Jan 12 2017

John O’Donohue – For Light

Published by under Poetry

For Light
by John O’Donohue

Light cannot see inside things.
That is what the dark is for:
Minding the interior,
Nurturing the draw of growth
Through places where death
In its own way turns into life.

In the glare of neon times,
Let our eyes not be worn
By surfaces that shine
With hunger made attractive.

That our thoughts may be true light,
Finding their way into words
Which have the weight of shadow
To hold the layers of truth.

That we never place our trust
In minds claimed by empty light,
Where one-sided certainties
Are driven by false desire.

When we look into the heart,
May our eyes have the kindness
And reverence of candlelight.

That the searching of our minds
Be equal to the oblique
Crevices and corners where
The mystery continues to dwell,
Glimmering in fugitive light.

When we are confined inside
The dark house of suffering
That moonlight might find a window.

When we become false and lost
That the severe noon-light
Would cast our shadow clear.

When we love, that dawn-light
Would lighten our feet
Upon the waters.

As we grow old, that twilight
Would illuminate treasure
In the fields of memory.

And when we come to search for God,
Let us first be robed in night,
Put on the mind of morning
To feel the rush of light
Spread slowly inside
The color and stillness
Of a found word.

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

/ Image by Darren Bertram /

After the holidays I have been having difficulty getting back into a regular rhythm of work and poetry and life in general. Do I need to refocus? Should I intensify my spiritual practice? Fast for a day or two? Should I be spending more time with poetry and writing, or should I let it sit until it bubbles up inside me? Do I push or do I putter?

There’s a part of me that starts to spin in agitation when I feel like the rhythm of my life has shifted and I don’t know my next step. But then there is also a nameless part of my awareness that finds a certain pleasure at resting in that uncertain space. That feeling of being out of sync and uncomfortable, as if I’m an alien in the center my own life, is also an opportunity to forget what it means to be “me.”

It can feel like a period of darkness, but it also allows us to see by a new light. When our accustomed patterns of feeling and activity shift, there is a period of time before we settle into the forward focus of new rhythms when the alleyways and secondary spaces of our lives become visible. Some of these are the most fascinating quirks of who we are. Here we may find troubled spaces, secret wounds, but also immense creativity, playfulness, and forgotten treasures and inner life.

O’Donohue’s poem seems like the perfect meditation. Light and darkness. The illumination of awareness and the shadow that allows us to see what is missed in the glare of too much light. How both shadow and light reveal in different ways. How light can be gentle or harsh, how the light and the dark can interact to shape the quality of the light and affect not just what we see but how we react to what is seen.

And just as important as seeing is how we choose to see.

When we look into the heart,
May our eyes have the kindness
And reverence of candlelight.

Recommended Books: John O’Donohue

To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on Our Yearning to Belong Conamara Blues Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom Echoes of Memory
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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4 responses so far

Jan 12 2017

new action

With each new insight
take a new action
to claim it.

No responses yet

Jan 12 2017

Kindle Price Savings

Published by under Books

I haven’t mentioned it often, but all of the Poetry Chaikhana books are available in Kindle ebook format for the electronically inclined among you. And, with the new year, the price of the Kindle versions have dropped:

Gathering Silence – now $3.99
The Longing In Between – now $3.99
Real Thirst – now $2.99
Marrow of Flame – now $2.99

I still like the feel of a tangible book in my hands, but the convenience of having a book — or a whole library — available at my fingertips on an electronic device is compelling. And the price saving is significant.

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Jan 04 2017

Shah Nematollah Vali – The Point of the Circle

Published by under Poetry

The Point of the Circle
by Shah Nematollah Vali

The point appeared in the circle
And was not;
But it was the dot
That the circle begot.

The point appears
As a circle, as it revolves
In the eyes of him
Who a circle draws.

When the point
Completed the circle
Its beginning and end
Were one.

When the compass
Did the circle complete
It was wrapped up
And rested its feet.

Without existence
Not-being are we;
We who are Not
And You existence free.

I said the whole world was His dream;
Then I saw His dream was He.
Sweeter than the words of our guide,
Nimatullah knows no other words.

— from Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi, Translated by Mahmood Jamal

/ Image by ratravarman /

When I was in high school I loved geometry. Something about the visual, spatial nature of geometry just clicked for me. This poem reminds me of the way I’d get lost in geometrical contemplations on hot afternoons in the classroom…

The point appeared in the circle
And was not;
But it was the dot
That the circle begot.

