our fantasies and fears about the future. But the future is merely an idea; it never has reality. The present moment is all that is ever real. And that is where we must dwell if we want to truly be alive and know what is real.

The present is a state of “still arriving.” Because the present moment is not a fixed space in time, we can’t say that anything encountered in the present is fixed and settled either. The present is a gossamer thin and moving thread of light where all things are just barely stepping into the visibility of being… as the moment keeps moving. Everything, everyone, in every second is always just arriving. The present is a continuous becoming.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest…

Another fascinating thing is discovered when we truly, deeply perceive the present moment: Not only are we and all things “still arriving,” but the illusion of boundaries and separate being falls away. The notion of identity expands and recognizes itself just as naturally in all things witnessed. We find we are not just the person watching the bud on the Spring branch, but in our arriving we are equally the Spring bud, the young bird, the caterpillar in the flower, the jewel waiting in the stone. This is not some poetic game of words; it is what we actually perceive.

The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that is alive.

When we finally see this truth, for the first time we can truly witness the world as it is. And that is what this poem is most about: witnessing. Thich Nhat Hanh invites us to courageously witness the panorama of life, wonders and horrors alike. Through this honest witnessing, we are not spectators watching others from a distance; no, it all unfolds upon us and in us. We are witnessing ourselves in many forms. We recognize that anything that happens anywhere in the world, is actually happening to us. Everything done, is done by ourselves… to ourselves. There is no unfolding experience in the world that we are not participants in.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart
can be left open,
the door of compassion.

This is why compassion is not altruistic. This is why service is no effort. When we finally see things as they are, it is all part of our own selves. When we offer our heart, when we offer our hand, we are simply helping ourselves. Who among us, when he touches a hot iron, doesn’t immediately pull back and then soothe the burn under cool water? That’s not altruism, it is the natural response to pain in one’s body. When we see clearly, we see we are all of one body, and the joys and pains of any other is our own as well.

Compassion and a heart that has broken open are the natural result of being awake to this truth, and they are no effort at all.


Recommended Books: Thich Nhat Hanh

Call Me by My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering Into Peace, Joy & Liberation


Thich Nhat Hanh, Thich Nhat Hanh poetry, Buddhist poetry Thich Nhat Hanh

Vietnam/France/US (1929 – )
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

More poetry by Thich Nhat Hanh

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Dec 02 2016

gently come to a stop

Seek those moments
when you gently come to a stop.
Stay there.

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Nov 30 2016

Gathering Silence Reminder Pre-Order by Dec. 5

Gathering Silence Reminder Pre-Order by Dec. 5

There are just a few days left to pre-order your copy of Gathering Silence at the discounted price. Pre-orders must be received by Dec. 5. The new book will also be available in a couple of weeks through Amazon, but if you want to receive your order in time for the holidays, pre-ordering is the safest option.

See everything
with a fierce eye
and a gentle heart.

And don’t forget about Rashani Réa’s wonderful collages! In the Introduction, I say of her artwork, “With their rich colors, organic forms, and fluid lines, her collages feel as if they have been grown in a secret magical garden.” The book’s color makes it a wonderful gift for family, friends, and fellow seekers.

You can read more about Gathering Silence here. To pre-order your copy, click here.

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Nov 30 2016

Kamalakanta – The black bee of my mind

Published by under Poetry

The black bee of my mind is drawn in sheer delight
by Kamalakanta

The black bee of my mind is drawn in sheer delight
To the blue lotus flower of Mother Shyama’s feet,
The blue flower of the feet of Kali, Shiva’s Consort;
Tasteless, to the bee, are the blossoms of desire.
My Mother’s feet are black, and black, too, is the bee;
Black is made one with black! This much of the mystery
My mortal eyes behold, then hastily retreat.
But Kamalakanta’s hopes are answered in the end;
He swims in the Sea of Bliss, unmoved by joy or pain.

— from Kali: The Black Goddess of Dakshineswar, by Elizabeth U. Harding


/ Image by Meanest Indian /

In the imagery associated with the goddess Kali (Shyama), black is the divine color, for it is the color of mystery, of the night, that which is beyond knowing, the color that swallows all other colors.

