Archive for the 'Ivan’s Story' Category

Feb 21 2019

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 The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology), Edited by Ivan M. Granger

/ Image by Olga-Zervou /

Long-time readers of the Poetry Chaikhana know that I have dealt with chronic fatigue/ME for a long time. It has generally been much better in the last couple of years — thankfully. My energies have been more steady and dependable for the most part. Still, it is something always in the background that must be carefully managed. Navigating my way through the activities of each day is often an exercise of careful strategy and measured choices.

I woke up this morning thinking about my journey along the way with that demanding teacher, and I returned to my commentary on this poem from several years ago. I share it again in the hopes that it is helpful to those of you who deal with difficult health issues or other challenges that can make life feel constrained. It’s easy to feel sorry for oneself, to rage at circumstance, to just give up. Or we can uncover hidden vistas within ourselves…


I have dealt with chronic fatigue on and off for years. As part of that pattern, I sometimes feel an intense sensation of tremors, even though my body is entirely still. Sitting on the couch with my wife, I’ll turn to see if she is shaking her foot, causing the couch to vibrate. But, no, she is quietly sitting there with no agitating movements. Each time this happens I’m surprised to find that nothing is actually shaking at all, neither my body nor the environment around me.

When the chronic fatigue symptoms are that strong I usually don’t have the energy to do a full day’s work, yet my body isn’t at rest enough to meditate either. What is a person to do who strives to be “spiritual,” when he can neither meditate nor take action? Interesting things happen at such moments.

When the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves can no longer be sustained, one option is to cling to the crumbling edifice and be injured by its 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.

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

This is the hard wisdom that chronic illness teaches. Any life struggle—really any experience, pleasant or unpleasant—can be transformed into a teacher of wisdom when we stop taking it personally. Wisdom roots itself most deeply when we keep our hearts engaged and our eyes open in the midst of our shifting 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 grandest stories?

Sending love!

Recommended Books: Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Nobody, Son of Nobody: Poems of Shaikh Abu-Saeed Abil-Kheir Love’s Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition
More Books >>

Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

Turkmenistan (967 – 1049) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Continue Reading »

3 responses so far

Oct 31 2018

Abhishiktananda – Return within

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Return within
by Abhishiktananda, Swami (Henri Le Saux)

English version by H. Sandeman (?)

Return within,
to the place where there is nothing,
and take care that nothing comes in.
Penetrate to the depths of yourself,
to the place where thought no longer exists,
and take care that no thought arises there!
There where nothing exists,
There where nothing is seen,
the Vision of Being!
There where nothing appears any longer,
the sudden appearing of the Self!
Dhyana is this!

— from Guru and Disciple: An Encounter with Sri Gnanananda, a Contemporary Spiritual Master, by Swami Abhishiktananda / Translated by H. Sandeman

/ Image by MikkoLagerstedt /

Return within…

A powerful description of deep meditation. (The word dhyana in the last line means meditation.)

There where nothing exists,


I have received several notes asking when the poem emails will resume. I had a particularly challenging chronic fatigue crash a couple of weeks ago, and I have been regrouping since then, recalibrating my health regime while doing my best to maintain my work hours with my day job. It may take me a couple more weeks to get into a regular pattern with the poetry emails once again. But I am generally improving and more Poetry Chaikhana will be coming your way soon!

I am also very aware of how much our attention here in the US and in the world is being taken up by the upcoming mid-term elections, by the terrible shooting of worshippers at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, and, for many, the sense of betrayal at the recent confirmation of Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. That’s just a partial list.

It is important that, in the midst of however we reach out to help in the world, we remember to regularly “return within.” It is that inner connection that imbues our outer action with its meaning and strength and resonance in the world.

Sending love to you all.

Recommended Books: Abhishiktananda, Swami (Henri Le Saux)

Guru and Disciple: An Encounter with Sri Gnanananda, a Contemporary Spiritual Master The Secret of Arunachala: A Christian Hermit on Shiva’s Holy Mountain The Further Shore Swami Abhishiktananda: Essential Writings Prayer
More Books >>

Abhishiktananda, Swami (Henri Le Saux), Abhishiktananda, Swami (Henri Le Saux) poetry, Christian poetry Abhishiktananda, Swami (Henri Le Saux)

France, India (1910 – 1973) Timeline
Christian : Catholic
Yoga / Hindu : Advaita / Non-Dualist

Continue Reading »

4 responses so far

Aug 20 2018

Book Announcement: This Dance of Bliss

It’s ready! I am so happy to announce the publication of the latest Poetry Chaikhana anthology:

This Dance of Bliss, Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World, A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology, Ivan M. Granger

This Dance of Bliss

Ecstatic Poetry From Around the World
A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology


This Dance of Bliss is a new collection poems by beloved classical sacred poets along with a few modern visionaries — accompanied by my own thoughts, meditations, personal stories, and commentary.

The new anthology will officially be available in late September through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as by request through your local independent bookstore.

But I wasn’t planning on making you wait that long.

For the Poetry Chaikhana community, I am offering a special pre-order deal on This Dance of Bliss. If your purchase a copy directly through the Poetry Chaikhana before September 1st–

  • You will receive a discounted price of $12.95 (rather than the regular retail price of $16.95 USD)
  • I will personally autograph your copy
  • You will receive a special extra or two, like a Poetry Chaikhana bookmark
  • Most importantly, you will be helping me greatly by making sure we cover initial publication expenses
This Dance of Bliss, Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World, A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology, Ivan M. Granger This Dance of Bliss
Ecstatic Poetry From Around the World

A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology

Edited with Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

before Sept. 1


This Dance of Bliss is an inspiring collection of poems and wisdom stories from the world’s great sacred traditions. Rumi, St. John of the Cross, Lalla, Goethe, Hildegard von Bingen, Dogen, Khayyam, and many others gather together within these pages to sing their ecstatic songs.

Ivan M. Granger accompanies each poem with his own reflections and meditative commentaries, inviting us to explore the insights and private raptures of these mystics, seers, and saints-until we too are swept up in this dance of bliss!

