Archive for the 'Ivan’s Story' Category

Jun 17 2013

Ivan M. Granger – Holy Ground

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Holy Ground
by Ivan M. Granger

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

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

            the wreck
            made this empty plain
            holy ground.

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


/ Photo by Mendhak /

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

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

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

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

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

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






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

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

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15 responses so far

Jun 10 2013

Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi – The Thirsty

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

The Thirsty
by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

English version by Ivan M. Granger

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


/ Photo by sergis blog /

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

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

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

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

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

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






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

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

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19 responses so far

May 22 2013

D. H. Lawrence – Pax

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Pax
by D. H. Lawrence

All that matters is to be at one with the living God
to be a creature in the house of the God of Life.

Like a cat asleep on a chair
at peace, in peace
and at one with the master of the house, with the mistress,
at home, at home in the house of the living,
sleeping on the hearth, and yawning before the fire.

Sleeping on the hearth of the living world
yawning at home before the fire of life
feeling the presence of the living God
like a great reassurance
a deep calm in the heart
a presence
as of the master sitting at the board
in his own and greater being,
in the house of life.

— from The Complete Poems of D. H. Lawrence, by D. H. Lawrence


/ Photo by Dee.Dee.M /

All that matters is to be at one with the living God
to be a creature in the house of the God of Life.

I had a couple of very good friends in childhood, but in many ways my closest companion was a calico cat named, Kitty Kumbah (a singsong name made up by a four-year-old me). She saw me through my parents’ divorce, through a disorienting move from Oregon to Southern California, and along the bumpy road into adolescence. She sat patiently listening to my talking and tantrums. She slept on my bed each night and, one year, gave birth to a litter of kittens on my belly while I was asleep. When I was 16, Kitty Kumbah died in my arms, having carried me safely through my childhood.

feeling the presence of the living God
like a great reassurance
a deep calm in the heart

What I remember most was how she taught me meditation, stillness, poise, contentment, and the importance of a well-chosen seat. She taught me pax… peace. That cat was my first spiritual teacher.

Like a cat asleep on a chair
at peace, in peace

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






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

England (1885 – 1930) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by D. H. Lawrence

6 responses so far

May 17 2013

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

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

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

English version by Vraje Abramian

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

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


/ Photo by Christine Muraton /

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sending love!






Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

Turkmenistan (967 – 1049) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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8 responses so far

May 05 2013

Real Thirst Book Signing – May 4, 2013

Ivan M. Granger

Ivan M. Granger Book Signing 5/4/13

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

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

The Real Thirst Fellowship

One response so far

Apr 12 2013

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

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

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

–Free event – everyone is welcome!–

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Feb 13 2013

Ivan M. Granger – Every Shaped Thing

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Every Shaped Thing
by Ivan M. Granger

Sighing,
every shaped thing
turns
heavenward.

Your altar
cannot seat
the thousand thousand
idols.

Holding them,
what do you have?

Each gilded god
says:

“I am
impoverished
by the sun.

I can only
point
up.”

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


/ Photo by hsld /

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

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

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

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

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

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






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

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

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8 responses so far

Aug 20 2012

Thank you for your emails and comments

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

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

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

3 responses so far

Aug 10 2012

Recovery and Renewal

We were dry, but we moistened.

~ Yunus Emre (Turkey, 13th century)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ivan

War is cut short by a word,
and a word heals the wounds,
and there’s a word that changes
poison into butter and honey.

~ Yunus Emre (Turkey, 13th century)

30 responses so far

Jul 04 2012

Poetry Chaikhana is back – with a few updates

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

Apollo

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

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

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

Email Challenges

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

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

28% Discount on Real Thirst through Amazon

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

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

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

Forgetting false future
suns, she sings

in no voice
but her own.

