Jun 07 2017

altar of time

Every thing, every experience
is offered up
on the altar of time.

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Jun 02 2017

Hakim Sanai – No tongue can tell Your secret

Published by under Poetry

No tongue can tell Your secret
by Hakim Sanai

English version by Priya Hemenway

No tongue can tell Your secret
for the measure of the word obscures Your nature.
But the gift of the ear
is that it hears
what the tongue cannot tell.

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

/ Image by Sophie Charlotte /

Today we contemplate a verse by the great Sufi poet Sanai. I especially wanted to feature Sanai out of respect the the many people killed by the recent bombing in Afghanistan. In a country traumatized for centuries by the colonial intentions of world superpowers from without and harassed by pockets of reactionary extremism from within, it is worth remembering that Rumi was born in Afghanistan, Sanai was from Afghanistan, Ansari, Rahman Baba… Afghanistan has given the world some of our greatest spiritual and poetic voices. I bow in deep respect to the people of Afghanistan.


This verse has an elegant subtlety, and is trimmed with a thin edge of wit. Here Sanai is playing with the mystic’s dilemma of words.

No tongue can tell Your secret
for the measure of the word obscures Your nature.

The direct encounter with the Divine can’t truly be put into words. Words are a creation of the limited mind, powerful, certainly, but limited. Words, even when masterfully wielded, can only describe limited aspects of limited reality. Words imply a fracturing of reality into countless objects, an impassible duality of observer and observed, describer and described. How can words properly convey the undivided Wholeness?

(There is really no ‘encounter’ the way I just phrased it, because that implies two separates meeting, when there is really only the profound recognition of unity. Words fail the Wholeness.)

Seeing this limitation, some teachers construct complex frameworks of descriptions. Some hint and suggest and riddle. Some fall silent. What is said and what is left unsaid… a fascinating game. But it is only the encounter (which is not really an encounter) that conveys the truth of all this.

The “tongue cannot tell” these things properly. “But the gift of the ear / is that it hears” anyway. That is, when we truly and openly listen, an inner whisper begins to draw the awareness beyond the descriptions, the suggestions, the silences. And suddenly there we stand, outside of all words and concepts that obscure while they define. There we stand, witnessing, participating in the living Wholeness that is the divine nature of undivided Reality.

I like the game of words, perhaps too much. But it is time for my tongue to rest and let the ear enjoy its gift…


And to all of our Muslim friends and neighbors, Ramadan Mubarak! May this Ramadan season be one of blessings and spiritual renewal for you.

Recommended Books: Hakim Sanai

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi
More Books >>

Hakim Sanai, Hakim Sanai poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Hakim Sanai

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

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6 responses so far

Jun 02 2017


Absolutes are for fundamentalists
and those weary of the journey.

The rest of us navigate that hidden line
where opposites meet.

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May 26 2017

D. H. Lawrence – I Am Like a Rose

Published by under Poetry

I Am Like a Rose
by D. H. Lawrence

I am myself at last; now I achieve
My very self, I, with the wonder mellow,
Full of fine warmth, I issue forth in clear
And single me, perfected from my fellow.

Here I am all myself. No rose-bush heaving
Its limpid sap to culmination has brought
Itself more sheer and naked out of the green
In stark-clear roses, than I to myself am brought.

— from The Complete Poems of D. H. Lawrence, by D. H. Lawrence

/ Image by *clairity* /

I am myself at last

This is the feeling of it.

We finally recognize what has always been present, most intimate, the foundation of everything. The “you” you thought of as yourself has faded like a ghost, and you discover the real You, the solid You, that has been quietly waiting to be noticed.

Full of fine warmth, I issue forth in clear
And single me…

Often this awareness is accompanied by a delightful sense of heat, a joyous fire smoldering in the body, a “fine warmth” indeed.

No rose-bush heaving
Its limpid sap to culmination has brought
Itself more sheer and naked out of the green
In stark-clear roses, than I to myself am brought.

