Archive for the 'Ivan’s Story' Category

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

Jealousy

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!

27 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

May 08 2015

On Effort, Effortlessness – and the Fine Art of Giving Offense

After my observation that a number of people unsubscribed after Monday’s poem by Ikkyu, I have had several interesting email conversations with members of the Poetry Chaikhana community as to what the real reason may have been.

In one particularly insightful exchange, a friend suggested that people may have been reacting to my commentary in the Ikkyu poem in which I wrote, “It [enlightenment, spiritual insight] is not hidden behind arcane texts. It is not attained through uninspired, dogged effort.” He pointed out that this might be offensive or belittling to the very sincere and often difficult efforts people undertake in order to deepen their spiritual experience.

I thought that was an entirely valid – and compassionate – observation. And he asked me a really good point-blank question: “Do you believe that since we already are what we’re seeking, we can get there without ‘stiff meditation’ or ‘dogged’ persistence?” Or do I think that enlightenment can be attained “merely by looking at the moon, fishing and drinking” as Ikkyu and some other poets seem to suggest.

I wanted to share my brief response in the hopes that it will be meaningful to you and spark further discussion. Here’s how I answered:

I suppose, if I am being both honest and precise, I would say that I respect the essential truth that we already are what we are searching for, and when we are ripe, any particular moment of awareness can serve as the initiating experience; but, coming to that point of readiness usually requires patient and intense striving.

I like the image of a bow and arrow– It takes great strength and effort to draw the bowstring back, but in order to actually hit the target, all that is needed is to let go. If you try to let go without first drawing the bowstring, nothing happens, there’s nothing to let go of. But if you pull and pull and never let go, then all that will happen is you strain your back. To hit the target, you need the effort to produce enough tension, you need to focus on your target, and then… all you do is yield.

As part of my friend’s response to this, he pointed out how well it fits with my commentary accompanying today’s poem by Tagore: “But the spiritual seeker needs passion! The seeker needs the intensity, the energetic boldness of that passion. The art of spiritual success is learning how to tend the coals of that fire, to find a steady fuel, to feed it, to grow comfortable in its heat, to delight in it, to dance in its glow.”

Now you know a little more of my perspective on the subject. I hope it inspires your own thoughts and personal observations. What understanding do you bring to your spiritual practice?

55 responses so far

Apr 29 2015

The Cauldron of Inspiration update


/ Image by Roger Echo-Hawk /

I took last week off to preserve my energies in preparation for my talk over the weekend at the Real Myth and Mithril Symposium. My speech was on “The Cauldron of Inspiration: Bards, Wizards, and the Elixir of Poetry,” exploring of the connections between poetry, enlightenment, and magic.

Several of you mentioned how disappointed you were that you couldn’t be present at the talk. I have been told that there may have been a video recording of my talk. If there was a recording, I will see about making it available to everyone. Stay tuned.


/ Image by Donna Clement /

No responses yet

Apr 03 2015

Ryokan – The I Ching States Happiness Lies in the Proper Blend

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

The I Ching States Happiness Lies in the Proper Blend of:
by Ryokan

English version by John Stevens

Hot-cold
good-bad
black-white
beautiful-ugly
large-small
wisdom-foolishness
long-short
brightness-darkness
high-low
partial-whole
relaxation-quickness
increase-decrease
purity-filth
slow-fast.

— from Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf: Zen Poems of Ryokan, Translated by John Stevens


/ Image by x-horizon /

A reminder for us today from that master of wisdom-foolishness, Ryokan, to walk the slim pathway between the extremes, to touch both but not be held by either.

Absolutes are for fundamentalists and those weary of the journey. The rest of us continue to navigate that hidden line where opposites meet. We learn the way by knowing our hearts.

Hot-cold
good-bad
black-white

This is a tension I myself have wrestled with in my own journey. As a passionate young seeker, I so wanted holiness, which I understood mostly in terms of physical purity and isolation from the world. I ate only very specific foods, not much of them, and often fasted. I lived much of my 20s and early 30s in retreat, seeking out remote, natural environments to call home.

And, you know what? It worked. My energies began to take on a more sustained, deeply meditative state. I found myself opening in profound ways. I found a way to embody holiness. It worked… for a while.

