Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

Feb 13 2018

Manikkavacakar – Becoming sky & earth

Published by under Poetry

Becoming sky & earth
by Manikkavacakar

Becoming sky & earth
Wind & light
Becoming flesh & spirit
All that truly is
& all that which is not
Becoming the Lord,
He makes those who say,
“I” & “mine”
Dance in the show
Becoming sky
& standing there…
How can my words
praise Him?


/ Image by Vik Nanda /

Today is the Hindu festival of Shivaratri in honor of the the god Shiva. Often Shiva is depicted as a meditating, long-haired ascetic, but another important expression of Shiva is as Nataraj, Lord of the Dance.

Shiva Nataraj is depicted with one foot raised in dance, the other foot treading upon a figure representing ignorance. In one hand he holds the drum that is the fundamental sound of creation. In another he displays the fire of destruction. A third hand expresses the mudra (hand position) of fearlessness, while the fourth hand points to his upraised foot, suggesting the path to liberation. His jata, matted locks, fly out about his head; in the wildness of his dance, they crash into the objects of existence, dispelling their illusory being. And flames emanate from his dancing body, representing manifestation, creation radiated out into being by the pure energy of his dance.

Shiva’s dance — called the Tandava — is the rhythm of the universe, the dance of creation, evolution, destruction, and renewal. The cycle of the seasons is in his dance, All patterns and rhythms emanate from Lord Shiva’s dance, from the ages of the world to the thrum of each person’s heartbeat.

All the dramas of existence are expressions of Shiva’s dance.

First, Manikkavacakar describes his expansive, blissful merging with all Being–

Becoming sky & earth
Wind & light
Becoming flesh & spirit
All that truly is
& all that which is not

Everything merging with the Eternal…

Becoming the Lord

From the egoless, all-permeating state, the yogin witnesses Lord Shiva’s dance play out. He sees people, creatures, all beings swept up in the rhythm of that great dance. From the yogin’s elevated state, the Tandava is an immense, colorful wonder of swirling movement, contact and conflict, birth and death, joy and suffering, rising and falling.

But to those swept up in the dance, the rhythms are overwhelming, the experiences can be terrifying. As beautiful as the great cosmic dance is, the individuals within it are engaged in exhaustive struggle, often disoriented, and sometimes touched by terrible suffering.

Why the disconnect between the macrocosmic majesty and the microcosmic misery?

He makes those who say,
“I” & “mine”
Dance in the show

Amidst the dance of being, people struggle because of the ego sense. They say “I” and “me” and “mine.” This creates an incomplete and fixed sense of self — very dangerous in a world defined by movement. The ego is a sort of spiritual temper tantrum, a child’s hot assertion that “this is what I am, and this is all that I am, and the world had better stay put!” But the dance continues. The universe is alive, and life moves.

The dance of existence is terrifying when we identify with all the tumbling bits and pieces. But when we come to know ourselves as flowing, spacious, subtle beings of pure dynamic awareness, we can then choose to participate or not, in service and in delight. We are no longer IN the dance, we have become the dance. We are not so much bodies or collections of experiences with a fixed point in the rhythm, we are the flow of rhythm itself. Free from the fixations and limitations of the little self, we now move with Shiva himself.

How can words manage to praise the Lord of the Dance?

Om Namah Shivaya!


Recommended Books: Manikkavacakar

The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice


Manikkavacakar

India (9th Century) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shaivite (Shiva)

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Feb 06 2018

Constantine P. Cavafy – Ithaca

Published by under Poetry

Ithaca
by Constantine P. Cavafy

English version by George Barbanis

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.


/ Image by makithaca /

A little motivation to take down that old copy of Homer’s 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.

In the Odyssey, the hero Odysseus was returning home from the Trojan War to his island kingdom of Ithaca, but conflicts with gods and monsters and weather kept leading him off course into new adventures. It took him twenty years to finally return home!

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.

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 disparage 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 our 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.


Recommended Books: Constantine P. Cavafy

C. P. Cavafy: Collected Poems The Complete Poems of Cavafy: Expanded Edition Cavafy’s Alexandria Cavafy: A Biography


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

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Feb 02 2018

Ghraib Nawaz – The Second Jesus

Published by under Poetry

The Second Jesus
by Gharib Nawaz

English version by Peter Lamborn Wilson and Nasrollah Pourjavady

O Lord, it’s me: blanked out in divine light
and become a horizon of rays flashing from the Essence.

My every atom yearned for vision
till I fell drunk on the manifestations of lordship.

Love polished the rust from my heart’s mirror
till I began to see the mysteries;

I emerged from the darkness of my existence
and became what I am (you know me) from the Light of Being:

blackened like charcoal dark soul’s smoke
but mixed with love fires and illumined.

Some say the path is difficult;
God forgive them! I went so easily:

The Holy Spirit breathes his every breath into Mo’in–
who knows? Maybe I’m the second Jesus.

— from The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry, Translated by Peter Lamborn Wilson / Translated by Nasrollah Pourjavady


/ Image by proama /

I love the phrase in which the poet describes himself as being “blanked in divine light.” This beautifully describes the loss of the ego self, the loss of the separate self. Instead we perceive ourselves as a point of awareness within a vast living radiance.

Another great line:

Some say the path is difficult;
God forgive them! I went so easily.