My Mother’s feet are black, and black, too, is the bee…

With devotion, the busy bee of the mind becomes quiet and “black” like the vast, still mystery of God (or, rather, Goddess). Drawn to the center of awareness, it loses itself in the blissful nectar’s sweetness, until…

Black is made one with black!

Beautiful!

(Kali isn’t normally depicted as such an old woman, but the eyes of the woman in this photograph, so quiet and keen within that beautifully weathered face, just made me think, “Those are the eyes of the mother goddess peering into our hearts…”)

=

Many of you have expressed serious concerns and fears to me about the state of the world in recent weeks. Worldly problems need to be confronted and addressed on the practical level at which they exist, but if they are addressed only at that level, the underlying problems are never resolved or even fully recognized. I personally believe that the ideal is an integrated approach in which we cultivate deep quiet, and then combine that with vigorous action. What that looks like in each individual life is different, unique to our own strengths and circumstances.

This approach creates a dilemma, no doubt about it. It is very difficult to spend the day dealing with the intense, constant specificity of a busy life engaged with the challenges of the world, sometimes even having to navigate the psychic extremes of conflict and confrontation, yet returning again and again to meditation and prayerful quiet. What is the solution? Practice. Dedication. Acceptance of the difficulties that arise in a life lived with heart and compassion. But also, we can draw strength from recognizing how the active and the inner feed each other. When we tap into those moments of deep peace, we can discover in ourselves a clarity and purpose which strengthen our actions, while daily action and service in the world reinforce the deepest values of the heart. Whatever we do in the world becomes a ritual of sorts, an embodied affirmation through interaction, validating what we have learned, highlighting where we yet need strengthening and refinement.

I encourage each of us, each in our own unique way, to reach out and work for a better, kinder, safer, more just world. What we do can be small or it can be grand. It doesn’t have to be what other people expect or recognize or recognize as “service.” It just has to satisfy the heart’s instinct to help. And then support that with whatever creative or quiet pursuits feed the spirit — meditation, prayer, poetry, play.

Me, personally, I’m pretty good at the internal life, but fiery and erratic with the outer stuff, especially when I witness cruelty. That’s the balance I work at, learning steadiness and patience in my worldly activity, while not letting that draw too much energy away from my internal, creative life. Add ME/chronic fatigue syndrome to the mix and I have a rich practice that keeps me challenged and engaged. What is the particular balance you work at?

Sending love to everyone.


Recommended Books: Kamalakanta

Singing to the Goddess: Poems to Kali and Uma from Bengal Kali: The Black Goddess of Dakshineswar


Kamalakanta

India (1769? – 1821?) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shakta (Goddess-oriented)

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Nov 30 2016

bell

Some days it’s best
to do nothing
but ring like a tapped bell.

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Nov 23 2016

Pablo Neruda – Poetry

Published by under Poetry

Poetry
by Pablo Neruda

English version by Anthony Kerrigan

And it was at that age… Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don’t know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
deciphering
that fire
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
nonsense,
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
unfastened
and open,
planets,
palpitating planations,
shadow perforated,
riddled
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
void,
likeness, image of
mystery,
I felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke free on the open sky.

— from Pablo Neruda: Selected Poems, by Pablo Neruda / Translated by Anthony Kerrigan


/ Image by futurowoman /

I often extol the virtue of silence and profound inner stillness, but today, in honor of the International Day of Words, let’s honor the healing and transformative power of words. The International Day of Words was started by a South American organization to remind us all how essential dialog, communication — words — are if we are to avoid violence.

Think about this beyond our surface platitudes about communication and peace for a moment. Violence only erupts when we feel unable to speak or be heard. The violence reflex occurs when words not being exchanged. Words are the preventative medicine against violence.

Of course, the dilemma is that it is never one way. All parties must be listening as well as talking. But when expression is suppressed and the pathways of communication are shut down, that’s the time to duck.

Poetry is the pathway to peace. We’re talking real words, deep words, not chatter. Words, and more generally all forms of expression that give voice to our hopes and humanity, are the sign of well-being within society.

So a few words by Neruda for us today in honor of the words that unleash us, that speak through us, that the world waits to hear spoken…

=

The autobiography of a poet and his art.

