Feb 12 2014

Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi – Love is Here

Published by under Poetry

Love is Here
by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

English version by Andrew Harvey

Love is here; it is the blood in my veins, my skin.
I am destroyed; He has filled me with Passion.
His fire has flooded the nerves of my body.
Who am I? Just my name; the rest is Him.

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


/ Photo by etheraiel /

Love is here; it is the blood in my veins, my skin.

Valentine’s Day is only a few days away, the day celebrated by lovers. Rumi reminds us that there is more than one way to be a lover…

Who am I? Just my name; the rest is Him.

We are, each of us, just a thin gauze-like veil delicately draped over the Divine. The slightest puff of breath or flaming spark of fire dispels the illusion that we are a separate substance…






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

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

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Feb 12 2014

we are present

We are present through perception,
not action.

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Feb 07 2014

Wallace Stevens – Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

Published by under Poetry

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
by Wallace Stevens

I
Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

II
I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

III
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

IV
A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

V
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections,
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

VI
Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

VII
O thin men of Haddam
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

VIII
I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

IX
When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

X
At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

XI
He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

XII
The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

XIII
It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.

— from Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, by Wallace Stevens


/ Photo by phoenix wolf-ray /

I once heard a story about Wallace Stevens: His work as an insurance salesman required him to spend a lot of time on the road. As his poetry gained recognition, he was offered academic positions to focus exclusively on his writing, but he refused to leave his job, saying that his poetry drew its rhythm from the steady flow of lines on the road as he drove.

I’d be hard-pressed to clearly define what I like about the poetry of Wallace Stevens, but I keep coming back to it with a smile. This poem, for example, his best known… it’s just one of those perfect poems. Each little verse is practically a haiku. The words don’t even entirely make sense, but they just pull you into the still, present moment.

These blackbirds haunt the frigid quiet and accent the bare landscape with their coal dark presence. Their watchfulness and small movements impinge upon our awareness, suggesting something of the void or an intelligence from some hidden realm reaching into the human world and whispering, “you are not all there is.” An intimation that is both hopeful and haunting — feelings entirely right for a cold winter’s day.

I read this poem on a snowy Colorado day, and the world goes quiet, dusk trickles in through bare branches, my misty breath lights up in the moonlight.

And, what is that? A blackbird? Or some watchful shadow of myself?






Wallace Stevens, Wallace Stevens poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Wallace Stevens

US (1879 – 1955) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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Feb 07 2014

already are

You can only perceive
what you already are.

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Feb 05 2014

Ram Tzu – Every time

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Every time
by Ram Tzu (Wayne Liquorman)

Ram Tzu knows this…

Every time
You find an answer,
The question
No longer seems important.

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


/ Photo by WiciaQ /

This poetic statement works both ways…

When you find a true answer, it consumes the question until only the answer remains.

But also…

We should be careful of pursuing only answers. Too often that numbs us to the living Mystery which lives more in the openness of questions than in the comfort of pat answers.

So here’s to answers that consume the question, and questions too big for answers!






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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Feb 05 2014

precisely the purpose

But that is precisely the purpose of the human soul,
to deeply witness.

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Feb 03 2014

Rainer Maria Rilke – I live my life in widening circles

Published by under Poetry

I live my life in widening circles
by Rainer Maria Rilke

English version by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not ever complete the last one,
but I give myself to it.

I circle around God, that primordial tower.
I have been circling for thousands of years,
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?


/ Photo by striatic /

A difficult bout of chronic fatigue, but I’m rebounding. Exhaustion, begone! Shakiness, migraines, away with you! Poetry awaits…

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world…

I circle around God, that primordial tower.

These images of circles and circling, revolving around a great center he names God, it makes me think of the cathedral labyrinths of Europe. Or the ancient spiral glyphs carved into rocks and cave faces. I see the circling pathway around some secret center. The road can be bewildering, twisting and turning, keeping us disoriented and uncertain of how near we are, but ever moving inward.

And that courageous line–

I may not ever complete the last one,
but I give myself to it.

We walk the winding path, not out of certainty, but because it is the only path worth walking. Walking that road, quietly, with attention, one foot in front of the other, becomes meditation. It becomes worship. Each ring, whether near or far, is a layer of our lives that is blessed by our passing through it.

Walking the circling path is not only the way to the center, it is actually part of the center. We learn to participate in the center by first walking the path. Obsession with the destination becomes an impediment to reaching it. Instead, by patiently inhabiting each step, we discover the center in ourselves… and our feet naturally end up there, as well.

We walk with our whole selves–

and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

On this roundabout road to God, we encounter the mystery of self. And in that self beyond definition we find the primordial tower standing at the center.






Rainer Maria Rilke, Rainer Maria Rilke poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Rainer Maria Rilke

Germany (1875 – 1926) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Rainer Maria Rilke

8 responses so far

Feb 03 2014

speak and be still

Whatever you experience,
Let the senses speak and be still.