Available soon through Amazon, Barnes & Noble,
and by request through your local bookseller


This book is a treasure, a feast, an oasis. Ivan M. Granger’s profound gift for selecting the kind of poetry that lights up the cave of the heart and melts the boundaries between the soul and the Divine is fully met by his lucid reflections on the soul-transfiguring power of each piece in this magnificent collection.
     ~ MIRABAI STARR, author of God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity & Islam

To purchase a special pre-order copy of This Dance of Bliss click here or the ‘Purchase’ link above for payment through PayPal.

     If you prefer to pay by check or money order, you can mail it to:

     Poetry Chaikhana
     PO Box 2320
     Boulder, CO 80306

Shipping and handling: $4.50 US, $7.50 Canada, $12.00 International.
(Payments should be made in US funds to “Poetry Chaikhana.”
And please don’t forget to include your mailing address.)

All pre-order copies will be shipped as soon as they are available, which will be at the beginning of September.

This Dance of Bliss, Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World, A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology, Ivan M. Granger

This Dance of Bliss

Ecstatic Poetry From Around the World
A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology


Here is a small sampling from This Dance of Bliss.

You can read more by clicking here: Read More:
Table of Contents + Introduction + Sample Poems

A hundred flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
the breeze in summer, in winter snow.
When the mind is unclouded,
this is the best season of life.

Wu Men


A hundred flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
the breeze in summer, in winter snow.

The shifting seasons against the living canvas of the world invite us to notice the cycles of life, how everything flows and changes and returns again. Because the world is filled with life, nothing remains the same. Everything grows and changes and comes around again renewed.

When the mind is unclouded…

Watching that flow, we witness such beauty. But we can only truly see it we let the mind quiet and become clear.

In such moments, a fullness of the soul overwhelms us. We become creatures of silent delight, content and complete in ourselves as we watch the parade of life’s seasons move past, leaving us fully alive in this very moment.

…this is the best season of life.

The sum total of our life is a breath
spent in the company of the Beloved.

Abu-Said Abil-Kheir
English version by Vraje Abramian

I find it intriguing that “breath” and “life” and “spirit” are synonyms in many languages. When you read sacred writings and the word “spirit” is used, substitute the word “breath” and see how the meaning changes and expands.

The relationship between breath, life, and spirit is more profound than the observation that the living breathe and the dead do not.

We think in terms of borders and boundaries, constantly noting what separates ourselves, mentally and physically, from everything else. But the reality is that there is a constant flow of awareness across those borders. Every one of us has the unseen movement of the breath. Through the breath, what is outside comes inside. What is non-self becomes self. And what was self is released again out into the world. This is communion, nothing less.

That inbreath of yours is the outbreath of another. The air we breathe is the breath of all.

A deep breath opens the chest and expands the heart. A full breath requires us to feel. We feel ourselves, and we feel others. Feeling, too, is communion. When feeling is shut down, the breath is shut down, and life has become limited.

The current of the breath continuously teaches us that the boundaries of self exist only in the mental map. In reality, we flow out into the universe, and the universe flows back in. The only way to secure our borders is to stop breathing, which is, of course, death. Life requires breath, and we live in each other, within the same shared breath.

When we really breathe, we might just come to the same conclusion as the poet: An individual’s lifetime may be brief or long, the experiences of life may be lasting or fleeting, but this communal breath-life-spirit in which we participate is the very breath of the Beloved.

Whoever finds love
beneath hurt and grief
disappears into emptiness
with a thousand new disguises

English version by Coleman Barks


Ivan M. Granger writes as though God is looking over his shoulder. He inspires appreciation of the literature of awakening as he inspires the reader’s own heart awakening. This anthology features poetic masterpieces from around the world, each one revealing the profound interconnectedness of all things. The comments accompanying each selection are direct and engaging, unfolding layers of meaning, further enhancing the themes of union, interconnection, and non-separation.”
     ~ JERRY KATZ, editor of One: Essential Writings on Nonduality

This Dance of Bliss, Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World, A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology, Ivan M. Granger

This Dance of Bliss

Ecstatic Poetry From Around the World
A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology

Ivan M. Granger Consider purchasing a pre-order copy of This Dance of Bliss in support of the Poetry Chaikhana!

And thank you to everyone for all of the encouragement and support along the way!


2 responses so far

Aug 20 2018

Adventures in Book Publishing

Preparing this book has been a journey. The editing and proofreading of a book always requires more than I anticipate. When I send out the Poetry Chaikhana poem emails, I regularly have a few type-os and misspelled or even missing words. You all know that. That’s frustrating to me when I notice mistakes only after I’ve sent the emails out. I like to tell myself those imperfections add to the charm of the emails, letting you know that it’s a real person sending out these emails, a person who is sometimes so enthusiastic for the material that he doesn’t always reread his own notes carefully before hitting the Send button. But I don’t think I can make the same argument when expanding and preparing that material of publication in a book. Taking that original material and preparing it for book form requires extensive work to edit and proofread the material. (Several volunteers from the Poetry Chaikhana community helped greatly with the final stages of the proofreading – thank you!)

I also have to go through the patient process of acquiring all of the necessary reprint permissions. Yes, it’s true that most of the poems I feature are several centuries old, but the translations are usually recent, and those translations are still under copyright. Many publishers charge a fee to grant reprint permissions, which add up in expense when we are talking about a few dozen poems. When I cannot get the reprint permissions for free, I have to decide if I should no longer include a poem in the collection, after all. In other cases, I create my own translation, tracking down the poem in its original language, and spending days or weeks with the poem. (While frustrating to my planned schedule, this often ends up being the most satisfying path. Translating the poem myself allows me to spend time with it, noticing its subtleties and wordplay that are not always apparent to me in other translations.)

It is not small concern to decide on poem order for the book. I look for a sense of related theme and flow as I turn the pages and move from poem to poem. I found myself spending weeks arranging and rearranging the poems, grouping them one way and then another until they all seemed happy with their immediate neighbors in the book.

