Archive for the 'Poetry Chaikhana Misc.' Category

Sep 30 2016

Thank you, everyone, for the donations that continue to come in

Thank you, everyone, for the donations that continue to come in.

I know how much of an effort it can be to set aside some amount of money and then go out of your way to fill out that online form or to write a check and mail it. I am truly humbled by your response. I recognize that every single donation is you reaching out in order to support something you care about. I strive to make the Poetry Chaikhana a project of peace and insight and beauty — something worthy of so much goodwill.

No responses yet

Sep 30 2016

Updates to the Poetry Chaikhana website

I have been adding several new poems and poets to the main Poetry Chaikhana website www.poetry-chaikhana.com. See what’s new here.

It’s easy to forget that the Poetry Chaikhana is more than these poem emails. I maintain an extensive website with hundreds of poets and thousands of poems and, of course, lots of commentary. You can explore the poetry by theme, by spiritual tradition, even by timeline. Take a look around and let some new poetry whisper words of wisdom and wonder to you.

No responses yet

Sep 21 2016

A Vote for Sacred Poetry

Let us bless
The imagination of the Earth,
That knew early the patience
To harness the mind of time,
Waited for the seas to warm,
Ready to welcome the emergence
Of things dreaming of voyaging
Among the stillness of land.

And how light knew to nurse
The growth until the face of the Earth
Brightened beneath a vision of color.

– John O’Donohue
from “In Praise of the Earth”

Hi [First Name]-

As many of you know, I have dealt with chronic fatigue/ME issues for years. Actually, I have been doing pretty well with stable health and energy since last year. But just over a week ago I had an unexpectedly serious crash in energy that has left me reeling while struggling to maintain minimal hours with my day job. I have been using all of my strategies to try to rebound, but so far only with partial success.

Even when I go for several days without sending out a poem email, however, I want you to know that all of you in the Poetry Chaikhana community are very much in my thoughts.

I know from your emails that I am not alone in dealing with serious health challenges. I am always humbled by the quiet courage and strength so many people exercise daily without fanfare or outer drama. Even in the most quiet life, stories of surprising beauty and struggle unfold.

Last year I shared some of my thoughts on Health, Suffering & Meaning that I hope inspires some new perspectives on the subject. (“Sometimes, though, dis-ease is an annoyingly persistent teacher…”)



Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toe nails twinkle, makes you want to do this or that or nothing, makes you know that you are alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared and forever all your own.
~ Dylan Thomas

Please Support for the Poetry Chaikhana

It has been many months since I last requested donations for the Poetry Chaikhana, but your support especially means a lot right now. I am very aware of everyone who sends in a donation, either singly or as a regular monthly contribution, and I am so grateful for all of your support! But, naturally, some people’s attention moves elsewhere over time, and donations fluctuate, so I regularly need to reach out for new support.

Now is a time when I need to ask more of you to join in and support the Poetry Chaikhana.

Nearly 10,000 people are receiving this email. We are a large community with creativity, vision, and resources that I hope can draw on.

Do you think, as a group, we cover the Poetry Chaikhana’s modest expenses each day?

(For those curious about the sort of work I do each day with the Poetry Chaikhana, I invite you to take a look at Behind the Scenes with the Poetry Chaikhana.)



If you feel a connection to the Poetry Chaikhana, please consider making a donation.

Ways you can contribute:

  • You can send a check or money order in US funds made out to “Poetry Chaikhana”, addressed to:

    Poetry Chaikhana
    PO Box 2320
    Boulder, CO 80306

  • You can make a secure online donation in any amount through PayPal by clicking the “Donate” button below or on the Poetry Chaikhana home page www.poetry-chaikhana.com
  • You can sign up for a voluntary subscription of $2/month or $10/month by clicking either the “Subscribe” or “Support” PayPal button, also below or at www.poetry-chaikhana.com. (A regular monthly amount is often easier on your pocketbook and allows the Poetry Chaikhana to plan finances over the long term.)

I am also grateful for your supportive thoughts and prayers. Every contribution, financial and energetic, is sincerely appreciated.


/ Photo by AlicePopkorn /

I regularly receive emails telling me how much the Poetry Chaikhana means to you. The daily poem brings a moment of calm to the morning, inspires creativity at work, offers comfort in a period of crisis, carries hope when assaulted by the headlines, suggests a focus for meditation or prayer before bed. These notes from you continuously remind me why the Poetry Chaikhana is so important. And I am so grateful to be able to share my love of this poetry with such an engaged community.

Sacred poetry is transformative on both a personal and a global level, something I believe we need more than ever today. As I have written elsewhere:

“Sacred poetry has the unique benefit of being a deeply personal expression of spiritual truth while, at the same time, being largely free from dogma… Sacred poetry is the natural goodwill ambassador for the world’s religions. Poetry can reach across cultural divides, soften prejudices, and shed light on misunderstandings. I hope the Poetry Chaikhana can help to facilitate that process.”

Or, as Rumi said–

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
~ Rumi



It is coming up on election season here in the U.S. As you are contemplating your vote, remember also to vote for the sanity and beauty of sacred poetry!

Poetry is like a bird, it ignores all frontiers.
~ Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Thank you, and sending my love!

Ivan

2 responses so far

Jun 29 2016

Truth, Tea, and Poetry

Yesterday’s Istanbul bombing. The Brexit vote. The murder of Amjad Sabri, the Sufi qawwali singer, in Pakistan last week. We could add several things from the American scene to this list. While it is not always the role of the Poetry Chaikhana to dwell on these sorts of events in depth, I do hope my occasional comments inspire serious thought, new perspectives, and deep discussion with those around you.

Poetry, especially sacred poetry, has a way of bringing down barriers and sidestepping dogmas, guiding us to the hidden strands of unity. Sacred poetry reminds us of our shared humanity and our shared divinity.

The poetry of Muslim Sufis and Christian mystics, the songs of shamans and Hindu rishis, of Jewish rebbes and Zen Roshis — these outpourings from the enlightened heart heal the world in ways that politics and social institutions were never designed for. The right word moves from the heart to the tongue to touch a new heart, and so quietly spreads through the world. An elegant formulation of thought and feeling and breath, the poetic word is itself utterly insubstantial, a phantasm, yet somehow alive with truth and beauty… and the recognition of the underlying unity we all are part of. And so poetry, in its quiet way, flows on hidden currents through humanity, unaffected by borders or bullets.

I believe poetry, sacred poetry, is essential to the healing of this suffering world.

The Poetry Chaikhana seeks to honor the way the mystic’s ecstatic insight flows naturally into poetic utterance, doing away with all the dogma and internecine sectarian squabbling. This idea was central to my decision years ago to call this site a “chaikhana.”

