Oct 07 2019

absolutism & faith

Absolutism is not an expression of faith,
it is a symptom of a lack of faith.

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Oct 04 2019

William Butler Yeats – The Lake Isle of Innisfree

Published by under Poetry

The Lake Isle of Innisfree
by William Butler Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

— from The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats, by William Butler Yeats


/ Image by hideraldo dwight leitao /

Something for us today by that seeker/sage/bard/mage Yeats — a portrait of peace.

I love the rhythms of this poem. To really appreciate it, you need to say it aloud and slowly. Let it roll off the tongue.

Yeats paints with his words, running them together like brushstrokes in watercolor.

…the bee-loud glade.


…And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, .

In the beauty of this rustic scene, we discover stillness, something of the eternal in the sound of the water lapping at the shore and the mesmerizing hum of bees.

Listening well, we discover the one who listens. We discover “the deep heart’s core.”


Recommended Books: William Butler Yeats

The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse Holy Fire: Nine Visionary Poets and the Quest for Enlightenment The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats Byzantium The Secret Rose
More Books >>


William Butler Yeats, William Butler Yeats poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry William Butler Yeats

Ireland (1865 – 1939) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic
Primal/Tribal/Shamanic : Celtic

More poetry by William Butler Yeats

8 responses so far

Oct 04 2019

Find the joy

Find the joy
that quietly glows in your chest,
the joy that glows with brazen disregard
for your lurching tears and laughter.

No responses yet

Sep 30 2019

Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

Published by under Poetry

The Thirsty
by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

English version by Ivan M. Granger

Not only do the thirsty seek water,
The water too thirsts for the thirsty.

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


/ Image by sergis blog /

I thought I’d follow up on Friday’s poem with this short piece by Rumi continuing the theme of thirst…

Not only do the thirsty seek water

As I grow older, the idea of spiritual thirst becomes ever more real to me. As a young seeker, in my adolescence and early adulthood, I was consumed by such painful blind thirst that I couldn’t have named it “thirst” back then. It was simply the searing ache of my days. It was my whole world.

I went a little mad with my thirst. I kept seeking to withdraw, from society, from the world, retreating into the forests of Oregon, the mountains of Colorado, the jungles of Hawaii where perhaps I might glimpse what was truly essential. I fasted my body into emaciation. I meditated in caves. I walked barefoot and shirtless in the wilds. I spoke with drifters and the homeless, trying to know their hearts and see through their eyes.

Some part of me broke, I think. And then it broke open. That’s when I knew what it meant to drink and no longer thirst.

And a strange thing– what had felt like shattering effort driven by wild thirst suddenly seemed like nothing at all.

The water too thirsts for the thirsty.

Perhaps it wasn’t my terrible thirst that had driven me at all. Perhaps I was drawn by the water’s thirst for me. And all that strain and adventure, well, that was just the story I told myself along the way.

What has been most odd to me is my return to society since then. I made a conscious choice to come in from the wilderness, to rejoin the world, to hold a regular job, have a stable home, and reconnect with people (and try to share a taste of that sweet water with others). More than a decade later, it still feels strange to me. At times I find myself going through the motions, simply passing as a “normal” person. The challenges of daily life, of paying bills, of caring about my body’s health, of establishing regular patterns others can rely on, these practices still seem foreign to me at times, but I consider them a major part of my spiritual practice now. It used to be that the only things that made sense to me were transcendence and escape. These days I find the most humbling truth in being present, and watching with wonder, allowing life to be simply as it is.

I’m less consumed by my own thirst these days. I feel the water’s thirst for the thirsty world instead.


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 This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom
More Books >>


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

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

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5 responses so far

Sep 30 2019

pacifist & passivist

Being a pacifist
does not mean being a passivist.

No responses yet

Sep 27 2019

Mary Oliver – Thirst

Published by under Poetry

Thirst
by Mary Oliver

Another morning and I wake with thirst
for the goodness I do not have. I walk
out to the pond and all the way God has
given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord,
I was never a quick scholar but sulked
and hunched over my books past the
hour and the bell; grant me, in your
mercy, a little more time. Love for the
earth and love for you are having such a
long conversation in my heart. Who
knows what will finally happen or
where I will be sent, yet already I have
given a great many things away, expect-
ing to be told to pack nothing, except the
prayers which, with this thirst, I am
slowly learning.

