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


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 14 2015

seasons of the self

The seasons of the self blossom
and turn inward again,
and through it all there is a still point within us
quietly watching, accepting, smiling.

No responses yet

Aug 12 2015

Guilhem IX of Poitou – Joyous in love, I make my aim

Published by under Poetry

Joyous in love, I make my aim
by Guilhem IX of Poitou

English version by J. Lindsay

Joyous in love, I make my aim
forever deeper in Joy to be.
The perfect Joy’s the goal for me:
so the most perfect lady I claim.
I’ve caught her eyes. All must exclaim:
the loveliest heard or seen is she.

You know I’d never base my fame
on brags. If ever we’re to see
a flowering Joy, this Joy, burst free,
should bear such fruit no man can name,
lifting among the others a flame
that brightens in obscurity.

/ Image by MYLermontov /

Today let’s take a leisurely journey through romance, love, and the world of Troubadours…

Troubadour poetry, though not widely read in English, has had a profound impact on modern Western art in general, and particularly love songs and love poetry. Modern notions of idealized romantic love can be traced back to a certain extent to the Troubadour love poets in southern France in the 1200s.

The Troubadours lauded love, especially the sweet pain of unattainable love, as embodied by an idealized Lady. They were the poets of courtly love.

Modern commentators often miss the sacred dimension to Troubadour poetry and the path of courtly love. It’s a pity that modern audiences tend to read Troubadour poetry as if it was purely of lovesick romantic poetry — and it is, but not exclusively. Much of Troubadour poetry, though couched in romantic or even sexual imagery, should also be read as sacred poetry, emerging from a genuine mystical tradition.

The Troubadours emerged in Aquitaine and Provence (what is today southern France) at the height of the Albigensian Cathar movement and immediately following their slaughter in the Albigensian Crusade. Many of the Troubadours may have themselves been Cathars or at least influenced by Cathar notions. The Cathars were a gnostic group of Christians who rivaled the Catholic Church in Southern France and other parts of Europe, until they were declared heretical and wiped out, with the few survivors driven underground. The Cathar Elect were celibate vegetarians who upheld notions of non-violence, reverence for the natural world (with special focus on the sun and the moon), and the spiritual equality of women. While some aspects of Cathar spirituality had a world-denying quality that might be unappealing to the New Age notions of today, the Cathars were a vibrant group with a rich mystical and spiritual heritage.

Just as the Cathar connection to Troubadour traditions is often overlooked, the connections to Moorish Spain are often ignored, as well. The startlingly new music and poetry of the Troubadours did not emerge from a vacuum, as is sometimes asserted in European histories. These new artistic and spiritual sentiments can be traced directly to the courts of Andalusian Spain during the period of Muslim rule. Duke William (Guilhem) of Poitou, who is often cited as the “first” Troubadour, was raised in a household populated by Spanish musicians and poets brought back by his father from Muslim Spain. Duke William led a childhood immersed in the innovative music and ideas imported from his Muslim neighbors in nearby Spain. Duke William’s contribution was to popularize this “new” art in Christian northern Europe.

The most notable element of Troubadour poetry was their idea of “courtly love.” Courtly love is often thought of as a strange societal pattern that occurred because marriage among the wealthy was a practical affair brokered between families, leaving little room for love. That may have added to the appeal of courtly love, but it doesn’t really explain it. Let me say this directly: Courtly love was a conscious spiritual practice. The ideal in courtly love was to embody the archetypal forces of Lover and Beloved.

In the songs of the Troubadours, the Beloved was usually the woman. She was to embody the ideal of the Divine Feminine, Sophia, Divine Wisdom. She was to be ever slightly out of reach, but within sight. Her presence was to draw the Lover with her presence, her goodness, her feminine divinity. She was to be a beacon. In striving to embody this for her Lover, she was to merge with the Divine she embodied.

The Lover was usually the man. His was the more active role. He was to seek his Beloved, his idealized Lady. He had to prove himself worthy of her, face great obstacles with humility and perseverance, in her name. In the Lover’s intense passion for his Beloved, his constant focussing on her, he was to ultimately become a perfect Lover of the Divine and unite with the divinity he saw embodied in his Beloved.

