Sep 15 2015


To really meet the mystery,
we must be uncertain.

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Sep 09 2015

Marrow of Flame now available in Kindle ebook format!

Several Poetry Chaikhana readers have been waiting for the Kindle format version of Marrow of Flame — and it is now available for $4.99.

Marrow of Flame (Kindle)

Marrow of Flame (paperback)

By purchasing a copy, not only do you support the Poetry Chaikhana, but you give yourself the gift of some truly inspiring poetry!

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Sep 09 2015

Arapaho Ghost Dance Songs

Published by under Poetry

Arapaho Ghost Dance Songs

The whole world is coming,
a nation is coming, a nation is coming.
The Eagle has brought the message to the people.
The father says so, the father says so.
Over the whole earth they are coming.
The buffalo are coming, the buffalo are coming.
The Crow has brought the message to the people,
the father says so, the father says so.

My children, my children,
it is I who wear the morning star on my brow,
it is I who wear the morning star on my brow.
I show it to my children,
I show it to my children.

— from Native American Songs and Poems: An Anthology (Dover Thrift Editions), Edited by Brian Swann

/ Image by USFWS Mountain-Prairie /

I apologize about the hiatus in poem emails. Late summer seems to be especially hard on my chronic fatigue patterns, probably some interaction with environmental allergies. I managed to tough it out and keep minimal work hours at my day job over the past few weeks, but the rest of the time I needed to rest and heal. I think (or at least hope) my body is past the worst of it now. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

The buffalo are coming, the buffalo are coming.

When my wife and I first moved to Colorado, we would go for drives up in the mountains and also through country roads in the flat plains, getting to know this land. As a city boy who spent his teenage years in Los Angeles, the vistas were stunning to me. And one of the most startling sights was coming across small herds of buffalo. With their massive heads, dense bodies, mountainous shoulder humps, they seem somehow prehistoric, earthy and primal and unsettling. I immediately loved the sight of them. We would stop by the side of the road and, from the safety of our car, watch them. The nearest bull might lift his massive head and gaze at us before walking off to rejoin the rest of his herd amidst the yellowing grasses. A good reminder for this city kid that our car was the alien there, while the buffalo was at home.

We tend to think we are being generous when we make room for other creatures in the world, but that is a modern delusion. No matter how completely cities and human environments seem to us to be the “real” world, it is all, always, built on the foundation of the natural world, and utterly dependent on it. We need the world’s other creatures nearby, and in our midst, if we want a lasting society that works well with the world that is our only home. The more society severs that connection, the more unstable it becomes. Those strange, unsettling buffalo are essential to a human society that hopes to last.

Toward the end of the U.S. genocidal wars against the American Indians in the 1800s, and the accompanying devastation of the buffalo herds that the Indian nations of the plains depended on, a visionary movement arose. At its center was the Ghost Dance, in which the spirits (or “ghosts”) of the lost people and buffalo were called forth. This spiritual movement was many things in the midst of the American Indian holocaust, but at its core the Ghost Dance movement was a multi-tribal metaphysical effort to return the world to balance and restore what was lost. That is why we have visionary affirmations, like “a nation is coming, a nation is coming” and “the buffalo are coming, the buffalo are coming.”

Reading these sacred words of summoning, it might be worth taking a few moments to contemplate not only what Native Americans lost, but also what continues to be lost, destroyed, or pushed aside in the world even today.

How do we relate to the natural world? How do we relate to the Sacred? How do we relate within our communities? How do we interact with other communities and peoples? Do our social structures make room for human needs, relationships, hopes, and complexity? In other words, does society serve the world, natural and human, or merely attempt dominate them?

But we must also ask, What are the good things in modern world culture? Where does hope sprout and spirit bud? That’s there too.

Most importantly, how do we draw on our connection to that which is living and sacred in order to establish and protect harmonious ways?

What makes the world worth living in?

To start, we must, each of us, each in our own unique way, discover the life and light we possess, so we can say with unassailable certainty, “it is I who wear the morning star on my brow.” And we must show this truth to our children…

Have a beautiful day!

Recommended Books: Arapaho (Anonymous)

Native American Songs and Poems: An Anthology (Dover Thrift Editions)

Arapaho (Anonymous)

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

More poetry by Arapaho (Anonymous)

7 responses so far

Sep 09 2015

gathering silence

Once you have gathered enough silence,
silence gathers you.