I love his lines about bringing himself “sheer and naked out of the green” like a “rose-bush heaving / Its limpid sap to culmination” … “In stark-clear roses.” The true Self flowers while standing naked and “stark-clear”. It needs nothing to clothe itself or hide behind. The Self is too immense and free to be anything other than it is. It knows itself as it is and requires no false mask of appearance, so it stands joyful, singular, clear, naked, with contented “wonder mellow.”

Here I am all myself.

Recommended Books: D. H. Lawrence

The Complete Poems of D. H. Lawrence Birds, Beasts and Flowers: Poems The Selected Poems of D. H. Lawrence Acts of Attention: The Poems of D. H. Lawrence Self & Sequence: The Poetry of D. H. Lawrence
More Books >>

D. H. Lawrence, D. H. Lawrence poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry D. H. Lawrence

England (1885 – 1930) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by D. H. Lawrence

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May 26 2017

greatest teacher

The greatest teacher
is what is
immediately in front of you.

No responses yet

May 24 2017

A Note about the Manchester Bombing

My heart breaks for the people of Manchester traumatized by the recent bombing there.

Every time a terrible incident like this happens, whether it occurs in the west, or Turkey, India, Pakistan, wherever, I always want to make a statement. But it is easy to sound bland or ineffective or, worse, hypocritical.

I won’t try to suggest simplistic solutions, political or spiritual. What it absolutely does require is an engaged heart, courage, rather than fear, and clear seeing.

One response so far

May 24 2017

Basava – The Temple and the Body

Published by under Poetry

The Temple and the Body
by Basava

English version by A. K. Ramanujan

The rich
will make temples for Siva.
What shall I,
a poor man,

My legs are pillars,
the body the shrine,
the head a cupola
of gold.

Listen, O lord of the meeting rivers,
things standing shall fall,
but the moving ever shall stay.

— from Speaking of Siva, by A K Ramanujan

/ Image by wharman /

The wealthy prove their piety by financing temples (or churches or mosques…). Their devotion is concretized in stone and gold. It’s easy for a poor man, witnessing the splendor of a wealthy shrine, to imagine himself far behind on the road to heaven. What can he offer to compete with that? What temple can he build to offer proper worship?

Basava gives us the solution offered by saints everywhere: Make of yourself a temple.

My legs are pillars,
the body the shrine,
the head a cupola
of gold.

This is where all true meditation, prayer, communion occurs. The built temple is but a reflection of the temple of the self. And that true temple is available to all, rich and poor, equally.

Basava carries it further, pointing out how far superior the inner temple is. “Things standing,” structures built of wood or stone, no matter how lovely or inspiring, are destined to fall. A temple of stone stands but does not move. It lacks the life necessary to continually adjust itself to the shifting forces of time and gravity and the flow of nature all around; it is already crumbling.

…but the moving ever shall stay.

That which is animated, the temple of the embodied self, has life! It dances with the flow of existence… and that life continues. Worship that takes place within that living temple lives as well, and lasts.

Basava’s reminder to us: Regardless of whether we worship beneath a golden cupola or beneath the arch of the open sky, only meditation and prayer and communion that takes place within the living temple of the self matters, because that is what lives and lasts. Wherever you are, whatever your role in life, make of yourself a holy temple. More important than monuments of stone are monumental living souls.

Recommended Books: Basava

Speaking of Siva The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice

Basava, Basava poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Basava

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

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May 24 2017

dive deep into the present

There is a misconception that Eternity
is somewhere in the future.

If you want to touch Eternity,
dive deep into the present.