The point appears
As a circle, as it revolves…

In geometry, a point has no dimension. It has no diameter, no depth. It does not really exist in space; it is only an idea, a point of reference. Yet when you start to move it in a single direction, its trail creates a line. Move it around another point, you create an arc. Continue describing that arc, and its end will eventually meet its beginning, and form an endless circle.

From nothing, something has taken form. From the point, a circle emerges. It is the existence of the circle that proves the existence of the point. The point is not-being; the circle is being.

Here’s another image: A circle encloses a limited area. We can calculate the area with the formula pi multiplied by the radius squared. Yet, although the area is limited and specific, we can still fit an infinite number of points within the circle. Since a point does not take up space but can still have a location, its possibilities within the circle are unlimited.

Let’s meditate on this for a moment. Imagine that you are that point and the circle is the canvas of reality — your life. Your life has a limited number of years to it, a limited number of places you can go, people you will meet, experiences you will have. Being human, we instinctively rebel against that feeling of limitation. But we are like the point within the circle: Within the limited area of our lives, the possibilities available to us are, in reality, without limit. Just the slightest shift in point-of-view, and everything around us is made new. So, is our limited life really limited?

These are the sorts of things nerdy teenaged Ivan used to daydream about in geometry class…

I said the whole world was His dream;
Then I saw His dream was He.

Recommended Books: Shah Nematollah Vali

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi

Shah Nematollah Vali, Shah Nematollah Vali poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Shah Nematollah Vali

Iran/Persia (1330 – 1431) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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4 responses so far

Jan 04 2017

trace of time

Follow the trace of time
until the start
collapses with the end
in the space of the heart.

No responses yet

Dec 28 2016

Joseph Gikatilla – The Nut Garden

Published by under Poetry

The Nut Garden
by Joseph Gikatilla

English version by Peter Cole

The Nut Garden holds things felt and thought,
and feeling for thought is always a palace —

Sinai with flames of fire about it,
burning though never by fire devoured.

On all four sides surrounded so,
entrance is barred to pretenders forever.

For one who learns to be wise, however,
its doors are open toward the East:

he reaches out and takes a nut,
then cracks its shell, and eats…

— from The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492, Edited by Peter Cole

/ Image by Tatters /

I was trying to think of a poem in honor of Hanukkah today. This short selection by Joseph Gikatilla doesn’t directly deal with the traditional themes of Hanukkah like light, endurance, and renewal, but it came strongly to mind this morning, and so I thought I would share it with you…

This poem is from Rabbi Gikatilla’s major philosophical work of the same name — Ginnat Egoz or the Nut Garden. The title itself is imbued with layers of meaning — the nut (“egoz”) being a symbol for esoteric knowledge, and the word “ginat/GNT” being an acronym composed of the three main elements of his school of Kabbalah: Gematria (numerology of sacred texts), Notarikon (use of sacred acronyms), and Temurah (rearranging the letters of words in sacred texts to gain deeper esoteric insight).

But also, and perhaps most important, the reference to the “nut garden” or “nut orchard” evokes lines from the Song of Solomon :

I went down to the nut orchard,
to look at the blossoms of the valley,
to see whether the vines had budded,
whether the pomegranates were in bloom.
Before I was aware, my fancy set me in a chariot beside my prince.
(Song of Solomon 6:11-12)

In other words, this reference to a nut garden is also associated with a chariot. That image of a chariot is especially significant in Jewish mysticism. It is the Merkavah, the vehicle that transports the awareness to the eternal realms of the “prince” or the Messiah.

So, in the title alone, we have the “nut” of esoteric knowledge — difficult to open, but sweet and nourishing. It is discovered within the “nut garden” — the inner world, the psychic and spiritual landscape of the mystic. (And for the practitioner of this school of Kabbalah, this landscape is especially revealed through meditation on the permutations of letters and words within the sacred texts.) Entering this garden of secret, sacred knowledge, we discover the inner life budding and blossoming… and we find ourselves aboard the chariot of divine communion.

Sinai with flames of fire about it,
burning though never by fire devoured.

These lines are a reference to the overlapping Biblical images of the burning bush encountered by Moses, and the description of Mt. Sinai being surrounded by fire and lightning. These, too, are important images for mystics, interpreted by some to be a reference to the blissfully burning fire that often marks deep communion. When the mystic experiences that purifying and refining fire, it is as if the entire world is consumed, even one’s own outer self, and all that remains is what is eternal and lasting within — the inner Mt. Sinai.

