Nov 17 2017

D. H. Lawrence – Pax

Published by under Poetry

Pax
by D. H. Lawrence

All that matters is to be at one with the living God
to be a creature in the house of the God of Life.

Like a cat asleep on a chair
at peace, in peace
and at one with the master of the house, with the mistress,
at home, at home in the house of the living,
sleeping on the hearth, and yawning before the fire.

Sleeping on the hearth of the living world
yawning at home before the fire of life
feeling the presence of the living God
like a great reassurance
a deep calm in the heart
a presence
as of the master sitting at the board
in his own and greater being,
in the house of life.

— from The Complete Poems of D. H. Lawrence, by D. H. Lawrence


/ Image by Dee.Dee.M /

All that matters is to be at one with the living God
to be a creature in the house of the God of Life.

I had a couple of very good friends in childhood, but in many ways my closest companion was a calico cat named, Kitty Kumbah (a singsong name made up by a four-year-old me). She saw me through my parents’ divorce, through a disorienting move from Oregon to Southern California, and along the bumpy road into adolescence. She sat patiently listening to my talking and tantrums. She slept on my bed each night and, one year, gave birth to a litter of kittens on my belly while I was asleep. When I was 16, Kitty Kumbah died in my arms, having carried me safely through my childhood.

feeling the presence of the living God
like a great reassurance
a deep calm in the heart

What I remember most was how she taught me meditation, stillness, poise, contentment, and the importance of a well-chosen seat. She taught me pax… peace. That cat was my first spiritual teacher.

Like a cat asleep on a chair
at peace, in peace


Recommended Books: D. H. Lawrence

The Complete Poems of D. H. Lawrence Birds, Beasts and Flowers: Poems The Selected Poems of D. H. Lawrence Acts of Attention: The Poems of D. H. Lawrence Self & Sequence: The Poetry of D. H. Lawrence
More Books >>


D. H. Lawrence, D. H. Lawrence poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry D. H. Lawrence

England (1885 – 1930) Timeline
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Nov 17 2017

Each kind act

Each kind act
and simple insight
is a victory.

No responses yet

Nov 15 2017

Akka Mahadevi – People, male and female

Published by under Poetry

People, male and female,
by Akka Mahadevi

English version by A. K. Ramanujan

People,
male and female,
blush when a cloth covering their shame
comes loose
                  When the lord of lives
lives drowned without a face
in the world, how can you be modest?

When all the world is the eye of the lord,
onlooking everywhere, what can you
cover and conceal?

— from Speaking of Siva, by A K Ramanujan


/ Image by Annabelle Shemer /

Mahadevi gives us a moment of discomfort.

People,
male and female,
blush when a cloth covering their shame
comes loose

It reminds me of that embarrassing dream we have all had, showing up to school or work only to realize that we are naked.

Mahadevi, like many ascetics in India over the centuries, adopted the life of the “sky-clad” — that is, she lived as a holy woman who refused to wear clothes, even in public. This is shocking and challenging to us on so many levels.

We can list many things that trigger our fear of public nudity: discomfort with one’s body, sexual privacy (or shame), the need to conform to social norms.

But we are not just talking about physical nudity here. We are dealing with a more fundamental spiritual dynamic: the reflex to hide one’s true nature. Most of us carry a basic fear of the self. It’s immensity and beauty overwhelm us. It threatens the ego, which we have come to identify with.

As we clothe the body, we cover our true selves with the ego.

Not only do we present this adorned ego-self to the social world, we do it in our own minds, as well. We try to fool ourselves as to who we are. This is where the real spiritual problem occurs.

As an aside, this is the same metaphor of nakedness used in the biblical account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. When that primal couple cover themselves with fig leaves, the issue isn’t physical nudity or sexual shame. It is that they seek to hide. They present a false, covered self, and thus are divided within themselves. Most foolishly, they imagine they can hide their true selves from the all-seeing Divine Gaze, and so they have slipped into a fantasy reality that is no longer filled with life and consciousness. They have “fallen” into materiality and duality. No longer at one with God, they must leave the harmony of the garden. It is not that they are banished; they have banished themselves to a reality of separation.

