Dec 03 2008
Love and compassion are effortless.
The soul is exhausted by the effort
to stop this natural outpouring
of the living heart.
Dec 03 2008
Love and compassion are effortless.
The soul is exhausted by the effort
to stop this natural outpouring
of the living heart.
Dec 03 2008
Moon and Apple
by Rolf Jacobsen
English version by Robert Bly
When the apple tree blooms,
the moon comes often like a blossom,
paler than any of them,
shining over the tree.
It is the ghost of the summer,
the white sister of the blossoms who returns
to drop in on us,
and radiate peace with her hands
so that you shouldn’t feel too bad when the hard times come.
For the Earth itself is a blossom, she says,
on the star tree,
pale with luminous
— from The Winged Energy of Delight, Translated by Robert Bly
/ Photo by Athena’s Pix /
It’s past the summer season of apple blossoms and even the autumn of ripe apples (or, for those of you south of the equator, it’s much too early), but something about this poem spoke to me today. The blossoms of the apple tree glowing beneath the shining moon. And a reminder to us all that even when things seem difficult, the Earth itself — and each one of us — “is a blossom… on the star tree.” If we are blossoms, that must mean we are quietly ripening with the seasons, and in the natural unfolding of things we will become sweet fruit in the cosmos.
Nov 10 2008
I am often asked about my life and spiritual path. How did I develop such an intense interest in spirituality and sacred poetry at a relatively young age? I’ve always leaned in that direction, from as far back as early childhood, but there were certainly some key turning points that set me firmly on my path.
This is one of the more unusual events.
Many people go through a difficult time in their teenage and early adult years, but my moods were extreme, and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I would swing from mild depression to panic attacks so extreme that I would skip school or, later, call in sick to work. I felt like death surrounded me.
As I entered my early twenties, I began to overcome the worst of my anxieties, but they were still there. I had just learned to grit my teeth and get through the day as best I could.
I first started dating my wife, Michele Anderson, about that time. Early on, Michele told me that she was psychic. I was intrigued, on the one hand, but on the other… I guess I didn’t know what to think. I had read and seen enough to believe such things were possible, just not in anyone I knew. Not normal, everyday people.
She hinted a few times that she saw me fighting in the American Civil War. I shrugged the comments off. When dating a psychic, one must expect the occasional odd statement. Actually, I’ve always had a mild interest in history, but it was really the period of the American Revolution that held my attention in history books, not the Civil War. The Civil War always seemed, well, depressing to me. I tended to avoid reading about the period.
Then an interesting series of events occurred. I was going through a rough week, and I went to get a massage — something that felt comforting. As I was on the table having my abdomen worked on, I suddenly burst out crying. When the massage therapist asked me what was wrong, I started talking about the Civil War!
(The following dialog excerpts are taken from the notes I wrote within hours of the experiences.)
Massage Therapist: What’s wrong?
Ivan M. Granger: So much death. I see rifles, a lot of them. With bayonets on them. I see lines and lines of rifles with bayonets sticking up like spiked fences. So many of them. It’s like a field of spikes. Kids are lying in dug out trenches with their pointed rifles sticking out. I’m standing above. I can see it all. Continue Reading »
Oct 01 2008
The Beauty of Oneness
by Khwaja Abdullah Ansari
English version by A.G. Farhadi
Any eye filled with the vision of this world
cannot see the attributes of the Hereafter,
Any eye filled with the attributes of the Hereafter
would be deprived of the Beauty of Oneness.
— from Munajat: The Intimate Invocations, by Sheikh Ansari / Translated by A. G. Farhadi
/ Photo by Mayr /
I’ve always been sensitive to key events in society. Something about that collective mental and emotional focus has always hit a sensitive nerve in me. I tend to feel major upheavals in my own personal energies.
For example, in 2001 I was living in Hawaii. When the attacks of September 11th hit in New York and Washington DC, it was morning for most of the US, but it was the middle of the night for me in Hawaii. I woke up at about 3:00AM, unable to sleep after having had nightmares about conflicts in the Middle East. I got up, paced around the house and, when I realized I couldn’t fall back asleep, I turned on the television. I flipped to a news station — just in time to see the second plane hit the World Trade Center.
My system feels, at times, like a Richter scale for the planet. That sensitivity can be debilitating at times, but also a source of insight and a reminder of how interconnected we all are.