On all four sides surrounded so,
entrance is barred to pretenders forever.

For one who learns to be wise, however,
its doors are open toward the East…

The summit of this inner mountain is holy ground that cannot be entered under false pretenses or with a selfish heart. One must approach in all humility, purity, and honesty, barefoot, without buffer or separation.

And then, “for one who learns to be wise,” the entrance is found to the East. The East is the direction of the rising sun, dawning awareness, the light of enlightenment. This the direction of awakening and new vision. This is why many sacred traditions pray and meditate facing East… it is the direction of opening.

he reaches out and takes a nut,
then cracks its shell, and eats…

Recommended Books: Joseph Gikatilla

The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492 Gates of Light: Sha’are Orah

Joseph Gikatilla

Spain (1248 – 1325?) Timeline

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Dec 28 2016

In every love

In every love, we love the Beloved.

No responses yet

Dec 21 2016

Symeon the New Theologian – We awaken in Christ’s body

Published by under Poetry

We awaken in Christ’s body
by Symeon the New Theologian

English version by Stephen Mitchell

We awaken in Christ’s body
as Christ awakens our bodies,
and my poor hand is Christ, He enters
my foot, and is infinitely me.

I move my hand, and wonderfully
my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him
(for God is indivisibly
whole, seamless in His Godhood).

I move my foot, and at once
He appears like a flash of lightning.
Do my words seem blasphemous? — Then
open your heart to Him

and let yourself receive the one
who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,
we wake up inside Christ’s body

where all our body, all over,
every most hidden part of it,
is realized in joy as Him,
and He makes us, utterly, real,

and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in Him transformed

and recognized as whole, as lovely,
and radiant in His light
he awakens as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.

— from The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry, by Stephen Mitchell

/ Image by obsidian-blade /

Since it is the Solstice and we are coming into the Christmas season, I thought I would take the opportunity to share one of my favorite poems by Symeon the New Theologian.

Symeon doesn’t urge us to merely honor or love the Beloved (Christ within the Christian tradition) from a distance. We melt into the Divine, become one with the Divine, share the same body.

I move my hand, and wonderfully
my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him

Some of these lines remind me of the poem attributed to Teresa of Avila, You Are Christ’s Hands with it’s lines– “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, / no hands but yours…”

This poem by Symeon is one I just want to drink in — it feels so deeply healing and generous to the soul.

and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in Him transformed

and recognized as whole, as lovely,
and radiant in His light
he awakens as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.

Thinking of Christmas, I have always felt a particular love for manger scenes, ceramic, porcelain, or carved wooden figurines of the Christ Child laid in a bed of straw, Mary knelt over her new child, Joseph with his lamp, the Three Magi holding their gifts, a shepherd with a few sheep, an ox and an ass at rest. Often the scene has a hut-like manger as background, the roof covered with moss — with the announcing angel and the Christmas star shining above. That iconic scene has always felt magical and alive to me, rich with unspoken meaning.

And it is. We can read the gospel stories of the birth of Christ as simply describing events, or we can read it more deeply as being imbued with spiritual meaning.

In the Nativity, we discover the pure spark of light that is the Christ child — also represented by the star — surrounded by the emptiness of the night. The Nativity is an image of light in the darkness. A small child, vulnerable, humble, poor, a tiny point of existence, surrounded by the immensity of the night… but with the promise that the light will increase until it floods the world with its light. (It is no accident that Christmas occurs near the Winter Solstice, when the world is plunged in darkness and awaits the rebirth of the sun.)

Looking at Mary and Joseph, one way to understand Mary in the Nativity story is that she represents the heart or the soul, while Joseph represents the intellect. From this perspective, the gospel story of the virgin birth takes on ever deeper dimensions.

In the mystical tradition, the soul must first stop attempting to take false lovers through every outer experience, and yearn so deeply for the true Beloved within that she (the soul) becomes restored to her natural “untouched” state (Mary’s virginity). That is, the soul must become purified, inward focused, unattached, “untouched” by the experiences of the outer world. Mary’s virginity is a virginity of awareness.

When this happens deeply enough, the divine touch comes, and a new life (the Christ child in Christian tradition) is formed within the individual. The overwhelming sense of joy and spiritual bliss that is felt becomes a new presence in the body and mind.