I had an adventure tracking down the wonderful cover photo of the Mevlana Sufi dancer dissolving into water as he spins. I found the image online early in the process of designing the cover, but the photographer’s web page was out of date and his contact information was no longer valid. I researched him online and discovered that he was a Turkish photographer who lived and worked in Istanbul, but I couldn’t find recent contact information. Eventually I began to talk with a friend who has designed book covers for other authors to see if he could help with my book cover, since my primary design idea had reached a wall. The price he quoted me for his work, while reasonable, was still beyond my range, however. He then said that maybe he could help with the cover image I had been seeking. I gave him the information I had about the image and the photographer. A few days later he said that the same image was available through a photography clearinghouse website. All I needed to do was to pay a small fee, and I could have commercial reprint permissions for the image, which I gladly did. I never managed to connect with the photographer directly, but his lovely image – both dynamic and meditative – now adorns the cover of This Dance of Bliss. Thank you, wherever you are!

Of course, the cover wasn’t done. I designed the rest of the cover around the image of the Sufi dancer. I had to decide on patterns and framing and colors. Fonts and font sizes had to be selected for the cover. All of the elements had to be placed and repositioning them countless times, until I felt I had a pleasing balance of everything.

Within the manuscript itself, I also had to decide on fonts and formatting. I wanted the fonts to be legible and pleasing to the eye. I also wanted the poems to stand out visually from the commentary text, but not contrast in a way that creates visual harmony. I tried to avoid a regimented placement of the poem on the page. Some poems are short and have room to find the right location on the blank page. A few are mischievous and want align to the right or hide at the bottom. Others are meditative and sit at the center of the page. With the few longer poems, I don’t want to have the page break in the middle of a verse, yet it needs to be visually clear that it is still the same poem that has leisurely taken up residence on several pages. Each poem has a personality and its placement should reflect that.

As the book nears completion, there are several further details necessary for publication. I have to purchase and register the ISBN number, so bookstores can carry it and the new book is recognized by the mainstream world of publishing and book distribution. That ISBN barcode has to be incorporated into the back cover of the book, as well. I have to confirm that the book’s formatting meets the printer’s requirements. After sending the files to the printer, I went through a couple of rounds of having them send me printed proof copies before the last minor issues were resolved.

And here we are! The challenges, unplanned delays, and extra work were all worth it. We now have a new book which I hope will inspire and delight. I am pleased to welcome it into the world!

This Dance of Bliss

This Dance of Bliss, Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World, A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology, Ivan M. Granger

This Dance of Bliss

Ecstatic Poetry From Around the World
A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology

Ivan M. Granger Consider purchasing a pre-order copy of This Dance of Bliss in support of the Poetry Chaikhana!

And thank you to everyone for all of the encouragement and support along the way!


No responses yet

May 30 2018

Hiatus and Health

My apologies for the unannounced hiatus in posting these poems. I went through a rather challenging bout of chronic fatigue/ME and I needed to gather my energies together to keep basic hours with my day job as a computer programmer. But I seem to be on the rebound now and I hope these posts will be more regular again.

One response so far

Apr 04 2018

birthday wishes

Thank you for the many birthday emails and Facebook messages I received. It is my forty-ninth year to heaven, to paraphrase Dylan Thomas. Hopefully, that means I am a year wiser and a year kinder, as well. Certainly, I am a year richer in companionship, since I count all of you as friends and fellow-travellers. And I hope we are all growing in timelessness, which is the real yardstick.

2 responses so far

Oct 06 2017

Pablo Neruda – Keeping Quiet (and thoughts on the Las Vegas shooting)

Keeping Quiet
by Pablo Neruda

English version by Alastair Reid

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth
let’s not speak in any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

— from Extravagaria: A Bilingual Edition, Translated by Alastair Reid

/ Image by Maks Karochkin /

I live in Colorado, a state with lots of guns. Most of those guns are used in hunting and kept locked away and out of sight. But I have had the distinctly frightening experience of seeing someone walk into a local grocery store with a handgun strapped to his hip. This was not a police officer, not someone in uniform, but a “gun activist” asserting his “right” to walk around in public spaces with a weapon. When we later contacted the store manager to insist that they publicly declare themselves to be a weapons-free safe zone (as other stores have done in the state), the manager responded that the man was not breaking the law by openly carrying a gun into the store.

Another time, I found myself in the surreal position of holding a friend’s (unloaded) M-16 rifle while being told how simple it would be to convert it from semi-automatic to fully automatic, all while surrounded by several other rifles, handguns, and knives.

I don’t know what to make of this aspect of American culture. There is this sense that manhood is marked by the hard embrace of violence and death. And when that manhood is thwarted in its other social expressions, it then acts out through that violence and death. In that person’s dark moment, Lord help the society that makes these weapons of instant death and mass murder easily available.

Obviously, I have been meditating on this latest mass shooting in the United States, along with the fact that we seem to be getting used to this pattern in recent years. There is a certain comfortable insanity that is taking the place of problem solving in this country.

We accept shooting after shooting, rather than face difficult questions of gun control, underfunded mental health care, widespread economic desperation, re-emerging racism, and an increasingly dangerous cultural divide. Not all of those issues necessarily apply to the recent Las Vegas shooting, but they all add to the pressure cooker that keeps producing these terrible events.

We don’t need to “put our differences aside and come together as a nation.” Those differences are there. We need to be honest about it. We need to be honest with ourselves. We need to look at the full picture, look at it honestly. And then we need to engage in real conversation, uncomfortable conversation. Only then can we begin to formulate practical measures of responsibility and prevention, rather than after-the-fact prayer.

That’s what we need.

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.


Recommended Books: Pablo Neruda

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

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

Chile (1904 – 1973) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Pablo Neruda

2 responses so far

Apr 14 2017

Race Does Not Exist

Looking at me, most Americans would call me white. Ethnically, I’m a typical American mutt, with ancestry from numerous countries, not all of them European. I have always had a diverse group of friends, from different ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds.

My closest friend in early childhood was a Nigerian boy, the son of students who had moved to the United States to attend the local university. Though I certainly don’t claim to understand race from his perspective, our friendship alerted me to questions of race and racism early on.

More recently, my friendship with a Pawnee man has led to several fascinating conversations on race and identity. He said something that startled me: There is no such thing as race. There is culture, there is appearance, but there is no race. My initial reaction was that it’s a nice idea to espouse as a countermeasure to the ongoing problems of racism, but race itself is a simple fact, isn’t it? It took a bit of deeper thought on my part before the truth of what he was saying struck me — the actual, biological truth of the statement, not simply the ethical rightness behind it.