— from Thirst: Poems, by Mary Oliver


/ Image by aeravi /

Another morning and I wake with thirst
for the goodness I do not have.

I suppose that’s the state of human existence. We wake and the thirst kicks in. There is always something we want, we crave, that somehow is missing but necessary for us to feel whole. Most of the time we don’t really know what that something is. We think it is this or that, this person, that thing, this feeling, that experience. But then, when we attain them, we may go to sleep satisfied but wake up the next morning and thirst again. The thirst remains. And so we refocus it on something else, a new thing, a new experience. And we begin again.

I walk
out to the pond and all the way God has
given us such beautiful lessons.

We start to pay attention (hopefully) and examine the thirst more deeply. This thirst, this ache, resides in a deeper part of ourselves, and it cries out for a deeper connection with reality.

Like the poet, I tend to find intimations of that deeper reality when I am quiet and surrounded by the rhythms and life of the natural world. I notice that my heart relaxes and opens, and my focus expands. My thoughts become less grasping and more fluid.

But is that too one more experience held onto, one more fixation that ultimately limits my ability to satisfy the thirst I feel?

Love for the
earth and love for you are having such a
long conversation in my heart.

These lines are so interesting. This conversation in the heart between the earth and God might suggest a personal crossroads between life and death. Perhaps it is a health crisis and she does not know if she will live or die and she is trying to make peace with all possibilities.

We can also read these lines as being about how one balances the love for outer forms and the inner spirit…

Any experience of beauty and fulfillment requires a delicate touch. If we become attached to its outer form, then the inner, soul-nourishing liquid begins to trickle away. When we say to ourselves, that meditation, that walk, that person, made me feel so wonderful yesterday, so I will repeat it today and tomorrow, then we have lost the essence that fed our spirit. The trick is to recognize the real thing beneath the thing. The real thing is intangible, subtle, fluid, and not contained or limited by the outer form. If it can be grasped or controlled, that’s the husk and not the sweet sap.

At first this recognition is frustrating. It is like a tug-of-war within the heart, the comfort and familiarity of outer forms everywhere on display upon the face of the earth, with the slow recognition that every form is really just a symbol, an incomplete representation of what lies within. And it’s that inner substance that alone satisfies. The path to mastery, I suspect, is to be able to dowse those secret waterways, remaining undistracted by outer forms and formulations of what has worked in the past. Even patterns of prayer and communion that fed us at one stage can fall barren. We are then challenged to let go of our fixation on the familiar in order to rediscover the sacred directly. For it is that living, nourishing fullness of spirit that is the real and only goal.

Yet the one is not entirely separate from the other. Landmarks and forms are useful pointers. So we have this dynamic relationship of inner and outer, complimentary and sometimes in conflict.

Who
knows what will finally happen or
where I will be sent, yet already I have
given a great many things away, expect-
ing to be told to pack nothing…

Why then do we so mightily cling to outer things? When that underground flow of life nourishment has moved on, then our focus must move with it. The material things that were once a conduit for us but no longer, let us pass them on for they may feed another. And when we leave the earth, we will still follow that secret flow. The wellspring, not the things that briefly pointed the way to it.

…except the
prayers which, with this thirst, I am
slowly learning.

Here I am sipping from a tall glass of water watching the sun dance on the leaves of the aspen outside my window. Have a beautiful day!


Recommended Books: Mary Oliver

New and Selected Poems Why I Wake Early Dream Work House of Light Thirst: Poems
More Books >>


Mary Oliver, Mary Oliver poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Mary Oliver

US (1935 – 2019) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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Sep 27 2019

what you are

Meditation is not what you do,
it is what you are.

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Sep 20 2019

John O’Donohue – In Praise of the Earth

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

In Praise of the Earth
by John O’Donohue

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.

When the ages of ice came
And sealed the Earth inside
An endless coma of cold,
The heart of the Earth held hope,
Storing fragments of memory,
Ready for the return of the sun.