Real Thirst
Poetry of the Spiritual Journey

Poems & Translations by Ivan M. Granger

Available through
Amazon.com
   

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

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

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

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

Ivan

23 responses so far

Jun 20 2012

Ivan M. Granger – Adi Atman 9: you you

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Adi Atman 9: you you
by Ivan M. Granger

Adi Atman,

I am a fool

I place a picture
before me
and say
      — you you

hosanna hari hari bol!

daybreak and I whisper
to the sun
      — you

full moon night
and I cry out
      — you

summer downpour
the thunder crash
shouts for me
      — YOU

drowning
drunk from too much
seawater
I sputter
      — you you you

shambo shankara!

I am a grasping fool
I say — you —

and you are gone

when I remember to shut up
then you are here

and I am gone

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


/ Photo by rarye /

So something by yours truly today…

Each poem in this cycle is addressed to Adi Atman, to the Divine as the Primal Self.

Everything — everything! — reflects the Eternal Self to us, but we cannot grasp It. The act of grasping, trying to hold onto something, requires us to break reality down into separate parts. We’re not talking here about grasping something with the hand; we are talking about grasping with the mind, the awareness. But the limited mind can only hold onto separate parts, named things, God as not-self (“you”).

I am a grasping fool
I say — you —

and you are gone

There is a dilemma here: On the one hand, to say “you” is to acknowledge God, the Divine Presence. On the other hand, to say “you” is to push God away, to externalize God, to alienate God. Of course, we don’t really alienate God; instead, we alienate ourselves from God.

Name It, try to grasp It… and It is gone. What we seek is the Wholeness that is our very own nature, not some foreign ‘person’ or ‘thing’ — not an external object that the mind can lay hold of. The Living Whole can’t be grasped. The only way to claim It is to be claimed by It. The only way to gain It is to lose ourselves within It amidst deep, deep silence.

when I remember to shut up
then you are here

and I am gone






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

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

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9 responses so far

Jun 11 2012

Real Thirst – Poetry Chaikhana’s first book!

I am so pleased to announce our first publication…


Real Thirst, Poetry of the Spiritual Journey, Ivan M. Granger Real Thirst
Poetry of theSpiritual Journey

Poems & Translations by Ivan M. Granger

$14.95
PURCHASE

Also through
Amazon.com
Real Thirst US Real Thirst UK Real Thirst FR Real Thirst DER

Fall 2012:
Kindle & iBook

The poems in Real Thirst are an exploration of the spiritual journey viewed through the mystic’s eyes. This collection is a delightful blend of word and silence, presenting moments of contemplation punctuated with bursts of ecstatic insight.

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

“I found Real Thirst to be a slow, cool and refreshing drink. The deep singularity present within each poem, evokes a kind of felt suchness, and that is a real gift. I believe you will find these poems an antidote to the rush of your days.”
     ~ JOHN FOX author of Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-Making


Today I feel like a proud father! The Poetry Chaikhana has published its first book!

Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey is a collection of my own poems along with several translations of works by other visionary poets, from John of the Cross to Bulleh Shah.

This book wouldn’t have come into being without the encouragement and help of the Poetry Chaikhana community — so first and foremost, I want to thank all of you.

As satisfying as it is to have a book of my own poems and translations in print, my ultimate goal is to publish an anthology of sacred poetry, possibly a series of anthologies: a treasure trove of the great sacred poets, accompanied by commentaries. That’s always been the heart of the Poetry Chaikhana.

Before I could commit to such a large publishing project, however, I needed to learn the basics of the process. I had to educate myself step-by-step on every aspect of publishing: editing and proofreading (with the help of several excellent volunteers), page layout and formatting, cover design, print specifications, distribution channels, even marketing. It occurred to me early on that it would be best to go through the learning process with my own work first in order to be well prepared as I move into the bigger projects. Thus, Real Thirst was born.

And, I have to say, I’m very pleased with how this first book turned out.

I do hope you will buy a copy of Real Thirst… and I hope it’s a book you’ll love.

Not only does your purchase support the Poetry Chaikhana, you will also be encouraging future publications. Good sales of this first book makes future books possible. If you are eager to have an anthology of sacred poetry from the Poetry Chaikhana on your bookshelf, purchasing Real Thirst is the best way to help.

Purchasing Real Thirst

You can purchase Real Thirst directly, here. It is also available through Amazon.com.

