Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

Feb 15 2019

Ellen Grace O’Brian – Maya

Published by under Poetry

Maya
by Ellen Grace O’Brian

Buddha points to the earth
Zen master points to the moon
Arjuna points to the target
Mary points to her child
Jesus points to the heart
Rumi points to Shams


We all look
until we see

— from The Moon Reminded Me, by Ellen Grace O’Brian


/ Image by hapal /

I’m not quite sure why, but reading this poem this morning makes me want to laugh.

Everyone is pointing in all directions, yet they all somehow point at the same spot.

We all look until we see.


Recommended Books: Ellen Grace O’Brian

The Moon Reminded Me Living for the Sake of Your Soul A Single Blade of Grass: Finding the Sacred in Everyday Life Living The Eternal Way: Spiritual Meaning and Practice for Daily Life


Ellen Grace O'Brian, Ellen Grace O'Brian poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Ellen Grace O’Brian

US (Contemporary)
Yoga / Hindu

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Feb 13 2019

Rasakhan – Nectar Radha

Published by under Poetry

Nectar Radha
by Rasakhan

English version by Shyamdas

When Radha’s eyes bashfully meet Hari’s,
      their delightful gestures
            entice His heart.

Her enchanting banter swindles His mind.
      Her words divulge an exquisite disposition.

She puts Her lips to His,
      filling that Abode of elixir
            with the nectar of Her very soul.

Although Krishna is an expert in all of love’s spells,
      Radha captivates God
            with a few soft syllables.

— from Treasure House of Love: Poems of Rasakhan, Translated by Shyamdas


/ Image by Vishnu108 /

How about some bhakti verses in honor of Valentine’s Day?

As with many bhakti poems, this is, on the surface, a poem of lovers, Radha and Krishna (also referred to as Hari). But these, like the Song of Songs in the Bible, are usually understood to reflect deeper spiritual truths. Radha is the soul, the spiritual seeker. Krishna is the one the soul seeks, the eternal Beloved, God. Radha’s yearning and seeking is the spiritual journey. Their love play is spiritual union.

Most bhakti poems dwell on how Krishna’s enchanting beauty draws Radha (the soul) to him. God/Krishna is, after all, “an expert in all of love’s spells,” for all sincere seekers are in love with the Divine One. In truth, every soul, no matter how closed off, has a deep-seated hunger for something, and that yearning, whether recognized or not, is ultimately for the eternal Beloved. Every single being is caught up in Krisnha’s love spell.

But these lines by Rasakhan point out that there is a reciprocal attraction, as well. The soul doesn’t just reach out to the Divine. Turning one’s attention eagerly toward the Beloved magnetically draws the Divine to the individual soul, as well. When done with total sincerity and with one’s full, unedited being, a response from the Beloved becomes unavoidable.

In this way, “Radha captivates God / with a few soft syllables.” We can be more specific and understand Radha’s “enchanting banter” and “few soft syllables” as being her use of mantra. The repetition of mantra helps the mind, the heart, all of our energies to be enlivened with a focused attention on the Divine. It awakens awareness of the inner mantra, the inner vibration. One’s whole being becomes a love song directed toward God. How can the Beloved not be lured by this enticing melody?

The soul and God draw each other, the two becoming enfolded within their mutual love.

Have a beautiful Valentine’s Day with your beloved / Beloved.


Recommended Books: Rasakhan

Treasure House of Love: Poems of Rasakhan


Rasakhan

India (1534? – 1619?) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Vaishnava (Krishna/Rama)
Muslim / Sufi

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Jan 30 2019

May Sarton – The Work of Happiness

Published by under Poetry

The Work of Happiness
by May Sarton

I thought of happiness, how it is woven
Out of the silence in the empty house each day
And how it is not sudden and it is not given
But is creation itself like the growth of a tree.
No one has seen it happen, but inside the bark
Another circle is growing in the expanding ring.
No one has heard the root go deeper in the dark,
But the tree is lifted by this inward work
And its plumes shine, and its leaves are glittering.

So happiness is woven out of the peace of hours
And strikes its roots deep in the house alone:
The old chest in the corner, cool waxed floors,
White curtains softly and continually blown
As the free air moves quietly about the room;
A shelf of books, a table, and the white-washed wall —
These are the dear familiar gods of home,
And here the work of faith can best be done,
The growing tree is green and musical.

For what is happiness but growth in peace,
The timeless sense of time when furniture
Has stood a life’s span in a single place,
And as the air moves, so the old dreams stir
The shining leaves of present happiness?
No one has heard thought or listened to a mind,
But where people have lived in inwardness
The air is charged with blessing and does bless;
Windows look out on mountains and the walls are kind.

— from May Sarton, Collected Poems, 1930-1993, by May Sarton


/ Image by Holly Lay /

This morning I rediscovered this poem and thought, I have to share this with everyone.

I thought of happiness, how it is woven
Out of the silence in the empty house each day
And how it is not sudden and it is not given
But is creation itself like the growth of a tree.

I like the poet’s vision of happiness as a quiet, steady reality that comes upon us almost unnoticed. Real happiness does not come upon us in a hot rush, only to leave just as unexpectedly. It is not dependent on what is happening to us; it is not the result of events or experiences.

Happiness is cultivated. It is nurtured. It grows from silence, from peace, and from inner strengthening and unseen growth.

No one has heard the root go deeper in the dark,
But the tree is lifted by this inward work
And its plumes shine, and its leaves are glittering.

If we are constantly focused outward on action and accomplishment and experience, at best we find fleeting, overly caffeinated, under satisfying versions of the happiness we truly crave.

For Sarton, happiness is about quiet presence, that which is steady and always there, yet unnoticed in the background — like solid furniture. It is what supports us and makes our lives functional. It is what populates the corners of our homes, defining the spaces in which we live:

A shelf of books, a table, and the white-washed wall —
These are the dear familiar gods of home,
And here the work of faith can best be done…

She sees in furniture something of timelessness. The chest or table sits there, year after year, timeless in its unchanging presence, as the days wash over it.

For what is happiness but growth in peace,
The timeless sense of time when furniture
Has stood a life’s span in a single place…?

