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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Jan 08 2014

the right way

It’s not that we have to find the right place to look.
It’s that we have to find the right way to look.

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Jan 06 2014

Maya Angelou – On the Pulse of the Morning

Published by under Poetry

On the Pulse of Morning
by Maya Angelou

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Mark the mastodon.
The dinosaur, who left dry tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.

But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no hiding place down here.

You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spelling words
Armed for slaughter.

The rock cries out today, you may stand on me,
But do not hide your face.

Across the wall of the world,
A river sings a beautiful song,
Come rest here by my side.

Each of you a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.

Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more.
Come, clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I
And the tree and stone were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your brow
And when you yet knew you still
Knew nothing.

The river sings and sings on.

There is a true yearning to respond to
The singing river and the wise rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew,
The African and Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek,
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the teacher.
They hear. They all hear
The speaking of the tree.

Today, the first and last of every tree
Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the river.
Plant yourself beside me, here beside the river.

Each of you, descendant of some passed on
Traveller, has been paid for.

You, who gave me my first name, you
Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, you
Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then
Forced on bloody feet, left me to the employment of
Other seekers–desperate for gain,
Starving for gold.

You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot…
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru,
Bought, sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
Praying for a dream.

Here, root yourselves beside me.

I am the tree planted by the river,
Which will not be moved.

I, the rock, I the river, I the tree
I am yours–your passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.

History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.

Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.

Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts.
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.

Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.

The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.

No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.

Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.

— from The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou, by Maya Angelou


/ Photo by particlem /

Welcome, all of us, to the new year. May 2014 be one of blessings, new possibilities, sweet serendipities, long, leisurely moments of serenity, days of vigorous, satisfying activity. May the new year bring clarity, creativity, and renewed purpose. And even our challenges, may they strengthen us.

I thought this poem by the great Maya Angelou would be a good one with which to start off the new year.

Our history is in the earth, in rock and tree, our shared home. We stand upon our past. And that past speaks to us, calling us back to ourselves. History’s tears and terrors turn our hearts back to the peace that is every soul’s true nature. Seeing the past, acknowledging and accepting all of it, with head and heart engaged, that courageous act unblinds us. Only then are we freed to see distant horizons, and witness new dawns.

When you feel stuck, when the world feels stuck around you, take a moment to sit upon a rock, listen to a tree. They are yourself, and the selves of all who have gone before. They carry the collective wisdom of the eons.

A few of the lines that particularly stand out to me:

You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness…

Come, clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I
And the tree and stone were one.

Today, the first and last of every tree
Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the river.
Plant yourself beside me, here beside the river.

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.

Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.
Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.

Lift up your hearts.
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.

…And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.

I hope this is the beginning of a beautiful new year for you!

The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.






Maya Angelou, Maya Angelou poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Maya Angelou

US (1928 – )
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Maya Angelou

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Jan 06 2014

Total

Total Self

acceptance.

No responses yet

Jan 06 2014

Poetry Chaikhana Anthology Update

I’ve dropped hints for quite I while that I am working on a Poetry Chaikhana anthology — and it is finally at a point that I think I can say a little more about it…

Balancing my available time and energies has meant a patient approach, but the anthology is beginning to take shape. I now have many of the necessary reprint permissions, and I expect to receive approval soon for several others.

(Why are permissions even necessary? While most of the original poetry selections are in many cases hundreds of years old and in the public domain, the English translations are recent. Those translations are creative works in their own right, which are copyrighted and require reprint permission from the poem’s translator or publisher.)

As the final permissions come in, the anthology is beginning to take its final form.

The next step will then be editing. Since the anthology will include a number of my commentaries. For those of you who have been reading my commentaries for a while, you know that I sometimes leap from idea to idea rather abruptly. And I include a generous seasoning of grammatical errors and misspellings for flavor. So I’m not planning to rush through the editing process.

Then comes final proofreading. When I get to that stage, I may ask for a handful of volunteers to help with the proofreading. The proofreaders for Real Thirst were such a big help a couple years ago.

At that point, I make final layout choices, design the books cover, and handle all of the necessary publishing details, like assign an ISBN number.

The last step sending it off to the printer.

And then we have our book!

I’m aiming for a Spring publication date. Summer at the latest. So mark your calendars!

I genuinely hope everyone will find something special in this upcoming anthology!

