Archive for the 'Ivan’s Story' Category

Nov 13 2014

New Book: The Longing in Between is now available!

Hi All –

Several large boxes of The Longing in Between arrived on my doorstep yesterday afternoon. And the book is now officially available and ready to order, either direct from the printer or through Amazon (including Amazon UK and other international Amazon sites).

I’m really pleased with how well this book has come together. It has a beautiful cover with inspired artwork by Alice Popkorn. The book just feels good in my hands. I may be a bit biased, though. :-)

It is my sincere hope that this new anthology carries with it a sense of blessing, peace, and inspiration for everyone who reads it.

For everyone who pre-ordered a copy of the new anthology, I will be signing them and mailing them out over the next few days. You should be receiving them soon!

The Longing in Between, Sacred Poetry from Around the World, A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology, Ivan M. Granger The Longing in Between
Sacred Poetry From Around the World

A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology

Edited with Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

$16.95

PURCHASE

also
Amazon
   

A delightful collection of soul-inspiring poems from the world’s great religious and spiritual traditions, accompanied by Ivan M. Granger’s meditative thoughts and commentary. Rumi, Whitman, Issa, Teresa of Avila, Dickinson, Blake, Lalla, and many others. These are poems of seeking and awakening… and the longing in between.

Devoted readers of the Poetry Chaikhana can finally enjoy this amazing poetry paired with Ivan’s illuminating commentary in book form. The Longing In Between is a truly engaging and thought-provoking exploration of sacred poetry from around the world.

Read More…

The Longing in Between is a work of sheer beauty. Many of the selected poems are not widely known, and Ivan M. Granger has done a great service, not only by bringing them to public attention, but by opening their deeper meaning with his own rare poetic and mystic sensibility.
     ~ ROGER HOUSDEN, author of the best-selling Ten Poems to Change Your Life series


Introduction (excerpt)

a star
a tree
and the longing in between

Gabriel Rosenstock

Without even formulating a complete sentence, Irish poet Gabriel Rosenstock gives us the whole spiritual endeavor–rootedness and aspiration, life, light, a terrible void, and the aching heart that impels us onward.

The longing in between…

Each poem in this collection is born of that same longing–the crisis of longing and its resolution.

If longing poses the question, then union is the answer.

This vibrant tension between longing and union reminds me of a story told by the 10th century Persian Sufi master Junayd. When asked why spiritually realized masters weep, he responded by telling of two brothers who had been apart for years. Upon their reunion, they embraced and were filled with tears. The first brother declared, “What longing!” to which the second brother replied, “What joy!” Longing and fulfillment, the one is not separate from the other.

The mystic maps the territory between the soul and God, between lover and Beloved, between the little self and the true Self, between the transitory and the Eternal. The road connecting these is the road of longing. Mysticism is the science of longing.

The poems gathered in these pages speak to us of seeking and awakening… and the longing in between…


“Ivan M. Granger has woven these poems into a tapestry of great wisdom with his reflection on each poem. I can imagine each poem and commentary furnishing the basis for a daily meditation. I would recommend this anthology to lovers of poetry, to mystics, and to explorers of the spiritual life.”
     ~ HARVEY GILMAN, author of Consider the Blackbird and A Light that is Shining: An Introduction to Quakers


Additional Ways to Support this Anthology

If you have already purchased a copy and want to support the book in other ways, here are a few suggestions:

Give The Longing in Between as a gift
My wife knows me pretty well… most of the time she gives me books as gifts. The Longing in Between makes a wonderful gift for the book-lovers in your life. (The recent snow in our area remind me that the holidays are coming quickly.)

Post a book review
An excellent way to introduce new readers to The Longing in Between is to post a favorable review in places like Amazon and GoodReads.

Ask your local bookstore to carry The Longing in Between
I think The Longing in Between will have great appeal to people who have never heard of me or the Poetry Chaikhana before. I’d love to have this collection of poems on local bookstore shelves, just waiting to be discovered by the right browsers.

I am only just beginning to explore what a publisher must do to get books carried in bookstores, and with my available time an energy I can’t rush through the process. But you can help. Consider asking your favorite local bookstore to carry The Longing in Between among their books. Customer demand always gets their attention. This anthology has a natural appeal to metaphysical bookstores, poetry bookstores, and open-minded church/ashram/mosque/temple bookstores. If the folks at your bookstore ask, The Longing in Between is available for wholesale distribution through Ingram.

Poetry Reading and Book Signing Event

On the afternoon of Saturday, December 6, I will be doing a reading and book signing event at a cozy little coffee shop in Longmont, Colorado. If you happen to be in the area, please come by and say hello! I feel I know so many of you through the emails we share, but I have only met a handful of you in person. This is a perfect opportunity to see who this Ivan fellow is face-to-face.

Date & Time
Saturday, Dec. 6
2:00 pm

Location
La Vita Bella Coffee Shop
475 Main St.
Longmont, CO 80501

Event listing on Facebook

If my energies allow it, I hope to schedule more readings in the future. Let me know if you have any suggestions for locations.

Once again, thank you, everyone, for all of your support and encouragement in bringing this book into being!

