Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

May 19 2017

Paramahansa Yogananda – OM

Published by under Poetry

OM
by Paramahansa Yogananda

Whence, whence this soundless roar doth come,
When drowseth matter’s dreary drum?
On shores of bliss, Om, booming, breaks!
All earth, all heaven, all body shakes!
Cords bound to flesh are broken all,
Vibrations burst, meteors fall!
The hustling heart, the boasting breath,
No more shall cause the yogi’s death;
All nature lies in darkness soft,
Dimness of starlight seen aloft;
Subconscious dreams have gone to bed…
‘Tis then that one doth hear Om’s tread;
The bumble-bee now hums along —
Hark! Baby Om doth sing His song!
From Krishna’s flute the call is sweet:
‘Tis time the Watery God to meet!
Now, the God of Fire is singing!
Om! Om! Om! His harp is ringing.
God of Prana now is sounding —
Wondrous, breathing-bells resounding!
O! Upward climb the living tree;
Hark to the cosmic symphony.
From Om, the soundless roar! From Om
The call for light o’er dark to roam.
From Om the music of the spheres!
From Om the mist of nature’s tears!
All things of earth and heaven declare,
Om! Om! Resounding everywhere!

— from Whispers from Eternity, by Paramahansa Yogananda


/ Image by Marketa /

A meditation today on Omkara, the primal sound of being, by the great early 20th century ambassador of yogic philosophy, Paramahansa Yogananda.

Whence, whence this soundless roar doth come

When the attention is turned inward a soft sound is heard. At first it might be like the quiet chirping of crickets in the night, the hum of beesong (“The bumble-bee now hums along –“), or the flowing of a gentle stream. It is heard as a random, soothing “white noise” that seems to emanate from the base of the skull.

‘Tis then that one doth hear Om’s tread

When focused upon with a still mind and deep attention, this sound resolves into a clearer pitch that can resemble the pure note of a flute or the ringing of a bell. First it is heard and, finally, felt throughout the body.

This sound is Krishna’s flute calling his devotees to him (“From Krishna’s flute the call is sweet”). It is the ringing of the bells of paradise (“Wondrous, breathing-bells resounding”). Wordless, it is the vibratory Word through which creation manifests.

On shores of bliss, Om, booming, breaks!

This sound signals the beginning of deep meditation. The more we open to the sound, the more the attention is drawn heavenward while the divine flow pours through us.

Yogananda makes some other important yogic references in this poem worth our contemplation:

The hustling heart, the boasting breath,
No more shall cause the yogi’s death

In some forms of yogic practice, part of the goal is to settle the energies of the body so profoundly that breath and heartbeat themselves are suspended, allowing the subtler energies to flow unimpeded. The energetic demands and rhythms of the body no longer disrupt the deepest communion and, thus, no longer “cause the yogi’s death,” which is separation from the Eternal. (It should be obvious, however, that attempting such practices can be dangerous without knowledgeable guidance.)

Dimness of starlight seen aloft…

Most meditation practices encourage the restful centering of the eyes beneath closed lids, focusing either upward toward the center of the brow (common in most yogic practices), or downward to the tip of the nose (some Buddhist practices). Either focal point causes the attention to settle at the point between the eyebrows — the ajna chakra or “third eye.” When this energetic center becomes spiritually activated, and the meditator is in deep quiet, a glowing point or ball of light is witnessed internally. This is the initiate’s star, the “Star of the East” that leads us to enlightenment. As the meditator focuses on this point of light, the subtle energies awaken and begin to rise upward, toward the light, toward enlightenment…

O! Upward climb the living tree…

Yogananda is referring here to the shushumna, the central energetic pathway that runs up the spine. It is often described as a tree. A primary goal of yoga is to awaken the spiritual energies and awareness commonly trapped at the base of the spine until they rise up the shushumna “tree” to the crown, initiating enlightenment.

So let’s remember to pause, to grow quiet, and to listen for that sweet, secret sound…

OM


Recommended Books: Paramahansa Yogananda

Whispers from Eternity Autobiography of a Yogi The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Explained


Paramahansa Yogananda, Paramahansa Yogananda poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Paramahansa Yogananda

India (1893 – 1952) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu

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May 18 2017

Video: Lost Bardic Chairs

Published by under Poetry,Videos

The Welsh have a tradition of honoring the winner of their National Eisteddfod poetry competitions with with a custom made chair. These chairs are works of art, many of them, thrones dedicated to their great poets.

Several known chairs from the last century and a half have gone missing, however. This is a fascinating half-hour documentary of one poet’s search for those lost chairs, especially for the chairs awarded to Dewi Emrys, the only poet to have been awarded four chairs.

The video is in the Welsh language, with English subtitles, making it that much more of a cultural adventure.

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May 17 2017

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – Ha! A rush of bliss (from Faust)

Published by under Poetry

Ha! A rush of bliss (from Faust)
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

English version by Peter Salm

Ha! A rush of bliss
flows suddenly through all my senses!
I feel a glow, a holy joy of life
which sets my veins and flesh afire.
Was it a god that drew these signs
which soothe my inward raging
and fill my wretched heart with joy,
and with mysterious strength
reveal about me Nature’s pulse?
Am I a god? The light pervades me so!
In these pure ciphers I can see
living Nature spread out before my soul.
At last I understand the sage’s words:
“The world of spirits is not closed:
your mind is shut, your heart is dead!
Pupil, stand up and unafraid
bathe your earthly breast in morning light!”