And it was at that age… Poetry arrived
in search of me.

It isn’t that he sought poetry but, rather, that poetry sought him. He was simply watching the world. In watching, he lost himself–

there I was without a face
and it touched me.

–and poetry came to him.

Every art beneath its surface craft is about seeing. And true seeing requires selflessness. (I use seeing in the widest sense of deep perception. Music and hearing fit comfortably within my definition of “seeing” too.) The ego-self always — always — colors and fogs our vision. Deep art requires stepping free from the ego’s blinders, to see honestly and fully. The ancient schools would say, only when we see — without self — do we have something to say. Only then is the artist ready.

and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
deciphering
that fire

The path of the artist is also the path of awakening.

Egolessness, spiritual awakening, and art… This raises an obvious question: Why then do so many great artists embody just the opposite, exhibiting immense egos and imbalanced lives? Not everyone is taught to approach their art as a path of clarity and awakening, but there is still the artist’s desperate need to see beyond the limits of the ego. The result is that each artist develops his or her own unique way to lurch briefly free from ego to catch those pure moments of inspiration and vision.

and suddenly I saw
the heavens
unfastened
and open,
planets,
palpitating planations,
shadow perforated,
riddled
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

But such an aggressive, chaotic approach becomes traumatic for the awareness, and the individual must then counterbalance by reinforcing the ego once again. This also explains why too many visionaries and artists turn to drink and other narcotics: to cope with these violent swings of consciousness.

Better to learn meditation and stillness and patience. Most of all, one must know the naked self. That’s how to stand whole before the immense vision.

Actually, you don’t just stand there, you step into it — a fulfillment, an overflowing, an expansion, a merging.

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
void,
likeness, image of
mystery,
I felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke free on the open sky.

That mystery then seeks you out, your arm, your hand, and the pen it holds.

and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
nonsense,
pure wisdom…


Recommended Books: Pablo Neruda

The Book of Questions Neruda: Selected Poems On the Blue Shore of Silence: Poems of the Sea Pablo Neruda: Selected Poems Extravagaria: A Bilingual Edition
More Books >>


Pablo Neruda, Pablo Neruda poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Pablo Neruda

Chile (1904 – 1973) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Pablo Neruda

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Nov 23 2016

take notes

The Divine is experienced by the heart.

The intellect, at best, can only trail behind
and take notes.

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Nov 21 2016

Surprise Announcement: A New Book!

I have a surprise announcement to make: The Poetry Chaikhana will be publishing two books in the near future. Yes, I said two books.

The first will be available in just a few days — Gathering Silence, a book of meditations, sayings, and breathtaking art. (The second book, which will be available by the spring, will be a new Poetry Chaikhana anthology. More about that in the next couple of months.)

* Pre-Order Now for the Holidays *
Gathering Silence, sayings, Ivan M. Granger, Rashani Rea

Gathering Silence

Sayings by Ivan M. Granger
Collages by Rashani Réa


Pre-Order before Dec. 5

$17.95
$18.95


PURCHASE

Available soon through Amazon and Barnes & Noble


Gathering Silence is a collection of meditative sayings and bits of poetry, accompanied throughout by stunning full-color artwork by internationally-known collage artist, Rashani Réa.

The sayings are brief, often just one or two per page, allowing each page to become a restful space for contemplation and inspiration.

Gathering Silence is a truly beautiful book, filled with color, creative thoughts, and meditative moments. Perfect for an altar or meditation space, by your bed or on a coffee table. A wonderful gift for family, friends, and fellow seekers!

A few pages from Gathering Silence ~

Through you
the world learns to recognize itself — as heaven.

Protect the wild places in yourself.

There is something fierce in every saint and sage.

How else could they free love from its cage?


Regardless of belief,

everyone is agnostic
until gnosis.

Whittle yourself down

to the question at your core.
Let that empty ache
lead you to ecstasy!

When you know where the Beloved lives,
you are content,
no need to argue with others
over street names.


The individual is really a magical act of seeing with no fixed eye.

Your most secret wound is the doorway.

All of mysticism comes down to this:

to recognize
what is already
and always here.