The goal of this idealized courtly love was not sexual intimacy. In the spiritualized notion of courtly love, sex was avoided because it would satiate the longing that acted as the spiritual force that drew the man and woman as Lover and Beloved to the goal of spiritual marriage. This was the ideal, and certainly not every couple followed this path, nor did all Troubadours celebrate the inner sacred meaning of the path. Yet this was the core, and it was a pathway taught through societies and particularly passed on through Troubadour poetry and song. Courtly love should be seen as genuine spiritual pathway and not be superficialized. It is not inappropriate to think of courtly love as similar to Tantric sexual spirituality, as developed in India — in some expressions the sexuality can be explicit and socially transgressive, but for others the energies of desire are channeled toward the transcendent.

It is interesting to consider how powerful this mysticism of romantic love can be, especially when we consider that our world is filled with the modern descendent of Troubadour poetry: the pop love song. Buried somewhere deep in those catchy melodies and words of longing, lust, and love is an ancient spark of yearning for spiritual union.

As with Troubadour music and new poetic styles, this notion of courtly love had its origins in the nearby Muslim world. The Beloved of the Troubadours is the same Divine Beloved of the Sufis. When reading Troubadour poetry, as with Sufi poetry, the Beloved — though sometimes pictured as a real person — can be understood to be the Divine Beloved.

Troubadour influence spread through many related poetic/mystical traditions that emerged from their diaspora: the Trouveres in northern France, the Minnensingers in Germany (including Wolfram von Ehrenbach, author of the first Grail romance), the Fideli di Amore in Italy (including Dante).

St. Francis of Assissi himself was a great lover of French Troubadour songs and traditions. Though he lived and taught within the Catholic Church, elements of Cathar and Troubadour and, yes, even Sufi spirituality can be seen in his own radiant ministry: his love of nature (particularly the sun and the moon), his vision of a divine woman, and his relationship with St. Clare (which was very much in the tradition of the chaste Lover-Beloved relationship.)

Guilhem IX of Poitou, Guilhem IX of Poitou poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Guilhem IX of Poitou

France (1071 – 1126) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic : Troubadour

More poetry by Guilhem IX of Poitou

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Aug 12 2015


Through you
the world learns
to recognize itself
— as heaven.

No responses yet

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!

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Aug 07 2015

Rumi – Whoever finds love

Published by under Poetry

Whoever finds love
by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

English version by Coleman Barks

Whoever finds love
beneath hurt and grief
disappears into emptiness
with a thousand new disguises

— from The Essential Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks

/ Image by MoodyBlue /

I first came across this Rumi poem excerpt several years ago on a delightful CD called Secret Language: Rumi, A Celebration in Song, by a Ramananda. Even now when I read these words, I hear them sung in my inner ear, repeated over and over, a hypnotic man’s voice, a soaring woman’s voice–

Whoever finds love…
Whoever finds looove…
Beneath hurt and grief…

Most of us live our entire lives with a thick veil or filter draped across existence — the ego-mind. Everything we perceive or imagine is colored by that filter. When the ego falls away we “disappear” — the normal sense of self as a separate, isolated entity amazingly fades out. The mind grows quiet. Any movement in the mind is perceived as a minor ripple that does not affect the clarity. As a result, the endless projections of identity, form, and enforced relationships between aspects of reality disappear. Instead, there is only a unified Whole, which includes us. We, like that Wholeness, are now understood to be formless, fluid. In this sense, we are spaciousness in an even vaster spaciousness. This is how we “disappear into emptiness.”

So, the disguises… Being formless, we still participate in the realm of form, because that is all the realm of form understands. Rather than a trap or a fixed identity, it becomes a game. You pretend to be someone, so other someones can relate to you. You wear masks that suit the situation, and then change them as the situation changes. Yet none of them is “you,” and you know this. Being formless, you can assume any form. You have “a thousand new disguises.”

But it is the first two lines that pack the real punch of the verse:

Whoever finds love
beneath hurt and grief…

We tend to use hurt and grief, loss and pain, as a barrier. We reflexively tense up in order to numb the pain we feel. That is natural. But the problem is that we all accumulate griefs and become far too adept at anticipating hurts, and so we constantly tense and, therefore, don’t fully participate in the living moment that is our true joy.

Rumi’s words remind us to muster the courage necessary to dive beneath the hurt and the grief, to not fear them. For the aspect of the mind that is entirely concerned with self-preservation and comfort, there is a certain blasphemy to even imagine that something holy and healing and joyful — “love” — can be found hiding just beneath the surface of our pains. But it is just that sort of blasphemy, that sort of sacred disregard for psychic comfort that can lead us to the most startling wide open experience of love.