But the father of this new life is not Joseph. The heart does not conceive by the intellect, but through direct communion with the Eternal. At this stage, the intellect has a choice: Retreat into cold denial, proclaiming, ‘I do not know that child’ and reject the heart and the life it carries; or it can recognize that something deeply sacred is taking place, something not of its own making, and then take responsibility and provide for the growth and maturation of that inner illumination.

In this way, the Christian gospel drama is played out in you and me and in all devout mystics. This isn’t something experienced only by Christians; here, we are simply using Christian language to describe a universal mystical experience…

In the traditional iconography, we see the infant Christ on a bed of straw in a manger surrounded by animals. In the gospel tale, two animals are mentioned specifically: an ox and an ass. Why those two animals? Esoteric Christian teachings sometimes explain it this way: the ox (an ancient symbol of Venus), represents sensuality and passion; the ass can be seen as embodying either the ego or reason. What are they doing in this image of divine birth? Notice that they are not suppressed; the ox and ass are not chained or slaughtered. No, they rest, they are at peace, tamed by the presence of spiritual light. More than that, they are actually protecting the infant, giving him their strength. As one 20th century Christian teacher phrased it, “They are warming the Christ child with their breath.” Viewed this way, the nativity gives us an image not of suppression, but of integration of the energies of life in support of the awakening soul.

There is, of course, much more to explore. The cave or manger of the birth. The three Magian wise men from the east. But I hope I have suggested some good ideas to contemplate and inspire a bit more spiritual connection this Christmas.

he awakens as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.

Wishing each and every one of you a beautiful Christmas, Hanukkah, and Solstice. May this time when the light renews itself amidst the darkness also bring a renewal of the light and life within you and everyone your life touches.

Recommended Books: Symeon the New Theologian

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry The Book of Mystical Chapters: Meditations on the Soul’s Ascent from the Desert Fathers and Other Early Christian Contemplatives Hymns of Divine Love: Songs of praise by one of the great mystics of all church history
More Books >>

Symeon the New Theologian, Symeon the New Theologian poetry, Christian poetry Symeon the New Theologian

Turkey (949 – 1032) Timeline
Christian : Eastern Orthodox

Continue Reading »

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Dec 21 2016

Right action

Right action heals
in ways that even “success” cannot match.

No responses yet

Dec 14 2016

Buson – winter moon

Published by under Poetry

winter moon
by Buson

English version by Gabriel Rosenstock

winter moon —
bowing to a monk
on the bridge

— from The Moon Over Tagoto: Selected Haiku of Buson, Translated by Gabriel Rosenstock / Translated by John McDonald

/ Image by Hartwig HKD /

I couldn’t help but notice the full moon last night hovering in the cool winter sky.

Something about a “winter moon” seems more moon-like, evoking the moon at its brightest, purest, and perhaps most aloof. There is a crystalline clarity to the moon in a winter sky.

This is the moon of awakened awareness, shining sartori.

But with the closing lines, who is bowing to the monk on the bridge? One way to read it is that the moon is bowing to the monk. Perhaps the moon is heavy and low in the sky. So perhaps heavenly enlightenment is quietly acknowledging the noble journey of the monk.

We can also read these lines as we ourselves are bowing to the monk, which seems to transform the monk into the moon itself. So perhaps we are bowing to the embodied enlightenment of the monk.

The bridge itself seems significant. In Asia, we have “moon bridges,” highly arched bridges that form a full (moon) circle when seen in reflection upon the water’s surface. So, is the bridge the moon? Or is the moon a bridge?

A bridge is an interstitial space, joining two realms separated by flowing water, yet the bridge itself belongs to neither side. It represents a pathway between worlds and states of mind. The bridge is connection, pathway, and transformation.

Let’s bow to that winter moon-bridge. Perhaps it will bow back to us.

Recommended Books: Buson

Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library) The Moon Over Tagoto: Selected Haiku of Buson

Buson, Buson poetry, Buddhist poetry Buson

Japan (1716 – 1784) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

Continue Reading »

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Dec 14 2016

battered heart

somehow the battered heart
blossoms with such beauty,
no hint of past hurts

2 responses so far

Dec 09 2016

William Stafford – Any Morning

Published by under Poetry

Any Morning
by William Stafford

Just lying on the couch and being happy.
Only humming a little, the quiet sound in the head.
Trouble is busy elsewhere at the moment, it has
so much to do in the world.