This reflects the sense that true spiritual striving must be crushingly difficult, and sometimes too vague to even comprehend. Yet, the sacred experience reveals itself as our natural state, effortless. In fact, effort implies that we are trying to attain something we don’t already have, making it even harder to recognize the state as being already present. We just have to get out of the way of the truth that is already present. That is all. We just make it seem difficult.

who knows? Maybe I’m the second Jesus.

Some Christians may be troubled by this final line. It is certainly provocative, but not necessarily intended to be blasphemous or offensive. Devout Muslims greatly revere the figure of Jesus but not in the absolute and iconic way that Christians do. In Muslim traditions, Jesus is often associated with the breath of God. This is why the reference to Jesus follows the recognition that the breath of the Holy Spirit flows uninhibited through him. That breath is there, so is Jesus. Gharib Nawaz is reveling in the giddy recognition of oneness with that subtle divine flowing Presence — the same as in Jesus, the same as in all of us.

Who knows, maybe we are all the second Jesus?


Recommended Books: Gharib Nawaz

The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry


Gharib Nawaz

Iran/Persia & India (1142? – 1236?) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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Jan 31 2018

Kalidasa – Exhortation of the Dawn

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Exhortation of the Dawn
by Kalidasa

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

Listen to the Exhortation of the Dawn!
Look to this Day!
For it is Life, the very Life of Life.
In its brief course lie all the
Verities and Realities of your Existence.
The Bliss of Growth,
The Glory of Action,
The Splendor of Beauty;
For Yesterday is but a Dream,
And To-morrow is only a Vision;
But To-day well lived makes
Every Yesterday a Dream of Happiness,
And every Tomorrow a Vision of Hope.
Look well therefore to this Day!
Such is the Salutation of the Dawn!

— from Sanskrit Love Poetry, Translated by W. S. Merwin / Translated by J. Moussaieff Masson


/ Image by Livin-Lively /

Now that’s the way to approach the day!

But To-day well lived makes
Every Yesterday a Dream of Happiness,
And every Tomorrow a Vision of Hope.
Look well therefore to this Day!


Recommended Books: Kalidasa

Sanskrit Love Poetry Abhijnanasakuntalam of Kalidasa The Recognition of Sakuntala: A Play in Seven Acts Theatre of Memory: The Plays of Kalidasa The Origin of the Young God: Kalidasa’s Kumarasambhava


Kalidasa, Kalidasa poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Kalidasa

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

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Jan 26 2018

Buson – Miles of frost

Published by under Poetry

Miles of frost
by Buson

English version by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto

Miles of frost —
on the lake
the moon’s my own.

— from Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter, Translated by Lucien Stryk / Translated by Takashi Ikemoto


/ Image by 4k1 /

This haiku doesn’t emphasize that pivot that startles the awareness into new insight. Instead, it offers us a pure moment of winter solitude at dusk.

Miles of frost —

This phrasing suggests not only a chilly evening, but a landscape of silence. No activity. No carts on the road. No animals scurrying in the underbrush. Nothing but untouched frost upon the land.

In the midst of this scene of chill stillness stands the implied observer — us. We stand there alone in the quiet scene, elevated as the solitary presence, wrapped in curling mist of our own breath.

And then we see the moon reflected upon the lake’s surface at twilight.

on the lake
the moon’s my own.

With no one else to witness it, the moon becomes a private gift. The moon and the observer share this moment of intimacy in the silent company of the lake.

We can, if we choose, read this in a more consciously spiritual light: The full moon is often used to suggest enlightened awareness. The lake is mind. When the surface is still, the mind has grown quiet and it reflects the serene light of the moon. The miles of frost can suggest the wider world as perceived by the senses has also been quieted through spiritual practice. In this unified state of stillness, the moon, enlightenment, becomes one’s own.

Or perhaps it is only a lake and the moon on a quiet night. Then again, perhaps the moon’s reflection whispers to us of enlightenment, whether we recognize it or not.


Recommended Books: Buson

Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library) The Moon Over Tagoto: Selected Haiku of Buson


Buson, Buson poetry, Buddhist poetry Buson

Japan (1716 – 1784) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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Jan 19 2018

Thomas Merton – Stranger

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Stranger
by Thomas Merton

When no one listens
To the quiet trees
When no one notices
The sun in the pool.

Where no one feels
The first drop of rain
Or sees the last star

Or hails the first morning
Of a giant world
Where peace begins
And rages end:

One bird sits still
Watching the work of God:
One turning leaf,
Two falling blossoms,
Ten circles upon the pond.

One cloud upon the hillside,
Two shadows in the valley
And the light strikes home.
Now dawn commands the capture
Of the tallest fortune,
The surrender
Of no less marvelous prize!

Closer and clearer
Than any wordy master,
Thou inward Stranger
Whom I have never seen,

Deeper and cleaner
Than the clamorous ocean,
Seize up my silence
Hold me in Thy Hand!

Now act is waste
And suffering undone
Laws become prodigals
Limits are torn down
For envy has no property
And passion is none.

Look, the vast Light stands still
Our cleanest Light is One!

— from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton, by Thomas Merton


/ Image by trumeye /

Isn’t this a wonderful poem given to us by Merton? It’s worth going back and reading it again with a sense of inner stillness. (Go ahead, I’ll wait…)

The way this poem opens is fascinating —

When no one listens
To the quiet trees
When no one notices
The sun in the pool.