And, when we think about it, our furniture, our rooms, our apartments and houses are where we do our growth. They are the outer containers of our inner worlds. We move amongst them as we feel and contemplate and realize.

Tables, chairs, and beds are our intimate companions, knowing our movement and our silences. They are bathed in our breath and our thoughts. Over time they take on our energies.

No one has heard thought or listened to a mind,
But where people have lived in inwardness
The air is charged with blessing and does bless

When we do our inner work to cultivate happiness, our mundane material world frames and focuses our inner contentment.

Windows look out on mountains and the walls are kind.

=

To everyone affected by the intensely cold weather, stay bundled up and warm and safe.

May Sarton, May Sarton poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry May Sarton

US (1912 – 1995) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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Jan 23 2019

Mary Oliver

Published by under Poetry

When Death Comes
by Mary Oliver

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom; taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

— from New and Selected Poems, by Mary Oliver


/ Image by AlicePopkorn /

Mary Oliver passed away last week. She is a favorite poet among the Poetry Chaikhana readers. When I feature her poems, I always receive lots of responses. Her sense of the natural world and how it opens us up and invites us into a deeper sense of self has made her poetry beloved the world over. Even when her poems contemplate difficult subjects, illness and death, she has a gentle touch, a universal kindness that comes from inner quiet and wisdom.

Thank you, Ms. Oliver, for your gift of poetry to the world. We are better people because you passed through…

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn

This poem is a meditation on death, but it isn’t really a poem that dwells on fear or loss. Instead, Mary Oliver uses death as a way to be present, to see, and to open to the big questions.

<I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

I love the lines–

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood

She gives us a wonderful vision in which all of existence is an interwoven tapestry. Without grand images, she suggests a communion of all things where every experience is recognized as a shared experience. Even crossing the threshold of death becomes part of that brotherhood and sisterhood of being.

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

These are words that make me giddy… and silent. These two lines are, for me, the heart of the entire poem. “Each name” is each individual person or thing, each unit of unique, life-filled identity. They have become “comfortable” and “music,” a sense of restful, meaningful harmony. Yet this symphony of life that is the music made by so many voices, that music tends to subside into silence. This is both a suggestion of death, but also a recognition that the real beauty of music is in how its vibration subtly reminds us of the grand silence it fills. We can expand this idea to say that all of life, all of manifestation, is a magical pageant that, through its moments of cruelty and compassion and grand dramas, eventually brings us to the recognition of the living stillness that underlies it all.

Sidestepping all fearful projections, death becomes a restful expansion, the embodiment of peace, the return to source.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom; taking the world into my arms.

Now there’s a good motto to live by: I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. Satisfaction at the time of death isn’t about bucket lists or bank accounts. It’s not found through having possessed things or even experiences, nor by impressive accomplishments. I suspect, along with Mary Oliver, that real contentment is found at the end of a life when we can say that we lived our lives, that we gave it our full attention, embraced it, so that everything, the great and the terrible and all the mundane in between, revealed its wonder.

The goal isn’t to have had a perfect life but to have participated in life — with eyes and heart open.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

A reminder to us all to keep our curiosity and wonder — and to participate!

Have a beautiful day!

PS- I didn’t quite get things organized enough to send out a poem on Monday, as I had planned, in honor of Martin Luther King. I did, however, post a Langston Hughes poem on Facebook, along with some thoughts I shared last year about King’s powerful legacy and how we tend to get a comfortably sanitized version of his message in popular culture today.

If you’d like to read it, here’s the link to the Poetry Chaikhana Facebook page.


Recommended Books: Mary Oliver

New and Selected Poems Why I Wake Early Dream Work House of Light Thirst: Poems
More Books >>


Mary Oliver, Mary Oliver poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Mary Oliver

US (1935 – 2019) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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Jan 17 2019

Hakuin – The monkey is reaching

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The monkey is reaching
by Hakuin

English version by Norman Waddell

The monkey is reaching
For the moon in the water.
Until death overtakes him
He’ll never give up.
If he’d let go the branch and
Disappear in the deep pool,
The whole world would shine
With dazzling pureness.

— from Essential Teachings of Zen Master Hakuin, by Norman Waddell


/ Image by NinjaRisu /

Hakuin paints for us an elaborate picture. First, we have the moon. It is reflected in water. A monkey hangs from a branch above the water, and it yearns for the moon that it sees reflected in the water. The monkey continually reaches into the water to grasp the moon, but the prize eludes his grip. He has constructed for us a Zen allegorical image.

Who is the monkey? Well, we are. Or, more specifically, it is the busy, grasping mind — the monkey mind. It is that chattering, erratic aspect of the awareness that we most often identify with.

The moon, as I have often pointed out, is a common representation in Zen poetry of enlightened awareness.

So the monkey, the mind, is seeking enlightenment, though it fails to understand what it is really grasping at. It just notices something shiny, and desires to possess it. The mind is not truly reaching for enlightenment; instead it grasps at a mere reflection of that light in the water below it.

What is this water? It can be understood as the world of manifest reality. It reflects the light of enlightenment. In fact, that is the world’s purpose. But while it appears to be real, it is fleeting, changing, ultimately intangible.

The monkey mind never tires of grasping at what shines and shimmers in reflection. This is partly because, in addition to the moon, the monkey sees itself reflected as well — and it loves its own face.

Hakuin laughs and gives us the solution: The monkey mind must let go of the branch it clings to and “disappear into the deep pool” of reality. The monkey’s fall represents the insight that the way is not attained through effort but through supreme yielding. When the mind stops grasping at reflections and, instead, fades into stillness, only then does the whole world shine “with dazzling pureness.” In other words, the mind can never possess enlightenment; it can only lose itself within it. When it finally yields itself, then enlightenment is discovered everywhere.

Have a beautiful day!


Recommended Books: Hakuin

Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter Essential Teachings of Zen Master Hakuin Wild Ivy: The Spiritual Autobiography of Zen Master Hakuin Secrets of the Blue Cliff Record: Zen Comments by Hakuin and Tenkei The Zen Koan


Hakuin, Hakuin poetry, Buddhist poetry Hakuin

Japan (1686 – 1768) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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Jan 09 2019

Yunus Emre – Those who became complete

Published by under Poetry

Those who became complete
by Yunus Emre

English version by Kabir Helminski & Refik Algan

Those who became complete
didn’t live this life in hypocrisy,
didn’t learn the meaning of things
by reading commentaries.

