Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

Dec 04 2013

Anna Swir – My Body Effervesces

Published by under Poetry

My Body Effervesces
by Anna Swir

English version by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan

I am born for the second time.
I am light
as the eyelash of the wind.
I froth, I am froth.

I walk dancing,
if I wish, I will soar.
The condensed lightness
of my body
condenses most forcibly
in the lightness of my foot
and its five toes.
The foot skims the earth
which gives way like compressed air.
An elastic duo
of the earth and of the foot. A dance
of liberation.

I am born for the second time,
happiness of the world
came to me again.
My body effervesces,
I think with my body which effervesces.

If I wish,
I will soar.

— from Soul Food: Nourishing Poems for Starved Minds, Edited by Neil Astley / Edited by Pamela Robertson-Pearce


/ Photo by Joy Krauthammer /

I only recently discovered the poetry of Polish poet Anna Swir. (Her full name is actually Anna Swirszczynska, but I guess it has been shortened by translators for syllabically limited English speakers.)

This poem, in particular, really grabbed my attention.

I am born for the second time.
I am light
as the eyelash of the wind.
I froth, I am froth.

Just those opening lines alone bring a giddy sort of self-recognition and slows our pace to an easy saunter.

And then the following lines–

I walk dancing,
if I wish, I will soar.

Reading those lines, we too begin to move more lightly, playfully. And we start to rise…

An elastic duo
of the earth and of the foot. A dance
of liberation.

…That meeting of earth and foot, a place to stand, to gently push against, and to move upon.

I am born for the second time,
happiness of the world
came to me again.

Okay, I can’t hold back: one quick metaphysical tangent– Religious traditions all over the world, not just Christianity, make references being being born again, a second birth, a spiritual birth, a renewed self. Yet what they fail to mention is that this second birth is not the result of affirming some doctrine; it comes through deep inner opening… and it is accompanied by the most profound giddy bliss! It’s as if there is some great secret delight underlying all of creation, and in that moment of rebirth, the happiness of the world washes over you.

My body effervesces,
I think with my body which effervesces.

From the intellect’s point-of-view, that pervasive joy doesn’t quite make sense. All you have to do is read the day’s news to know how much suffering and trauma exist in the world. Yet there is also this effervescent joy. And it’s not just an idea of joy; it is felt, by every cell of your body. Your body just bubbles with an uncontainable bliss.

Sometimes the situation requires thinking with the intellect in order to engage with the challenges and struggles that churn on the surface of life. But it is just as important is discovering our inherent effervescence, and learn to “think” with that body so we can engage with the world through that deep joy. The intellect can argue that that’s nice, but it is ineffective at solving problems. But try that effervescence. It “knows” something even more powerful: that joy and love are highly contagious. And that’s the most effective work.

So, next time you feel your feet rising, don’t fight it…

If I wish,
I will soar.

Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart – Card Sales!

Wow! The interest in the Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart Card Set has been fantastic! In less than 2 days we’ve already sold out of our initial printing!

But don’t worry — if you have placed an order or want to place an order, I am working with the printer to have more cards ready as soon as possible. They should be available in one to two weeks. Since this card set is a new item, I didn’t anticipate how hugely popular it would be, and so I ordered too few cards initially. But more are coming soon!

If you are interested in receiving a set of these cards in December, place your order soon, and I will do everything I can to get them to you on time.

International Shipment

Several of you have asked about shipping outside the US. As of yesterday, the PayPal order form has been updated to with international shipping prices. So please feel free to order from the UK, Australia, India, Pakistan… I can’t absolutely guarantee that international deliveries will arrive before the end of the year, but I’ll do my best to make it possible.

Non-PayPal Orders

I have received a few questions from people who would like to order but prefer not to use PayPal. You can always send a check or money order (in USD, please) to:

Poetry Chaikhana
PO Box 2320
Boulder, CO 80306
USA

If you mail in payment, I will do my best to get shipments out for the earliest possible delivery.

I do not yet have a merchant credit card account set up. That means I do not have the ability to process credit card numbers directly — sorry.

Thank you, everyone, for your enthusiastic response!






Anna Swir, Anna Swir poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Anna Swir

Poland (1909 – 1984) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Anna Swir

3 responses so far

Dec 04 2013

Card Set Updates

Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart – Card Sales!

Wow! The interest in the Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart Card Set has been fantastic! In less than 2 days we’ve already sold out of our initial printing!