Where no one feels
The first drop of rain
Or sees the last star

The “no one” here is you and me, Merton himself, the speaker of the poem. We encounter the real magic and mystery of the world when we can witness it as “no one.” That’s “Where peace begins / And rages end” — when there is no idea of self to assert its right to be the central focus of everything.

That’s when things unfold and reveal themselves to be deeply and utterly themselves:

One bird sits still
Watching the work of God:
One turning leaf,
Two falling blossoms,
Ten circles upon the pond.

(Love those lines. The witness is so still, almost non-existent, and we are left selfless amidst the “work of God.”)

And then we have the “Stranger” of the poem’s title–

Closer and clearer
Than any wordy master,
Thou inward Stranger
Whom I have never seen,

Deeper and cleaner
Than the clamorous ocean,
Seize up my silence
Hold me in Thy Hand!

When the small, noisy self steps aside, we discover the vast, silent Self within, almost unknown to us, a stranger, yet there nonetheless, seated in wordless immensity. “Seize up my silence / Hold me in Thy Hand!” That’s the way. Fierce and trembling, the mystic calls out to be grabbed whole by that unknown, oh-so-intimate one.

Look, the vast Light stands still
Our cleanest Light is One!


Recommended Books: Thomas Merton

Selected Poems of Thomas Merton The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton A Thomas Merton Reader The Strange Islands: Poems by Thomas Merton Thomas Merton Monk & Poet: A Critical Study


Thomas Merton, Thomas Merton poetry, Christian poetry Thomas Merton

US (1915 – 1968) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

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Jan 15 2018

Maya Angelou – A Brave and Startling Truth (Martin Luther King Day)

Published by under Poetry

A Brave and Startling Truth
by Maya Angelou

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

— from A Brave and Startling Truth, by Maya Angelou


/ Image by Dencii /

It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

This poem by Maya Angelou was written to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, but I think it’s a good choice to remember Martin Luther King Day, as well.

King is rightly remembered as one of history’s great champions of civil rights and the dignity of all groups of people.

When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean

But Reverend King’s vision was even broader and more encompassing than that. He spoke not just for black people, but for all people. He spoke up for the poor and dispossessed of all groups. He began to speak out strongly against the escalating war in Vietnam, pointing out how war and imperialist policies impoverished society, both spiritually and materially.

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

King argued that, in a just society, money should not be wasted on war and should, instead, be used to resuscitate and rebuild our struggling communities so they can mature into vibrant centers of human capability and possibility.

This is not the safe civil rights martyr taught to school children and lauded once a year by politicians. This is the King who questioned not only institutionalized bigotry, but also institutionalized poverty, wealth inequality, war, and empire. And it is worth noting that it was only when he started to raise these broader questions that he was assassinated.

Some days we need prophets to make us squirm, not just safe saints we can celebrate and then ignore.

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a pacifist, yes, but he was not passive. He was a fighter! His message, when we listen, still challenges us today to do more than get along or slightly improve the status quo. He called for an open heart, a strong will, and a dedication to all our brothers and sisters in humanity — to courageously work and sacrifice in order to embody these truths of the human spirit in our lives and in the structures of society. Now that is revolutionary!

And that is the Martin Luther King I bow to today.

Race Does Not Exist

On this Martin Luther King day, I encourage you to also read my past discussion of how race does not exist:

Race Does Not Exist

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Recommended Books: Maya Angelou

The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems Celebrating Women And Still I Rise A Brave and Startling Truth The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou
More Books >>


Maya Angelou, Maya Angelou poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Maya Angelou

US (1928 – 2014) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Maya Angelou

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Jan 12 2018

Wislawa Szymborska – A Contribution to Statistics

Published by under Poetry

A Contribution to Statistics
by Wislawa Szymborska

English version by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak

Out of a hundred people

those who always know better
— fifty-two

doubting every step
— nearly all the rest,

glad to lend a hand
if it doesn’t take too long
— as high as forty-nine,

always good
because they can’t be otherwise
— four, well maybe five,

able to admire without envy
— eighteen,

suffering illusions
induced by fleeting youth
— sixty, give or take a few,

not to be taken lightly
— forty and four,

living in constant fear
of someone or something
— seventy-seven,

capable of happiness
— twenty-something tops,

harmless singly, savage in crowds
— half at least,

cruel
when forced by circumstances
— better not to know
even ballpark figures,

wise after the fact
— just a couple more
than wise before it,

taking only things from life
— thirty
(I wish I were wrong),

hunched in pain,
no flashlight in the dark
— eighty-three
sooner or later,

righteous
— thirty-five, which is a lot,

righteous
and understanding
— three,

worthy of compassion
— ninety-nine,

mortal
— a hundred out of a hundred.
Thus far this figure still remains unchanged.

— from Poems New and Collected, by Wislawa Szymborska / Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak


/ Image by Andy Maguire /

I always knew statistics had a poetic heart. After such terrible abuse by advertisers and politicians, statistics will redeem themselves in great and painful art.

worthy of compassion
— ninety-nine,

mortal
— a hundred out of a hundred.
Thus far this figure still remains unchanged.