Reality is an ocean; the Law is a ship.
Many have never left the ship,
never jumped into the sea.

They might have come to Worship
but they stopped at rituals.
They never knew or entered the Inside.

Those who think the Four Books
were meant to be talked about,
who have only read explanations
and never entered meaning,
are really in sin.

Yunus means “true friend”
for one whose journey has begun.
Until we transform our Names,
we haven’t found the Way.

— from The Drop That Became the Sea: Lyric Poems of Yunus Emre, Translated by Kabir Helminski / Translated by Refik Algan


/ Image by Jono Colliver /

The Poetry Chaikhana is back! I hope you had a magical, renewing holiday and new year.

Let’s start the year off with something feisty–

Those who became complete
didn’t live this life in hypocrisy,
didn’t learn the meaning of things
by reading commentaries.

I love these cantankerous mystic poets. They come in all shades of religious sentiment, but they do tend to congregate outside the halls of orthodoxy. Most are profoundly devout and fiercely focused in their spirituality. But for the mystic to truly open to the Divine, one must clearly see the nature of reality and the nature of one’s very self — without blinders or pretense.

Reality is an ocean; the Law is a ship.
Many have never left the ship,
never jumped into the sea.

That’s why mystics don’t write poems in praise of rules, hierarchies, or secondhand knowledge. They want the wide ocean, not the creaking ship.

For this very reason, I often find myself more in alignment with the viewpoints of atheists than with religionists. I share the atheist ideal of questioning, critical thinking, testing and examination, a basic distrust of institutions, and an awareness of the danger of “true believers.” Whether we call ourselves theists or atheists, we must never settle into unquestioning belief.

There is a superficial way of being religious, joining the right group, following the right rules, reading the right sacred texts and commentaries, performing the right rituals and prayers. Don’t get me wrong, those practices can be important, but if our spiritually goes no deeper, then it becomes increasingly brittle and slips into pretense. That’s what happens with fundamentalism.

They might have come to Worship
but they stopped at rituals.
They never knew or entered the Inside.

The problem is that there is an increasing assumption that that is what religion is. Both religious-types and their atheist critics tend to define religion by that depthless definition. In that cultural debate, I have to side with the critics of religion. Superficial, rule-following religion lacks integrity and it tends to be sectarian in ways that can be goaded into violence.

But there has always been a deeper form of religion in every culture, an engaged spirituality that transforms the awareness in ways that awaken clarity and compassion. This is not a religion of blind faith or adherence to formulaic creeds; it is about direct experience of a wider reality, profound personal transformation… and bubbling joy.

This is where the common atheist critique of religion falls apart, especially the more strident voices of the so-called New Atheists. They tend to acknowledge only the most superficial and, frankly, idiotic expressions of modern religion. There is a willful blindness to the full spectrum of religious life and experience.

The argument I hear put forward by the New Atheists is that all religion is founded on a mythological fantasy at odds with firm reality, which results in a schizophrenic mindset which, in turn, leads to dysfunctional society. If only people would drop their attachment “made up men in the sky,” we could then start building a sane and rational world. That sounds like a pretty good argument, doesn’t it? If that was truly all that religion was, I might agree with their argument. But because they are so convinced that religion is nothing beyond fantasy and social control, they don’t feel the need to actually try to understand actual religious belief or history or what it means to people, let alone genuine mystical experience. There is no knowledge about religion in their argument, only disdain. And there is an underlying threat of force, as well: The religious delusion must be crushed in order to give us the sane world we deserve. It’s no coincidence that many prominent New Atheists have been vocal advocates for the recent wars in the Middle East, as they see Muslim Jihadist sects as the embodiment of their worst religious nightmares. The New Atheists have, in effect, become an increasingly violent fundamentalist sect of atheism.

There are certainly serious problems in religion, ranging from mere superficiality to violent extremism (in all religions). But those problems are not religious problems, they are human social problems. They are not problems that occur because of religion itself; they are manifesting because of complex social, political, economic, and even environment stresses, where very few authoritative institutions are addressing them honestly or coherently. Under those unrelenting stresses, people turn to religion, but not for religious reasons. Religion then becomes more extreme because other, more healthy responses are not available in society. We see the same toxic patterns in non-religious institutions, as well. It’s not a religious problem, but the resulting religious extremism grabs the headlines.

We don’t need enforced religion or non-religion. Instead, we need engaged hearts. We need minds that explore and question. We need a willingness to seek truth above approval. Whether we belong to a church, a mosque, a synagogue, a temple, an atheist discussion group, or stand alone beneath the night sky — it’s not a question of belief or faith, but of what is, who we truly are, and the kindness we show in the world.

Yunus means “true friend”
for one whose journey has begun.


Recommended Books: Yunus Emre

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems The Drop That Became the Sea: Lyric Poems of Yunus Emre Quarreling with God: Mystic Rebel Poems of the Dervishes of Turkey
More Books >>


Yunus Emre, Yunus Emre poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Yunus Emre

Turkey (1238 – 1320) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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Dec 13 2018

Dogen – The true person

Published by under Poetry

True person manifest throughout the ten quarters of the world
by Eihei Dogen

English version by Steven Heine

The true person is
Not anyone in particular;
But, like the deep blue color
Of the limitless sky,
It is everyone, everywhere in the world.

— from The Zen Poetry of Dogen: Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace, by Steven Heine


/ Image by hello, beautiful /

A beautiful morning here in Colorado. A cloudless blue sky fills every empty space and stretches its canopy across the heavens, reaching out in all directions…

True to Zen form, Dogen cuts right to the essential here.

Look for the true person deeply enough, and we find it. We find it in ourselves. But not in ourselves in a particular way. It is not in oneself while absent in another. We are quietly startled to discover that this true person is not contained by our skin. It does not stop at the edges of our lives. It does not even restrict itself to the borders of our far-flung thoughts. No, it flows out in all directions, utterly heedless of walls and distances and the greedy human mind.

But, like the deep blue color
Of the limitless sky,
It is everyone, everywhere in the world.