Ivan

4 responses so far

May 05 2014

14 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Me

First dawn. Even the
birds in the tallest pines are
surprised by the sun.
~ Ivan M. Granger



I woke up this morning, and thought, Why not do something different to start the week off? Some miscellaneous things for you today…

14 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Me

Here are several things about me that may not be very important, but some of you might find interesting —

1. I was born with a caul over my face and torticollis (neck atrophy). My parents were advised by doctors to surgically sever the muscles of my neck. They refused, thankfully. Thanks to my parents’ instincts, I have full mobility in my neck today.

2. I was named after Ivan Karamazov, from Dostoyevski’s Brothers Karmazov. I finally read the book when I was 18. I asked my mother why she named me after that particular brother. She said she always imagined him to be an interesting, deep-thinking intellectual. I said, yes, but you know he goes crazy, right? I mean, I could have been named after the good-hearted, naive mystic, instead.

3. I was once under suspicion for murder. (Why are you looking at me that way? No, I didn’t do it.) The crime took place in a state I’ve never visited. But the suspect did look a lot like me. I spent a very long 30 minutes being grilled by detectives before they released me.

4. When I was in high school, I wrote a short horror story and sent it to Stephen King. He sent back a typed index card saying that he liked the story and made a few friendly suggestions. I also wrote a science fiction novel when I was in my 20s. Never got it published. It’s sitting in the back of one of my closets, somewhere.

5. I got very skinny in my 30s, under 130 lbs (for a someone who stands 5′ 11″ tall). Several years ago I decided to radically alter my energies and I intentionally put on weight in order to be more physically present in the world. I had to train myself to eat more. I even lifted weights. In the space of 8 months, I added nearly 50 lbs to my body.

6. I am the son of hippie parents, yet I have never smoked pot… or drunk alcohol. Not once. (OK, I have had a sip of red wine and I think champagne, and maybe two other drinks — I wanted to know what they tasted like.) It’s not a weird religious thing, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with those things in moderation. For some reason that I don’t understand myself, I made a personal vow not to drink at age 13, and I’ve always stuck with it. On my 21st birthday, I did go to a bar, but mainly because I wanted to finally hear some good live music. A friend met me there and surprised me with a pitcher of beer. I spent all night pretending to drink the beer, but that glass of beer oddly never went down in level. The music was great, though.

7. I went to three universities in three years and graduated from none of them. In my freshman year, I was wait-listed for USC’s school of film. I thought of becoming a movie director, the next Kubrick.

8. I wanted to be Spider-Man as a child.

9. My father lived in Tehran, Iran in the 70s. He was a university professor there, and he left just before the Islamic Revolution kicked into full gear.

10. The only country outside the US I have visited (so far) is Canada. I have not yet been to Europe or India or South America. In all my teenage years in LA, I never crossed the border into Mexico. I have, however, lived in Oregon, California, Hawaii, Washington, and now Colorado. I’ve primarily been an internal traveler. We’ll see if I someday have the opportunity for international travel.

11. I attended a Montessori school as a young child.

12. My wife, Michele, and I lived a few houses away from each other as children in Eugene, Oregon — though we didn’t meet until I was in my 20s. Her family moved out a few months before mine moved in. When we met and started dating as adults, we discovered we have shared childhood memories of all the same places.

13. I can name most of the obscure border crossings throughout Europe. I worked for Rail Europe (in the US) for several years. I eventually moved to the Russian desk; since I could read and write a bit of Russian, part of my job was to fax ticket requests to Moscow.

14. The Greek side of my family can be traced to the island of Chios, near the coast of Turkey. Apparently, I still have distant cousins living on the island.

==

Some further thoughts on education…

My comments on knowledge and education accompanying Friday’s poem made a few people uncomfortable. To some it sounded as if I was negating the value of education and academic learning, which I really wasn’t trying to do.

I used strong language to make a point about our cultural assumptions. But I should be clear that I am by no means anti-intellectual or blind to the huge value of a good education. In my day job I work as a computer programmer and database designer. I definitely acknowledge the power of a well-exercised intellect that has the ability to think logically and can utilize information effectively. None of that would be possible without a solid education, a few special teachers along the way, and access to good information resources.

When I have a few extra dollars, I tend to buy books. I have shelves filled with books of poetry, history, novels, natural health, and, of course, religion and spirituality.

But– that is still not knowledge in the deep sense.

My real point is that education, books, and the skills of critical thinking can open a life up in profound ways: intellectually, yes, spiritually, professionally, socially, in so many ways. I think it’s hugely important and sometimes undervalued in general American culture and in government priorities. At the same time, we idolize this form of cognition and forget that, for all of its potential, it has significant limitations which causes blind spots within both the individual and in society. Real knowledge, full knowledge, comes from a deeper place within the awareness.

Having a good education with a keen intellect is like having the most powerful computer in the office. You can do amazing things with it. Creative things. Productive things. Or pointless things. Or even destructive things. It all depends on the operator. There are lots of reasons to acquire a capable computer, but we tend to forget that much more important is real knowledge of how — and why — to use it at all.

I strongly support education, intellect, and critical thinking, just not becoming lost within them. I value the intellect but, personally, I tend to value wisdom more and the knowing heart most of all. The question is not which to choose and which to reject, but how to develop them all in proportion and balance.

==

Fund Drive

Once more, thank you so much for the many generous donations sent in support of the Poetry Chaikhana. I’ll have a few more names to thank in upcoming emails.

To everyone who has sent a donation so far, your help makes a huge difference!

Ivan



Image by gregster09

The warbler knows
only dawn’s shaft
of light
on her breast.

