Archive for May, 2009

May 29 2009

Antonio Machado – Last night, as I was sleeping

Published by under Poetry

Last night, as I was sleeping
by Antonio Machado

English version by Robert Bly

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt — marvelous error!–
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

      Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt — marvelous error!–
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

      Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt — marvelous error!–
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

      Last night, as I slept,
I dreamt — marvelous error!–
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.

— from Times Alone: Selected Poems of Antonio Machado, Translated by Robert Bly


/ Photo by sammydavisdog /

This is my favorite poem by the Spanish poet Antonio Machado. Actually, it’s one of my favorite poems, period.

It speaks so richly for itself that no commentary is necessary to be caught in its spell, but I want to point out how strongly it suggests the mystic’s ecstatic experience…

In the poem, Machado discovers continual delights in his heart. In the ecstatic state, the heart seems to expand, filling with a joy that encompasses everything.

The spring “breaking out” in his heart, running along a “secret aqueduct,” bringing “water of new life” — this is often part of sacred ecstasy. Mystics often experience a sensation of drinking some unknown liquid that warms the heart and fills you with a sense of life you hadn’t known before.

This “drink” is perceived as being sweet, eliciting comparisons to honey or wine. Thus, Machado discovers “white combs / and sweet honey” in his heart.

In such overwhelming delight you feel radically whole. All past guilts and “failures” seem somehow resolved, transformed into the very matter that this joy is built upon.

In this blissful state, you are also filled with an awareness of light and a great warmth that permeates your whole body, like a “fiery sun.”

Indeed, caught up in this experience, how can you doubt that it is God you have inside your heart?

Antonio Machado, Antonio Machado poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Antonio Machado

Spain (1875 – 1939) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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10 responses so far

May 29 2009

Thought: Life and death

Life and death are a given.

It is what we do with them that matters.

No responses yet

May 27 2009

Movie – Kashf: The Unveiling

Published by under Movies,Videos

I haven’t yet seen this movie, but I’m fascinated by the imagery in the trailer…

You can find out more about this movie from Pakistan at www.kashfthemovie.com

A description of the story from the website:

Unlike the violent and extremist image of Pakistan in the media, KASHF – THE UNVELING takes us on a journey exploring the mystical side of Islam.

Armaghan is born out of an oath his mother makes to a Pir (Holy man) she meets at a Sufi Shrine when she is childless. She promises the Pir who blesses her to let her child “walk the path” when he grows up. Armaghan ‘the gift’ is born in Pakistan but sent off to the US to live with relatives after his father’s death. He returns to Pakistan after 25 years unaware of the family secret about to change his life…

4 responses so far

May 27 2009

Gary Snyder – At Tower Peak

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

At Tower Peak
by Gary Snyder

Every tan rolling meadow will turn into housing
Freeways are clogged all day
Academies packed with scholars writing papers
City people lean and dark
This land most real
As its western-tending golden slopes
And bird-entangled central valley swamps
Sea-lion, urchin coasts
Southerly salmon-probes
Into the aromatic almost-Mexican hills
Along a range of granite peaks
The names forgotten,
An eastward running river that ends out in desert
The chipping ground-squirrels in the tumbled blocks
The gloss of glacier ghost on slab
Where we wake refreshed from ten hours sleep
After a long day’s walking
Packing burdens to the snow
Wake to the same old world of no names,
No things, new as ever, rock and water,
Cool dawn birdcalls, high jet contrails.
A day or two or million, breathing
A few steps back from what goes down
In the current realm.
A kind of ice age, spreading, filling valleys
Shaving soils, paving fields, you can walk in it
Live in it, drive through it then
It melts away
For whatever sprouts
After the age of
Frozen hearts. Flesh-carved rock
And gusts on the summit,
Smoke from forest fires is white,
The haze above the distant valley like a dusk.
It’s just one world, this spine of rock and streams
And snow, and the wash of gravels, silts
Sands, bunchgrasses, saltbrush, bee-fields,
Twenty million human people, downstream, here below.

— from No Nature: New and Selected Poems, by Gary Snyder


/ Photo by Kiwi-Wings /

I was born in a city, lived most of my life in urban environments. I know how real and all-encompassing that bustling, hard-shelled and angular world can seem. But at age 19 I discovered Thoreau, and I spent my 20s and early 30s seeking ways to live more deeply at home in the dark green embrace of forests and mountains. As a city boy born and bred, I was desperate not to lose my connection with what Gary Snyder here calls “This land most real.”

We humans are fundamentally creatures of community. We instinctively seek one another out and know ourselves through the eyes of our loved ones. But we must never forget that the worlds we create for ourselves, the ever more complex structures necessary to house the human social endeavor — that it is all a human dream. It only has substance so long as it is well-rooted in the living reality of the natural world, which is home to us all. We must all regularly walk among trees and wild grasses and desert plains. Even in the city, we discover dandelions rising through cracked sidewalks, foxes and possums, and ancient streambeds still running through metal pipes. We need to remember the reality of the soil beneath our feet. In the midst of the human dream, pause periodically, take a deep breath, and remember what is real.