Chaikhana

I often get asked what a “chaikhana” is. The short answer is that it is a tea house (chai = tea). The inevitable second question is, why a “poetry chaikhana”? What does poetry, especially sacred poetry, have to do with tea? The act of sipping tea naturally has a contemplative quality to it, but there’s a deeper reason why I chose the name Poetry Chaikhana all those years ago. I was inspired by a Sufi story–


/ Photo by Doubtful-Della /

The Story of Tea

In ancient times, tea was not known outside China. Rumours of its existence had reached the wise and the unwise of other countries, and each tried to find out what it was in accordance with what he wanted or what he thought it should be.

The King of Inja (‘here’) sent an embassy to China, and they were given tea by the Chinese Emperor. But, since they saw that the peasants drank it too, they concluded that it was not fit for their royal master: and, furthermore, that the Chinese Emperor was trying to deceive them, passing off some other substance for the celestial drink.

The greatest philosopher of Anja (‘there’) collected all the information he could about tea, and concluded that it must be a substance which existed but rarely, and was of another order than anything then known. For was it not referred to as being an herb, a water, green, black, sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet?

In the countries of Koshish and Bebinem, for centuries the people tested all the herbs they could find. Many were poisoned, all were disappointed. For nobody had brought the tea-plant to their lands, and thus they could not find it. They also drank all the liquids which they could find, but to no avail.

In the territory of Mazhab (‘Sectarianism’) a small bag of tea was carried in procession before the people as they went on their religious observances. Nobody thought of tasting it: indeed, nobody knew how. All were convinced that the tea itself had a magical quality. A wise man said: ‘Pour upon it boiling water, ye ignorant ones!’ They hanged him and nailed him up, because to do this, according to their belief, would mean the destruction of their tea. This showed that he was an enemy of their religion.

Before he died, he had told his secret to a few, and they managed to obtain some tea and drink it secretly. When anyone said: ‘What are you doing?’ they answered: ‘It is but medicine which we take for a certain disease.’

And so it was throughout the world. Tea had actually been seen growing by some, who did not recognize it. It had been given to others to drink, but they thought it the beverage of the common people. It had been in the possession of others, and they worshipped it. Outside China, only a few people actually drank it, and those covertly.

Then came a man of knowledge, who said to the merchants of tea, and the drinkers of tea, and to others: ‘He who tastes, knows. He who tastes not, knows not. Instead of talking about the celestial beverage, say nothing, but offer it at your banquets. Those who like it will ask for more. Those who do not, will show that they are not fitted to be tea-drinkers. Close the shop of argument and mystery. Open the teahouse of experience.’

The tea was brought from one stage to another along the Silk Road, and whenever a merchant carrying jade or gems or silk would pause to rest, he would make tea, and offer it to such people as were near him, whether they were aware of the repute of tea or not. This was the beginning of the Chaikhanas, the teahouses which were established all the way from Peking to Bokhara and Samarkand. And those who tasted, knew.

At first, mark well, it was only the great and the pretended men of wisdom who sought the celestial drink and who also exclaimed: ‘But this is only dried leaves!’ or: ‘Why do you boil water, stranger, when all I want is the celestial drink?’, or yet again: ‘How do I know that this is? Prove it to me. Besides the colour of the liquid is not golden, but ochre!’

When the truth was known, and when the tea was brought for all who would taste, the roles were reversed, and the only people who said things like the great and intelligent had said were the absolute fools. And such is the case to this day.

– Ayn al-Qozat Hamadani (1098 – 1131)

Tales of the Dervishes: Teaching Stories of the Sufi Masters over the Past Thousand Years
by Idries Shah

I hope the poems and thoughts I share through the Poetry Chaikhana bring a taste of that essential truth to your lips. This deep truth is loving and accepting, utterly unthreatened by the multiplicity of ideas, ancient and modern, that so threaten the rigid-minded. This truth permeates and enlivens the best of our notions and aspirations without being limited by them. And when a line of sacred poetry entrances us with its beauty, we have caught a holy glimpse of that truth, which is nothing less than the eternal Face of the Beloved, ever smiling just beneath the surface, drawing our spirits deeper, deeper into understanding, deeper into truth, deeper into compassion and connection.

Truth, tea… and poetry. Chaikhana.

He who tastes, knows. He who tastes not, knows not… Close the shop of argument and mystery. Open the teahouse of experience.

2 responses so far

Jun 01 2016

A few updates

A while back I had mentioned that I am working on two new books — a new poetry anthology, which I plan to publish in the summer, and also a collection of the ‘thoughts for the day,’ which I hoped to publish even sooner. I will still be publishing both books, but I have decided to focus on the anthology first and complete the book of sayings after. The tentative schedule for the two books now is to release the anthology late summer or early autumn, to be followed by the book of sayings by the end of the year. Although I haven’t been as swift as I hoped with preparing them for publication, I am pleased with how they are coming together… and I hope you will be too.

Also, I forget to mention it, but I have been doing some behind-the-scenes work on the Poetry Chaikhana. I recently updated the database software I use to manage the website along with the extensive library of poetry, biographies, and commentaries. You are not likely to notice any changes as a visitor to the site, but these updates to the software mean that I can avoid several technical issues and I am now in a good position to continue to manage the Poetry Chaikhana well into the future. Some of the humdrum details that only a nerd can appreciate, but they help me to keep the extensive Poetry Chaikhana resources available to everyone.

2 responses so far

Apr 11 2016

Poetry, Dreams, and Interpretation

I started the Poetry Chaikhana more than ten years ago. These days I typically feature two poems a week, but in the beginning I was sending out five or six poem emails a week! That’s a lot of poem commentary over the years. Of course, sometimes my “commentary” is really more of a meandering meditative tangent loosely inspired by a line or phrase I particularly liked. But when I am actually writing about the poem itself, its meaning, most especially its “spiritual” meaning, I hope it is understood that whatever I write is not the single, authoritative way to interpret the poem’s meaning.

This weekend I was going through some old documents, and I found something I wrote on this subject a few years back that I thought was worth sharing again–

I believe that my commentary on any particular poem should not be taken as all-encompassing or the one “right” way to understand it. Poems, by the elastic nature of their language, have no one, fixed meaning or correct interpretation. Even when the poet may have had a fixed meaning in mind, the moment that poem is shared it expands in meaning.

I like to read a poem the way I try to understand a dream: It is layered with meaning. Ask yourself a question and then look at the poem – and it will suggest a meaning to you. Ask yourself a different question and reread the same poem – you will discover a different meaning. Return to the poem five years later and discover a new meaning again. Poems change with us.