Of course, even the best-natured of statistics exist to taunt us, to challenge us. Then again, that’s what those irascible poets do too…


Recommended Books: Wislawa Szymborska

Poems New and Collected Miracle Fair: Selected Poems of Wislawa Szymborska View with a Grain of Sand: Selected Poems Nothing Twice: Selected Poems Dancing with Joy: 99 Poems
More Books >>


Wislawa Szymborska, Wislawa Szymborska poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Wislawa Szymborska

Poland (1923 – 2012) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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Jan 10 2018

Rabindranath Tagore – Listen, can you hear it?

Published by under Poetry

Listen, can you hear it? (from The Lover of God)
by Rabindranath Tagore

English version by Tony Stewart and Chase Twitchell

Listen, can you hear it?
His bamboo flute speaks
the pure language of love.
The moon enlightens the trees,
the path, the sinuous Yamuna.
Oblivious of the jasmine’s scent
I stagger around,
disheveled heart bereft of modesty,
eyes wet with nerves and delight.
Tell me, dear friend, say it aloud:
is he not my own Dark Lord Syama?
Is it not my name his flute pours
into the empty evening?

For eons I longed for God,
I yearned to know him.
That’s why he has come to me now,
deep emerald Lord of my breath.
O Syama, whenever your faraway flute thrills
through the dark, I say your name,
only your name, and will my body to dissolve
in the luminous Yamuna.

Go to her, Lord, go now.
What’s stopping you?
The earth drowns in sleep.
Let’s go. I’ll walk with you.

— from The Lover of God, by Rabindranath Tagore / Translated by Tony Stewart


/ Image by Rajesh Nagulakond /

There is a fascinating story behind this poem and the other poems of Tagore’s The Lover of God… In the late 19th century, a respected Bengali journal published a newly discovered collection poems by a previously unknown 17th century poet, Bhanusimha, or Sun Lion. The critics celebrated these newly unearthed bhakti masterpieces.

The problem was that Bhanusimha never actually existed. Bhanisimha was the pseudonym used by a brilliant 14-year-old boy — the young Rabindranath Tagore.

He of course matured into one of the greatest poets of modern India.

Tagore continued to edit and refine these poems over his lifetime, leaving us with a collection of modern bhakti masterpieces.

Just a few notes about this selection:

As with many bhakti poems, this is, on the surface, a poem of love and longing. Radha pines for her beloved, Krishna. But these are usually understood to reflect deeper truths. Radha is the soul, the spiritual seeker. Krishna is God, the Beloved.

Krishna plays a flute, an enchanting melody that calls all souls to himself. The sound of his flute is the hum that underlies all creation, the soft sound heard in the silence of meditation.

His beauty is often compared with the moon. This moon is also the luminescence of enlightenment.

The Yamuna is one of the great rivers of India, but she is also a goddess who fell in love with Krishna. So the reference to the sinuous Yamuna is meant to evoke both an erotic femininity and also emphasize that love for Krishna. To dissolve in the Yamuna is to disappear into eternal love for God/Krishna.

The final verse switches from Radha’s voice to the poet’s, encouraging Krishna to respond to the longing of the soul. Something quite playful in that…

Go to her, Lord, go now.
What’s stopping you?
The earth drowns in sleep.
Let’s go. I’ll walk with you.


Recommended Books: Rabindranath Tagore

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Gitanjali The Lover of God The Fugitive Lover’s Gift and Crossing
More Books >>


Rabindranath Tagore, Rabindranath Tagore poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Rabindranath Tagore

India (1861 – 1941) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu

Continue Reading »

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Jan 05 2018

Pat Schneider – The Patience of Ordinary Things

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The Patience of Ordinary Things
by Pat Schneider

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they’re supposed to be.
I’ve been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?

— from Another River: New and Selected Poems, by Pat Schneider


/ Image by snap713 /

I’m back. We’re back. The Poetry Chaikhana is back.

Sorry about the unannounced hiatus, but I decided I should take some time to recharge my batteries.

I hope it was a special Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, New Year (pick any or all of the above) for you and your families.

=

I want to say, Thank you, Lalita, for introducing me to this poem. Since I am new to Pat Schneider’s writing, I don’t know much about her. I look forward to learning more.

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea…

There is something supremely settling about this poem. The poet reminds us to see how each object, simply by acting according to their nature is actually an embodiment of a sort of universal love.

How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they’re supposed to be.

Objects simply are as they are, and their “actions” naturally flow from their form. Through being, self-acceptance, and natural self-expression, these objects express a humble enlightenment and service in the world.

We just need to see it. And learn from these quiet teachers.

And what is more generous than a window?


Recommended Books: Pat Schneider

Another River: New and Selected Poems Writing Alone and with Others Olive Street Transfer How the Light Gets In: Writing as a Spiritual Practice Wake Up Laughing: A Spiritual Autobiography
More Books >>


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Dec 08 2017

Umm Sinan – The Rose

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The Rose
by Ummi Sinan

English version by Jennifer Ferraro and Latif Bolat

I dreamt I came to a magnificent city
      whose palace was the rose, rose.
The crown and throne of the great sultan,
      his garden and chambers
            were the rose, rose.

Here they buy and sell but roses
      and the roses are the scales they use,
Weighing roses with more roses,
      the marketplace and bazaar
            are all roses, rose.

The white rose and the red rose
      grew coupled in one garden.
Their faces turn as one toward the thorn.
      Both thorn and blossom
            are the rose, rose.