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Aug 28 2015

Hadewijch – God must give us a renewed mind

Published by under Poetry

God must give us a renewed mind (from Vale Millies)
by Hadewijch

English version by Mother Columba Hart

God must give us a renewed mind
      For nobler and freer love,
To make us so new in our life
      That Love may bless us
And renew, with new taste,
      Those to whom she can give new fulness;
Love is the new and powerful recompense
      Of those whose life renews itself for Love alone.
— Ay, vale, vale, millies —
      That renewing of new Love
— Si dixero, non satis est —
      Which renewal will newly experience.

— from Hadewijch: The Complete Works (Classics of Western Spirituality) , by Mother Columba Hart

/ Image by rlandesaaa /

God must give us a renewed mind
      For nobler and freer love,

There is something about this opening line that carries both hope and… relief. As we go through life, often struggling through our encounters, we develop psychic survival patterns as ways to cope and move forward. These patterns of thinking and perception may be entirely necessary at the time, or at least they are the best we can imagine in the confusion of the moment, but then we become trapped by the mental patterns we ourselves have devised. These habits of mind often imprint so deeply that we forget they are there and we imagine they are reality itself. Our behaviors, what we think is possible, who we think we are, all result from these self-created patterns of the mind.

When the spirit seeks freedom, liberation, salvation, it is from precisely this: the rigid and over-patterned awareness. Growth requires space, new ground, fresh air, possibility. The mind must be renewed.

For us to recognize or receive or realize a “nobler and freer love,” to discover that something that will “make us so new in our life,” the mind itself must rest and reset. It must become clear and open, a new space ready for the possibility of new awareness.

This is the renewing power of meditation and prayer.

We become ready to receive the mystic’s love. For those of us shaped by the modern world, it is difficult to read the word “love” and understand it. It’s a word that’s bandied about but with little meaning beyond infatuation or loyalty. But when mystics utter the word “love,” we are in the rush of the most profound flood of transformative energy. It is an experience of the Divine, the healing, unifying touch upon the awareness, in which we recognize that all is one, all is beauty, and all is within one’s heart.

Within the phrases of this poem, there is a sense of letting go as we are renewed. When we translate that first Latin phrase — Ay, vale, vale, millies “Ay, farewell, farewell, a thousand times” — we are saying goodbye over and over again. The following line seems to say we are letting go, again and again, of Love itself… yet it keeps coming back to us, repeatedly renewing us, comforting and filling us anew with is own presence as this most “powerful recompense.” So the renewal itself endlessly renews itself, making this divine Love a perpetually new experience. We have the image not of trapping or acquiring this new experience but, instead, of a force that flows through us, continuously passing through us, while all the mystic can do is remain open.

Si dixero, non satis est “If I speak, it is not enough.” Can words truly describe it?

Recommended Books: Hadewijch

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women The Shambhala Anthology of Women’s Spiritual Poetry Hadewijch: The Complete Works (Classics of Western Spirituality) Christian Mystics: Their Lives and Legacies throughout the Ages Meister Eckhart and the Beguine Mystics: Hadewijch of Brabant, Mechthild of Magdeburg, and Marguerite Porete
More Books >>

Hadewijch, Hadewijch poetry, Christian poetry Hadewijch

Belgium (13th Century) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

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Aug 28 2015

purpose of life

The purpose of life is awareness.

No responses yet

Aug 26 2015

Sarmad – He dwells not only in temples and mosques

Published by under Poetry

He dwells not only in temples and mosques
by Sarmad

English version by Isaac A. Ezekiel

He dwells not only in temples and mosques —
The whole creation is his abode.
The whole world is bewitched by his tale,
      but wise are those who are lost in his love.

— from Sarmad: Martyr to Love Divine, by Isaac A. Ezekiel

/ Image by InSUNNYty /

He dwells not only in temples and mosques —
The whole creation is his abode.

