Archive for the 'Ivan’s Story' Category

Nov 11 2009

EATP Interview with Ivan M. Granger

Poetry Chaikhana readers often ask me about myself. Who is the guy behind all those poetry emails? What drew you to sacred poetry? And just what does “Poetry Chaikhana” mean?

Ivan M. Granger, Ivan Granger

As a way to answer some of those questions, I thought I’d post an audio interview I did a couple of years ago with the Ecstatic Art and Theater Project (www.ecstaticproject.org). I talk a little about myself, and a lot about poetry — the transformational power of poetry, the ways poetry naturally expresses the sacred experience, the non-dogmatic nature of poetry. And I read a few poems.

I hope you find it inspiring and thought-provoking…

Click to listen: EATP Interview with Ivan M. Granger

2 responses so far

Oct 26 2009

A story about my mother’s passing

I am back, but shaking off a tenacious case of the flu.

I’ve received so many kind-hearted, compassionate emails, blog comments, and posts on my Facebook page about my mother. I want to thank you all. I’ve been deeply touched.

…My mother died recently. I was able to spend some good time with her at her bedside. Her final week was difficult, and it was clear that, at that point, her passing was the right thing, a release from her discomfort. The complexities of American medical bureaucracy, added to some strange family politics didn’t give me much chance to grieve initially, but now that I’m settling into my normal life rhythms again the natural feelings of loss are coming forth. Even though most of my adult life I’ve lived at some distance from my mother, she has always been a close friend and source of inspiration. We shared the bond of a solitary child raised by a single mother, so her passing is certainly affecting me.

One thing that people often assume is that when a loved one dies, that the relationship is somehow over. Even people who have a belief in an afterlife tend to react this way, at least on an emotional level. My personal perspective is that the relationship continues; it just changes.

I’ll tell you a story about my mother’s death.

My mother died just past midnight, on Saturday, October 10. Much later that afternoon, my wife, Michele, and I went for a walk in the Bixby Knolls neighborhood of Long Beach, California, where my mother grew up. We were naturally exhausted, a little stunned, not talking much, just quietly walking side-by-side. It was not quite dusk.

Suddenly I stopped and grabbed Michele’s arm. She looked at me and I pointed to the sidewalk in front of us. There, slowly crossing the sidewalk just in front of us, was a huge, green scarab beetle! It was a shimmering, iridescent green, like a walking jewel, a truly beautiful creature. Now I grew up in southern California myself, and I’d never seen a scarab beetle before. I didn’t even know they lived in the region. But here one was, patiently walking across the sidewalk in front of us.

My mother had a deep love for the culture and spiritual traditions of ancient Egypt. Her trip to Egypt, to stand before the pyramids and stone temples, was one of the great moments of her life. Books of Egypt filled her shelves, Egyptian papyrus paintings hung upon her bedroom wall. And a crucial detail: Scarabs are an important symbol of ancient Egypt… often associated with eternal life and rebirth.

My wife and I glanced at each other wide eyed, and knelt to watch the scarab finish her trek across the sidewalk and finally disappear into the grass at the sidewalk’s edge.

You can choose to read that event how you wish, but it felt like a loving affirmation at a powerful moment.

===

Because I’m still shaking off this flu, I won’t be resuming work on the Poetry Chaikhana for another week. Check back next Monday.

Lots of love to you all!

Ivan

54 responses so far

Oct 05 2009

Poetry Chaikhana on hold so I can be with my mother

Earlier today I received word that my mother has slipped into a coma and she is expected to pass within a few days. I’m traveling to Los Angeles to be with her right now.

So, naturally, the Poetry Chaikhana will be on hold for a couple weeks or so.

Blessings and love to you all.

A note posted to my Facebook page–

Death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the light because the dawn has come. – Rabindranath Tagore

6 responses so far

Aug 26 2009

Lalla – Intense cold makes water ice

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Intense cold makes water ice
by Lalla (Lal Ded)

English version by Coleman Barks

Intense cold makes water ice.
Then the hard ice turns to slush
and back to water, so there are three
forms of consciousness: the individual,
the world, and God, which in the sun
of True Awareness melt to one flowing:

Lalla is that.

In meditation, I entered the love furnace,
burned impurities away, and as the sun
of a new knowing rose, I realized
that the words “Lalla” and “God”
point to this peacefulness.