Since the Poetry Chaikhana is a global community, I managed to also make Real Thirst available through some of Amazon’s international sites, including Amazon UK and Amazon Germany.

eBook Formats Coming in Fall

For those of you with a Kindle or iPad, Real Thirst will be available in both formats later this year. I’ll be sure to let everyone know when the ebook formats are available.

Reader Reviews

If you like Real Thirst, another wonderful way you can help is to post your own review of the book online at Amazon.com and Goodreads.com. People do read those online reviews — I know I do. It is a great way to expand interest outside the Poetry Chaikhana community.

Read More

If you’d like to read a few more samples from Real Thirst click here. You can also see a bit more of the book by clicking the “Look Inside” link on Amazon.com.

And please feel free to send me an email or post a note on the Poetry Chaikhana Blog to tell me what you think. I’d love to hear your responses. The publication of this book — the first of many, I hope — was made possible by the outpouring of love and encouragement from all of you.

Have a beautiful day!

Ivan


“Ivan M. Granger has thrown open the doors of his body, heart and mind to the Infinite’s expressions of Itself in this world… These poems touch all the heart-strings. I laughed, I shed tears, I fell into contemplative states, I felt awe and wonder, love and longing as I read his offerings… You’ll want to return to this wellspring to quench your thirst over and over again.”
     ~ LAWRENCE EDWARDS, Ph.D. author of The Soul’s Journey: Guidance From the Divine Within and Kali’s Bazaar



Sample Poetry

First dawn. Even the
birds in the tallest pines are
surprised by the sun.
Continue Reading »

5 responses so far

Jan 13 2012

Ivan M. Granger – Medusa

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Medusa
by Ivan M. Granger

Medusa says –

I was wisdom
once,
black as night.

Now they call me:
      monster,
      gorgon,
      hideous-faced.

So I hide
behind this hissing curtain
of hair.

Lost
little ones,
breathe easy;
you are free
to not see.

But
what is a lonely
old lady to do?

I still wait
for some daughter,
      some son,
so wounded by the world,
to seize these snakes
and part my locks wide.

I still wait
for some bold, tired
      wild child of mine,
determined to die
seeing what’s reflected
in my unblinking eye.


/ Photo by Sophoco /

I awoke early today, before the sun. Observing the nighttime, its embodiment of mystery, the unknown, vastness. Night brings both peace and fear. It does not distract us from ourselves. Whatever we bring with us into the night we must confront.

So I thought of this poem I wrote several years ago…

I read a lot of Greek mythology in my childhood. I loved the fantastical adventures, the heroes, the monsters, the convoluted relationships of the gods. I was fascinated that so many common words and phrases have their origins in the names and stories of Greek myths. It connected me with my Greek ancestry, through my father’s side of the family.

And I also had the vague, semi-formed idea that there was something deeper being said in these myth stories.

I discovered something a few years back that struck me: Medusa, the quintessential monster of Greek mythology, was originally a much loved Goddess. Her name comes from the Greek word “metis” (related to the Sanskrit “medha”) meaning “wisdom.” Her worship is thought to have originated in Northern Africa and been imported into early Greek culture. She was black-skinned, wore wild, matted hair (with, of course, snakes), stood naked, wide-eyed, and embodied the mystery of woman, the wisdom of the night, the truths too profound or terrible to face in the daylight.

Medusa is, in effect, a Mediterranean version of the Indian Goddess Kali.

Medusa was eventually subsumed into the safer, patriarchal worship of Athena, who carries Medusa’s head upon her shield.

This discovery inspired me to look at the figure of Medusa more deeply, more reverently. What is the wisdom that terrifies? Why the snakes? Why the petrifying open-eyed stare? And how does such a bringer of terrible wisdom feel about being rejected by her children as a “monster”?

So I hide
Behind this hissing curtain
Of hair.

One way to understand the snakes about Medusa’s head is as the awakened Kundalini energy, having risen from the base of the spine to the skull — something well-understood in the Mediterranean mystery schools of the ancient world. This vital, snake-like energy is the Goddess energy. Medusa, the Goddess, is the Snake Mother.