But don’t worry — if you have placed an order or want to place an order, I am working with the printer to have more cards ready as soon as possible. They should be available in one to two weeks. Since this card set is a new item, I didn’t anticipate how hugely popular it would be, and so I ordered too few cards initially. But more are coming soon!

If you are interested in receiving a set of these cards in December, place your order soon, and I will do everything I can to get them to you on time.

International Shipment

Several of you have asked about shipping outside the US. As of yesterday, the PayPal order form has been updated to with international shipping prices. So please feel free to order from the UK, Australia, India, Pakistan… I can’t absolutely guarantee that international deliveries will arrive before the end of the year, but I’ll do my best to make it possible.

Non-PayPal Orders

I have received a few questions from people who would like to order but prefer not to use PayPal. You can always send a check or money order (in USD, please) to:

Poetry Chaikhana
PO Box 2320
Boulder, CO 80306
USA

If you mail in payment, I will do my best to get shipments out for the earliest possible delivery.

I do not yet have a merchant credit card account set up. That means I do not have the ability to process credit card numbers directly — sorry.

Thank you, everyone, for your enthusiastic response!

No responses yet

Nov 26 2013

Life & Death, Belief & Meaning

Published by under Other Voices,Poetry

I forwarded many of your email messages and blog comments to ebj. He sent this note and two more poems in response…

————

I am deeply moved, both by folks’ words and what I sense of their energy within those words.

Since some have requested more, I offer two recent pieces (one earlier this evening in response to what I’ve been moved to write because of what you’ve forwarded. The other in reference to my present state of being – on the verge of not being.

Clearly

We can touch without touching,
Connect without meeting,
Love without longing.

The word is spreading
In giving we receive.
In receiving we give.
Our degrees of separation
Apparently reflect
Our degrees of connection.

With open hearts,
Centered mindfulness
Possibilities abound into the Infinite
A concept beyond conceivable
The irony is that we
Still have a word for it
To share, inspire and raise the level
Of our sacred connections
Even higher.

ebj 11/25/2013

Life & Death, Belief & Meaning

sitting on what may
become my deathbed in a few weeks
Wylie, the prince of cats, crawls on my lap.
then a question arises:
should I write down these simple thoughts
or pet him?

when he moves to my feet
I begin:

some believe in an afterlife
what if there isn’t?

some believe in paradise
and/or
the other place…

some believe in karmic rebirth
to atone for transgressions
and/or
reap rewards
until enlightenment.

some believe it all ends
at their last breath.
what if it doesn’t?

as each spends their moments
immersed in their beliefs
where are they?
what are they doing
with the water or the wood?

as we attempt to prepare
for our sacred moment-
those of us given the blessed chance to prepare
(which many of us could before it is upon us)-
what are we preparing for?
where are our thoughts, our minds?

the body is frequently denounced
for its imperfections and distractions,
its drives and constant needs,
the source of so much suffering and pain
but let us speak a moment for the body
as it carries the water and the wood
as it serves as the vehicle
for our soul in this present form
for it is always here now
until it isn’t…

ebj 11/20/2013

No responses yet

Nov 25 2013

From moment to moment

Published by under Other Voices,Poetry

I had an unexpected email dialog over the weekend, one I found deeply moving and inspiring. I am still sifting through my thoughts and emotional responses– A reader of the Poetry Chaikhana sent me a poem and a simple, honest discussion of his own death. The clarity and dignity expressed in his poem and accompanying note left me without words.

He has given me permission to share some of it with you.

============

Thanks for posting such great poetry.

I found “Naked in the Bee-Hive” [by Hakim Sanai] especially poignant since I now sit on my death bed with the condition of pulmonary fibrosis and a plan to fast out soon.

I write this not for your condolences. I accept this as a gift. So I send this note just to share thanks for posting thought-provoking poetry about living, loving and dying – the three most precious and sacred experiences we humans are gifted to have.

Perhaps, someday, the Mystic Poets’ words will guide all of us toward greater peace and love.

With that, I’m sending you my latest effort to express this moment in my life:

Moment of Wonder

it is written:
“…live from moment to moment…”
how is that?
what is the “to”?
is the “from moment” different
than the “to moment”?
is separation so absolute that
I am different from
you are different from
she is different from
they are different from
we are different?
is everything different
from the ultimate beginning
before time was time
and space was space?
what was the stone before
it was the stone?
what was the flower before
it was the flower?
what was the sun before
it was the sun?
who were you before
you were you
or before the earth?
what was this moment before
this moment?
and after?