These lines give us permission to not wait until some future imaginary time when pain and difficulty are past; what we seek may be found right here, patiently waiting for us to dig just a little deeper.

Recommended Books: Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom Open Secret: Versions of Rumi
More Books >>

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

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

Continue Reading »

3 responses so far

Aug 07 2015

everyone is agnostic

Regardless of belief or faith,
everyone is agnostic
until gnosis.

No responses yet

Jul 31 2015

Jusammi Chikako – On this summer night

Published by under Poetry

On this summer night
by Jusammi Chikako

English version by Edwin A. Cranston

      On this summer night
All the household lies asleep,
      And in the doorway,
For once open after dark,
Stands the moon, brilliant, cloudless.

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

/ Image by George Lu /

A beautiful moon last night quietly watching overhead as my wife and I went for an evening walk. I believe the official full moon is tonight — a blue moon. A perfect opportunity for a moon poem.

I have loved this poem by Jusammi Chikako for years, so I was surprised to discover that it has been years since I featured it on the Poetry Chaikhana. Let’s rectify that omission…

We are instantly made aware of a warm summer night, and everyone sleeps, except the poet, who is awake. The door is left open to invite a cooling breeze, and through it we see the moon, large, glowing, pure, watching us just as we watch it. In that timeless still moment, it is as if we have met the gaze of an old friend or lover, a quite moment of mutual recognition. No words are spoken, none needed. We are fully present in each other’s gaze.

If we want to read this poem on a more metaphorical level, we might understand the “house” as the individual self. So when Jusammi Chikako says, “All the household lies asleep,” she could be stating that the mind has finally settled into perfect, still awareness.

The “doorway” becomes the threshold of open perception.

And in the doorway
For once open after dark,
Stands the moon, brilliant, cloudless.

The moon can be taken to represent the individual awareness perfectly reflecting the eternal light (of the sun). The full moon is Buddha mind, original mind. She has suddenly discovered it, been flooded with its “brilliant” light, utterly at peace beneath the unobstructed, “cloudless” night sky of awareness.

…Or we can just look up and meet the moon’s gaze.

Recommended Books: Jusammi Chikako

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

Jusammi Chikako

Japan (14th Century) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

More poetry by Jusammi Chikako

3 responses so far

Jul 31 2015


We spend most of our lives striving so hard
to earn our own permission to be at rest
where we are
— when we could have done it all along.

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Jul 29 2015

Ram Tzu – You are perfect

Published by under Poetry

You are perfect
by Ram Tzu (Wayne Liquorman)

Ram Tzu knows this –

You are perfect.

Your every defect
is perfectly defined.

Your every blemish
is perfectly placed.

Your every absurd action
is perfectly timed.

Only God could make
Something this ridiculous

— from No Way: For the Spiritually “Advanced”, by Wayne Liquorman

/ Image by Eloha-Ulysses /

Something for those days when we see our own faults and imperfections all too clearly beneath the harsh neon light of self-judgment…

You are perfect.

Yes, we absolutely should work to find balance, better guide our actions, elevate our focus, settle the mind and its impulses — but we need occasional reminders that “perfection” is not found in constructing a perfect, flawless self. Perfection, if we want to call it that, is found — absurdly — in our imperfect selves right now, within this imperfect world right now.

The ridiculousness exists only because we have forgotten our nature…

Your every blemish
is perfectly placed.

…and even those blemishes, when we really pay attention to them with a quiet mind, suggest something to us of the road back to the pure, radiant being we already are beneath it all.

Only God could make
Something this ridiculous

So be kind to yourself today in all your ridiculousness. Self-acceptance has a strange way of becoming self-awareness.

Recommended Books: Ram Tzu (Wayne Liquorman)

No Way: For the Spiritually “Advanced”

Ram Tzu (Wayne Liquorman), Ram Tzu (Wayne Liquorman) poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Ram Tzu (Wayne Liquorman)

US (1950 – )
Yoga / Hindu : Advaita / Non-Dualist
Secular or Eclectic

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Jul 29 2015

fuel for the fire

Let every experience
be fuel for the fire
of love.