Yet, She has formed of this living energy a curtain, a veil that hides Her Face from a world not ready to bear witness to Her. This curtain is the veil of illusion that creates an artificial sense of separation between the world and the Divine.

And the curtain does indeed hiss. When you are quiet and your thoughts settle, you begin to hear a soft sound seeming to issue from the base of your skull. Initially, it sounds like a creaking or crackling noise, a white noise, a sort of a hissing. The deeper you go into silence, the more the sound resolves itself. Eventually, you recognize it permeating your whole body and all things.

You must pass through this hissing curtain in order to meet the deep truth waiting for you on the other side.

I still wait
For some bold, tired
      Wild child of mine,
Determined to die
Seeing what’s reflected
In my unblinking eye.

Medusa’s eye does not blink. This is partly what is so terrifying about her gaze. She stares boldly out and sees Reality as it is. She sees it plainly, fearlessly, and without interruption. There is no pause for interpretation or “filtering.” Medusa’s truth is raw. She is the Divine Mother who sees all of Her Creation in every living instant.

Looking in Medusa’s eye, what is it that you see reflected? Yourself, of course. And this truly is shattering, for you see the truth of yourself. You see the unreality of your little self, your social self, your ego self. That little self is a phantom, a mental creation only.

Medusa, in her shattering wisdom, does not protect you from this realization. Her love for you will not allow you to struggle on with such a false notion holding you back from your true nature.

Seeing this truth, you die. The little self dies.

But, in dying to the little self, your true nature suddenly shines forth. The real Self, which is one with the Divine, emerges. Every aspect of yourself that felt broken and that you labored so long to heal, is suddenly made whole; in fact, you realize nothing was ever broken. That sense of incompleteness was the result of denying the vastness you truly are while clinging to the illusion of the little self.

This is Medusa’s gift to Her children. This is Her terrible wisdom. It is the truth that blesses you through death, and then gives you greater life than you had previously imagined possible.

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

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

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13 responses so far

Oct 10 2011

Books: Exploring Spiritual Traditions

Published by under Books,Ivan's Story

This past weekend we got our first real taste of Autumn — brisk, gusty winds, rain-splashed pavement. Good days for well-bundled walks, then a return home for a cup of tea, with a four-legged friend curled at your feet… and, of course, a good book open in your lap.

For your cozy weather reading, I thought I’d update and resend the following note. I hope it inspires some good exploration and deepening insight…

==

Where did my interest in the world’s spiritual traditions come from? Which religious tradition was I raised in? I’m asked these questions all the time.

A bit of background about myself…

I was raised by single mother, an ex-Catholic hippie turned social worker and secret New Ager who told me I should choose my own religion when I was old enough, but who also couldn’t hide her distaste for most organized religion.

By college age, I had a strong interior life and my own motley spiritual practice, but virtually no understanding of what most people call “religion.” While formally studying history and biology, I started sneaking into Bible as Literature classes — that was when I read the Bible for the first time.

At eighteen, I became a voracious reader on religion and spirituality in my spare time, often jumping right to the source material without any context. I read the Quran. I read the Bhagavad Gita and Buddhist texts. I read books on shamanism. I was fascinated and lost amidst everything.

Those were dazzling, bumpy years of searching.

You know what would have saved me a lot of confusion? Discovering the following books. Each of these books is a good, highly readable introduction to the deeper spiritual dimensions of a particular religious tradition. Check them out…

Christian Mystics: Their Lives and Legacies throughout the Ages
by Ursula King

Highly recommended if you want a brief survey of important visionaries and trends within the sometimes hidden history of Christian mysticism. Francis of Assisi, Hildegard von Bingen, the Beguines, Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Brother Lawrence, Jacob Boehme, Symeon the New Theologian, and many others. The author of this book has done a nice job of balancing history with spirituality. This little book makes an excellent introduction to the depths of the Christian tradition that are too often overlooked in favor of creeds and rites. Even if you were raised within the Christian tradition, my guess is that much of your own spiritual history was not handed down to you. Here is a good place to start to regain that connection.

