Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

Nov 06 2013

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

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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

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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

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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

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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?

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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

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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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Oct 07 2013

Ramprasad – In the world’s busy market-place

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In the world’s busy market-place, O Shyama
by Ramprasad (Ramprasad Sen)

In the world’s busy market-place, O Shyama,
      Thou art flying kites;
High up they soar on the wind of hope,
      held fast by maya’s string.
Their frames are human skeletons,
      their sails of the the three gunas made;
But all their curious workmanship
      is merely for ornament.

Upon the kite-strings Thou hast rubbed
      the manja-paste of worldliness,
So as to make each straining strand
      all the more sharp and strong.
Out of a hundred thousand kites,
      at best but one or two break free;
And thou dost laugh and clap Thy hands,
      O Mother, watching them!

On favoring winds, says Ramprasad,
      the kites set loose will speedily
Be borne away to the Infinite,
      across the sea of the world.

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


/ Photo by thegoodlifefrance /

Navaratri, the Hindu festival celebrating the Nine Nights of the Divine Mother, started over the weekend. Of the nine nights, the first three are dedicated to Durga or Kali, who destroys illusion. The next three nights are dedicated to Lakshmi, who grants wealth, both spiritual and material. The final three nights are dedicated to Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom.

Since this is the beginning of Navaratri, I thought I’d feature a poem by Ramprasad dedicated to the Goddess Kali…

I’ll be honest: In my opinion this English translation doesn’t quite soar the way its kites do, but the poem still fascinates me. Ramprasad evokes a dynamic vision in our minds of the great and terrible Mother Goddess flying kites and laughing with delight.

Before we go further, we must first recognize that Ramprasad is a practitioner Tantric meditation. Tantra is often misunderstood and reduced to a sexual practice, but Tantra is actually rich and complex tradition of meditation, visualization, and energetic practices that attempts to engage all of life and life’s energies, while awakening divine energies within. And Tantra has a special affinity with the feminine faces of the Divine, such as Kali. It is true that there are branches of Tantra that work with sexuality as part of its practice, but those are “left hand practices” that have been somewhat looked down upon until modern times when they’ve been popularized in the West.

What I think is especially worth remembering about Tantra when thinking about this poem is the Tantric practice of ritualized visualization. Tantric practitioners during their meditations formulate in their minds highly complex and precise sacred patterns and iconic representations of the deities. The more precise and clear the image summoned forth in the mind’s eye, the more the meditator comes into alignment with the sacred energy represented by the image.

I suspect that this poem, with its very specific imagery, can be approached as such a meditative image: each element has a precise meaning and relates to everything else in a specific way. So take a moment to reread the poem and try to construct the scene in your own mind.

So… We have kites.

In the world’s busy market-place, O Shyama,
      Thou art flying kites

The Mother Goddess is flying kites in “the world’s busy market-place.” What are these kites? They are individual human souls.

High up they soar on the wind of hope,
      held fast by maya’s string.

They are borne up by the “wind of hope.” This wind might thought of generally as spiritual aspiration, or it could be very specifically prana, the breath that animates and propels all life.

But they are held by maya’s string. Maya is the illusion of the world. It is the illusion that surface appearance is all there is of reality. That illusion is cord that holds the kites, keeping human souls bound to the earth despite their urge to fly free.

Their frames are human skeletons,
      their sails of the the three gunas made

The fact that the frames of the kites are made of human skeletons may sound gruesome, but the imagery of Kali often has shocking elements like that. Kali forces us to confront death and fear in order to dispel our illusions. We pass through death to know we cannot die. We experience loss to know that our true nature is never held or lost, it simply is. Kali represents that aspect of the Divine that loves us too much to let us remain comfortable with safe self-delusions and prods us to know our full selves and the full mystery of being.

The gunas referred to are an important concept in Indian metaphysics. All of nature is said to embody some combination of the three gunas: Sattva (purity, lucidity), rajas (movement), and tamas (lethargy, darkness). People, too, are said to be composed of these qualities. It is said that through these qualities, worldly energies and karmic tendencies manifest. So when the sails of the kites are composed of the gunas, that is what catches subtle, rising wind and gives direction to the kites.

Upon the kite-strings Thou hast rubbed
      the manja-paste of worldliness,
So as to make each straining strand
      all the more sharp and strong.