There may well be reasons in social relationships to present a public face while keeping aspects of ourselves private. We may do this to protect vulnerabilities and to make sure we honor that which is sacred within us, so long as we recognize what we are doing and why. But when we try to hide from ourselves, we have created a split that is devastating to the soul. That is when we become separated from who we truly are. The result is that our inherent wholeness and bliss are lost.

This is why some ascetics like Mahadevi have chosen to go about naked. On the one hand, her nakedness symbolizes transcendence of sexuality and society, but on a deeper level, it represents that she has returned to to the naked Self. It symbolizes that she no longer hides from the Divine Gaze.

When all the world is the eye of the lord,
onlooking everywhere, what can you
cover and conceal?

The question for the sincere seeker is not how to better clothe oneself, it is how to get more naked. Humbly, honestly, without pretense, we ask: Who am I? Who am I, nakedly? And: Why hide? Hide from whom?

The Indian concept of darshan is about seeing, to see an image of one’s god, to have a vision. But darshan works both ways. To see is to be seen. The secret is that the reverse is equally true: One must be seen to see. One must be naked to dwell in the garden in the company of the Eternal One.

how can you be modest?


Recommended Books: Akka Mahadevi

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Speaking of Siva The Shambhala Anthology of Women’s Spiritual Poetry Women Writing in India: 600 BC to the Present: Volume 1 Sacred Voices: Essential Women’s Voices Through the Ages


Akka Mahadevi, Akka Mahadevi poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Akka Mahadevi

India (12th Century) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shaivite (Shiva)

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Nov 15 2017

Balance

Balance must be discovered
anew
each day.

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Nov 10 2017

Stephen Levine – Trust Your Vision

Published by under Poetry

Trust Your Vision
by Stephen Levine

Trust your vision
      make it whole
      hold it like the Navajo
      his solemn desert oracle
      in quest of shaman passage
      gaining his healing chant
      guiding him through life.

Hold the vision
      constantly rising
it is the way nature works
      through you
it is the only self
      an everchanging underdream
a vision (if you see it)
      up to you
to make real.

Act on your vision
      and pray that you are blessed.

— from Breaking the Drought: Visions of Grace, by Stephen Levine


/ Image by AlicePopkorn /

Trust your vision

So often we pour ourselves intensely into life’s purposes without actually pausing to consider why we are doing what we are doing. What is our real goal? How is it a reflection of who we truly are? How does it express our specific qualities and role within the larger panorama? What does it imply about the fundamental nature of reality?

Rarely in the modern world are we encouraged to discover our vision and to dedicate ourselves to it. To the prevailing mindset, one’s vision is thought to be intangible, suggesting something that a fantasy whose pursuit is narcissistic or even delusional. The focus of life must be practical with goals that are approved and easily measured.

That approach, while seemingly reasonable and safe, is devastating to both the individual and to society as a whole. While we certainly must live effectively within the physical and social worlds that require a certain level of practical purpose, we are not such stunted creatures that exist only on that level. We are magical beings, here to embody immensity and love and the will of the universe as it expresses itself uniquely through each of us.

Hold the vision
      constantly rising…

Vision is the way we discover our personal path through the world. Vision is the way we come to know ourselves, allowing us to be as we are, showing us how to act with strength and creativity in the service our true goals.

…it is the way nature works
      through you

I love the insight of this line. A vision is not the same as some fantasy or daydream. A true vision is the voice of nature, the intention of the universe, uniquely tuned to our soul.

The word “vision” can trip us up because we think of seeing things that are external to our physical bodies, so we often consider a vision to be external to us. But vision in the spiritual sense is the conscious mind’s way to assign meaning to the deep recognition of self as a harmonious expression of the self-aware universe.

In other words, vision is not so much about seeing as it is about being.

it is the only self
      an everchanging underdream

A vision is a challenge to ourselves to be more fully ourselves. Vision is vocation, the calling of the soul to its true role.

a vision (if you see it)
      up to you
to make real.

The first question is, how strongly do we want to see? And then we must answer the second question, do we dare live the truth seen? Then again, what’s the point to any other path but our own?

Act on your vision
      and pray that you are blessed.

Have a beautiful day!

(And thank you, everyone, for your patience with my irregular poetry schedule recently.