The Shambhala Guide to Sufism
by Carl W. Ernst PhD

I am currently re-reading this book. It as an intelligent, insightful look at the history, practices, philosophies, schools, and even politics of Sufism. It doesn’t get deeply into the more esoteric aspects of the Sufi world, but it gives a good overview. If you’ve loved the poetry of Rumi but only have a vague idea of how Sufism fits within the Islamic faith, this book is an excellent place to start.

The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice
by Georg Feuerstein

Unlike the other two books, which are relatively brief introductions to their subjects, The Yoga Tradition is truly encyclopedic. Dubbed “The Blue Phonebook” for its size and color, The Yoga Tradition completely dispells the misconception many have that yoga is just an elaborate form of stretching. It introduces us to ancient and modern yogic philosophies and practices. The many expressions of Hindu yoga, Jain yoga, Buddhist yoga, Sikh yoga, saints, philosophers, and reformers… This book helps us to get oriented amidst thousands of years of complex history with a surprisingly readable, coherent approach. Very highly recommended.

For even more book recommendations, click here.

I hope these books inspire some good exploration (minus the bumps)…

Ivan

15 responses so far

Sep 28 2011

Denise Levertov – Illustrious Ancestors

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Illustrious Ancestors
by Denise Levertov

The Rav
of Northern White Russia declined,
in his youth, to learn the
language of birds, because
the extraneous did not interest him; nevertheless
when he grew old it was found
he understood them anyway, having
listened well, and as it is said, ‘prayed
                  with the bench and the floor.’ He used
what was at hand — as did
Angel Jones of Mold, whose meditations
were sewn into coats and britches.
                  Well, I would like to make,
thinking some line still taut between me and them,
poems direct as what the birds said,
hard as a floor, sound as a bench,
mysterious as the silence when the tailor
would pause with his needle in the air.

— from A Big Jewish Book: Poems and Other Visions of the Jews from Tribal Times to the Present, Edited by Jerome Rothenberg


/ Photo by runneralan2004 /

Today is the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It’s no coincidence that it occurs near the cardinal point of the autumn equinox. When the year starts with the darkening months of autumn and winter, the year is born from the inside out. The year begins with an inward focus that nurtures and shapes the outer activities of spring and summer.

My closest friend is Jewish. We’ve been friends since the age of seven. Growing up, I spent much of my free time at his house. I often joined his family for holiday meals and occasionally for a Saturday visit to the synagogue.

In my own home, I was raised by a single mother who was a lapsed Catholic. Through my mother, I picked up a strong sense of morality and spiritual purpose, but only a sketchy idea of what religious life meant to most people. That’s part of why I had both a fascination with and, occasionally, rebellion against my friend’s religious and cultural life.

His family was modern and generally secular. I got the feeling that his parents’ religious observance was more about cultural identity than religious belief. But there were moments, such as when I’d join them on Rosh Hashanah, with his family gathered around the dining table, where each food had a significance — apples dipped in honey to bring sweetness in the new year — that I would feel the spark of belonging, not just to a family, but to a heritage.

I was such a solitary child who didn’t like rules or prescribed behavior. There were times when I was not the best influence on my friend, encouraging him to ditch Torah school so he and I could attend to the mischief of childhood… not that he needed a lot of encouragement. 😉 It was my mother, who had rejected formalized religion, who helped me to recognize the importance of his religious heritage. She reminded me of the grainy black and white photographs in my friend’s living room, photographs of cousins, aunts, and uncles lost to the Holocaust, how the continuing enactment of tradition can be an important way to reaffirm the continuity of one’s identity, of family, of the realization of the dreams of past generations.

My friend now has children of his own. As someone without children myself, there is something deeply moving to me to watch how that mischievous boy is now grown up and sharing his rich heritage with his own children. The turning of the year. The turning of the generations.