This is a delightful detail, but will only make sense with a bit of explanation. Ramprasad is describing a game of kite contests. In this game, children would line their kite strings with glue and tiny bits of glass (the manjja-paste). The glue both strengthens their own kite’s string, while giving it the sharpness necessary to cut their opponent’s string. The object was to wrap your string around your opponent’s, and cut their kite. Then the fun became chasing the freed kite as it sailed loose through the sky.

Here, Kali’s manja-paste is worldliness. It makes the string, maya’s illusion stronger, while becoming more abrasive to others. This leads to painful, jostling contests of worldly existence.

Out of a hundred thousand kites,
      at best but one or two break free

But– for those who are ready, that struggle becomes means of liberation, when the string of maya snaps and the soul is no longer tethered to the ground.

And this is what most delights the Goddess:

And thou dost laugh and clap Thy hands,
      O Mother, watching them!

We sail free across the Infinite, Mother’s laughter trailing behind us!

On favoring winds, says Ramprasad,
      the kites set loose will speedily
Be borne away to the Infinite,
      across the sea of the world.

It’s a cool, crisp autumn morning here. The sky is so blue that all the world comes into a glistening, sharp focus found no other time of the year. It might just be a good day to go outside and fly a kite…






Ramprasad (Ramprasad Sen)

India (1718? – 1775?) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shakta (Goddess-oriented)

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Oct 07 2013

faith and grace

Published by under Poetry

Faith is recognizing that we are always, irrevocably
being drawn into the Divine Embrace.

Grace is what occurs
when we stop obstructing that natural process.

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Oct 04 2013

John O’Donohue – For Presence

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For Presence
by John O’Donohue

Awaken to the mystery of being here
and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.

Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.

Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon.

Respond to the call of your gift and the courage to
follow its path.

Let the flame of anger free you of all falsity.

May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.

May anxiety never linger about you.

May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of
soul.

Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek
no attention.

Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.

May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven
around the heart of wonder.

— from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings, by John O’Donohue


/ Photo by AlicePopkorn /

A blessing poem for us today in ways to be present. One way to understand a blessing is that it is just that: opening a pathway to be present. The idea behind a blessing is that it helps us, in some way, to receive more fully the best possibilities of the moment, the fulness of life, the goodness ready for us, and the bliss hidden in the heart. These are all different ways of saying that a blessing somehow ushers us into the magic and wonder inherent in our own full presence within the present moment.

A blessing doesn’t need to be “religious.” It doesn’t even need to have words. What it needs is your presence. And your goodwill. And then a gentle call to the presence of another. A blessing is presence + presence + All That Is…

May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven
around the heart of wonder.






John O'Donohue, John O'Donohue poetry, Christian poetry John O’Donohue

Ireland (1956 – 2008) Timeline
Christian : Catholic
Secular or Eclectic

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Sep 30 2013

Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi – I lost my world, my fame, my mind

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I lost my world, my fame, my mind
by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

English version by Andrew Harvey

I lost my world, my fame, my mind –
The Sun appeared, and all the shadows ran.
I ran after them, but vanished as I ran –
Light ran after me and hunted me down.

— from The Way of Passion: A Celebration of Rumi, by Andrew Harvey


/ Photo by opal-moon /

Today is Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi’s birthday — September 30, 1207. Poets, seekers, and sages, let’s celebrate! Come on, let’s spin and dance, like the madmen and wild women we are!

The Sun appeared, and all the shadows ran.

Many of Rumi’s poems make reference to the sun. This always has layered meaning for Rumi since he was deeply devoted to his spiritual teacher Shams of Tabriz… The name Shams means “the sun.”

The sun for Rumi can be God or the radiance of God shining through his beloved teacher or the light of enlightenment. Though why should we separate them out? They are all the same Divine continuum.

The light of God comes, the clarity of enlightenment shines, and the shadows disappear.

Of course, seeing the world in this way removes us from society’s consensus reality. In that light, we see things simply and purely as they are, not as we are told they are. Standing outside that shadow world, we realize that every role we play in life, in fact, every thought we have, has not come with us across the threshold:

I lost my world, my fame, my mind –

Filled with that light, surrounded by the light, all of existence interpermeated by that light, we can search for some root or tendril of those things that once seemed so immutable and defining, but the more we search, the more we recognize how gossamer thin the very fabric of our own identity actually is.

I ran after them, but vanished as I ran –
Light ran after me and hunted me down.