We need that sense of the wild. Every human construction has a human purpose — a good thing, in its place. And every human creation has a name. To dwell in human spaces is to be surrounded by words and definitions. But the world of nature affronts us by existing before human names, beyond them, in spite of them.

Wake to the same old world of no names,
No things, new as ever…

Sure, you can name a tree, categorize it, safely identify it. But that tree exists, living the fullness of its quiet life, even if in its long history no man ever stood before it and labeled it a “pine.” It knows itself already and mysteriously encounters the sun each day, nameless. Continue Reading »

4 responses so far

May 27 2009

Acquiring Enlightenment

You don’t acquire enlightenment;
you recognize it.

3 responses so far

May 27 2009

The Tale of the Sands

Published by under Stories

Another favorite story from Idries Shah’s Tales of the Dervishes. Encountering the desert, a stream must remember its true nature in order to pass beyond it. Our greatest difficulties become our most profound teachers.


/ Photo by JoelDeluxe /

The Tale of the Sands

A stream, from its source in far-off mountains, passing through every kind and description of countryside, at last reached the sands of the desert. Just as it had crossed every other barrier, the stream tried to cross this one, but it found that as fast as it ran into the sand, its waters disappeared. Continue Reading »

5 responses so far

May 22 2009

Lalla – To learn the scriptures is easy

Published by under Poetry

To learn the scriptures is easy
by Lalla (Lal Ded)

English version by Coleman Barks

To learn the scriptures is easy,
to live them, hard.
The search for the Real
is no simple matter.

Deep in my looking,
the last words vanished.
Joyous and silent,
the waking that met me there.

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


/ Photo by lepiaf.geo /

Ivan steps up on his soapbox for a moment…

To learn the scriptures is easy,
to live them, hard.

Too often people slip into the bad habit of fundamentalism, confusing the ability to quote scripture and rules with actually embodying truth in their daily lives. Memorization and carefully controlled behavior doesn’t do the job. It keeps things safely in the intellect and then we never have to truly confront the heart’s urge to open.

But Lalla reminds us:

The search for the Real
is no simple matter.

Not only is it not simple, it’s messy too. We are confronted by aspects of ourselves that are frightening and frightened, hidden even from our own awareness. History, hopes, angers, ambitions…

Each human life is far too rich and multi-layered to be truncated into the safe, neat, predefined stories we are told to live out. The human soul is not a cartoon, without depth or detail. No, a full spirituality incorporates all that we are. To be holy is to be whole — nothing left out. The map of the human soul is a topographical map, with mountains and valleys, and rivers of life everywhere. Until we’ve acknowledged that entire landscape, we only have an incomplete sense of all that we are, and all that humanity is — that’s when compassion collapses, the world appears fragmented, and the vision of Real is lost in the cracks.

Deep in my looking,
the last words vanished.

After learning the scriptures, Lalla has swept her mental space clean. Now that’s real work! Instead of just memorizing the words of scripture, she has become the blank page that effortlessly displays them.

Joyous and silent,
the waking that met me there.

Have a beautiful weekend!

Lalla (Lal Ded), Lalla (Lal Ded) poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Lalla (Lal Ded)

India (14th Century) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shaivite (Shiva)

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7 responses so far

May 22 2009

Questions and Answers

Find the questions
too big for answers.
Discover the answers
that consume the questions.

3 responses so far

May 22 2009

Top 100 Poetry Blogs

I just got word that the Poetry Chaikhana Blog is listed in the Top 100 Poetry Blogs complied by Online University Reviews.

The list they’ve put together looks like an excellent resource of blogs focusing on collected poetry, original work, audio and video poetry, even children’s poetry. Worth exploring…

4 responses so far

May 20 2009

Layman P’ang – When the mind is at peace

Published by under Poetry

When the mind is at peace
by P’ang Yun (Layman P’ang)

English version by Stephen Mitchell

When the mind is at peace,
the world too is at peace.
Nothing real, nothing absent.
Not holding on to reality,
not getting stuck in the void,
you are neither holy nor wise, just
an ordinary fellow who has completed his work.

— from The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry, by Stephen Mitchell


/ Photo by makani5 /

Such a beautiful, direct poem by Layman Pang.

When the mind is at peace
The world too is at peace.

What more is there to add other than to experience it for oneself?

Nothing real, nothing absent.
Not holding on to reality,
not getting stuck in the void…

Enlightened awareness is not a game of carefully constructed definitions. It is not a feat of the intellect, which can only separate and categorize perceived reality. Even at its most subtle and incisive, when the intellect tries to separate the real from the non-real, it is setting up a filter upon the awareness.

When the mind is truly at peace, not only have thoughts come to a rest, but more importantly those unconscious mental filters no longer pre-sift the perception of reality.