How things are weaving one in one;
each lives and works within the other.
Heaven’s angels dip and soar
and hold their golden pails aloft;
with fragrant blessings on their wings,
they penetrate the earthly realm from Heaven
and all make all resound in harmony.

— from Faust, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe / Translated by Peter Salm


/ Image by Shahram Sharif /

This section of Goethe’s Faust is worth deep contemplation. Goethe had a complex and evolving relationship to the religion and ideas of his day. He was a critic of Christian theology and institutions, though he appears to have been inwardly devout, embracing and exploring aspects of inner Christianity, western esotericism, and even Jewish mysticism.

These lines are a delightfully breathless description of the experiences of mystical union:

The bliss experienced through the senses.

Being pervaded by light.

An inner heat or sense of fire.

The quieting of the mind and emotions, the soothing of “inward raging.”

The heart being filled with an indescribable joy.

The “pure ciphers,” the awareness of essential emptiness or no-thing-ness, yet utter fulfillment in the experience of the radiant whole.

The transcendent awareness of Nature and the interconnectedness of things, “How things are weaving into one, / each lives and works within the other.”

The full vessel or cup holding a heavenly liquid, the “golden pails.”

A sublimely delightful fragrance or perfume.

The sense that everything is humming or vibrating in a symphonic harmony.

As Goethe says in a subsequent passage, “What pageantry!”

Yet, to one not securely seated in the transcendent awareness, it can rise and then recede. Not yet possessing complete familiarity with the interior psychic terrain, how do you find your way back to that realm? It can suddenly seem all too ephemeral, intangible. Where is it? What is there to grab hold of?

The mystic must not merely stumble into the heavenly realm, but learn its pathways intimately, to return again and again until that bliss is recognized as one’s true home.

Have a blissful day!


Recommended Books: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Faust News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Germany (1749 – 1832) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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May 12 2017

Ayaz – Coming to know You

Published by under Poetry

Coming to know You
by Ayaz

Coming to know You
Is like being
Dismantled from the inside
One tenacious fibre
At a time
Slowly a space opens
Then a chamber
Then the sky
Into which
Flocks of doves
Are constantly being released.

— from For You: A Collection of Prayer Poems, by Ayaz


/ Image by EquinomChaidez /

The poetry of Ayaz arrived in my mail box a few years ago. The small paperback book came with a brief note, and no contact information. All I have been able to find out is that Ayaz is the Sufi name of Angus Landman.

Ayaz’s poems are short prayers and flashes of insight. Despite their simplicity and lack of ornamentation, these poems keep inviting me to re-read them.

Just two statements in this poem. Being dismantled. Opening up.

Coming to know You
Is like being
Dismantled from the inside
One tenacious fibre
At a time

The more we come to know the divine, the more our old sense of self is taken apart. Each resistant piece is gently, patiently worked free and set aside to be viewed for what it is.

Slowly a space opens
Then a chamber
Then the sky
Into which
Flocks of doves
Are constantly being released.

The gaps created may feel like wounds at first, but slowly, as more of the artificial self is dismantled, the spaces created reveal more and more. Until an inner sky opens before us. How can such unexpected joy and life be found there?

Perhaps we should we just call it the smile of the Beloved.

Have a beautiful day!


Recommended Books: Ayaz

For You: A Collection of Prayer Poems For You Too


Ayaz

England (Contemporary)
Muslim / Sufi

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May 09 2017

Abu-Said Abil-Kheir – Sorrow looted this heart

Published by under Poetry

Sorrow looted this heart
by Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

English version by Vraje Abramian

Sorrow looted this heart,
and Your Love threw it to the winds.
This is how the secret which saints and seers were denied
was whispered to me.

— from Nobody, Son of Nobody: Poems of Shaikh Abu-Saeed Abil-Kheir, Translated by Vraje Abramian


/ Image by Lin Zhizhao /

Why does Abu-Said open this poem with such a gloomy line about sorrow?

Sorrow and loss have an important role in sacred traditions. When we lose something or someone important to us, it is natural to grieve. But there is more going on there — a painful sort of awakening is occurring.

When things or people become important to us, when we think of them as being necessary to our daily lives, that is a sign that we have begun to identify with them. We see ourselves in those people, things, experiences.

Yet, because we have identified with them and come to believe that they are essential to our ongoing existence, their loss is seen by the confused ego as a form of self-death.

In loss, there is an opportunity: We get to witness our own “death.” Over a lifetime, loss happens periodically. Yet, when we start to really pay attention, we are surprised by our continuing life in the midst of that loss. Over time, if we approach loss with heart and attention, we stop identifying with the naturally shifting world around us. This doesn’t mean we stop loving the people in our lives, nor do we need to stop valuing important objects and experiences in our lives — it just means that when they recede from our lives at the proper time, it is no longer a life and death crisis for the ego.