We all need to find our own unique way to draw a taut line between ourselves and those who’ve gone before us to show us the way…

Denise Levertov, Denise Levertov poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Denise Levertov

US (1923 – 1997) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic : Beat
Jewish

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5 responses so far

Sep 14 2011

Kabir – The Lord is in Me

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

The Lord is in Me
by Kabir

English version by Andrew Harvey

The Lord is in me, and the Lord is in you,
As life is hidden in every seed.
So rubble your pride, my friend,
And look for Him within you.

When I sit in the heart of His world
A million suns blaze with light,
A burning blue sea spreads across the sky,
Life’s turmoil falls quiet,
All the stains of suffering wash away.

Listen to the unstruck bells and drums!
Love is here; plunge into its rapture!
Rains pour down without water;
Rivers are streams of light.

How could I ever express
How blessed I feel
To revel in such vast ecstasy
In my own body?

This is the music
Of soul and soul meeting.
Of the forgetting of all grief.
This is the music
That transcends all coming and going.

— from Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from the Sufi Wisdom, by Andrew Harvey / Eryk Hanut


/ Photo by mtungate /

I spent much of my 20s in semi-retreat, meditating and fasting. I kept looking for more remote places to live. Thankfully, I have an adventurous wife who was a bit of a vagabond herself at that time. We moved up into the mountains of Colorado for several years until we decided we weren’t built for the intense winters up there. So why not go the opposite direction? We moved to Maui and rented a small ohana (cabin) up along the slopes of Haleakala. When I wasn’t working, I’d walk barefoot among the eucalyptus forests with my two dogs. I discovered a small cave hidden among the trees, not far from our place. It was just big enough for me to sit upright in. I’d hike there, sit and meditate, while my dogs roamed or napped nearby.

I don’t think of myself as claustrophobic, and this cave wasn’t deeply recessed, but feeling all that rock and earth, all that dense… silence, above my head and pressing in at my shoulders, would trigger an instinct to hop out and take a gulp of air. Meditation in a cave, within the embrace of the earth, can be like sitting with death, buried. Or in the womb, waiting to be born. Yet it is so profoundly quiet. When the body finally settles down and the sparks of mind calm, I would become so sweetly still and rooted.

Winter doesn’t have the same meaning in Hawaii as it does in much of the world, but it was there, in winter, my 32nd year, during a moment of spiritual desperation, that some part of me just… opened up. The person I normally thought of as “Ivan” ceased to be. And I was flooded with the most amazing sense of bliss and radiance. It rained down like cool water from above. Then it was like a flood. Then a warm fire glowing majestically in my heart. Everything, all the world, was quietly seated in my heart. That soft sound ringing at the base of the skull became a music that filled my awareness.

It was as if all my life I’d been a tight, cramped bud and assumed that was my nature. Then, in an instant, I’d blossomed — and found I was an entirely different, open being.

What stunned me most was that this heaven was flowering within me, not in someone else, not somewhere else. I knew what an unfocused mess my life — Ivan’s life — was, so how had this come to me? …But it hadn’t come to me. It’s simply what we are, what the whole universe is, beneath the surface appearances.

I remained steadily in that blissful space for several months. Normal social interactions, work, these were a challenge at first, but I slowly began to reconstruct an Ivan-like mask as a way to more easily interact with the world. I didn’t feel it was my role to remain withdrawn and floating in bliss. So I let it become a game, pretending to be Ivan. After a while, I noticed days when I wasn’t pretending anymore. Sometimes you wear a mask, sometimes you imagine yourself to be the mask. It’s now been ten years, with normal life dramas and the occasional crisis. Most days I am Ivan — a likable, intelligent, slightly flakey guy. Then some days I rediscover myself seated in such immense bliss where no simple identity can contain me.

I left my cave. We left Maui and returned to Colorado (but not back up in the mountains). I think of this as when I returned to the world. Or maybe it was my first time entering the world, since I’d spent my whole life up until then trying to run from it. I brought with me my love of poetry, my love of the human journey, and some extra bliss to hand out when no one’s looking…

==

Try re-reading this poem by Kabir now–

The Lord is in me, and the Lord is in you…

When I sit in the heart of His world
A million suns blaze with light…

Listen to the unstruck bells and drums!