Then it hits us: We are not really “selves,” we are not the distinct nuggets of identity commonly imagined, we are not even illumined beings surrounded and permeated by light. There is only light, and no “I” in the midst of it. The only “self” we can claim is not really a separate being but, rather, a distinct point-of-view within that one immense shining Being. The enlightened mystic sees only that light, dancing and playing, sometimes eddying into “me” and “you” and all the world, without actually losing its luminescent nature or flow.

So, seekers, while you are on your spiritual hunt, remember to look over your shoulder. That glow you glimpse might just be hunting you.

Happy birthday, Jelaluddin!






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

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

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Sep 27 2013

Thomas Merton – In Silence

Published by under Poetry

In Silence
by Thomas Merton

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

name.
Listen
to the living walls.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


/ Photo by anoxado /

I love the questions that impregnate this poem.

Be silent, they try
to speak your

name.

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

Listen
to the living walls.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who (be quiet) are you?

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

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

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

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

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

Yes! BE your own silence!

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

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

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

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

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

The bold dare the heat…






Thomas Merton, Thomas Merton poetry, Christian poetry Thomas Merton

US (1915 – 1968) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

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Sep 25 2013

Gary Snyder – For All

Published by under Poetry

For All
by Gary Snyder

Ah to be alive
on a mid-September morn
fording a stream
barefoot, pants rolled up,
holding boots, pack on,
sunshine, ice in the shallows,
northern rockies.

Rustle and shimmer of icy creek waters
stones turn underfoot, small and hard as toes
cold nose dripping
singing inside
creek music, heart music,
smell of sun on gravel.

I pledge allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the soil
of Turtle Island,
and to the beings who thereon dwell
one ecosystem
in diversity
under the sun
With joyful interpenetration for all.

— from The Gary Snyder Reader: Prose, Poetry and Translations, by Gary Snyder


/ Photo by burtn /

We just passed the Autumn Equinox, and you can feel the shift in seasons here in Colorado: cool mornings, crystal blue skies, the first hint of fall colors on the aspens.

Ah to be alive
on a mid-September morn

A silent man, walking in solitude by a mountain stream… We begin to see what is real and what really deserves our allegiance.

Enjoy a quiet walk today. See what life you notice, and how it all flows together. A good opportunity to examine our allegiances.

Have a beautiful day!






Gary Snyder, Gary Snyder poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Gary Snyder

US (1930 – )
Secular or Eclectic : Beat
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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Sep 20 2013

Sa’di – All Adam’s offspring form one family tree

Published by under Poetry

All Adam’s offspring form one family tree
by Sa’di

English version by Ivan M. Granger

All Adam’s offspring form one family tree,
from the beginning, the same life and spirit and quality.

      When one limb is bent with pain,
      the entire living tree naturally feels the strain.

Thus he indifferent to the agony of another,
cannot be named human alongside his brother.


/ Photo by Isilmetriel /

I discovered the writings of Sa’di several years ago, and I fell in love with his wisdom and wit. Unfortunately, I still haven’t found a really good English translation of his work. I’ve had to work, to really dig beneath the rather flat renderings I’ve found in English in order to catch glimpses of the real life shining within his writing. It can feel like linguistic archaeology. Sa’di’s Gulistan, for example, is a delightful collection of tales and wisdom fables, interspersed with pithy poems. The problem is that the English versions I’ve found were either translated during the Victorian era or they are more recent translations that still feel Victorian. To me, these translations come across as rather dusty and pedantic.

But I understand the difficulty. Sa’di’s short verses seem naked without some rhyming scheme and at least a suggestion of meter. This may be my own bias, but modern poetic English, when forced into strong structure and rhyme, often ends up sounding either awkward or archaic or a bit anemic. What’s a poor translator to do?

Today’s selection is my imperfect attempt to find a more satisfying balance with one of Sa’di’s most loved — and loving — verses.

(Other translators’ versions of this famous verse can be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saadi_Shirazi. You rhymsters and wordsmiths, I’d love to read your versions of Sa’di’s verses.)