Outwardly, determined effort is necessary.

But within, nothing is needed
except to yield.

How can you settle into yourself
without
self-acceptance?

Don’t strain toward enlightenment.
Relax into it.



* Note that pre-order shipments outside of the US and Canada may not arrive until after the new year — unless you request priority or expedited shipping.

About the sayings

I inherited my love of short, insightful statements from my grandfather. As a child, spending Christmas at my grandparents’ house, I remember playing with their roll-top desk, fascinated by the way the wooden slats rolled up and down along their grooved curving path. That’s when I discovered a small box tucked away in the desk containing dozens of index cards. Each card had just a sentence or two written in my grandfather’s neat hand. My grandfather had been collecting favorite quotes, jokes, even overheard snippets of conversation. This felt like a magical window into the private thoughts of a man I both loved and idolized.

I began to keep index cards with me, usually half-bent in my pocket, at the ready anytime I wanted to write down a random thought, lines from a novel, an uplifting quote, a half-remembered dream. I still do it today. I keep little stacks of index cards strategically placed throughout the house. Sometimes in meditation a thought or insight will pop into my head, fully formed in the silence, and I’ll write it down.

And that’s the interesting thing about my relationship to the short meditations and sayings in Gathering Silence. I wrote them, but sometimes I feel that I found them rather than formulated them. Am I their author or simply a transcriber? In my most lucid moments, they are my words in my voice. But they are also the guidance I turn to when life’s burdens weigh heavily and the spiritual path seems unclear. It is as if a larger self that is me is leaving helpful notes to a smaller, sometimes struggling self that is also me.

So I offer these sayings as both author and audience. I hope you find that they guide and illuminate, prod and awaken, as they continue to do for me. And, in your quiet moments, perhaps they will even speak to you in your own voice.

For the Holidays

We have the book’s artist, Rashani Réa, to thank for making this book available in time for the holidays. I imagined I would be publishing Gathering Silence early next year. But as I started sending these sayings to Rashani, she was inspired and spent several late nights creating her amazing collages for the book. Each morning I would wake up to find new works of stunning, colorful art waiting in my email In box. As the artwork poured out of her, I realized that I had better pick up my own pace in preparing Gathering Silence for publication.

And I couldn’t be happier that it is ready in time, because Gathering Silence makes a wonderful gift book. It is compact and filled with celebratory color. It is uplifting, inspiring, occasionally challenging, without promoting any particular system of belief. It will bring a smile to your favorite Christian contemplative, Sufi, yogic practitioner, painter, or poet.

Price

At $18.95, Gathering Silence is a bit pricier than previous books published by the Poetry Chaikhana, but that is necessary to cover the costs of the full-color artwork throughout its pages. When you hold it in your hands and look through page after page of Rashani Réa’s stunning artwork, I think you’ll agree that it is worth a few extra dollars.

Pre-Order Offer

For those of you willing to place a pre-order, the Poetry Chaikhana is offering a special deal: Purchase a copy before December 5th to receive a discounted price of $17.95.

Pre-ordering is also a great way to show your support for new publications from the Poetry Chaikhana.

  • To purchase a special pre-order copy of Gathering Silence click here or the ‘Purchase’ link above for payment through PayPal.

A Note About Shipping: Pre-order copies will ship directly from the printer. Since the printer is in the US, overseas customers may need to request priority shipping, if you wish to receive your order before the end of the year.

If you look forward to purchasing a copy of Gathering Silence, but not as a pre-order, it will be available for general purchase through Amazon and Barnes & Noble in December.

=


I guess you can tell that I am enthusiastic about this latest publication. I hope this book brings a smile and acts as a soothing balm during this tumultuous time.

Sending love to everyone during this time of renewal and reawakening light that we variously call Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, and the New Year.

Ivan

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Nov 16 2016

Kahlil Gibran – Good and Evil

Published by under Poetry

Good and Evil
by Kahlil Gibran

And one of the elders of the city said, Speak to us of Good and Evil.
And he answered:
Of the good in you I can speak, but not of the evil.
For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?
Verily when good is hungry it seeks food even in dark caves, and when it thirsts it drinks even of dead waters.

