Archive for the 'Poetry Chaikhana Misc.' Category

Mar 30 2011

Health, Spirit & Support

Ivan M. Granger

I am often asked why I don’t publish a book. I usually give one of several standard answers that are all partly true, but the real reason is that I suffer from chronic fatigue. Balancing my day job, nurturing the Poetry Chaikhana, and maintaining my spiritual practice is often a challenging struggle for me. I just don’t have enough energy left to put together a book, at least for now.

Ivan’s Work

I now find myself with a difficult decision… The company I work for in my day job, my primary source of income, has had to cut my work hours by nearly half. The change should be temporary, for a few months perhaps. But I still have to find a way to make ends meet while keeping the Poetry Chaikhana going.

I may have to consider taking on a second job. But it’s difficult to find work that is adaptable to my up and down schedule due to chronic fatigue patterns. I’d have to reserve as much energy as possible for the new job and either drastically cut back on the Poetry Chaikhana work or possibly put it on hold. That’s not the way I’d like to go.

To avoid that scenario and keep the Poetry Chaikhana going in a good rhythm, I need to reach out and ask for your support. As a community of more than 10,000 regular readers, we can cover enough of the daily expenses to support the Poetry Chaikhana — allowing me to continue to write commentary and send out the daily poem, maintain the poetry database, research and add new poets, update the website, and respond to your emails.

If the Poetry Chaikhana brings something special to you each day, please consider supporting the Poetry Chaikhana by sending a donation or signing up for a voluntary subscription. Your contribution is truly appreciated!

But please don’t feel as if I’m asking you to contribute more than you can comfortably afford. Even a small amount — from many people — is immensely helpful. Many contributions from many people makes the Poetry Chaikhana a stronger community project, maintained by many helping hands.

Ways you can contribute:

  • You can send a check or money order in US funds made out to “Poetry Chaikhana” and addressed to:
    Poetry Chaikhana
    PO Box 2320
    Boulder, CO 80306
  • You can make a secure donation online in any amount through PayPal by clicking the “Donate” button below or on the Poetry Chaikhana home page
  • 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 (A regular monthly amount is often easier on your pocketbook and allows the Poetry Chaikhana to plan finances over the long term.)

I also want to thank everyone who has been so generous to the Poetry Chaikhana already, through donations, through notes of thanks, through supportive thoughts and prayers. Every contribution, financial and energetic, is sincerely appreciated.

A warm thank you to everyone!


I know I’m not alone with health struggles. I thought I’d share an excerpt of something I wrote a few years ago, a meditation on Health, Suffering, and Spirit. I hope it you find it helpful and inspiring.

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.



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 so 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 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
– Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

15 responses so far

Nov 06 2010

On Interpreting Poems and Dreams

In response to Friday’s poem by Wendell Berry, a few people commented that they read it as a meditation on the path to a mature and peaceful sense of mortality, something not really touched on in my own notes about the poem. I think Wendell Berry would entirely approve of that way of understanding his poem. Throughout his series of Sabbath poems, there is both an exploration of Sabbath as spiritual rest, but also, yes, Sabbath as the rest at the end of a lived life… with the natural world often teaching us these great lessons not as easily learned amidst human concerns.

This is one more reminder 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 single, fixed meaning or correct interpretation. Even the when the poet himself has a fixed meaning in mind when writing the poem, 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 — 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 claim a different understanding of a poem, even one contrary to mine. It’s not so important what I say about a poem; it is in your own personal experience of the poem that is where the magic happens!

3 responses so far

Oct 30 2010

Blog Software Updated

I just completed an update of the software I use to maintain the Poetry Chaikhana Blog. You, as a visitor to the blog, probably will not notice much of a change, but behind the scenes we now have better security, more precise administrator controls, future upgrades will be much easier, and the administrator UI I work with is much easier on the eyes. I can tell you’re as excited as I am about this!

One response so far

Oct 13 2010

Poetry Chaikhana Fan Page on Facebook

I’ve finally created a separate Poetry Chaikhana fan page on Facebook. Several of you have encouraged me to do this in recent months, and I’ve finally gotten it going. Thanks for all the friendly nudges!