Let us thank the Earth
That offers ground for home
And holds our feet firm
To walk in space open
To infinite galaxies.

Let us salute the silence
And certainty of mountains:
Their sublime stillness,
Their dream-filled hearts.

The wonder of a garden
Trusting the first warmth of spring
Until its black infinity of cells
Becomes charged with dream;
Then the silent, slow nurture
Of the seed’s self, coaxing it
To trust the act of death.

The humility of the Earth
That transfigures all
That has fallen
Of outlived growth.

The kindness of the Earth,
Opening to receive
Our worn forms
Into the final stillness.

Let us ask forgiveness of the Earth
For all our sins against her:
For our violence and poisonings
Of her beauty.

Let us remember within us
The ancient clay,
Holding the memory of seasons,
The passion of the wind,
The fluency of water,
The warmth of fire,
The quiver-touch of the sun
And shadowed sureness of the moon.

That we may awaken,
To live to the full
The dream of the Earth
Who chose us to emerge
And incarnate its hidden night
In mind, spirit, and light.

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


/ Image by mark O’Rourke /

Today is an important day of environmental activism and reconnection with the natural world. A good day to praise the Earth–

There was a time when I lived on Maui, without much money but surrounded by stunning natural beauty. I stayed in a place half-way up Haleakala Volcano, at the edge of a eucalyptus forest. I fasted a lot in those days, and several times a week I would walk barefoot into the woods. Hidden among the trees was a small rock cave, just large enough for me to sit upright in meditation. To sit quietly in the cool, silent embrace of the Earth — a true blessing!

Though I now live in a small city, in a computer-powered world, I still carry that time with me in my heart. That memory continuously reminds me that, in spite of skyscrapers and the Internet, the world is not man-made. All the works of humanity are small accomplishments compared with the panoramic living miracle of the Earth.

The ground below us, sky above us, breath within us — all is the living Earth.

The Earth is the stage for our dramas.

Let us thank the Earth
That offers ground for home
And hold our feet firm
To walk in space open
To infinite galaxies.

Not only could we not act without the Earth, we could not dream. The images, the objects, the colors that populate the human psyche, they are all of the Earth too. The Earth gives the mind a vocabulary. The Earth is our language. Not only is the natural world the stage upon which we act and experience and occupy physical space, it also populates the inner landscape of mind and dream.

The Earth is the place of birth, the stuff of life, and rest in death.

The kindness of the Earth,
Opening to receive
Our worn forms
Into the final stillness.

While we as individuals live out the span of years alotted to us, the Earth is the full embodiment, the whole multiplicity of Life.

The tangible hints at the intangible. Matter expresses spirit. Earth gives form to heaven. How can we not honor that form? It is sacred. And it is us. You and I emerge to incarnate that form. Our challenge is to awaken and incarnate the secret light it suggests.

That we may awaken,
To live to the full
The dream of the Earth
Who chose us to emerge
And incarnate its hidden night
In mind, spirit, and light.

Take some time today to sit on the Earth. Run your fingers through the grass. Feel the quiet strength filling your bones. Know you are home.

And… have a beautiful day!


Recommended Books: John O’Donohue

To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings Echoes of Memory Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on Our Yearning to Belong Beauty: The Invisible Embrace Wisdom of the Celtic World (Audio CD)
More Books >>


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

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

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Sep 20 2019

Unleash the imagination

We are always doing the best we can imagine.
The problem is that we aren’t always doing
the best we can.

Unleash the imagination!

No responses yet

Sep 18 2019

Devara Dasimayya – Suppose you cut a tall bamboo

Published by under Poetry

Suppose you cut a tall bamboo
by Devara Dasimayya

English version by A. K. Ramanujan

Suppose you cut a tall bamboo
in two;
make the bottom piece a woman,
the headpiece a man;
rub them together
till they kindle:
                  tell me now,
the fire that’s born,
is it male or female,


                  O Ramanatha?