Ultimately, the only sorrow that is real is the burning desire for return to unity with the Divine. This is what Abu-Said is talking about when he opens this poem with the line, “Sorrow looted my heart.” That fundamental ache for union takes over the sincere seeker’s heart, emptying it of all else.

The irony is that when we finally stop identifying with the endless parade of external experiences — the many external gains and losses — we discover that we have never been in any way separated from the essential unity. By clinging to external gain and struggling to prevent external loss, we train our awareness to fixate on the outward shifting phenomena of life… and lose sight of the stable unity that we inherently are amidst that kaleidoscopic show.

Through courageous openness, through utter surrender to the natural process of change and occasional loss, we slowly (at times, painfully) lose our false identification with what was not truly our self. Through fearless “sorrow,” possessiveness is slowly lost or, as the poet says, the heart is “looted.” We become completely free from false identification and attachments that no longer serve the spirit.

It is at that moment of freedom that the point of identity settles properly within our true nature, finally witnessing our being everywhere, without limit, without true loss. We are flooded with an indescribable joy and love and sense of wholeness. It is as if the heart has been expanded incomprehensibly by that love and thrown “to the [formless, everywhere present] winds.”

This is one of the very difficult lessons for us all, the willingness to embrace sorrow, fearlessly, with unedited awareness, with profound self-kindness. This slowly frees us from misidentification with external experiences that come and go. It loosens our grip on the limited ideas of who and what we really are. Slowly, the awareness returns to rest at the center — and from there expands beyond our imaginings.

It is the broken heart that opens.


Recommended Books: Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Nobody, Son of Nobody: Poems of Shaikh Abu-Saeed Abil-Kheir Love’s Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition The Mystics of Islam
More Books >>


Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

Turkmenistan (967 – 1049) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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May 05 2017

Thomas Merton – In Silence

Published by under Poetry

In Silence
by Thomas Merton

Be still.
Listen to the stones of the wall.
Be silent, they try
to speak your

name.
Listen
to the living walls.

Who are you?
Who
are you? Whose
silence are you?

Who (be quiet)
are you (as these stones
are quiet). Do not
think of what you are
still less of
what you may one day be.

Rather
be what you are (but who?)
be the unthinkable one
you do not know.

O be still, while
you are still alive,
and all things live around you

speaking (I do not hear)
to your own being,
speaking by the unknown
that is in you and in themselves.

“I will try, like them
to be my own silence:
and this is difficult. The whole
world is secretly on fire. The stones
burn, even the stones they burn me.
How can a man be still or
listen to all things burning?
How can he dare to sit with them
when all their silence is on fire?”

— from The Strange Islands: Poems by Thomas Merton, by Thomas Merton


/ Image by bpkuk1978 /

I thought I’d continue with the theme of silence from Monday’s poem…

I love the questions that impregnate this poem.

Be silent, they try
to speak your

name.

Does your name have any inherent meaning?
Are you your name?
When people call your name, are they calling you, or some idea of you?
If you are not your name, what is the purpose of a name?
If you are not your name, what then do you call yourself?

Listen
to the living walls.

Who are you?
Who
are you? Whose
silence are you?

This is more than a question, really, almost an insistent demand: Who are you? Who are you?

But the question isn’t tossed to the busy, thinking mind, which has a thousand quick answers. Merton insists on silence. Remove the background of environment, society, relationship, even thoughts about yourself. THEN ask the question, Who are you? WHO are you?

Who (be quiet)
are you (as these stones
are quiet).

In that open silence, the question shifts and morphs. WHAT are you?
Perhaps you are someone else’s dream…?
Or someone else’s silence…?
Are you separate from the silence?
Do you even exist in that emptiness?
Have you simply imagined yourself?
Can you re-imagine yourself?
HOW would you re-imagine yourself?

Rather
be what you are (but who?)
be the unthinkable one
you do not know.

Who (be quiet) are you?

O be still, while
you are still alive,
and all things live around you

speaking (I do not hear)
to your own being,
speaking by the unknown
that is in you and in themselves.

Merton suggests that there is a grand, universal dialog occurring all around us — in that overlooked silence. Everything is alive, and flowing through that life is a silence, and that silence is speaking to us.

You say you do not hear. But be silent, be quiet, be still. And you will realize that you are already part of the conversation.

“I will try, like them
to be my own silence:

Yes! We want to BE our own silence!

To be filled with noise is to be distracted from one’s own self. To recognize our own silence, to be comfortable with it, to BE it — that requires nothing less than to be at ease with one’s heart and to rest like royalty there.

…and this is difficult. The whole
world is secretly on fire.

The whole world burns with this stillness. There is a light and a dancing life hidden in the silence.

How can a man be still or
listen to all things burning?
How can he dare to sit with them
when all their silence is on fire?

And that silent fire can be overwhelming, frightening, for it consumes everything, including one’s ego and one’s name. So how can one be still in the midst of such a conflagration?

The bold dare the heat… and come to rest in the silence.