I’ve maintained a personal page on Facebook for a while, and many of you have already connected with me as Facebook friends, but I’m going to start making more of a distinction between my personal FB page and the new Poetry Chaikhana page. I will soon shift most of my poetry posts over to the Poetry Chaikhana page. That’s where you’ll find the juiciest poetic explorations and meditative meanderings.

If you’re on Facebook, come on over to the new Poetry Chaikhana page and become a fan. I’d love to see the number of fans for the Poetry Chaikhana page really take off. As more and more people “like” Poetry Chaikhana on Facebook, it gets more attention and that draws even more people, helping the Poetry Chaikhana circle to expand.

See you there…


2 responses so far

Oct 09 2010

Correction: Tulsi Sahib and Tulsi Das

Several readers caught a significant error in my last post: Tulsi Sahib and Tulsi Das are two separate poets, and I mistakenly wrote about them as if they were the same person. Thank you for the correction! The recent poem I featured was by Tulsi Sahib (1763 – 1843), not Tulsi Das (1532 – 1623). While I mistakenly listed the author as Tulsi Das, the basic biographical notes I included, sketchy though they were, were correct for Tulsi Sahib.

At least I haven’t made the mistake of calling the poet Alexander Pope, Pope Alexander…

No responses yet

Aug 25 2010

simple answers

Don’t ask questions
with simple answers.
Ask the questions
that bring you face-to-face with the Mystery.

3 responses so far

Jul 29 2010

Behind the Scenes with Ivan

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

I normally 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 year ago, and I think, “I have to share that with everyone again!”

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

I select a “Thought for the Day” from among the many I’ve written over the years, and I find a music CD.

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 nearly 7,000 people! It takes my computer 3 – 4 hours to send the poem email out each day.

I also 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.

…And then I start my day job. Whew!


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 /


Your Support as a Community

It is still a struggle to find a workable balance in time and money to bring you the Poetry Chaikhana on a regular basis. I support myself and my family by working part-time as a computer programmer. My computer work is flexible enough to allow me to spend a lot of time with the Poetry Chaikhana, but that also means it’s flexible enough to allow me to earn very little income ;-)

To continue this work, the Poetry Chaikhana needs community support.

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

(I want to be clear, though, that I am not asking you to contribute more than you can comfortably afford. Even a small amount – from many people – is immensely helpful. Many contributions from many people makes the Poetry Chaikhana a stronger community project, maintained by many helping hands.)


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 on the Poetry Chaikhana home page –
  • You can sign up for a voluntary subscription of $2/month or $10/month by clicking either the “Subscribe” or “Support” PayPal button, also at (A regular monthly amount is often easier on your pocketbook and allows the Poetry Chaikhana to plan finances over the long term.)


Many of you have been generous with your contributions to the Poetry Chaikhana in the past, through donations, through notes of thanks, through supportive thoughts and prayers. Every contribution, whether financial or energetic, is sincerely appreciated.

A warm thank you to everyone!


17 responses so far

May 10 2010

A little shameless self-promotion today…

Two of my poems are featured on the TIFERET Journal website. Click on the “Journal” link, and then select “Poetry Corner.” This section of the site is under the guidance of silent lotus, himself a luminous poet who regularly shares his work on the Poetry Chaikhana Forum. Elizabeth Reninger also has a poem on the Tiferet site; you may recognize her name as well, since she’s a poet we’ve featured in past Poetry Chaikhana poem emails.

The Tiferet Journal is an excellent publication, and their site is worth exploring…

One response so far

Apr 19 2010

Poetry Chaikhana on Hold This Week

I just wanted to post a brief note to let you know that I won’t be posting to the Poetry Chaikhana this week. Over the weekend I managed to crack a couple of ribs in a martial arts class. Ouch!

I am doing well, however, and already beginning to mend. Full recovery will probably take a few weeks, but I should be able to return to the Poetry Chaikhana next week.