Naturally, I’ve had lots of reason to feel further global agitations since then, given the American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the many horrors that have resulted. I can, of course, list several other major political and environmental disasters, and bubbling tensions. That internal needle of mine has gotten jumpy in recent years.
So I thought I should at least take a moment to say something about the current financial concerns in the world. I’ve certainly felt it. The financial crisis is not just a blip that will be forgotten in a couple of months. The problems are deep rooted and the current instability has been brewing for some time. That’s not the most reassuring thing to say, but that’s what I see.
I know how frightened, even traumatized many people are feeling right now. But it is so important to keep things in perspective. No matter how events play out, remember that the fundamentals of life are dependable and rock solid. The basic purpose of your life won’t change. Whether you have a lot of money or are struggling to pay bills, our real job day-to-day is still to be kind and compassionate and to deepen our awareness. When you see need, help if you can. That guideline doesn’t change.
In other words, the things that are truly important in life, our reasons for being here at all, they aren’t affected in the slightest. We can even say we are being given even greater opportunity to challenge ourselves and express our purpose in life.
One more opportunity to expand our vision beyond the merely tangible, and also beyond the lovely escape of a Hereafter, and finally recognize the Beauty of Oneness everywhere — and then to build society based upon that vision.
|Khwaja Abdullah Ansari|
Sep 29 2008
I want to take a moment to thank you all for the many heartfelt messages about my father’s recent passing. Your emails and posts to the Poetry Chaikhana blog have touched me deeply. Thank you so much!
Sep 22 2008
by Wendell Berry
And now to the Abyss I pass
Of that Unfathomable Grass…
Dear relatives and friends, when my last breath
Grows large and free in air, don’t call it death –
A word to enrich the undertaker and inspire
His surly art of imitating life; conspire
Against him. Say that my body cannot now
Be improved upon; it has no fault to show
To the sly cosmetician. Say that my flesh
Has a perfect compliance with the grass
Truer than any it could have striven for.
You will recognize the earth in me, as before
I wished to know it in myself: my earth
That has been my care and faithful charge from birth,
And toward which all my sorrows were surely bound,
And all my hopes. Say that I have found
A good solution, and am on my way
To the roots. And say I have left my native clay
At last, to be a traveler; that too will be so.
Traveler to where? Say you don’t know.
But do not let your ignorance
Of my spirit’s whereabouts dismay
You, or overwhelm your thoughts.
Be careful not to say
Anything too final. Whatever
Is unsure is possible, and life is bigger
Than flesh. Beyond reach of thought
Let imagination figure
Your hope. That will be generous
To me and to yourselves. Why settle
For some know-it-all’s despair
When the dead may dance to the fiddle
Hereafter, for all anybody knows?
And remember that the Heavenly soil
Need not be too rich to please
One who was happy in Port Royal.
I may be already heading back,
A new and better man, toward
That town. The thought’s unreasonable,
But so is life, thank the Lord!
So treat me, even dead,
As a man who has a place
To go, and something to do.
Don’t muck up my face
With wax and powder and rouge
As one would prettify
An unalterable fact
To give bitterness the lie.
Admit the native earth
My body is and will be,
Admit its freedom and
Dress me in the clothes
I wore in the day’s round.
Lay me in a wooden box.
Put the box in the ground.
Beneath this stone a Berry is planted
In his home land, as he wanted.
He has come to the gathering of his kin,
Among whom some were worthy men,
Farmers mostly, who lived by hand,
But one was a cobbler from Ireland,
Another played the eternal fool
By riding on a circus mule
To be remembered in grateful laughter
Longer than the rest. After
Doing that they had to do
They are at ease here. Let all of you
Who yet for pain find force and voice
Look on their peace, and rejoice.
/ Photo by Nicholas_T /
I dedicate today’s poem to my father, Steven Charles Granger. He died late last week. I got word over the weekend that he passed away in his sleep in Varna, along the Black Sea of Bulgaria, where he had retired.
My father was a poet, an artist, and a teacher. Although he was born and raised in America, he lived much of his life as an expatriate, taking teaching jobs in universities all over the world, including in Iran before the revolution in the late 1970s and more recently in Saudi Arabia for several years.