/ Image by Wonder woman0731 /

Let’s see if we can dismantle the underlying presumption of race itself…

There is no such thing as race. Yes, there are noticeable physical characteristics, and we can loosely identify some characteristics with populations from specific geographical areas, but there is no such thing as a white race, a black race, or any other race we want to name.

A white person may be someone with fair skin and blue eyes and we may be accurate in saying that he has some ancestry that goes back to northern Europe, but it is false to say he is a member of the white race, as distinct from other races.

The fact is that there is no central characteristic of a white race or black race or any race. How can that be, you ask? We could mention several details like hair or eyes, but the most obvious distinction is skin color.

Think about skin color for a moment. That northern European may have very pale skin, but if we travel south through Europe to the Mediterranean, the common skin tone is much darker. Are they still “white”? Are we still talking about the same “race”? (The 19th century was uncertain on this point, by the way.)

Let’s go further south, down the boot of Italy, through Sicily, and hop the Mediterranean to northern Africa. Continue Reading »

2 responses so far

Mar 27 2017

Ivan M. Granger – in love with the new sun

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

in love with the new sun
by Ivan M. Granger

in love with the new sun
the cherry blossom forgets
the night’s frost

— from Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journeyby Ivan M. Granger

/ Image by A-Daly /

I wrote this poem several years ago in my Maui days, on a spring morning after emerging from a meditation. It was a time of opening for me, a time of surprising bliss, a time of settling into myself. I had gone through such terrible internal struggles up to that point, but what had kept be balanced and focused through it all had been my fierce determination to seek meaning and insight, a sense of a greater love and truth. And then one day, whoosh!, it was like I had come through the storm and found myself at rest in a wide open peaceful sea.

That struggle I went through to get there, it wasn’t even that I thought it had been “worth it;” it was is if even the struggle itself had been subsumed by that expansive bliss until it no longer existed, except as a story I had told myself.

I had the image of spring after a hard winter. Bright, blossoming with new life. And I wrote this haiku.

in love with the new sun
the cherry blossom forgets
the night’s frost

A few years back I was contacted by a young woman in San Francisco who asked my permission to use this haiku in a tattoo. I was flattered and surprised. I mean, to have these words, which popped into my mind in a moment of inspiration, tattooed onto your body, to carry them with you for the rest of your days, that is humbling indeed. More than that, it was a responsibility after the fact. I really had to sit with the haiku for a bit and decide if I thought it was worthy of such an honor.

In her email, she said that the poem spoke to her, that the cherry blossoms suggested to her that, because life is short, you need to live to the fullest and seize opportunities, and that any difficulties or sorrows are temporary. She mentioned that she had been through many hardships in her life but that she recognized the importance of not holding grudges or dwelling in the past “because every day is special… like cherry blossoms that bloom for a short time.” Clearly a wise woman, wisdom that has been hard-earned.

I gladly gave her my permission to use the poem in her tattoo. But I still had a bit of a dilemma: With this haiku being utilized in such a special way, I wanted to ask for a photograph, but, you know, I wasn’t sure exactly where the tattoo would be placed on her body. I tried to find the most diplomatic language possible to ask for a photo “if appropriate.” A few weeks later she sent back a snapshot of the lines of the haiku tattooed in an elegant script running along her lower ribs on one side.


Have a beautiful day! Don’t forget to feel the new sun on your face.

Recommended Books: Ivan M. Granger

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics Diamond Cutters: Visionary Poets in America, Britain & Oceania Poems of Awakening: An International Anthology of Spiritual Poetry
More Books >>

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

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

Continue Reading »

8 responses so far

Mar 22 2017

New Interview with Ivan through Sacred Healing Telesummit

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had recorded an extended interview Susanne Steinel on the healing and transformative qualities of poetry. In that conversation, I discuss how poetry, especially sacred poetry, can be deeply healing to the psyche and help us to restore our connection to life, the world, and to spirit. I read a few of my favorite poems and discuss the healing responses we have to them simply by hearing them, speaking them. I really enjoyed this conversation, and I think you might too.

The interview will be available next week through a free telesummit called “Sacred Wounds – Sacred Shifts – Sacred Healing.” In addition to my talk, the summit will include discussions with Robert Moss, Normandi Ellis, Lynn V. Andrews, and several other fascinating teachers, healers, and shamans.

The telesummit is free. To register, click here.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about my talk or any of the conversations that are part of the summit.


No responses yet

Nov 21 2016

Surprise Announcement: A New Book!

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

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

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

Gathering Silence

Sayings by Ivan M. Granger
Collages by Rashani Réa

Pre-Order before Dec. 5



Available soon through Amazon and Barnes & Noble

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

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

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

A few pages from Gathering Silence ~

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

Protect the wild places in yourself.

There is something fierce in every saint and sage.

How else could they free love from its cage?

Regardless of belief,

everyone is agnostic
until gnosis.

Whittle yourself down

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

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

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

Your most secret wound is the doorway.

All of mysticism comes down to this:

to recognize
what is already
and always here.

Outwardly, determined effort is necessary.

But within, nothing is needed
except to yield.

How can you settle into yourself

Don’t strain toward enlightenment.
Relax into it.

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

About the sayings

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

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

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

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

For the Holidays

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

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


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

Pre-Order Offer

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


No responses yet

Oct 21 2016

Ivan M. Granger – Every Shaped Thing

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Every Shaped Thing
by Ivan M. Granger

every shaped thing

Your altar
cannot seat
the thousand thousand

Holding them,
what do you have?

Each gilded god

“I am
by the sun.

I can only

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

/ Image by maxpower /

it has been quite a while since I featured one of my own poems. This morning I heard this one running through my thoughts…

I wrote this poem when I lived on Maui years ago. I had just finished a meditation and stepped outside to gaze at the forest of eucalyptus trees. Slowly looking around, I saw how everything is reaching, turning, pointing heavenward. The material world, when objectified can become a confusing tangle of solidity, separation, and objects of desire, but in that moment, with my mind at rest and my eyes clear, the world danced before me, filled with a golden light. And I saw that while the world hides the Eternal, at the same time it ardently reveals it.

