Archive for the 'Ivan’s Story' Category

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!


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.


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

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!


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

drunk from too much
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

Continue Reading »

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


Also through
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

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 and 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

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 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

by Ivan M. Granger

Medusa says –

I was wisdom
black as night.

Now they call me:

So I hide
behind this hissing curtain
of hair.

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

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

Continue Reading »

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)…


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

More poetry by Denise Levertov

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

Continue Reading »

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 /

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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16 responses so far

Jul 18 2011

Ivan M. Granger – Parched

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

by Ivan M. Granger

The parched know —

real thirst
draws rainwater
from an empty sky.

/ Photo by CandyTX /

We’ve been having a heat wave where I live in Colorado, with unexpected rainstorms in the afternoons. Reminded me of this short poem I wrote some years ago…

There is a promise in every deep yearning. Every desire carries within it the seed of its own satisfaction. The trick is to relax into the tension of that yearning. Initially, it feels painful, like an unsatisfied thirst. But when the magnetic power of that thirst grows strong enough, it generates a heat vacuum within that summons rain to it.

So too with the thirst for God. Real thirst, real, all-consuming desire for the Divine, always brings a fulfilling response from heaven, no matter how lost the soul may feel.

Fulfillment descends like gentle rain from a still mind, an empty sky.

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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5 responses so far

Jul 01 2011

Hsu Yun – This is an exquisite truth

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

This is an exquisite truth:
by Hsu Yun

This is an exquisite truth:
Saints and ordinary folks are the same from the start.
Inquiring about a difference
Is like asking to borrow string
when you’ve got a good strong rope.
Every Dharma is known in the heart.
After a rain, the mountain colors intensify.
Once you become familiar with the design of fate’s illusions
Your ink-well will contain all of life and death.

/ Photo by paul simpson /

I like what that opening statement says:

This is an exquisite truth:
Saints and ordinary folks are the same from the start.

Whether we’re talking about inspired reformers or shining examples of enlightenment, our instinct is to elevate great souls as unique phenomena. We assume they are somehow other than us. But the liberating truth is that saints are the same as everyone else. The only difference, if we want to call it a difference, is that they don’t cover up their nature as most of us have learned to do. We all have that same steady glow within us. A saint is simply someone who doesn’t damp it down.

Understood this way, the spiritual journey is not one of crushing effort to acquire virtues, to build wisdom, to learn love. We already have all that in abundance. The only work necessary is to let go of the assumptions that keep our true nature hidden.

Once you become familiar with the design of fate’s illusions
Your ink-well will contain all of life and death.

I think these are the lines I respond to the most. I don’t know about you, but I spent so much of my life as a teenager and young adult feeling disappointed with where I found myself in the world. I wanted something profound, adventurous, bursting with meaning. Instead, I had a very ordinary middle class American upbringing. I sabotaged my college education and decided to search for something deeper. Most of that search was a painful flailing about, but it did bring me adventures, both internal and external. I lived on Maui for several years, I lived at high elevations in the Rocky Mountains. I’ve been homeless. I’ve had friends in wheelchairs, friends with wealth. I’ve known hippies and bikers and techies and farmers.

While all of that makes for good stories, that ache for something extraordinary just fell away the moment I first settled into a sense of spiritual opening. With that dawning of peace, I also found rest… and a profound sense of self-acceptance. It wasn’t that I had somehow changed into someone new and extraordinary. Instead, I felt profoundly myself for the first time, profoundly my ordinary self. And I can’t describe how serenely blissful that recognition of ordinariness is. I no longer felt the constant need to struggle to attain the extraordinary; the simple, the plain stood revealed as a stunning work of art filling every day.

These lines by Hsu Yun about “fate’s illusions” remind me of how I spent the first three decades of my life struggling against my circumstances to find a fate with meaning, only to discover that the struggle was unnecessary. All I had to do was open my eyes. In every corner of the world, in every life, big and small, the entire mystery of life and death can be found.

After a rain, the mountain colors intensify.

Hsu Yun, Hsu Yun poetry, Buddhist poetry Hsu Yun

China (1839 – 1959) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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6 responses so far

Jun 10 2011

Book: Poems of Awakening …and a poem by Ivan

A few weeks ago I received a book in the mail. People often send me their books of poetry, and I love to receive them. But this book particularly caught my eye, an anthology with the promising title of Poems of Awakening. As I leafed through it, I found a delightful collection of poems, ranging from Kabir to Li-Young Lee. I was eager to start exploring its pages, but other things required my attention, and so it sat on my desk unopened for several days.