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May 19 2017

Paramahansa Yogananda – OM

Published by under Poetry

by Paramahansa Yogananda

Whence, whence this soundless roar doth come,
When drowseth matter’s dreary drum?
On shores of bliss, Om, booming, breaks!
All earth, all heaven, all body shakes!
Cords bound to flesh are broken all,
Vibrations burst, meteors fall!
The hustling heart, the boasting breath,
No more shall cause the yogi’s death;
All nature lies in darkness soft,
Dimness of starlight seen aloft;
Subconscious dreams have gone to bed…
‘Tis then that one doth hear Om’s tread;
The bumble-bee now hums along —
Hark! Baby Om doth sing His song!
From Krishna’s flute the call is sweet:
‘Tis time the Watery God to meet!
Now, the God of Fire is singing!
Om! Om! Om! His harp is ringing.
God of Prana now is sounding —
Wondrous, breathing-bells resounding!
O! Upward climb the living tree;
Hark to the cosmic symphony.
From Om, the soundless roar! From Om
The call for light o’er dark to roam.
From Om the music of the spheres!
From Om the mist of nature’s tears!
All things of earth and heaven declare,
Om! Om! Resounding everywhere!

— from Whispers from Eternity, by Paramahansa Yogananda

/ Image by Marketa /

A meditation today on Omkara, the primal sound of being, by the great early 20th century ambassador of yogic philosophy, Paramahansa Yogananda.

Whence, whence this soundless roar doth come

When the attention is turned inward a soft sound is heard. At first it might be like the quiet chirping of crickets in the night, the hum of beesong (“The bumble-bee now hums along –“), or the flowing of a gentle stream. It is heard as a random, soothing “white noise” that seems to emanate from the base of the skull.

‘Tis then that one doth hear Om’s tread

When focused upon with a still mind and deep attention, this sound resolves into a clearer pitch that can resemble the pure note of a flute or the ringing of a bell. First it is heard and, finally, felt throughout the body.

This sound is Krishna’s flute calling his devotees to him (“From Krishna’s flute the call is sweet”). It is the ringing of the bells of paradise (“Wondrous, breathing-bells resounding”). Wordless, it is the vibratory Word through which creation manifests.

On shores of bliss, Om, booming, breaks!

This sound signals the beginning of deep meditation. The more we open to the sound, the more the attention is drawn heavenward while the divine flow pours through us.

Yogananda makes some other important yogic references in this poem worth our contemplation:

The hustling heart, the boasting breath,
No more shall cause the yogi’s death

In some forms of yogic practice, part of the goal is to settle the energies of the body so profoundly that breath and heartbeat themselves are suspended, allowing the subtler energies to flow unimpeded. The energetic demands and rhythms of the body no longer disrupt the deepest communion and, thus, no longer “cause the yogi’s death,” which is separation from the Eternal. (It should be obvious, however, that attempting such practices can be dangerous without knowledgeable guidance.)

Dimness of starlight seen aloft…

Most meditation practices encourage the restful centering of the eyes beneath closed lids, focusing either upward toward the center of the brow (common in most yogic practices), or downward to the tip of the nose (some Buddhist practices). Either focal point causes the attention to settle at the point between the eyebrows — the ajna chakra or “third eye.” When this energetic center becomes spiritually activated, and the meditator is in deep quiet, a glowing point or ball of light is witnessed internally. This is the initiate’s star, the “Star of the East” that leads us to enlightenment. As the meditator focuses on this point of light, the subtle energies awaken and begin to rise upward, toward the light, toward enlightenment…

O! Upward climb the living tree…

Yogananda is referring here to the shushumna, the central energetic pathway that runs up the spine. It is often described as a tree. A primary goal of yoga is to awaken the spiritual energies and awareness commonly trapped at the base of the spine until they rise up the shushumna “tree” to the crown, initiating enlightenment.

So let’s remember to pause, to grow quiet, and to listen for that sweet, secret sound…


Recommended Books: Paramahansa Yogananda

Whispers from Eternity Autobiography of a Yogi The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Explained

Paramahansa Yogananda, Paramahansa Yogananda poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Paramahansa Yogananda

India (1893 – 1952) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu

More poetry by Paramahansa Yogananda

4 responses so far

May 19 2017

forgiveness & freedom

The path of forgiveness
is the path of freedom.