— from Naked Song, by Lalla / Translated by Coleman Barks


/ Photo by net_efekt /

I spent most of my growing up years in Los Angeles — endless city, and no winters. I remember the one time as a child when the temperature dropped down to 30 degrees, and I implored the weather gods for snow. But it was not to be. It was Southern California, after all. A little more bundled than usual, I still had to go to school.

So when I moved to Colorado as an adult, you can imagine my sense of wonder at the snow each winter. In fact, I lived in some places up in the mountains where the snow would build up until it literally covered part of the ground floor windows. One more reminder for me that, no matter how much we humans construct our own environments, we are still residents within the world of nature, and that natural world is immense, stunningly beautiful, and ignored at our own peril…

Intense cold makes water ice.
Then the hard ice turns to slush
and back to water…

Lalla is giving us a simple spiritual metaphor, but although the intellect can quickly comprehend what she is saying, it’s important not to rush past it. Sit with the metaphor for a bit, let the imagery and meaning ferment quietly in your mind.

Water becomes solid ice when it is cold enough. It becomes almost rock-like: impenetrable, graspable, tangible… an unavoidable ‘thing.’ With a little bit of warmth, it starts to melt and becomes a slushy mixture of states, in some ways still seemingly solid, yet a hand can pass through it. When it has fully yielded to the warmth, it is liquid again, fluid, ungraspable, less a ‘thing’ and more of a filling of space.

Even so, all are the same substance: water. There has been no essential change other than the form perceived by the witness; it is a continuum that only appears different.

…so there are three
forms of consciousness: the individual,
the world, and God, which in the sun
of True Awareness melt to one flowing

And Lalla is reminding us that the individual and God are the same, separate only in apparent form, but in essence it is all one continuum of consciousness. The individual, the world, and God, when seen clearly in the warming sunlight of True Awareness are seen to “melt to one flowing.”

Lalla is that.

Her insight: In that instant of true seeing, we cease to identify ourselves as the individual or ego, and instead recognize ourselves as “that” — the flowing that moves through the entire spectrum of existence.

I realized
that the words “Lalla” and “God”
point to this peacefulness.

Reread those last lines, but insert your own name for Lalla’s.

Have a beautiful day!

Lalla (Lal Ded), Lalla (Lal Ded) poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Lalla (Lal Ded)

India (14th Century) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shaivite (Shiva)

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6 responses so far

Aug 07 2009

Two Week Hiatus

Published by under Ivan's Story

Today’s poem will be the last one I post for a couple of weeks. I will be taking this time off to spend with my ailing mother.

Lots of love to everyone !

2 responses so far

Aug 05 2009

Pima – The Creation of the Earth

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

The Creation of the Earth
by Pima (Anonymous)

English version by Frank Russell

Earth Magician shapes the world.
      Behold what he can do!
Round and smooth he molds it.
      Behold what he can do!
Earth Magician makes the mountains.
      Heed what he has to say!
He it is that makes the mesas.
      Heed what he has to say.
Earth Magician shapes the world;
      Earth Magician makes its mountains;
Makes all larger, larger, larger.
      Into the earth the Magician glances,
Into its mountains he may see.

— from The Sky Clears: Poetry of the American Indians, Edited by A. Grove Day


/ Photo by LifeHouseDesign /

My college years in the late 1980s were a time of searching and confusion for me. I attended three different universities in three years, with as many majors, before I dropped out of school and bumped through jobs and life until somehow I stumbled my way into adulthood.

I mention this because one of the schools I attended briefly was the University of Arizona. And while there I first became aware of the Pima people of Arizona…

Something about this shamanic chant is really striking to me.

Earth Magician shapes the world.
Behold what he can do!

“Earth Magician” sounds so tangible, like the name of a person. Yet this “person” is the shaper of the world, the maker of mountains and mesas. The formation of the world, it is an act of magic! It is an act of power and wonderment!

This song is really an invitation to truly see the majesty of creation, the vast natural world that is our home. Seeing the beauty and immensity of the earth, we can’t help but be reminded of that which shaped it, the formless “magician” that gave form. The natural world is always telling us — Behold!

And my favorite lines —

Into the earth the Magician glances,
Into its mountains he may see.

Notice that this great Magician isn’t looking at the creation; no, he is looking “into” it. He sees into the earth and into the mountains. For this Magician, the apparently tangible world is not a realm of solidity and impenetrable surfaces. That doesn’t seem to be what interests him. His sight seems to flow effortlessly into the heart of all things, and that seems to be the only reality that draws his glance.