Then I got an email from the book’s editor, Betsy Small, asking if I’d received the book yet. It was only after I sent a polite email back saying that, yes, I had received the book but hadn’t had a chance to read through it, that a light switched on in my memory. Betsy Small was the person who had asked me about one of my own poems several months back. I opened the book once again and read carefully through the table of contents. Sure enough, there was my haiku, “in love with the new sun”:

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

I had forgotten it was going to be published.

As I continue to read through Poems of Awakening, I rediscover favorite poems by other poets, and I’ve found more than a few that are entirely new to me. This is a book I’ll keep in easy reach on my bookshelf. I recommend it to anyone who wants a nice sampling of sacred and insightful poems that includes some unexpected surprises — including a poem by yours truly!

Poems of Awakening: An International Anthology of Spiritual Poetry
Edited by Betsy Small


One other note about “in love with the new sun”… This continues to be one of my most popular short poems. I often get emails about it from people who’ve discovered it on the Web. In fact, a couple years ago, I got an email from a woman in San Francisco who asked my permission to tattoo it on her side. I can’t think of a more permanent form of appreciation that that!

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Jun 03 2011

J. R. R. Tolkien – One Ring

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

One Ring
by J. R. R. Tolkien

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
      Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
      One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
      One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
      One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

— from The Lord of the Rings: One Vol. Edition, by J.R.R. Tolkien

/ Photo by alexindigo /

When I was a young teenager, thirteen, fourteen, several friends told me I had to read The Lord of the Rings. I loved high fantasy. A story was only made better by adding swords, in my opinion, and possibly a dragon or two. But, you know, I just wasn’t patient enough for Tolkien’s long tale. Sure, there are some big battles and the occasional bit of wizardly magic, but a lot of it is just about a very long walk. I couldn’t hold my young interest much past Tom Bombadil’s antics in the forest.

It wasn’t until a little over a decade ago, when the first advertisements for Peter Jackson’s movie versions started appearing, that I figured I should read the books before the movies came out. So I finally returned to The Lord of the Rings, but with an adult’s patience. This time I was utterly enchanted by the story! Yes, it has lots of the fantasy elements that appeal to the fourteen-year-old Ivan, but I found that the long slow passages really spoke to me too. So much of The Lord of the Rings is a meditation on the life and character of the land. Some of it reads like a hike with a group of naturalists.

We have a brutally utilitarian view of everything in the industrial worldview. We’ve trained ourselves to see things in terms of how we can make use of them: what we can get, what we can make, what we can control. As a society, we don’t see an ancient forest as a living being with its own history and memory and right to exist; we look at it as an undefined wild space that must be “civilized” and brought under control… made “useful” somehow.

I think this is part of what J. R. R Tolkien was writing about in The Lord of the Rings — the instinct to dominate, willfully turning from the natural world and those who live close to the natural world. The One Ring represents this instinct in its most concentrated form.

A little about Tolkien’s mythology–

In Tolkien’s world, the elves forged three rings of power, but they used their rings to preserve their serene vision of the world. This was perhaps a fault, since they used that power to maintain a lovely, enchanted, but unchanging world in their realms. They tried to fight the inevitable change of time. But because they did not desire dominance, they were not vulnerable to the influence of the dark lord’s One Ring.

The Dwarves tended towards greed, but they used their rings primarily for craft and feats of engineering. Though not the most noble use, they weren’t motivated by the desire for power over others. Being a hard folk, they too were not easily controlled by the evil of the One Ring.

But “Mortal Men” never seem able to accept what Tolkien calls the “gift” of death. They seek longer life at any cost. And, psychologically, life is not only measured in the span of years, but also in how significant one’s presence becomes in the world. In their desperation to evade mortality, Men’s hearts grow dark and hungry to rule.

And so it is in Tolkien’s world that Men, while having the greatest potential for unexpected good, are also the most prone to evil. The nine Men who held rings of power inevitably became slaves to the One Ring. So we get those terrible, echoing lines–

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
      One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

The journey of The Lord of the Rings is a long meditation on a fundamental human dilemma: How do we unmake a weapon we cannot wield? Many talk of the Ring as an allegory of the atom bomb. That’s a good idea, but Tolkien actually started writing the story well before WWII and the invention of atomic weapons. More broadly, the Ring represents blind power and the reflex to dominate. So industrialized weapons certainly have something of the Ring in them. But so too does anything that gives us casual power over other people and the world without requiring us to first feel and know the life we are affecting. Anything that gives us easy power without deep rooted responsibility inevitably corrupts. We possess more than one Ring in the world today. And, of course, the template for the Ring resides within the dark regions of our own psyches. Tolkien asks us, Can we ever unmake such a thing?

…Contemplating shadows during the eclipse.