You are good when you are one with yourself.
Yet when you are not one with yourself you are not evil.
For a divided house is not a den of thieves; it is only a divided house.
And a ship without rudder may wander aimlessly among perilous isles yet sink not to the bottom.

You are good when you strive to give of yourself.
Yet you are not evil when you seek gain for yourself.
For when you strive for gain you are but a root that clings to the earth and sucks at her breast.
Surely the fruit cannot say to the root, “Be like me, ripe and full and ever giving of your abundance.”
For the fruit giving is a need, as receiving is a need to the root.

You are good when you are fully awake in your speech,
Yet you are not evil when you sleep while your tongue staggers without purpose.
And even stumbling speech may strengthen a weak tongue.

You are good when you walk to your goal firmly and with bold steps.
Yet you are not evil when you go thither limping.
Even those who limp go not backward.
But you who are strong and swift, see that you do not limp before the lame, deeming it kindness.

You are good in countless ways, and you are not evil when you are not good,
You are only loitering and sluggard.
Pity that the stags cannot teach swiftness to the turtles.

In your longing for your giant self lies your goodness: and that longing is in all of you.
But in some of you that longing is a torrent rushing with might to the sea, carrying the secrets of the hillsides and the songs of the forest.
And in others it is a flat stream that loses itself in angles and bends and lingers before it reaches the shore.
But let not him who longs much say to him who longs little, “Wherefore are you slow and halting?”
For the truly good ask not the naked, “Where is your garment?” nor the houseless, “What has befallen your house?”

— from The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran


/ Image by butler.corey /

As I was considering which poem to send out this morning, I came across this meditation on good and evil by Kahlil Gibran. I last featured this poem and commentary about six years ago, and I thought it might be worth sharing again…

I like this meditation on good and evil. It challenges assumptions and and raises important questions. Gibran suggests there is only good, for that is everyone’s inherent nature, and what we call evil is simply being lost and uninspired. He calls us to be compassionate to those who are selfish and cruel, for they suffer from greater poverty than the homeless and greater hunger than the starving; they suffer from poverty of the soul.

I strongly feel one should never passively allow the hard-hearted to inflict harm or hoard what belongs to all. Such actions must be opposed with strength and courage and cunning. The vulnerable must always be protected. That is a basic duty. But even complete success in one such action does not stop the fundamental dynamic of harm, just that particular instance. We must always remember that those who inflict harm and encode selfishness into systems and institutions, those people are also seeking their way, just blinded by their spiritual poverty. That’s where the real, patient work of the ages is found… finding how to open eyes and hearts long used to to being shut, finding how to redirect them toward the forgotten goodness and generosity held within.

One line I do question, however, is, “Pity that the stags cannot teach swiftness to the turtles.” To suggest that some people are stags and others turtles might be read to imply that our spiritual unfolding is fixed. Every human being harbors something of the heavenly within. There is no speed to the process. All that is needed is the right reminder of what we already are. Then begins the steady process of discovering how to encourage that ember and let its warmth permeate all aspects of our lives. Turtles don’t need to become stags. Humans simply need to become themselves. Humans just need to become more human.

But how to reach those who would armor themselves against the urging of their own hearts? No simple formula, nor single action nor organization can accomplish this. Not a year nor a generation nor a century will accomplish this. Still, that is what must be done. That is the real, hard, slow work given to us all to accomplish, each in our own lives, our work, our world.

Knowing our work, let’s be impatient to begin and supremely patient in its accomplishment. Knowing our work, what cause is there for anything but joy in turning to it each day?

In your longing for your giant self lies your goodness: and that longing is in all of you.


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

Continue Reading »

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Nov 16 2016

never separated

You can never be separated from your Self, your being, God.

The only “work” there is to do
is to become fully aware
of this immutable fact.

One response so far

Nov 11 2016

Theodore Roethke – In a Dark Time (thoughts on the election)

Published by under Poetry

In a Dark Time
by Theodore Roethke

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood —
A lord of nature weeping to a tree,
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.

What’s madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day’s on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall.
That place among the rocks — is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.

A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is —
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.