Pima (Anonymous)

US (18th Century) Timeline
Primal/Tribal/Shamanic : American Indian

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3 responses so far

Jul 08 2009

John of the Cross – The Sum of Perfection

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

The Sum of Perfection
by John of the Cross

English version by Ivan M. Granger

Creation forgotten,
Creator only known,
Attention turned inward
In love with the Beloved alone.

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


/ Photo by bran.deann. /

Where else is the mystic path stated so succinctly yet so blissfully? These four lines by St. John of the Cross contain all the instructions necessary.

“Creation forgotten… Attention turned inward” To forget creation is the heart of self-restraint and concentration. Instead, the awareness turns inward, the senses are withdrawn. St. John of the Cross is reminding us to drop all attachment to the constant activity and sensory input of phenomenal reality, of manifest creation.

Doing this, creation is seen as having no fundamental reality of its own; it is only an expression or emanation of God. It is like watching a movie. The movie may seem real while we are caught up in the story, but if we pause, look around the auditorium, we can see that the movie is actually streaming through the darkness in a funnel of light. It’s source is really the projector.

“Creator only known.” Remembering this on every level, one is only aware of the Creator. Creation itself then becomes simply a reflection of the Divine. Knowing only the Creator, the Divine fills all of perception — that is true meditation.

Seeing through the insubstantial nature of mundane reality, one is filled with ecstatic, uncontainable love and bliss. This is not a surface happiness directed at exterior objects or people, but for all of creation and, more fundamentally, for the life that brings that creation into existence. “In love with the Beloved alone.”

The original Spanish verse has a fluid, chant-like rhythm that’s difficult to reproduce in English translation:

Olvido de lo criado,
memoria del Criador,
atencion a lo interior
y estarse amando al Amado.

PS – Check for my translation of this poem in For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics, edited by Roger Housden (due out in November 2009). Roger Housden’s contemplative collections of poetry are always worth reading.

John of the Cross, John of the Cross poetry, Christian poetry John of the Cross

Spain (1542 – 1591) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

More poetry by John of the Cross

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Jul 01 2009

Pablo Neruda – Too Many Names

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Too Many Names
by Pablo Neruda

English version by Anthony Kerrigan

Mondays are meshed with Tuesdays
and the week with the whole year.
Time cannot be cut
with your weary scissors,
and all the names of the day
are washed out by the waters of night.

No one can claim the name of Pedro,
nobody is Rosa or Maria,
all of us are dust or sand,
all of us are rain under rain.
They have spoken to me of Venezuelas,
of Chiles and of Paraguays;
I have no idea what they are saying.
I know only the skin of the earth
and I know it is without a name.

When I lived amongst the roots
they pleased me more than flowers did,
and when I spoke to a stone
it rang like a bell.

It is so long, the spring
which goes on all winter.
Time lost its shoes.
A year is four centuries.

When I sleep every night,
what am I called or not called?
And when I wake, who am I
if I was not while I slept?

This means to say that scarcely
have we landed into life
than we come as if new-born;
let us not fill our mouths
with so many faltering names,
with so many sad formalities,
with so many pompous letters,
with so much of yours and mine,
with so much of signing of papers.

I have a mind to confuse things,
unite them, bring them to birth,
mix them up, undress them,
until the light of the world
has the oneness of the ocean,
a generous, vast wholeness,
a crepitant fragrance.

— from Neruda: Selected Poems, by Pablo Neruda / Translated by Anthony Kerrigan


/ Photo by Swami Stream /

I just received word that my mother is in the hospital with brain cancer. Still a lot of questions about how she’s doing and what the next step is for her in her treatment.

Today I dedicate this poem to my mother, Jan.

…until the light of the world
has the oneness of the ocean,
a generous, vast wholeness…

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

Chile (1904 – 1973) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Pablo Neruda

10 responses so far

Jun 17 2009

Constantine P. Cavafy – Ithaca

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Ithaca
by Constantine P. Cavafy

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon — do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.

Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber, and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.

Always keep Ithaca on your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what these Ithacas mean.

— from C. P. Cavafy: Collected Poems, by Constantine P. Cavafy / Translated by Edmund Keely


/ Photo by Wolfgang Staudt /

A little motivation to take down that old copy of the Odyssey, dust it off, and crack it open once again. It was a favorite of mine when I was a teenager, with gods, monsters, heroes, adventure… and a reminder of my Greek heritage (my father’s father was from the Greek island of Chios).

