Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

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

Continue Reading »

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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
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US (1934 – )
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Mar 10 2017

Li-Young Lee – One Heart

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One Heart
by Li-Young Lee

Look at the birds. Even flying
is born

out of nothing. The first sky
is inside you, open

at either end of day.
The work of wings

was always freedom, fastening
one heart to every falling thing.

— from Book of My Nights, by Li-Young Lee


/ Image by hashmil /

We are in the midst of Lent, a time for prayer and purification as we approach Easter. For many, this is a time of fasting. That started me thinking about the question of emptiness, and what that has to do with spiritual opening.

And then I was reminded of the wondrous opening lines of Li-Young Lee’s poem:

Look at the birds. Even flying
is born

out of nothing.

To take flight, birds launch themselves into apparent emptiness. Of course, successful flight requires an awareness that the sky is not truly empty, but a realm of subtle substance that can support us.

One must cultivate an inner emptiness and lightness in order to let go of the comforting certainty of the earth, to confidently leave it behind and meet that intangible space of open sky, and there dance among its secret currents.

The first sky
is inside you, open

at either end of day.

This, I think, is an important reason why practices such as fasting and other expressions of moderate asceticism are encouraged on occasion by most spiritual traditions. Forget the tormented dogmas of self-denial that tend to lead to hatred of the body — which should automatically be seen as a spiritual dead end. The real purpose of these sorts of practices is not disdain for the body but, rather, to awaken in our awareness that sense of openness, spaciousness, and inner quiet… while allowing the body to rest and regenerate and become more finely attuned to our higher purposes in life.

If we don’t cultivate awareness of the inner sky, the “first sky,” we fail to recognize that taking flight in the world around us is our natural expression. Instead, we fear that we will fall.

The work of wings

was always freedom, fastening
one heart to every falling thing.

Perhaps we can think of flight as intentionally falling without ever hitting the ground. We leap into space, letting that inner emptiness lift us up. And perhaps what we thought was fear was in reality the exhilaration of the heart encountering the openness of the living moment while we soar upon nothing.


Recommended Books: Li-Young Lee

Book of My Nights Rose The City in Which I Love You Behind My Eyes: Poems


Li-Young Lee, Li-Young Lee poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Li-Young Lee

US (1957 – )
Secular or Eclectic

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Mar 08 2017

Anna Akhmatova – A land not mine

Published by under Poetry

A land not mine, still
by Anna Akhmatova

English version by Jane Kenyon

A land not mine, still
forever memorable,
the waters of its ocean
chill and fresh.

Sand on the bottom whiter than chalk,
and the air drunk, like wine,
late sun lays bare
the rosy limbs of the pinetrees.

Sunset in the ethereal waves:
I cannot tell if the day
is ending, or the world, or if
the secret of secrets is inside me again.

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


/ Image by GregoriusSuhartoyo /

I was thinking about which poem to select in honor of International Women’s Day. My first thought was to select a poem in honor of the Goddess, the feminine face of the Divine, a poem to the primal Woman. Perhaps a poem addressed to Kali or Durga or maybe one of the pre-Christian goddesses of Europe. But I also wanted something written by a woman poet, and most of the poems in adoration of the Goddess that came to mind are by men. I started scanning through the women poets on the Poetry Chaikhana, and I realized that it has been far too long since I last highlighted a poem by the great Russian poet Anna Akhmatova. Her writing and her life embody so much of the strength of women in a complex and often harsh world, while courageously retaining a vision of the inner life and the aspirations of the human spirit.

This is a favorite poem of mine from Anna Akhmatova. Though she wrote during some of the bleakest times of Soviet Russia, there are moments of radiant — one might even say, transcendent — joy that emerges in her poems.

A land not mine, still
forever memorable…

There is something of the mystic’s experience in these lines. An ocean. Light. Deep rest and the sense of life. A brilliant white. Wine…

Sand on the bottom whiter than chalk,
and the air drunk, like wine…

Soon, you find yourself asking, Is the day ending, or the world? Ultimately, it is you who are ending. The train of mental chatter has come to a halt. The world and what you called yourself are not as you thought at all, and both are new and alive and too vast to be called your own.