— from Speaking of Siva, by A K Ramanujan


/ Image by Christopher Michel /

Following up on the Kundalini theme of last week’s poem by Dorothy Walters…

I really love the poetry of the great Virasaiva saints of India but, on the surface, this particular poem by Devara Dasimayya doesn’t seem to have much to do with spirituality. Why is he talking about bamboo? And what does he mean when he speaks about making a piece of the bamboo “a woman” and a piece of it “a man”? Let’s unfold the poem a bit and see if the meaning becomes more clear…

Certain yogic practitioners carry with them a stick or a pole, often made of bamboo, called a danda. This “tall bamboo” is more than a walking stick, it is a ritual object that symbolizes the shushumna or the subtle spinal column that is the primary energetic pathway of awakened spiritual energies. The practitioner of Yoga strives to awaken the Kundalini energy which commonly sits dormant at the base of the spine. When aroused, the Kundalini moves up the spine along the shushumna, which is often compared to a hollow reed or stalk of bamboo. When the fiery Kundalini reaches the crown, the individual awareness merges with cosmic consciousness — the sacred marriage — and the new life of enlightenment is experienced.

Returning to Dasimayya’s poem, if you divide the “bamboo” of the spiritual spine “in two,” the “bottom piece” is the seat of the feminine Kundalini energy — thus you make it “a woman.” The “headpiece” is associated with the masculine transcendent form of the divine, in yogic tradition often identified with the God Shiva — making it “a man.” So we have the female and the male, magnetized poles of a spiritual circuit within the individual

We then “rub them together / till they kindle.” That is, if we continuously work to bring the energies of the feminine and masculine poles into contact, an electrical charge is built up, and eventually that spark gives birth to a “fire” — the awakened Kundalini that runs up the spine with a rush of heat. When the female and the male poles merge, the bliss of union is rapturous, releasing a new radiant life within us.

The question Dasimayya asks: Is this divine child of enlightenment, this living fire born of the union of polarities, is it male or female? Can one truly say that enlightenment somehow more masculine or feminine, that belongs to only one end of the pole? No, the fire consumes everything, including the feminine and masculine ends of the pole. There is no male and female left, no duality, no separation. All that remains is the formless living fire of awakened awareness.

The question itself seems to be a refutation of the idea that one gender is somehow inherently closer to godliness or more capable of attaining enlightenment. Energies that we might identify as “male” and “female” are important to the awakening process, but each individual has both and must harness both in harmony. And enlightenment itself? It is beyond the dualities epitomized by gender. Enlightenment encompasses everything and is not limited by categories, like gender.

The Virasaivas were a highly egalitarian group, recognizing social — and spiritual — equality in all people, regardless of caste or gender.

Try rereading the poem now and watch the sparks fly!


Recommended Books: Devara Dasimayya

Speaking of Siva


Devara Dasimayya

India (10th Century) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shaivite (Shiva)

Continue Reading »

3 responses so far

Sep 18 2019

information and knowledge

Don’t mistake information for knowledge.

Information is important,
but knowledge is the stuff of life.

No responses yet

Sep 13 2019

Dorothy Walters – Still Life

Published by under Poetry

Still Life
by Dorothy Walters

      The rose that no longer blooms in the garden,
      blooms inside her whole body, among the veins
      and organs and the skeleton.
                  — Linda Gregg

A hidden blossoming.
Petals flaming beneath the skin.
And a softness pressing,
as delicate as the mouth
of a blind lover.


Each movement,
each quiet gesture
awakens
a rosary in the blood.
Was it desire
which brought her to this moment,
this arrival at source,
or was it merely a need
to be still, to be richly fed
from this fountain
of dark silence.

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


/ Image by Arielle Kincaid /

I consider Dorothy Walters to be a friend, as well as a source of inspiration. She is in her 90s and still very active with various spiritual groups, sometimes giving talks, and regularly offering advice to people who contact her online. She and I have a running joke — One of us suggests getting together for brunch and conversation… until we try to pin down a date. Her schedule is always so busy that she ends up saying something like, “How about in two months?”

Since I’m in fairly regular contact with her, I was surprised to randomly find a new interview she recently did for the YouTube channel Buddha at the Gas Pump. I was surprised because she didn’t tell me about it or send me a link, it just popped up unexpectedly in my YouTube queue.