— from The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke, by Theodore Roethke


/ Image by iNeedChemicalX /

I know many of us are deeply disturbed and frightened by the results of the US elections this week. I won’t say that things are okay. I will just say what I have said elsewhere in recent days:

Before election day and after election day, the work remains the same– to give a helping hand, to protect the vulnerable, to cultivate a livable future, to be less blind to others, to be fully present, to embody love in a troubled world.

=

This poem by Roethke is one of those poems to keep close in difficult times.

In a dark time, the eye begins to see

The struggle against despair, disorientation, darkness. The solitary individual lost in a lost world. We have all been there at some point in our lives. Deep seekers have a particular tendency to travel through those shadowed spaces.

I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall.

That despair is often a deep seated sense that something is fundamentally wrong with the human world presented to us. It can feel uncaring, limited, violent, broken, and incomplete. In other words, it is a place that does not accept the individual as he or she is. To operate in the human world, we are forced into games of pretense and self-disguise. It is a feeling of homelessness and isolation.

What does one do when the soul is at odds with circumstance? It creates a terrible crisis. As social creatures, we align with the group mind, often without awareness or consent. The more naturally we do this, the better we fit into society and exist in the human world. But what about the eccentrics and visionaries, those who resist that psychic pull in order to answer the soul’s need to be itself and see beyond social artifice?

The edge is what I have.

They tend to dwell at the edges. That is where both danger and possibility are found. There we gain the possibility of seeing clearly for the first time, witnessing reality as a complete and self-fulfilled individual.

But the danger is very real, as well. No longer relying on socially constructed reality as our boundary we also lose our safe landmarks. The psyche becomes disoriented and fragile.

To navigate this necessary dark night of the soul, the seeker and the artist must cultivate a highly refined inner sense of balance and discipline. This is an important reason for developing a vigorous spiritual practice. Without the necessary inner solidity, the tendency is to rely on dangerous crutches, like excessive drinking and drug use — a terrible problem for so many creative non-conformists.

Think of it this way: The normal consensus reality is like the rigid shell of an egg. It does an excellent job of safely containing the unformed individual and protecting it from exposure to the unknown outside reality. But, if the individual remains within that shell forever, he never experiences the fullness of life. Through spiritual practice, one awakens the fire of life and takes on inner solidity and form. Then, when the shell has become too confining, we can break free into the open air without danger of fragmentation, ready to encounter the new world.

…Those dark periods we experience, they do actually serve a purpose, awakening clarity of vision and a compassionate heart. When we feel most vulnerable and lost, we are often going through our greatest growth and transformation, readying for the blaze of light.

Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

We must learn to work deeply amidst the darkness. We discover who we really are slowly emerging from the shadows, for that is our stable landmark when all else shifts about.

The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.

=

Which poem do you read when you are troubled or frightened? What gives you comfort, clarity, or courage? Let me know.

Sending love.


Recommended Books: Theodore Roethke

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke Theodore Roethke: Selected Poems On Poetry and Craft The Glass House: The Life of Theodore Roethke
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Theodore Roethke, Theodore Roethke poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Theodore Roethke

US (1908 – 1963) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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Nov 11 2016

security and control

Peace and joy — that’s what everyone wants.
It is fear that twists this natural yearning
into the compulsion
for security and control.

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Nov 04 2016

Yunus Emre – We entered the house of realization

Published by under Poetry

We entered the house of realization
by Yunus Emre

English version by Kabir Helminski & Refik Algan

We entered the house of realization,
we witnessed the body.

The whirling skies, the many-layered earth,
the seventy-thousand veils,
we found in the body.

The night and the day, the planets,
the words inscribed on the Holy Tablets,
the hill that Moses climbed, the Temple,
and Israfil’s trumpet, we observed in the body.

Torah, Psalms, Gospel, Quran —
what these books have to say,
we found in the body.

Everybody says these words of Yunus
are true. Truth is wherever you want it.
We found it all within the body.

— from The Drop That Became the Sea: Lyric Poems of Yunus Emre, Translated by Kabir Helminski / Translated by Refik Algan


/ Image by herfairytale /

We encountered the house of realization,
we witnessed the body.

Not only is the sacred always present — right here, right now — but that holiness is actually felt within the body.