Then you know that the secret of secrets is within you. And it is so deeply familiar you must have known it before, and it is there again.

I cannot tell if the day
is ending, or the world, or if
the secret of secrets is inside me again.


Recommended Books: Anna Akhmatova

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova Poems of Akhmatova Dancing with Joy: 99 Poems


Anna Akhmatova, Anna Akhmatova poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Anna Akhmatova

Russia (1889 – 1966) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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Mar 03 2017

Mary Oliver – Wild Geese

Published by under Poetry

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

— from Dream Work, by Mary Oliver


/ Image by lil-Mickey /

I have the sense that it has been a rough week for many people, so I wanted to pick a gentle poem, something uplifting, something that invites us to pause, take a deep breath, and catch a new glimpse of ourselves and the world…

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.

To me this poem is a healing balm, the way it invites us to forgive our own struggles and look beyond them to a larger, living grandeur, of which we are a part.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes…

Late winter here in Colorado…

the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting

Look up and see “the wild geese, high in the clean blue air…” Ancient purpose, animal and magnetic, lined up in chevrons across the winter sky. That eternal determination that marks our direction through the world, to be always “heading home again.”

The geese continuously call out one to another, as we all do, “over and over announcing your place / in the family of things.”


Recommended Books: Mary Oliver

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


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

US (1935 – )
Secular or Eclectic

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Mar 01 2017

Milarepa – The Song of Food and Dwelling

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The Song of Food and Dwelling
by Milarepa

English version by Garma C. C. Chang

I bow down at the feet of the wish-fulfilling Guru.
Pray vouchsafe me your grace in bestowing beneficial food,
Pray make me realize my own body as the house of Buddha,
Pray grant me this knowledge.

I built the house through fear,
The house of Sunyata, the void nature of being;
Now I have no fear of its collapsing.
I, the Yogi with the wish-fulfilling gem,
Feel happiness and joy where’er I stay.

Because of the fear of cold, I sought for clothes;
The clothing I found is the Ah Shea Vital Heat.
Now I have no fear of coldness.

Because of the fear of poverty, I sought for riches;
The riches I found are the inexhaustible Seven Holy Jewels.
Now I have no fear of poverty.

Because of the fear of hunger, I sought for food;
The food I found is the Samadhi of Suchness.
Now I have no fear of hunger.

Because of the fear of thirst, I sought for drink;
The heavenly drink I found is the wine of mindfulness.
Now I have no fear of thirst.

Because of the fear of loneliness, I searched for a friend;
The friend I found is the bliss of perpetual Sunyata.
Now I have no fear of loneliness.

Because of the fear of going astray,
I sought for the right path to follow.
The wide path I found is the Path of Two-in-One.
Now I do not fear to lose my way.

I am a yogi with all desirable possessions,
A man always happy where’er he stays.

Here at Yolmo Tagpu Senge Tson,
The tigress howling with a pathetic, trembling cry,
Reminds me that her helpless cubs are innocently playing.
I cannot help but feel a great compassion for them,
I cannot help but practice more diligently,
I cannot help but augment thus my Bodhi-Mind.

The touching cry of the monkey,
So impressive and so moving,
Cannot help but raise in me deep pity.
The little monkey’s chattering is amusing and pathetic;
As I hear it, I cannot but think of it with compassion.

The voice of the cuckoo is so moving,
And so tuneful is the lark’s sweet singing,
That when I hear them I cannot help but listen —
When I listen to them,
I cannot help but shed tears.

The varied cries and cawings of the crow,
Are a good and helpful friend unto the yogi.
Even without a single friend,
To remain here is a pleasure.
With joy flowing from my heart, I sing this happy song;
May the dark shadow of all men’s sorrows
Be dispelled by my joyful singing.

— from The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa: The Life-Story and Teachings of the Greatest Poet-Saint Ever to Appear in the History of Buddhism, Translated by Garma C. C. Chang


/ Image by worldpilgrim /

We are in the midst of Losar, the Tibetan New Year festival. It is a multi-day festival that began on Monday, February 27. I thought I’d take the opportunity to share a poem by the Tibetan folk hero, saint, and poet Milarepa.