Soil is the rose and stone is the rose,
      withered is the rose, fresh is the rose.
Within the Lord’s private gardens
      both slender cypress and old maple
            are the rose, rose.

The rose is turning the waterwheel
      and gets ground between the stones.
The wheel turns round as the water flows.
      Its power and its stillness
            are the rose, rose.

From the rose a tent appears
      filled with an offering of everything.
Its gatekeepers are the holy prophets.
      The bread and the wine they pour
            are the rose, rose.

Oh Ummi Sinan, heed the mystery
      of the sorrow of nightingale and rose.
Every cry of the forlorn nightingale
            is for the rose, the rose.

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


/ Image by Jay Khemani /

Can’t you smell the perfume of roses in the air after reading this poem?

Ummi Sinan gives us a vision where all the world is filled with roses. A world made of roses. Not just roses, but “the rose” — The Rose.

In Sufi mystical language the Rose is often used as an image of God, and the heart — God as the true Heart of Being.

The rose unfolds in a gentle circling that invites one to yield inward. The rose is a symbol of lovers and of union. The rose resonates strongly with the gently awakened heart.

The rose grows from a bush of thorns yet reveals a delicate inner beauty and shares an intimate, sweet wine-like fragrance, symbolic of how the soul emerges from the tribulations of worldly difficulty and, in so doing, recognizes its innate beauty.

When Ummi Sinan recognizes the Rose everywhere, it is the mystic’s recognition that God has taken up residence within the heart (or, rather, that the Divine presence has finally been recognized there) — and it is the further recognition that all of creation is somehow within the awakened heart. Everything encountered is encountered in the heart.

Let’s get a little more specific with some of the sacred imagery here…

Ummi Sinan gives us an image of “the white rose and the red rose” that grow “coupled in one garden.” This is an important pairing of colors that appears in esoteric traditions all over the world, in Sufism, in western alchemy, as a sign of rank in the Catholic Church, painted on Hindu and Buddhist temples — and in our images of Santa Claus. The colors white and red represent the masculine and feminine energies on all levels. White is the male and red is the female. The white represents purity, essence, divine spirit; the red is the power of manifestation and awakening life. So when Ummi Sinan tells us of a white rose and a red rose that are “coupled” in the divine garden, he is giving us an image of the fundamental polarities in natural, eternal balance within the divine garden. Recognizing this harmony on all levels is a prerequisite to entering the rose garden.

In the closing lines, Sinan reminds himself (and us) to “heed the mystery / of the sorrow of the nightingale and rose.” In Sufi poetry, the nightingale is said to sing such an enchanting, mournful song because it is hopelessly in love with the rose. The rose is the Beloved, the Heart of hearts, and the nightingale is its lover, the seeker — the Sufi. “Every cry of the forlorn nightingale / is for the rose, the rose.” Every yearning in the world, every cry of longing and desire in the world is really the crying out of creation for the Beloved. It is the crying out for the intoxication of unity.

The wheel turns round as the water flows.
Its power and its stillness
are the rose, rose.


Recommended Books: Ummi Sinan

Quarreling with God: Mystic Rebel Poems of the Dervishes of Turkey Gul: The Rose (Audio CD)


Ummi Sinan

Turkey (16th Century) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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Dec 01 2017

Francis of Assisi – Prayer Inspired by the Our Father

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Prayer Inspired by the Our Father
by Francis of Assisi

English version by Regis J. Armstrong, OFM CAP & Ignatius C. Brady, OFM

O OUR most holy FATHER,
Our Creator, Redeemer, Consoler, and Savior

WHO ARE IN HEAVEN:
In the angels and in the saints,
Enlightening them to love, because You, Lord, are light
Inflaming them to love, because You, Lord, are love
Dwelling in them and filling them with happiness,
      because You, Lord, are the Supreme Good,
            the Eternal Good
      from Whom comes all good
      without Whom there is no good.

HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME:
May our knowledge of You become ever clearer
That we may know the breadth of Your blessings
      the length of Your promises
      the height of Your majesty
      the depths of Your judgments

YOUR KINGDOM COME:
So that You may rule in us through Your grace
and enable us to come to Your kingdom
      where there is an unclouded vision of You
            a perfect love of You
            a blessed companionship with You
            an eternal enjoyment of You

YOUR WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN:
That we may love you with our whole heart by always thinking of You
            with our whole soul by always desiring You
            with our whole mind by directing all our
                  intentions to You and by seeking Your
                  glory in everything
            and with our whole strength by spending all our
                  energies and affections
                  of soul and body
                  in the service of Your love
                  and of nothing else
and may we love our neighbors as ourselves
      by drawing them all with our whole strength to Your love
      by rejoicing in the good fortunes of others as well as our own
      and by sympathizing with the misfortunes of others
      and by giving offense to no one

GIVE US THIS DAY:
in memory and understanding and reverence
      of the love which our Lord Jesus Christ had for us
      and of those things which He said and did and suffered for us
OUR DAILY BREAD
Your own Beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ

AND FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES:
Through Your ineffable mercy
through the power of the Passion of Your Beloved Son
      together with the merits and intercession of the Blessed Virgin
                  Mary and all Your chosen ones

AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US:
And whatever we do not forgive perfectly,
do you, Lord, enable us to forgive to the full
so that we may truly love our enemies
and fervently intercede for them before You
returning no one evil for evil
and striving to help everyone in You

AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION
Hidden or obvious
Sudden or persistent

BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL
Past, present and to come.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

— from Francis and Clare: The Complete Works: The Classics of Western Spirituality, Translated by Regis J. Armstrong, OFM CAP / Translated by Ignatius C. Brady, OFM


/ Image by cogdogblog /

I know many of you will instinctively react against this selection’s tone. It might have too much of a Sunday school savor for your taste.