You can watch the YouTube interview here: Dorothy Walters Interview – Buddha at the Gas Pump

A couple weeks ago I noticed that her book of poetry, Marrow of Flame, which the Poetry Chaikhana publishes, had experienced a bump in sales recently and I was curious why. Then I noticed the new interview on YouTube. That’s why. More people are discovering this fascinating, unconventional spiritual elder and are wanting to read her writings.

With Dorothy in my thoughts, it only seems natural to share one of her poems from Marrow of Flame today.

Let’s start with the poem’s title itself, “Still Life.” Normally, that suggests a static painting, something beautiful with life in it, but without movement. Reading this poem, there is so much vitality that it is easy to forget that it is all happening within. The person of the poem — Dorothy Walters herself, you or me as the reader — is actually not doing anything outwardly. All of that life, the blossoming and searing, that is all happening within, and outwardly there is stillness, or perhaps just a slight gesture here and there. Still life, life within, stillness without.

Dorothy Walters speaks very directly about the spiritual and energetic opening often referred to as Kundalini awakening. She regularly talks about the highs and lows of Kundalini, that it can be blissful, rapturous, transformative, but it can also be deeply challenging and disorienting. Not only is it spiritual, with profound affects on the consciousness and one’s sense of self and interconnectedness with all things, it can also be quite physical, bestowing the most delightful sensations down to the cellular level, but also sometimes producing physical difficulties and discomfort. Dorothy’s poetry gives voice to the entire range of the Kundalini experience.

When she takes Linda Gregg’s quote, the inner blossoming becomes a representation of the spiritual energies of the Kundalini, flaming like the fire so associated with the experience, and also delicate and soft, like a lover, since this opening is often likened to ecstatic union with the Divine Beloved.

A hidden blossoming.
Petals flaming beneath the skin.
And a softness pressing,
as delicate as the mouth
of a blind lover.

With her first lines we immediately feel the searing, possibly painful passion, somehow balanced with a sense of profound peace.

And let’s not forget the sense of life, an entire garden within, and that garden is waking up, blossoming.

Each movement,
each quiet gesture
awakens
a rosary in the blood.

I love that phrase, “a rosary in the blood.” When fully swept up in the experience of the awakened Kundalini, when the energy flows without hindrances, there is a profound sense of stillness and interconnection. It is as if there is no sense of a little self to cause disruption within the wide open expanse of being. And in that open stillness, if you then move the body slightly, or if it moves on its own, as sometimes happens in such moments, even if you shift your energies a bit, that profound inner stillness can become a gently flowing bliss that bubbles and anoints every cell of the body. There is a wondrous interplay between stillness and movement, movement emerging from stillness and returning back to stillness, highlighted with ripples of delight.

Was it desire
which brought her to this moment,
this arrival at source

What brings us here? Whether we call it Kundalini or by some other name, what brings us to moments of awakening and communion? Is it because of some inner drive, some effort or practice? Is it because we have found the right pathway or teacher?

Or is it because something in us hungers and can be fed by nothing else? Is the hunger itself the beginning of one’s awakening?

or was it merely a need
to be still, to be richly fed
from this fountain
of dark silence.

Whether we have some big experience that we label Kundalini awakening or simply live our lives day-to-day learning to better embody our true selves with kindness and compassion, that secret fountain feeds us.

In our quiet moments we can feel it, that secret life unfolding, a hidden blossoming.


Recommended Books: Dorothy Walters

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World Marrow of Flame : Poems of the Spiritual Journey Diamond Cutters: Visionary Poets in America, Britain & Oceania The Ley Lines of the Soul: Poems of Ecstasy and Ascension
More Books >>


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

US (1928 – )
Secular or Eclectic

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Sep 13 2019

unzip them

All objects, all people
that tug at your desire:
unzip them.
See what tumbles out.

One response so far

Sep 13 2019

Dorothy Walters – Buddha at the Gas Pump

Published by under Poetry

Just recently the wonderful sage and poet Dorothy Walters did an extended interview with Buddha at the Gas Pump:

The Poetry Chaikhana publishes Dorothy’s best-known collection of poetry, Marrow of Flame.