People who might judge are mostly asleep; they can’t
monitor you all the time, and sometimes they forget.
When dawn flows over the hedge you can
get up and act busy.

Little corners like this, pieces of Heaven
left lying around, can be picked up and saved.
People won’t even see that you have them,
they are so light and easy to hide.

Later in the day you can act like the others.
You can shake your head. You can frown.

— from The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems, by William Stafford

/ Image by incolor16 /

I think there is a great deal of wisdom in this poem. It is a reminder of how to conduct oneself while pretending to be part of the world. Yes, at work, at the store, saying hello to neighbors, do be practical, be responsible, be concerned. Or at least, appear to be.

But in those private moments, perhaps early in the morning before others have awakened, before the “important” activity of the day, before the clock has begun to tick, find those languid moments where sweetness abounds in the tiny movements and forgotten corners. On some fundamental level, this is our real job as human beings, to discover these moments, to bathe in them, to gather them like pollen — and then, to go about our lives making honey.

You can frown, if it is expected of you. But it is hard to do with the sweetness still on your tongue.

Recommended Books: William Stafford

The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems My Name is William Tell Dancing with Joy: 99 Poems Even in Quiet Places Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems of William Stafford
More Books >>

William Stafford, William Stafford poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry William Stafford

US (1914 – 1993) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by William Stafford

3 responses so far

Dec 09 2016

Any step

Any step
— done well —
completes the journey.

No responses yet

Dec 05 2016

Holiday Book Recommendations – 2016

The winter holidays are coming quickly: Christmas, Hanukkah, the Solstice, Yule, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Day… It has become something of a tradition for me to send out a list of book recommendations for the holidays. (Since it is already well into December, I suppose I had better get to it!)

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

Here is a a holiday sampler I have gathered for you and your loved ones. But let me start by giving you some updates on my latest book, Gathering Silence

Pre-Order Period Extended
Officially, the pre-order period for Gathering Silence was supposed to end today. But I’m not very good at sticking to official rules and regulations. So I am UNofficially extending the pre-order discount through Dec. 8 for orders placed directly through the Poetry Chaikhana.

Delivery of Pre-Orders
If you have already place a pre-order for Gathering Silence, your order is now being shipped! Standard delivery pre-orders in North America should arrive between Dec. 16 and 19. It’s on its way!

The next bit of news: Amazon surprised me by listing Gathering Silence early. If you prefer to order through Amazon, Gathering Silence is now available through Amazon. This is especially good news for those of you in the UK, Europe, and India who are eager for the book.

Reader Reviews
If you have ordered a copy of Gathering Silence, consider helping by posting your review of the book on Amazon. Good reviews are the best way to encourage new readers to discover this book. Nearly all of the Poetry Chaikhana publications are sold online, and your online reviews are an important part of that.

Most of all, I hope Gathering Silence feels like a special gift of color and inspiration and life to you this holiday season.

* Pre-Order Period Extended *
Gathering Silence, sayings, Ivan M. Granger, Rashani Rea

Gathering Silence

Sayings by Ivan M. Granger
Collages by Rashani Réa

Pre-Order before Dec. 8



Now available through Amazon

The Poetry Chaikhana’s latest publication!

Gathering Silence is a collection of meditative sayings and bits of poetry, accompanied throughout by stunning full-color artwork by internationally-known collage artist, Rashani Réa.

Gathering Silence is a truly beautiful book, filled with color, creative thoughts, and meditative moments. Perfect for an altar or meditation space, by your bed or on a coffee table. A wonderful gift for family, friends, and fellow seekers!

I hope you will agree that this book is a work of art!

A few pages from Gathering Silence ~

The individual is really a magical act of seeing with no fixed eye.

Your most secret wound is the doorway.

All of mysticism comes down to this:

to recognize
what is already
and always here.

Outwardly, determined effort is necessary.

But within, nothing is needed
except to yield.

How can you settle into yourself

Don’t strain toward enlightenment.
Relax into it.


also Amazon


== Other Poetry Chaikhana Publications ==

We have to start our list by highlighting the growing library of Poetry Chaikhana publications!