~ ebj 11/14/2013

…The perspective I’ve come to adopt on life and death have been heavily influenced by the Mystics of history and present times. Through them, and many personal relationships, I have discovered the beauty of living with integrity, mindful that all experience is transient while still inherently meaningful, and serving others through one’s heart can serve us well along our path and help alleviate much of life’s suffering as is illuminated by the First Noble Truth.

With this belief as a guide, I’ve been blessed to experience the ineffable sense of Oneness where death is as sacred as birth along with all forms of conscious experience (perhaps even non-conscious experience!)

In peace and with love along our paths…

============

My sincere thanks and admiration to ebj for allowing me to share his insight and poetry at this profound moment in his life.

Sending love to ebj and to all of you!

Ivan

20 responses so far

Nov 22 2013

Rainer Maria Rilke – Want the change

Published by under Poetry

Want the change
by Rainer Maria Rilke

English version by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
as the curve of the body as it turns away.

What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.

Pour yourself out like a fountain.
Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.

Every happiness is the child of a separation
it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, becoming
a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.

— from In Praise of Mortality: Rilke’s Duino Elegies & Sonnets to Orpheus, by Rainer Maria Rilke / Translated by Joanna Macy


/ Photo by wayoftheGoo /

This poem is a lovely meditation on change and transitoriness — as signs of life. It is only those relationships and experiences that move, and evolve, and eventually disappear that are fully alive.

Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.

We so want the opposite to be true. We reflexively want to grasp the world, to hold it fixed, so we can trust reality, know its rules, and feel secure every day. But Rilke invites us to see with the poet’s keen eye the truth of the matter: that which doesn’t change lacks life and loses beauty–

What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.

We can’t hold our lives fixed, and we can’t hold ourselves fixed within our lives. The only thing to do is to put ourselves fully into each mysterious day.

I love the line–

Pour yourself out like a fountain.

This statement so powerfully evokes the courage each day requires and the generosity of self that we can bring to each encounter.

We give of ourselves not to secure our lives but to live our lives in fullness. And, in doing so, we discover more life in our lives.

Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.

If you’re not a mythology nerd, you may not have picked up on Rilke’s reference to Daphne and the laurel…

And Daphne, becoming
a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.

In Greek mythology, Daphne was a stunningly beautiful nymph who lived and hunted in the woods. Because of her beauty men constantly sought her favors, but she refused everyone. Then the god Apollo fell in love with her, but she refused him as well. Daphne fled from Apollo, who continued to pursue her. When Apollo was about to grasp Daphne, she called upon her father’s magical power, and she was instantly transformed into a laurel tree. The god Apollo, still in love with Daphne, but unable to embrace her, plucked a branch of the laurel and wore it as a wreath upon his head.

By evoking Daphne, Rilke is calling up this rich myth of beauty, and the inability to posses it. Yet that beauty, in transforming itself into something that can no longer be truly held or lusted after, takes on a new life all its own, a life that yet dances, one with the wind.

Rilke seems to be inviting us to encounter life with full presence and, with the courage of a witness rather than one who grasps, to appreciate beauty both in the coming and goings of life.






Rainer Maria Rilke, Rainer Maria Rilke poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Rainer Maria Rilke

Germany (1875 – 1926) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Rainer Maria Rilke

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Nov 20 2013

Mansur al-Hallaj – You glide between the heart and its casing

Published by under Poetry

You glide between the heart and its casing
by Mansur al- Hallaj

English version by Bernard Lewis

You glide between the heart and its casing as tears glide from the eyelid.
You dwell in my inwardness, in the depths of my heart, as souls dwell in bodies.
Nothing passes from rest to motion unless you move it in hidden ways,
O new moon.

— from Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems, Translated by Bernard Lewis


/ Photo by Joy Krauthammer /

You glide between the heart and its casing as tears glide from the eyelid.

Isn’t that a wonderful opening line?

This is a poem about hidden movement, natural, free-flowing. And it is a poem about rest too. And the heart.

You dwell in my inwardness, in the depths of my heart, as souls dwell in bodies.

In states of deep spiritual communion, when the agitations of the mind are at rest and the attention is not seeking outward distractions, awareness naturally settles into the heart. And encounter takes place there– an immense sense of Being and expansive Love is seated there, in quiet majesty.