No responses yet

Jul 24 2015

Farid ud-Din Attar – A dervish in ecstasy

Published by under Poetry

A dervish in ecstasy
by Farid ud-Din Attar

English version by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis

A frenzied dervish, mad with love for God,
Sought out bare hills where none had ever trod.
Wild leopards kept this madman company —
His heart was plunged in restless ecstasy;
He lived within this state for twenty days,
Dancing and singing in exultant praise:
“There’s no division; we two are alone —
The world of happiness and grief has flown.”
Die to yourself — no longer stay apart,
But give to Him who asks for it your heart;
The man whose happiness derives from Him
Escapes existence, and the world grows dim;
Rejoice for ever in the Friend, rejoice
Till you are nothing, but a praising voice.

— from The Conference of the Birds, Translated by Afkham Darbandi / Translated by Dick Davis

/ Image by vakatanka /

A frenzied dervish, mad with love for God…

I think we, like the wild leopards, should keep this madman company for a while…

…Sought out bare hills where none had ever trod.

This idea of retreating into the desert or the forest always had a romantic appeal to me, especially in my 20s and 30s. That instinct for renunciation and retreat has an interesting tension. In its best form, it is about seeking the essence of things, learning to recognize the essential self. There is the intense desire — or need, really — to clear the mind and settle the heart.

To accomplish this, like the dervish in this poem, we often want to withdraw, retreat from the world. But what is “the world”? We can loosely say that “the world” is society, but that’s not it exactly. Really, “the world” we are trying to withdraw from is more an idea of reality. We are attempting to separate from the consensus trance.

This is an important point that we too often forget in our daily lives: Even in our most pragmatic, mundane activity, we are in trance. We don’t enter trance in those rarified moments, like the dervish in his ecstasy; we are always in trance. And we are always seeking trance. We humans are trance-seeking creatures. Virtually every choice we make is about cultivating trance. We watch TV and surf the Internet because of the trance it induces. We eat food as much for how it makes us feel as for nourishment. Falling in love is trance. Family conversation is trance. A good day at work is one form of trance, and a bad day is another form of trance. Every action of every day is an attempt to fine tune our mental and emotional states because of how they affect our perception of reality. We are endlessly forming and reforming trance.

But the frustrating thing is that we learn early on that there is a very limited range of trance that is acceptable or even achievable. We quickly come to believe that this fixed range is the full spectrum of reality. We all subscribe to this in order to be acceptable and considered “normal” within society. And, for the child moving into adolescence, taking on that consensus trance is hugely important, allowing us to stabilize psychologically and form healthy relationships with others. It is also a serious problem, since it has nothing to do with actual limitations of reality or our true nature.

It is this shared trance that we call “the world,” which seekers instinctively feel the need to withdraw from in order to begin to see clearly, free from the psychic pressures of society to remain within a certain limited bandwidth of awareness. When done with balance, steadiness… and reverence, such withdrawal from the world can lead to surprising clarity, opening, and bliss.

But here is the potential problem with all of this: Retreat also necessarily implies separation. We are separating from the world. We are separating from what we imagine to be foolish and lost humanity. In the struggle to free oneself from the gravitational pull of societal reality, it is easy to become rigid, aloof, even hard-hearted. We have divided reality between what is holy or sacred or “true” from the secular, mundane, and “illusory.” Such a division, any division, within our view of reality can never hold up for long. It can become a recipe for spiritual disaster.

Here is how I understand the solution to this dilemma: That sense of separating oneself, retreating in order to discover an awareness that is pure or more essential — whether through literal retreat, or on a purely internal level — can be immensely helpful at certain points along the spiritual journey. But we must always remember that it is a phase of the journey and not the end goal. In other words, we may choose to step out into the desert, but we remain connected to the world through compassion and commitment. We will eventually return to “the world,” hopefully with a transformed awareness and very little of the little self left. When we have the vision of the full Reality, we come to recognize that the small section we call “the world” is no longer the world, yet that shadowy thought-reality still has its place within the Whole — and that is the place that most awaits the gifts we return with.

Rejoice for ever in the Friend, rejoice
Till you are nothing, but a praising voice.

Recommended Books: Farid ud-Din Attar

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom The Conference of the Birds
More Books >>

Farid ud-Din Attar, Farid ud-Din Attar poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Farid ud-Din Attar

Iran/Persia (1120? – 1220?) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Continue Reading »

3 responses so far

Jul 24 2015

spend time

Spend time
with the Beloved.