Sa'di, Sa'di poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Sa’di

Iran/Persia (1207? – 1291) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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Sep 18 2013

Mahendranath Battacharya – Oh Ma Kali, for a long time now

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Oh Ma Kali, for a long time now
by Mahendranath Battacharya

English version by Rachel Fell McDermott

Oh Ma Kali, for a long time now
            You’ve masqueraded in this world
            as a clown.
But I am punished inside
            and there’s nothing funny about Your jokes.
Oh Ma, sometimes You’re the air we breathe,
            sometimes the sky in the seventh underworld
            furthest away, and
sometimes the water in the sea
            You assume so many forms!
I have traveled to countless lands
and worn countless costumes; even so,
            Your marvels — ha! — never cease.

Premik says,
My mind is a cad; that’s why it’s sunk
in attachments. Why else
            would these tricks of Yours
                  keep working?

— from Singing to the Goddess: Poems to Kali and Uma from Bengal, Translated by Rachel Fell McDermott


/ Photo by kintosh /

Adrenaline and survivor’s euphoria have dissipated and the hard realities of the aftermath of last week’s flood are starting to sink in. I’m now hearing from friends and coworkers stories of the devastation caused by the inundation: people made homeless by the floods, farmers whose lands are damaged and their livelihoods lost, cherished mementos destroyed by the water and mud, discoveries that insurance policies don’t cover flood damage to homes.

What does one say in such circumstances? Given the size and destructive power of the flood in our area, we can say it’s a blessing that so few people died. When you have life, the rest is just “stuff,” right? But it is almost cruel to say such a thing to a person who has witnessed the destruction of all they know. And that stuff can be the stuff of life, the means of support, items imbued with meaning.

As someone who was not too harshly affected by the flood, my reflex is to give a pat response, to feel as if I’ve said something nice that then allows me to feel good about myself and move on. That’s not what traumatized survivors need, though. When material help can’t be offered or isn’t enough, saccharine words are no substitute. What people most need in that moment is to be heard, be seen. Look into their eyes and listen to their stories. Few things restore and renew hope as being honestly present with someone amidst their suffering.

I am reminded of a quote by the late Mother Teresa. I may be misquoting slightly, since I’m reciting it from memory, but it is something to the effect of, “The poor do not need your money. Money can be got. What they need is your hearts to love them.”

==

About today’s poem…

Battacharya, like several of the other great Kali poets of Bengal, evokes a teasingly plaintive voice when addressing the Mother Goddess Kali while, at the same time, berating his own misbehaving mind.

Oh Ma Kali, for a long time now
            You’ve masqueraded in this world
            as a clown.
But I am punished inside
            and there’s nothing funny about Your jokes.

For Kali, all of creation is the product of her lila, her play. Reality is a game of divine delight, an elaborate pretense of hide-and-seek, a sort of “joke” meant to prod awareness from sluggish matter. For those of us caught up in the dramas and attachments of our lives, we are repeatedly fooled by Mother’s tricks. We become dazzled by physical reality and imagine it to be the beginning and end of all existence. Joys on that level are intense, but never lasting, and losses seem so terribly permanent. Caught in that level of awareness, Mother’s “joke” doesn’t seem very funny.

When we become less attached to the dancing objects and experiences of material existence, the mind stops spinning, it settles, grows clear. It starts to see behind the great magic show an immense presence, waiting for us to see through the trick, and catch her glowing smile behind it all.

It all comes down to that cad, the mind…

Premik says,
My mind is a cad; that’s why it’s sunk
in attachments. Why else
            would these tricks of Yours
                  keep working?

Have a beautiful day!






Mahendranath Battacharya

India (1843 – 1908) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shakta (Goddess-oriented)

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Sep 16 2013

Allama Prabhu – If it rains fire

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

If it rains fire
by Allama Prabhu

English version by A. K. Ramanujan

If it rains fire
      you have to be as the water;

if it is a deluge of water
      you have to be as the wind;

if it is the Great Flood,
      you have to be as the sky;

and if it is the Very Last Flood of all the worlds,
      you have to give up self

and become the Lord.

— from Speaking of Siva, by A K Ramanujan


/ Photo by Longmont Times Call /

I missed Friday’s poem because I was caught in the massive flooding near Boulder, Colorado. I actually live just outside of Boulder in Longmont, Colorado. After several days of heavy rain, on Thursday an immense flood cut through the center of town, dividing it in two. Thousands had to evacuate their homes, including several of my friends. The northern bank of the flooding on our side of town came to within a few blocks of where we live — but my family and I are safe.