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Jan 27 2014

Sharafuddin Maneri – If you welcome me, than I am Your accepted one

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If You welcome me, then I am Your accepted one
by Sharafuddin Maneri

English version by Paul Jackson

If You welcome me, then I am Your accepted one:
If You do not, I am still Your rejected servant!
I should not be worried whether You accept or reject me:
My task, in either state, is to remain preoccupied with You!

— from In Quest of God: Maneri’s Second Collection of 150 Letters, by Sharafuddin Maneri / Translated by Paul Jackson


/ Photo by rachel_titiriga /

Here in America people are gearing up for the Super Bowl. I’m especially aware of football fever because one of the two teams that made it to the Super Bowl this year is from Colorado, where I live. Everyone is wearing the colors of the Denver Broncos, flying Broncos flags. Even for someone who is not a sports fan, you can feel the sense of regional pride and shared experience while everyone readies for the big game.

Of course, the question on everyone’s lips is, will we win? Who will claim ultimate victory?

Then I read this poem by Shaikh Maneri, and I laugh. This poem is exactly the opposite of all that focus on winning. In this short meditation on the path to God, success and failure are beside the point.

As a seeker, whether or not we will be “accepted” by God and melt into that supreme bliss is not the question that should preoccupy our minds on the path. When we are constantly measuring our spiritual successes and failures, we don’t walk our path well, with the necessary poise and patience.

What is important is not so much how close our relationship with God is or how distant it seems — but recognizing the relationship itself. The satisfaction is found in our very devotion to the Absolute. A mature lover finds fulfillment in loving, without the need for constant reassurances. That is enough for the steady journey. –And, so long as we keep that sacred focus, it gives us victory even in defeat.

This poem reminds me of a Hindu story of a great saint who took the path of rejection all the way to God. As a young man, he hated God. He acutely felt every bit of suffering and wrong in the world, and he blamed God for it all. His hatred of God obsessed him. He constantly muttered his recriminations to God. His every thought and feeling was focused through his anger… on God. And his focus became so keen, that it was enough, and the bliss of enlightenment came upon him.

“Accepted” by God, “rejected” by God… The Eternal neither accepts nor rejects us, for how can we ever be truly separate from that which always and everywhere IS? But in our limited awareness we can create roadblocks and imagine them to be outside ourselves. Success in dispelling those illusions of separation from God is not always easy or obvious. But by remaining preoccupied with our purpose, our entire life force becomes oriented toward it; our energies flow toward our focus, and more and more they flow around whatever distractions and stuckness block the way.

Our job is not to emerge with the victory cup while the crowds roar their approval. Neither is our job to avoid the bitter disappointment of failure. No, our job as spiritual seekers is to overwhelm both success and failure with vibrant, joyful, and constant celebration of the Divine already within us.






Sharafuddin Maneri

India (1263 – 1381) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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Jan 27 2014

psychic stillness

Psychic stillness is so difficult because it makes us naked
to ourselves.
This is why self-acceptance is essential.
Otherwise, we never give ourselves permission to be still.

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Jan 22 2014

Lakota (Anonymous) – Three Lakota Songs

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Three Lakota Songs
by Lakota (Anonymous)

English version by Frances Densmore & Brian Swann

May the sun rise in splendor
May the earth appear in light

A      wind
wears
me

Look

It is
sacred

A rainbow hoop

wears
me

Everybody
sees me
coming

— from Song of the Sky: Versions of Native American Song-Poems, by Brian Swann


/ Photo by StillWater /

May the sun rise in splendor
May the earth appear in light

Pause from the daily rush for a moment in order to recognize what a truly breathtaking place it is we all inhabit. Each and every day begins with such shining majesty, and you and I are given the great gift of being witness to it. We didn’t have to do something special to earn this privilege other than be born.

It’s easy to confuse priorities in the midst of daily pressures. But we all need to periodically remind ourselves to stop and honor that unearned gift by actually noticing it.

Awe at what we encounter daily can feel exhausting… at first. But the quieter we become, the more we recognize it as our true state of being.

“A wind wears me… A rainbow hoop wears me…” I love these lines. The “me” could be the light of the sun, or it could be us. Heard this way, it is the proper recognition that we are ornamentation for the living world. We are accents upon the beautiful face of creation.

As humans we tend to take ourselves so seriously that we forget that we do not exist for ourselves; we are expressions of the living whole. And that particular sparkle of witnessing awareness we carry, that does not belong to us, but it is there to reflect the countless colors of existence back upon itself so that the living world may know itself more fully.

Look

It is
sacred






Lakota (Anonymous)

US (19th Century) Timeline
Primal/Tribal/Shamanic : American Indian

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Jan 22 2014

raw minute

Inhabit each raw minute.

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Jan 17 2014

Izumi Shikibu – Watching the moon

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Watching the moon
by Izumi Shikibu

English version by Jane Hirshfield

Watching the moon
at midnight,
solitary, mid-sky,
I knew myself completely,
no part left out.

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


/ Photo by gavdana /

This particular poem is one of my favorites in its use of the moon, so I thought I’d feature it today in honor of the recent full moon.