In that pure moment it was clear to me that everything is giddy with its own inner light. Consciously or unconsciously, everything is always orienting itself toward the light from which it draws its own life. All of creation — every person, every thing, even every idea, “every shaped thing” — is just a reflection of the divine radiance present everywhere.

That beauty, that luminosity is both the snare and the key for us as souls active within the material world.

Whenever we desire a thing… or person or experience, we artificially deify it. The desire and mental fixation becomes a form of worship. We may tell ourselves, “I want this, I want that,” but what we unknowingly crave is not the thing itself, it is that spark of the Eternal 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, it embodies something essential for us: it points to the Divine which it reflects.

The frustrating truth is that 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 is gone. Within minutes we are once again feeling desire and looking for the next object to hang that 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. It is not possessing that object or experience that we desire, it is that we ache to recognize and participate in that glow. And everything glows. Recognizing this is when the heart is truly satisfied and comes to rest.

Recommended Books: Ivan M. Granger

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics Diamond Cutters: Visionary Poets in America, Britain & Oceania Poems of Awakening: An International Anthology of Spiritual Poetry
More Books >>

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

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

Continue Reading »

4 responses so far

Sep 21 2016

A Vote for Sacred Poetry

Let us bless
The imagination of the Earth,
That knew early the patience
To harness the mind of time,
Waited for the seas to warm,
Ready to welcome the emergence
Of things dreaming of voyaging
Among the stillness of land.

And how light knew to nurse
The growth until the face of the Earth
Brightened beneath a vision of color.

– John O’Donohue
from “In Praise of the Earth”

Hi [First Name]-

As many of you know, I have dealt with chronic fatigue/ME issues for years. Actually, I have been doing pretty well with stable health and energy since last year. But just over a week ago I had an unexpectedly serious crash in energy that has left me reeling while struggling to maintain minimal hours with my day job. I have been using all of my strategies to try to rebound, but so far only with partial success.

Even when I go for several days without sending out a poem email, however, I want you to know that all of you in the Poetry Chaikhana community are very much in my thoughts.

I know from your emails that I am not alone in dealing with serious health challenges. I am always humbled by the quiet courage and strength so many people exercise daily without fanfare or outer drama. Even in the most quiet life, stories of surprising beauty and struggle unfold.

Last year I shared some of my thoughts on Health, Suffering & Meaning that I hope inspires some new perspectives on the subject. (“Sometimes, though, dis-ease is an annoyingly persistent teacher…”)

Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toe nails twinkle, makes you want to do this or that or nothing, makes you know that you are alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared and forever all your own.
~ Dylan Thomas

Please Support for the Poetry Chaikhana

It has been many months since I last requested donations for the Poetry Chaikhana, but your support especially means a lot right now. I am very aware of everyone who sends in a donation, either singly or as a regular monthly contribution, and I am so grateful for all of your support! But, naturally, some people’s attention moves elsewhere over time, and donations fluctuate, so I regularly need to reach out for new support.

Now is a time when I need to ask more of you to join in and support the Poetry Chaikhana.

Nearly 10,000 people are receiving this email. We are a large community with creativity, vision, and resources that I hope can draw on.

Do you think, as a group, we cover the Poetry Chaikhana’s modest expenses each day?

(For those curious about the sort of work I do each day with the Poetry Chaikhana, I invite you to take a look at Behind the Scenes with the Poetry Chaikhana.)

If you feel a connection to the Poetry Chaikhana, please consider making a donation.

Ways you can contribute:

  • You can send a check or money order in US funds made out to “Poetry Chaikhana”, addressed to:

    Poetry Chaikhana
    PO Box 2320
    Boulder, CO 80306

  • You can make a secure online donation in any amount through PayPal by clicking the “Donate” button below or on the Poetry Chaikhana home page
  • You can sign up for a voluntary subscription of $2/month or $10/month by clicking either the “Subscribe” or “Support” PayPal button, also below or at (A regular monthly amount is often easier on your pocketbook and allows the Poetry Chaikhana to plan finances over the long term.)

I am also grateful for your supportive thoughts and prayers. Every contribution, financial and energetic, is sincerely appreciated.

/ Photo by AlicePopkorn /

I regularly receive emails telling me how much the Poetry Chaikhana means to you. The daily poem brings a moment of calm to the morning, inspires creativity at work, offers comfort in a period of crisis, carries hope when assaulted by the headlines, suggests a focus for meditation or prayer before bed. These notes from you continuously 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.

Sacred poetry is transformative on both a personal and a global level, something I believe we need more than ever today. As I have written elsewhere:

“Sacred poetry has the unique benefit of being a deeply personal expression of spiritual truth while, at the same time, being largely free from dogma… Sacred poetry is the natural goodwill ambassador for the world’s religions. Poetry can reach across cultural divides, soften prejudices, and shed light on misunderstandings. I hope the Poetry Chaikhana can help to facilitate that process.”

Or, as Rumi said–

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
~ Rumi

It is coming up on election season here in the U.S. As you are contemplating your vote, remember also to vote for the sanity and beauty of sacred poetry!

Poetry is like a bird, it ignores all frontiers.
~ Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Thank you, and sending my love!


2 responses so far

Apr 27 2016

Chogyam Trungpa – The Education of the Warrior

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

The Education of the Warrior
by Chogyam Trungpa

That mind of fearfulness
Should be put in the cradle of loving-kindness
And suckled with the profound and brilliant milk
Of eternal doubtlessness.
In the cool shade of fearlessness,
Fan it with the fan of joy and happiness.
When it grows older,
With various displays of phenomena,
Lead it to the self-existing playground.
When it grows older still,
In order to promote the primordial confidence,
Lead it to the archery range of the warriors.
When it grows older still,
To awaken primordial self-nature,
Let it see the society of men
Which possesses beauty and dignity.
Then the fearful mind
Can change into the warrior’s mind,
And that eternally youthful confidence
Can expand into space without beginning or end.
At that point it sees the Great Eastern Sun.