Cavafy’s poem reminds us of the Odyssey’s hidden truth, that the hero’s journey to Ithaca is the soul’s journey home.

Ancient tradition says that Homer’s epics, the Illiad and the Odyssey, combine into a grand mystery tale, understood by initiates as describing the stages and struggles of the soul’s inner journey.

pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge…

Too often seekers decry the road, its bumps and turns, impatient for the destination.

To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.

But the stops along the journey are not roadblocks, they are stepping stones. Actually, even that’s not true. Seen clearly, the journey and the destination are a single continuum. The river pours into the sea, and they are one. Seated on the slow-moving river, we already touch the sea.

…and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber, and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can…

Cavafy suggests that worldly experience, the senses, a certain amount of materialism, these too are part of the journey. The physical world is the realm through which the soul journeys. Encountering marvels and terrors the soul strengthens and comes to know itself. Knowing itself in victory and adversity, the soul is finally ready to return. But to navigate through such bewildering, overwhelming experiences, the destination must never be forgotten:

Always keep Ithaca on your mind.

Don’t rush through the journey, impatient only for its end. The adventure is your soul’s story.

Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what these Ithacas mean.

The wisdom you attain with each step reveals the destination’s true meaning.

And it is just as true to say that the destination’s gift is contained in the journey itself:

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.

Constantine P. Cavafy, Constantine P. Cavafy poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Constantine P. Cavafy

Egypt (1863 – 1933) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Constantine P. Cavafy

2 responses so far

Jun 08 2009

Under Suspicion

Published by under Ivan's Story


/ Photo by Jason Clapp (CLAPP Photography) /

When I was 21 I was briefly under suspicion in a murder investigation.

At the time I managed a sandwich stand on the downtown mall in Eugene, Oregon. Business was slow that afternoon, as it often was, and I was sitting in the portable booth writing. I looked up and saw a man in a gray suit standing at the order window, so I set my pen and paper aside and asked if I could help him. He flipped open his wallet and flashed a badge, saying he was an investigator with the Eugene Police Department. That got a stunned silence from me. I heard a noise behind me, so I turned around. A second plain clothes policeman was standing at the back of my little sandwich stand blocking the back door, presumably in case I decided to bolt.

I think I just repeated my question, “Uh, what can I do for you?”

The first police officer asked me if I had been in Ohio in the last year. No, never.

He asked several other questions about my activities in the past year, where I had lived, how long I had been in Oregon. Not knowing what was going on, I was doing my best to answer his questions.

Just then a customer walked up. Glad for any interruption, I asked the policeman if I could serve the customer. He studied me for a moment, then nodded. I took the customer’s order, made his sandwich, occasionally glancing back at the second police officer who was watching me carefully from the back of the booth.

When the customer paid and left, the first police officer handed me an enlarged copy of an Ohio drivers license and he asked me point blank if that was me.

I again said, no, I’d never been to Ohio.

He tapped on the person’s photo and said, “You have to admit, he does look a lot like you.” Continue Reading »

10 responses so far

May 27 2009

Gary Snyder – At Tower Peak

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

At Tower Peak
by Gary Snyder

Every tan rolling meadow will turn into housing
Freeways are clogged all day
Academies packed with scholars writing papers
City people lean and dark
This land most real
As its western-tending golden slopes
And bird-entangled central valley swamps
Sea-lion, urchin coasts
Southerly salmon-probes
Into the aromatic almost-Mexican hills
Along a range of granite peaks
The names forgotten,
An eastward running river that ends out in desert
The chipping ground-squirrels in the tumbled blocks
The gloss of glacier ghost on slab
Where we wake refreshed from ten hours sleep
After a long day’s walking
Packing burdens to the snow
Wake to the same old world of no names,
No things, new as ever, rock and water,
Cool dawn birdcalls, high jet contrails.
A day or two or million, breathing
A few steps back from what goes down
In the current realm.
A kind of ice age, spreading, filling valleys
Shaving soils, paving fields, you can walk in it
Live in it, drive through it then
It melts away
For whatever sprouts
After the age of
Frozen hearts. Flesh-carved rock
And gusts on the summit,
Smoke from forest fires is white,
The haze above the distant valley like a dusk.
It’s just one world, this spine of rock and streams
And snow, and the wash of gravels, silts
Sands, bunchgrasses, saltbrush, bee-fields,
Twenty million human people, downstream, here below.