Forgetting false future
suns, she sings

in no voice
but her own.

~ Ivan M. Granger

16 responses so far

Apr 25 2014

Behind the Scenes and Around the World

and though we seem
to be sleeping
there is an inner wakefulness
~ Rumi

I don’t say it often enough, but I want to thank you for the many wonderful, wise, touching, playful emails and blog comments I receive from you all each week. Although I can’t respond to them all individually, I read every one, and they make up an important part of my day. Your notes remind me why the Poetry Chaikhana is so important. And I am so grateful to be able to share my love of this poetry with such an engaged community.

During the past year, many of you have sent generous donations, either single donations or steady monthly donations, and it is such a great help — but I need to ask more of you to join in and support the Poetry Chaikhana. It is still challenging to dedicate as much time and energy as I do each week and still meet my family’s basic financial needs. As amazing as it sounds, more than 9,000 people are receiving this email! Together we can cover the expenses of one person (me) dedicating part of each day to sharing this amazing poetry.

Behind the Scenes

You may wonder what I’m actually doing here on the other end of these poetry emails. Here is a sketch of what my work with the Poetry Chaikhana looks like each morning. I thought you might find it interesting…

I often start my morning off with a meditation, and then I see which poem seems eager to speak that day. I let my computer suggest a poem at random, and then I try to sense if the poem is “right” for the day. Some mornings I select the first poem that comes up. Other days I’ll spend an hour sorting through possibilities. I try to make sure I have a good balance of spiritual traditions represented over the month. I also make a point of including women’s voices regularly. Occasionally I look for a series of poems that follow a sacred theme or metaphor.

Once I’ve selected the daily poem, I may spend some time researching the life of the poet so I can pass along a few biographical notes with the poem.

Then I sit with the poem, contemplate it, speak it aloud, let it dance in my mind, and I watch the ideas rise for my commentary. Occasionally I slip back into meditation and when I emerge the commentary is just waiting to be written out.

If I feel I’ve said too much in recent commentaries, I may choose to send the poem with just a short, friendly note. And sometimes I come across a poem with a comment I wrote a few years previously, and I think, “I have to share that with everyone again!”

Then I spend a while searching through photos and art among the Flickr or Deviantart “Creative Commons” libraries and look for one that somehow expresses an image or supports the feeling of the poem.

I also select a “Thought for the Day” from among a list I’ve written out over the years, and I find a music CD. And I select a card from the Dharma Gaia Card folks.

Then I update the Poetry Chaikhana home page and post the poem and commentary to the Poetry Chaikhana blog. I spend a while adding new sign-ups and removing cancellations from the email list. Finally, I format everything and send out the poem email.

The Poetry Chaikhana poem email now goes out to more than 9,000 people! It takes my computer more than 4 hours to send the poem email out each day.

Most days I also select a short poem or excerpt to post on the Poetry Chaikhana Facebook page. Sometimes two posts. I often post accompanying artwork, as well. We’ve got another 5,000 fans there.

I spend time each month looking for new voices of wisdom in books and on the Internet. I try to add new poems and poets regularly. I’ve become quite a speedy typist!

Some weeks I also have to spend time maintaining and troubleshooting the Poetry Chaikhana database and website. Occasionally, I have to wrangle with spam-blocker sites to convince them that the Poetry Chaikhana emails are not spam.

I get dozens of emails each week, sometimes hundreds — which I love! I read every email and, when I can, I send responses.

…And then I start my day job. Whew!


/ Photo by woodleywonderworks /

Around the World

The results of that work is amazing to me. The Poetry Chaikhana has become a community that reaches across the globe.

Since the beginning of 2008 (when I first started tracking web statistics), the Poetry Chaikhana has had visits from more than 220 different countries and territories! Continue Reading »

6 responses so far

Dec 02 2013

Announcement: Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart – Card Set

I hope you had a joyful Thanksgiving (if you’re in the Thanksgiving part of the world). My wife and I played tabletop games with friends. It is also Hanukkah. And the Winter Solstice, Christmas, and the New Year are all quickly coming up. May this be a blessed time of light and renewal for all!

And I have some news…

I am so pleased to announce that the Poetry Chaikhana is offering a beautiful new card set of sayings and short poems. It is a collection of several of my “thought for the day” sayings and a few short poems, with artwork Rashani Réa of Dharma Gaia Cards.

Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart, card set, sayings, short poems, Ivan M. Granger, Rashani Rea Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart
Card Set – 12 full-color cards

Sayings and Short Poems by Ivan M. Granger
Art & Design by Rashani Réa

$12.95
+ $2 Shipping

PURCHASE


A beautiful collection of meditative sayings, thought-provoking statements, and short poems accompanied by the colorful, collage-like artwork of Rashani Réa.

  • Keep a set of these cards by your bed, in your place of meditation or prayer, or at your desk.
  • Select a card each time you seek a new perspective, a spark of creativity, a moment of clarity, or renewed focus in your spiritual practice.
  • Frame your favorite and display it on a wall or bookshelf.

This lovely card set also makes a wonderful gift!

