Feb 05 2014

Ram Tzu – Every time

Published by under Poetry

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

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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

Published by under Poetry

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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3 responses so far

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

Published by under Poetry

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

Published by under Poetry

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

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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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3 responses so far

Jan 13 2014

by default

If you are not intensely dedicated
to a high ideal,
then comfort becomes your goal by default
and every difficulty becomes a crisis.

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Jan 10 2014

Natsume Soseki – The lamp once out

Published by under Poetry

The lamp once out
by Natsume Soseki

English version by Soiku Shigematsu

The lamp once out
Cool stars enter
The window frame.

— from Zen Haiku: Poems and Letters of Natsume Soseki, by Natsume Soseki / Translated by Soiku Shigematsu


/ Photo by fotojenny /

This haiku is one that leaves me in silence.

On the most literal level, Natsume Soseki is giving us the image of a lamp going out. When that strong, close light is no longer there, our eyes can then see the stars in the night sky through the window. Just three lines are enough to give us that beautiful moment.

But, of course, the meaning expands, with several possible interpretations. One way to read it is that the lamp light could suggest the ego. That is the familiar light we normally live by. It is useful in that it allows us to interact effectively with the immediate environment. But we forget that it also affects our focus and limits our full vision. It is only when it finally goes out, that we can see vastness of the night sky and its glistening, heavenly stars…

Have a beautiful day… and a clear night!






Natsume Soseki, Natsume Soseki poetry, Buddhist poetry Natsume Soseki

Japan (1867 – 1916) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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Jan 10 2014

whittle

Whittle yourself down
to the question at your core.
Let that empty ache
lead you to ecstasy!

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Jan 08 2014

Yunus Emre – The lover is outcast and idle

Published by under Poetry

The lover is outcast and idle
by Yunus Emre

English version by Kabir Helminski & Refik Algan

My soul,
the way of the masters
is thinner than the thinnest.
What blocked Solomon’s way was an ant.

Night and day the lover’s
tears never end,
tears of blood,
remembering the Beloved.

“The lover is outcast and idle,”
they used to tell me.
It’s true.
It happened to me.

I tried to make sense of the Four Books,
until love arrived,
and it all became a single syllable.

You who claim to be dervishes
and to never do what God forbids –
the only time you’re free of sin
is when you’re in His hands.

Two people were talking.
One said, “I wish I could see this Yunus.”
“I’ve seen him,” the other says,
“He’s just another old lover.”

— from The Drop That Became the Sea: Lyric Poems of Yunus Emre, Translated by Kabir Helminski / Translated by Refik Algan


/ Photo by serhatdemiroglu /

I’ve missed the poetry of Yunus Emre. It’s been too long since our last dervish excursion with Yunus…

My soul,
the way of the masters
is thinner than the thinnest.
What blocked Solomon’s way was an ant.

Statements like this — “thinner than the thinnest,” “the way is narrow,” etc. — make it sound like the only way to real insight requires extremes that few are willing or capable to go to. We assume that every action, every thought, every impulse must be strictly regulated and control in order to pass the test and get our dervish diploma.

But that’s not it. It’s not that the intent seeker must live his or her life as a sort of psychic anorexic, harshly starving away every detail of life. No, the “thinness” of this road is a way of saying that our own sense of self and self-importance must be thinned. The successful mystic must be supremely humble, which can be as easy or as difficult as we choose to make it. Acquiring the necessary humility a healing exhalation, a loving embrace of all beyond our boundaries, or it can be a painful enforced humiliation — our choice.

But supreme humility, that’s the key. The inflated self cannot fit through this thinnest way.

Night and day the lover’s
tears never end,
tears of blood,
remembering the Beloved.

Tears, blood, pain… Sounds enticing, right? But don’t reflexively turn away from this idea too quickly. Here’s how I understand this sort of passionate statement: We, all of us, already feel this pain, all the time, we have just trained ourselves to ignore it. This is the fundamental pain of separation and isolation. As long as we imagine that we are separate from the people we love, the life we desire, the world we hope for, and, of course, God or some ultimate sense of Reality, as long as we imagine ourselves separated from these things, we feel pain. That pain is the universal human existential experience. Every relationship, all of society is built on this pain and how we deal with it.

Mystics, being crazy folks, embrace this pain, rather than run from it. To do so is an act of courage and self-honesty. It is a determination to encounter reality as it is, rather than the comfortable fantasy we want to project. Doing this also develops compassion and empathy for the secret struggles of others.

Perhaps most importantly, though, actively embracing the pain of separation opens hard-to-find pathways along the spiritual journey. Surprisingly, the pain itself becomes the doorway to reunion. By allowing oneself to become completely vulnerable to that pain, to surrender to it, the mystic finds the pain transformed into the blissful touch of the Beloved.

In other words, the ache of separation, viewed with a steady gaze, reveals itself to be a bridge of connection. It doesn’t seem logical from a distance, but it’s true: Yearning is union. So embrace those tears, but with purpose and confidence, and you’ll find an immense smile awaiting you beneath them.

“The lover is outcast and idle,”
they used to tell me.
It’s true.
It happened to me.

“Outcast and idle.” I like this phase on a few levels. The lover, the seeker, the mystic… why are they outcast? As I mentioned above, they view the world different, with commitment and honesty, a determination to see things as they actually are. That makes just about everyone else uncomfortable. The normal state is self-protection and hiding. It’s not really that everyone has something to hide, we just reflexively hide anyway. We want so much to be our masks, that the steady gaze of someone determined to see honestly frightens us, and we push them away. They become outcasts.

This doesn’t mean that the path of the mystic is necessarily one of isolation or lack of connection. It just means that you connect in a different way, hopefully in a way that is ultimately healing for those around you.

The word “idle” here is especially interesting to me. Idle can imply lazy, which the lover is not, or inactive, which might apply in the sense that the lover becomes free from self-will. Action flows through the lover, but doesn’t originate with the lover. Or we can say that the lover is idle in the sense of being still, at peace. The lover may or may not be active in the world, but there is a radiating quiet within her and her actions. Idle.

I tried to make sense of the Four Books,
until love arrived,
and it all became a single syllable.

These lines are wonderful.

We can study religious law and tradition, impress those around us with how well we’ve memorized it all, how closely with follow the letter of the law — but what does it really mean? Not much, until divine love bursts from our chest. And then… well, the irony is that we don’t need all those words any more. Everything is then resolved into a single word.

You who claim to be dervishes
and to never do what God forbids –
the only time you’re free of sin
is when you’re in His hands.

Ah, those troublesome mystics. They keep telling us that it’s not about rigidly following the rules. The rules don’t exist to be followed; they exist to point out a destination. The rulekeepers hate to hear the real truth: The rules, when the work, exist only to help us to yield into the embrace of the Beloved. That’s the only measure that counts.

Two people were talking.
One said, “I wish I could see this Yunus.”
“I’ve seen him,” the other says,
“He’s just another old lover.”

Have a beautiful day, all you old lovers.






Yunus Emre, Yunus Emre poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Yunus Emre

Turkey (1238 – 1320) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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