Archive for the 'Ivan’s Story' Category

Jun 17 2009

Constantine P. Cavafy – Ithaca

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

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

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

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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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4 responses so far

Feb 13 2009

Kalidasa – Waking

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

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!


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

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10 responses so far

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:

Many blessings!


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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5 responses so far

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,

49 responses so far

Jan 17 2009

The Fire and the Ritual – A Visionary Experience of Healing

Published by under Ivan's Story

/ Photo by netlancer2006 /

A few weeks ago I wrote about a past life ‘memory’ from the American Civil War (Silent Guns). That post generated such strong interest that I thought I’d share another transformative experience I had at about the same time. But this is less easy to label. Is it a past life memory? A discussion with some part of my own psyche, or perhaps a spirit guide? Even I am not certain.

This was the early 1990s. At the time I was dating Michele, who would later become my wife. This particular night we got into an argument, first at a restaurant, and it spilled into the rest of the evening. We went back to her apartment, still arguing, when I started having difficulty breathing. I laid down on her living room floor, and Michele told me to breathe deeply from my belly.

I could hardly breathe. There was some sort of block in my chest. I struggled to inhale. My breath started to come in heavy sputters, half sobbed, half forced.

Then my breathing suddenly took on a life of its own. I wasn’t sure if I was pushing it or if it was pushing me. I wasn’t entirely in control of it. My breathing became deeper and more powerful, like a heavy bellows in my chest.

I grew hot. Heat built up in my feet. I started to take off my shoes, but I fumbled. I was having difficulty focusing on the laces. Michele removed my shoes for me.

The heat began to shoot up through my body in electric shivers. It was so strong that my body actually began to shake, and I couldn’t keep my legs still. I wasn’t aware of trying to move my legs, but they just started kicking out, as if they couldn’t be held to the ground. To someone else watching me, it would have looked like I was going into seizure. Continue Reading »

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Jan 16 2009

Ivan M. Granger – Twelve Ways to Lose Your Head on Maui

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Twelve Ways to Lose Your Head on Maui
by Ivan M. Granger

Piercing the clouds, fingers
of sunlight caress the valley floor.
The Iao Needle stands, its immense
      quiet crushing.

Staring blindly out the window,
no work getting done –
a stolen moment when silence
      has stolen me.

Reading, I shiver in the Upcountry chill.
Already old in the new year, the island
and I shiver
      and grow still.

Baldwin Avenue meandering to Paia
beneath an empty sky,
cane fields
      surge in the sun.

At the altar: Breath
aglow in my throat.
Golden treacle pools
      upon my heart.

The path to Twin Falls, dusty
between my toes. Ginger points
to the upper pool. Fallen guavas
      float downstream.

Hana Highway, pausing
at each bridge to let traffic pass.
Around the bend –
      endless ocean.

Fasting on Saturday –
empty stomach, empty head.
Time spreads
      into stillness.

Cinnamon-red and blue, a pheasant stares
through the window. Michele
calls me, whisper. I see them
      see each other.

In the cave among the eucalyptus
up Alae Road – a fine seat
for a city boy
      playing sadhu.

In bursts of wingbeats
a cardinal darts by. The red
bird finds himself lost
      among the red proteas.

The sun setting beyond
Ma’alaea Harbor. The golden ocean,
I see, drinks the tired eye in.
      I am gone.

/ Photo by JoshBerglund19 /

For some reason I woke up this morning thinking of the handful of years I spent in Hawaii.

My wife and I moved to the island of Maui having never even visited the islands before, and my first impressions didn’t match my visions of a tropical paradise at all. We arrived just after the cane harvest, and half of the upcountry was just exposed red earth. Driving through the ramshackle surfer town of Paia for the first time, with red dust swirling around wood slat storefronts, it felt like we had arrived in the Australian outback.

But you know, over time, I really came to love the aina, the land of Hawaii. I wasn’t a beach dweller; my wife and I lived high up along the slopes of Haleakala Volcano, among the misty forests of eucalyptus and wattle. Every human structure was kind of run down, but there was something… normal about that. Even the trophy mansions hidden behind iron gates felt somehow temporary, just passing through on a slow current.

As I began to give in to the rhythms of life on the island, a quiet and ease settled into my body in a way I’d never known before.

