Nov 18 2013

Lalla – Intense cold makes water ice

Published by at 8:49 am under Poetry

Intense cold makes water ice
by Lalla

English version by Coleman Barks

Intense cold makes water ice.
Then the hard ice turns to slush
and back to water, so there are three
forms of consciousness: the individual,
the world, and God, which in the sun
of True Awareness melt to one flowing:

Lalla is that.

In meditation, I entered the love furnace,
burned impurities away, and as the sun
of a new knowing rose, I realized
that the words “Lalla” and “God”
point to this peacefulness.

— from Naked Song, by Lalla / Translated by Coleman Barks

/ Photo by net_efekt /

I spent most of my growing up years in Los Angeles — endless city, and no winters. I remember the one time as a child when the temperature dropped down to 30 degrees, and I implored the weather gods for snow. But it was not to be. It was Southern California, after all. A little more bundled than usual, I still had to go to school.

So when I moved to Colorado as an adult, you can imagine my sense of wonder at the snow each winter. In fact, I lived in places up in the mountains where the snow would build up until it literally covered part of the ground floor windows. One more reminder for me that, no matter how much we humans construct our own environments, we are still residents within the world of nature, and that natural world is immense, stunningly beautiful, and ignored at our own peril…

Intense cold makes water ice.
Then the hard ice turns to slush
and back to water…

Lalla is giving us a simple spiritual metaphor, but although the intellect can quickly comprehend what she is saying, it’s important not to rush past it. Sit with the metaphor for a bit, let the imagery and meaning ferment quietly in your mind.

Water becomes solid ice when it is cold enough. It becomes almost rock-like: impenetrable, graspable, tangible… an unavoidable ‘thing.’ With a little bit of warmth, it starts to melt and becomes a slushy mixture of states, in some ways still seemingly solid, yet a hand can pass through it. When it has fully yielded to the warmth, it is liquid again, fluid, ungraspable, less a ‘thing’ and more of a filling of space.

Even so, all are the same substance: water. There has been no essential change other than the form perceived by the witness; it is a continuum that only appears different.

…so there are three
forms of consciousness: the individual,
the world, and God, which in the sun
of True Awareness melt to one flowing

And Lalla is reminding us that the individual and God are the same, separate only in apparent form, but in essence it is all one continuum of consciousness. The individual, the world, and God, when seen clearly in the warming sunlight of True Awareness are seen to “melt to one flowing.”

Lalla is that.

Her insight: In that instant of true seeing, we cease to identify ourselves as the individual or ego, and instead recognize ourselves as “that” — the flowing that moves through the entire spectrum of existence.

I realized
that the words “Lalla” and “God”
point to this peacefulness.

Reread those last lines, but insert your own name for Lalla’s.

Have a beautiful day!

Lalla, Lalla poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Lalla

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

Lalla, also affectionately called Lalli, Lal Ded, Lal Diddi (“Granny Lal”), or Lalleshwari, was born near Srinagar in Kashmir in northern India.

Little is known with certainty about her life, other than hints that come to us through her poetry and songs.

She was a young bride, married, tradition says, at the age of twelve. After moving into her husband’s family home, she was abused by her mother-in-law and ignored by her husband.

A story is told about “Lalla’s Lake” — one day when returning from the well with a clay water jug on her head, her husband lost his temper over her delay and struck the jug in his anger. The clay vessel broke but, miraculously, the water held its shape above her head. This becomes an important symbol of the heavenly nectar that rains down from the crown.

Finally, Lalla could endure no more mistreatment and, in her early 20s, she left. She became a disciple of a respected saint in the Kashmir Shaivism tradition of yoga and she took up the life of a holy woman dedicated God in the form of Shiva. Lalla began wandering about, village to village, going naked or nearly naked, and singing songs of enlightenment.

Lalla’s songs are short, using the simple, direct language of the common people, yet she touches on complex yogic techniques and the most elevated states of awareness.

The name Lalla can be translated as either “seeker” or “darling.”

Lalla is deeply loved by both Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir today, even amidst the terrible fighting ravaging the land. There is a saying that in Kashmir only two words have any meaning: Allah and Lalla.

More poetry by Lalla

5 responses so far

5 Responses to “Lalla – Intense cold makes water ice”

  1. Aravindaon 19 Nov 2013 at 3:15 am

    Beautiful. Thank you, Ivan.

  2. ahmadanehon 19 Nov 2013 at 3:34 am

    …. And intense heat makes it vapor
    as love does to the soul of the true lover

  3. Pegon 19 Nov 2013 at 7:43 am

    Early this morning I trembled and vibrated to the intense presence, I knew what was coming next, the lifting up into the air and flying. I swallowed my fear and followed the lead of my inner spirit. I had a great flight completely safe.

    This morning, in stark contrast to my earlier experience, my sister’s are going through emotional upheaval over family issues. They are striking out at whomever instead of going inward. I would like to say that it is easy for me to give them space, unfortunately I am very energy sensitive and feel all their hateful hurtful thoughts. So this morning I am shoring up me again. My father is in the process of crossing over,it may take a few weeks or a few years, I just don’t know. I do know that there will be a few more ER or hospital visits.

    As I began thinking on this poem, I saw how our hearts are ice, hard, indifferent, even if we think we ‘re loving. My loving, before kundalini melted all the ice, can not be even remotely compared to loving after kundalini. My ego mislead me.

    I am so grateful for this poem this morning. It brought my focus inward to my heart and where my pain was triggered.

    Much love, Peg

  4. Therese Monaghan O.P.on 20 Nov 2013 at 9:04 am

    I will keep you in prayer, Peg, as you move through
    the pain in your heart–a place of my own pain.

    Thank you, Ivan, for reminding me of Lalla. She is a favorite of mine. I need to focus on the glory of God beyond the form or I should say in the form as Lalla
    knew: “The experience of God is continuous amazement.”
    Thanksgiving blessing.

  5. bharation 20 Nov 2013 at 10:20 am

    shards of ice, piercing, painful, cruel…
    may these poems and the love therein melt us, and in fluid state may we fill all space, hurting nothing, caressing each. thank you peg, lalla, ivan, all.
    it hurt me, yes, to imagine anyone thinks srinagar is not part of india!
    what, after all, are india, pakistan, but shards of collective imagination, as are the many nations, the i me mine of sunless spaces.
    and even these may be filled with the magic of snow…with poems of wonder.

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