Nothing passes from rest to motion unless you move it in hidden ways

This poem beautifully evokes the sense of how, in the sacred state, movement ceases for the individual, though there is not inactivity. All action — inner and outer — becomes only an appearance of self-governed movement, when, in reality, it is found to be the natural flowing of the Divine through us. The individual identity only pretends to be directing the movement but, like a gull resting on the ocean waves, it is simply carried along by the moon’s tug upon the tide.

Just as we have the rhythm of the heart, so too do we have the flow of the breath until we discover the resting point between the in-breath and the out-breath. When the shuttle on the loom has made its full circuit and pauses just long enough to glimpse the pattern… before it moves again to continue weaving the fabric.






Mansur al- Hallaj

Iran/Persia (9th Century) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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Nov 18 2013

Lalla – Intense cold makes water ice

Published by under Poetry

Intense cold makes water ice
by Lalla

English version by Coleman Barks

Intense cold makes water ice.
Then the hard ice turns to slush
and back to water, so there are three
forms of consciousness: the individual,
the world, and God, which in the sun
of True Awareness melt to one flowing:

Lalla is that.

In meditation, I entered the love furnace,
burned impurities away, and as the sun
of a new knowing rose, I realized
that the words “Lalla” and “God”
point to this peacefulness.

— from Naked Song, by Lalla / Translated by Coleman Barks


/ Photo by net_efekt /

I spent most of my growing up years in Los Angeles — endless city, and no winters. I remember the one time as a child when the temperature dropped down to 30 degrees, and I implored the weather gods for snow. But it was not to be. It was Southern California, after all. A little more bundled than usual, I still had to go to school.

So when I moved to Colorado as an adult, you can imagine my sense of wonder at the snow each winter. In fact, I lived in places up in the mountains where the snow would build up until it literally covered part of the ground floor windows. One more reminder for me that, no matter how much we humans construct our own environments, we are still residents within the world of nature, and that natural world is immense, stunningly beautiful, and ignored at our own peril…

Intense cold makes water ice.
Then the hard ice turns to slush
and back to water…

Lalla is giving us a simple spiritual metaphor, but although the intellect can quickly comprehend what she is saying, it’s important not to rush past it. Sit with the metaphor for a bit, let the imagery and meaning ferment quietly in your mind.

Water becomes solid ice when it is cold enough. It becomes almost rock-like: impenetrable, graspable, tangible… an unavoidable ‘thing.’ With a little bit of warmth, it starts to melt and becomes a slushy mixture of states, in some ways still seemingly solid, yet a hand can pass through it. When it has fully yielded to the warmth, it is liquid again, fluid, ungraspable, less a ‘thing’ and more of a filling of space.

Even so, all are the same substance: water. There has been no essential change other than the form perceived by the witness; it is a continuum that only appears different.

…so there are three
forms of consciousness: the individual,
the world, and God, which in the sun
of True Awareness melt to one flowing

And Lalla is reminding us that the individual and God are the same, separate only in apparent form, but in essence it is all one continuum of consciousness. The individual, the world, and God, when seen clearly in the warming sunlight of True Awareness are seen to “melt to one flowing.”

Lalla is that.

Her insight: In that instant of true seeing, we cease to identify ourselves as the individual or ego, and instead recognize ourselves as “that” — the flowing that moves through the entire spectrum of existence.

I realized
that the words “Lalla” and “God”
point to this peacefulness.

Reread those last lines, but insert your own name for Lalla’s.

Have a beautiful day!






Lalla, Lalla poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Lalla

Kashmir (India/Pakistan) (14th Century) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shaivite (Shiva)

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Nov 15 2013

Hakim Sanai – The way to You

Published by under Poetry

The way to You
by Hakim Sanai

English version by Priya Hemenway

The way to You
lies clearly in my heart
and cannot be seen or known to the mind.
As my words turn to silence,
Your sweetness surrounds me.

— from The Book of Everything: Journey of the Heart’s Desire, by Hakim Sanai Al-Ghaznavi / Translated by Priya Hemenway


/ Photo by Lel4nd /

This poem poem by the great Sanai — short and oh so sweet. I won’t disturb its silence with a lot of my own words, except to thank everyone for the many warm-hearted comments and emails.

Ivan

PS- Sending many blessings to the people of the Philippines. You’ve been very much in my thoughts this past week.






Hakim Sanai

Afghanistan (1044? – 1150?) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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Nov 11 2013

Basava – Where they feed the fire

Published by under Poetry

Where they feed the fire
by Basava

English version by A. K. Ramanujan

In a brahmin house
where they feed the fire
as a god

when the fire goes wild
and burns the house

they splash on it
the water of the gutter
and the dust of the street,

beat their breasts
and call the crowd.