It was too expensive to live there for long. And my wife, Michele, became severely allergic to a mold on the island that hit one winter. It was time to move back to the mainland.

But I still have visions of looking down the slope of Haleakala, all the way down to Ma’alaea Harbor, while the heavy golden sun sinks in glory beneath the horizon…

Malama pono!

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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7 responses so far

Jan 16 2009

Music & Video: Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

I moved to Hawaii a few years after Israel Kamakawiwo’oli — IZ — died, and he was still greatly mourned. Bruddah IZ was a big man with a big heart, and a soaring falsetto voice that could bring tears unexpectedly to your eyes. He was in many ways the voice of the Hawaiian nation. His songs expressed his love for the aina, the beautiful land of Hawaii, and he gave voice to the sorrows of the Hawaiian people and their delightful playfulness.

When I think of my years living among the islands, I hear IZ’s songs playing among my memories of water, sky, and green…

Mahalo nui loa, Bruddah IZ!

Facing Future (CD)
by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole
Alone in IZ World (CD)
by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole
Wonderful World (CD)
by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole
E Ala E (CD)
by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole
IZ in Concert: The Man and His Music (CD)
by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole

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Jan 11 2009

Book Recommendations: Getting Oriented

Published by under Books,Ivan's Story

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.

Well, I’ll let you in on a secret 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 one of 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

This is not a book of poetry, but 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 depths of the Christian tradition that are too often overlooked. 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.

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Jan 09 2009

Milarepa – The Profound Definitive Meaning

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

The Profound Definitive Meaning
by Milarepa

English version by Marpa Translation Committee

For the mind that masters view the emptiness dawns
In the content seen not even an atom exists
A seer and seen refined until they’re gone
This way of realizing view, it works quite well

When meditation is clear light river flow
There is no need to confine it to sessions and breaks
Meditator and object refined until they’re gone
This heart bone of meditation, it beats quite well

When you’re sure that conducts work is luminous light
And you’re sure that interdependence is emptiness
A doer and deed refined until they’re gone
This way of working with conduct, it works quite well

When biased thinking has vanished into space
No phony facades, eight dharmas, nor hopes and fears,
A keeper and kept refined until they’re gone
This way of keeping samaya, it works quite well

When you’ve finally discovered your mind is dharmakaya
And you’re really doing yourself and others good
A winner and won refined until they’re gone
This way of winning results, it works quite well.

/ Photo by meg and rahul /

Seer and seen refined until they’re gone…

Look deeply enough, with your whole being, and the two merge. The object disappears into you. You disappear into it. Seer and seen are gone! What is left but a field living awareness?

…it works quite well.

Have a beautiful day, and remember to take a look around you. Who knows what adventure that glance might initiate?


I know, I know… There was no poem on Wednesday, and no explanation. Truthfully, I didn’t even turn my computer on that day. I had a New Years’ flu, one of those that hits you like an avalanche. Wrapped in blankets, hardly moving from the couch, I became much more familiar with the daytime television schedule than I care to admit. But I’m back now (mentally), mostly… Am I babbling now? Hmm, I wonder what’s on TV…

Milarepa, Milarepa poetry, Buddhist poetry Milarepa

Tibet (1052 – 1135) Timeline
Buddhist : Tibetan

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Dec 29 2008

Ivan M. Granger – The Warbler Knows

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

The Warbler Knows
by Ivan M. Granger

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

Forgetting false future
suns, she sings

in no voice
but her own.

/ Photo by Taz-Voll /

Although snow is still on the ground here in Colorado, we’ve had a couple of days gentle sunshine, and it brought to mind tis poem I wrote a few years ago. I hope this short song summons a warm shaft of sunlight to you too…

Dawn is the flood of light that comes from the east which causes us to awaken. When we allow ourselves to become fully aware of this sacred state, we know nothing else, see nothing else; the spiritual dawn engulfs all, enlightening everything.

And we experience this state most strongly in the breast, a warming and radical opening and deep centering in the heart.

Utterly content in the eternal present, we forget the mind’s endless fantasies and fears about the future. All the future ever can be is an extension of the present, and it is here, now that we reside — always.

Recognizing this, we settle into silence, “no voice,” yet a song emerges from the stillness, nonetheless. The voice that sings is not the mind or the ego, but the presence quietly and eternally seated behind those fluctuating elements; it is the deeply familiar voice our true Self.

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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