We humans tend to like our categories and definitions, a sort of thinking that’s very effective in the world. But that same form of thinking ensnares us when we engage with the deeper aspects of reality. We want to know where to go to find God. We want to know what to do, how to act, what to keep separate from, so that we might know ourselves to be holy. That approach can help to focus our intention… in the beginning. But at some point we need Sarmad’s reminder: Everything is sacred. All of creation is holy ground. There is no boundary to the Eternal.

Where you are, worship.

The whole world is bewitched by his tale,
      but wise are those who are lost in his love.

I really like these two lines. All of existence isn’t ‘real’ in the way we usually imagine it to be. Creation isn’t fixed; it flows. Things don’t exist in and of themselves; they are actually relationships, an immense network of interaction. Seen this way, everything we experience is part of a drama. Any good storyteller knows that a good tale plays with fears and joys and questions of survival, hooking our attention while surreptitiously revealing something of the deeper truths of life.

As Sarmad says, the whole world is a story told by God. It is so rich and detailed that we can become “bewitched” by it. We become like actors who forget that there is a backstage. The wise, however, lose themselves — their costumes, their egos. They know, once they’ve said their few lines, how to fall silent again, and enjoy the unfolding tale from the wings.

And I think there is an even deeper flavor to the meaning of these final lines. So often we want to master the dramas of life by knowing, by comprehending, by understanding. And that is, for the most part, an entirely valid endeavor. But it is also an ever-expanding pursuit. The wise are those who have stumbled onto another way: yielding all effort into the open heart, rest is found, and presence, and completeness. Meaning and knowing are found, while the efforts of the mind trail off into silence somewhere in the background. The wise invite us to cease our searching, searching, and, instead, to find that sort of love, the sort of love that brings everything, every story to a halt. And they invite us to sweetly dissolve into it.

Recommended Books: Sarmad

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Sarmad: Martyr to Love Divine Sarmad: Jewish Saint of India
More Books >>


Iran/Persia & India (? – 1659) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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Aug 26 2015

effort & yielding

Outwardly, determined effort is necessary.

But within, nothing is needed
except to yield.

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Aug 19 2015

Thomas Merton – Follow my ways

Published by under Poetry

Follow my ways and I will lead you
by Thomas Merton

Follow my ways and I will lead you
To golden-haired suns,
Logos and music, blameless joys,
Innocent of questions
And beyond answers.
For I, Solitude, am thine own Self:
I, Nothingness, am thy All.
I, Silence, am thy Amen.

— from A Thomas Merton Reader, by Thomas Merton / Edited by Thomas P. McDonnell

/ Image by Jake Bellucci /

It has been too long since we last shared a poem by Thomas Merton, so how about this one today?

This has always seemed to me to be a perfect poem for deep meditation.

Thomas Merton was, of course, a Catholic monk, but this beautiful poem has a flavor of the Zen Buddhist tradition, which he also studied as part of his desire to bring the sacred wisdom of East and West together.

This poem is being spoken by a living “Solitude,” “Nothingness,” “Silence.” Or, if you prefer, Nirvana. You might generalize further and say the poem is spoken by Stillness, calling to mind the Christian contemplative tradition.

Whether a devout Christian or a determined Zen practitioner, bringing the mind to stillness — “Innocent of questions / And beyond answers” — is one of the most powerful techniques leading toward communion with the fundamental Reality. That Eternal Presence is always here, everywhere, but we miss it because the chattering mind keeps us distracted, disrupting direct perception of that Truth.

When we truly surrender ourselves, when we surrender the egoistic self that drives the mind to that state of constant distraction, the thoughts dissolve and then we find true “Solitude,” a wholeness or completeness that requires no other. And that is one’s “own Self.” We finally recognize our own nature without needing to define ourselves by work or relationships or appearance or age or even our thoughts themselves…

Everything suddenly seems dream-like, but the underlying Reality is recognized as being supremely full or pregnant. That “Nothingness” is the womb that gives birth to the “All.” And so, from that “Silence,” that supreme Stillness, a symphony of form and word and vibration emerges, “Logos and music,” in a universal praise of being — “thy Amen.”

Follow the awareness that survives the quieting of the mind, follow where it leads to “golden-haired suns!”

Recommended Books: Thomas Merton

Selected Poems of Thomas Merton The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton A Thomas Merton Reader The Strange Islands: Poems by Thomas Merton Thomas Merton Monk & Poet: A Critical Study

Thomas Merton, Thomas Merton poetry, Christian poetry Thomas Merton

US (1915 – 1968) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

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Aug 19 2015

religion that does not…

Religion that does not inspire
outward compassion and inward awakening
is not religion.