Recommended Books: Stephen Levine

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Breaking the Drought: Visions of Grace A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last Who Dies?: An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying Healing into Life and Death
More Books >>


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US (1937 – 2016) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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Nov 10 2017

Allow yourself to notice

Allow yourself to notice
what you are feeling.
Then — notice yourself feeling.
Then — notice yourself.

No responses yet

Nov 08 2017

Rainer Maria Rilke – I live my life in widening circles

Published by under Poetry

I live my life in widening circles
by Rainer Maria Rilke

English version by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not ever complete the last one,
but I give myself to it.

I circle around God, that primordial tower.
I have been circling for thousands of years,
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?


/ Image by GPS /

I’m back. Not that I went away. I have been busy with my day job and still trying to resolve technical issues with the large poetry mailings. But, amidst all of that, I am pleased to be able to say that I have also been making good progress on the next Poetry Chaikhana anthology. I hope to have something more definite to announce about that soon.

Now, let’s return to the poetry…

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world…

I circle around God, that primordial tower.

These images of circles and circling, revolving around a great center he names God, it makes me think of the cathedral labyrinths of Europe. Or the ancient spiral glyphs carved into rocks and cave faces. I see the circling pathway around some secret center. The road can be bewildering, twisting and turning, keeping us disoriented and uncertain of how near we are, but ever moving inward.

And that courageous line–

I may not ever complete the last one,
but I give myself to it.

We walk the winding path, not out of certainty, but because it is the only path worth walking. Walking that road, quietly, with attention, one foot in front of the other, becomes meditation. It becomes worship. Each ring, whether near or far, is a layer of our lives that is blessed by our passing through it.

Walking the circling path is not only the way to the center, it is actually part of the center. We learn to participate in the center by first walking the path. Obsession with the destination becomes an impediment to reaching it. Instead, by patiently inhabiting each step, we discover the center in ourselves… and our feet naturally end up there, as well.

We walk with our whole selves–

and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

On this roundabout road to God, we question our own nature. We encounter the mystery of self. Who and what are we really? Ultimately, it is in that questioning of a self that eludes definition where we find the still center.


Recommended Books: Rainer Maria Rilke

The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke The Soul is Here for its Own Joy: Sacred Poems from Many Cultures Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God In Praise of Mortality: Rilke’s Duino Elegies & Sonnets to Orpheus
More Books >>


Rainer Maria Rilke, Rainer Maria Rilke poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Rainer Maria Rilke

Germany (1875 – 1926) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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Nov 08 2017

What is right here?

Continuously ask: What is right here?
What is this sensation? This emotion?
This thought? This experience?
Then ask: Who is experiencing it?

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Oct 25 2017

Emails – Update

It looks like the bulk email service has been restored. Let the poetry resume!

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Oct 25 2017

Poem Emails – Technical Problems

The Poetry Chaikhana poem emails are temporarily on hold. The bulk emailing service I have been using to send these emails out has discovered a potential vulnerability that can allow someone to send false emails out through their service. My understanding is that your data is fine, just that spammers may have used their system to send emails out. The tech folks have shut down their email server for the moment, and they will be switching over to a new, more reliable bulk email service as soon as possible.

I hope to resume the Poetry Chaikhana emails within a few days. Apologies about that.

Ivan

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Oct 23 2017

Yunus Emre – A single word can brighten the face

Published by under Poetry

A single word can brighten the face
by Yunus Emre

English version by Kabir Helminski & Refik Algan

A single word can brighten the face
of one who knows the value of words.
Ripened in silence, a single word
acquires a great energy for work.

War is cut short by a word,
and a word heals the wounds,
and there’s a word that changes
poison into butter and honey.

Let a word mature inside yourself.
Withhold the unripened thought.
Come and understand the kind of word
that reduces money and riches to dust.

Know when to speak a word
and when not to speak at all.
A single word turns the universe of hell
into eight paradises.

Follow the Way. Don’t be fooled
by what you already know. Be watchful.
Reflect before you speak.
A foolish mouth can brand your soul.

Yunus, say one last thing
about the power of words —
Only the word “I”
divides me from God.

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


/ Image by Graham Keen /

Here we are with a rare Monday poem email…

A single word can brighten the face
of one who knows the value of words.

This is one of my favorite poems by Yunus Emre, but I have never really written up a good commentary to accompany it. Perhaps it is because it is a poem about words, the singular power of words, or the power of a singular word — and I don’t want my meditative ramblings to take away from the poem itself. It says it all so beautifully.