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Dec 20 2013

Jacopone da Todi – Love beyond all telling

Published by under Poetry

Love beyond all telling (from Self-Annihilation and Charity Lead the Soul…)
by Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti)

English version by Serge and Elizabeth Hughes

Love beyond all telling,
Goodness beyond imagining,
Light of infinite intensity
Glows in my heart.

I once thought that reason
Had led me to You,
And that through feeling
I sensed Your presence,
Caught a glimpse of You in similitudes,
Knew You in Your perfection.
I know now that I was wrong,
That that truth was flawed.

Light beyond metaphor,
Why did You deign to come into this darkness?
Your light does not illumine those who think they see You
And believe they sound Your depths.
Night, I know now, is day,
Virtue no more to be found.
He who witnesses Your splendor
Can never describe it.

On achieving their desired end
Human powers cease to function,
And the soul sees that what it thought was right
Was wrong. A new exchange occurs
At that point where all light disappears;
A new and unsought state is needed:
The soul has what it did not love,
And is stripped of all it possessed, no matter how dear.

In God the spiritual faculties
Come to their desired end,
Lose all sense of self and self-consciousness,
And are swept into infinity.
The soul, made new again,
Marveling to find itself
In that immensity, drowns.
How this comes about it does not know.

— from Jacopone da Todi: Lauds (Classics of Western Spirituality), Translated by Serge and Elizabeth Hughes


/ Photo by AquaSixio /

Love beyond all telling,
Goodness beyond imagining,
Light of infinite intensity
Glows in my heart.

Too often statements like this can sound like a formula of religious piety, but it is more than that. These are the direct experiences of the mystic. The chest warms, the heart opens and seems to encompass all of creation. This is not just an idea or some philosophical notion — it is felt tangibly in the body as well as the soul. Love floods in, and a sense of utter harmony, rightness, the “goodness” of being. And many mystics also witness a dazzling gold-white light like an ocean that radiates through everything, showing the multiplicity of creation to secretly be a shining unity.

It is this that Jacopone da Todi is writing of.

I once thought that reason
Had led me to You,
And that through feeling
I sensed your presence…

I know now that I was wrong,
That that truth was flawed.

These verses are a call to the religious minded to not be content with thinking one has found the truth or assertions of belief alone. Or even to imagine that it is felt through elevated or refined emotions. He is proclaiming that the real truth is somehow more direct and surprising than that. All mental conceptualization is limited by the intellect and imagination, yet the reality we seek is beyond the thinking mind’s ability to conceive of…

Light beyond metaphor…

He who witnesses Your splendor
Can never describe it.

Here, words fail. The mind can only become a mute witness.

The very notion of self melts amidst that immensity…

In God the spiritual faculties
Come to their desired end,
Lose all sense of self and self-consciousness,
And are swept into infinity.
The soul, made new again,
Marveling to find itself
In that immensity, drowns.
How this comes about it does not know.






Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti), Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti) poetry, Christian poetry Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti)

Italy (1230 – 1306) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

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Dec 20 2013

hide-and-seek

In this divine game of hide-and-seek
stop pretending
there is any place to hide.

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Dec 18 2013

Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart Cards Available Again

The initial printing of this card set sold out quickly at the beginning of the month, but we now have more. With such an enthusiastic response, there is a chance that they will sell out a second time — so place your order soon if you want to make sure to receive a set.

Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart, card set, sayings, short poems, Ivan M. Granger, Rashani Rea Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart
Card Set – 12 full-color cards

Sayings and Short Poems by Ivan M. Granger
Art & Design by Rashani Réa

$12.95
+ $2 Shipping

PURCHASE


A beautiful collection of meditative sayings, thought-provoking statements, and short poems accompanied by the colorful, collage-like artwork of Rashani Réa.

  • Keep a set of these cards by your bed, in your place of meditation or prayer, or at your desk.
  • Select a card each time you seek a new perspective, a spark of creativity, a moment of clarity, or renewed focus in your spiritual practice.
  • Frame your favorite and display it on a wall or bookshelf.

This lovely card set also makes a wonderful gift!

Note: These are not greeting cards.