These men then forget their worship
and scold their fire,
O lord of the meeting rivers!

— from Speaking of Siva, by A K Ramanujan


/ Photo by /

I hope it is obvious that this poem is meant to make us laugh at an absurd turnabout. We have a proper brahmin house with a fire altar, and they are feeding that fire as a god. But the moment that god steps out of bounds and starts to burn things up, the worshippers are terrified and try to extinguish that god with gutter water.

Of course, there is a lot being said in this poem…

On the surface, the poem pokes fun at what the Virasaiva sect considered the idolatry of worshipping fire “as a god,” particularly doing so only when the fire stays within comfortable bounds. Yet “when the fire goes wild,” then the fire is instead treated like a dangerous, insentient force that must be suppressed. Suddenly the worshipper has set himself above his god!

On a deeper level, the fire here is the divine fire of bliss. Basavanna is chiding those who worship the sacred reality and mystical truth, but only so long as it is nice and neat and socially acceptable — intellectualized and not actually experienced directly. When the fire of bliss “goes wild” and “burns the house,” filling the awareness with the fire of the one all-consuming reality, then these casual worshippers become terrified and try to suppress this sacred process, denigrating the mystics and saints who embody this fiery truth.

They splash on it
the water of the gutter
and the dust of the street

They try to cover this blazing reality with an overwhelm of emotion, sensory experience, and mundane perception. They “call the crowd” and attempt to return to the limited consensus reality shared by the mass of people. Still identified with the ego, they feel threatened by this bliss-fire and, instead of dancing amidst the flames, they “forget their worship” and “scold their fire.”

So Basavanna challenges us to ask ourselves honestly: Do we worship only what is comfortable, a god of our making and under our control, a safely caged notion of the Divine? Or do we truly worship and hold nothing back as we recognize the blissful, blazing Reality?






Basava, Basava poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Basava

India (1134 – 1196) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shaivite (Shiva)

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Nov 08 2013

Denise Levertov – Primary Wonder

Published by under Poetry

Primary Wonder
by Denise Levertov

Days pass when I forget the mystery.
Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions
jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber
along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing
their colored clothes; cap and bells.
And then
once more the quiet mystery
is present to me, the throng’s clamor
recedes: the mystery
that there is anything, anything at all,
let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything,
rather than void: and that, O Lord,
Creator, Hallowed One, You still,
hour by hour sustain it.

— from Denise Levertov: Selected Poems, by Denise Levertov


/ Photo by ryoung /

Days pass when I forget the mystery.
Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions…

We all wrestle with this, the demands of daily life, of work and family, all our plans and hopes and fears, the need to order everything every moment. In the midst of it all we struggle to remember that “quiet mystery.” Balancing a life in this world with that wide open wonder, it can feel like too much to achieve, at times. The demands of the day sometimes demand our all. Yet it is the wonder and the mystery that fills our our lives and gives them meaning.

When “problems” fill the day, then those problems are the day’s worship. The most mundane and seemingly meaningless effort, when approached with a sense of service and a questing heart, becomes an act of beauty. And when we finally come exhausted to a quiet moment, we are ready to fall silent before the mystery. Too tired to maintain our pretenses, we rest in awe.

And then
once more the quiet mystery
is present to me…






Denise Levertov, Denise Levertov poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Denise Levertov

US (1923 – 1997) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic : Beat
Jewish

More poetry by Denise Levertov

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Nov 06 2013

e. e. cummings – may my heart always be open to little

Published by under Poetry

may my heart always be open to little
by e. e. cummings

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it’s sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there’s never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile

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


/ Photo by USFWS Pacific /

Boy… e.e. cummings.

Any commentary or thoughts I might choose to share would be too linear. What would cummings say?

far better to roll wordlets with otherthan meanings
and let them pool slow in the honey-glad heart

Or, I can just reread the poem…

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple

Have a wonderful day!

PS- Following Monday’s poem, several people wrote to ask me what M.E. is. M.E. is another term for chronic fatigue syndrome. (The acronym stands for myalgic encephalomyelitis — whew!) What most people loosely label chronic fatigue is actually a chronic immune disorder that tends to affect the nervous system and muscles with a range of recurring symptoms. For that reason, the health community increasingly prefers the term M.E., since the word “fatigue” implies someone who is simply overworked and just needs to rest, while the reality is actually a complex chronic medical condition. So they’re using that tongue-twister instead (which can cause fatigue just learning how to pronounce it)… or M.E.