J. R. R. Tolkien, J. R. R. Tolkien poetry, Christian poetry J. R. R. Tolkien

England (1892 – 1973) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

More poetry by J. R. R. Tolkien

8 responses so far

May 11 2011

Ivan M. Granger – City Fox

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

City Fox
by Ivan M. Granger

      true native
his land has grown
strange about him

      lean with life
on silent steps
through twilight
he glides

by chance
or by patience

he stops
in the alley

for you
      to pass

/ Photo by US Fish and Wildlife Service /

It’s a rainy day here in Colorado, green spring leaves darken beneath gray clouds. A time for quiet, for inturning, and for shadowy memories.

When I was a teenager, something about the world around me began to feel alien, unnatural, even threatening. And these feelings mixed with the normal teenage angst to create an explosive and desperate spiritual instinct. I came to the grim conclusion that the world has as its primary purpose making us unknown to ourselves, that it steals something fundamental from us in order to create conformity and a shared, but bland reality. Everything began to feel false, artificial; I wanted to know what was true and real.

I became reclusive. I was determined to not be hemmed in by the common assumptions of how the world works, what is real, and what is spirit. I turned inward. I sought solitary places. I sought nature. I sought quiet.

While this period forged my spiritual will, it was also a difficult time. I was depressed, isolated, and lost. But, amidst that struggle, hard, hidden parts of myself began to open. As I learned to trust my own spiritual unfolding, I became less severe in my judgment of the world around me. I slowly lost the need to hold myself in stern separation. I began to recognize myself in others. I discovered in myself a growing compassion, not only for people, but for the world. I came down from the mountain. Ever since, I’ve been learning what it means to really inhabit the world, and share it, and hopefully nudge the boundaries of those common assumptions.

These ruminations reminded me of this poem…

I view the fox in this poem is the Real Self, our inherent, free, divine nature.

The “strange” land that has grown about him, the city of the title, is the construction of thoughts, projections, concepts, and artificial divisions imagined by the busy mind. It is the human world of convention and consensus.

Yet, even in this unwelcoming environment, the fox, the Self, remains. He is the “true native,” present before the mind’s constructions. He belongs right where he is. He knows all that has grown about him is transitory, that it cannot endure.

In this city, genuine sustenance is often limited, so the fox is lean. From the viewpoint of the city dweller, the restless mind, the Self seems to hardly have any substance at all. Yet its very leanness is the proof of its authenticity, its uncompromised, untamed life. Through its leanness, life radiates fiercely!

The Self is silent, and known in silence. Without a sound it moves through the artificial world, true to its essential nature.

It is active in the realm of twilight, the stalking ground between the conscious world of daylight and the unconscious world of nighttime. If you wish to catch sight of this one, you must keep watch in twilight, at the meeting point between the two worlds.

If by chance, or through determined, patient spiritual practice, we catch a glimpse of the Self, the hidden fox stops in plain sight, revealing himself in his full, living, wild glory. Actually, it is not so much the Self that stops; it is we ourselves who stop, the ego, the false self. The sight of such essential life, the realization that it has been secretly sharing the same world with us all along, brings us to a complete halt.

The fox is spied in an alleyway. This alley is the path ignored in the world of the city; it is there, but forgotten, overgrown, avoided, and this is where the fox dwells and hunts. We have finally learned to look into the hidden places we’d trained ourselves not to see.

Once seen, the Self waits. It waits for us to “pass,” to drop the ego sense of self as no longer useful. It waits for us to recognize that we are not ourselves at all but That. We find we are the fox, the real Self, and none other.

Now that’s an encounter worth some strange turns down unknown alleyways…

Have a truly beautiful day today!

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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16 responses so far

Apr 15 2011

R. S. Thomas – But the silence in the mind

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

But the silence in the mind
by R. S. Thomas

But the silence in the mind
is when we live best, within
listening distance of the silence
we call God. This is the deep
calling to deep of the psalm-
writer, the bottomless ocean.
We launch the armada of
our thoughts on, never arriving.

It is a presence, then,
whose margins are our margins;
that calls us out over our
own fathoms. What to do
but draw a little nearer to
such ubiquity by remaining still?

— from For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics, by Roger Housden

/ Photo by mikebaird /

But the silence in the mind
is when we live best…

Isn’t this poem delightful in its stillness?

This is the deep
calling to deep of the psalm-
writer, the bottomless ocean.

I particularly like the image of launching an armada of thoughts out on the bottomless ocean of silent mind.

We launch the armada of
our thoughts on, never arriving.

The silence is so vast that the thoughts can never arrive; they just fade into the misty distances. The image puts proper scale to our thoughts. They are tiny products that barely have substance amidst the great expanse we discover in silence.