Find that one. Not only will you have found the true person, you will have discovered your very self spread out across existence!


Recommended Books: Eihei Dogen

Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library) The Zen Poetry of Dogen: Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace The Soul is Here for its Own Joy: Sacred Poems from Many Cultures


Eihei Dogen, Eihei Dogen poetry, Buddhist poetry Eihei Dogen

Japan (1200 – 1253) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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Dec 05 2018

Levi Yitzchak of Berditchov – Where I wander — You!

Published by under Poetry

Where I wander — You!
by Levi Yitzchak of Berditchov

English version by Perle Besserman

Where I wander — You!
Where I ponder — You!
Only You everywhere, You, always You.
You, You, You.
When I am gladdened — You!
And when I am saddened — You!
Only You, everywhere You!
You, You, You.
Sky is You!
Earth is You!
You above! You below!
In every trend, at every end,
Only You, everywhere You!

— from The Way of the Jewish Mystics, Edited by Perle Besserman


/ Image by Lidusha /

Happy Hanukkah! I thought this poem would be a nice celebration for us during this season of light…

I love the way this simple poem fills us with the ecstatic recognition that God is in everything, IS everything. All of existence becomes a grand game of hide-and-seek.

A chant that can open the heart and eyes:

Only You, everywhere You!
You, You, You.


Recommended Books: Levi Yitzchak of Berditchov

Music of the Sky: An Anthology of Spiritual Poetry The Way of the Jewish Mystics


Levi Yitzchak of Berditchov

Poland (1740 – 1810) Timeline
Jewish

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Nov 21 2018

May Sarton – Unison Benediction

Published by under Poetry

Unison Benediction
by May Sarton

Return to the most human,
nothing less will nourish the torn spirit,
the bewildered heart,
the angry mind:
and from the ultimate duress,
pierced with the breath of anguish,
speak of love.

Return, return to the deep sources,
nothing less will teach the stiff hands a new way to serve,
to carve into our lives the forms of tenderness
and still that ancient necessary pain preserve.

Return to the most human,
nothing less will teach the angry spirit,
the bewildered heart;
the torn mind,
to accept the whole of its duress,
and pierced with anguish…
at last, act for love.

— from May Sarton, Collected Poems, 1930-1993, by May Sarton


/ Image by me3009 /

I came across this poem today in Roger Housden’s Living and Writing Wild email newsletter (which I highly recommend). It felt like the perfect poem for today, so I thought I’d share it along with some of my own thoughts…

Return to the most human,
nothing less will nourish the torn spirit

I am so aware of how much frustration people feel over the dark turn in politics in recent years. More than frustration, there is a sense of anguish, even betrayal. For many, it is as if our vision of who we are and the future we might achieve has been defiled and damaged to the point that we no longer recognize ourselves as decent people.

As an American, how do I understand the racist, proto-fascist, violent forces emerging within my own country? At the same time, similar tendencies are appearing in the UK, India, the Philippines, and we could add several other nations to the list.

How can people of good heart not feel horrified at these developments?

While harmful forces must be answered with courage in the public arena, I want to suggest that there is something important happening on another level, as well: an enforced awakening.

We are going through a collective process of disillusionment, whether we like it or not. We are being required to drop our illusions and witness unpleasant truths, about ourselves and about the world around us. What have we ignored that has allowed such fear and hatred to fester? How have our political and social systems become so damaged that they are unresponsive to the needs and demands of society? What cruelties are encoded in society that I have ignored or made excuses for? How did we imagine things were solid, when they are so fragile? How can my neighbor believe such things, and what is his hurt that I was blind to? These are the questions we are forced to ask now.

Painful though it may be, devastating in some cases, we can only be strengthened by the process of disillusionment. We want to drop our illusions. We want to see things as they are, as fully and as clearly as possible.

Return, return to the deep sources

We might think of it as a meditative exercise. Let’s look at reality, everything we see, the terrible and the beautiful together, and just sit with it. It may break our hearts. But we just sit with it. It may fill us with moments of pure joy. But we just sit with it. It may overwhelm us with its immensity. But we don’t run, we don’t seek to merely feel good. Instead, we just sit with it. We allow ourselves to see and feel fully. We watch our reactions too, but are not hooked by them. In this way, we begin to inhabit a bigger reality, a fuller reality. Our personal sense of reality becomes more integrated and a truer reflection of what actually is. As we do this, we become more capable of fashioning healthier lives and healthier societies.

Here’s the thing that I’ve noticed in my own life, when I stop trying to assert some idea of how reality should work, and just really notice what is, at first I feel heartbroken and even humiliated. Then I feel overwhelmed. And then… everything just opens up into a vision of stunning beauty and possibility. The heart opens in unexpected ways, making healing possible where only walls seemed to stand. It’s easy to think that reality is somehow broken, but when we really look, we discover that we inhabit an improbable wholeness instead. It’s not entirely logical amidst the world’s fear and suffering, so I encourage you to look for yourself and see. Really see. Seeing the full picture, our actions become more effective and lasting. Looking honestly, we become capable of compassion and connection, where we only felt anger before.

Combining action with an expanding awareness, we return to what is most human, and by that I mean we return to what is most divine.

Return to the most human,
nothing less will teach the angry spirit,
the bewildered heart;
the torn mind,
to accept the whole of its duress,
and pierced with anguish…
at last, act for love.