When we talk of “the body” we tend to have a very concrete, materialistic idea of what we mean, this physical thing composed of muscle and bone. Its boundaries are hard and limited. In the end this body-thing contains very little.

But the body is more than this. Consider your dreams for a moment. In dreams, often you have a body there, as well. It is clearly not the same as the physical body, yet it too is your body within the reality of the dream. That dream body is capable of many actions and even transformations the physical body cannot. But is it not your body?

Both bodies, the physical body and the dream body, become the seat of our perception through which we experience the reality of the moment. Both bodies in some way are us.

These are just two of the many bodies we experience.

Let us call all of these collective bodies we inhabit the Body. Or we may call this the Self. This is the unedited and fully integrated being one is.

That limited package of organs and actions and sensory inputs doesn’t seem so claustrophobic to the spirit anymore.

The whirling skies, the many-layered earth,
the seventy-thousand veils,
we found in the body.

So when a mystic declares that entire worlds are found within the body, that isn’t just poetic metaphor. What this body actually is is much more than we first imagine. The boundaries of the body, which we once thought to end abruptly at the skin, are actually not there at all. The body continues, opening itself outward. All that we encounter and experience but imagine to be outside ourselves, all of that is actually contained within the body.

Here is what Yunus Emre is saying: By looking within the body, the body expands to encompass the universe. The fullness of reality is not outside oneself. It can never be fully recognized and integrated within the consciousness by looking outward. But by looking inward it is all there. And it is all you. Within the body.

Not only are all the pieces found within the body, but there they fit together harmoniously to form an integrated and harmonious whole. The natural interconnectedness of reality is recognized, which is the deep truth of all traditions.

Torah, Psalms, Gospel, Quran —
what these books have to say,
we found in the body.

In this expanded view of the Body/Self, let us not disregard the physical body, which was our starting point. The vision of harmonious immensity found within does, in fact, touch and affect the physical body too.

This vision is perceived as a rapturous bliss permeating all levels of awareness, including the physical body. In the physical body, every cell feels awakened, alive, sanctified. The whole body, from the most subtle to the most physical, vibrates with delight.

I am reminded of Kabir, the great Indian poet, who sang:

How could I ever express
How blessed I feel
To revel in such vast ecstasy
In my own body?

The touch of the Divine is tangible, it is felt… and it is always there, within the body.

Everybody says these words of Yunus
are true. Truth is wherever you want it.
We found it all within the body.


Recommended Books: Yunus Emre

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems The Drop That Became the Sea: Lyric Poems of Yunus Emre Quarreling with God: Mystic Rebel Poems of the Dervishes of Turkey
More Books >>


Yunus Emre, Yunus Emre poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Yunus Emre

Turkey (1238 – 1320) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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Nov 04 2016

helping hand

A helping hand
is a holy thing.

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Oct 28 2016

Dionysius the Areopagite – Lead us up beyond light

Published by under Poetry

Lead us up beyond light
by Dionysius the Areopagite

English version by Ivan M. Granger

Lead us up beyond light,
beyond knowing and unknowing,
to the topmost summit of truth,

where the mysteries lie hidden,
unchanging and absolute,
in the dazzling darkness
of the secret silence.
All light is outshined
by the intensity of their shade.

Our senses are flooded, our minds blinded
by such unseen beauty
beyond all beauty.


/ Image by Sudhamshu /

You may not be familiar with them, but the lines are hugely important in the history of Western mysticism and spirituality. Virtually all European esoteric traditions have drawn inspiration and meaning from them. So take a moment to reread them and consider what is being said and why Western mystics have been inspired by them through the centuries.

In particular, that phrase about the “dazzling darkness,” like a Christian koan, is contemplated endlessly and keeps reappearing in esoteric writings.

Dionysius is saying something about knowledge and the limitations of knowledge, using the metaphor of light and darkness.

Lead us up beyond light,
beyond knowing and unknowing,
to the topmost summit of truth…

We might say that intellectual knowledge is knowledge dependent on things being visible, in the light. But clearly Dionysius feels that such knowledge does not attain the “topmost summit of truth.”