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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May 01 2017

Gabriel Rosenstock – I create silences

Published by under Poetry

I create silences
by Gabriel Rosenstock

Dar Óma
I create silences
wherever I go
in silence You come to me
I close my eyes and ears
to worlds
my lips

if people ask for directions
I point to the gibbous moon
when asked how I am
I smile the cusp of an eclipse

should someone ask the time
they’ll see in my eyes
it is Dar Óma time
to pray
and to praise

all of creation
is getting in the mood
insects flit silently
movement
but no rustle from trees
I cannot hear my heartbeat

in a distant land
You move noiselessly

sunlight briefly strokes the haggard face of a mountain
a hare cocks his ears
You listen

— from Uttering Her Name, by Gabriel Rosenstock


/ Image by JolieARTphotography /

I am back. Let’s resume our poetic conversations…

Thoughts about the Goddess have been in my mind recently, the feminine face of God, the Divine Mother. Going through rough periods in life, especially when our pretense of control is brushed aside by circumstance, we naturally turn to the Divine in the loving, protective, creative, supportive aspect of the Mother.

I was reminded of the cycle of goddess poems in Uttering Her Name by the wonderful Irish poet, Gabriel Rosenstock.

Dar Óma, is an Irish goddess, daughter of Oghma, who gave the gift of writing to the Celts. So we might relate to Dar Óma as a goddess of poetry and inspiration, a divine muse.

If we spend much time with her, the goddess’s enchanting wordplay somehow leads us into a world of secret silences.

in silence You come to me

It is from the well of silence that poetry in its full magic comes to us. Real words are born in silence. The magic of ourselves is shown to us in silence. Life awakens in silence. And a little-known goddess of poetry stands revealed as the Mother Goddess Herself, the Source from which all being is born.

Time to notice the sunlight caressing the face of the weary mountain, and fall silent…

should someone ask the time
they’ll see in my eyes
it is Dar Óma time
to pray
and to praise

Have a beautiful day, full of sweet silences!


Recommended Books: Gabriel Rosenstock

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Bliain an Bhandé – Year of the Goddess Uttering Her Name Haiku Enlightenment Haiku: The Gentle Art of Disappearing
More Books >>


Gabriel Rosenstock, Gabriel Rosenstock poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Gabriel Rosenstock

Ireland (1949 – )
Secular or Eclectic
Primal/Tribal/Shamanic : Celtic

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Apr 14 2017

Jay Ramsay – In the End: The Beginning

Published by under Poetry

In the End: The Beginning
by Jay Ramsay

There is something in the end there is no avoiding
That is more present than breath, than self, than distraction
More present than this moment? Yes, even that —

Even than all those birds perched high in the Tree of Heaven
That broke into all your wondering — even than
That huge exotic shrine at the centre of your heart,
Your voice, your whole face turned inward…
Or mine now — as I cut it back, back
From my thoughts: to my being; then my breath
And then, not even that

And across the gulf of silence from before
Names, images — before whiteness was even born —
And now, at the heart of emptiness
Where there is no I, nor breathing even
Or only this suspended pause

‘There is only Love that made us, only Love’
And you in the vast silence like an ocean without water,
Like rain before rain —
like an unbroken mirror

You in the Womb of Love.


/ Image by Hidden-target /

I thought perhaps this poem today in anticipation of Easter.

And across the gulf of silence from before
Names, images — before whiteness was even born —

A contemplation of endings, of death, and how, within that void, is a nameless something…

And now, at the heart of emptiness
Where there is no I, nor breathing even
Or only this suspended pause

A core essence that remains that is whole and unwounded.

‘There is only Love that made us, only Love’
And you in the vast silence like an ocean without water,
Like rain before rain —
like an unbroken mirror

It gathers itself, ready to be reborn.

You in the Womb of Love.

Have a beautiful weekend. And if you celebrate Easter, may it be a time of rebirth and renewal, allowing what you have outgrown to fall away while welcoming new life, new possibility, new purpose, and new spirit.


Recommended Books: Jay Ramsay

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Diamond Cutters: Visionary Poets in America, Britain & Oceania Places of Truth: Journeys into Sacred Wilderness Out of Time Kingdom of the Edge: Poems for the Spirit
More Books >>


Jay Ramsay, Jay Ramsay poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Jay Ramsay

England (Contemporary)
Secular or Eclectic

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Apr 12 2017

Hawaiian – Ho’opuka E Ka La (Rise, O Sun)

Published by under Poetry

Ho’opuka E Ka La (Rise, O Sun)
by Hawaiian (Anonymous)

Ho’opuka e ka la ma ka hikina
Me ka huaka`i hele no Kumukahi

Ha’a mai na ‘iwa me Hi’iaka
Me Kapo-Laka i ka uluwehiwehi

Ne’e mai na ‘iwa ma ku’u alo
Me ke alo kapu o ka aiwaiwa

Ho’i no e ke kapu me na ali’i
E ola makou apau loa la

Ea la, ea la, ea la, ea

He inoa no Hi’iaka I Ka Poli ‘O Pele

==

Rise, O sun in the east
With a procession going to Kumukahi

Dancing are the beautiful ones with Hi’iaka
And Kapo-Laka in the verdant grove

Moving ahead are the dancers toward me
And to the sacred presence of the divine

Let the sacred ways return to the chiefs
Let us all give everlasting praise

Ea la, ea la, ea la, ea

In the name of Hi’iaka-in-the-bosom-of Pele


/ Image by Smiling-Llama /

I lived for a few years in Hawaii when I was in my early 30s. I spent a lot of time in fasting and meditation among the eucalyptus trees growing on the slopes of Haleakala Volcano on Maui. I also became fascinated by the Hawaiian culture and language. I didn’t live there long enough to explore deeply, but I was certainly moved by what I found. So why don’t we all let our thoughts drift today with the currents to the Hawaiian islands…