My parents divorced when I was quite young, and with his travels, my father was in some ways a stranger to me — but many sons can say that of their fathers. We also had our personality clashes; there was even a period of a few years when we didn’t speak with each other, but that rift was finally healed several years ago.
So much shared history of distances and misunderstandings, with surprising connections, mutual recognition, and moments of pure delight. When I peer through all that and simply see the man, not even my father, but just the man, I can honestly say I see a good man. And I see a man who felt a deep love for his three children. I’m not sure everyone can say that, and so I was blessed to call him my father. Continue Reading »
Aug 02 2008
I am often asked how I came to the world of sacred poetry. What set me on this path? Was there a particular poet who opened the doorway or a line that hooked me? What was my inspiration for starting the Poetry Chaikhana?
My father, Steven Granger, is a poet, so I heard poetry from a young age. Like many young people, I wrote a bit of poetry as I grew up, but I didn’t take it too seriously. Most of the poetry I was exposed to was, well, boring to me. I thought of poetry as belonging my father’s world. To me it was mostly an intellectual game of words.
In the year 2000, I moved with my wife Michele to Maui. A friend from the mainland sent me a series of talks by the poet David Whyte on cassette tapes. I went for long drives along Maui’s country roads, through the tall sugar cane fields, among the rows of spiky pineapple plants, listening to David Whyte’s molasses accent, as he told stories and recited poetry by poets I hadn’t heard of before: Antonio Machado, Anna Akhmatova.
Maui’s natural beauty and quiet rhythms of land and sea and sky inspired me to go deeper into my spiritual practices. I was meditating deeply, praying, fasting, going for long walks in the eucalyptus forests that grew along the slopes of Haleakala Volcano. It was idyllic, yet I was going through a personal crisis.
/ Photo by *amelia* /
I had just broken with a spiritual group I had been practicing with for nearly ten years. So, while I was engaged in intensive spiritual practice, it had lost its context. Should I still be following the same form of prayer, the same focus in meditation? I was flailing about.
Christmas came, and the sense of crisis deepened. The holidays just seemed to emphasize my disorientation. I was in my early 30s by that point and had no career to speak of. I was just doing work to get by. I was largely cut off from friends and family, cut off even from the American mainland. My one driving goal was spiritual growth. That was my only identity. And it was in disarray.
I came to a profound personal confrontation. For the first time I really saw myself. And that was a terrifying thing. I dropped all pretense and projection, all the fantasies of who I thought I was or who I might become. I just looked at myself plainly, as I was. What I saw wasn’t terribly impressive. I felt I was a mostly good-hearted person, but largely ineffectual. I had the ironic recognition that I was basically a likable flake. What truly surprised me, though, was the thought that followed, which was that it was okay.
New Years came and went, while I hovered in that limbo state.
The combination began to ferment in my mind – the poetry and the personal crisis. Continue Reading »
Jun 13 2008
It’s been a long, hard couple of months with all of the health challenges I’ve been going through. While I can’t yet say that my health and energies have returned to “normal,” they are at a level where I can resume limited work and many daily activities.
Over the past few weeks I have received so many touching notes, often mentioning your prayers, healing energies, and good wishes. And I have truly felt your supportive thoughts as I worked my way through the most difficult days.
Also, your many generous contributions are helping in so many ways, by bridging the gap in lost income (due to limited ability to work at my day job), helping me to pay for doctors’ visits, and other health care support. For that too, thank you from my heart.
/ Photo by CarbonNYC /
Jun 09 2008
Last week I was going to write a note about how I’m feeling so much better — then on Friday I got hit again. Two steps forward, one step back.
So, my apologies about no poem on Friday, but it gives us a good excuse to continue our exploration of women’s voices into this week. I hope you enjoy the selections.
May 30 2008
If you’re interested in my thoughts on sacred poetry, how I ended up on this path, or if you’re just curious what my voice sounds like, you may want to listen to an interview I did recently with the Ecstatic Art & Theater Project. They are an excellent organization that explores and encourages the sacred/transcendent/ecstatic in art and theater.
Online Newsletter focusing on sacred poetry.
Audio Interview (20 min).
I’d love to hear your comments on the interview, either via email or through the blog. So please let me know what you thought after listening.
May 16 2008
I’ve been getting several emails from people concerned about my health, asking for an update. My health has been up and down, but I think the trend is generally on the upswing and I seem to be out of the most critical state. I still haven’t been able to return to my work as a computer programmer, but I hope to resume limited hours in the next couple of weeks.