No responses yet

Aug 14 2015

Book Announcement: Marrow of Flame, by Dorothy Walters

The Moment
by Dorothy Walters

And not once,
but many times over,
again and again,
how we disappeared
into that deep well
of darkness, shuddering beneath that load of silence,
clinging to our narrow ledge.

Yet the darkness, sometimes,
unfolded as light.
Our atoms dissolved in it,
each separate molecule opening
into a radiant disk of feeling.

How still we became,
witness and thing seen,
spectacle and observer,
each point admitting an untrammeled flood.

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

Book Announcement: Marrow of Flame

I can’t express how pleased and honored I am to announce the availability of the Poetry Chaikhana’s newest publication: Marrow of Flame: Poems of the Spiritual Journey, by Dorothy Walters. The poetry of Dorothy Walters has always been a favorite on the Poetry Chaikhana. Each time I feature one of her poems, I receive many emails and blog comments telling me how much her poems connect and speak to the heart.

Now the Poetry Chaikhana is making her most popular collection of poetry available in a new and revised edition. This is a chance for you to add some truly inspiring and insightful poetry to your collection — and, at the same time, support the Poetry Chaikhana.

This re-issue of Dorothy Walters’s mystical masterpiece Marrow of Flame is a great literary and spiritual event. I don’t know of any other poet currently writing in English who expresses so simply and nobly and with such authority the ordeals, ecstasies and revelations of the path…”
     ~ ANDREW HARVEY, from the Introduction

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

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

Since the publication of the first edition in 2000, Marrow of Flame has already become a modern classic among spiritual seekers.

Now the Poetry Chaikhana offers Marrow of Flame in this updated and revised edition, with a new introduction by Andrew Harvey.

What if there were a modern Rumi or Kabir, Dante Alighieri or John Donne writing of mystical longing, ecstasies and despair? What if she were a woman? What if she were Dorothy Walters weaving her passionate songs into a priceless prayer shawl? Beware: Who holds up this scarf is swept in the arms of the Lover on the path from which no one returns the same.”
     ~ SOPHY BURNHAM, author, The Ecstatic Journey: Walking the Mystical Path in Everyday Life

Excerpt from the Introduction by Andrew Harvey

     Six years ago now I gave classes on Rumi at the California Institute of Integral Studies. After one of them, during my office hours, a gentle and shy woman with short cropped gray hair in her early sixties came in to talk to me. Before she even began to speak, I was startled by the kind clarity of her presence, the unmistakable aura of canny and tried goodness that clothed her. We spoke of many things that afternoon—about Rumi and his extraordinary relationship with Shams, about the nature of mystical ecstasy, about the kind of rigor and capacity for ordeal demanded by the authentic path of transformation; it became clear to me very quickly that I had a great deal to learn from the woman sitting before me, and that she spoke not from curiosity, or even literary or spiritual passion, but from the most profound, intricate and seasoned inner experience. What struck me most that afternoon about Dorothy Walters was her humility; unlike many of my Californian students and friends, she did not claim enlightenment or flaunt her “mystical” insights. Part of her, I felt, was always kneeling in silence before the vastness of the mystery that had clearly claimed her for its own: she spoke of the Divine haltingly, and with a refined and poignant tenderness, like a lover of her Beloved. And she had a wild Irish laugh, too, which reassured me.

     In the years since, we have become the greatest and deepest of friends and I have come to think of Dorothy as a spiritual mother and as one of the few true mystics I have met in my life. Her beauty of soul has illumined my life; her courage has inspired me always to travel deeper into my own vision; I have been able to speak to her, as a fellow seeker and lover of God, with complete candor about the demands of the Path. When I left Meera in circumstances that caused great scandal and controversy, Dorothy wrote me a letter which I shall always cherish and re-read often in which she begged me to “remain true to myself whatever happens and never to give in to any of the terrible pressures my actions and insights will inevitably arouse.” It was the perfect advice, perfectly expressed, at exactly the right time; this kind of precision characterizes Dorothy’s spirit. The only other being who in my experience combined such deep kindness with such wisdom was Iris Murdoch; one of the great sadnesses of my life is that Iris died before they could meet. When I think of them together I think of the commentary the I Ching gives on the sixth line of the hexagram Ting, “the Cauldron.” “The Ting has rings of jade.” “Jade is notable for its combination of hardness with soft luster… here the counsel is described in relation to the sage who imparts it. In imparting it, he will be mild and pure, like precious jade.”