So, no new poetry posts this week, but I wanted to let you know why.

Sending lots of love!


7 responses so far

Nov 11 2009

EATP Interview with Ivan M. Granger

Poetry Chaikhana readers often ask me about myself. Who is the guy behind all those poetry emails? What drew you to sacred poetry? And just what does “Poetry Chaikhana” mean?

Ivan M. Granger, Ivan Granger

As a way to answer some of those questions, I thought I’d post an audio interview I did a couple of years ago with the Ecstatic Art and Theater Project ( I talk a little about myself, and a lot about poetry — the transformational power of poetry, the ways poetry naturally expresses the sacred experience, the non-dogmatic nature of poetry. And I read a few poems.

I hope you find it inspiring and thought-provoking…

Click to listen: EATP Interview with Ivan M. Granger

2 responses so far

Oct 26 2009

A story about my mother’s passing

I am back, but shaking off a tenacious case of the flu.

I’ve received so many kind-hearted, compassionate emails, blog comments, and posts on my Facebook page about my mother. I want to thank you all. I’ve been deeply touched.

…My mother died recently. I was able to spend some good time with her at her bedside. Her final week was difficult, and it was clear that, at that point, her passing was the right thing, a release from her discomfort. The complexities of American medical bureaucracy, added to some strange family politics didn’t give me much chance to grieve initially, but now that I’m settling into my normal life rhythms again the natural feelings of loss are coming forth. Even though most of my adult life I’ve lived at some distance from my mother, she has always been a close friend and source of inspiration. We shared the bond of a solitary child raised by a single mother, so her passing is certainly affecting me.

One thing that people often assume is that when a loved one dies, that the relationship is somehow over. Even people who have a belief in an afterlife tend to react this way, at least on an emotional level. My personal perspective is that the relationship continues; it just changes.

I’ll tell you a story about my mother’s death.

My mother died just past midnight, on Saturday, October 10. Much later that afternoon, my wife, Michele, and I went for a walk in the Bixby Knolls neighborhood of Long Beach, California, where my mother grew up. We were naturally exhausted, a little stunned, not talking much, just quietly walking side-by-side. It was not quite dusk.

Suddenly I stopped and grabbed Michele’s arm. She looked at me and I pointed to the sidewalk in front of us. There, slowly crossing the sidewalk just in front of us, was a huge, green scarab beetle! It was a shimmering, iridescent green, like a walking jewel, a truly beautiful creature. Now I grew up in southern California myself, and I’d never seen a scarab beetle before. I didn’t even know they lived in the region. But here one was, patiently walking across the sidewalk in front of us.

My mother had a deep love for the culture and spiritual traditions of ancient Egypt. Her trip to Egypt, to stand before the pyramids and stone temples, was one of the great moments of her life. Books of Egypt filled her shelves, Egyptian papyrus paintings hung upon her bedroom wall. And a crucial detail: Scarabs are an important symbol of ancient Egypt… often associated with eternal life and rebirth.

My wife and I glanced at each other wide eyed, and knelt to watch the scarab finish her trek across the sidewalk and finally disappear into the grass at the sidewalk’s edge.

You can choose to read that event how you wish, but it felt like a loving affirmation at a powerful moment.


Because I’m still shaking off this flu, I won’t be resuming work on the Poetry Chaikhana for another week. Check back next Monday.

Lots of love to you all!


54 responses so far

Oct 05 2009

Poetry Chaikhana on hold so I can be with my mother

Earlier today I received word that my mother has slipped into a coma and she is expected to pass within a few days. I’m traveling to Los Angeles to be with her right now.

So, naturally, the Poetry Chaikhana will be on hold for a couple weeks or so.

Blessings and love to you all.

A note posted to my Facebook page–

Death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the light because the dawn has come. – Rabindranath Tagore

6 responses so far

Aug 31 2009

A Milestone for the Poetry Chaikhana

When I first started the Poetry Chaikhana a little over five years ago, I had humble expectations. I remember thinking to myself, If at least 30 to 40 people follow it regularly, that will be enough.