As with all sacred chant, the meaning is compact and layered and only fully reveals itself through the resonance of the human voice. Because the names mentioned here may not be familiar, let’s explore these lines step-by-step.

Rise, O sun in the east
With a procession going to Kumukahi

Kumukahi is the place of the “first beginning,” the easternmost point of Hawaii where the rays of the sun are first seen. These lines can be understood as a greeting to the rising sun, the welcoming of the day, but also for the initiate, it is a poem of enlightenment.

Dancing are the beautiful ones with Hi’iaka
And Kapo-Laka in the verdant grove

This chant particularly honors Hi’iaka, beloved sister of the primal Hawaiian god Pele. She is often associated with the hula and with light. And Kapo-Laka together are the hula god-goddess.

I should pause for a second and talk about hula. We often imagine hula to be just a pretty island style of dance with flower-bedecked girls in grass skirts, and certainly it’s often presented that way to tourists passing through. But real hula is much more. Each movement is considered to be sacred, energetically powerful, and encoded with meaning. And the accompanying chant is poetry, cultural story, and secret wisdom. Hula, in other words, is a living, moving book of sacred knowledge within Hawaiian culture.

Moving ahead are the dancers toward me
And to the sacred presence of the divine

So when the gods and goddesses of hula are invoked, we are summoning within ourselves art and power and wisdom — which lead us to the divine.

The dancers are moving toward the point of the rising sun. It is a procession toward enlightenment.

By the way, the word being translated variously as the “beautiful ones” and the “dancers” is ‘iwa. The ‘iwa is actually an ocean-going bird, also called the frigate bird. But in the layered meanings of the Hawaiian language, it can also mean lover, dancer, and beautiful person. The gliding, far traveling bird seems to suggest an elegance of movement, someone ethereal and lovely, emerging from unknown realms. The ‘iwa brings an angelic quality.

Rather than try to intellectually comprehend every aspect of this chant, try holding onto its images and then chant it out loud. (I won’t tell anyone if you stumble over the sounds. Hawaiian words are too much fun not to try to sound them out at least once!)

ALOHA!


Recommended Books: Hawaiian (Anonymous)

The Unwritten Literature of Hawaii: The Sacred Songs of the Hula


Hawaiian (Anonymous)

Hawaii (17th Century) Timeline
Primal/Tribal/Shamanic : Hawaiian

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Apr 07 2017

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel – The Word Most Precious

Published by under Poetry

The Word Most Precious
by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

English version by Rabbi Zalman M. Schachter-Shalomi

Each single moment greets my life,
A message clear from timelessness.
All names and words recall to me
The word most precious: God!

Pebbles twinkle up like stars,
Silent raindrops echo true,
What all creation echoes too,
My Father, Teacher, word from You.

My All, Your Name is my safe refuge.
Without Your nearness I am naught,
So lonely, saddening, is that thought.

All I possess, is just this word —
If forgetfulness would snatch a name from me
Let it be mine not Thine,
So screams in dread that heart of mine.

With every word I nickname You,
I call you ‘Woods’ and ‘Night’ and ‘Ah’ and ‘Yes,’
With all my instants weaving sacred time
A bit of ever-always is my gift to You.

Would that for Eternity
I could celebrate a holiday for You.
Not just a day — a lifetime. Please!
How insignificant my thrift and gift

Of offerings and adoration.
What can my efforts do for You
But this: to wander everywhere and bear
a living witness that shows I care.

– from “Human, God’s Ineffable Name,” by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, freely rendered by Rabbi Zalman M. Schacter-Shalomi. Available from the Reb Zalman Legacy Project


/ Image by skylovekiss /

Each single moment greets my life

It has been too long since we’ve had a poem from the Jewish tradition, so I thought this poem by Rabbi Heschel would set a nice tone as we enter the spring holiday season.

Passover begins this Monday evening. Regardless of spiritual tradition, it’s a good time of year to recognize slavery in its many different forms, both external and internal, and to remember the ways each of us conducts our own personal Exodus toward freedom.

All names and words recall to me
The word most precious: God!

This poem is a beautiful meditation on how the specific — each moment, each word and each object — when approached with attention and presence, is really an echo of the eternal.

With every word I nickname You,
I call you ‘Woods’ and ‘Night’ and ‘Ah’ and ‘Yes,’

Continuously recalling this truth to our awareness, we then can experience the world, not as exiles from the divine, but turning each moment into an encounter with the divine.