It is my hope that the thoughts and observations and occasional tangents I include with each poem inspire you to connect more deeply with the poem or be touched by it in some unexpected way. But my commentary is only one possible entranceway into the world opened by each poem. Never hesitate to suggest a different understanding of a poem, even one contrary to mine. More important than what I think of a poem is what you think of it – that’s where the magic happens!

Swallowing
the open field —
pheasant’s cry

~ Yamei
(Japan, 17th century)
tr. Ivan M. Granger

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

6 responses so far

Nov 21 2015

Holiday Poetry Book Recommendations 2015

Yesterday it occurred to me just how quickly the winter holidays are coming: Christmas, Hanukkah, the Solstice, Yule, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Day…

Perhaps a few of the gifts you give this year should wax poetic. Poetry lasts in ways few other gifts can. A really good poem unwraps itself a little more each time it is read, becoming a continuously opening gift to the mind and the heart.





Here is a a holiday sampler to consider as gifts for you and your loved ones:

== Poetry Chaikhana Publications ==

For the modern mystic…

Marrow of the Flame
Poems of the Spiritual Journey
by Dorothy Walters

Introduction by Andrew Harvey

The Poetry Chaikhana’s most recent publication…

Dorothy Walters explores the spiritual journey through its ecstasies, struggles, and vistas. Each step is observed with the keen insight and clear voice of a modern woman who is both a skilled poet and genuine mystic.

Dorothy Walters’s poems are immediate and inviting, transcendent and often playful. Many of these poems are in dialog, with Rumi and Rilke, Denise Levertov and Lalla, each poem contributing its own wisdom and humor to the ongoing conversation that passes between visionaries and sages through history and across cultures.

Marrow of Flame has already become a modern classic among spiritual seekers.

These poems make me gasp. Dorothy Walters–part buddha, part elf–weaves mythic literacy with subversive compassion.” ~ Mirabai Starr

READ MOREPURCHASE

also Amazon and Barnes & Noble

US UK CAN IND
and wherever books are sold

To satisfy that longing (or awaken it)…

The Longing in Between
Sacred Poetry from Around the World
(A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology)

Edited with Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

In many ways this is my most personal publication, combining favorite soul-inspiring poems from the world’s great religious and spiritual traditions, accompanied by the thoughts, meditations, commentary, and occasional tangents that have been central to the Poetry Chaikhana poem emails for years. Selections from Rumi, Whitman, Kabir, Machado, Issa, Teresa of Avila, Dickinson, Blake, Yunus Emre, John of the Cross, Lalla, and many others.

These are poems of seeking and awakening… and the longing in between.

“The Longing in Between is a work of sheer beauty. Ivan M. Granger has done a great service, not only by bringing [these poems] to public attention, but by opening their deeper meaning with his own rare poetic and mystic sensibility.”
~ ROGER HOUSDEN, author of the best-selling Ten Poems to Change Your Life series

READ MOREPURCHASE

also Amazon and Barnes & Noble

US UK CAN IND
and wherever books are sold

For the modern mystic…

Given: Poems
by Wendell Berry

Few modern poets manage to view the world with the patient eye Berry does when contemplating the purposes of life, death, and the slow pulse of the natural world. This is a favorite collect, with his Sabbath poems, several haiku and short poems. A book to savor on a slow Sunday afternoon.

Why I Wake Early
By Mary Oliver

You can’t go wrong with anything by Mary Oliver, but if you’re looking for a good introduction to her poetry, Why I Wake Early is a good place to start. This collection is one to enjoy, one poem at a time, in those quiet moments before the busyness of the day starts.





For illumination…

The Illuminated Rumi
Translations by Coleman Barks
Art by Michael Green

Excerpts of Rumi’s poetry accompanied by amazing digital collage artwork that draws you deeply into each page. This book entrances on several levels. An excellent gift book.





For the wise woman…

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

This is the first anthology I got years ago that made me say, Wow! Includes Sappho, Rabia, Yeshe Tsogyel, Hildegard von Bingen, Mechthild of Magdeburg, Hadewijch of Antwerp, Lalla, Mirabai, Bibi Hayati, Marina Tsvetaeva. The best collection I’ve found of women’s voices in sacred poetry.

The Shambhala Anthology of Women’s Spiritual Poetry
Edited by Aliki Barnstone

Another very good anthology of spiritual poetry by women, from ancient to modern times. Poets like Mirabai, Mahadevi, Lal Ded, Sappho, Sun Buer, Dickenson, Tsvetaeva. The two books together — this with Women in Praise of the Sacred — make a good collection.

For Nourishment…

Soul Food: Nourishing Poems for Starved Minds
Edited by Neil Astley and Pamela Robertson-Pearce

I came across this collection by accident, through a random recommendation on the Internet — and it has quickly become a favorite! A rich, tasty mixture of poetry by ancient and modern visionaries, from Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry to Kabir and Dogen, and several you may not have heard of before. Open to any page and discover a new treasure.





A Sampling of Sufi Wisdom…

The Shambhala Guide to Sufism
By Carl W. Ernst, Ph.D.

Not a collection of poetry, but good book to help you begin to understand who the Sufis really are. An intelligent, insightful look at the history, practices, philosophies, schools, and even politics of Sufism. If you’ve loved the poetry of Rumi but only have a vague idea of how Sufism fits within the Islamic faith, this book is a good place to start.

Tales of the Dervishes: Teaching Stories of the Sufi Masters over the Past Thousand Years
By Idries Shah

Short wisdom stories from the Sufi tradition that surprise with unexpected insight, delightful humor, and enigmatic conclusions that invite deeper contemplation. I have been rereading this favorite collection for years.

Travelling the Path of Love: Sayings of Sufi Masters
Edited by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee has gathered together an excellent collection of short sayings and poetic excerpts from many of the great Sufi masters throughout the centuries. Gathered together in themed chapters, such as The Longing of the Heart, The Path, Mediatation and Prayer, and The Valley of Love. Open this book to any page late at night and find a hidden gem to contemplate.

For the Christian contemplative…

For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics
by Roger Housden

This has quickly become one of my favorite collections of sacred poetry within the many Christian traditions. John of the Cross, Merton, Hildegard von Bingen, Gibran, Dante, Meister Eckhart, Blake… and Roger Housden’s brief, thoughtful insights.

Selected Poems of Thomas Merton
by Thomas Merton

I can’t recommend this collection highly enough. Merton, in addition to being a deep mystic, was a truly excellent contemporary poet. His poems feel entirely modern, yet touch on the eternal. While drawing on Catholic imagery, one can hear whispers of Eastern philosophy and insight in his words. Poems to reread and meditate deeply upon.