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

Also available through Wordery Free shipping anywhere in the world

She is also the author of a memoir, Unmasking the Rose: A Record of Kundalini Initiation, as well as several other excellent collections of poetry, including Some Kiss We Want: Poems Selected and New, The Kundalini Poems: Reflections of Radiance and Joy, and A Cloth of Fine Gold: Poems of the Inner Journey.

Dorothy Walters is a personal friend and I can attest to the depth of her wisdom and genuineness. At the age of 91, she continues to inspire me with her energy and enthusiasm.

Click here to read some poems by Dorothy Walters.

About Dorothy Walters

Dorothy Walters, PHD, spent most of her early professional life as a professor of English literature in various Midwestern universities. She helped to found one of the first women’s studies programs in this country and served as the director of this program for many years. After an extended residence in San Francisco, she now lives and writes in Colorado, where she has a close relationship with the mountains as well as various streams and canyons.

She underwent major Kundalini awakening in 1981 (a phenomenon totally unfamiliar to her as well as to most of her contemporaries at the time); since then she has devoted her life to researching and writing about this subject and to witnessing the unfolding of this process within herself as well as assisting others on a similar path through writing and other means. As someone who made her extensive journey without the direction of any external leader or guru, church, or established order, she is a strong believer in the “guru within,” the inner guide rather than the external authority figure or institution.

She feels that universal Kundalini awakening is the means for planetary and personal evolution of consciousness, and that evidence of planetary initiation is becoming more and more prevalent. Her Kundalini awakening and subsequent process of unfolding are described in her memoir Unmasking the Rose: A Record of Kundalini Initiation.  Her poems taken from her four previous volumes are published as Some Kiss We Want: Poems Selected and New. Her article on “Kundalini and the Mystic Path” was included in Kundalini Rising, an anthology from Sounds True Publications. Her poems, which have been included in many anthologies and journals, have been set to music and sung at the Royal Opera House in London as well as Harvard University, used as texts for sermons and read aloud in churches, included in doctoral projects, been frequently quoted, and have given inspiration to many.

She often gives counsel and referral free of charge to those undergoing spontaneous Kundalini awakening and/or spiritual transformation.

One response so far

Sep 06 2019

Abu-Said Abil-Kheir – Beg for Love

Published by under Poetry

Beg for Love
by Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

English version by Vraje Abramian

Beg for Love.
Consider this burning, and those who
burn, as gifts from the Friend.
Nothing to learn.
Too much has already been said.
When you read a single page from
the silent book of your heart,
you will laugh at all this chattering,
all this pretentious learning.

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


/ Image by greenzowie /

All of my life I have dealt with anxiety. At times quite severe. When I was younger, I used to twist myself into convoluted states of pretense to convince myself that it wasn’t there. Or I would mask it behind anger — someone or some situation must be to blame for my tension. At a certain point I grew tired of my evasions and I simply accepted the patterns of anxiety in my life. I made friends with it. And in befriending it, I came to know it better.

While the anxiety patterns are generally reduced in my life these days, I can’t say that they are entirely gone. When anxiety shows up, I sit with it and we talk. As I relax out of my reflexive resistance, I learn more about myself. The anxiety in its way is a teacher. It tears holes in the latest social facade I’ve begun constructing. Instead of imagining that the anxiety points to something being “wrong,” which implies that something must be fixed in a state of desperation, I tend now to relate to anxiety as an accent in the awareness — and as an intense sensation. Anxiety can seem physical at times and, as a sensation, it burns.

When anxiety appears the first thought is, What’s wrong? I go through a rapid assessment of the daily elements of my life: my current projects as a computer programmer, my income, my work with the Poetry Chaikhana, recent conversations with my wife, chores that need to be done, am I meditating enough, how is my health… The list expands to be as long as my anxiety-controlled mind wants to make it. But, if nothing truly worthy of concern emerges in that first quick self-assessment, what I’ve learned to do is stop shredding my life up in search of the “problem” and just sit with that burning sensation of anxiety itself and let it reveal what it has to say in its own way.