May Sarton, May Sarton poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry May Sarton

US (1912 – 1995) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by May Sarton

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Nov 15 2018

Naropa – The Summary of Mahamudra

Published by under Poetry

The Summary of Mahamudra
by Naropa

English version by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche and Erik Pema Kunsang

Homage to the state of great bliss!
Concerning what is called Mahamudra
All things are your own mind.
Seeing objects as external is a mistaken concept;
Like a dream, they are empty of concreteness.
This mind, as well, is a mere movement of attention
That has no self-nature, being merely a gust of wind.
Empty of identity, like space.
All things, like space, are equal.
When speaking of ‘Mahamudra’
It is not an entity that can be shown.
There the mind’s suchness
Is itself the state of Mahamudra.
It is neither something to be corrected nor transformed,
But when anyone sees and realizes its nature
All that appears and exists is Mahamudra,
The great all-encompassing Dharmakaya.
Naturally and without contriving, allowed simply to be,
This unimagined Dharmakaya,
Letting it be without seeking is the meditation training.
But to meditate while seeking is deluded mind.
Just as with space and a magical display,
While neither cultivating nor not cultivating
How can you be separate and not separate!
This is a yogi’s understanding.
All good deeds and harmful actions
Dissolve by simply knowing this nature.
The emotions are the great wisdom.
Like a jungle fire, they are the yogi’s helpers.
How can there be staying or going?
What meditation is there by fleeing to a hermitage?
Without understanding this, all possible means
Never bring more than temporary liberation.
When understanding this nature, what is there to bind you?
While being undistracted from its continuity,
There is neither a composed nor an uncomposed state
To be cultivated or corrected with a remedy.
It is not made out of anything
Experience self-liberated is dharmadhatu.
Thinking self-liberated is great wisdom,
Non-dual equality is dharmakaya.
Like the continuous flow of a great river,
Whatever you do is meaningful,
This is the eternal awakened state,
The great bliss, leaving no place for samasara.
All things are empty of their own identities.
This concept fixed on emptiness has dissolved in itself.
Free of concept, holding nothing in mind,
Is in itself the path of the Buddhas.
For the most fortunate ones,
I have made these concise words of heartfelt advice.
Through this, may every single sentient being
Be established in Mahamudra.

— from The Songs of Naropa: Commentaries on songs of Realization, Translated by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche / Translated by Erik Pema Kunsang


/ Image by Best Picko /

My wife and I first moved to Boulder, Colorado in the early 1990s. We were young and felt like adventurous vagabonds, exploring the world by moving around. Several things drew us to the area, including the natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains, better work opportunities than in our home state of Oregon, as well as the spirituality, creativity and health-focus of community.

One other thing drew us: Naropa University, a school in the area well known for its poetry and psychology programs, combined with classes on meditation and Eastern philosophies. Ironically, we never attended classes there, but we have friends who are graduates, and the school has helped to shape Boulder culture in beautiful ways.

Yet I don’t think I have ever featured a poem by the great Buddhist master Naropa, until today.

Concerning what is called Mahamudra

Mahamudra literally translates as “the Great Seal.” This term is rich in meaning, especially within Tibetan Buddhism. We might say that Mahamudra is the clear and enlightened recognition of all levels of reality.

We can think of it as a “seal” in that it has the stamp of confirmation. This is unfettered awareness of how reality really is.

Mahamudra is both the goal and it is also the practice or the pathway to reach that goal.

All things are your own mind.
Seeing objects as external is a mistaken concept

This is a difficult one for most of us reared within the Western mindset that has a primarily materialistic understanding of reality. Even if we hold to religious or spiritual ideals, that relationship to the world around us as a physical and sensory experience is often quite ingrained.

So what do we make of statements like “all things are your own mind”? How can external objects not be external?

We can read a lot of Eastern philosophy and begin to build a conceptual framework that allows a statement like that to seem less absurd, but at best it is a fragile idea that comes under heavy assault when we are confronted with life’s next intense, apparently external challenge. The conceptualizing mind can’t fully encompass this notion, no matter how subtle and refined we think it out.

The problem for the intellect is that, as our meditation deepens and the mind clears, this is precisely what we perceive. Everything we imagine to be outside of ourselves is actually within ourselves. And everything we think of as tangible, fixed, and “real,” is actually revealed to be merely a surface appearance that is part of a deeper, highly fluid reality.

Like a dream, they are empty of concreteness.

Naturally, we must explore what the mind is. We often imagine that we are the mind, that the mind is the self. Thinking that, we have little or no control over the mind. But the mind isn’t really a lasting “thing” is ourself or exists outside of ourself. What we think of as the mind only exists when the awareness is in motion.

This mind, as well, is a mere movement of attention
That has no self-nature, being merely a gust of wind.
Empty of identity, like space.

When we bring the awareness to deep stillness, we discover that the mind doesn’t exist at all. Awareness remains, but mind is nowhere to be found.

It is like the wind: The air is always there, but the wind only exists when the air is disturbed and in motion. Its true nature is wide open, reaching in all directions at once.

There the mind’s suchness
Is itself the state of Mahamudra.

In Buddhist writings, we often come across the odd word “suchness” or “thusness.” This is a translation of the word Tathata. Tathata is the way a thing truly is beyond the ability of names or concepts to define it. It is the true, radiant, blissful nature of reality.

Naropa is affirming that the mind’s true nature, that is, full and open awareness, is nothing less than the full embodiment of reality.

It is neither something to be corrected nor transformed,

So often in spiritual practice we try to bring the mind under control. We work so hard to keep the mind focused on “spiritual” things and away from distractions or fixations. And, yes, that can be important.

But Naropa is giving us a deeper teaching. The shifting surface focus we call mind is only problematic when we imagine that is all that mind is and all that we are. As we begin to recognize the full awareness, we see that its expanse already encompasses everything, needing nothing added or subtracted, while the phenomenon of “mind” is simply the shifting of currents that settles of its own accord when we let it.

But when anyone sees and realizes its nature
All that appears and exists is Mahamudra,

Another key Buddhist term is then mentioned: Dharmakaya–

The great all-encompassing Dharmakaya.
Naturally and without contriving, allowed simply to be,

Dharmakaya literally means “truth body.” It is one’s true spacious being underlying all appearance or phenomenal experience. It is the foundation ground of self and being experienced by awakened masters.

Naropa is showing how these important concepts are linked, that their elevated states actually flow into each other and reveal themselves to be the same.

No-Mind -> Full Awareness -> Inherent Being -> Truth Body

Letting it be without seeking is the meditation training

This, I think, is Naropa’s core statement for the seeker: Don’t seek. Instead, recognize the true nature of things already present. Don’t look to the horizon. Wherever we are, just stop and see. That’s the tricky part. Before we can see, we must first stop. We don’t need to dominate the mind and force it to stop, but we do need to stop being carried away by every little thing caught in the shifting movements of the mind. That’s when the vision clears and we see all around for the first time.

While neither cultivating nor not cultivating
How can you be separate and not separate!