For the Jewish mystic…

The Poetry of Kabbalah: Mystical Verse from the Jewish Tradition
Translated and Annotated by Peter Cole

Finally we have a truly excellent collection of sacred Jewish poetry. While T. Carmi’s Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse is more comprehensive, Cole’s The Poetry of Kabbalah has more of a poet’s sense of language and even catches of few sparks from the mystic’s fire. This is poetry that startles and transports. The Poetry of Kabbalah has become my favorite source for Jewish mystical poetry in English. Very highly recommended.





A little Zen in your pocket…

Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter
Edited by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto

A good collection without being overwhelming. I especially like it’s selection of Japanese haiku: Basho, Buson, Issa, Masahide…

Haiku Enlightenment
By Gabriel Rosenstock

This book is an excellent sampling of haiku, traditional and modern, and, at the same time a wise and playful exploration of the essence of haiku insight. A bit pricey for this slim volume, but enthusiastically recommended for meditators, writers, and haiku enthusiasts. Also look for its companion volume Haiku: The Gentle Art of Disappearing.





For the Rilke lover…

Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God
Translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

There are several very good translations of Rilke available, but I’ve slowly come to the opinion that Barrows and Macy, more than any others, get the tone just right. Their Rilke translations glow and uplift, but without losing the shadows that also haunt the spaces between his words. Perfect!

In the Company of Rilke
by Stephanie Dowrick

A lovely, insightful meditation of the poetry of Rilke and why it speaks so powerfully to us today. The perfect companion book to pair with your favorite Rilke collection.

Artist, Therapist, Shaman…

Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-Making
By John Fox

Not a book of poetry, but a book that belongs on every poetry lover’s bookshelf. This is a book about the transformational nature of poetry – reading it, speaking it, writing it. Poetry as therapy. Poetry as a pathway to self-exploration. Poetry to rediscover your true voice. I was surprised how much I liked this book.





Lover and the Beloved…

For Love of the Dark One: Songs of Mirabai
Translated by Andrew Schelling

Andrew Schelling’s translations embody that tension between heartbreak and ecstasy that runs through all of Mirabai’s poetry. These poems can be read as love poems or as spiritual poems — but, of course, they are both.

Love’s Alchemy: Poems of the Sufi Tradition
Translated by David and Sabrineh Fideler

Another very good collection of Persian Sufi poetry. This book focuses on poems and poets that are not as well known in the West. A good place to discover some new names.

Wine of the Mystic: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyan: A Spiritual Interpretation
by Omar Khayyam
Commentary by Paramahansa Yogananda

A 20th century Indian Yogi commenting on the spiritual meaning of an 11th century Persian Sufi’s poetry. That combination yields both perfume and controversy — but plenty to contemplate. Lovely artwork and border scrollwork. And Fitzgerald’s delightful translation of this classic. Recommended.

Transcendent Hindu verses…

Speaking of Siva
Translated by A. K. Ramanujan

This book became an immediate favorite of mine ever since I picked up a copy of it a few years ago. Stunning poems from the Shiva bhakti tradition of India. Basava, Devara Dasimayya, Akka Mahadevi, Allama Prabhu. The commentary in the book, though a little academic, is genuinely insightful. Enthusiastically recommended!

I, Lalla: The Poems of Lal Ded
Translated by Ranjit Hoskote

There are several translations of the poetry of Lalla available in English now, good ones too, but Ranjit Hoskote’s versions are my favorite. They seem to marry a love of the original language with a poet’s sense of English, without ever losing the mystic’s fire at the center of each poem. Recommended.

And for blessings…

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

I keep being told by people how much they love this book of poetic blessings from the Irish philosopher, poet, and mystic, John O’Donohue. These poetically crafted blessings and meditations on the passages of life manage to elevate the spirit, warm the heart, and, on occasion, bring a tear to the eye.

For even more book recommendations, click here.

(I let the list get a little long this year, but, even so, I had to leave off so many amazing books. The drawback to loving so much poetry.)





Let’s remember that, in the midst of winter’s dark, this is the time to renew the light — within ourselves and our world. Regardless of religion, may we recognize our shared brotherhood and sisterhood within the human family, all within the lap of the generous green earth that is our home.

I hope you and your loved ones have a special holiday season —

— and that the new year brings you bright blessings!

Ivan

One response so far

Nov 04 2015

Thank you – and an update

I want to say how truly thankful I am for your generous response to my request for support. Just look at this amazing list of people who have already donated online:

– Jim S., Pat J., John P., Dyan H., Theresa S., Sylvia F., Kathleen H., Mattheus N., Beth U., Susan T., Harvey G., Bill F., Linda T., Gary D., Merrilee M., David J., Deborah C., Kellie M., Anne B., Doug B., Stella M., Kris H., Julia J., Ken M., Vicki G., Joanne L., Jane W., Anne M., John H., Beki H., Monika H., Marie-Christine dK., Sue W., John W., Megha D., Jennifer T., Rosalind W., Helen G.

And I am well aware that several of you have chosen to send a contribution through the mail, which may need a few more days to arrive.

I am fully aware what a profound and personal contribution each and every one of your donations is. Considering that this is poetry and commentary you can enjoy for free, so many of you have chosen to step out of your comfort zone and fill out a donation form online or address and stamp an envelope and then, of course, offer some of your own money — $2, $10, $20, $50, in a few cases more! I never have the words to properly express my gratitude, when your donations obviously come from the heart.

Thank you, everyone!

=

We are still well short of even one-quarter of our goal of $5,000. I knew that amount was an ambitious goal, perhaps too ambitious, though we may still be surprised by further donations yet to come in.

Whatever the final result of this fundraising drive, know that it is already a huge help. The closer we can get to the goal of $5,000, the quicker I can make some of the changes that will allow me to focus more time and energy on the Poetry Chaikhana. But, if we have less to work with, I will still move toward that transition, it may just take longer.

Again, thank you!

No responses yet

Nov 02 2015

Support for Changes

Life is this simple:
We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent
& the Divine is shining through it all the time.
~ Thomas Merton

I haven’t been a very good correspondent lately.

I feel badly about how many of your emails I haven’t responded to in recent weeks. Almost every day I receive at least one email telling me how much the Poetry Chaikhana means to you. The daily poem brings a moment of calm to the morning, inspires creativity at work, offers comfort in a period of crisis, carries hope when assaulted by the headlines, suggests a focus for meditation or prayer before bed. These notes from you continuously remind me why the Poetry Chaikhana is so important. And I am so grateful to be able to share my love of this poetry with such an engaged community.