Nine times out of ten I find that it is not about practical life issues and, instead, it has shown up to tease and chide me as it highlights some ego pattern I hadn’t recognized in the midst of my daily busyness. It burns and stings until I remember, Oh, yes, I am not that neat, two-dimensional figure I once again had begun to imagine myself to be. When I let go of that cardboard cutout version of myself, the heat of the anxiety consumes it and, satisfied, it dissipates, leaving me somehow more fully myself.

So in my idiosyncratic reading of this poem by the great Abu-Said Abil-Kheir, when he talks about burning as being “gifts from the Friend,” I relate to it in a highly personal and visceral way. I hear in his words how the intense, often painful experiences in life can be embraced as a cleansing process that in some alchemical sense refines us, ushering us into a deeper sense of self.

Nothing to learn.
Too much has already been said.

The real path is not about thinking or book learning, but about falling silent and opening ourselves to the intense transformative energies already at work in our lives. That’s when we enter that most holy of places, the heart.

When you read a single page from
the silent book of your heart,
you will laugh at all this chattering,
all this pretentious learning.


Recommended Books: Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World 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
More Books >>


Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

Turkmenistan (967 – 1049) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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13 responses so far

Sep 06 2019

just selfish enough

Be just selfish enough
to insist on what is
spiritually important to you.

One response so far

Aug 30 2019

Hogen Bays – In this passing moment

Published by under Poetry

In this passing moment
by Hogen Bays

“In the presence of Sangha, in the light of Dharma,
in oneness with Buddha — may my path
to complete enlightenment benefit everyone!”

In this passing moment karma ripens
and all things come to be.
I vow to choose what is:
If there is cost, I choose to pay.
If there is need, I choose to give.
If there is pain, I choose to feel.
If there is sorrow, I choose to grieve.
When burning — I choose heat.
When calm — I choose peace.
When starving — I choose hunger.
When happy — I choose joy.
Whom I encounter, I choose to meet.
What I shoulder, I choose to bear.
When it is my death, I choose to die.
Where this takes me, I choose to go.
Being with what is — I respond to what is.


This life is as real as a dream;
the one who knows it cannot be found;
and, truth is not a thing — Therefore I vow
to choose THIS dharma entrance gate!
May all Buddhas and Wise Ones
help me live this vow.

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


/ Image by Agustin Ruiz /

There’s something both delightful and deeply challenging about this vow poem.

The entire poem is summed up at the beginning:

I vow to choose what is

You would think the unavoidable nature of “what is” makes a statement like this meaningless, but the human mind is not entirely sane. It often chooses fantasy and imaginings, shoulds and coulds, possibilities and even impossibilities over what is. Very few of us truly dwell in reality. Rarely do we fully experience the moments of our lives.

What is it that we are straining for as we constantly lean away from “what is”? What do we think is missing that we need? We don’t need someone else’s life. We don’t need a perfect marriage, better finances, or a better place in society. We don’t even need to be a saint living in the mountains. What’s missing is ourselves. What we really need is to stand in our own shoes, to be utterly ourselves. We need that missing ingredient—being present. We need to live, with honesty and an open heart, the life that already moves through us.

When starving–I choose hunger.
When happy–I choose joy.

When we are hungry, can we choose anything other than hunger? When happy, isn’t joy automatic? The truth is that we constantly choose. Ask yourself, how often do we really sit with our hunger and sorrow? How often do we allow ourselves to dance with the joy bubbling up inside us? How often do we notice these things at all?

The power of a practice like Zen is that it defines the human journey, not as escape, but as coming home, of settling into ourselves and being present with the present. It challenges us to actually live the moment that continuously arrives and passes and renews itself.

By making this journey to “what is,” we finally meet ourselves and learn what this amazing thing is that we call life, with all its rich, joyful, painful, and transitory beauty.

May all Buddhas and Wise Ones
help me live this vow.


Recommended Books: Hogen Bays

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Morning Dewdrops of the Mind: Teachings of a Contemporary Zen Master Path to Bodhidharma


Hogen Bays

United States (Contemporary)
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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