Sure, I could have continued living in that way, with ever more precise refinements in my practice, and possibly deepening the sense of holiness I felt, and that would have satisfied a certain hunger in my soul. But I started to see a problem with all of that. When I was entirely honest with myself, I noticed that I was becoming more brittle and ethereal, disconnected from people and less able to interact with society. I had created a safe bubble of “purity” around me, and I easily lost my balance whenever that was even slightly disrupted.

I came to the decision that true spirituality was not about some sort of aloof, fragile perfection, but must include an embodied mastery that required grounding and human interaction and the humility to be less than perfect. Much of my journey since then has been about strength, stability, and connection — facing my weakest qualities, instead of retreating into elevated states. I moved back to more populated areas. I began to eat more food, and eat more solid foods, which took a significant mental shift. I even went through a period of lifting weights in order to put some muscle on my overly thin body so I could feel more physically present in the world. And I created the Poetry Chaikhana as a way to connect and share with a much wider world.

Today, my path lacks the certainty it once had. And I am less likely to be floating in blissful states as often as I once did. There are days when I consider that perhaps I should return to the sweet intensity of that interiority. But I remain committed to the long journey — a more rounded sense of embodied mastery. And I am still a stumbling beginner in so many ways.

Like a tree, we need our roots to sink deep into the earth, thickening their grip; that gives us the strong foundation to grow and reach and spread new branches heavenward season after season and not fail at the first gust of wind.

brightness-darkness
high-low
partial-whole

We need to integrate it all. We need wholeness to experience lasting holiness.

We might just notice that opposites are not opposed, but joined. And we dance along the seam of connection.

One last bit of advice: When you dance, dance slow-fast!

(That’s the long and the short of it… :)

=

If you celebrate Passover, may it be a day of protection and liberation. If you celebrate Easter, may it be a day of renewal and new life!


Recommended Books: Ryokan

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library) Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf: Zen Poems of Ryokan Haiku: The Gentle Art of Disappearing
More Books >>


Ryokan, Ryokan poetry, Buddhist poetry Ryokan

Japan (1758 – 1831) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

Continue Reading »

11 responses so far

Mar 20 2015

Support Poetry on This Spring Day

To goslings
just hatched, the entire world
is a spring day

by Ivan M. Granger


/ Image by Tristam Brelstaff /

Ivan M. Granger
Happy spring! It is also the new moon and an eclipse today. A potent time to look up. Or look within. Or look around in appreciation of the new life emerging everywhere…

=

Among my deepest satisfactions in my Poetry Chaikhana work is being able to read the emails you send me. I get to savor your thoughts on spirituality, wisdom, enlightenment, and art. The most touching to me are your notes about how much a particular poem or commentary has meant to you. Even when I am unable to respond, I read and cherish your messages. That is a big part of what fuels my commitment to the Poetry Chaikhana.

But, although it is difficult to admit, I am struggling right now.

It always feels uncomfortable to bring up directly, but I need to request more financial support from the Poetry Chaikhana community.

While I do have a regular job, I can only work so many hours before chronic fatigue patterns kick in, especially when I also dedicate so much time and energy to the Poetry Chaikhana. During the past year, I have been pushing myself in my day job to work through exhaustion in order to meet my basic expenses. While exercising that sort of steely determination has its own practical and spiritual values, it also has made it difficult for me to focus with full energy on the Poetry Chaikhana.

You may have noticed that the Poetry Chaikhana emails have not been as regular in recent weeks.

Donations and Publications

I am working to shift the Poetry Chaikhana’s dependence on donations over to income from publishing, but that is a long-term goal. And while your enthusiastic reception of The Longing in Between was a huge help at the beginning of the year, book sales have dipped now that it has been out for several months — which is entirely natural. I do have plans for additional anthologies and future publications but, of course, those take time and significant energy to bring to completion.

For the moment, at least, the Poetry Chaikhana is still primarily dependent on your financial donations.

The Poetry Chaikhana Community

I am still amazed to be able to say that we have 9,000 people on this email list! Another 5,000 follow the Facebook page. With such a large community, I believe that collectively we can support my continuing work with the Poetry Chaikhana.