Whenever the moon appears in a poem, we can read it as a reference to illuminated awareness — whether intended or not by the poet — and the meaning of the poem unwraps itself in fascinating ways…

The blissful state reveals itself as a shining light, as a luminescence permeating the still field of the mind. There is a sense of light from an undefined ‘above,’ silence, a fullness of vitality, and deep rest.

In sacred poetry, particularly in Zen poetry, this is often expressed as the full moon in the night sky.

The moon is the individual consciousness that shines only by reflecting the constant light of the sun, which is unbounded awareness. Individual consciousness, like the moon, waxes and wanes, sometimes bright and clear, sometimes dark.

When the moon, consciousness, is full, it is round, whole, complete, perfectly reflecting the light of divine awareness. The full moon is enlightenment. It is Buddha-mind. It is the soft light that illumines the land below when all is at rest.

With this understanding, reread Shikibu’s poem. Do you feel the power of the statement beneath its beautiful words?

When she says she is “Watching the moon,” she can be describing the deep meditation practice of witnessing the radiance of opened awareness. To do so “at midnight” carries the double meaning of a late night meditation (which is often the best time for deep contemplation), but midnight also suggests the depth of nighttime, the great Void. We perceive the enlightened mind shining quietly within emptiness. There is nothing else present but the light of the moon. There is only awareness. (I have read alternate translations that say “at dawn” rather than midnight, which carries additional rich meanings.)

The poet specifically describes the moon as “solitary” and “mid-sky.” In this profound communion, the awareness is recognized as being absolutely alone in the sense that there is no ‘other,’ nothing outside of its sphere; it is “solitary.” And it is the center point of being; it is the heart, it is the core; the moon is “mid-sky.”

When we stand silently bathed by the light of the moonlight, we finally experience our true nature. We know ourselves “completely” — all of the seemingly disjointed and conflicting parts of ourselves are seen to be parts of a unified whole, “no part left out.” We are the wholeness.






Izumi Shikibu

Japan (974? – 1034?) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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Jan 17 2014

waits

What waits within you?

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Jan 15 2014

Fukuda Chiyo-ni – whatever I pick up

Published by under Poetry

whatever I pick up
by Fukuda Chiyo-ni

English version by Gabriel Rosenstock

whatever I pick up
is alive –
ebbing tide

— from Haiku Enlightenment, by Gabriel Rosenstock


/ Photo by JanieGirl80 /

When I read this haiku, it says a lot to me.

whatever I pick up
is alive –

Those first two lines speak of life, discovery, surprise, delight, and the rich variety of the world.

As a young child growing up in Oregon, I loved visits to the coast. Much of the Oregon coast is rocky, cold, moody — perfect for tide pools. I still remember being little more than a toddler and walking among the wet rocks to discover hidden tide pools, little pockets of water filled with the most colorful, strange life forms: anemones, star fish, mussels, tiny fish darting about, and the occasional hermit crab scuttling for cover. Each little tide pool was a wonderland of life!

But the poet’s last line–

ebbing tide

–it hints at death.

She’s right, of course. You have to wait until the ebbing tide to reveal all that magical life. But the ebbing tide itself is a pulling away. It can feel like a personal diminishment or loss, one of nature’s reminders of death.

So perhaps the poem is suggesting to us that it is only when we recognize the reality of death that the richness of life is fully revealed to us. It is a melancholy insight, but death is simply there, to be addressed by each soul. And death is, in some ways, the ultimate teacher that challenges each and every one of us to never take any moment of our lives for granted.

We tend to imagine that death is the loss of awareness and the loss of self, but not so. Whatever we may believe about an afterlife, death itself, when we accept its unavoidable presence, actually serves to awaken awareness and fan the fires of life within us. Death reminds us that life is not measured in quantity of years but in the fulness of our moments. The truth of death gives us permission to pause and notice that whatever we pick up is alive.






Fukuda Chiyo-ni, Fukuda Chiyo-ni poetry, Buddhist poetry Fukuda Chiyo-ni

Japan (1703 – 1775) Timeline
Buddhist

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Jan 15 2014

story and history

We don’t actually have histories.
We make up stories about ourselves
to connect our memories and discover meaning.
We can change those stories at any time.

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Jan 13 2014

Akha – Where there is no sense of the world

Published by under Poetry

Where there is no sense of the world
by Akha

English version by Krishnaditya

Where there is no sense of the world,
What can one preach of true and false?
Whose birth, act, form, or name is there?
What boundary, where there is no town?
Akha, where there is no body to begin with,
The indivisible remains, as is.

— from Wings of the Soul: Poems of Akha: The Spiritual Poet of India, Translated by Krishnaditya


/ Photo by Leland Francisco /

A riddle-like poem to tease our minds on this Monday morning…

When the idea of separation falls away, when there is no “this” as opposed to “that,” when there is no “me” separate from “you,” when we are overcome with the grand vision of everything, everything flowing together in a single, living, unified whole — how can we then talk about body and boundary, or get caught up pride and self-righteousness.

When there is no separation, there is also no lack, and therefore nothing to accomplish or change. We can then take our first full breath and settle into reality as it is — indivisible.






Akha

India (1600? – 1650?) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Advaita / Non-Dualist

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