Ripened in silence, a single word
acquires a great energy for work.

I love that line. I have been busy with my day job of late, and I haven’t been resting in deep meditation as much as I would like. The outer world has required a lot of energy from me lately. Yet I have still managed to catch moments of silence gently flowing beneath the activity. That’s where the ripening happens.

War is cut short by a word,
and a word heals the wounds,
and there’s a word that changes
poison into butter and honey.

I think this verse is the heart of the poem for me. I read it over and over again.

I think will say no more today, and let Yunus have the final word–

Yunus, say one last thing
about the power of words —
Only the word “I”
divides me from God.


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 >>


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Turkey (1238 – 1320) Timeline
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Oct 23 2017

Simple contentment

Simple contentment
unlocks so many doors
along the way.

One response so far

Oct 23 2017

Popular Poets

I don’t point it out in the poem emails often, but on the Poetry Chaikhana website home page, I post a list of the most popular poets. This is essentially a list of the ten most visited pages organized by poet. The results may surprise you. Here is this week’s most popular poets:

Yunus Emre
Kabir
Dickinson
Attar
Rumi
O’Donohue
Mary Oliver
Szymborska
Bulleh Shah
Jacopone da Todi

Jacopone da Todi showed up on the list because I featured one of his poems last week.

Featured poets usually get a bump in attention. Other poets that regularly show up on this list include Kobayashi Issa, Basava, Hafiz/Ladinsky, Dogen, Ikkyu, Lalla, Abu-Said Abil-Kheir, among others.

I love to see who is gaining attention out there in the world. Yunus Emre, for example, is still not widely known in the west, but he is clearly beloved in Turkey and by many followers of Sufi traditions around the world. My hope is that, over time, appreciation of his wisdom and humor and humble spiritual genius will expand, as it has done with widely known figures like Rumi and Kabir. And the Poetry Chaikhana plays a part in that.

I am also fascinated by how this list changes week-to-week and also over the years. There was a period a few years back when the great Punjabi Sufi poet Bulleh Shah was the most visited page on the Poetry Chaikhana website week after week for months on end. But, like Yunus Emre, he is not well known in the West. Yet clearly there is a great love of his poetry and hunger for information on him out there.

Others that popped up regularly in this list only rarely do so now, like Han Shan (Cold Mountain), Basho, and Walt Whitman. What does that mean? I know the Poetry Chaikhana web statistics aren’t the best reflection of global interests, but does it suggest anything about the rising and falling popularity of specific poets? Or perhaps a general shift in attention as political and planetary crises vie for our focus? Are we just exploring different poetic and spiritual energies?

What do you think?

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Oct 18 2017

Jacopone da Todi – Love beyond all telling

Published by under Poetry

Love beyond all telling (from Self-Annihilation and Charity Lead the Soul…)
by Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti)

English version by Serge and Elizabeth Hughes

Love beyond all telling,
Goodness beyond imagining,
Light of infinite intensity
Glows in my heart.

I once thought that reason
Had led me to You,
And that through feeling
I sensed Your presence,
Caught a glimpse of You in similitudes,
Knew You in Your perfection.
I know now that I was wrong,
That that truth was flawed.

Light beyond metaphor,
Why did You deign to come into this darkness?
Your light does not illumine those who think they see You
And believe they sound Your depths.
Night, I know now, is day,
Virtue no more to be found.
He who witnesses Your splendor
Can never describe it.

On achieving their desired end
Human powers cease to function,
And the soul sees that what it thought was right
Was wrong. A new exchange occurs
At that point where all light disappears;
A new and unsought state is needed:
The soul has what it did not love,
And is stripped of all it possessed, no matter how dear.

In God the spiritual faculties
Come to their desired end,
Lose all sense of self and self-consciousness,
And are swept into infinity.
The soul, made new again,
Marveling to find itself
In that immensity, drowns.
How this comes about it does not know.

— from Jacopone da Todi: Lauds (Classics of Western Spirituality), Translated by Serge and Elizabeth Hughes


/ Image by Sacha Fernandez /

Love beyond all telling,
Goodness beyond imagining,
Light of infinite intensity
Glows in my heart.