The question has also come up, If I’ve been unable to do even basic work lately, how have I managed to continue with the poetry emails? Truthfully, I don’t know. Composing these emails is the only thing I seem to have enough energy for. I guess it’s what I’m supposed to be doing.
May 12 2008
My health hit a crisis state last week, and I was debating whether or not to check into a hospital. (Not something I was eager to do without medical insurance.) My body is finding its way out of that extreme state, but I haven’t been able to work much in the past week and a half. Your donations right now are a life-saver! I want you to know that your contributions are making a huge difference in helping me to weather this difficult time. Again, thank you, all!
And thank you also for the many, many kind emails and letters. I haven’t been able to respond to every message, but I am so touched by the community’s outpouring of care and support.
(Okay, ’nuff said for now. I don’t want to weigh the blog down with too much talk of this stuff…)
Apr 22 2008
Since sending out my message about my health over the weekend, several people have written me to tell me their own stories of dealing with chronic illness, — some with significantly more debilitating symptoms than my own – and the often problematic journey to health or freedom from pain. The will and heart people show in the unseen struggles of daily life continually nudge me to view every person’s experiences with the deepest respect.
Those stories, along with my own situation, have naturally inspired some contemplation on questions of disease, suffering, healing, and spirituality… Continue Reading »
Apr 19 2008
About a month ago, I was diagnosed with a metabolic disorder that periodically causes profound fatigue, mild tremors in the arms, sometimes irregular heartbeat. These are symptoms I’ve had on and off throughout my life, but in recent weeks they’ve been so severe that I finally sought a medical diagnosis. Because of the severity of my symptoms recently, I’ve been unable to fully support myself and my family through my day job as a computer programmer. As someone who is self-employed (as well as a spiritual seeker and sometimes poet who doesn’t fit well into societal structures) I have no health insurance to cover my medical expenses or lost wages.
For that reason I am reaching out to you, the Poetry Chaikhana community, for help.
First, let me acknowledge all of you who have already sent contributions to the Poetry Chaikhana. Knowing that no donation is ever required, I am always humbled by and deeply appreciative of every contribution.
I also recognize that I am not the only one with financial challenges, so please don’t ever feel you need to send anything you can’t truly afford. A small amount – from many people – is immensely helpful. Many contributions from many people makes the Poetry Chaikhana a community project, maintained by many helping hands.
If you find inspiration and meaning in the Poetry Chaikhana poems and commentary, and if you can afford to do so, please consider making a donation. You can click one of the donation buttons below to contribute online through PayPal, or you can mail a check or money order to:
PO Box 2320
Boulder, CO 80306
The amount is always up to you, and it is not a requirement, just a request.
Of course, I welcome all of your prayers and supportive thoughts. That too is a valuable offering.
Thank you so much.
A Blessing for One Who is Exhausted
by John O’Donohue
When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight,
The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.
Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.
The ride you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.
You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken for the race of days.
At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.
You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.
Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.
Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.
Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.
Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.
— from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings, by John O’Donohue
Mar 23 2008
When I sent out the email announcing this new blog a few weeks ago, I asked for your suggestions about what sort of posts and articles you’d like to read. Among the many excellent suggestions, one consistent request kept coming up: Tell us more about yourself.
You visit my website, read my comments, receive emails from me, so it’s a fair question: Just who is this guy?
What’s his story?
Which roads has he taken?
So maybe I should start to tell you a little about my own journey…
Have you seen the movie “Into the Wild”?
|Into the Wild (DVD)|
I just rented it a few days ago. It’s the thoughtful, visually stunning, exhilarating, heartbreaking film directed by Sean Penn telling the real-life story Christopher McCandless (played by Emile Hirsh), a young man who, in the early 1990s, abandons his upper-middle-class life and takes to the road in search of something authentic. He donates most of his money to charity, burns the rest, and travels across the heartland and deserts of America before heading north to face the wilds alone in Alaska.
Watching “Into the Wild” was a surreal experience for me. That was me at age 17. I took a journey with surprising parallels to the one in the movie. Like the young man in the movie, I too severed ties with friends and family, traveled through the deserts of the American Southwest, and eventually traveled north with the intention of disappearing “into the wild” of Alaska.