Often your notes, even when brief, touch on something deeply personal and meaningful in your life and how that day’s poem spoke just the right words to you. Many of you send me your own poems in response. I know how much heart and attention you put into your correspondence with me, and I don’t like to let those pass without a reply. I have always felt that communication is essential to the vitality of the Poetry Chaikhana. For me, the emails I send out and your responses to me feel personal, a long-term conversation between us all on the nature of spirit and art and daily life, and how these interweave and contribute to each other — enlivening us all in the process

In the past year I have had to significantly increase my work hours in my day job to make up for rising expenses and lower income with the Poetry Chaikhana. All of that extra work gets tricky with my ongoing ME/chronic fatigue syndrome challenges. Unfortunately, that means I have very little extra focus for the Poetry Chaikhana beyond sending out the emails themselves once or twice a week. Not only is my communication with all of you suffering, new book projects are also on hold. I have halted plans for a few speaking engagements. The website itself isn’t getting updated or maintained properly.

I hope this doesn’t sound pretentious, but I consider the Poetry Chaikhana to be sacred work. And I don’t feel this sacred work is getting the attention it deserves from me. Without enough community support, my work with the Poetry Chaikhana may have to be trimmed back further, which would be a shame.

I think, instead, that it’s time to make some changes in order to restore balance, return more of my focus to the Poetry Chaikhana, and revitalize communication within this wonderful community we have built over the years.

That’s why I am reaching out to you for help.

I need to significantly cut expenses in order to lessen my work requirements. That requires a few big changes on my part, as well as a certain amount of extra income to help with the transition.

I have set a big goal: I would like to see if we can raise $5,000. I know that sounds like a big number, though it shouldn’t be for a group as large as ours. With a community of several thousand people across the globe, don’t you think that together we can raise that sum?

If you feel a connection to the Poetry Chaikhana, please consider making a donation.


Ways you can help:

– You can make a secure online donation in any amount through PayPal by clicking the “Donate” button on the Poetry Chaikhana home page at www.poetry-chaikhana.com

– You can sign up for a voluntary monthly donation of $2/month or $10/month by clicking either the “Subscribe” or “Support” PayPal button.

(A regular monthly amount is often easier on your pocketbook — and easier to justify as less than the cost of one snack per month.)



– You can send a check or money order in US funds, addressed to:

Poetry Chaikhana
PO Box 2320
Boulder, CO 80306


I am also grateful for your help through supportive thoughts and prayers. Every contribution, financial and energetic, is sincerely appreciated.



There. That’s my pitch. If you have thought about making a donation to the Poetry Chaikhana in the past, if you have been touched by a poem or commentary featured in one of the Poetry Chaikhana emails, if you would like to help more people to discover this amazing poetry… now is an especially helpful time to make a donation.



Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
~ Rumi


/ Photo by AlicePopkorn /

Do you wonder what my work with the Poetry Chaikhana looks like?

I realize that most of my work with the Poetry Chaikhana goes on behind the scenes and few of you have a clear sense of what I really do. Here is a slightly updated version something I wrote a while back that should give you a better sense of my daily work with the Poetry Chaikhana. I thought you might find this interesting reading…

I often start my morning off with a meditation, and then I see which poem seems eager to speak that day. I let my computer suggest a poem at random, and then I try to sense if the poem is “right” for the day. Some mornings I select the first poem that comes up. Other days I’ll spend an hour sorting through possibilities. I try to make sure I have a good balance of spiritual traditions represented over the month. I also make a point of including women’s voices regularly. Occasionally I look for a series of poems that follow a sacred theme or metaphor.

Once I’ve selected the daily poem, I often spend a little time researching the life of the poet so I can pass along a few notes with the poem.

Then I sit with the poem, contemplate it, speak it aloud, let it dance in my mind, and I watch the ideas rise for my commentary. Occasionally I slip back into meditation and when I emerge the commentary is just waiting to be written out.

Some mornings I feel I’ve said too much in recent commentaries, and I just send the poem with a short, friendly note. And sometimes I come across a poem with a comment I wrote a couple of years ago, and I think, “I have to share that with everyone again!”

Then I spend a while searching through photos and art among the Flickr or Deviantart “Creative Commons” libraries and look for one that somehow expresses an image or feeling from the poem.

I also select a “Thought for the Day” from among the many I’ve written over the years, also by feel for the day.

Then I update the Poetry Chaikhana home page and post the poem and commentary to the Poetry Chaikhana blog. I spend a while adding new sign-ups and removing cancellations from the email list. Finally, I format everything and send out the poem email.

The Poetry Chaikhana poem email now goes out to about 9,000 people! It used to take my computer more than 4 hours to send the poem email out each day, but now I use an email service so my computer is free for other work while it is sending.

Most days I also select a short poem or excerpt to post on the Poetry Chaikhana Facebook page. Sometimes two posts. I often post accompanying artwork, as well. We’ve got another 6,000 fans there.

I spend time each month looking for new voices of wisdom in books and on the Internet. I try to add new poems and poets regularly. I’ve become quite a speedy typist!

Some weeks I also have to spend time maintaining and troubleshooting the Poetry Chaikhana database and website. Occasionally, I have to wrangle with spam-blocker sites to convince them that the Poetry Chaikhana emails are not spam.

I get dozens of emails each week, sometimes hundreds — which I love! I read every email and, when I can, I send responses.

When I am working on a new book for publication, there is a whole additional ‘to do’ list involving reprint permission requests, editing, proofreading, layout work, and lots of correspondence with poets and translators.

…And then I start my day job. Whew!

Poetry and Personal Transformation

We forget how fundamental poetry is, not only to culture, but to consciousness. Poetry is meditation in the form of words. I posted this on the Poetry Chaikhana website years ago, and it’s just as true today:

“Poetry has an immediate effect on the mind. The simple act of reading poetry alters thought patterns and the shuttle of the breath. Poetry induces trance. Its words are chant. Its rhythms are drumbeats. Its images become the icons of the inner eye. Poetry is more than a description of the sacred experience; it carries the experience itself.”

The Politics of Poetry

In addition to the spiritual importance of this sacred poetry, there is also a cultural, even a political motivation behind the Poetry Chaikhana. Here’s how I described it in a interview a few years ago:

“Sacred poetry has the unique benefit of being a deeply personal expression of spiritual truth while, at the same time, being largely free from dogma. In the United States, for example, there is an increasing prejudice and fear about the Muslim world. But who can read Jelaluddin Rumi without immediately recognizing the deep truth that Islam can express? The same is true for a non-Hindu reading Lal Ded or a non-Christian reading St. John of the Cross. Sacred poetry is the natural goodwill ambassador for the world’s religions. Poetry can reach across cultural divides, soften prejudices, and shed light on misunderstandings. I hope the Poetry Chaikhana can help to facilitate that process.”