Sending love!






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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Nov 04 2013

Mukteshwari – Swami Muktananda

Published by under Poetry

Mukteshwari
by Swami Muktananda

Kundalini Shakti is the prana of the universe.
By the power of this great Goddess
the universe exists.
Muktananda, know Her.

When Kundalini awakes
all doors are thrown open.
Rama reveals himself in the heart.
Muktananda, love Kundalini.

When Kundalini awakes,
the eyes are filled with light,
fragrances arise,
nectar bathes the tongue,
ecstasy plays in the heart….
Muktananda, worship Kundalini.


/ Photo by AthosLuca /

Sorry about my absence. Another period of M.E. I’m back, starting to feel better…

Over the weekend, Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs all over the world celebrated Diwali, the festival of lights. Traditionally, it marks the end of the harvest season, while inviting abundance and prosperous growth in the coming year. It is particularly a time to honor Lakshmi, goddess of wealth. The lighting of lamps keeps the light of the past season shining through the darkness of winter and ensures new life in the new year. The lamps in the darkness are also a symbol of meditation, the light of awareness, pure and focused, amidst the stillness of night. This begins the season of inturning and enlightenment that will lead to new life. Happy Diwali!

At this time of enlightenment and honoring the Goddess, I thought this poem by the hugely significant 20th century guru, Swami Muktananda, honoring the Goddess as Kundalini Shakti would be worth contemplating.

In Hindu yogic metaphysics, the Divine can be seen as both masculine and feminine. The masculine aspect of God is pure transcendent spirit, while the feminine aspect of God is the vibratory, emanating, manifestation of that pure Essence. The God is the flame and the Goddess is the light and heat that emanate from it. The Masculine is the still potential, and the Feminine is manifestation of that potential. All of material creation is part of that manifestation, brought into being by the power of the Goddess. She receives the spiritual essence, gestates it, quickens it and gives it form, and then brings it to birth.

By the power of this great Goddess
the universe exists.

This is the fundamental power of being, and the Goddess is that power. “Shakti” means “power,” but it is more than the ability to achieve some result. It isn’t that the Goddess has power, the Goddess is power. This is why Muktananda sings his praises to Kundalini Shakti, not as an energy or psychological force, but as the full Goddess.

When Kundalini awakes
all doors are thrown open.

Kundalini Shakti is, in the language of yoga, the coiled power of the Goddess that usually sits dormant at the base of the spine within the individual. Through spiritual practice this coiled power can be awakened. It then rises as a fiery force up the spinal axis, through the spiritual-energetic centers known as the chakras, to the crown chakra.

In the process, the heart opens with the most profound sense of love, compassion, joy, and interconnectedness — “Rama reveals himself in the heart.” Often, there is an all-permeating sense of radiance and light (“the eyes are filled with light”), and a sensory sweetness seems to trickle down from above, as if you are tasting the most delightful honeyed wine (“nectar bathes the tongue”).

This is the initiation all mystics seek. It is the beginning of illumination. And it is the sacred marriage. Why “marriage”?

As we said, Kundalini Shakti is the power of the Goddess within the individual. When this power fully and consciously rises to the crown, it reunites with the male aspect of the Divine. That union of divine polarities within the individual — overwhelming and ecstatic — is the sacred marriage. The mystic is made whole in ways that were unimaginable before. Not just the single individual, but all of creation is seen anew, realigned, re-envisioned as a vast living wholeness.

I hope it is obvious that this is a universal experience of mystical awakening, not just found among practitioners of yoga. Each great spiritual tradition has its own language to describe this. In esoteric Christianity, for example, one can draw a parallel between the Kundalini Shakti and the Holy Spirit, which is often described in feminine terms. The transcendent masculine aspect of God can be understood as the Heavenly Father. And the new, expanded sense of self that is (re)born from the sacred marriage might be identified as the Son, the individual’s Christ-self. Similar descriptions are found in Islam, Judaism, shamanic traditions… This is a human-spiritual experience that reflects the basic relationship between the awakening soul and the divine reality. It is the heritage of every one of us.

Kundalini awakes. The heart opens, the mind opens, doorways open, and through Her power, the full self is born into the world.

Kundalini Shakti… know Her.

Have a beautiful day!