This collection of cards came together in a surprising way: During the past few months I’ve been quietly working on a Poetry Chaikhana anthology, a selection of the amazing poetry we share each week, accompanied by my commentary and spiritual ramblings. (I know I’ve been promising this anthology for some time, but it is coming together nicely and should be available next year.) In the midst of that work, a half-formed but strong spark of an idea popped into my head: do something with cards. I casually emailed Rashani Réa, an artist I know in Hawaii who does stunning, collage-like artwork imbued with a strong spiritual element, and I suggested we think of doing something together. She surprised me several days later, saying that creative inspiration had taken over and she was already immersed in the design of the cards. A few weeks later — here they are!

Rashani also waived her normal design fee to support the work of the Poetry Chaikhana. Thanks to her generosity, your purchase of these cards doubly benefits for the Poetry Chaikhana — and you get this wonderful card set!

And, if these sell well, we may put together a series of “Poetry Chaikhana Cards” — Lalla, Rumi, Basho, St. John of the Cross… Is that something you’d like? Let us know.

Here are a few examples from the card set:

Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart, card set, sayings, short poems, Ivan M. Granger, Rashani Rea Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart, card set, sayings, short poems, Ivan M. Granger, Rashani Rea Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart, card set, sayings, short poems, Ivan M. Granger, Rashani Rea Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart, card set, sayings, short poems, Ivan M. Granger, Rashani Rea
Protect
the wild places
in yourself
See everything
with a fierce eye
and a gentle heart.
The divine
is experienced in the heart.

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

Beloved, they want to know:
Did I reach up to You,
or did You reach out to me?

And they want to know:
What is real
touch?

How can I explain

— we pour
into each other.

~ Ivan M. Granger

Purchasing these cards is a wonderful way to support the Poetry Chaikhana. They also can be given as gifts of inspiration this holiday season.

You can order through PayPal by clicking the ‘Purchase’ link above or on the Poetry Chaikhana website. Or, if you prefer, you can send a check or money order to:

Poetry Chaikhana
PO Box 2320
Boulder, CO 80306

Please be sure to include your delivery address.

I should mention that, because these cards are a new and we don’t yet know how popular they will be, our initial printing is limited — so if you want a set right away, make sure to place your order soon. If they sell out quickly, more cards will be available after mid-December.

Have a beautiful day!

Ivan

11 responses so far

Nov 13 2013

My Introduction to Sacred Poetry

Ivan M. Granger

I am often asked how I came to the world of sacred poetry. What set me on this path? Was there a particular poet who opened the doorway or a line that hooked me? What was my inspiration for starting the Poetry Chaikhana?

My father, Steven Granger, was a poet, so I heard poetry from a young age. Like many young people, I wrote a bit of poetry as I grew up, but I didn’t take it too seriously. Most of the poetry I was exposed to was, well, boring to me. I thought of poetry as belonging my father’s world. To me it was mostly an intellectual game of words.

In the year 2000, I moved with my wife Michele to Maui. A friend from the mainland sent me a series of talks by the poet David Whyte on cassette tapes. I went for long drives along Maui’s country roads, through the tall sugar cane fields, among the rows of spiky pineapple plants, listening to David Whyte’s molasses accent, as he told stories and recited poetry by poets I hadn’t heard of before: Antonio Machado, Anna Akhmatova.

Maui’s natural beauty and quiet rhythms of land and sea and sky inspired me to go deeper into my spiritual practices. I was meditating deeply, praying, fasting, going for long walks in the eucalyptus forests that grew along the slopes of Haleakala Volcano. It was idyllic, yet I was going through a personal crisis.


/ Photo by alierturk /

I had just broken with a spiritual group I had been practicing with for nearly ten years. So, while I was engaged in intensive spiritual practice, it had lost its context. Should I still be following the same form of prayer, the same focus in meditation? I was flailing about.

Christmas came, and the sense of crisis deepened. The holidays just seemed to emphasize my disorientation. I was in my early 30s by that point and had no career to speak of. I was just doing work to get by. I was largely cut off from friends and family, cut off even from the American mainland. My one driving goal was spiritual growth. That was my only identity. And it was in disarray.

I came to a profound personal confrontation. For the first time I really saw myself. And that was a terrifying thing. I dropped all pretense and projection, all the fantasies of who I thought I was or who I might become. I just looked at myself plainly, as I was. What I saw wasn’t terribly impressive. I felt I was a mostly good-hearted person, but largely ineffectual. I had the ironic recognition that I was basically a likable flake. What truly surprised me, though, was the thought that followed, which was that it was okay.

New Years came and went, while I hovered in that limbo state.

The combination began to ferment in my mind – the poetry and the personal crisis. Continue Reading »

40 responses so far

Sep 18 2013

Mahendranath Battacharya – Oh Ma Kali, for a long time now

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Oh Ma Kali, for a long time now
by Mahendranath Battacharya

English version by Rachel Fell McDermott

Oh Ma Kali, for a long time now
            You’ve masqueraded in this world
            as a clown.
But I am punished inside
            and there’s nothing funny about Your jokes.
Oh Ma, sometimes You’re the air we breathe,
            sometimes the sky in the seventh underworld
            furthest away, and
sometimes the water in the sea
            You assume so many forms!
I have traveled to countless lands
and worn countless costumes; even so,
            Your marvels — ha! — never cease.

Premik says,
My mind is a cad; that’s why it’s sunk
in attachments. Why else
            would these tricks of Yours
                  keep working?