I personally find this beautiful and fascinating. It is a line-by-line meditation of The Lord’s Prayer, that most central prayer of Christianity. But this isn’t just one more devotional Christian poem; this is by St. Francis of Assisi! This poem gives us a unique window into his inner life of prayer. When this greatly beloved saint said his “Our Father” prayer, this is what each line meant to him. This is what he wanted everyone to understand through reciting that essential prayer of the Christian world.

A figure like Francis transcends Christian tradition. His simplicity, his radical commitment to love, his connection to nature, even his sense of humor have made him one of the most loved spiritual figures throughout the world. So let’s set aside the more overtly Christian references, if they make you uncomfortable. What is he revealing here that perhaps you’ve never found in the lines of The Lord’s Prayer before?

A few observations of my own:

HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME:
May our knowledge of You become ever clearer

To Francis, “hallowing” the name of God is not some pious formula of respect. To him, it is about cultivating deep, intimate knowledge of God. It is personal. It is about clarity and transformation within the individual’s own awareness.

YOUR KINGDOM COME…

YOUR WILL BE DONE…

These days, unfortunately, it is difficult not to read these lines through the clouded filter of hardline Christian literalists, who understand them as a divine mandate for theocracy and might. But notice how Francis reads these lines. He keeps mentioning love. The kingdom he sees is one of love for God, divine vision, nearness to God, and blissful delight:

where there is an unclouded vision of You
            a perfect love of You
            a blessed companionship with You
            an eternal enjoyment of You

And, to Francis, the Divine Will is fulfilled, not through force, but again — through love. This is the mystic’s passionate, burning love that consumes all else:

…by spending all our
                  energies and affections
                  of soul and body
                  in the service of Your love
                  and of nothing else

But, for Francis, this isn’t an exclusive, esoteric sort of love that cuts one off from the rest of the world. In seeing the Divine everywhere, in everyone, our love for God must expand in all directions, find a home in every person and in all things. He recalls to us that oft quoted and sadly underapplied injunction by Christ to love our neighbor as ourselves:

and may we love our neighbors as ourselves
      by drawing them all with our whole strength to Your love
      by rejoicing in the good fortunes of others as well as our own
      and by sympathizing with the misfortunes of others
      and by giving offense to no one

In Francis’s vision, the Kingdom is one of love, community, compassion, service.

We are given a challenge — to participate, but with a humble, open heart.

AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US:
And whatever we do not forgive perfectly,
do you, Lord, enable us to forgive to the full
so that we may truly love our enemies
and fervently intercede for them before You
returning no one evil for evil
and striving to help everyone in You

Forget the centuries worth of theology and dusty debate. Whether you seek comfort and help from the Virgin Mary or Kuan Yin or Durga, whether you seek light and guidance from Christ or the Prophet Muhammad, Shiva or the Boddhisattvas; the Eternal encompasses every name that is called, every rite followed… and is not wounded by another’s choice.

In this Kingdom, the key that grants entrance is not what sectarians think it is. This Kingdom is not for Christians, but for the Christ-like, regardless of religious tradition. The price of citizenship is not adherence to a creed, but possession of a love so all-consuming that no hatred can remain, no tally sheet can be kept, no person and no being is left outside the circle of your heart.


Recommended Books: Francis of Assisi

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey Francis and Clare: The Complete Works: The Classics of Western Spirituality For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time
More Books >>


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Nov 22 2017

Thomas Merton – A Practical Program for Monks

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A Practical Program for Monks
by Thomas Merton

1
Each one shall sit at table with his own cup and spoon, and with his own repentance. Each one’s own business shall be his most important affair, and provide his own remedies.
They have neglected bowl and plate.
Have you a wooden fork?
Yes, each monk has a wooden fork as well as a potato.

2
Each one shall wipe away tears with his own saint, when three bells hold in store a hot afternoon. Each one is supposed to mind his own heart, with its conscience, night and morning.
Another turn on the wheel: ho hum! And observe the Abbot!
Time to go to bed in a straw blanket.

3
Plenty of bread for everyone between prayers and the psalter: will you recite another?
Merci, and Miserere.
Always mind both the clock and the Abbot until eternity.
Miserere.

4
Details of the Rule are all liquid and solid. What canon was the first to announce regimentation before us? Mind the step on the way down!
Yes, I dare say you are right, Father. I believe you; I believe you.
I believe it is easier when they have ice water and even a lemon.
Each one can sit at table with his own lemon, and mind his own conscience.

5
Can we agree that the part about the lemon is regular?
In any case, it is better to have sheep than peacocks, and cows rather than a chained leopard says Modest, in one of his proverbs.
The monastery, being owner of a communal rowboat, is the antechamber of heaven.
Surely that ought to be enough.