Without enough community support, I may have to drastically trim back the time I dedicate to the Poetry Chaikhana, which would be a shame. Even though I will continue forward with the Poetry Chaikhana in some fashion, such as future publications, I have always felt that the regular communication with you through these emails is the heart of the Poetry Chaikhana. For me, these emails feel personal, a long-term conversation with you on the nature of spirit and art, and how the two interweave and contribute to each other — enlivening us all in the process. While much of that conversation can take place through the patient medium of books, I would miss the immediacy and friendly dialog of our emails.

Around the World


/ Photo by woodleywonderworks /

One of the purposes of the Poetry Chaikhana is to help us recognize the unity behind the world’s religions as expressed through the poetry of mystics. Poetry, being a very personal medium that is largely free from dogma, reaches across cultural divides, softens prejudices, and sheds light on misunderstandings. Sacred poetry can be a powerful healing balm when cultures clash.

Also, it is worth remembering that, through the Poetry Chaikhana’s global community, each of us is connected to people and places all over this world we share. The Poetry Chaikhana has had visits from more than 220 different countries and territories! That’s nearly every country in North America, South America, Europe, and across all of Asia. We’re only missing a few countries in central Africa, and we’re also waiting for that first visit from Antarctica. (Any poetic penguins out there?)

As I have said in a previous email… The next time a poem touches that warm ember deep in your chest, and your thoughts stop, and your mind clears, and a quiet smile spreads across your face… reach out and feel who else on this planet is feeling exactly the same thing. It could be someone who wears different clothes or has different colored skin, someone who speaks with a different accent or an entirely different language, someone who sits or kneels or bows to worship. Reach out and recognize that person as a brother or sister who, like us all, is walking through the human journey, pausing occasionally to sing songs of the Divine.

The Poetry Chaikhana is an important resource for people all over the world seeking to more deeply understand their own wisdom traditions as well as the spirituality of other cultures in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

Your Help

It is a joy to do all of this, but it isn’t easy, and I can use your help.

For me to keep doing this work, I need the support of the Poetry Chaikhana community.

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

Please, never contribute more than you can comfortably afford, however. A modest amount from many people is immensely helpful. Many contributions from many people makes the Poetry Chaikhana a stronger community project, maintained by many helping hands.


/ Photo by SaxX69 /

Ways you can contribute:

– You can make a secure online donation in any amount through PayPal by clicking the “Donate” button on the Poetry Chaikhana home page at www.poetry-chaikhana.com

– You can sign up for a voluntary monthly donation of $2/month or $10/month by clicking either the “Subscribe” or “Support” PayPal button.

(A regular monthly amount is often easier on your pocketbook — and easier to justify as less than the cost of one snack or drink per month.)

– You can send a check or money order in US funds, addressed to:


Poetry Chaikhana

PO Box 2320

Boulder, CO 80306

– Purchasing copies of The Longing in Between and Real Thirst is another excellent way to help. You also support the Poetry Chaikhana when you purchase other books through the links on the Poetry Chaikhana website.

I want to also make sure I gratefully acknowledge that several of you have been generous with your contributions to the Poetry Chaikhana in the past, through donations, through notes of thanks, through supportive thoughts and prayers. Every contribution, whether financial or energetic, is sincerely appreciated.

Heartfelt thanks to everyone! And have a beautiful beginning to your springtime!

Ivan M. Granger Ivan M. Granger

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

More poetry by Ivan M. Granger

6 responses so far

Feb 18 2015

Paramahansa Yogananda – Samadhi

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Samadhi
by Paramahansa Yogananda