The silence is seen, then, not as a negation or emptiness, but an overlooked, all-encompasing dimension of reality and being:

It is a presence, then,
whose margins are our margins

And it is a challenge to us, a beckoning call…

that calls us out over our
own fathoms.

I was a teenager in the 1980s, when the first personal computers started to become available. And, yes, I was one of those nerdy computer kids, spending hours in front of the computer screen, when I wasn’t down at the neighborhood arcade feeding quarters into Pac Man and Space Invaders. It was a new medium, a new world built of light, different ways to display light, manipulate light, and finding meaning in that light. The mathematics, art, and movement of light were mesmerizing.

But once the giddiness and sense of power wears off, you realize how restless that world is. The human mind, never much at ease in any historical period, now has endless promptings to remain entranced and agitated.

I went through a period when I rejected computers and as many other elements as modern technology as I could. I desperately wanted to find out what it meant to live in the essential state of being human. What did it mean to be human 500 years ago? 5,000 years ago? What is the essential human experience of life and self-awareness?

I began to seek remote places in nature, where I could meditate and fast.

I wanted to discover that “silence in the mind” that brings us–

listening distance of the silence
we call God.

Don’t get me wrong– I’m a modern person, a product of the modern era. I would greatly resent being thrust back into some previous era. I don’t take the freedoms and possibilities of my modern life for granted.

But we so miss having a place in society for silence. We are given very little encouragement to cultivate stillness. More than ever we must fight to create the space for silence in our lives. I feel great love and respect for all you misfits and spiritual revolutionaries out there quietly holding ajar the doorways to silence. You are the hope of the world.

What to do
but draw a little nearer…?

…All this, typed on a computer, sent out over the Internet. (Ivan, still trying to find ways to make light move, yet in ways that inspire peace.)

R. S. Thomas, R. S. Thomas poetry, Christian poetry R. S. Thomas

Wales (1913 – 2000) Timeline

More poetry by R. S. Thomas

7 responses so far

Mar 30 2011

Health, Spirit & Support

Ivan M. Granger

I am often asked why I don’t publish a book. I usually give one of several standard answers that are all partly true, but the real reason is that I suffer from chronic fatigue. Balancing my day job, nurturing the Poetry Chaikhana, and maintaining my spiritual practice is often a challenging struggle for me. I just don’t have enough energy left to put together a book, at least for now.

Ivan’s Work

I now find myself with a difficult decision… The company I work for in my day job, my primary source of income, has had to cut my work hours by nearly half. The change should be temporary, for a few months perhaps. But I still have to find a way to make ends meet while keeping the Poetry Chaikhana going.

I may have to consider taking on a second job. But it’s difficult to find work that is adaptable to my up and down schedule due to chronic fatigue patterns. I’d have to reserve as much energy as possible for the new job and either drastically cut back on the Poetry Chaikhana work or possibly put it on hold. That’s not the way I’d like to go.

To avoid that scenario and keep the Poetry Chaikhana going in a good rhythm, I need to reach out and ask for your support. As a community of more than 10,000 regular readers, we can cover enough of the daily expenses to support the Poetry Chaikhana — allowing me to continue to write commentary and send out the daily poem, maintain the poetry database, research and add new poets, update the website, and respond to your emails.

If the Poetry Chaikhana brings something special to you each day, please consider supporting the Poetry Chaikhana by sending a donation or signing up for a voluntary subscription. Your contribution is truly appreciated!

But please don’t feel as if I’m asking you to contribute more than you can comfortably afford. Even a small 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.

Ways you can contribute:

  • You can send a check or money order in US funds made out to “Poetry Chaikhana” and addressed to:
    Poetry Chaikhana
    PO Box 2320
    Boulder, CO 80306
  • You can make a secure donation online in any amount through PayPal by clicking the “Donate” button below or on the Poetry Chaikhana home page
  • You can sign up for a voluntary subscription of $2/month or $10/month by clicking either the “Subscribe” or “Support” PayPal button, also below or at (A regular monthly amount is often easier on your pocketbook and allows the Poetry Chaikhana to plan finances over the long term.)

I also want to thank everyone who has been so generous to the Poetry Chaikhana already, through donations, through notes of thanks, through supportive thoughts and prayers. Every contribution, financial and energetic, is sincerely appreciated.

A warm thank you to everyone!


I know I’m not alone with health struggles. I thought I’d share an excerpt of something I wrote a few years ago, a meditation on Health, Suffering, and Spirit. I hope it you find it helpful and inspiring.

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.



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 so 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 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
– Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

15 responses so far

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