— from Singing to the Goddess: Poems to Kali and Uma from Bengal, Translated by Rachel Fell McDermott


/ Photo by kintosh /

Adrenaline and survivor’s euphoria have dissipated and the hard realities of the aftermath of last week’s flood are starting to sink in. I’m now hearing from friends and coworkers stories of the devastation caused by the inundation: people made homeless by the floods, farmers whose lands are damaged and their livelihoods lost, cherished mementos destroyed by the water and mud, discoveries that insurance policies don’t cover flood damage to homes.

What does one say in such circumstances? Given the size and destructive power of the flood in our area, we can say it’s a blessing that so few people died. When you have life, the rest is just “stuff,” right? But it is almost cruel to say such a thing to a person who has witnessed the destruction of all they know. And that stuff can be the stuff of life, the means of support, items imbued with meaning.

As someone who was not too harshly affected by the flood, my reflex is to give a pat response, to feel as if I’ve said something nice that then allows me to feel good about myself and move on. That’s not what traumatized survivors need, though. When material help can’t be offered or isn’t enough, saccharine words are no substitute. What people most need in that moment is to be heard, be seen. Look into their eyes and listen to their stories. Few things restore and renew hope as being honestly present with someone amidst their suffering.

I am reminded of a quote by the late Mother Teresa. I may be misquoting slightly, since I’m reciting it from memory, but it is something to the effect of, “The poor do not need your money. Money can be got. What they need is your hearts to love them.”

==

About today’s poem…

Battacharya, like several of the other great Kali poets of Bengal, evokes a teasingly plaintive voice when addressing the Mother Goddess Kali while, at the same time, berating his own misbehaving mind.

Oh Ma Kali, for a long time now
            You’ve masqueraded in this world
            as a clown.
But I am punished inside
            and there’s nothing funny about Your jokes.

For Kali, all of creation is the product of her lila, her play. Reality is a game of divine delight, an elaborate pretense of hide-and-seek, a sort of “joke” meant to prod awareness from sluggish matter. For those of us caught up in the dramas and attachments of our lives, we are repeatedly fooled by Mother’s tricks. We become dazzled by physical reality and imagine it to be the beginning and end of all existence. Joys on that level are intense, but never lasting, and losses seem so terribly permanent. Caught in that level of awareness, Mother’s “joke” doesn’t seem very funny.

When we become less attached to the dancing objects and experiences of material existence, the mind stops spinning, it settles, grows clear. It starts to see behind the great magic show an immense presence, waiting for us to see through the trick, and catch her glowing smile behind it all.

It all comes down to that cad, the mind…

Premik says,
My mind is a cad; that’s why it’s sunk
in attachments. Why else
            would these tricks of Yours
                  keep working?

Have a beautiful day!






Mahendranath Battacharya

India (1843 – 1908) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shakta (Goddess-oriented)

Continue Reading »

4 responses so far

Sep 16 2013

Allama Prabhu – If it rains fire

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

If it rains fire
by Allama Prabhu

English version by A. K. Ramanujan

If it rains fire
      you have to be as the water;

if it is a deluge of water
      you have to be as the wind;

if it is the Great Flood,
      you have to be as the sky;

and if it is the Very Last Flood of all the worlds,
      you have to give up self

and become the Lord.

— from Speaking of Siva, by A K Ramanujan


/ Photo by Longmont Times Call /

I missed Friday’s poem because I was caught in the massive flooding near Boulder, Colorado. I actually live just outside of Boulder in Longmont, Colorado. After several days of heavy rain, on Thursday an immense flood cut through the center of town, dividing it in two. Thousands had to evacuate their homes, including several of my friends. The northern bank of the flooding on our side of town came to within a few blocks of where we live — but my family and I are safe.

This photograph is from the flooded neighborhood within walking distance of where I live–


/ Photo by Reuters/John Wark /

- More photos of the flooding in my area here -

As the weather clears, people gather at the cordoned off edges of the floodwaters. Evacuated residents trying to catch glimpses of their inundated homes. People sharing the latest news and their personal stories. Where the waters have already started to recede, people show up with shovels and pumps and help each other dig out. Others show up with food to feed everyone. Some individuals just stand there struck dumb by immensity of what they just witnessed and survived.

Like all of us, I’ve seen plenty of disasters on television news, videos on the internet. (Far too many in recent years.) And, having been an adolescent in Southern California, I experienced a few earthquakes, and lived with the possibility of larger ones. But there is something truly stunning about experiencing the reality up close, being in the midst of such immense and unrelenting forces moving around you. I think what’s most startling is the absolute recognition that no human being is in control of that power. We live amidst immense feats of engineering and technology and collective human will, and there is something comforting about that sense of human domination. Witnessing a disaster like this first hand reminds you that human control is not absolute.

I have to admit that I feel a sense of relief with that recognition — at the same time as my heart breaks for the families struggling so terribly in the immediate turmoil. It’s a strange polarity of thought and feeling. Compassion, of course, wants me to keep everyone safe and free from trauma. But there is a certain aloof part of my awareness that is exhilarated by the flood, as if it brings life and not destruction. I don’t know that I can honestly justify both feelings at the same time, but somehow they exist together inside me. Perhaps it is a sign of the perversity of the human mind amidst overwhelming events.

Relinquishing that notion of human control offers a strange sort of peace. Instead of control and certainty, we encounter… awe. What’s more, we regain community with the planet. The immense forces of nature can serve to remind us that we never live exclusively in the man-made world. No matter how high we build, how powerful the tools we wield, no matter how we live, we always exist within nature’s world. In a terrible way, natural disasters remind us of our home.