Rains pour down without water…

To revel in such vast ecstasy…

I hope you can see that language like this is not simply an artistry of lovely words. This uplifting imagery is a technical language, very precise, describing something very real.

This is the blossoming that every soul craves as the natural expression of its nature.

==

Much love! Have a beautiful day!

Kabir, Kabir poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Kabir

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

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11 responses so far

Aug 24 2011

Muhammad Shirin Maghribi – O End of Every Beginning

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

O End of Every Beginning
by Muhammad Shirin Maghribi

English version by Mahmood Jamal

O end of every beginning,
O beginning of every end,
O manifest of every hidden,
O hidden of all revealed!

The light of Your beauty
In every believer’s eye does shine;
The sign of Your anger
In every denier’s heart we find.

You thank him and he is You,
Himself giver and receiver,
Himself the gift and the thanking.

None but You, the worshipped;
None but You, the worshipper;
None but You, the witness;
None but You, the speaker.

When the Saqi gave Maghrabi the wine
Of eternal life
He was annihilated and eternal.
He was non-existent and existent!

— from Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi, Translated by Mahmood Jamal


/ Photo by janoma.cl /

A little off-topic rant today (but sent with much love!) It just seems like a day to be feisty…

I was a teenager in the 1980s during the rise of the L.A. punk scene. No, I never spiked my hair, got tattooed, or trudged about in heavy army boots. But I had a few friends who were part of that world. Monday morning at school I’d hear fascinating stories of mosh pits and rock bands pushing the human ear’s endurance. I was too quiet and solitary and fond of my eardrums to join the punk scene. But I got along well with my punk friends because, in my very internalized way, I was just as much of an angry young man. You wouldn’t have known it to look at me — my clothes were plain and boring, I was a straight-A student, I was polite and friendly — but like my punk friends, I felt a simmering rage at the society in which I found myself growing into adulthood.

I had gone from the creative, sleepy, back-to-earth hippie culture of Oregon in the ’70s to L.A. full-throttle in the Reagan Era. As I grew into my teenage years, it dawned on me that this was the new mainstream American culture, not my nostalgic memories of Oregon. And I was stuck in it. These were the same things the punk movement was raging against: hyper-insulation, stupid wealth, and flattened souls. All I had to look forward to as I grew into adulthood was learning to live with it all, maybe figuring out enough of the rules to claw my way further up the heap. Like my friends, I felt profoundly betrayed by the world given to me.

Once I entered college, I let my facade collapse, and I began to admit how lost and alienated I felt. My academic focus crumbled, my pretense at life direction fell apart. The most terrifying thing of all was that I had discovered no clear path to follow. I sought meaning as best I could. I read Thoreau, I read Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge, I started to meditate. Frankly, none of that helped… not right away. I felt numb, just going through the motions. But I found a sweet, painful intensity in my hungering soul. Strange to say, that’s what sustained me and guided me. When we can’t find food, we can be fed by our hunger. I admit, I was probably miserable to be around at that time, but that intense yearning sparked and finally lit a flame inside me, and that flame has been my light and my heat ever since.

You know, I have some pretty strong political and social ideas, to a level that’s unseemly in someone on a contemplative path, but my most aggressive rebellion has been internal rebellion. We can and should strive to improve the world around us, but more important than unseating men of dark minds, more important than reshaping society, is toppling the tyrannical self that darkens our perception of life. That’s when we finally witness what a heavenly realm this world truly is. That vision is our map. Only then do we truly know where we want to go and have an idea how to get there. Actually, it’s not so much that we have to get somewhere; the heavenly vision just pours out of us, vivifying the world around us. By seeing, by knowing, by being profoundly alive, we become the alchemical means of transforming the world. This is the sort of rebel the world needs more of.

That’s my punk manifesto!

He was annihilated and eternal.
He was non-existent and existent!

Muhammad Shirin Maghribi

Iran/Persia (1349 – 1406) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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