He seems to be describing a trail for us to follow, a path found precisely where reality meets void, and we must gracefully walk between the two.

With no clinging to either “reality” or “void,” the whole and unfiltered vision comes upon us.

Engulfed by this truth, we are not “wise” or “holy” — those are further categories that others may or may not heap upon you. No, we just ARE. We are not this or that, we are.

…an ordinary fellow who has completed his work.

We no longer feel the need to do something to validate our existence; we undeniably are — and our work is therefore completed.

P’ang Yun (Layman P’ang)

China (740? – 808) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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5 responses so far

May 20 2009

blind eye

If I turn a blind eye to the suffering of another,
I automatically bring suffering to myself
…and I become a little more blind.

One response so far

May 18 2009

Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi – No end to the journey

Published by under Poetry

No end to the journey
by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

English version by Robert Bly

No end, no end to the journey
no end, no end never
how can the heart in love
ever stop opening
if you love me,
you won’t just die once
in every moment
you will die into me
to be reborn

Into this new love, die
your way begins
on the other side
become the sky
take an axe to the prison wall,
escape
walk out like someone
suddenly born into color
do it now

— from Secret Language: Rumi A Celebration in Song (Music CD), by Ramananda


/ Photo by e-du /

No end, no end to the journey

That line becomes a rhythmic chant on Ramananda’s wonderful CD “Secret Language.”

no end, no end never

And, my favorite–

how can the heart in love
ever stop opening

A full life, a complete spiritual practice can be found in that question.

But why all this death imagery?

Into this new love, die
your way begins
on the other side

Why does every spiritual tradition speak of dying and death in such a favorable light? Do all mystics have some secret death wish?

In deep ecstasy, the sense of individuality, the sense of “I” thins and can completely disappear. Though you still walk and breathe and talk, there is no “you” performing these actions. The separate identity, the ego, disappears, to be replaced by a vast, borderless sense of Self.

It is this experience, this complete loss of the limited sense of self, that is the death so eagerly sought by mystics throughout time. This is the death that leads to new life…

in every moment
you will die into me
to be reborn

That limited sense of self is the prison we must break free from.

take an axe to the prison wall,
escape

Suddenly, the walls that kept you contained and carefully defined drop to the ground — and there you stand a radiant being whose boundaries are no longer perceived in terms of flesh or memory. In this new freedom, you are alive in a way you never imagined before, and everything you perceive is part of that life.

walk out like someone
suddenly born into color
do it now

Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi, Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

Afghanistan & Turkey (1207 – 1273) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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11 responses so far

May 15 2009

Kabir – Why do you want me to talk?

Published by under Poetry

Hey brother, why do you want me to talk?
by Kabir

English version by John Stratton Hawley and Mark Juergensmeyer

Hey brother, why do you want me to talk?
Talk and talk and the real things get lost.

Talk and talk and things get out of hand.
Why not stop talking and think?

If you meet someone good, listen a little, speak;
If you meet someone bad, clench up like a fist.

Talking with a wise man is a great reward.
Talking with a fool? A waste.

Kabir says: A pot makes noise if it’s half full,
But fill it to the brim — no sound.

— from Songs of the Saints of India, Translated by John Stratton Hawley / Translated by Mark Juergensmeyer


/ Photo by acidcookie /

Talk and talk and the real things get lost.

I guess I should take my cue from that opening line and, well, not say much. :-)

Kabir says: A pot makes noise if it’s half full,
But fill it to the brim — no sound.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Kabir, Kabir poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Kabir

India (15th Century) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi
Yoga / Hindu

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8 responses so far

May 15 2009

Dive deep into the present.

Dive deep into the present.

2 responses so far

May 13 2009

D. H. Lawrence – Pax

Published by under Ivan's Story,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


/ Photo 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, in fact, gave birth to a litter of kittens right on my belly. 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
a presence

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

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

England (1885 – 1930) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by D. H. Lawrence

8 responses so far

May 13 2009

Where you are

Where you are,
worship.

No responses yet

May 13 2009

Story: The Story of Fire

Published by under Stories

A delightful Sufi story about the light of truth, the heat of human passions, while exploring questions of cultural memory, religious institutions, and how to pass on knowledge…


/ Photo by Irargerich /

The Story of Fire
By Ahmed el-Bedavi (d. 1276), founder of the Egyptian Bedavi Sufi Order
Retold by Idries Shah

Once upon a time a man was contemplating the ways in which Nature operates, and he discovered, because of his concentration and application, how fire could be made.

This man was called Nour [Light]. He decided to travel from one community to another, showing people his discovery.

Nour passed the secret to many groups of people. Some took advantage of the knowledge. Others drove him away, thinking that he must be dangerous, before they had had time to understand how valuable this discovery could be to them. Finally, a tribe before which he demonstrated became so panic-stricken that they set about him and killed him, being convinced that he was a demon.

Centuries passed. Continue Reading »

4 responses so far

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