We don’t actually need to change anything about ourselves. Rather, we need to settle into ourselves. We need to be as we are. When we do that, then our outer selves naturally become an expression of the true being we actually are — no effort required to coax or curtail our actions and energies.

Like the continuous flow of a great river,
Whatever you do is meaningful,

Rather than an endless effort of trying to catch and correct every thought and emotion (and the actions that proceed from them), Naropa’s teachings allow us to recognize our destination in this very moment, discovering our true nature in our very selves right now.

Through this, may every single sentient being
Be established in Mahamudra.

PS – To all of my friends near the fires in California, be safe.


Recommended Books: Naropa

The Songs of Naropa: Commentaries on songs of Realization Illusion’s Game: The Life and Teachings of Naropa


Naropa, Naropa poetry, Buddhist poetry Naropa

India (1016 – 1100) Timeline
Buddhist : Tibetan

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Nov 09 2018

Yunus Emre – Let’s Take Yunus Emre

Published by under Poetry

Let’s Take Yunus Emre
by Yunus Emre

English version by Jennifer Ferraro & Latif Bolat

Let’s be companions, the two of us.
      Let’s go to the Friend, my soul.

Let’s be close intimates, the two of us.
      Lets go to the Friend, my soul.

Let’s go before this life is over,
Before our bodies disappear,
Before enemies come between us —

      Let’s go to the Friend, my soul.

Come on, let’s go. Don’t remain alone.
Let’s be a chisel in the Friend’s hand.
The only stop will be our sheikh’s station.

      Let’s go to the Friend, my soul.

Let’s leave our towns and cities
and gladly suffer for the Friend.
Let’s wrap our arms around our Beloved’s waist.

      Let’s go to the Friend, my soul.

Let’s not be bewildered by the world.
Let’s not be cheated by its sudden dying.
Let’s not sit together never touching.

      Let’s go to the Friend, my soul.

Let’s give up this transient world
and fly to the lasting land of the Friend.
Let’s give up all the playthings of the nafs.

      Let’s go to the Friend, my soul.

Be a guide to me on this journey.
Let’s set our destination at the Friend,
Not thinking where we begin or end.

      Let’s go to the Friend, my soul.

This world isn’t everlasting.
With eyes half-open it is tempting.
Be a companion of lovers and a lover.

      Let’s go to the Friend, my soul.

Before the news of death reaches us,
Before the hour when he grabs us by the collar,
Before Azrail makes his sudden move,

      Let’s go to the Friend, my soul.

Let’s arrive at the Divine Truth
and inquire there about Reality.
      Let’s take Yunus Emre with us —

            and go to the Friend, my soul.

— from Quarreling with God: Mystic Rebel Poems of the Dervishes of Turkey, Translated by Jennifer Ferraro / Translated by Latif Bolat


/ Image by Elizabeth Alice /

I like this image of calling to the soul to become a traveling companion on the road to the Friend.

Let’s go to the Friend, my soul.

It’s humorous when you think about it. The soul is already a part of ourselves, why should we have to coax it? We might even say that the soul is who we are. Wouldn’t the soul already be on the journey to the Friend, perhaps already at the Friend’s door?

Let’s be companions, the two of us.
      Let’s go to the Friend, my soul.

Let’s be close intimates, the two of us.
      Lets go to the Friend, my soul.

On that journey, best to convince the soul to be a close companion.

And what other part of the self is speaking? It would seem to be the surface sense of self, the little self, the ego, the nafs. You get the feeling that the self doing the speaking is actually the hesitant one, trying to convince itself. There’s a sort of self-teasing here, a bit of bravado while gathering courage for the journey.

Who is this Azrail who will make a “sudden move”? Azrail or Azrael is the name sometimes given to the angel of death. Many religious types have an idea that, so long as they have subscribed to the “right” form of religion, they will magically end up in some heavenly realm after death, with no journey involved. Mystics like Yunus Emre remind us that the soul’s journey is the only way to the Friend and the entire purpose of life, something to be engaged in now in the midst of life.

Let’s arrive at the Divine Truth
and inquire there about Reality.

We all need a nudge, and the best nudge comes from within.

Let’s go to the Friend, my soul.

And, oh yes–

Let’s take Yunus Emre with us

— take yourself with you.


Recommended Books: Yunus Emre

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems The Drop That Became the Sea: Lyric Poems of Yunus Emre Quarreling with God: Mystic Rebel Poems of the Dervishes of Turkey
More Books >>


Yunus Emre, Yunus Emre poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Yunus Emre

Turkey (1238 – 1320) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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Oct 31 2018

Abhishiktananda – Return within

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Return within
by Abhishiktananda, Swami (Henri Le Saux)

English version by H. Sandeman (?)

Return within,
to the place where there is nothing,
and take care that nothing comes in.
Penetrate to the depths of yourself,
to the place where thought no longer exists,
and take care that no thought arises there!
There where nothing exists,
Fullness!
There where nothing is seen,
the Vision of Being!
There where nothing appears any longer,
the sudden appearing of the Self!
Dhyana is this!

— from Guru and Disciple: An Encounter with Sri Gnanananda, a Contemporary Spiritual Master, by Swami Abhishiktananda / Translated by H. Sandeman


/ Image by MikkoLagerstedt /

Return within…

A powerful description of deep meditation. (The word dhyana in the last line means meditation.)

There where nothing exists,
Fullness!

=

I have received several notes asking when the poem emails will resume. I had a particularly challenging chronic fatigue crash a couple of weeks ago, and I have been regrouping since then, recalibrating my health regime while doing my best to maintain my work hours with my day job. It may take me a couple more weeks to get into a regular pattern with the poetry emails once again. But I am generally improving and more Poetry Chaikhana will be coming your way soon!

I am also very aware of how much our attention here in the US and in the world is being taken up by the upcoming mid-term elections, by the terrible shooting of worshippers at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, and, for many, the sense of betrayal at the recent confirmation of Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. That’s just a partial list.

It is important that, in the midst of however we reach out to help in the world, we remember to regularly “return within.” It is that inner connection that imbues our outer action with its meaning and strength and resonance in the world.

Sending love to you all.