This poem gives us several very specific esoteric references to vital heat, the “Seven Holy Jewels,” samadhi, sunyata, even the wild animals referred to are symbols. But rather than focus on those yogic details, let’s look more broadly at what Milarepa is doing with this song of enlightenment…

He worries about cold, and finds through spiritual practice inner heat. He worries about poverty, and discovers through spiritual practice the inexhaustible wealth of seven jewels. He worries about hunger, and he finds fulness in the perfect meditation of samadhi. He worries about thirst, and he discovers the wine of mindfulness. He worries about loneliness, and he finds in the bliss of sunyata (emptiness) a perpetual companion. He worries about losing his way, but then in the realization of the nondual truth of “Two-in-One” he recognizes the Path everywhere.

Milarepa is showing how, through deep spiritual practice, one’s basic desires are satisfied and all lack is filled… But notice that he is not talking about material providence. He is not saying, ‘I want food so I am given food.’ He is showing how, instead, the awakened energetic body satisfies the desire for psychic fulness which is the root of hunger. The process is not necessarily providing for him in a material sense; instead it is going right to the root of the desire, satisfying the spiritual seed of the desire. It is an acknowledgment that all desires, even for the basic necessities of life, ultimately are a spiritual hunger.

Then Milarepa shifts to a discussion of how the sounds of wild animals awaken profound compassion in his awareness. It must be understood that these animals are representations of forces within his own mind. Their “pathetic” cries, their yearning, their calling out is evidence that the mind is not yet absolutely settled. But you’ll notice that Milarepa has reached a state in which he no longer thinks of those mental forces as being himself, his true nature. Instead, they are lost animals that cannot help their hunger. And he feels compassion for those forces within his mind. And that compassion strengthens his determination to deepen his practice, to bring the mind to complete resolution:

I cannot help but feel a great compassion for them,
I cannot help but practice more diligently,
I cannot help but augment thus my Bodhi-Mind.

Here, alone, in the wilds (of his own awareness), with his fears calmed, his desires satisfied, he is utterly content. “With joy flowing from my heart, I sing this happy song…” And it is through this song itself that he offers compassionate action to the world, for the vibrations of enlightenment the poem embodies have the potential to dispel “all men’s sorrows.” Milarepa knows this because he has just described how his own sorrows have been dispelled.

And may you feel a sense of awakening and renewal. Happy Losar!


Recommended Books: Milarepa

Songs of Spiritual Experience: Tibetan Buddhist Poems of Insight & Awakening The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa: The Life-Story and Teachings of the Greatest Poet-Saint Ever to Appear in the History of Buddhism Songs of Milarepa: (Dover Thrift Edition) Drinking the Mountain Stream: Songs of Tibet’s Beloved Saint, Milarepa The Life of Milarepa: A New Translation from the Tibetan
More Books >>


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Tibet (1052 – 1135) Timeline
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Feb 24 2017

Shankara – Nirvana Shatakam

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Nirvana Shatakam
by Shankara

English version by Ivan M. Granger

I am not mind, not intellect, not ego, not thought.
I am not the ears, the tongue, the nose or the eyes, or what they witness,
I am neither earth nor sky, not air nor light.

I am knowledge and bliss.
I am Shiva! I am Shiva!

I am not the breath of prana, nor its five currents.
I am not the seven elements, nor the five organs,
Nor am I the voice or hands or anything that acts.

I am knowledge and bliss.
I am Shiva! I am Shiva!

I have no hatred or preference, neither greed nor desire nor delusion.
Pride, conflict, jealousy — these have no part of me.
Nothing do I own, nothing do I seek, not even liberation itself.

I am knowledge and bliss.
I am Shiva! I am Shiva!

I know neither virtue nor vice, neither pleasure nor pain.
I know no sacred chants, no holy places, no scriptures, no rituals.
I know neither the taste nor the taster.

I am knowledge and bliss.
I am Shiva! I am Shiva!

I fear not death. I doubt neither my being nor my place.
I have no father or mother; I am unborn.
I have no relatives, no friends. I have no guru and no devotees.

I am knowledge and bliss.
I am Shiva! I am Shiva!