Too often statements like this can sound like a formula of religious piety, but it is more than that. These are the direct experiences of the mystic. The heart grows warm and blossoms, opening until it seems to encompass all of creation. This is not just an idea or some philosophical notion — it is felt tangibly in the body as well as the soul. Love floods in, and a sense of utter harmony, rightness, the “goodness” of being. Often one witnesses a dazzling golden-white light like a radiant ocean that flows through everything, showing the multiplicity of creation to secretly be a shining unity.

It is this that Jacopone da Todi is writing of.

I once thought that reason
Had led me to You,
And that through feeling
I sensed your presence…

I know now that I was wrong,
That that truth was flawed.

These verses are a call to the religious minded to not be content with thinking one has found the truth on assertions of belief alone. (“Your light does not illumine those who think they see You / And believe they sound Your depths.”) Or even to imagine that it is felt through elevated or refined emotions. He is proclaiming that the real truth is somehow more direct and surprising than that. All mental conceptualization is limited by the intellect and imagination, yet the reality we seek is beyond the thinking mind’s ability to conceive of…

Light beyond metaphor…

He who witnesses Your splendor
Can never describe it.

Here, words fail. The mind can only become a mute witness.

The very notion of self melts amidst that immensity…

In God the spiritual faculties
Come to their desired end,
Lose all sense of self and self-consciousness,
And are swept into infinity.
The soul, made new again,
Marveling to find itself
In that immensity, drowns.
How this comes about it does not know.


Recommended Books: Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti)

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty Jacopone da Todi: Lauds (Classics of Western Spirituality) All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time


Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti), Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti) poetry, Christian poetry Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti)

Italy (1230 – 1306) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

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Oct 18 2017

Don’t strain

Don’t strain toward enlightenment.
Relax into it.

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Oct 13 2017

Lu Tung Pin – What is Tao?

Published by under Poetry

What is Tao?
by Lu Tung Pin

English version by T. C. Lai

What is Tao?
It is just this.
It cannot be rendered into speech.
If you insist on an explanation,
This means exactly this.


/ Image by legends2k /

What is Tao?
It is just this.

I remember the first time I tried to navigate through the Tao Te Ching as a teenager. There was undeniably something beautiful and poetic about it, but it was so infuriatingly vague! What is “the Tao”? Calling it the Way doesn’t help. Are we talking about God? Something else? Other Taoist writings were the same, taunting me with endless non-definitions. (I wanted clear goals I could aggressively pursue!)

It took me years to begin to appreciate this approach…

It cannot be rendered into speech.

There’s a real dilemma at the heart of religion and spiritual endeavor. The Eternal, the Whole cannot be adequately held by such small containers as words. Yet we humans are instinctively communicators and word-makers. What are the sages and saints to do with what they witness? How do they render the Eternal comprehensible to others and inspire new seekers? Describe the profound love and bliss and unity, and we naturally name it Mother. Convey the immensity and power, we name it Father. Or we say Beloved. Or Friend.

All of these are valid ways to begin to form a notion of the Eternal. Through these words we as individuals can form a relationship to this vast Reality. And through this relationship we can be drawn into deeper awareness, into deeper opening, and into our own direct encounter… at which point we realize how inadequate all words are.

The problem arises when the mystics are no longer heard or are relegated to history, when too few people have their own direct wordless encounter. Then we end up with entire religions stuck at the level of words. No matter how sacred and truth-filled those words may be, words are always incomplete. Words alone are soon taken literally, and then true knowledge is lost. Not knowing what is real, religion becomes embalmed, self-protective, sectarian, and sometimes violent.

The wounds of religion are healed through compassion and through direct perception. Instead of forcing meaning, we settle into ourselves and come to see things as they are.

If you insist on an explanation,
This means exactly this.

Have a beautiful, vaguely defined day!


Recommended Books: Lu Tung Pin

The Secret of the Golden Flower: The Classic Chinese Book of Life The Eight Immortals of Taoism: Legends and Fables of Popular Taoism Tales of the Taoist Immortals Tao of Health, Longevity, and Immortality: The Teachings of Immortals Chung and Lu


Lu Tung Pin, Lu Tung Pin poetry, Taoist poetry Lu Tung Pin

China (755 – 805) Timeline
Taoist

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Oct 13 2017

Where bliss begins

Where bliss begins

everything else ends.

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