— from No Nature: New and Selected Poems, by Gary Snyder


/ Photo by Kiwi-Wings /

I was born in a city, lived most of my life in urban environments. I know how real and all-encompassing that bustling, hard-shelled and angular world can seem. But at age 19 I discovered Thoreau, and I spent my 20s and early 30s seeking ways to live more deeply at home in the dark green embrace of forests and mountains. As a city boy born and bred, I was desperate not to lose my connection with what Gary Snyder here calls “This land most real.”

We humans are fundamentally creatures of community. We instinctively seek one another out and know ourselves through the eyes of our loved ones. But we must never forget that the worlds we create for ourselves, the ever more complex structures necessary to house the human social endeavor — that it is all a human dream. It only has substance so long as it is well-rooted in the living reality of the natural world, which is home to us all. We must all regularly walk among trees and wild grasses and desert plains. Even in the city, we discover dandelions rising through cracked sidewalks, foxes and possums, and ancient streambeds still running through metal pipes. We need to remember the reality of the soil beneath our feet. In the midst of the human dream, pause periodically, take a deep breath, and remember what is real.

We need that sense of the wild. Every human construction has a human purpose — a good thing, in its place. And every human creation has a name. To dwell in human spaces is to be surrounded by words and definitions. But the world of nature affronts us by existing before human names, beyond them, in spite of them.

Wake to the same old world of no names,
No things, new as ever…

Sure, you can name a tree, categorize it, safely identify it. But that tree exists, living the fullness of its quiet life, even if in its long history no man ever stood before it and labeled it a “pine.” It knows itself already and mysteriously encounters the sun each day, nameless. Continue Reading »

4 responses so far

May 13 2009

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, in fact, gave birth to a litter of kittens right on my belly. 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
a presence

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

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

8 responses so far

Apr 22 2009

John O’Donohue – In Praise of the Earth

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

In Praise of the Earth
by John O’Donohue

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

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

When the ages of ice came
And sealed the Earth inside
An endless coma of cold,
The heart of the Earth held hope,
Storing fragments of memory,
Ready for the return of the sun.

Let us thank the Earth
That offers ground for home
And hold our feet firm
To walk in space open
To infinite galaxies.

Let us salute the silence
And certainty of mountains:
Their sublime stillness,
Their dream-filled hearts.

The wonder of a garden
Trusting the first warmth of spring
Until its black infinity of cells
Becomes charged with dream;
Then the silent, slow nurture
Of the seed’s self, coaxing it
To trust the act of death.

The humility of the Earth
That transfigures all
That has fallen
Of outlived growth.

The kindness of the Earth,
Opening to receive
Our worn forms
Into the final stillness.

Let us ask forgiveness of the Earth
For all our sins against her:
For our violence and poisonings
Of her beauty.

Let us remember within us
The ancient clay,
Holding the memory of seasons,
The passion of the wind,
The fluency of water,
The warmth of fire,
The quiver-touch of the sun
And shadowed sureness of the moon.

That we may awaken,
To live to the full
The dream of the Earth
Who chose us to emerge
And incarnate its hidden night
In mind, spirit, and light.

— from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings, by John O’Donohue


/ Photo by Katie Tegtmeyer /

An Earth Day poem for you today.

There was a time when I lived on Maui, without much money but surrounded by stunning natural beauty. I stayed in a place half-way up Haleakala Volcano, at the edge of a eucalyptus forest. I fasted a lot in those days, and several times a week I would walk barefoot into the woods. Hidden among the trees was a small rock cave, just large enough for me to sit upright in meditation. To sit quietly in the cool, silent embrace of the Earth — a true blessing!

Though I now live in a small city, in a computer-powered world, I still carry that time with me in my heart. That memory continuously reminds me that, in spite of skyscrapers and the Internet, the world is not man-made. All the works of humanity are small accomplishments compared with the panoramic living miracle of the Earth.

The ground below us, sky above us, breath within us — all is the living Earth.

The Earth is the stage for our dramas.

Let us thank the Earth
That offers ground for home
And hold our feet firm
To walk in space open
To infinite galaxies.

Not only could we not act without the Earth, we could not dream. The images the objects, the colors that populate the human psyche, they are all of the Earth too. The Earth speaks to us, and gives us a vocabulary to speak back.

The Earth is the place of birth, the stuff of life, and rest in death.

The kindness of the Earth,
Opening to receive
Our worn forms
Into the final stillness.