It also reminds us of what is really important. We come together as families, as communities. We help each other without the chill of commerce. We put our hearts into our hands.

I am certainly not saying we need more disasters, but let us remember the lessons they teach. Better not to need the disaster to teach us that at all.

Yet, when the disaster occurs, let us us it — to expand the awareness, to open the heart, to release our grasp…

if it is the Great Flood,
      you have to be as the sky;

and if it is the Very Last Flood of all the worlds,
      you have to give up self

and become the Lord.

Sending many blessings out to all the flood survivors in my area.

Be safe everyone. And walk with a sense of awe.






Allama Prabhu, Allama Prabhu poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Allama Prabhu

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

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9 responses so far

Jun 17 2013

Ivan M. Granger – Holy Ground

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Holy Ground
by Ivan M. Granger

Let the vision
of the vastness
you are
leave you
in glorious
ruins.

Pilgrims will come
to imagine
the grand temple
that once stood,
not realizing

            the wreck
            made this empty plain
            holy ground.

— from Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey, by Ivan M. Granger


/ Photo by Mendhak /

I thought I’d share one of my own poems with you today…

So often we imagine our spiritual journey to be one of construction. We want to build a great shining monument within ourselves. It comes as a terrible shock how much the real spiritual work is actually about tearing down our structures.

Watch a wild field at dawn. Sit among the uneven grasses and opening wildflowers. Look at that empty space all around you. It is empty, yes, empty of our own constructions. But it is filled with life. It is an inherently holy space.

The same is true of the quiet depths in the heart. No perfect construction of spirituality is needed. We need to reveal the holy life that is already the foundation of our being. With courage and supreme balance, stand back and do nothing. Staying poised, just look. Notice all those fine structures we’ve erected over a lifetime, proclaiming, “Here I am!” Look closely, look long enough, and we start to see fine cracks appear. When we don’t actively shore them up, the cracks quickly expand. And then, all of a sudden — RUMBLE — the whole facade collapses.

THAT is the moment we’re waiting for! That is when we discover the empty plain beneath our feet. And we are a part of that living space.

The saints and sages of the past, the great artists and visionaries too — we imagine the grandeur of spirit they attained. But the truth is that their greatness was attained in their own collapse, amidst the ruins… and the giddy open spaces they then discovered.






Ivan M. Granger, Ivan M. Granger poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Ivan M. Granger

US (1969 – )
Secular or Eclectic
Yoga / Hindu : Advaita / Non-Dualist

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Jun 10 2013

Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi – The Thirsty

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

The Thirsty
by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

English version by Ivan M. Granger

Not only do the thirsty seek water,
The water too thirsts for the thirsty.


/ Photo by sergis blog /

As I grow older, the idea of spiritual thirst becomes ever more real to me. As a young seeker, in my adolescence and early adulthood, I was consumed by such painful blind thirst that I couldn’t have named it “thirst” back then. It was simply the searing ache of my days. It was my whole world.

I went a little mad with my thirst. I kept seeking to withdraw, from society, from the world, retreating into the forests of Oregon, the mountains of Colorado, the jungles of Hawaii where perhaps I might glimpse what was truly essential. I fasted my body into emaciation. I meditated in caves. I walked barefoot and shirtless in the wilds. I spoke with drifters and the homeless, trying to know their hearts and see through their eyes.

Some part of me broke, I think. And then it broke open. That’s when I knew what it meant to drink and no longer thirst.

And a strange thing– what felt like shattering effort driven by wild thirst seemed like nothing at all. Perhaps it wasn’t my terrible thirst that had driven me at all. Perhaps I was drawn by the water’s thirst for me. And all that strain and adventure, well, that was just the story I told myself along the way.

What has been most odd to me is my return to society since then. I made a conscious choice to rejoin the world, to leave my wild places, to hold a regular job, have a stable home, and reconnect with people (and perhaps share a taste of that sweet water). More than a decade later, it still feels strange to me. At times I find myself going through the motions, simply passing as a “normal” person. The challenges of daily life, of paying bills, of caring about my body’s health, of establishing regular patterns others can rely on, these practices still seem foreign to me at times, but I consider them a major part of my spiritual practice now. It used to be that the only things that made sense to me were transcendence and escape. These days I find the most humbling truth in being present, and watching with wonder, allowing life to be simply as it is.

I’m less consumed by my own thirst these days. I feel the water’s thirst for the thirsty world instead.






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

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

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May 22 2013

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, 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

PS – My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Oklahoma.






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

6 responses so far

May 17 2013

Abu-Said Abil-Kheir – Love came and emptied me of self

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Love came and emptied me of self
by Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

English version by Vraje Abramian

Love came and emptied me of self,
every vein and every pore,
made into a container to be filled by the Beloved.
Of me, only a name is left,
the rest is You my Friend, my Beloved.

— from Nobody, Son of Nobody: Poems of Shaikh Abu-Saeed Abil-Kheir, Translated by Vraje Abramian


/ Photo by Christine Muraton /

As part of my chronic fatigue/ME patterns, I sometimes have an intense sensation of tremors, even though my body is still. Sitting on the couch with my wife, I turn to see if she is shaking her foot, causing the whole couch to vibrate, but she is just quietly sitting there. Each time it happens I’m surprised to find that it is simply my own body buzzing with some unknown charge.