Sacred poetry is transformative on both a personal and a global level.

The Poetry Chaikhana has become a community that reaches across the globe. We have visitors from every continent and more than 220 countries and territories! (See Poetry Chaikhana Around the World.)

The Poetry Chaikhana is an important resource for people all over the world seeking to more deeply understand their own wisdom traditions as well as the spirituality of other cultures in an atmosphere of mutual respect.


/ Photo by woodleywonderworks /



Thank you so much! I know that a number of you have already given your support to the Poetry Chaikhana, both financially and through your heartfelt good wishes. I want you to know that whatever help you can offer is sincerely appreciated. So I thank you for your help past and present in continuing to build the Poetry Chaikhana as an online resource and community, a publisher, and a voice for art, balanced esoteric exploration, and cultural respect.

While reason is still tracking down the secret,
you end your quest on the open field of love.
~ Sanai

4 responses so far

Oct 23 2015

Book: A Moonlit Teahouse

A Moonlit Teahouse: Anthology of Sacred Poetry

A Moonlit Teahouse: Anthology of Sacred Poetry
Edited by silent lotus, Dick Holmes, et. al.

A Moonlit Teahouse is a delightful new anthology of sacred poetry by contemporary poets (including a few by yours truly).

I also wrote the introduction. “It is the job of theologians, philosophers, and scientists to precisely describe the human experience of reality. Most of us simply accept those definitions. A rare few catch the glow pouring through the cracks. We call these strange people visionaries, mystics… poets.”

This is not a Poetry Chaikhana publication, but it is published by a group of poets who connected through the Poetry Chaikhana, which makes me a proud grandfather of sorts. All sales of this book go to support the Ninash Foundation which does wonderful work promoting literacy among girls and minority children in rural India.

When you purchase a copy, your money will be a gift to others and the poetry will be a gift to yourself.

Read more at: amoonlitteahouse.wordpress.com/h0me/

No responses yet

Sep 09 2015

Marrow of Flame now available in Kindle ebook format!

Several Poetry Chaikhana readers have been waiting for the Kindle format version of Marrow of Flame — and it is now available for $4.99.

Marrow of Flame (Kindle)

Marrow of Flame (paperback)

By purchasing a copy, not only do you support the Poetry Chaikhana, but you give yourself the gift of some truly inspiring poetry!

One response so far

Aug 14 2015

Book Announcement: Marrow of Flame, by Dorothy Walters

The Moment
by Dorothy Walters

And not once,
but many times over,
again and again,
how we disappeared
into that deep well
of darkness, shuddering beneath that load of silence,
clinging to our narrow ledge.

Yet the darkness, sometimes,
unfolded as light.
Our atoms dissolved in it,
each separate molecule opening
into a radiant disk of feeling.

How still we became,
witness and thing seen,
spectacle and observer,
each point admitting an untrammeled flood.

— from Marrow of Flame : Poems of the Spiritual Journey, by Dorothy Walters

Book Announcement: Marrow of Flame

I can’t express how pleased and honored I am to announce the availability of the Poetry Chaikhana’s newest publication: Marrow of Flame: Poems of the Spiritual Journey, by Dorothy Walters. The poetry of Dorothy Walters has always been a favorite on the Poetry Chaikhana. Each time I feature one of her poems, I receive many emails and blog comments telling me how much her poems connect and speak to the heart.

Now the Poetry Chaikhana is making her most popular collection of poetry available in a new and revised edition. This is a chance for you to add some truly inspiring and insightful poetry to your collection — and, at the same time, support the Poetry Chaikhana.

This re-issue of Dorothy Walters’s mystical masterpiece Marrow of Flame is a great literary and spiritual event. I don’t know of any other poet currently writing in English who expresses so simply and nobly and with such authority the ordeals, ecstasies and revelations of the path…”
     ~ ANDREW HARVEY, from the Introduction

This beloved collection of poetry by Dorothy Walters explores the spiritual journey through its ecstasies, struggles, and vistas. Each step is observed with the keen insight and clear voice of a modern woman who is both a skilled poet and genuine mystic.

Dorothy Walters’s poems are immediate and inviting, transcendent and often playful. Many of these poems are in dialog, with Rumi and Rilke, Denise Levertov and Lalla, each poem contributing its own wisdom and humor to the ongoing conversation that passes between visionaries and sages through history and across cultures.

Since the publication of the first edition in 2000, Marrow of Flame has already become a modern classic among spiritual seekers.

Now the Poetry Chaikhana offers Marrow of Flame in this updated and revised edition, with a new introduction by Andrew Harvey.

What if there were a modern Rumi or Kabir, Dante Alighieri or John Donne writing of mystical longing, ecstasies and despair? What if she were a woman? What if she were Dorothy Walters weaving her passionate songs into a priceless prayer shawl? Beware: Who holds up this scarf is swept in the arms of the Lover on the path from which no one returns the same.”
     ~ SOPHY BURNHAM, author, The Ecstatic Journey: Walking the Mystical Path in Everyday Life




Excerpt from the Introduction by Andrew Harvey

     Six years ago now I gave classes on Rumi at the California Institute of Integral Studies. After one of them, during my office hours, a gentle and shy woman with short cropped gray hair in her early sixties came in to talk to me. Before she even began to speak, I was startled by the kind clarity of her presence, the unmistakable aura of canny and tried goodness that clothed her. We spoke of many things that afternoon—about Rumi and his extraordinary relationship with Shams, about the nature of mystical ecstasy, about the kind of rigor and capacity for ordeal demanded by the authentic path of transformation; it became clear to me very quickly that I had a great deal to learn from the woman sitting before me, and that she spoke not from curiosity, or even literary or spiritual passion, but from the most profound, intricate and seasoned inner experience. What struck me most that afternoon about Dorothy Walters was her humility; unlike many of my Californian students and friends, she did not claim enlightenment or flaunt her “mystical” insights. Part of her, I felt, was always kneeling in silence before the vastness of the mystery that had clearly claimed her for its own: she spoke of the Divine haltingly, and with a refined and poignant tenderness, like a lover of her Beloved. And she had a wild Irish laugh, too, which reassured me.