Well, as of today, we have 5,000 people on the poetry email list! Wow!

And that’s all without marketing, ads, or exchanged links. Everyone has found his or her own way to the site, through your word of mouth and serendipitous web searches. That’s 5,000 unexpected, unique pathways to the Poetry Chaikhana.

We’ve managed to build quite a community, with people coming together from all over the world to appreciate these elevating, non-dogmatic expressions of the spirit. In fact, the web site has had visitors from more than 200 countries! If you’re curious which countries have shown the most interest, take a look at Around the World.

4 responses so far

May 22 2009

Top 100 Poetry Blogs

I just got word that the Poetry Chaikhana Blog is listed in the Top 100 Poetry Blogs complied by Online University Reviews.

The list they’ve put together looks like an excellent resource of blogs focusing on collected poetry, original work, audio and video poetry, even children’s poetry. Worth exploring…

4 responses so far

May 04 2009

Website Updates

This weekend I completed a series of updates to the Poetry Chaikhana web site that I think you’ll like…

– Site Search
You can now search for anything anywhere on the Poetry Chaikhana site, from any page! Search for poets, words, phrases, themes, spiritual traditions. The Poetry Chaikhana is far too rich of a resource to not give you the ability to run a search. Well, that’s now available. I’ve been planning on adding this capability for years, literally, but never quite got around to it – until now.

– Poetry Page Redesign
I made several changes to the look and feel of the poetry pages. Space is used better and, I hope, the pages should be more inviting to the eyes.

I made a few other miscellaneous technical changes, but those two are the changes you’re most likely to notice. So please explore the changes. Use them as an excuse to re-explore the site. Make a few new discoveries…

One response so far

Apr 17 2009

Building the Poetry Chaikhana Community

The Poetry Chaikhana is a community reaching across the globe. We have visitors from every continent (okay, not Antarctica) and almost every country — literally! (See Poetry Chaikhana Around the World.) You are participating in a worldwide, multi-ethnic, multi-religious community of seekers, sages, and artists. By exploring the sacred poetry of the world together we open pathways for dialog, greater respect, and deeper understanding. And, of course, we get to share stunning expressions of humanity’s wisdom and wonder and wordplay.

I haven’t made a focused appeal for donations in the last twelve months, but your support is what keeps the Poetry Chaikhana going. Your donations pay for Internet services and software; they allow me to build the library of poetry books that is the backbone of this site. Most of all, your donations free me up to share my thoughts on these amazing poems, respond to your emails, add new poets to the website, and, when necessary, troubleshoot technical problems.

As you read these poem emails, as you visit the website, if you are regularly touched by that spark of connection and inspiration, please consider supporting the Poetry Chaikhana by clicking on one of the Donate buttons below or sending a check or money order in the mail. Your support keeps our community alive. It allows us to be a resource of inspiration and exploration for more and more people around the world.

If you can’t make a donation right now, please know your supportive thoughts and word-of-mouth recommendations are also genuine contributions, as well.

Thank you!

Ivan M. Granger

Poetry Chaikhana
PO Box 2320
Boulder, CO 80306

/ Photo by woodleywonderworks /

Continue Reading »

5 responses so far

Apr 13 2009

Updates to the Poetry Chaikhana Software

Do you ever wonder what I do for the Poetry Chaikhana besides sending out poetry? The Poetry Chaikhana is actually an extensive network, including the poem emails, a website of rich resources, a blog, a forum, a Facebook page, and now a Twitter page. It’s a lot for one person to manage in his free time (especially when that person tends to be a rather quiet, meditative type).

The main way I coordinate it all is through the custom software I developed several years ago. But that software was becoming increasingly out-of-date and not as efficient as I’d like. This past weekend I just completed a major update that will allow the Poetry Chaikhana to keep serving you its special brand of tea well into the future. You probably won’t immediately notice much change on your end, but I’ll certainly have a more relaxed smile on my face. :-)

…And a reminder that your generous donations are what allow me to do all that work behind the scenes — thank you.

No responses yet

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