— from Timely Rain: Selected Poetry of Chogyam Trungpa, by Chogyam Trungpa

/ Image by Alice Popkorn /

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche was a hugely influential, though controversial Buddhist teacher who carried the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages within Tibetan Buddhism to America. In addition to his many talks and books on meditation, philosophy, and awareness, he also wrote about the notion of the spiritual warrior, inspired by the legendary kingdom of Shambhala.

While I am not a follower of Trungpa Rinpoche (although I live in the American city he made his home), and though I am highly critical of some of his methods and aspects of his private life, I recognize how important he has been, and continues to be, in the spiritual opening of the west. One of his teachings that I find especially fascinating is his notion of the spiritual warrior.

I am fascinated as much by our reaction within the “spiritual” community to the idea of the warrior as with the core idea itself. We can find it inspiring and energizing, especially when it remains conceptual, but just as often we find it uncomfortable or threatening to the ideal of being peaceful individuals within a peaceful world. I think those are all truly legitimate responses.

That mind of fearfulness
Should be put in the cradle of loving-kindness…

The idea of warriorship is about confrontation, with fear, with death. It is a mindset of bold action. Now, that can be immensely powerful as we maneuver though the challenges of life, or it can become quite the opposite, a pathway of brutality, domination, and self-centered purpose. Amidst the intensity of the warrior’s worldview, recognizing the difference is often difficult. That, I think, is the real measure of success in the warrior’s path, the ability to see clearly, keep the heart open and compassionate, and measure one’s true purpose while engulfed by the heat of struggle.

Nearly fifteen years ago, when I returned to the US mainland after several years living in semi-retreat on Maui, I made a conscious decision to become re-engaged with the world. Because of my extensive fasting and sparse diet, my body had grown extremely thin. I had cultivated an ethereal quality to my body and my entire energy. That may have been suited to a sadhu, but not to someone determined to participate in mainstream society. I decided to put on weight, literally and metaphorically, I changed my diet and began to eat more. I began to lift weights and, over the space of a year, put on nearly 50 pounds of muscle. And I started training in the martial arts. Ultimately, the form of martial art I settled on was — swordfighting. (I know. I’m weird.)

To most people this evolution is surprising, bizarre even. How does facing someone down with a Medieval longsword or Renaissance rapier fit in with the spiritual life, or poetry for that matter? To this day I consider myself to be essentially a pacifist, perhaps not absolutely, but in general orientation. How do I reconcile that with the violence inherent in the sword?

As someone who had spent the first three decades of his life trying to float away, I saw that I needed a practice that kept me rooted in my body. I also knew I needed to develop a hardier mindset to deal with the chronic health issues that were becoming more prominent at that time. And I had to acknowledge that I have a certain aggressive energy that I would be wise to befriend and express in healthier ways.

So why not a more “spiritual” martial art, like Tai Chi or Aikido? Part of it was that I wanted to be out of my comfort zone. I wanted to be a novice, uncertain, vulnerable, not the comfortable and confident “spiritual Ivan” in one more spiritual circle, however physically demanding. After experimenting with other martial arts, something just lit up in me at the touch of a sword. The sword is at the same time a thing of beauty and an object of fear. I felt I should explore that giddy attraction/repulsion.

Having lived so much in my mind and my ideals, I am, on a basic level, offended by the fact that just the slightest repositioning of leverage or position can mean the difference between lying dead on the ground or going on to live for another 40 years. Such a minute, physical difference just shouldn’t affect the journey of something so immense as the human soul, yet it does. And that, I suppose, is what fascinates me, that spiritual conundrum– how skill in something so specific and physical can hugely impact the unfolding experience of our being. Then the question becomes how do we face this dilemma, and how do we integrate it into our larger sense of self?

This is the difficult internal balancing act of the spiritual warrior. And everyone, regardless of lifestyle or philosophy is, in some sense, a spiritual warrior. The complex, often conflicting forces of physical, social, and spiritual life require a warrior’s approach to navigate effectively. Every action, internal or external, is a movement in harmony with some forces and in opposition to others. And, as much as we in spiritual culture love our moral and ethical purity, daily life for an adult constantly leads us into gray areas and imperfect decisions. Learning to navigate this unavoidable complexity without losing contact with our true ideals is precisely what we need and what the warrior’s path teaches us.

In other words, we all need to be warriors in some respects. We always need to remind ourselves that pacifism is not the same as passivism. I remember reading an interview years ago with another teacher on spiritual warriorship who made a critical comment about modern pacifism. The interviewer blurted out, “But what about Gandhi?” His response was, “Gandhi, what a fighter!”

I think that’s the point. And the point of Chogyam Trungpa’s poem, too. True warriorship isn’t inherently about violence, it is about facing one’s fears, possibly facing death itself, with a sense of courage, full awareness, while embodying the highest possible purpose.

Now, I am a historian, as well. I am fully aware of the terrible carnage and suffering created generation after generation by wars, fueled in part by naive, overly-romantic notions of the heroic warrior. I am not suggesting any superficial right or wrong perspective. I will say, however, that the solution to the war reflex within society is not to banish or suppress the warrior instinct. The warrior is an essential archetype within the human psyche. It is there, whether we are comfortable with it or not. What is necessary, as individuals and as a society, is to learn how to channel that intense, vigorous energy toward positive, non-destructive purposes — protecting people and endeavors that need protecting, while always questioning those who claim to speak with authority as well as our own methods.

The greatest vulnerability of the warrior mindset is falling into an ends-justify-the-means approach. As the spiritual warrior Gandhi pointed out, there are never truly any ends, only an ongoing chain of means that define the world we live in. But this potential weakness is also closely linked to the greatest strength of the warrior, which is to fully embrace the power of those means, through total dedication to the skill and action needed in any given moment as a method to embody the best possible world, within and without.

Then the fearful mind
Can change into the warrior’s mind,
And that eternally youthful confidence
Can expand into space without beginning or end.
At that point it sees the Great Eastern Sun.