Recommended Books: Abhishiktananda, Swami (Henri Le Saux)

Guru and Disciple: An Encounter with Sri Gnanananda, a Contemporary Spiritual Master The Secret of Arunachala: A Christian Hermit on Shiva’s Holy Mountain The Further Shore Swami Abhishiktananda: Essential Writings Prayer
More Books >>


Abhishiktananda, Swami (Henri Le Saux), Abhishiktananda, Swami (Henri Le Saux) poetry, Christian poetry Abhishiktananda, Swami (Henri Le Saux)

France, India (1910 – 1973) Timeline
Christian : Catholic
Yoga / Hindu : Advaita / Non-Dualist

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Oct 12 2018

Kamalakanta – O Kali, my Mother full of Bliss!

Published by under Poetry

O Kali, my Mother full of Bliss!
by Kamalakanta

O Kali, my Mother full of Bliss!
Enchantress of the almighty Shiva!
In Thy delirious joy Thou dancest,
clapping Thy hands together!
Eternal One! Thou great First Cause,
clothed in the form of the Void!
Thou wearest the moon upon Thy brow.
Where didst Thou find Thy garland of heads
before the universe was made?
Thou art the Mover of all that move,
and we are but Thy helpless toys;
We move alone as Thou movest us
and speak as through us Thou speakest.
But worthless Kamalakanta says,
fondly berating Thee:
Confoundress! With Thy flashing sword
Thoughtlessly Thou hast put to death
my virtue and my sin alike!

— from Kali: The Black Goddess of Dakshineswar, by Elizabeth U. Harding


/ Image by Chobist /

Many of my Hindu friends are celebrating Navratri right now, the nine nights of the Great Goddess. Some traditions divide Navratri into three sets of three nights: the first three dedicated to Durga or Kali, who clears out the old and out of balance to make way for more divine manifestations of life; the next three nights are dedicated to Lakshmi, who grants wealth, both spiritual and material; while the final three nights are dedicated to Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom.

I thought I’d select this poem for us today…

To appreciate this poem we need to know a few things about the traditional Hindu representations of the Goddess.

In Hindu tradition and metaphysics, the Goddess represents many aspects of the Divine. The iconography we find in Hinduism gives us a fascinating kaleidoscope of meaning. The Goddess can represent Mother, the Great Source, the Void/Womb from which all are born, Manifestation, Creation, Vibration, Speech, Song, the Arts, Beauty, Darkness, Mystery, all of the World (and all its Illusions). But with birth, also comes death, with manifestation, also comes dissolution; anything with a beginning also has an end. Only the eternal is eternal. So the Goddess, Mother and Manifestor, is also sometimes portrayed as Destroyer. She is Life and Death both. She is the Power that brings all into being, animates and enlivens the universe, and also draws it back into non-being. But even in Her fiercest aspect, the Mother Goddess is loving. For Her, death is merely the death of illusion and the return to Self.

Many Westerners at first find the iconography associated with the goddess Kali unsettling and can’t understand why so many beloved saints, like the gentle Ramakrishna, were so deeply devoted to her. Let’s spend a few moments contemplating this powerful representation of the Divine Feminine…

Kali is sometimes called the Dark Mother: beautiful, wild, and terrible. She is depicted dancing in ecstasy upon a battle field, slaying demons in her fierce bliss.

Her skin is black and she is naked, symbolic of the Eternal Void with which she clothes herself.

Thou wearest the moon upon Thy brow.

She wears the moon upon her brow (as does her husband, Shiva), symbolizing the open spiritual eye and spiritual illumination. The crescent moon has the additional metaphorical meaning of mastery over the feminine, cyclical aspect of manifest nature, the way it ebbs and flows, grows full and then diminishes.

Where didst Thou find Thy garland of heads
before the universe was made?

Kali wears a garland of severed heads, a startling image, but one of deep spiritual significance. These are the heads of slain demons, each a spiritual impediment that she has removed. Well, she hasn’t really removed them; in slaying the demons, she has freed them, so that now their heads rest in bliss upon her breast.

Further, each head, severed at the neck, represents a specific sound; collectively, the heads represent the sound of divine speech, the foundational vibration or Eternal Word, through which the universe is manifested.

Confoundress! With Thy flashing sword
Thoughtlessly Thou hast put to death
my virtue and my sin alike!

We often get teasing lines like this in sacred poetry. In the deep spaces of bliss, when the ego identity has disappeared and thought has ceased, the tensions we associated with doing “good” or “bad” also disappear. This does not mean that one cannot distinguish between right and wrong, quite the opposite; one sees clearly for the first time. But there is no projection of “should” or “shouldn’t.” Instead, there is a profound sense of what simply is, and what is potential. The feeling of being caught in a tug-of-war between opposites and social compulsions vanishes. To the thinking mind, the mind chained to the ego, this is indeed confounding.

Kali can express a terrifying face of the Divine, but there is a reverse side to this. She may inspire terror, yes, but only in that which is out of harmony with the Eternal Will; seeing the Goddess, such energies know their end has come. If we ourselves cling to such disharmonious qualities, then we too may fear her. But when we let go of such clinging, approaching this great, formless Goddess with humility and courage, then terror is transformed into awe and overwhelming bliss.

You can say that this Dark Mother loves all her children so fiercely that she refuses to let any of us remain chained to comfortable but lethal delusions. Every soul needs such a loving, liberating mother, even when we don’t always appreciate her…

It’s a crisp autumn morning here. The snow from the last few days never quite stuck, the air is clear. The aspen leaves dance in green and gold, glistening in the light. Remember the beauty all around you!


Recommended Books: Kamalakanta

Singing to the Goddess: Poems to Kali and Uma from Bengal Kali: The Black Goddess of Dakshineswar


Kamalakanta

India (1769? – 1821?) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shakta (Goddess-oriented)

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Oct 10 2018

Izumi Shikibu – Although the wind

Published by under Poetry

Although the wind
by Izumi Shikibu

English version by Jane Hirshfield

Although the wind
blows terribly here,
the moonlight also leaks
between the roof planks
of this ruined house.

— from Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women, Edited by Jane Hirshfield


/ Image by Manwathiell /

I have several loved ones feeling particular frustration and rage at how they have been treated after finding the courage to speak out about private traumas, only to be ignored and treated with contempt by a system that would rather maintain its fading myths than its heart.