At such times I don’t quite have the energy to do a full day’s work, yet my body isn’t at rest enough to enter deeply into meditation either. What is a person to do who strives to be a meditator engaged with the world when he can neither meditate nor take action? Interesting things happen at such moments, if we let them.

When the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves can no long be sustained, one option is to tenaciously cling to the crumbling edifice and be injured by the collapse. Another option is to construct a new story. Or we can let all stories fall away. We can stop struggling to be either this or that, we can step beyond our stories. That is when we rediscover what we actually are. That is when hidden doorways open.

The little self is simply the sum total of all the stories we tell ourselves. When those stories fall away, the self becomes empty of itself. We then become a cup, empty and ready to be filled by something outside our stories — let’s call it wine.

Of me, only a name is left,
the rest is You my Friend, my Beloved.

This is the hard wisdom that chronic illness teaches — yielding into fulness. Any life struggle — really any experience, pleasant or unpleasant — can be transformed into a teacher of wisdom when we stop taking it personally, when we keep our hearts engaged and our eyes open in the midst of our crumbling and changing self-stories.

What can one do but stand in silent awe of the vision that emerges, showing us how much bigger we are than even our best stories?

Sending love!






Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

Turkmenistan (967 – 1049) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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8 responses so far

May 05 2013

Real Thirst Book Signing – May 4, 2013

Ivan M. Granger

Ivan M. Granger Book Signing 5/4/13

Thank you to everyone who came by for the Real Thirst Book Signing event yesterday. Since I do most of my work over the Internet, I often have wonderful conversations with people via email, but I rarely get the chance to meet readers of the Poetry Chaikhana in person. So it was a special treat to meet several of you and share smiles face-to-face. I signed books, read a few poems, answered a few questions. But I especially enjoyed the conversations and (thanks to Roger’s suggestion) the opportunity to hear everyone read a short stanza from my translation of Antonio Machado’s “Songs.”

Thank you also to the folks at La Vita Bella Coffee for generously hosting the event. A good cozy, community environment, well-suited to discussion and the poetic spirit…

The Real Thirst Fellowship

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Apr 12 2013

Real Thirst Book Signing – May 4, 2013 in Longmont, CO

Come meet Ivan M. Granger in person at La Vita Bella Coffee in Longmont, Colorado. If you are in the Boulder/Longmont area, here is a wonderful opportunity to sit down with Ivan for some friendly conversation. (Don’t forget La Vita Bella’s excellent mochas and baked goods!) Ivan will be signing copies of Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey.

When: Sunday, May 4, 2013 1:00 – 3:00 pm
Where: La Vita Bella Coffee in Longmont, Colorado

–Free event – everyone is welcome!–

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Feb 13 2013

Ivan M. Granger – Every Shaped Thing

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Every Shaped Thing
by Ivan M. Granger

Sighing,
every shaped thing
turns
heavenward.

Your altar
cannot seat
the thousand thousand
idols.

Holding them,
what do you have?

Each gilded god
says:

“I am
impoverished
by the sun.

I can only
point
up.”

— from Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey, by Ivan M. Granger


/ Photo by hsld /

It has been a little while since I have featured one of my own poems, so here is one for you today…

I wrote this poem when I lived on the island of Maui years ago. I was standing outside with a scattered forest of eucalyptus and wattle trees in front of me, with Haleakala volcano to my back. I was standing there in a state of deep meditation, when I opened my eyes — and I just saw how everything is reaching, turning, pointing heavenward. The material world, when objectified becomes a confusing tangle of desire objects; but when seen truly, quietly, it acts as a great signpost guiding us, pointing out the direction.

All of creation — every person, every thing, even every idea, “every shaped thing” — is just a reflection of the divine radiance present everywhere.

Whenever we desire a thing… or person or experience, we artificially deify it, the desire and mental fixation becoming a low form of worship. We may tell ourselves, “I want this, I want that,” but what we unknowingly crave is not the thing itself, but that spark of the Eternal barely glimpsed within it. The desired object becomes a “gilded god” — false in the sense that it is not truly the wholeness we seek; but also, like an “idol” or icon, when approached sincerely and openly, material creation embodies something essential: it points to the Divine which it reflects.

No individual can ever gather enough objects of desire to satisfy desire. Every time we acquire that desired object or experience — a new job, a new lover, money, an ice cream sundae — there is a fleeting sense of satisfaction… and then it’s gone. And we’re already feeling desire again and looking for the next object to hang the desire on. We’re looking for the next thing that sparkles. But it is not the object we actually seek, it is that shine. And that shine is the spark of the Divine.

When we learn to see in gold the glimmer of the sun, then we see that everything shines — everything! — ourselves included. And then we are truly satisfied.






Ivan M. Granger, Ivan M. Granger poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Ivan M. Granger

US (1969 – )
Secular or Eclectic
Yoga / Hindu : Advaita / Non-Dualist

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8 responses so far

Aug 20 2012

Thank you for your emails and comments

Thank you so much for the many kind and concerned notes — as well as the several donations to help me through this difficult period when I haven’t been able to maintain both the Poetry Chaikhana and my day job. I am feeling better — I’d say at 83% of normal. ;-)

This is something I’ve dealt with on and off since childhood. While I continue to search for ways to improve and perhaps, someday, be free of these patterns of ME/fatigue, I have also learned to make room in my life for it. It is a part of my history and has imprinted key moments of my life. I know I may never be able to work a typical career schedule or have the most active social life but, after so many years, that’s not me anyway. I strive to use what I’ve been given, the good and the bad. I try to use my energetic struggles as a doorway to greater self awareness and to awaken my heart. We all have our struggles; this is part of the package of life. The goal isn’t a lack of struggle, it is to find meaning. Then our struggles become the adventure of our souls.