Rabbi Heschel’s poem focuses on remembrance of God’s name, so central to Kabbalah, as it is in Muslim zikr, Hindu japa, even echoing in Christian practices of saying the rosary or the Jesus Prayer.

What I really respond to here is the depth of Rabbi Heschel’s understanding what the name of God is. “The word most precious” or the name of God is more than a name we have draped upon the Divine. It is not confined to any single word or combination of words. The true name of God is whatever directs our awareness Godward. Understood this way, anything, any single moment, approached with open awareness can become the name of God, re-introducing us into the Divine Presence.

Pebbles twinkle up like stars,
Silent raindrops echo true,
What all creation echoes too,
My Father, Teacher, word from You.

Recalling this truth becomes a “safe refuge,” maintaining our “nearness” to the eternal.

With all my instants weaving sacred time…


Recommended Books: Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Man Is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism The Prophets ABC News Classics: Rabbi Heschel (DVD) Spiritual Radical: Abraham Joshua Heschel in America
More Books >>


Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel poetry, Jewish poetry Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Poland & US (1907 – 1972) Timeline
Jewish

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Apr 03 2017

e. e. cummings – i thank You God for most this amazing

Published by under Poetry

i thank You God for most this amazing
by e. e. cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

— from E.E. Cummings: Complete Poems 1904-1962, by e. e. cummings


/ Image by Shahram Sharif /

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

I first read this more than thirty years ago, and I still get shivers reading those opening lines.

The delightfully anarchic poetry of e. e. cummings is more than poetic art, there is something of the mystic experience in it, as well. This poem is a good example.

The two parenthetical verses hint that he is describing much more than simply the natural joy of a beautiful day. There is something truly magical going on here…

He uses Biblical, ecstatic phrasing when he proclaims “(now the ears of my ears are awake and / now the eyes of my eyes are opened).” He isn’t just saying this, he seems to breathlessly shout it out to the “great happening illimitably earth.” This is seeing the inner nature of things, as they are in their true essence. This is not just seeing; he is seeing, not with the eyes, but with the “eyes of my eyes.” Perceiving in this way, we invite the outside in, as if we are ingesting it, integrating it into ourselves. Every experience becomes vivifying nutrition for the soul.

In this new awareness, we perceive not only the living day all around us, we also recognize ourselves for the first time. It is a radical awakening, a new life, a birth of Self —

i who have died and am alive again today.

Have an amazing day!


Recommended Books: e. e. cummings

E.E. Cummings: Complete Poems 1904-1962 73 Poems 1 x 1 [One Times One] 50 Poems 95 Poems
More Books >>


e. e. cummings, e. e. cummings poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry e. e. cummings

US (1894 – 1962) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by e. e. cummings

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Mar 30 2017

Springtime and Support for the Poetry Chaikhana

Spring and all its flowers
      now joyously break their vow of silence.
It is time for celebration, not for lying low;
You too — weed out those roots of sadness from your heart.

The Sabaa wind arrives;
      and in deep resonance, the flower
      passionately rips open its garments,
      thrusting itself from itself.

The Way of Truth, learn from the clarity of water,
Learn freedom from the spreading grass.

~ Hafiz
tr. Homayun Taba & Marguerite Theophil


/ Image by rkramer62 /

Spring has come! Daffodils are popping up in forgotten corners of neighbors’ yards. White blossoms spangle once bare branches. Winter brown grasses have found their green again. Light rainfall in the morning, followed by impossibly blue skies. The world is once again waking up…

=

I don’t say it often enough, but I want to thank you for the many wonderful, wise, touching, playful emails and blog comments I receive from you all each week. Although I can’t respond to them all individually, I read every one, and they make up an important part of my day. Your notes remind me why the Poetry Chaikhana is so important. And I am so grateful to be able to share my love of this poetry with such an engaged community.

Over the past year many of you have sent generous donations, either single donations or steady monthly donations, and it is such a great help. Your contributions help me to cover my regular expenses as I dedicate much of my week to the Poetry Chaikhana.

I want to let you know that your donations mean more to me than their strictly financial value. Beyond the money you have sent in, I know that each donation came from a moment when you decided to change the path of your day, when you stopped whatever you might have been doing to create an online payment account or to sit down and write out and mail in a check. And, of course, access to the Poetry Chaikhana is free. You didn’t have to make a donation at all. You could have chosen to go on with your day instead, but instead you went to the effort to send a donation and possibly even write a personal note of thanks.

spring rain–
all things on earth
become beautiful

~ Fukuda Chiyo-ni

What your donation tells me is that the Poetry Chaikhana means something to you, that it has touched you or inspired you or helped you through a particularly difficult day, so much so that you wanted to reach out personally. It’s not just that you want the Poetry Chaikhana to continue, it is that you want to share your own personal, direct support, that you want to be a part of the Poetry Chaikhana’s support.

I don’t take that for granted. I am humbled and honored by every single donation, whether it is $2 or $200, because I know what it represents to you. I feel the message of support behind it.

spring rain–
pond and river
are one

~ Buson

Even with that wonderful support from several of you, I have to admit that I am struggling to make ends meet right now…

I like the ideal of the Poetry Chaikhana as a free offering, and I have no intention of changing that. But the truth is that the Poetry Chaikhana is not free. I put significant amounts of my time and energy into gathering the poems and translations, writing up commentary, maintaining the website, and now editing and publishing books.