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Dec 18 2013

Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi – Inner Wakefulness

Published by under Poetry

Inner Wakefulness
by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

English version by Coleman Barks

This place is a dream
only a sleeper considers it real
then death comes like dawn
and you wake up laughing
at what you thought
was your grief

A man goes to sleep in the town
where he has always lived
and he dreams
he’s living in another town
in the dream he doesn’t remember
the town he’s sleeping in his bed in
he believes the reality
of the dream town
the world is that kind of sleep

Humankind is being led
along an evolving course,
through this migration
of intelligences
and though we seem
to be sleeping
there is an inner wakefulness,
that directs the dream
and that will eventually
startle us back
to the truth of
who we are

— from The Essential Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks


/ Photo by Alice Popkorn /

Yesterday, December 17th, was the 740th anniversary Rumi’s “Wedding Day,” that is, of his death. Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi is a titanic, open-hearted figure in the world, and his influence throughout the world and down through the centuries is immense. The continuing ripple effects of his poetry and his spirit have much more impact on most lives today than mere conquerors. That’s the sort of hero the world really needs.

A few thoughts on today’s poem…

This place is a dream
only a sleeper considers it real

Dreams and waking up… The metaphor of being spiritually “awake” is used a lot but not always with deep reflection. It’s an easy concept to grasp, though it’s not taken very seriously most of the time because, of course, the person thinking about the idea of waking up is already awake in the most literal sense, right? The surprising answer is, Not really.

Become profoundly dedicated to your own process of awakening, find your moment, seize it, or, rather, yield into it… and see what you think then.

The experience of sudden opening reported by most mystics is startlingly on of actually waking up. It’s as if you’ve been drifting through life in a dream state and just not known it. Nothing around you has changed, but you finally, truly see things as they are. The dream-like barrier of mental filters and projections that has stifled your perception for so long falls away like a heavy blanket. You blink, look around yourself, and are surprised to realize you’ve been in a sort of half-seeing trance all your life… and now you are awake.

Perhaps just as surprising — and much more confusing to the intellect — is the simultaneous recognition that while you were in that dream state, there was still some part of your awareness that was always fully awake, quietly, patiently watching in the background. It’s just that now that inner wakefulness has come to the forefront. …A reminder to us that we don’t really need to “wake up;” instead, we just need to get out of the way of that part of ourselves that is already awake.

and though we seem
to be sleeping
there is an inner wakefulness

And from a purely poetic point of view, I really like the lines–

Humankind is being led
along an evolving course,
through this migration
of intelligences

To me this suggests that each experience, each “dream,” each person’s life is part of a grand migration of the human spirit, a journey of deepening remembrance and renewal.






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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Dec 18 2013

the world arises

The world arises
where self-acceptance is absent.

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Dec 13 2013

Kahlil Gibran – Reason and Passion

Published by under Poetry

Reason and Passion
by Kahlil Gibran

And the priestess spoke again and said: Speak to us of Reason and Passion.
And he answered, saying:
Your soul is oftentimes a battlefield, upon which your reason and your judgment wage war against your passion and your appetite.
Would that I could be the peacemaker in your soul, that I might turn the discord and the rivalry of your elements into oneness and melody.
But how shall I, unless you yourselves be also the peacemakers, nay, the lovers of all your elements?

Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul.
If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas.
For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.
Therefore let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion, that it may sing;
And let it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live through its own daily resurrection, and like the phoenix rise above its own ashes.

I would have you consider your judgment and your appetite even as you would two loved guests in your house.
Surely you would not honour one guest above the other; for he who is more mindful of one loses the love and the faith of both.

Among the hills, when you sit in the cool shade of the white poplars, sharing the peace and serenity of distant fields and meadows — then let your heart say in silence, “God rests in reason.”
And when the storm comes, and the mighty wind shakes the forest, and thunder and lightning proclaim the majesty of the sky, — then let your heart say in awe, “God moves in passion.”
And since you are a breath in God’s sphere, and a leaf in God’s forest, you too should rest in reason and move in passion.

— from The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran


/ Photo by zabaraorg /

This is such an interesting section of Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet,” especially the way he emphasizes the positive nature of passion. Religious and spiritual traditions, both East and West, have a tendency to want to control or even suppress passion. Passion is sex. Passion is emotion. Passion is powerful, intense, turbulent.

Gibran acknowledges that “passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.” Passion, without limitation or conscious guidance, can become a chaotic, consuming force in our lives. But he doesn’t say we should get rid of passion or that reason should subjugate it. He speaks in terms of balanced, integrated use of passion in our lives.