Vanished the veils of light and shade,
Lifted every vapor of sorrow,
Sailed away all dawns of fleeting joy,
Gone the dim sensory mirage.
Love, hate, health, disease, life, death,
Perished these false shadows on the screen of duality.
Waves of laughter, scyllas of sarcasm, melancholic whirlpools,
Melting in the vast sea of bliss.
The storm of maya stilled
By magic wand of intuition deep.
The universe, forgotten dream, subconsciously lurks,
Ready to invade my newly wakened memory divine.
I live without the cosmic shadow,
But it is not, bereft of me;
As the sea exists without the waves,
But they breathe not without the sea.
Dreams, wakings, states of deep turiya sleep,
Present, past, future, no more for me,
But ever-present, all-flowing I, I, everywhere.
Planets, stars, stardust, earth,
Volcanic bursts of doomsday cataclysms,
Creation’s molding furnace,
Glaciers of silent x-rays, burning electron floods,
Thoughts of all men, past, present, to come,
Every blade of grass, myself, mankind,
Each particle of universal dust,
Anger, greed, good, bad, salvation, lust,
I swallowed, transmuted all
Into a vast ocean of blood of my own one Being!
Smoldering joy, oft-puffed by meditation
Blinding my tearful eyes,
Burst into immortal flames of bliss,
Consumed my tears, my frame, my all.
Thou art I, I am Thou,
Knowing, Knower, Known, as One!
Tranquilled, unbroken thrill, eternally living, ever new peace!
Enjoyable beyond imagination of expectancy, samadhi bliss!
Not a mental chloroform
Or unconscious state without willful return,
Samadhi but extends my conscious realm
Beyond the limits of the mortal frame
To farthest boundary of eternity
Where I, the Cosmic Sea,
Watch the little ego floating in me.
The sparrow, each grain of sand, fall not without my sight.
All space like an iceberg floats within my mental sea.
Colossal Container, I, of all things made.
By deeper, longer, thirsty, guru-given meditation
Comes this celestial samadhi
Mobile murmurs of atoms are heard,
The dark earth, mountains, vales, lo! molten liquid!
Flowing seas change into vapors of nebulae!
Aum blows upon the vapors, opening wondrously their veils,
Oceans stand revealed, shining electrons,
Till, at last sound of the cosmic drum,
Vanish the grosser lights into eternal rays
Of all-pervading bliss.
From joy I came, for joy I live, in sacred joy I melt.
Ocean of mind, I drink all creation’s waves.
Four veils of solid, liquid, vapor, light,
Lift aright.
Myself, in everything, enters the Great Myself.
Gone forever, fitful, flickering shadows of mortal memory.
Spotless is my mental sky, below, ahead, and high above.
Eternity and I, one united ray.
A tiny bubble of laughter, I
Am become the Sea of Mirth Itself.

— from Whispers from Eternity, by Paramahansa Yogananda


/ Image by spisharam /

Yesterday was Mahashivaratri for Hindus, “the great night of Shiva,” a time to celebrate the marriage of Lord Shiva and Parvati, the balanced union of Male and Female within the universe. This is a time of year considered auspicious to elevate and focus one’s spiritual practice. It is fitting then that, for Christians, today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent, the time of prayer, penance, and purification in preparation for Easter.

I thought this poem on the rarified state of samadhi by Paramahansa Yogananda might be a good choice for today…

Something of my journey from childhood through adolescence: My early fascination with comic book superheroes was transformed in 1977 into an obsession with all things Star Wars. Jedi, lightsabers, the Force, Yoda. There was a unifying thread in these stories of mystic warriors, heroic figures with supernatural abilities standing up to protect the vulnerable. These heroes, by the very nature of their unique abilities and view of reality, were necessarily outsiders.

To a painfully shy young boy, these were powerful archetypes that leapt and fought and strutted through my youthful fantasies.

With the 80s and early adolescence came Dungeons & Dragons. (I know, I was a nerd.) I could imagine in ever more detail that I was a knight or a wizard. I quickly noticed something… as cool as swords were, the role I really wanted to play over and over again was the wizard. I mean, knights were just muscular guys wielding stylized meat cleavers, but wizards, well, wizards had mastered and transcended the very nature of reality itself. Wizards were the real superheroes.

But D&D was ultimately frustrating. Those long afternoons spent with friends rolling dice and casting imaginary spells in made up worlds began to feel as if, on some deep level, I was giving up on reality. I didn’t want to play at being a wizard; I wanted to be a wizard.

That’s when, at age 13, I discovered the writings of Carlos Castaneda. These were wild, mind-blowing stories of sorcery and alternate realities in the Sonoran desert. For the next several years I carried a beat up Castaneda paperback with me everywhere I went, reading and rereading those bizarre adventures. I so wanted to break into that world where I imagined that wizardry might just be real.