I try, through sheer love for the work, to accomplish all of that in the mornings and on weekends without disrupting my regular job, but because of my chronic fatigue/ME I can’t maintain that pace for long periods without health consequences. Increasingly I am having to choose between paid work hours and the Poetry Chaikhana, and that balance doesn’t always work perfectly.

I need your help, the help of the Poetry Chaikhana community, to create a more sustainable balance over the long term.


If the Poetry Chaikhana is important to you, please consider making a donation.
Now is an especially helpful time to do so.

With several thousand people receiving this email, and many more who regularly visit the Poetry Chaikhana website and Facebook page, we should be able to collectively support my work.

Behind the Scenes

You may wonder what I’m actually doing here on the other end of these poetry emails. Here is a sketch of what my work with the Poetry Chaikhana looks like each morning. Continue Reading »

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Mar 27 2017

Ivan M. Granger – in love with the new sun

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

in love with the new sun
by Ivan M. Granger

in love with the new sun
the cherry blossom forgets
the night’s frost

— from Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journeyby Ivan M. Granger


/ Image by A-Daly /

I wrote this poem several years ago in my Maui days, on a spring morning after emerging from a meditation. It was a time of opening for me, a time of surprising bliss, a time of settling into myself. I had gone through such terrible internal struggles up to that point, but what had kept be balanced and focused through it all had been my fierce determination to seek meaning and insight, a sense of a greater love and truth. And then one day, whoosh!, it was like I had come through the storm and found myself at rest in a wide open peaceful sea.

That struggle I went through to get there, it wasn’t even that I thought it had been “worth it;” it was is if even the struggle itself had been subsumed by that expansive bliss until it no longer existed, except as a story I had told myself.

I had the image of spring after a hard winter. Bright, blossoming with new life. And I wrote this haiku.


in love with the new sun
the cherry blossom forgets
the night’s frost

A few years back I was contacted by a young woman in San Francisco who asked my permission to use this haiku in a tattoo. I was flattered and surprised. I mean, to have these words, which popped into my mind in a moment of inspiration, tattooed onto your body, to carry them with you for the rest of your days, that is humbling indeed. More than that, it was a responsibility after the fact. I really had to sit with the haiku for a bit and decide if I thought it was worthy of such an honor.

In her email, she said that the poem spoke to her, that the cherry blossoms suggested to her that, because life is short, you need to live to the fullest and seize opportunities, and that any difficulties or sorrows are temporary. She mentioned that she had been through many hardships in her life but that she recognized the importance of not holding grudges or dwelling in the past “because every day is special… like cherry blossoms that bloom for a short time.” Clearly a wise woman, wisdom that has been hard-earned.

I gladly gave her my permission to use the poem in her tattoo. But I still had a bit of a dilemma: With this haiku being utilized in such a special way, I wanted to ask for a photograph, but, you know, I wasn’t sure exactly where the tattoo would be placed on her body. I tried to find the most diplomatic language possible to ask for a photo “if appropriate.” A few weeks later she sent back a snapshot of the lines of the haiku tattooed in an elegant script running along her lower ribs on one side.

(Whew.)

Have a beautiful day! Don’t forget to feel the new sun on your face.


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
More Books >>


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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Mar 24 2017

Matsuo Basho – Crow’s abandoned nest

Published by under Poetry

Crow’s
by Matsuo Basho

English version by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto

Crow’s
abandoned nest,
a plum tree.

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


/ Image by Nicki Verkevisser /

Death has been on my mind. I found out yesterday that a relative of mine, an aunt I was close to when I was a teenager, just passed away. Truthfully, I had been out of touch with her in recent years, but I still found myself experiencing the entire range of responses at the news of her passing– mild shock, slowly welling grief, replaying of past memories.

When someone we feel a connection to dies, we often enter a shadow realm ourselves. It is as if we walk with that loved one to the threshold. That sense of the world’s structure that seemed so solid and unquestioned becomes suddenly fluid. When death ceases to be a distant concept and, instead, shows itself to be a present reality, everything starts to shift and slide. Any thing, any person can move in and out of the world. A loved one can step beyond our embrace. In a world of such disappearances, reality itself becomes disconcertingly intangible.

And yet there is life. Even in the presence of death and loss there is life. Sometimes because of death there is life. One without the other doesn’t fully make sense. Life and death highlight each other, strengthen each other, each giving meaning to the other.

Thinking these thoughts, I came across this haiku by Basho…

It’s usually a mistake to simplistically explain a haiku’s meaning. Its primary impact is not really comprehended by the logical mind at all. Most haiku aren’t composed with intentioned metaphors; rather, the moment naturally resonates with nature’s implied truths.

But, for the sake of play, let’s explore this one anyway…

We see an abandoned nest seated in a plum tree. The nest is an image of emptiness, perhaps even desolation or death. But the plum tree suggests life. Here at the beginning of spring, I instinctively imagine the first pink and white blossoms to be appearing on its branches. Life and death at ease with each other. Sorrow and hope emphasizing each other through contrast.