Recommended Books: Chogyam Trungpa

Timely Rain: Selected Poetry of Chogyam Trungpa Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior Crazy Wisdom Training the Mind: And Cultivating Loving-Kindness
More Books >>

Chogyam Trungpa, Chogyam Trungpa poetry, Buddhist poetry Chogyam Trungpa

Tibet / US (1939 – 1987) Timeline
Buddhist : Tibetan

More poetry by Chogyam Trungpa

4 responses so far

Mar 09 2016

Rabia – Through and Through

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Through and Through
by Rabia al-Basri (Rabia al- Adawiyya)

English version by Ivan M. Granger

Steadfast friend,
You have hewn me
      through and through!

When I speak, my every word
      speaks of You.
And when silent,
      silently I ache for You.

/ Image by Marc Brueneke /

In my youth, I tended toward extremes. Perhaps it was that Aries flame that only my wife seems to recognize in me these days. I so wanted that intangible thing we might call spiritual awakening, but how does one attain something so evanescent and undefined? For most people, it is pure fantasy, if it is thought of it at all, so I decided that following the common life and the common mind was clearly useless. I imagined that only by going to ever greater extremes might I step free from the mundane and, perhaps, achieve my goal. I pushed and strained and isolated myself until I became a fragile young man, barely holding myself together. Still I stumbled forward in meditation and prayer, fasting and reading and walking in the woods, while locked in a resentful tug-of-war with the daily requirements of work and relationship and home.

Steadfast friend,
You have hewn me
      through and through!

One day, I found myself sitting there at the age of thirty-three, trying unsuccessfully to calm my mind in meditation, lost in my confused life. I had steady work alongside kind people, but I did it minimally and with little interest. I had a loving, patient wife who put up with my moods and odd practices. I lived, at the time, in a small cabin in a gorgeous and remote corner of the island of Maui. I had all of these blessings in my life, yet I fought them constantly, as if they were hinderances. And my spiritual practices, which were my entire focus, seemed to have led me nowhere. I was lost.

It was a devastating moment of self-assessment. I admitted to myself something I had been fighting my entire life to ignore: I wasn’t special. I didn’t know what I was doing in life. And, frankly, I was a bit of a flake. Oh, sure, I was kind. I genuinely cared about people. I was reasonably intelligent and insightful. And I was sincere. But all in all, I was not the spiritual superman of my fantasies.

Looking at myself and my life in that way, I finally saw myself honestly, as I was. And I was surprised by the thought that followed, that it was all okay.

And that’s when it hit me, the most profound wave of bliss. All of my thoughts fell utterly silent. I let the current of that upward welling delight wash over all that I was until there was nothing left. All that remained was a spacious, blissful silence. And I floated in that bliss for months.

When I chose to think, one of the thoughts I had was that all of the suffering and struggle, all of my extremes were worth it. Though that’s not quite it, since that suggests that strain was somehow the payment required. No, it was more the sense that the struggle was actually inconsequential, just a story I told myself until I finally gave myself permission to settle into the expansive bliss that always awaited. So were those extremes ever necessary?

Here’s the thing about this poem that sparked this entire story, those final lines:

When I speak, my every word
      speaks of You.
And when silent,
      silently I ache for You.

As the months passed and I resumed the rhythms of my life, I began to notice that I was no longer continuously resting in the blissful open state. There were times I was once again hooked by old mental habits and fixations. Thoughts arose once again, unbidden and uncontrolled. That tension in the awareness, that old ego-self, subtly reemerged. Not entirely, and not at all times, but it came and went, and if I wasn’t paying attention I sometimes missed the shift in my own awareness.

And I was confronted with a new challenge: Do I pretend that fluctuation in my level of awareness is not occurring? I could have fooled myself if I chose. I could have held the memory of bliss in my mind and savored it as if it was the sweet substance itself. I had been doing a little bit of that already without being fully aware of it. But, no, I had always resolved that total honesty with myself was the only way.

That didn’t mean those beautiful months in the sea of bliss were a phase of my life that had now past. I decided, instead, to discover what this bliss was, to find out how it released itself into my awareness… and how I could more consciously yield myself into its embrace. I became a student of myself.

And, the other thing, after a lifetime of unbalanced extremes, I resolved to cultivate balance, and to integrate my inner life with my outer life. I decided to figure out what it means to be a married man with a job and rent to pay, someone with a few health challenges, an American man moving into the middle age of life, and yet remain someone with a rich inner life who makes room for blissful moments. How does one not only cultivate inner peace but also embody that peace in the thousand small actions that make up the day of a normal life? And, being fully honest with myself, on this pathway I am still a clumsy beginner in so many ways. But I am learning.

Perhaps the most essential thing I have learned is that, for me, at this stage at least, the goal is not all bliss all the time. In recent years I am not so much trying to be a holy man as to be a wholly honest man. I try to use everything my life offers. When bliss and egolessness offer themselves to my awareness, I try to let them flow unhindered. I try to let them speak through my words.

When I speak, my every word
      speaks of You.

But those spiritual dry spells, perhaps unavoidable in the midst of a busy life, when they come, I don’t fight them either. I let them ache and sear their way through me. They re-magnetize the soul, keeping it oriented toward its source and its purpose. And, what’s more, when we let it, that ache itself reveals itself to be another doorway to the Eternal.

And when silent,
      silently I ache for You.

That ache reveals itself to be one more point of contact, a gentle touch, a kiss of remembrance when the psyche has grown tense and distracted. See for yourself. Grow silent. Feel that ache. Relax into it and see what happens.

Part of the art is to recognize connection in everything. We can discover union even in the midst of separation.

This is what I have come to see as balance, to not run from spiritual emptiness and, at the same time, to not become brittle or false in the pursuit of spiritual fulness. To embrace both and use both fully. Balance instead of my youthful extremes. That life rhythm of full to empty, empty to full, like a tidal current working together they carry us out to sea when we let it.