Those stories awakened a fierce determination within me to seek living truths behind what most people assumed to be immutable reality. They gave me permission to be odd, that is, wholly myself, and to see the world through my own eyes.

But– I finally came to the conclusion that those shadowy tales of desert sorcery were unbalancing. The philosophy was stark, at times cold-hearted. The universe of this semi-fictional reality was described in predatory terms, in which Indian sorcerers and astral beings preyed on one another while seeking greater power. To the uncritical glance of a 13 year old, that world was magical, dangerous, fascinating; but to a 17 year old stumbling his way into adulthood, it became a dead end.

It was at this time, in my late teens, when I first read Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi. With it’s adventure, philosophy, descriptions of mystical states, respect for the universality of all religions… and its compassionate outlook, that book reopened my spiritual horizon. It restored my breath to me when so much seemed stripped of purpose. It gave me the courage to hold a gentle heart, and begin to imagine a viable and inclusive path of spirit.

Yogananda’s Autobiography was also my first introduction to the yogic term ‘samadhi’ — the mystic’s total blissful absorption in the Divine.

Myself, in everything, enters the Great Myself.

‘Samadhi’ is one of Paramahansa Yogananda’s most loved poems describing the ecstatic, elevated spiritual state. There is so much to say here, but I think I’ll step back and let Yogananda’s words ring in the silence.

Present, past, future, no more for me,
But ever-present, all-flowing I, I, everywhere.

A poem is built of rhythm and words upon a foundation of breath. And breath guides the awareness. A poem like this can lead the reader into lands of sacred experience…

Spotless is my mental sky, below, ahead, and high above.
Eternity and I, one united ray.

Those moments of pure insight, the recognition of one’s true being as it expands and melts into the vastness of Being, and discovering how that realization can be poured out into the mind of the world, that’s real wizardry. Striving for that truth, discovering it, sharing it with a desperately thirsty world, that’s real heroism.


Recommended Books: Paramahansa Yogananda

Whispers from Eternity Autobiography of a Yogi The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Explained


Paramahansa Yogananda, Paramahansa Yogananda poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Paramahansa Yogananda

India (1893 – 1952) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu

More poetry by Paramahansa Yogananda

2 responses so far

Feb 08 2015

Video: Ivan M. Granger – Nonduality & Sacred Poetry pt 2

Part 2 of my conversation with Jerry Katz on sacred poetry and nonduality. Tasty stuff!

Nonduality Talk Radio – Host Jerry Katz in conversation with Ivan M. Granger, founder of Poetry Chaikhana (www.poetry-chaikhana.com) and author of The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World.
– Part 2: The centrality of longing within the spiritual journey. Sacred poetry lets one see the mystic heart of all religions. Poetry as the natural language of mystic insight. Poems by: Gabriel Rosenstock, Elizabeth Reninger, Lalla, and Ivan M. Granger.

Originally aired 1/7/2015
http://nonduality.org/2015/01/07/5269-ivan-m-granger/

More about Ivan M. Granger and Poetry Chaikhana:
http://www.poetry-chaikhana.com

…Part 1 http://youtu.be/z0-2WzycE2o includes a discussion of what defines “sacred poetry.” The alchemical nature of poetry. Metaphor as the language of sacred poetry. Poetry selections by Mahmud Shabistari (Persia, 14th century) and Kobayashi Issa (Japan, 19th century), with an exploration of the insight they can evoke in us.

…Part 2:

00:00 – 7:01 Poet Gabriel Rosenstock discussed. His haiku read and contemplated. The centrality of longing within the spiritual journey. Mysticism as “the science of longing.”

7:01 – 13:28 Poets Dorothy Walters and Elizabeth Reninger discussed. Ivan reads one of Elizabeth’s poems, Bird Bath. Assent and ascent.

13:28 – 14:20 Ivan talks about doing poetry readings.

14:20 – 18:17 Ivan reads a poem from Lalla and discusses it in relation to his own searching. Two types of longing: Longing that pulls us out of ourselves, and longing that “leads you right into your own feet.”

18:17 – 21:15 Ivan reads one of his poems, Parched, and talks about it. He also reads his poem Holy Ground and expands on its meaning in relation to the experience of emptiness rather than a structure of some sort.