Forgiveness is a rebellion
against the ego’s self-importance.

One response so far

May 18 2017

Video: Lost Bardic Chairs

Published by under Poetry,Videos

The Welsh have a tradition of honoring the winner of their National Eisteddfod poetry competitions with with a custom made chair. These chairs are works of art, many of them, thrones dedicated to their great poets.

Several known chairs from the last century and a half have gone missing, however. This is a fascinating half-hour documentary of one poet’s search for those lost chairs, especially for the chairs awarded to Dewi Emrys, the only poet to have been awarded four chairs.

The video is in the Welsh language, with English subtitles, making it that much more of a cultural adventure.

One response so far

May 17 2017

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – Ha! A rush of bliss (from Faust)

Published by under Poetry

Ha! A rush of bliss (from Faust)
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

English version by Peter Salm

Ha! A rush of bliss
flows suddenly through all my senses!
I feel a glow, a holy joy of life
which sets my veins and flesh afire.
Was it a god that drew these signs
which soothe my inward raging
and fill my wretched heart with joy,
and with mysterious strength
reveal about me Nature’s pulse?
Am I a god? The light pervades me so!
In these pure ciphers I can see
living Nature spread out before my soul.
At last I understand the sage’s words:
“The world of spirits is not closed:
your mind is shut, your heart is dead!
Pupil, stand up and unafraid
bathe your earthly breast in morning light!”

How things are weaving one in one;
each lives and works within the other.
Heaven’s angels dip and soar
and hold their golden pails aloft;
with fragrant blessings on their wings,
they penetrate the earthly realm from Heaven
and all make all resound in harmony.

— from Faust, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe / Translated by Peter Salm

/ Image by Shahram Sharif /

This section of Goethe’s Faust is worth deep contemplation. Goethe had a complex and evolving relationship to the religion and ideas of his day. He was a critic of Christian theology and institutions, though he appears to have been inwardly devout, embracing and exploring aspects of inner Christianity, western esotericism, and even Jewish mysticism.

These lines are a delightfully breathless description of the experiences of mystical union:

The bliss experienced through the senses.

Being pervaded by light.

An inner heat or sense of fire.

The quieting of the mind and emotions, the soothing of “inward raging.”

The heart being filled with an indescribable joy.

The “pure ciphers,” the awareness of essential emptiness or no-thing-ness, yet utter fulfillment in the experience of the radiant whole.

The transcendent awareness of Nature and the interconnectedness of things, “How things are weaving into one, / each lives and works within the other.”

The full vessel or cup holding a heavenly liquid, the “golden pails.”

A sublimely delightful fragrance or perfume.

The sense that everything is humming or vibrating in a symphonic harmony.

As Goethe says in a subsequent passage, “What pageantry!”

Yet, to one not securely seated in the transcendent awareness, it can rise and then recede. Not yet possessing complete familiarity with the interior psychic terrain, how do you find your way back to that realm? It can suddenly seem all too ephemeral, intangible. Where is it? What is there to grab hold of?

The mystic must not merely stumble into the heavenly realm, but learn its pathways intimately, to return again and again until that bliss is recognized as one’s true home.

Have a blissful day!

Recommended Books: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Faust News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Germany (1749 – 1832) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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May 17 2017

Don’t try to control

Don’t try to control life.
Witness it.

One response so far

May 12 2017

Ayaz – Coming to know You

Published by under Poetry

Coming to know You
by Ayaz

Coming to know You
Is like being
Dismantled from the inside
One tenacious fibre
At a time
Slowly a space opens
Then a chamber
Then the sky
Into which
Flocks of doves
Are constantly being released.

— from For You: A Collection of Prayer Poems, by Ayaz

/ Image by EquinomChaidez /

The poetry of Ayaz arrived in my mail box a few years ago. The small paperback book came with a brief note, and no contact information. All I have been able to find out is that Ayaz is the Sufi name of Angus Landman.

Ayaz’s poems are short prayers and flashes of insight. Despite their simplicity and lack of ornamentation, these poems keep inviting me to re-read them.