     It was only after the first two years of our friendship that Dorothy began, diffidently and self-deprecatingly, to show me the poems she was writing. I was immediately struck by them; they were exquisitely made, subtle, passionate and profound, unlike anything else I knew that was being written in our time. Whenever we met, Dorothy would bring some fresh works to our meeting. Slowly, as we read them together and discussed them, Dorothy came to reveal more to me of her remarkable inner journey; a journey that has led her through much ordeal and heartbreak and loneliness, from a cramped sometimes difficult childhood, through a long, testing stint as a teacher of literature and women’s studies in a mid-western university, to the festive and fertile spiritual and personal life she enjoys now in her very active “retirement” in San Francisco, surrounded by books and music and friends…

These poems make me gasp. I thought all the great mystics had been gone for centuries… Dorothy Walters–part buddha, part elf–weaves mythic literacy with subversive compassion.”
     ~ MIRABAI STARR, author of Saint Teresa of Avila and God of Love

Marrow of Flame, Poems of the Spiritual Journey, Dorothy Walters, Andrew Harvey Marrow of Flame
Poems of the Spiritual Journey

by Dorothy Walters
Introduction by Andrew Harvey


Amazon and Barnes & Noble Marrow of Flame US Marrow of Flame UK Marrow of Flame CAN 
or ask at your local independent book store

Your purchase supports the Poetry Chaikhana and encourages future publications.

– Thank you! –

Note to Kindle users – The Amazon page’s Kindle link is for the 1st edition, not for the Poetry Chaikhana’s revised 2nd edition. The Poetry Chaikhana will issue a Kindle version for the 2nd edition soon, and probably at a lower price. I am working with Amazon to correct this link. And I will announce when the correct Kindle edition is ready.

Recommended Books: Dorothy Walters

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Marrow of Flame : Poems of the Spiritual Journey The Ley Lines of the Soul: Poems of Ecstasy and Ascension Unmasking the Rose: A Record of a Kundalini Initiation A Cloth of Fine Gold: Poems of the Inner Journey
More Books >>

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

US (1928 – )
Secular or Eclectic

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3 responses so far

Aug 14 2015

seasons of the self

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

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Aug 12 2015

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

Published by under Poetry

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

English version by J. Lindsay

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

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

/ Image by MYLermontov /

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More poetry by Guilhem IX of Poitou

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Aug 12 2015


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

No responses yet

Aug 07 2015

New book is almost ready!

I mentioned a few weeks ago that the Poetry Chaikhana’s next publication is coming soon: Marrow of Flame by Dorothy Walters. I am so pleased to say that is complete and at the printer, and it will soon be available for purchase.

This is a truly excellent and inspiring collection, the perfect companion to accompany us on our own spiritual journeys. These are poems that will be remembered, eagerly read by future generations of seekers.

How can I explain this?
Yesterday, pain cleaving a path
over shoulder and arm,
eyes stunned by arrows of light,
back a maze of burning rivers.

Today, Vivaldi, Stabat Mater,
a subtle lifting in the heart,
wrists floating in rapture,
in my mouth the taste of honey and flame.

An earlier edition of Marrow of Flame was published by Hohm Press in 2000, and you can still find copies of the old edition online. But I encourage you to wait a few days and show your support by purchasing the Poetry Chaikhana edition, which includes several revisions — and a new introduction by Andrew Harvey.

The announcement is coming soon!

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Aug 07 2015

Rumi – Whoever finds love

Published by under Poetry

Whoever finds love
by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

English version by Coleman Barks

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

— from The Essential Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks

/ Image by MoodyBlue /

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

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

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

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

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

Whoever finds love
beneath hurt and grief…

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

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

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

Recommended Books: Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

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

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

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

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3 responses so far

Aug 07 2015

everyone is agnostic

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

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