Swami Muktananda, Swami Muktananda poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Swami Muktananda

India (1908 – 1982) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu

More poetry by Swami Muktananda

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Oct 21 2013

Nammalvar – O Lord, infinite in Thy glory

Published by under Poetry

O Lord, infinite in Thy glory,
by Nammalvar

English version by A. Srinivasa Raghavan

O Lord, infinite in Thy glory,
I have ripened and lost myself
In Thy grace,
Do not change, I pray Thee.
I do not desire freedom from birth,
Nor to be Thy servitor in Heaven.
All the wealth I want
Is not to forget Thee.

— from Nammalvar: (Makers of Indian Literature), Translated by A. Srinivasa Raghavan


/ Photo by ShotHotspot /

So much of spiritual striving is directed toward escape: escape from imperfections, escape from illusion, escape from pain, escape from the senses, escape from one’s past, escape from the cycle of birth and death. That impulse to escape is a valid, even necessary, goad to begin the spiritual journey in earnest. But it also becomes a spiritualized form of the same old attraction-revulsion dynamic that keeps us caught in the turning wheel.

In Nammalvar’s poem, he shows us his spiritual courage. He declares to God that he doesn’t mind the pain of birth (and accompanying death and rebirth). He declares that the delight of serving God in Heaven is not what he seeks. He knows that such attainments, when approached from greed, ultimately feed the selfish self and eventually cause one to revert back to the illusion of separation from the Eternal.

Real wealth is knowing the Eternal, knowing never to forget. God is the real treasure, not the ease of Heaven, not the avoidance of the phenomena of life. A seeker uses the desire for escape, but when spiritual practice has “ripened,” you discover that you have “lost” yourself. You have lost the clinging self. The desire for unbroken awareness of the Eternal frees you even from the desire for escape.

Nothing to run to. Nothing to run from. We are finally fully present. Right here is precisely where the Eternal One dwells.






Nammalvar, Nammalvar poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Nammalvar

India (8th Century) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Vaishnava (Krishna/Rama)

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Oct 18 2013

A. R. Ammons – Identity

Published by under Poetry

Identity
by A. R. Ammons

1) An individual spider web
identifies a species:

an order of instinct prevails
      through all accidents of circumstance,
            though possibility is
high along the peripheries of
spider
                        webs:
                        you can go all
                  around the fringing attachments

                  and find
disorder ripe,
entropy rich, high levels of random,
            numerous occasions of accident:

2) the possible settings
of a web are infinite:

            how does
the spider keep
                  identity
            while creating the web
            in a particular place?

            how and to what extent
                  and by what modes of chemistry
                  and control?

it is
wonderful
            how things work: I will tell you
                        about it
                        because

it is interesting
and because whatever is
moves in weeds
            and stars and spider webs
and known
                        is loved:
                  in that love,
                  each of us knowing it,
                  I love you,

for it moves within and beyond us,
                  sizzles in
to winter grasses, darts and hangs with bumblebees
by summer windowsills:

                  I will show you
the underlying that takes no image to itself,
            cannot be shown or said,
but weaves in and out of moons and bladderweeds,
                  is all and
            beyond destruction
            because created fully in no
particular form:

                        if the web were perfectly pre-set,
                        the spider could
                  never find
                  a perfect place to set it in: and

                  if the web were
perfectly adaptable,
if freedom and possibility were without limit,
                        the web would
lose its special identity:

      the row-strung garden web
keeps order at the center
where space is freest (intersecting that the freest
                  “medium” should
                  accept the firmest order)

and that
order
                        diminishes toward the
periphery
            allowing at the points of contact
                  entropy equal to entropy.


/ Photo by alanreeves001 /

A delightful meditation on identity and spiderwebs, questions of order and entropy beneath the moonlight…

A spider’s signature in the world is its web. It draws the web from its own body and so creates a place for itself in the world. The web is an expression of the spider’s identity.

The poet makes an interesting observation–

the possible settings
of a web are infinite

The world is so diverse, filled with endless variety, that it raises a dilemma: Identity is an expression within the world, it necessarily has points of attachment to the world.

how does
the spider keep
                  identity
            while creating the web
            in a particular place?

If the world is ever-different, those attachments to the varied environment mean the web, identity, must be different in every location. How then can we say that identity exists? If it takes one shape in one place and a different one in another, is there only environment and randomness?

The poet begins to weave for us a deeper understanding of how this works–

if the web were perfectly pre-set,
                        the spider could
                  never find
                  a perfect place to set it in: and

                  if the web were
perfectly adaptable,
if freedom and possibility were without limit,
                        the web would
lose its special identity

Life requires both pattern (identity) and adaptability (along with some external limitation). Being too rigid or fixed prevents connection and the ability to act effectively in the world, yet too much flexibility of form means a loss of identity and purpose. It is in the balance of the two qualities that identity can enter into the world.