An excerpt of something I posted on Facebook a few days ago–

I try to remind myself that the greatest healers in the world are often themselves wounded in some way. The ways we find to survive trauma can open us to deep truths about ourselves and the world, unlocking hidden strength. We might, for the first time, find our authentic voice. Sometimes our job is just to cry out with such a great pure ache that the world has no choice but to stop and let its heart break open. Survivors carry the medicine the world needs, whether or not the world is smart enough to recognizes it.


Recommended Books: Izumi Shikibu

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry


Izumi Shikibu

Japan (974? – 1034?) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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Oct 01 2018

Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi – Inner Wakefulness

Published by under Poetry

Inner Wakefulness
by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

English version by Coleman Barks

This place is a dream
only a sleeper considers it real
then death comes like dawn
and you wake up laughing
at what you thought
was your grief

A man goes to sleep in the town
where he has always lived
and he dreams
he’s living in another town
in the dream he doesn’t remember
the town he’s sleeping in his bed in
he believes the reality
of the dream town
the world is that kind of sleep

Humankind is being led
along an evolving course,
through this migration
of intelligences
and though we seem
to be sleeping
there is an inner wakefulness,
that directs the dream
and that will eventually
startle us back
to the truth of
who we are

— from The Essential Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks


/ Image by psdlights /

Yesterday, September 30th, was Rumi’s 811th birthday. Happy birthday, Rumi!

Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi is a titanic, open-hearted figure in the world, and his influence throughout the world and down through the centuries is immense. The continuing ripple effects of his poetry and his spirit have much more impact on most lives today than mere kings or generals. That’s the sort of hero the world really needs.

There is something so gentle about this selection, an easy description of sleeping, dreaming, evolution, and waking up laughing. Yet it can startle us awake.

This place is a dream
only a sleeper considers it real

Dreams and waking up… The metaphor of being spiritually “awake” is used a lot but not always with deep reflection. It is an easy concept to grasp, though it’s not taken very seriously most of the time because, of course, the person thinking about the idea of waking up is already awake in the most literal sense, right? The surprising answer is, Not really.

The experience of sudden spiritual opening reported by most mystics is surprisingly one of actually waking up. It’s as if we have been drifting through life in a dream state and just not known it. Nothing around us has changed, but we finally, truly see things as they are. The dream-like trance-mind of assumptions and projections that has stifled our perception for so long falls away like a heavy blanket. We blink, look around, and are surprised to realize we have been in a sort of half-seeing fog all of our life… and now we are awake for the first time.

and you wake up laughing
at what you thought
was your grief

Perhaps just as surprising — and much more confusing to the intellect — is the simultaneous recognition that while we were in that dream state, there was still some part of our awareness that was always fully awake, patiently watching in the background. It’s just that now that inner wakefulness has come to the forefront.

and though we seem
to be sleeping
there is an inner wakefulness

…A reminder to us that we don’t really need to “wake up;” instead, we just need to get out of the way of that part of ourselves that is already awake.

From a purely poetic point of view, I really like the lines–

Humankind is being led
along an evolving course,
through this migration
of intelligences

To me this suggests that each experience, each “dream,” each person’s life is part of a grand migration of the human spirit, a journey of deepening remembrance and renewal.


Recommended Books: Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom Open Secret: Versions of Rumi
More Books >>


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

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

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Sep 28 2018

Ivan M. Granger – Medusa

Published by under Poetry

Medusa
by Ivan M. Granger

Medusa says –

I was wisdom
once,
black as night.

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

So I hide
behind this hissing curtain
of hair.

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

But
what is a lonely
old lady to do?

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

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

— from Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey, by Ivan M. Granger
Or order through Wordery and have it shipped anywhere in the world for free!


/ Image by Emanuello Brigant /

Something to honor the Divine Goddess today–

I don’t do it as often these days, but every now and then I awake early, before the sun. Observing the nighttime before dawn, its embodiment of mystery, the unknown, vastness. Night brings both peace and fear. It does not distract us from ourselves. Whatever we bring with us into the night we must confront…

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I hide
Behind this hissing curtain
Of hair.

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

(The more monstrous aspect of Medusa can also be understood as a rageful expression of the Kundalini, the Divine Feminine energy, when it is repressed in society. A society that does not respect the strength and mystery of Woman, that does not allow the feminine energy to move freely, that society is lost in a state of calcifying fear. Too many societies see only the terrible Gorgon when looking at the Divine Mother.)

In my poem, Medusa has formed of this feminine life-energy a curtain, a veil that hides Her Face from a world not ready to bear witness to Her. This curtain is the veil of illusion that creates an artificial sense of separation between the world and the Divine.

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

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

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

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

Looking in Medusa’s eye, what is it that we see reflected? Our own self, of course. And this truly is shattering, for we see the truth about ourselves. We see the unreality of the little self, the social self, the ego self we imagine ourselves to be. That little self is a phantom, a mental creation only.

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

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

But, in dying to the little self, our true nature suddenly shines forth. The real Self, which is one with the Divine, emerges. Every aspect of ourselves that felt broken and that we labored so long to fix, is suddenly made whole. In fact, we realize that nothing was ever broken in the first place. That sense of incompleteness was the result of denying the vastness we already are while clinging to the illusion of the little self.

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


Recommended Books: Ivan M. Granger

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics Diamond Cutters: Visionary Poets in America, Britain & Oceania Poems of Awakening: An International Anthology of Spiritual Poetry
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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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Sep 26 2018

Wendell Berry – Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Published by under Poetry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

— from The Mad Farmer Poems, by Wendell Berry


/ Image by legends2k /

A manifesto from the fields and the topsoil to mark the change of seasons. A reminder of what’s real. A reminder to regularly push that mental reset button. A reminder to remain a healthy, cantankerous human standing amidst wonders…

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it.

Practice resurrection.

Have a beautiful day!


Recommended Books: Wendell Berry

The Collected Poems of Wendell Berry, 1957-1982 Given: Poems Selected Poems of Wendell Berry A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997 The Mad Farmer Poems
More Books >>


Wendell Berry, Wendell Berry poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Wendell Berry

US (1934 – )
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Wendell Berry

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