To satisfy that longing (or awaken it)…

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

Edited with Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

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

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

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


also Amazon and Barnes & Noble

and wherever books are sold

For the modern mystic…

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

Introduction by Andrew Harvey

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

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

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

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


also Amazon and Barnes & Noble

and wherever books are sold

To slake that thirst (or awaken it)…

Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey
Poems & Translations by Ivan M. Granger

Original poems by Ivan M. Granger (yours truly) with new translations of works by visionaries from both East and West: John of the Cross, Francis of Assisi, Symeon the New Theologian, Hakim Sanai, Tukaram, Sarmad, Bulleh Shah, Sachal Sarmast, Vladimir Solovyov, Tulsi Sahib, and Antonio Machado.

“I found Real Thirst to be a slow, cool and refreshing drink. I believe you will find these poems an antidote to the rush of your days.” ~ JOHN FOX author of Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-Making

== And so many more excellent books ==

For the eclectic…

The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry
by Stephen Mitchell

This is a compact anthology, but a wonderful collection that includes Li Po, Wu-Men, Rumi, Kabir, Mirabai, Rilke… And the added bonus of Stephen Mitchell’s way with words. One of my personal favorites.

Illuminated and Illustrated…

One Song: A New Illuminated Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks

A follow-up to the excellent Illuminated Rumi — excerpts of Rumi’s poetry accompanied by digital collage artwork that draws you deeply into each page. This book entrances on several levels. An excellent gift book.

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

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

Perfect Harmony: (Calligrapher’s Notebooks)
by Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi

Brief selections from Ibn Arabi’s metaphysical love poem “The Interpreter of Desires” combined with the amazing Arabic calligraphy of Hassan Massoudy. If you didn’t think calligraphy could be fine art, you have to look at this book. Find a quiet place, open this book, and lose yourself in any page…

For the wise woman…

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

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

Sufi samplers…

Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from the Sufi Wisdom
by Andrew Harvey / Eryk Hanut

Something about Andrew Harvey’s selections and translations always strike a pure note. This book is a delightful collection of poetry and Sufi wisdom stories. Rumi, Kabir, al-Hallaj, Shabistari, Ansari… This is one I return to again and again.

Traveling the Path of Love: Sayings of the Sufi Masters
ed. by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

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

A little Zen in your pocket…

The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhalla Library)
Edited by Sam Hamill / Edited by J. P. Seaton

A very nice sampler of Japanese and Chinese Zen poetry. Han Shan, Li Po, Wang Wei, Basho, Soseki, Ryokan, Issa… The book fits well in your hand when you’re walking to the riverside or the local coffee shop.

For the Christian contemplative…

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

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

The Book of Mystical Chapters: Meditations on the Soul’s Ascent
Translated by John Anthony McGuckin

This is the book that, years ago, introduced me to the stunning poetry of Symeon the New Theologian, igniting my passion for his visionary poetry of light and transformation. You’ll also find poems and poetic renditions of writings from many other saints and mystics of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Still a favorite of mine.

Selected Poems of Thomas Merton
by Thomas Merton

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

For the heartful activist…

Call Me by My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh
by Thich Nhat Hanh

Poetry by the beloved modern master Thich Nhat Hanh, exploring service and suffering, humanity and interbeing, breath and stillness, beauty and bliss.

Lovers and the Beloved…

The Lover of God
by Rabindranath Tagore

Bhakti love poems from Radha to Krishna, originally written by a 14-year-old Rabindranath Tagore – as a hoax! That teenage boy became one of the great poets of the early 20th century, and these poems touch the lover’s heart on so many levels.

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

This has become my favorite translation of poems by the great Kashmiri mystic poet, Lal Ded. Sharp insight, flashes of humor, and vast timeless spaces.

The Gift: Poems by Hafiz the Great Sufi Master
by Daniel Ladinsky

Despite the book’s title, these are not poems by the historic Sufi poet Hafiz; instead, it is a delightful collection of contemporary poems infused with the spirit of Hafiz. These poems tease and wink, and lead us chuckling to surprising moments of insight.

For the Jewish mystic…

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

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

The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain 950-1492
Translated and Edited by Peter Cole

A very good collection of the great Hebrew poets and writers who emerged from the flowering of Jewish culture in Medieval Spain. A nice sampling of important figures of Kabbalah, philosophy, and culture, like Hanagid, ibn Gabirol, Halevi, Abulafia, and many more.

For those early mornings…

Why I Wake Early
by Mary Oliver

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

Artist, Therapist, Shaman…

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

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

Saved by a Poem: The Transformative Power of Words
by Kim Rosen

What can I say? Read the first few pages and you won’t want to stop. An exploration of the power of poetry to open our lives in surprising, healing ways and, at the same time, an engaging personal memoir. Highly recommended.