The Earth is our everything.

While we as individuals live out the span of years alotted to us, the Earth is the full embodiment, the whole multiplicity of Life.

The tangible hints at the intangible. Matter expresses spirit. Earth gives form to heaven. How can we not honor that form? It is sacred. And it is us. You and I emerge to incarnate that form. Our challenge is to awaken and incarnate the secret light it suggests.

That we may awaken,
To live to the full
The dream of the Earth
Who chose us to emerge
And incarnate its hidden night
In mind, spirit, and light.

Take some time today to sit on the Earth. Run your fingers through the grass. Feel the quiet strength filling your bones. Know you are home.

Have a beautiful day!

John O'Donohue, John O'Donohue poetry, Christian poetry John O’Donohue

Ireland (1954 – 2008) Timeline
Christian : Catholic
Secular or Eclectic

Continue Reading »

3 responses so far

Apr 03 2009

Sakyong Mipham – Fortunate Birth

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Fortunate Birth
by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

In the kingdom of children
Every one of you is this child,
An innocent being
Who jumped out of heaven
And landed in Shambhala.
Fortunate birth is who you are–
Everything is perfect in your world.

Your clothing is the mist of heaven,
Your feet covered by dragon’s breath,
You are the most fortunate beings on earth.
You are the children of dharma.
Nothing can close your open heart.
Other children suffer, caught in perpetual dilemma–
Because Buddha has touched you,
You are fortunate.

Be dharmic now,
Be powerful now,
Be benevolent now–
Not for me, not for others–
But because that is your blood.
When you feel privileged, use it.
When you feel ashamed, pounce.
Consume that hesitation–
It’s only a flicker of your imagination.

You are the blessed people on this earth.
Every atom of your being is Buddha–
What’s left is joy.
You have no excuse;
Don’t sulk.
You can be sad, for sadness is
the most genuine expression.
Expression of goodness is who you are.
Being a child of dharma is dilemma.
Being a child of dharma is freedom.

Consume this hesitation of not knowing.
Never doubt,
Only walk forward.
Love everything,
For that is why you are here.


/ Photo by sara.atkins /

Fortunate birth is who you are–
Everything is perfect in your world.

Sometimes the goal of spiritual traditions can become so transcendent and otherworldly that we become — dare I say it? — wimpy. (I raise my hand: guilty.) An affirmation like, “All is light and love,” is, on the one level, absolutely true; yet, too often that perspective doesn’t prepare us for the very real struggles and intensity of lived life.

It can also become an excuse to step away from the discomfort of conflict and leave the world at the mercy of the brutal and the greedy.

You are the children of dharma.
Nothing can close your open heart.

But that doesn’t seem to be Sakyong Mipham’s perspective in this poem. We are “fortunate” and the world is “perfect,” not because things are so easy we can just glide through, but rather because you and I are inherently powerful enough to fully encounter life. It is perfect because we have been given the spiritual tools to engage with the world and each other.

Be dharmic now,
Be powerful now,
Be benevolent now–

We are not only strong enough to get through our experiences, but we can do so while courageously keeping the heart open and upholding dharma, the eternal law of harmony.

You are the blessed people on this earth.
Every atom of your being is Buddha–
What’s left is joy.
You have no excuse;
Don’t sulk.

No excuses; Sakyong Mipham challenges us to embody our divine nature, powerfully, on earth, right now.

Never doubt,
Only walk forward.
Love everything,
For that is why you are here.

So take courage, be bold, and build the world around the way your heart tells you it should be.

===

I want to take a moment to sincerely thank everyone who took the time to send me happy birthday wishes over the last couple of days. I received so many emails, lots of comments posted on the Poetry Chaikhana Blog, and my Facebook page is filled with your warm notes. Thank you all!

===

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche poetry, Buddhist poetry Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

India, US (Contemporary)
Buddhist : Tibetan

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Feb 13 2009

Kalidasa – Waking

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Waking
by Kalidasa

English version by W. S. Merwin & J. Moussaieff Masson

Even the man who is happy
      glimpses something
      or a hair of sound touches him

      and his heart overflows with a longing
            he does not recognize

then it must be that he is remembering
      in a place out of reach
      shapes he has loved

      in a life before this

      the print of them still there in him waiting

— from East Window: Poems from Asia, Translated by W. S. Merwin


/ Photo by Stig Nygaard /

and his heart overflows with a longing
            he does not recognize

I just love these lines.