There is another level of knowing, deeper, more obscure, yet all-encompassing. This is the knowledge sought by the mystic. This is the knowledge found within deep inner silence. This is the knowledge that connects us with genuine truth. Amidst this darkness, the truth shines.

…where the mysteries lie hidden,
unchanging and absolute,
in the dazzling darkness
of the secret silence.

But this language of darkness and blindness and unknowing as descriptions of this ultimate knowledge is more than evocative metaphor and playful contradiction.

That wonderful phrase, the “dazzling darkness,” is a reference to a very real state of awareness experienced in deep communion when the mind has settled completely into stillness and no longer projects a conceptual overlay upon reality.

We can even say that seeing (in the normal sense) stops, while perception opens as if for the first time. A person is no longer seen as a person, a table is no longer seen as a table. Surfaces and categories — the foundation of mundane perception — become ephemeral, dreamlike, insubstantial. One stops witnessing the surface level of reality in the common sense, and this can be compared to blindness or darkness. Yet everything shines! Everything is seen to be radiant with a living interpenetrating light. And the same light shines in everything.

This is the dazzling darkness of Dionysius. This is why many mystics assert they no longer even see the world and, instead, only see God. It is not that they bump into furniture when they walk across a room; perception on the mundane level doesn’t stop (except in the most ecstatic states), but surfaces take on a thin or unreal quality; it only occupies a minimal level of the awareness. It is as if the world everyone always assumes to be the real world, the visible world, is actually a world of shadow, but underlying that is an unseen world of brilliance and indescribably beauty.

Our senses are flooded, our minds blinded
by such unseen beauty
beyond all beauty.

This is the dazzling darkness sought by mystics throughout the ages.

=

Speaking of darkness, Halloween is coming up, Samhain in Celtic tradition, the Dia de los Muertos. This is considered to be a time of year when the veil between this world and the Otherworld thins, when we can reconnect with the spirits of our ancestors, when can gain unexpected insight. It is a time of magic and reconnection and stepping into the unknown.

And it is a time of the good darkness. This is the time of year (in the northern hemisphere) when the light of summer and the harvest season recedes, the days grow shorter, and the darkness of winter takes ascendance. This is the good darkness that balances the year. With darker, shorter, colder days, we are less active and turn inward. It is a time that reminds us to return to the dark cave of home and self. It is in this internal, inturning time that we gain insight and strength and, through endurance, find ourselves renewed and ready for the new light to come in springtime. This darkness is the time of spiritual practice that prepares us for the springtime of life and enlightenment. For only in darkness does new life gestate. Only in darkness do our eyes learn to see.

So let’s celebrate those who came before us and made a way for us in the world. Let’s celebrate the infinitely unknown possibilities yet available to us. And let’s celebrate the good darkness — and the light and life we discover there!


Recommended Books: Dionysius the Areopagite

The Essential Mystics: Selections from the World’s Great Wisdom Traditions Christian Mystics: Their Lives and Legacies throughout the Ages


Dionysius the Areopagite, Dionysius the Areopagite poetry, Christian poetry Dionysius the Areopagite

Syria (6th Century) Timeline
Christian

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Oct 28 2016

until you find yourself saying

Relax
until you find yourself saying —

this moment is enough.

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Oct 26 2016

Wu Men Hui-k’ai – The Great Way has no gate

Published by under Poetry

The Great Way has no gate
by Wu Men Hui-k’ai

English version by Eiichi Shimomisei

The Great Way has no gate,
A thousand roads enter it.
When one passes through this gateless gate,
He freely walks between heaven and earth.


/ Image by frestro79 /

A koan for us today. A thousand roads enter it, but there is no gate. When we pass through this gateless gate, we are liberated.

We always want to understand, as if we can think our way into heaven. But a confounded head, paired with a striving heart is a powerful combination. From that friction enlightenment can be sparked.

We don’t find gateways. We ourselves open.


Recommended Books: Wu Men Hui-k’ai

The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry The Gateless Gate: The Wu-men Kuan The Gateless Barrier: Zen Comments on the Mumonkan The World: A Gateway: Commentaries on the Mumonkan


Wu Men Hui-k’ai

China (1183 – 1260) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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