And for blessings…

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

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

For even more excellent book recommendations, click here.

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

I hope you and your loved ones celebrate this special season with warmth and joy —

— and that the new year brings you bright blessings!


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Dec 02 2016

Thich Nhat Hanh – Please Call Me by My True Names

Published by under Poetry

Please Call Me by My True Names
by Thich Nhat Hanh

Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow —
even today I am still arriving.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope.

The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that is alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing
on the surface of the river.
And I am the bird
that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily
in the clear water of a pond.
And I am the grass-snake
that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant,
selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo,
with plenty of power in my hands.
And I am the man who has to pay
his “debt of blood” to my people
dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.

My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and my laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart
can be left open,
the door of compassion.

— from Call Me by My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh, by Thich Nhat Hanh

/ Image by AlicePopkorn /

This is a lovely, unflinching meditation on how all of being and all of human experience weaves together into a single tapestry of the whole. It can even draw comparisons with Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” where everything, terrible and beautiful, is one, is witnessed, and is found within oneself.

Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow —
even today I am still arriving.

Most of us have learned to anticipate what will happen next, and we end up mentally dwelling in our fantasies and fears about the future. But the future is merely an idea; it never has reality. The present moment is all that is ever real. And that is where we must dwell if we want to truly be alive and know what is real.

The present is a state of “still arriving.” Because the present moment is not a fixed space in time, we can’t say that anything encountered in the present is fixed and settled either. The present is a gossamer thin and moving thread of light where all things are just barely stepping into the visibility of being… as the moment keeps moving. Everything, everyone, in every second is always just arriving. The present is a continuous becoming.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest…

Another fascinating thing is discovered when we truly, deeply perceive the present moment: Not only are we and all things “still arriving,” but the illusion of boundaries and separate being falls away. The notion of identity expands and recognizes itself just as naturally in all things witnessed. We find we are not just the person watching the bud on the Spring branch, but in our arriving we are equally the Spring bud, the young bird, the caterpillar in the flower, the jewel waiting in the stone. This is not some poetic game of words; it is what we actually perceive.

The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that is alive.

When we finally see this truth, for the first time we can truly witness the world as it is. And that is what this poem is most about: witnessing. Thich Nhat Hanh invites us to courageously witness the panorama of life, wonders and horrors alike. Through this honest witnessing, we are not spectators watching others from a distance; no, it all unfolds upon us and in us. We are witnessing ourselves in many forms. We recognize that anything that happens anywhere in the world, is actually happening to us. Everything done, is done by ourselves… to ourselves. There is no unfolding experience in the world that we are not participants in.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart
can be left open,
the door of compassion.

This is why compassion is not altruistic. This is why service is no effort. When we finally see things as they are, it is all part of our own selves. When we offer our heart, when we offer our hand, we are simply helping ourselves. Who among us, when he touches a hot iron, doesn’t immediately pull back and then soothe the burn under cool water? That’s not altruism, it is the natural response to pain in one’s body. When we see clearly, we see we are all of one body, and the joys and pains of any other is our own as well.

Compassion and a heart that has broken open are the natural result of being awake to this truth, and they are no effort at all.

Recommended Books: Thich Nhat Hanh

Call Me by My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering Into Peace, Joy & Liberation

Thich Nhat Hanh, Thich Nhat Hanh poetry, Buddhist poetry Thich Nhat Hanh

Vietnam/France/US (1929 – )
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

More poetry by Thich Nhat Hanh

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Dec 02 2016

gently come to a stop

Seek those moments
when you gently come to a stop.
Stay there.

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Nov 30 2016

Gathering Silence Reminder Pre-Order by Dec. 5

Gathering Silence Reminder Pre-Order by Dec. 5

There are just a few days left to pre-order your copy of Gathering Silence at the discounted price. Pre-orders must be received by Dec. 5. The new book will also be available in a couple of weeks through Amazon, but if you want to receive your order in time for the holidays, pre-ordering is the safest option.

See everything
with a fierce eye
and a gentle heart.

And don’t forget about Rashani Réa’s wonderful collages! In the Introduction, I say of her artwork, “With their rich colors, organic forms, and fluid lines, her collages feel as if they have been grown in a secret magical garden.” The book’s color makes it a wonderful gift for family, friends, and fellow seekers.

You can read more about Gathering Silence here. To pre-order your copy, click here.

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