Recommended Books: Rabia al-Basri (Rabia al- Adawiyya)

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi Early Islamic Mysticism: Sufi, Quran, Miraj, Poetic and Theological Writings (Classics of Western Spirituality)
More Books >>

Rabia al-Basri (Rabia al- Adawiyya)

Iraq (717 – 801) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Continue Reading »

12 responses so far

Jun 19 2015

Health, Suffering & Meaning

It’s the end of a rough health week for me. I mustered enough steam for my day job, but I didn’t have the proper focus or energy to select a few poems, really spend some time with them, and share my thoughts. I was going to let the Poetry Chaikhana be silent this week, but then I remembered this note about health and suffering I wrote a few years ago. As something that was written in the midst of a particularly difficult bout, it’s not exactly an “all is light” sort of statement, but I hope that it helps to awaken that inner fire and grit we all need sometimes to get through life’s challenges…

Here’s the thing: Not every disease or discomfort is meant to be overcome.

That’s a hard thing to say, and even harder to accept. But it’s true. If disease dares to show up in our lives, we want it fixed, removed. We want to get on with life and refuse to see disease as being part of life. Even in the holistic health community which views illness as a teacher, we often want to learn the “lesson” so we can quickly dismiss the teacher.

Sometimes, though, dis-ease is an annoyingly persistent teacher. It teaches us interior awareness. Not something learned quickly. It teaches sheer endurance. And, maybe the most difficult lesson, surrender. Many of us get into the world of “alternative” health as a way to take control. But surrender, that’s much more difficult to achieve with grace. It requires real subtlety to even distinguish between surrender and defeat. I don’t think we should give in or give up. I personally keep trying new things, new approaches, new… strategies. Maybe it’s my Aries nature, but I sometimes think of it as a sparring match. I don’t necessarily get into to it to win. I just like the sparring. Like a martial artist. The back and forth teaches me more about myself.

Don’t speak of your suffering — He is speaking.
Don’t look for Him everywhere — He’s looking for you.

– Sanai


One other thing that has come to me over the years — one of the mental reflexes for suffering is jealousy. That’s not the first emotion one normally associates with illness, but it’s often lurking in the background. I’ve certainly noticed it.

Why should I have so much of my life and attention diverted by this, when everyone else has it easy?

Says Farid,
I thought I was alone who suffered.
I went on top of the house,
And found every house on fire.

– Baba Sheikh Farid

I’m always being reminded that no one has it easy. Sure, some people have less struggle, while others have heartbreaking levels of suffering. But, when the weariness clears, I glimpse a surprising truth: None of that is the point. The purpose of the human spirit isn’t to be free from difficulty.

That may sound like a cold statement, but it is not. When deeply embraced, this understanding opens us to greater levels of empathy and compassion, and it begins to create a profound resilience within ourselves, allowing us to encounter suffering without shutting down. In other words, if you hold in your mind the idea that suffering is inherently and always wrong, then when you encounter it, you will instinctively shut down. If, however, you accept the existence of suffering — in yourself, in others — your eyes and heart remain open and your hands become willing in the midst of struggles. Accepting suffering gives you greater ability to genuinely alleviate it.

Spirituality and Health

There is a related unconscious thought we often carry that suffering and illness are the sign that something is imperfect about ourselves spiritually. Saints get cancer and have heart attacks. Sages suffer epilepsy. Medicine women get migraines. The body, being a limited vehicle designed to operate in a sometimes disharmonious environment, will sometimes ail. The mark of attainment is not a lack of struggle, but how we respond to that struggle.

Our lives are simply stories. Sometimes the drama and the heat are high, sometimes they are quiet. What is important is the meaning we discover and reveal through that drama. It’s a supremely difficult paradox: We have to engage intensely in the body and the challenges of life, yet, at the same time, it’s not personal… it’s a fascinating story being told through us.

The hallowing of Pain
Like hallowing of Heaven,
Obtains at corporeal cost
The Summit is not given

To Him who strives severe
At middle of the Hill
But He who has achieved the Top
All is the price of All

– Emily Dickinson

Meaning and Suffering

The ultimate question is one of meaning. When we discover meaning in suffering, the suffering becomes endurable. Even comfort and ease, without meaning, eventually become unbearable.

Illness may be devastating, but discovering meaning feeds a hunger even more fundamental than the desire to be free from pain. It feeds the hunger of the soul to know itself.

That hunger, when left unfed, is the real source of suffering in the world.

how can the heart in love
ever stop opening
– Rumi


I also have to acknowledge the heartbreaking murders that took place at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Not only does my heart go out to the suffering families and friends of those who were killed, but my heart also goes out to a country, my country, that wants so much to declare racism to be a thing of the past, but has yet to honestly confront that history and its repercussions today.


Finally, to all my Muslim friends, I hope this Ramadan is a special time of reconnecting with the Divine and reconnecting with what is pure and true within oneself.

Blessings! And have a healing weekend!

28 responses so far

May 12 2015

Abu-Said Abil-Kheir – In the school of mind

In the school of mind you
by Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

English version by Vraje Abramian

In the school of mind you
learn a lot, and become
a true scholar for many to look up to.
In the school of Love, you become
a child to learn again.

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

/ Image by smoorenburg /

Wow! What a wonderful response to my notes last week! I received a flood of blog comments and private emails. It is always a humbling experience to realize how many wise souls are reading these poem emails. I thoroughly enjoyed reading all of your thoughts and ideas and insights.

I realize, however, that I may not have done the best job in how I framed the subject in the first place. Several of your messages attempted to reassure me that I shouldn’t be concerned with people canceling their subscriptions to the Poetry Chaikhana, a few of you even gently chiding me for worrying about such things. I was so touched by all of your compassionate messages, but, truthfully, I wasn’t particularly upset by the cancellations. If anything, I was rather amused by the reaction, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to open up a discussion to see what everyone else thought. I find that when there’s a bit of a reaction, that’s often a sign that there is more good stuff to explore. That’s the time for Ivan to step down from his soapbox and hand around the microphone. And I’m so glad I did. Even though I do get inspired by these poems and have been known to ramble on a bit, community dialogs like this remind me that mine is one small voice among many. There are so many rich journeys being mapped out by all of you, and spiritual wisdom is not in the short supply we sometimes imagine.

Thank you again, everyone.

In the school of Love, you become
a child to learn again.

Recommended Books: Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Nobody, Son of Nobody: Poems of Shaikh Abu-Saeed Abil-Kheir Love’s Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition The Mystics of Islam
More Books >>

Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

Turkmenistan (967 – 1049) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Continue Reading »

One response so far

Next »