Just two statements in this poem. Being dismantled. Opening up.

Coming to know You
Is like being
Dismantled from the inside
One tenacious fibre
At a time

The more we come to know the divine, the more our old sense of self is taken apart. Each resistant piece is gently, patiently worked free and set aside to be viewed for what it is.

Slowly a space opens
Then a chamber
Then the sky
Into which
Flocks of doves
Are constantly being released.

The gaps created may feel like wounds at first, but slowly, as more of the artificial self is dismantled, the spaces created reveal more and more. Until an inner sky opens before us. How can such unexpected joy and life be found there?

Perhaps we should we just call it the smile of the Beloved.

Have a beautiful day!

Recommended Books: Ayaz

For You: A Collection of Prayer Poems For You Too


England (Contemporary)
Muslim / Sufi

Continue Reading »

5 responses so far

May 12 2017

what you already are

You can only perceive
what you already are.

No responses yet

May 09 2017

Abu-Said Abil-Kheir – Sorrow looted this heart

Published by under Poetry

Sorrow looted this heart
by Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

English version by Vraje Abramian

Sorrow looted this heart,
and Your Love threw it to the winds.
This is how the secret which saints and seers were denied
was whispered to me.

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

/ Image by Lin Zhizhao /

Why does Abu-Said open this poem with such a gloomy line about sorrow?

Sorrow and loss have an important role in sacred traditions. When we lose something or someone important to us, it is natural to grieve. But there is more going on there — a painful sort of awakening is occurring.

When things or people become important to us, when we think of them as being necessary to our daily lives, that is a sign that we have begun to identify with them. We see ourselves in those people, things, experiences.

Yet, because we have identified with them and come to believe that they are essential to our ongoing existence, their loss is seen by the confused ego as a form of self-death.

In loss, there is an opportunity: We get to witness our own “death.” Over a lifetime, loss happens periodically. Yet, when we start to really pay attention, we are surprised by our continuing life in the midst of that loss. Over time, if we approach loss with heart and attention, we stop identifying with the naturally shifting world around us. This doesn’t mean we stop loving the people in our lives, nor do we need to stop valuing important objects and experiences in our lives — it just means that when they recede from our lives at the proper time, it is no longer a life and death crisis for the ego.

Ultimately, the only sorrow that is real is the burning desire for return to unity with the Divine. This is what Abu-Said is talking about when he opens this poem with the line, “Sorrow looted my heart.” That fundamental ache for union takes over the sincere seeker’s heart, emptying it of all else.

The irony is that when we finally stop identifying with the endless parade of external experiences — the many external gains and losses — we discover that we have never been in any way separated from the essential unity. By clinging to external gain and struggling to prevent external loss, we train our awareness to fixate on the outward shifting phenomena of life… and lose sight of the stable unity that we inherently are amidst that kaleidoscopic show.

Through courageous openness, through utter surrender to the natural process of change and occasional loss, we slowly (at times, painfully) lose our false identification with what was not truly our self. Through fearless “sorrow,” possessiveness is slowly lost or, as the poet says, the heart is “looted.” We become completely free from false identification and attachments that no longer serve the spirit.

It is at that moment of freedom that the point of identity settles properly within our true nature, finally witnessing our being everywhere, without limit, without true loss. We are flooded with an indescribable joy and love and sense of wholeness. It is as if the heart has been expanded incomprehensibly by that love and thrown “to the [formless, everywhere present] winds.”

This is one of the very difficult lessons for us all, the willingness to embrace sorrow, fearlessly, with unedited awareness, with profound self-kindness. This slowly frees us from misidentification with external experiences that come and go. It loosens our grip on the limited ideas of who and what we really are. Slowly, the awareness returns to rest at the center — and from there expands beyond our imaginings.

It is the broken heart that opens.

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

Continue Reading »

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May 09 2017


Act responsibly,

but don’t imagine
you are responsible.

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