No responses yet

Jul 22 2015

Yoka Genkaku – Right here it is eternally full and serene

Published by under Poetry

[39] Right here it is eternally full and serene (from The Shodoka)
by Hsuan Chueh of Yung Chia / Yoka Genkaku

English version by Robert Aitken

Right here it is eternally full and serene,
If you search elsewhere, you cannot see it.
You cannot grasp it, you cannot reject it;
In the midst of not gaining,
In that condition you gain it.

/ Image by leonard-ART /

Sorry about the poetic absence last week. I’m back…

Right here it is eternally full and serene,
If you search elsewhere, you cannot see it.

This is so simple, yet so difficult to accept. What is it we are seeking? Enlightenment? Salvation? Heaven? God? If something is missing, then it must be somewhere else. So we seek out new groups, new teachers, new books, new religions, new lands. Even in our meditation and prayer, we are reaching, reaching out– for what?

It is almost an insult to our efforts to be told again and again that it is “right here.” If it was right here, we would feel it, we would know it. Right?

This makes no sense at all to the seeking mind, yet we each can discover that it is absolutely true: What we seek is right here. Not elsewhere. Not in the future. Right here.

Which begs the question, if it is always at hand, why can’t we grasp it? First, it is so difficult for the mind to accept that this thing we seek is not a thing at all. It cannot be grasped or held or claimed. It is not an object outside of ourselves. It is not a thing contained within space, contained within time, contained within concepts. It is not a thing that starts and ends, nor is it here but not there; rather, it is an effulgence of awareness. Even that might suggest to us that it is something within the mind to be coaxed forth, imagining it to be an ephemeral object of the mind, a subset of the self. Such a thing cannot last or transform.

It would be easy to dismiss all of this as elaborate philosophical wordplay were it not for the fact that we are told again and again that solving this riddle unlocks a whole new self and a whole new reality, a reality that is much larger, clearer, blissful, unified, and somehow more true. If we accept even the possibility that enlightenment/heaven/God are not only knowable, but the actual state of reality that clears away the normal state of illusion, then to dismiss such spiritual wordplay is foolish in the extreme.

Since sage voices keep telling us that what we seek (but don’t fully understand) is right here and not elsewhere, let us try an experiment: Let us stop imagining another place, another experience. Let us strop trying to imagine what it is we seek at all. If we ache, let us feel it intensely without imagining what will soothe it. Let us, instead, grow quiet, grow still, and let go of all the mind’s imaginings. And then let us just see. What do we notice? Not trying to grasp or gain or escape, what do we sense right here? What has been so consistently present that we have always felt but never noticed?

In the midst of not gaining,
In that condition you gain it.

The touch we feel might just surprise us — right here.

Recommended Books: Hsuan Chueh of Yung Chia / Yoka Genkaku

Buddhism and Zen

Hsuan Chueh of Yung Chia / Yoka Genkaku

China (665 – 713) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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Jul 22 2015


We are interconnected.
Our experiences
are always shared experiences.

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Jul 10 2015

William Wordsworth – The Soul that rises with us

Published by under Poetry

The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star (from Ode. Intimations of Immortality)
by William Wordsworth

The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
      Hath had elsewhere its setting,
            And cometh from afar:
      Not in entire forgetfulness,
      And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
      From God, who is our home.

— from Complete Poetical Works, by William Wordsworth

/ Image by ewen and donabel /

This is one of the few poetic utterances that makes me instantly respond with the word — gorgeous! Other poems may be uplifting or inspire deep thought or simply offer up a delightful confection of words and images. But these few lines by Wordsworth are all of these things, yet it all somehow comes together in a way that causes one to take a deep breath and expand.

Sometimes I read these words and think the image and language are almost overripe, but, no, not quite. It holds. And then I am carried away by it again.

Its first few lines distill the soul’s feelings of loneliness and vulnerability, that feeling that something important in one’s very being has been hidden from memory, and gently negates it–

Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness

Then we get their answer in those final lush lines–

But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home.

And we again know our home. We find ourselves at rest, our full memory of self restored, while clouds of glory trail from our shoulders. Gorgeous.

Recommended Books: William Wordsworth

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty The Oxford Book of Mystical Verse Complete Poetical Works William Wordsworth: Selected Poems
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William Wordsworth, William Wordsworth poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry William Wordsworth

England (1770 – 1850) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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Jul 10 2015

individual beings

We aren’t so much individual beings
as individual points of perception
within one immense being.

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