I especially like the layered insight of his final few lines. Identity and pattern is preserved within the center, where we have the greatest freedom from the world’s demands, while adaptability and a certain amount of disorder at the edges allows connection to the changing world.

the row-strung garden web
keeps order at the center
where space is freest (intersecting that the freest
                  “medium” should
                  accept the firmest order)

and that
order
                        diminishes toward the
periphery
            allowing at the points of contact
                  entropy equal to entropy.

A simple observation in nature, and it draws me into contemplation of the great questions.






A. R. Ammons, A. R. Ammons poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry A. R. Ammons

US (1926 – 2001) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by A. R. Ammons

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Oct 16 2013

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


/ Photo by alexandre-deschaumes /

Short poem, short commentary: Many < -> One






Angelus Silesius, Angelus Silesius poetry, Christian poetry Angelus Silesius

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

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Oct 11 2013

Ivan M. Granger – How Can I Explain?

Published by under Poetry

How Can I Explain?
by Ivan M. Granger

Beloved, they want to know:
Did I reach up to You,
or did You reach out to me?

And they want to know:
What is real
touch?

How can I explain

– we pour
into each other.

— from Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey, by Ivan M. Granger


/ Photo by s-a-m /

It’s been a while since we featured one of my poems. I thought about this one today…

Did I reach up to You,
or did You reach out to me?

The question that haunts all spiritual seekers: Union through effort or grace? Effort tends to fix the illusion of separation. And grace, well, that sounds so random and passive. How does one earn grace effortlessly? How is effort natural and graceful?

Everyone wants to know.

What is real
touch?

What is real? And is the divine touch real? What is bliss? What is union? Is it a fantasy, a fairy tale? Is it a metaphor? Is it just a mental idea? Is it tangible, tactile, felt in the body, or so subtle that words fail? What is it really that seekers seek?

Everyone wants to know.

Let’s step back from the theologies and ten thousand spiritual techniques. The secret shared between lover and Beloved is simple:

– we pour
into each other.

==

A few years back, the wonderful poet and translator Gabriel Rosenstock sent his translation of this poem into Irish:

Cén Míniú atá Air?

A Shearc, is mian leo a fháil amach:
Ar shín mise suas Chugatsa
nó ar shín Tusa amach chugamsa?

Agus is mian leo a fháil amach:
Cad is tadhall ann
i gceart?

Cén míniú atá air

– doirtimis
ina chéile

I’ll admit, I don’t even know how to pronounce these lines, but seeing this in Irish just brings a satisfied smile to my face. It must be that thin fraction of Irish ancestry somewhere on my mother’s side of the family.






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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Oct 09 2013

Ryokan – Autumn’s first drizzle

Published by under Poetry

Autumn’s first drizzle
by Ryokan

English version by John Stevens

Autumn’s first drizzle:
How delightful,
The nameless mountain.

— from Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf: Zen Poems of Ryokan, Translated by John Stevens


/ Photo by twbuckner /

I can’t say exactly why, but I’ve always felt an especial aliveness in autumn. Perhaps it is the clarity of the light on the coloring leaves. The crisp mornings and the way twilight lingers late over the land. That feeling of transition, change, teetering at the edge of winter’s cold, between activity and inturning — a secret threshold in the seasons when new pathways can be discovered.

It seems with every autumn my body takes on a ritual fever or influenza, and I have to admit that I find the state rather comforting. It feels strangely right when autumn comes, to feel a slight flush, to be slow of movement and thought, to view the new world through glowing eyes, not quite free from the dream state. Autumn is a season that invites visions, that gives us glimpses of the strangeness of the world we think so familiar, and in that strangeness we discover new possibilities, new ways of being, new ways of seeing. Things lose their familiar forms and names in autumn’s half-light, and we ourselves can seem small and wraithlike amidst the shifting unknown. I’ve always seen in this season a window into the great Mystery, frightening and exhilarating, melancholy and delightful. Is anything substantial in this magical season? No, not really. Except, perhaps, for the life and light of awareness that burns so bright within us.

It’s a good season to see a nameless mountain.

Have a beautiful autumn day.

Much love to everyone!






Ryokan, Ryokan poetry, Buddhist poetry Ryokan

Japan (1758 – 1831) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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