6
Each one can have some rain after Vespers on a hot afternoon, but ne quid nimis, or the purpose of the Order will be forgotten.
We shall send you hyacinths and a sweet millennium.
Everything the monastery provides is very pleasant to see and to sell for nothing.
What is baked smells fine. There is a sign of God on every leaf that nobody sees in the garden. The fruit trees are there on purpose, even when no one is looking. Just put the apples in the basket.
In Kentucky there is also room for a little cheese.
Each one shall fold his own napkin, and neglect the others.

7
Rain is always very silent in the night, under such gentle cathedrals.
Yes, I have taken care of the lamp, Miserere.
Have you a patron saint, and an angel?
Thank you. Even though the nights are never dangerous, I have one of everything.

— from Selected Poems of Thomas Merton, by Thomas Merton


/ Image by KittyKaht /

I really love this stream of consciousness poem. Merton takes all of the little routines and hierarchies and internal dialog of Catholic monastic life, and pokes fun at them while, at the same time, he elevates them to the level of sacred ritual. There is something profoundly honest about this poem… a playful, unadorned bluntness that is both frank and humble.

Each one can sit at table with his own lemon, and mind his own conscience.

=

If you celebrate Thanksgiving, may it be a time of good food, a good time with family and friends, and renewed recognition of all the good things in life.


Recommended Books: Thomas Merton

Selected Poems of Thomas Merton The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton A Thomas Merton Reader The Strange Islands: Poems by Thomas Merton Thomas Merton Monk & Poet: A Critical Study


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Nov 17 2017

D. H. Lawrence – Pax

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Pax
by D. H. Lawrence

All that matters is to be at one with the living God
to be a creature in the house of the God of Life.

Like a cat asleep on a chair
at peace, in peace
and at one with the master of the house, with the mistress,
at home, at home in the house of the living,
sleeping on the hearth, and yawning before the fire.

Sleeping on the hearth of the living world
yawning at home before the fire of life
feeling the presence of the living God
like a great reassurance
a deep calm in the heart
a presence
as of the master sitting at the board
in his own and greater being,
in the house of life.

— from The Complete Poems of D. H. Lawrence, by D. H. Lawrence


/ Image 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, one year, gave birth to a litter of kittens on my belly while I was asleep. 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

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


Recommended Books: D. H. Lawrence

The Complete Poems of D. H. Lawrence Birds, Beasts and Flowers: Poems The Selected Poems of D. H. Lawrence Acts of Attention: The Poems of D. H. Lawrence Self & Sequence: The Poetry of D. H. Lawrence
More Books >>


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Nov 15 2017

Akka Mahadevi – People, male and female

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People, male and female,
by Akka Mahadevi

English version by A. K. Ramanujan

People,
male and female,
blush when a cloth covering their shame
comes loose
                  When the lord of lives
lives drowned without a face
in the world, how can you be modest?

When all the world is the eye of the lord,
onlooking everywhere, what can you
cover and conceal?

— from Speaking of Siva, by A K Ramanujan


/ Image by Annabelle Shemer /

Mahadevi gives us a moment of discomfort.

People,
male and female,
blush when a cloth covering their shame
comes loose

It reminds me of that embarrassing dream we have all had, showing up to school or work only to realize that we are naked.

Mahadevi, like many ascetics in India over the centuries, adopted the life of the “sky-clad” — that is, she lived as a holy woman who refused to wear clothes, even in public. This is shocking and challenging to us on so many levels.

We can list many things that trigger our fear of public nudity: discomfort with one’s body, sexual privacy (or shame), the need to conform to social norms.

But we are not just talking about physical nudity here. We are dealing with a more fundamental spiritual dynamic: the reflex to hide one’s true nature. Most of us carry a basic fear of the self. It’s immensity and beauty overwhelm us. It threatens the ego, which we have come to identify with.

As we clothe the body, we cover our true selves with the ego.

Not only do we present this adorned ego-self to the social world, we do it in our own minds, as well. We try to fool ourselves as to who we are. This is where the real spiritual problem occurs.

As an aside, this is the same metaphor of nakedness used in the biblical account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. When that primal couple cover themselves with fig leaves, the issue isn’t physical nudity or sexual shame. It is that they seek to hide. They present a false, covered self, and thus are divided within themselves. Most foolishly, they imagine they can hide their true selves from the all-seeing Divine Gaze, and so they have slipped into a fantasy reality that is no longer filled with life and consciousness. They have “fallen” into materiality and duality. No longer at one with God, they must leave the harmony of the garden. It is not that they are banished; they have banished themselves to a reality of separation.

There may well be reasons in social relationships to present a public face while keeping aspects of ourselves private. We may do this to protect vulnerabilities and to make sure we honor that which is sacred within us, so long as we recognize what we are doing and why. But when we try to hide from ourselves, we have created a split that is devastating to the soul. That is when we become separated from who we truly are. The result is that our inherent wholeness and bliss are lost.

This is why some ascetics like Mahadevi have chosen to go about naked. On the one hand, her nakedness symbolizes transcendence of sexuality and society, but on a deeper level, it represents that she has returned to to the naked Self. It symbolizes that she no longer hides from the Divine Gaze.

When all the world is the eye of the lord,
onlooking everywhere, what can you
cover and conceal?

The question for the sincere seeker is not how to better clothe oneself, it is how to get more naked. Humbly, honestly, without pretense, we ask: Who am I? Who am I, nakedly? And: Why hide? Hide from whom?