Thank you again, everyone, for the thoughts and prayers and messages. Much love to you!

3 responses so far

Aug 10 2012

Recovery and Renewal

We were dry, but we moistened.

~ Yunus Emre (Turkey, 13th century)

Have you been wondering where the Poetry Chaikhana emails went? They’re just on hold for two or three weeks.

Throughout the summer I’ve been dealing with bouts of ME/chronic fatigue, but in the last couple of weeks they’ve gotten especially challenging, incapacitating me on the worst days.

I support myself and my family primarily through part-time work as a computer programmer, but I’ve had to miss quite a bit of work recently. I’ve had to put my Poetry Chaikhana work temporarily on hold so I can continue earning income through my day job while I recover.

Perhaps there are other good reasons for a brief hiatus, as well. A time to clear the mental and poetic palette. A time for the Poetry Chaikhana to reset its energies. A time for renewal on several levels.

I will definitely resume the Poetry Chaikhana emails and blog posts soon. I appreciate your patience.

This is probably a good time to remind everyone that I need your support to continue doing this work. Donations, even in small amounts, genuinely help – they are still the backbone of Poetry Chaikhana finances. You can do a one-time donation, or sign up for a $2 or $10 per month donation. Every donation truly helps. Also, your purchase of books through Amazon via the links on the Poetry Chaikhana website and in the emails benefit the Poetry Chaikhana. And, of course, the Poetry Chaikhana has just published, Real Thirst. Purchasing a copy of Real Thirst is an excellent way to support the Poetry Chaikhana and let me know that you are eager for future books, including a Poetry Chaikhana anthology. These are all great ways to help out.

One other important way you can help: by sending supportive thoughts and prayers, for the Poetry Chaikhana and for my own personal energies.

Sending much love to everyone. And I’m looking forward to resuming our poetic exploration of the Eternal soon!

Ivan

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.

~ Yunus Emre (Turkey, 13th century)

30 responses so far

Jul 04 2012

Poetry Chaikhana is back – with a few updates

I apologize that it’s been so many days without a Poetry Chaikhana email. I’ve received a few concerned notes asking if I was in danger from the Colorado wildfires. We are safe. The wildfires have been devastating to the state, and a couple of the fires have been close enough that we could occasionally see and smell the smoke, but where I live and work are not directly threatened.

Apollo

My absence for the past week has been due to a couple of other dramas. My wife and I recently brought a new puppy, named Apollo, into our family…

Last week the little fellow got extremely sick and we had to take him to an animal hospital. It looked bad. The veterinarians thought he wasn’t going to make it. He received some good care but he was not improving, and the tests were getting more expensive without revealing much. We decided to check him out of the hospital and take him on a visit to the nearby farm where he was born. Something about that visit reawakened his spirit. The little guy immediately perked up on that visit — he was playful again, eating again, showing all the vitality of a young puppy. Now that’s real medicine!

We spent a few more days nursing Apollo back to full health. At this point he’s got us running to keep up with all his energy. If you’re walking around without shoes on, watch out, he’s likely to pounce on your toes.

Email Challenges

Just as I was about to resume the Poetry Chaikhana emails, I had a problem with my internet service provider and my email was down for nearly two days. I guess a slightly longer rest was in order.

But I’m ready for some more poetry, aren’t you? I’ll resume the normal poetry emails on Friday.

28% Discount on Real Thirst through Amazon

I just found out that Amazon US is now offering a 28% discount on Real Thirst. This came as a surprise to me. I suspect that, because sales were good in the first few days after I announced the book (with thanks to the Poetry Chaikhana community), Amazon decided to view Real Thirst as a “legitimate” publication and they then applied their standard discount program. Their business logic must be that they trim their profit in the hopes of selling more copies.

Whatever Amazon’s logic is, I hope this new discount makes Real Thirst more affordable and available to more people. I don’t know how long Amazon will continue the discount, so now is an excellent time to purchase a copy. And remember that your purchase not only supports the Poetry Chaikhana, but it paves the way for a future full-length Poetry Chaikhana anthology… our next major publication goal.

The warbler knows
only dawn’s shaft
of light
on her breast.

Forgetting false future
suns, she sings

in no voice
but her own.

Real Thirst
Poetry of the Spiritual Journey

Poems & Translations by Ivan M. Granger

Available through
Amazon.com
   

Original poems by Ivan M. Granger with new translations of works by visionaries from both East and West: John of the Cross, Francis of Assisi, Symeon the New Theologian, Hakim Sanai, Tukaram, Sarmad, Bulleh Shah, Sachal Sarmast, Vladimir Solovyov, Tulsi Sahib, and Antonio Machado.

Read More:Table of Contents + Sample Poetry + About the Author

And — happy Independence Day. (Colonizer, colonized — the sane strive to be neither.)

Now… let’s return to some poetry. Oof, and watch out for pouncing puppies!

Ivan

23 responses so far

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