     In the years since, we have become the greatest and deepest of friends and I have come to think of Dorothy as a spiritual mother and as one of the few true mystics I have met in my life. Her beauty of soul has illumined my life; her courage has inspired me always to travel deeper into my own vision; I have been able to speak to her, as a fellow seeker and lover of God, with complete candor about the demands of the Path. When I left Meera in circumstances that caused great scandal and controversy, Dorothy wrote me a letter which I shall always cherish and re-read often in which she begged me to “remain true to myself whatever happens and never to give in to any of the terrible pressures my actions and insights will inevitably arouse.” It was the perfect advice, perfectly expressed, at exactly the right time; this kind of precision characterizes Dorothy’s spirit. The only other being who in my experience combined such deep kindness with such wisdom was Iris Murdoch; one of the great sadnesses of my life is that Iris died before they could meet. When I think of them together I think of the commentary the I Ching gives on the sixth line of the hexagram Ting, “the Cauldron.” “The Ting has rings of jade.” “Jade is notable for its combination of hardness with soft luster… here the counsel is described in relation to the sage who imparts it. In imparting it, he will be mild and pure, like precious jade.”

     It was only after the first two years of our friendship that Dorothy began, diffidently and self-deprecatingly, to show me the poems she was writing. I was immediately struck by them; they were exquisitely made, subtle, passionate and profound, unlike anything else I knew that was being written in our time. Whenever we met, Dorothy would bring some fresh works to our meeting. Slowly, as we read them together and discussed them, Dorothy came to reveal more to me of her remarkable inner journey; a journey that has led her through much ordeal and heartbreak and loneliness, from a cramped sometimes difficult childhood, through a long, testing stint as a teacher of literature and women’s studies in a mid-western university, to the festive and fertile spiritual and personal life she enjoys now in her very active “retirement” in San Francisco, surrounded by books and music and friends…



These poems make me gasp. I thought all the great mystics had been gone for centuries… Dorothy Walters–part buddha, part elf–weaves mythic literacy with subversive compassion.”
     ~ MIRABAI STARR, author of Saint Teresa of Avila and God of Love

Marrow of Flame, Poems of the Spiritual Journey, Dorothy Walters, Andrew Harvey Marrow of Flame
Poems of the Spiritual Journey

by Dorothy Walters
Introduction by Andrew Harvey

$11.95 PURCHASE

also
Amazon and Barnes & Noble Marrow of Flame US Marrow of Flame UK Marrow of Flame CAN 
or ask at your local independent book store


Your purchase supports the Poetry Chaikhana and encourages future publications.

– Thank you! –

Note to Kindle users – The Amazon page’s Kindle link is for the 1st edition, not for the Poetry Chaikhana’s revised 2nd edition. The Poetry Chaikhana will issue a Kindle version for the 2nd edition soon, and probably at a lower price. I am working with Amazon to correct this link. And I will announce when the correct Kindle edition is ready.


Recommended Books: Dorothy Walters

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Marrow of Flame : Poems of the Spiritual Journey The Ley Lines of the Soul: Poems of Ecstasy and Ascension Unmasking the Rose: A Record of a Kundalini Initiation A Cloth of Fine Gold: Poems of the Inner Journey
More Books >>


Dorothy Walters, Dorothy Walters poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Dorothy Walters

US (1928 – )
Secular or Eclectic

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3 responses so far

Aug 07 2015

New book is almost ready!

I mentioned a few weeks ago that the Poetry Chaikhana’s next publication is coming soon: Marrow of Flame by Dorothy Walters. I am so pleased to say that is complete and at the printer, and it will soon be available for purchase.

This is a truly excellent and inspiring collection, the perfect companion to accompany us on our own spiritual journeys. These are poems that will be remembered, eagerly read by future generations of seekers.

How can I explain this?
Yesterday, pain cleaving a path
over shoulder and arm,
eyes stunned by arrows of light,
back a maze of burning rivers.

Today, Vivaldi, Stabat Mater,
a subtle lifting in the heart,
wrists floating in rapture,
in my mouth the taste of honey and flame.

An earlier edition of Marrow of Flame was published by Hohm Press in 2000, and you can still find copies of the old edition online. But I encourage you to wait a few days and show your support by purchasing the Poetry Chaikhana edition, which includes several revisions — and a new introduction by Andrew Harvey.

The announcement is coming soon!

No responses yet

Jun 19 2015

Health, Suffering & Meaning

It’s the end of a rough health week for me. I mustered enough steam for my day job, but I didn’t have the proper focus or energy to select a few poems, really spend some time with them, and share my thoughts. I was going to let the Poetry Chaikhana be silent this week, but then I remembered this note about health and suffering I wrote a few years ago. As something that was written in the midst of a particularly difficult bout, it’s not exactly an “all is light” sort of statement, but I hope that it helps to awaken that inner fire and grit we all need sometimes to get through life’s challenges…

Here’s the thing: Not every disease or discomfort is meant to be overcome.

That’s a hard thing to say, and even harder to accept. But it’s true. If disease dares to show up in our lives, we want it fixed, removed. We want to get on with life and refuse to see disease as being part of life. Even in the holistic health community which views illness as a teacher, we often want to learn the “lesson” so we can quickly dismiss the teacher.

Sometimes, though, dis-ease is an annoyingly persistent teacher. It teaches us interior awareness. Not something learned quickly. It teaches sheer endurance. And, maybe the most difficult lesson, surrender. Many of us get into the world of “alternative” health as a way to take control. But surrender, that’s much more difficult to achieve with grace. It requires real subtlety to even distinguish between surrender and defeat. I don’t think we should give in or give up. I personally keep trying new things, new approaches, new… strategies. Maybe it’s my Aries nature, but I sometimes think of it as a sparring match. I don’t necessarily get into to it to win. I just like the sparring. Like a martial artist. The back and forth teaches me more about myself.

Don’t speak of your suffering — He is speaking.
Don’t look for Him everywhere — He’s looking for you.

– Sanai

Jealousy

One other thing that has come to me over the years — one of the mental reflexes for suffering is jealousy. That’s not the first emotion one normally associates with illness, but it’s often lurking in the background. I’ve certainly noticed it.

Why should I have so much of my life and attention diverted by this, when everyone else has it easy?

Says Farid,
I thought I was alone who suffered.
I went on top of the house,
And found every house on fire.

– Baba Sheikh Farid

I’m always being reminded that no one has it easy. Sure, some people have less struggle, while others have heartbreaking levels of suffering. But, when the weariness clears, I glimpse a surprising truth: None of that is the point. The purpose of the human spirit isn’t to be free from difficulty.