The Indian concept of darshan is about seeing, to see an image of one’s god, to have a vision. But darshan works both ways. To see is to be seen. The secret is that the reverse is equally true: One must be seen to see. One must be naked to dwell in the garden in the company of the Eternal One.

how can you be modest?


Recommended Books: Akka Mahadevi

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Speaking of Siva The Shambhala Anthology of Women’s Spiritual Poetry Women Writing in India: 600 BC to the Present: Volume 1 Sacred Voices: Essential Women’s Voices Through the Ages


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India (12th Century) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shaivite (Shiva)

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Nov 10 2017

Stephen Levine – Trust Your Vision

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Trust Your Vision
by Stephen Levine

Trust your vision
      make it whole
      hold it like the Navajo
      his solemn desert oracle
      in quest of shaman passage
      gaining his healing chant
      guiding him through life.

Hold the vision
      constantly rising
it is the way nature works
      through you
it is the only self
      an everchanging underdream
a vision (if you see it)
      up to you
to make real.

Act on your vision
      and pray that you are blessed.

— from Breaking the Drought: Visions of Grace, by Stephen Levine


/ Image by AlicePopkorn /

Trust your vision

So often we pour ourselves intensely into life’s purposes without actually pausing to consider why we are doing what we are doing. What is our real goal? How is it a reflection of who we truly are? How does it express our specific qualities and role within the larger panorama? What does it imply about the fundamental nature of reality?

Rarely in the modern world are we encouraged to discover our vision and to dedicate ourselves to it. To the prevailing mindset, one’s vision is thought to be intangible, suggesting something that a fantasy whose pursuit is narcissistic or even delusional. The focus of life must be practical with goals that are approved and easily measured.

That approach, while seemingly reasonable and safe, is devastating to both the individual and to society as a whole. While we certainly must live effectively within the physical and social worlds that require a certain level of practical purpose, we are not such stunted creatures that exist only on that level. We are magical beings, here to embody immensity and love and the will of the universe as it expresses itself uniquely through each of us.

Hold the vision
      constantly rising…

Vision is the way we discover our personal path through the world. Vision is the way we come to know ourselves, allowing us to be as we are, showing us how to act with strength and creativity in the service our true goals.

…it is the way nature works
      through you

I love the insight of this line. A vision is not the same as some fantasy or daydream. A true vision is the voice of nature, the intention of the universe, uniquely tuned to our soul.

The word “vision” can trip us up because we think of seeing things that are external to our physical bodies, so we often consider a vision to be external to us. But vision in the spiritual sense is the conscious mind’s way to assign meaning to the deep recognition of self as a harmonious expression of the self-aware universe.

In other words, vision is not so much about seeing as it is about being.

it is the only self
      an everchanging underdream

A vision is a challenge to ourselves to be more fully ourselves. Vision is vocation, the calling of the soul to its true role.

a vision (if you see it)
      up to you
to make real.

The first question is, how strongly do we want to see? And then we must answer the second question, do we dare live the truth seen? Then again, what’s the point to any other path but our own?

Act on your vision
      and pray that you are blessed.

Have a beautiful day!

(And thank you, everyone, for your patience with my irregular poetry schedule recently.


Recommended Books: Stephen Levine

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Breaking the Drought: Visions of Grace A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last Who Dies?: An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying Healing into Life and Death
More Books >>


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Nov 08 2017

Rainer Maria Rilke – I live my life in widening circles

Published by under Poetry

I live my life in widening circles
by Rainer Maria Rilke

English version by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not ever complete the last one,
but I give myself to it.

I circle around God, that primordial tower.
I have been circling for thousands of years,
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?


/ Image by GPS /

I’m back. Not that I went away. I have been busy with my day job and still trying to resolve technical issues with the large poetry mailings. But, amidst all of that, I am pleased to be able to say that I have also been making good progress on the next Poetry Chaikhana anthology. I hope to have something more definite to announce about that soon.

Now, let’s return to the poetry…

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world…

I circle around God, that primordial tower.

These images of circles and circling, revolving around a great center he names God, it makes me think of the cathedral labyrinths of Europe. Or the ancient spiral glyphs carved into rocks and cave faces. I see the circling pathway around some secret center. The road can be bewildering, twisting and turning, keeping us disoriented and uncertain of how near we are, but ever moving inward.

And that courageous line–

I may not ever complete the last one,
but I give myself to it.

We walk the winding path, not out of certainty, but because it is the only path worth walking. Walking that road, quietly, with attention, one foot in front of the other, becomes meditation. It becomes worship. Each ring, whether near or far, is a layer of our lives that is blessed by our passing through it.

Walking the circling path is not only the way to the center, it is actually part of the center. We learn to participate in the center by first walking the path. Obsession with the destination becomes an impediment to reaching it. Instead, by patiently inhabiting each step, we discover the center in ourselves… and our feet naturally end up there, as well.

We walk with our whole selves–

and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

On this roundabout road to God, we question our own nature. We encounter the mystery of self. Who and what are we really? Ultimately, it is in that questioning of a self that eludes definition where we find the still center.


Recommended Books: Rainer Maria Rilke

The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke The Soul is Here for its Own Joy: Sacred Poems from Many Cultures Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God In Praise of Mortality: Rilke’s Duino Elegies & Sonnets to Orpheus
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