Free from doubt, I am formless.
With knowledge, in knowledge, I am everywhere, beyond perception.
I am always the same. Not free, not trapped — I am.

I am knowledge and bliss.
I am Shiva! I am Shiva!

Truly, I am Shiva, pure awareness.
Shivo Ham! Shivo Ham!

— from The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology), Edited by Ivan M. Granger


/ Image by Ernesto /

In the Hindu calendar, this is Maha Shivaratri, the Great Night of Shiva, honoring the god Shiva and the awakening of life and light and enlightenment in the world. So I thought we should honor this special night with one of the great poems in the Shiva tradition by one of the most important philosopher-saints of Hinduism, Adi Shankara.

These lines are a distillation of Advaita Vedanta, the vision of non-dual reality. Advaita is the realization that underlying the complex diversity of creation is a single Unity. And within that Unity, even the individual is in no way separate or different from that vast Divine. This is why Shankara keeps returning to his refrain:

I am knowledge and bliss.
I am Shiva! I am Shiva!

You might ask, why Shiva? If all is One, why then identify with just one god from among the many gods in the Hindu pantheon?

Some schools of Advaita Vedanta do, in fact, avoid the theistic language of gods and, instead, speak only of the Self — the immense Self that is at once the heart of every individual and also the heart of all Being.

But when adherents of Advaita do speak of gods, they often speak of Shiva. Shiva is the favored god of meditators, yogis, ascetics, those on the path of gnosis. Shiva is seen as pure Being, the fountain of all being. When Shankara repeats, “I am Shiva!” he is declaring that he finds no separation between his individual self and the center of all selves.

I am…

Shankara asserts, “I am,” throughout. By reading this poem, we repeat with him, “I am… I am…” Doing so, we enter into his realization. We take on his awareness. His declaration of what he is and is not becomes our own.

I am not mind, not intellect, not ego, not thought…

Much of this poem is a list of what Shankara realizes we are not.

This is an expression of the ancient practice of neti neti — not this, not that. It is a spiritual examination of everything, while slowly recognizing that no single thing contains the full Reality we seek.

We are not the mind or intellect. We are not the senses or the organs through which we perceive the world. We are not the elemental building blocks of the body or thought.

He also states we are not the qualities or preferences of the personality. The things that tug at us or repel us, they are not what we are, and they are not fundamentally real. Relationships, family, even life and death—none of these things define us or truly tell us who we are.

Shankara has basically negated everything: the body, the mind, desires and fears, relationships, even the hope for liberation itself. What then is left? That’s the question that resonates throughout. Superficial ideas of identity would tell us that nothing remains and one has hit a dead end. Not so. Something remains. When all the rest has been swept aside, something remains. All the things we thought we were can be lost, yet what we are fundamentally remains. Beneath it all there has always been that glowing Self, steady, aware, at rest, blissful, invulnerable. And it says simply, “I am.”

Free from doubt, I am formless.
With knowledge, in knowledge, I am everywhere, beyond perception.
I am always the same. Not free, not trapped—I am.

In celebration, we can sing with Shankara—

I am knowledge and bliss.
I am Shiva! I am Shiva!

Truly, I am Shiva, pure awareness.
Shivo Ham! Shivo Ham!


Recommended Books: Shankara

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Shankara’s Crest Jewel of Discrimination Upadesa Sahasri: A Thousand Teachings Shankara and Indian Philosophy Ramana, Shankara and the Forty Verses: The Essential Teachings of Advaita
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India (788 – 820) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Advaita / Non-Dualist

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Feb 22 2017

Angelus Silesius – So many droplets in the sea

Published by under Poetry

So many droplets in the sea, in bread so many grains
by Angelus Silesius

English version by Gabriel Rosenstock

So many droplets in the sea, in bread so many grains;
So too of our multiplicity, nothing but God remains.

— from Haiku: The Gentle Art of Disappearing, by Gabriel Rosenstock


/ Image by alexandre-deschaumes /

Short poem, short commentary: Many < -> One


Recommended Books: Angelus Silesius

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry German Mystical Writings: Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Jacob Boehme, and others Haiku: The Gentle Art of Disappearing
More Books >>


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Poland/Germany (1624 – 1677) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

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