That may sound like a cold statement, but it is not. When deeply embraced, this understanding opens us to greater levels of empathy and compassion, and it begins to create a profound resilience within ourselves, allowing us to encounter suffering without shutting down. In other words, if you hold in your mind the idea that suffering is inherently and always wrong, then when you encounter it, you will instinctively shut down. If, however, you accept the existence of suffering — in yourself, in others — your eyes and heart remain open and your hands become willing in the midst of struggles. Accepting suffering gives you greater ability to genuinely alleviate it.

Spirituality and Health

There is a related unconscious thought we often carry that suffering and illness are the sign that something is imperfect about ourselves spiritually. Saints get cancer and have heart attacks. Sages suffer epilepsy. Medicine women get migraines. The body, being a limited vehicle designed to operate in a sometimes disharmonious environment, will sometimes ail. The mark of attainment is not a lack of struggle, but how we respond to that struggle.

Our lives are simply stories. Sometimes the drama and the heat are high, sometimes they are quiet. What is important is the meaning we discover and reveal through that drama. It’s a supremely difficult paradox: We have to engage intensely in the body and the challenges of life, yet, at the same time, it’s not personal… it’s a fascinating story being told through us.

The hallowing of Pain
Like hallowing of Heaven,
Obtains at corporeal cost
The Summit is not given

To Him who strives severe
At middle of the Hill
But He who has achieved the Top
All is the price of All

– Emily Dickinson

Meaning and Suffering

The ultimate question is one of meaning. When we discover meaning in suffering, the suffering becomes endurable. Even comfort and ease, without meaning, eventually become unbearable.

Illness may be devastating, but discovering meaning feeds a hunger even more fundamental than the desire to be free from pain. It feeds the hunger of the soul to know itself.

That hunger, when left unfed, is the real source of suffering in the world.

how can the heart in love
ever stop opening
– Rumi

==

I also have to acknowledge the heartbreaking murders that took place at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Not only does my heart go out to the suffering families and friends of those who were killed, but my heart also goes out to a country, my country, that wants so much to declare racism to be a thing of the past, but has yet to honestly confront that history and its repercussions today.

=

Finally, to all my Muslim friends, I hope this Ramadan is a special time of reconnecting with the Divine and reconnecting with what is pure and true within oneself.

Blessings! And have a healing weekend!

28 responses so far

May 12 2015

Abu-Said Abil-Kheir – In the school of mind

In the school of mind you
by Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

English version by Vraje Abramian

In the school of mind you
learn a lot, and become
a true scholar for many to look up to.
In the school of Love, you become
a child to learn again.

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


/ Image by smoorenburg /

Wow! What a wonderful response to my notes last week! I received a flood of blog comments and private emails. It is always a humbling experience to realize how many wise souls are reading these poem emails. I thoroughly enjoyed reading all of your thoughts and ideas and insights.

I realize, however, that I may not have done the best job in how I framed the subject in the first place. Several of your messages attempted to reassure me that I shouldn’t be concerned with people canceling their subscriptions to the Poetry Chaikhana, a few of you even gently chiding me for worrying about such things. I was so touched by all of your compassionate messages, but, truthfully, I wasn’t particularly upset by the cancellations. If anything, I was rather amused by the reaction, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to open up a discussion to see what everyone else thought. I find that when there’s a bit of a reaction, that’s often a sign that there is more good stuff to explore. That’s the time for Ivan to step down from his soapbox and hand around the microphone. And I’m so glad I did. Even though I do get inspired by these poems and have been known to ramble on a bit, community dialogs like this remind me that mine is one small voice among many. There are so many rich journeys being mapped out by all of you, and spiritual wisdom is not in the short supply we sometimes imagine.

Thank you again, everyone.

In the school of Love, you become
a child to learn again.


Recommended Books: Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

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


Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

Turkmenistan (967 – 1049) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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One response so far

May 08 2015

On Effort, Effortlessness – and the Fine Art of Giving Offense

After my observation that a number of people unsubscribed after Monday’s poem by Ikkyu, I have had several interesting email conversations with members of the Poetry Chaikhana community as to what the real reason may have been.

In one particularly insightful exchange, a friend suggested that people may have been reacting to my commentary in the Ikkyu poem in which I wrote, “It [enlightenment, spiritual insight] is not hidden behind arcane texts. It is not attained through uninspired, dogged effort.” He pointed out that this might be offensive or belittling to the very sincere and often difficult efforts people undertake in order to deepen their spiritual experience.

I thought that was an entirely valid – and compassionate – observation. And he asked me a really good point-blank question: “Do you believe that since we already are what we’re seeking, we can get there without ‘stiff meditation’ or ‘dogged’ persistence?” Or do I think that enlightenment can be attained “merely by looking at the moon, fishing and drinking” as Ikkyu and some other poets seem to suggest.

I wanted to share my brief response in the hopes that it will be meaningful to you and spark further discussion. Here’s how I answered:

I suppose, if I am being both honest and precise, I would say that I respect the essential truth that we already are what we are searching for, and when we are ripe, any particular moment of awareness can serve as the initiating experience; but, coming to that point of readiness usually requires patient and intense striving.

I like the image of a bow and arrow– It takes great strength and effort to draw the bowstring back, but in order to actually hit the target, all that is needed is to let go. If you try to let go without first drawing the bowstring, nothing happens, there’s nothing to let go of. But if you pull and pull and never let go, then all that will happen is you strain your back. To hit the target, you need the effort to produce enough tension, you need to focus on your target, and then… all you do is yield.

As part of my friend’s response to this, he pointed out how well it fits with my commentary accompanying today’s poem by Tagore: “But the spiritual seeker needs passion! The seeker needs the intensity, the energetic boldness of that passion. The art of spiritual success is learning how to tend the coals of that fire, to find a steady fuel, to feed it, to grow comfortable in its heat, to delight in it, to dance in its glow.”

Now you know a little more of my perspective on the subject. I hope it inspires your own thoughts and personal observations. What understanding do you bring to your spiritual practice?

56 responses so far

May 01 2015

Cauldron of Inspiration recording unavailable

Some disappointing news about my recent talk: Several of you have said that you are eager to watch the video of my recent talk on “The Cauldron of Inspiration.” It turns out, however, that there were technical difficulties with the video recording. I was told that there may be short sections that are useable, but as a whole the recording did not work. I’ll have to think of some other way to share that talk with everyone.

One possibility is to make an audio recording of the talk, like a podcast, I can make a video of it by incorporating photographs. The drawback to that, in my mind, is that speaking into a microphone can lack the dynamism of speaking before an audience. And there is no opportunity for a Q&A session afterward.

I may at some point expand the material into a written form, and publish it as a book or an ebook. But that’s another project for a later time.

If you have any thoughts or suggestions, send me an email. And, in the meantime, I hope you find your own cauldron of inspiration…

No responses yet

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