21:15 – 28:33 Ivan talks about sacred poetry as culturally important, especially with regard to religion, as it lets one see the mystic heart of all religions. Poetry as the natural language of mystic insight.

28:33 – 30:05 Closing words and music.

No responses yet

Feb 03 2015

Video: Ivan M. Granger – Nonduality & Sacred Poetry pt 1

The video version of my recent interview on Nonduality Talk Radio. I hope you enjoy it!

Nonduality Talk Radio – Host Jerry Katz in conversation with Ivan M. Granger, founder of Poetry Chaikhana (www.poetry-chaikhana.com) and author of The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World.

Part 1 topics: Is all poetry sacred poetry? The alchemical nature of poetry. Metaphor as the language of sacred poetry. Poetry selections by Mahmud Shabistari (Persia, 14th century) and Kobayashi Issa (Japan, 19th century), with an exploration of the insight they can evoke in us.

Originally aired 1/7/2015
http://nonduality.org/2015/01/07/5269-ivan-m-granger/

More about Ivan M. Granger and Poetry Chaikhana:
http://www.poetry-chaikhana.com

00:00 – 5:10 Introduction. Purpose and nature of Poetry Chaikhana. Ivan’s perspective on sacred poetry as personal, conversational, and mystically inclined.

5:10 – 7:56 Ivan’s view of sacred poetry as alchemical more than intellectual.

7:56 – 12:33 What is sacred poetry?

12:33 – 16:52 Ivan reads a poem by Shabistari and comments.

16:52 – 20:28 Coleman Barks discussed. Ivan’s desire to introduce the public to great sacred poetry besides the few that are well known such as those by Rumi. How Ivan started the Poetry Chaikhana project.

20:28 – 24:58 Ivan talks about his own poetry and writing journey, especially the nature of metaphors in sacred poetry.

24:58 – 30:24 Ivan reads and discusses a haiku by Issa.

…Part 2 includes a discussion of the importance of sacred poetry during periods of religious conflict, along with several poems by modern poet-mystics.

No responses yet

Jan 08 2015

Interview on Nonduality Talk Radio

I recently spoke with Jerry Katz of Nonduality Talk Radio about sacred poetry, The Longing in Between, and the relationship between poetry, language, and nondual awareness. I read a few poems, of course, and share my thoughts on the alchemical nature of sacred poetry, and also explain my personal approach as to why I comment on sacred poetry in the unusual ways that I do. The interview officially aired on January 7.

You can listen to the full one hour interview online at:

http://nonduality.org/2015/01/07/5269-ivan-m-granger/

00:00 – 5:10 Introduction. Purpose and nature of Poetry Chaikhana. Ivan’s perspective on sacred poetry as personal, conversational, and mystically inclined.

5:10 – 7:56 Ivan’s view of sacred poetry as alchemical more than intellectual.

7:56 – 16:52 What is sacred poetry? Ivan reads a poem and comments.

16:52 – 20:28 Coleman Barks discussed. Ivan’s desire to introduce the public to great sacred poetry besides the few that are well known such as those by Rumi. How Ivan started the Poetry Chaikhana project.

20:28 – 24:58 Ivan talks about his own poetry and writing journey, especially the nature of metaphors in sacred poetry.

24:58 – 30:24 Ivan reads and discusses a haiku.

30:24 – 38:03 Poet Gabriel Rosenstock discussed and his haiku read and discussed. The centrality of longing within the spiritual journey.

38:03 – 44:45 Poets Dorothy Walters and Elizabeth Reninger discussed. Ivan reads one of Elizabeth’s poems, Bird Bath.

44:45 – 45:40 Ivan talks about doing poetry readings.

45:40 – 49:42 Ivan reads a poem from Lalla and discusses it in relation to his own searching. Longing recognizing itself.

49:42 – 52:41 Ivan reads one of his poems, Parched, and talks about it. He also reads his poem Holy Ground and expands on its meaning in relation to the experience of emptiness rather than a structure of some sort.

52:41 – Ivan talks about sacred poetry as culturally important, especially with regard to religion, as it lets one see the mystic heart of all religions. Closing words and music.

No responses yet

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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