This photograph is from the flooded neighborhood within walking distance of where I live–


/ Photo by Reuters/John Wark /

- More photos of the flooding in my area here -

As the weather clears, people gather at the cordoned off edges of the floodwaters. Evacuated residents trying to catch glimpses of their inundated homes. People sharing the latest news and their personal stories. Where the waters have already started to recede, people show up with shovels and pumps and help each other dig out. Others show up with food to feed everyone. Some individuals just stand there struck dumb by immensity of what they just witnessed and survived.

Like all of us, I’ve seen plenty of disasters on television news, videos on the internet. (Far too many in recent years.) And, having been an adolescent in Southern California, I experienced a few earthquakes, and lived with the possibility of larger ones. But there is something truly stunning about experiencing the reality up close, being in the midst of such immense and unrelenting forces moving around you. I think what’s most startling is the absolute recognition that no human being is in control of that power. We live amidst immense feats of engineering and technology and collective human will, and there is something comforting about that sense of human domination. Witnessing a disaster like this first hand reminds you that human control is not absolute.

I have to admit that I feel a sense of relief with that recognition — at the same time as my heart breaks for the families struggling so terribly in the immediate turmoil. It’s a strange polarity of thought and feeling. Compassion, of course, wants me to keep everyone safe and free from trauma. But there is a certain aloof part of my awareness that is exhilarated by the flood, as if it brings life and not destruction. I don’t know that I can honestly justify both feelings at the same time, but somehow they exist together inside me. Perhaps it is a sign of the perversity of the human mind amidst overwhelming events.

Relinquishing that notion of human control offers a strange sort of peace. Instead of control and certainty, we encounter… awe. What’s more, we regain community with the planet. The immense forces of nature can serve to remind us that we never live exclusively in the man-made world. No matter how high we build, how powerful the tools we wield, no matter how we live, we always exist within nature’s world. In a terrible way, natural disasters remind us of our home.

It also reminds us of what is really important. We come together as families, as communities. We help each other without the chill of commerce. We put our hearts into our hands.

I am certainly not saying we need more disasters, but let us remember the lessons they teach. Better not to need the disaster to teach us that at all.

Yet, when the disaster occurs, let us us it — to expand the awareness, to open the heart, to release our grasp…

if it is the Great Flood,
      you have to be as the sky;

and if it is the Very Last Flood of all the worlds,
      you have to give up self

and become the Lord.

Sending many blessings out to all the flood survivors in my area.

Be safe everyone. And walk with a sense of awe.






Allama Prabhu, Allama Prabhu poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Allama Prabhu

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

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Sep 11 2013

Fukuda Chiyo-ni – To the one breaking it

Published by under Poetry

To the one breaking it
by Fukuda Chiyo-ni

English version by Patricia Donegan & Yoshie Ishibashi

To the one breaking it –
the fragrance
of the plum.

— from Chiyo-ni: Woman Hiaku Master, Translated by Patricia Donegan / Translated by Yoshie Ishibashi


/ Photo by Schnittke /

This is such an interesting haiku to me. I have several contrary reactions when I read it.

On the most literal level, we have this idyllic moment in which we open a ripe plum and enjoy its sweet fragrance. It is a private moment of enjoyment, intimate. It anticipates the taste of the fruit. But there is also a hint of violence. We are breaking it open. The plum is a complete, perfect thing that we have torn in two in order to get at the sweet, vulnerable fruit. At the same time, the plum only fulfills itself by being opened, offering its sustenance to the world, and perhaps even finding new life emerging from its center. If it remains comfortably a whole plum, it will only know decay.

Associations quickly build in the mind. This could be an erotic image, suggesting sex. Or the plum could be the human heart in love, or full of hope. The haiku makes us ask, is there something inherently violent about human relationships, about love, about intimacy? Whether a love affair or a lifelong friendship, there is always some negotiation and crossing of boundaries. Even healthy relationships can have a feeling of violation at vulnerable moments.

Or could it be that the plum is our whole awareness? Every experience and encounter in life in some sense tears us open, makes us feel, makes us more vulnerable, yet those experiences are necessary to open us up and help us to recognize our inherent sweetness, releasing it out into the world.

Disturbance and delight in this little haiku, in such delicate balance…






Fukuda Chiyo-ni, Fukuda Chiyo-ni poetry, Buddhist poetry Fukuda Chiyo-ni

Japan (1703 – 1775) Timeline
Buddhist

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