That’s my first read, what I feel as I first glimpse these images in my mind’s eye.

But we can back up, clear our minds, and read Basho’s lines on a very different level.

In this haiku, each line gives us a distinct element: a crow, an abandoned nest, and a plum tree. Basho ordered his lines so first we have the awareness of a crow, which might be understood as representing the busy mind, a bird that proclaims its presence by croaking in the winter sky. Like the mind, the crow is a carrion feeder, ungainly in its movements but somehow suggestive of a mysterious hidden reality.

Next, Basho shows us that this crow has abandoned its nest. With the coming of spring, the crow has left. With the blossoming results of winter’s discipline, the mind has emptied itself, grown quiet, still.

An empty nest may be a curiosity for a moment, but its animating principle, the part that normally holds our attention has vanished, and so the vision widens and we finally notice the plum tree that supports it. Watching the empty mind, we finally expand our perception and recognize the full awareness in flower. We witness the natural, unmodified awareness of the Buddha mind that upholds mind and all creation.

Crow — empty nest — plum tree.
Mind — no mind — Buddha mind.

To those of us who have felt the loss of a loved one, perhaps we will allow some grieving part of ourselves to open and expand. And may we celebrate the life flowering all around us amidst this fluid, ever changing universe!


Recommended Books: Matsuo Basho

Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library) Haiku Enlightenment The Four Seasons: Japanese Haiku
More Books >>


Matsuo Basho, Matsuo Basho poetry, Buddhist poetry Matsuo Basho

Japan (1644 – 1694) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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Mar 22 2017

Kahlil Gibran – Self-Knowledge

Published by under Poetry

Self-Knowledge
by Kahlil Gibran

And a man said, Speak to us of Self-Knowledge.
And he answered saying:
Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.
But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart’s knowledge.
You would know in words that which you have always known in thought.
You would touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams.

And it is well you should.
The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea;
And the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes.
But let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure;
And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.
For self is a sea boundless and measureless.

Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.”
Say not, “I have found the path of the soul.” Say rather, “I have met the soul walking upon my path.”
For the soul walks upon all paths.
The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.

— from The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran


/ Image by jin.thai /

Isn’t this wonderful? Each time I return to this poem and reread its lines, I feel as if I am greeting old friends in the phrases. They continue to stay with me.

Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.

Especially that middle section…

The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea…

Gibran is giving us a tangible image of self as a sea of infinite depths. And it is our very nature to seek self-knowledge, ultimately to pour ourselves into it, to discover treasure within its depths.

I like his assertion that we should not attempt to weigh or measure what we discover.

But let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure;
And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.

It is as if when we measure, we think we have comprehended and possessed it, but we have in some way externalized it and defined artificial boundaries. By quantifying, we have limited what is, by nature, limitless.

For self is a sea boundless and measureless.

And his final lines–

The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.


Recommended Books: Kahlil Gibran

The Prophet The Beloved: Reflections on the Path of the Heart Broken Wings Jesus the Son of Man Kahlil Gibran: His Life & World
More Books >>


Kahlil Gibran, Kahlil Gibran poetry, Christian poetry Kahlil Gibran

Lebanon/US (1883 – 1931) Timeline
Christian
Secular or Eclectic

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Mar 22 2017

New Interview with Ivan through Sacred Healing Telesummit

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had recorded an extended interview Susanne Steinel on the healing and transformative qualities of poetry. In that conversation, I discuss how poetry, especially sacred poetry, can be deeply healing to the psyche and help us to restore our connection to life, the world, and to spirit. I read a few of my favorite poems and discuss the healing responses we have to them simply by hearing them, speaking them. I really enjoyed this conversation, and I think you might too.

The interview will be available next week through a free telesummit called “Sacred Wounds – Sacred Shifts – Sacred Healing.” In addition to my talk, the summit will include discussions with Robert Moss, Normandi Ellis, Lynn V. Andrews, and several other fascinating teachers, healers, and shamans.

The telesummit is free. To register, click here.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about my talk or any of the conversations that are part of the summit.

Ivan

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Mar 17 2017

Wendell Berry – A Spiritual Journey

Published by under Poetry

A Spiritual Journey
by Wendell Berry

And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,
no matter how long,
but only by a spiritual journey,
a journey of one inch,
very arduous and humbling and joyful,
by which we arrive at the ground at our feet,
and learn to be at home.

— from The Collected Poems of Wendell Berry, 1957-1982, by Wendell Berry


/ Image by LittleLottexo /

I keep returning to the poetry of Wendell Berry. Few writers these days are truly willing to be still and to befriend the world of growing things outside the city limits. In the modern world, that’s practically blasphemy. Writers like that get labeled “poet” and “crank” so they can be safely ignored — unless their writing is unavoidably good. Wendell Berry’s words are like that.

Unfortunately for the hyperactive world, Wendell Berry’s poetry is filled with the presence and heart secretly craved by us all, making it difficult to ignore.

And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,
no matter how long…

Have a beautiful, restful weekend. Me, I will be wrapped in blankets recovering from the flu. (Sniffle. Cough.)


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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