It reminds me of revelation I had around age 20 that really helped me through a lost, lonely period. It was a time when I felt this excruciating inner ache, a hole in myself, an empty space, with no idea how to fill it. Other people that age were busy with life: schoolwork, friends, dating, imagining their futures. But at that age I was struggling with a terrible void.

But then I started really watching people. I wanted to watch all the “normal” people to figure out how I could be more like them. Then suddenly it struck me: No matter how “happy” one may be, everyone — without exception — has that same gaping hole in their life. Most people pour all of their energies into either filling it endlessly, and with the wrong things, or they cover it up, ignore it, avoid it through endless activity. That sort of happiness is brittle, all too fragile. Suddenly we glimpse something or “a hair of sound touches” us, and that empty space becomes unavoidable. The hunger, the longing overflows.

I came to see that the whole world is defined by that longing. And I also began to understand that I wasn’t really different from everyone else. It’s just that perhaps I found it more difficult to avoid staring at that uncomfortable question mark that sits at the center of everyone’s life.

That insight not only reassured me that I was fundamentally okay, it also gave me permission to feel compassion for people I used to quietly envy. Everyone, all of us, high and low, rich and middle class and poor, famous and infamous and obscure — we’re all struggling with that haunting hunger.

But why? What is that hunger? Why is there a hole in the center of the world?

To really know the answer, we have to stop looking away. We have to stop distracting ourselves. And we have to stop trying to fill it with petty things — money, sex, fame.

Turn and sit and just quietly look at that empty space. Get to know it. Learn its feel.

Here’s what I’ve discovered in my own exploration: That hole is exactly God-shaped.

But there’s an important corollary to that statement: God is not shaped like the cutout doll handed to us when we were children. The word “God” itself is too limiting, and is heavily layered with cultural assumptions. That’s why I often use words like the Divine, the Eternal, the Real.

The most important thing about that God-shaped hole: When we finally, truly, really see it, an amazing river of bliss pours through that hole and washes over us…

==

Boy, was that somber, or what? Ivan wakes up to an overcast Colorado morning, and this is what he gives us? ;-) I predict the sun will shine next week!

Kalidasa

India (350? – 430?) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shakta (Goddess-oriented)

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Feb 11 2009

Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi – Today, like every other day

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

English version by Coleman Barks

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down the dulcimer.

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

— from Open Secret: Versions of Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks / Translated by John Moyne


/ Photo by koshyk /

I’m back. (I took an extra day to make room for the full moon and eclipse. Don’t want to mess with those… :-)

I want to thank everyone for the many thoughtful emails and blog comments. I was profoundly moved by the number and warmth of the messages. Although I wasn’t able to respond individually to everyone, I read every note.

To express my heartfelt thanks, I am sending you this Valentine’s Day card:

http://www.jacquielawson.com/viewcard.asp?code=1767921776517&source=jl999

Many blessings!

Ivan

PS – My dog, Koda, is shredding paper he’s stolen from the recycle bin. A comment on my recent writing activities…?

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

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

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Feb 02 2009

A Brief Hiatus

Published by under Ivan's Story

It’s been more than six months since I was last hit this hard, but over the weekend I had another intense bout of severe shakes, extreme sensitivity to touch and environment, and a drastic drop in physical energy. Some of the symptoms mirror descriptions of post-traumatic stress disorder described by veterans, though I haven’t been in a war or experienced other traumas recently. Sometimes I just tell people I’m doing my part to diffuse a little of the planetary PTSD.

While I think the most intense phase has passed, I’m pretty drained, and I need to put the Poetry Chaikhana emails and blog on hold for a little while until I’m more fully recovered. I hope you understand. I’ve also had to stop working at my day job for a while, as well, even though it’s caused some difficulty. (I’m blessed to have group of co-workers at my job who have been very supportive and flexible through all of this.)

I want to thank those of you who already heard through Facebook for your many kind-hearted notes.

And thank you also to everyone who has recently sent in a donation to the Poetry Chaikhana. Your support allows me to continue to cover the Poetry Chaikhana’s expenses even when income from my day job becomes uncertain.

My intention, assuming my symptoms continue to subside, is to resume the Poetry Chaikhana emails and posts on Monday, February 9. Not only is there so much amazing poetry eager to have its say, but we have a lot more to discuss in our Lover and Beloved series. Talk to you then.

Many blessings,
Ivan

49 responses so far

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