Passion is the engine in our lives. Gibran gives us this image of a ship: passion is the ship’s sails, and reason is the rudder. The sails catch the power of the wind, propelling the ship forward. Passion is power, vitality, life!

But movement without direction is, at best, meaningless and, at worst, can lead us onto rocks. That’s why we need the rudder of reason to intelligently use the power of passion’s movement so that we can reach our destination.

One is not “good” and the other “bad.” Both reason and passion are necessary. They must be understood, brought into harmony, used effectively to balance each other.

This may sound like a bit of a tangent, but I’m reminded of the imagery of the Christian Nativity. 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.

I especially like Kahlil Gibran’s summations at the end–

“God rests in reason.”

“God moves in passion.”

Movement and stillness, when we balance both we have discovered how to dance!






Kahlil Gibran, Kahlil Gibran poetry, Christian poetry Kahlil Gibran

Lebanon/US (1883 – 1931) Timeline
Christian
Secular or Eclectic

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Dec 13 2013

altar

All the world
is an altar.

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Dec 11 2013

Holiday Book Recommendations 2013

Published by under Books

It has become something of a tradition for me to send out a list of book recommendations for the holidays as a reminder that books of sacred poetry make wonderful gifts of the heart. Since it’s already mid-December, I guess I had better get to it!

Here is a a holiday sampler I’ve gathered for you and your loved ones:

==

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

==

For the modern mystic…

Breaking the Drought: Visions of Grace
by Stephen Levine

The author of several classic books in the field of conscious living and dying — including A Gradual Awakening, Who Dies?, Healing into Life and Death, and A Year to Live. This collection reveals he is also a poet of clear vision and grace.

For those who like their insight short and power packed…

Haiku Enlightenment
by Gabriel Rosenstock

This book is an excellent sampling of haiku, traditional and modern, and, at the same time a wise and playful exploration of the essence of haiku. Enthusiastically recommended, along with its companion Haiku: The Gentle Art of Disappearing.

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For the eclectic seeker…

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.

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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.

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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.

Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God
Translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

There are several very good translations of Rilke available, but I’ve slowly come to the opinion that Barrows and Macy, more than any others, get the tone just right. Their Rilke translations glow and uplift, but without losing the shadows that also haunt the spaces between his words. Perfect!

Sun at Midnight: Poems and Sermons of Muso Soseki
Translated by W. S. Merwin and Soiku Shigematsu

A friend introduced me to this collection, and I was entranced. Muso Soseki is known today for establishing rock gardening as meditative Zen practice, but his poetry — wonderful! And with translations by WS Merwin, you can’t ask for more!

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New Discoveries…

Soul Food: Nourishing Poems for Starved Minds
Edited by Neil Astley and Pamela Robertson-Pearce

I came across this collection by accident, through a random recommendation on the Internet — and it has quickly become a favorite! A rich, tasty mixture of poetry by ancient and modern visionaries, from Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry to Kabir and Dogen, and several you may not have heard of before. Open to any page and discover a new treasure.

Through Corridors of Light: Poems of Consolation in Time of Illness
Edited by John Andrew Denny

Illness, loss, death… These are part of the experience of life, part of the spiritual journey. Yet we are starved for cultural and artistic reflections of these universal experiences, often leaving us feeling isolated in our grief. This book is a lovely, healing collection of poetry that explores these themes in ways that help us to recognize ourselves and return to ourselves.

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A little Zen in your pocket…

The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhalla Library)
Edited by Sam Hamill and 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.

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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.

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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.

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For the contemplative 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.

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Lovers and the Beloved…

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

I read this book early in my exploration of Sufi poetry — and I was hooked! Abu Said Abil-Kheir’s poetry ranges from the ecstatic and celestial, to struggles with abandonment. His poetry has an immediacy and even a sort of devoutly wry petulance. This book remains a personal favorite of mine.

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.

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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.

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For even more book recommendations, click here.

May you and your loved ones have a special holiday season during this time when the sacred light renews itself in the midst of darkness –

– and may the new year bring you bright blessings!

Ivan

2 responses so far

Dec 06 2013

Maya Angelou – Seek patience

Published by under Poetry

Seek patience
by Maya Angelou

Seek patience
and passion
in equal amounts.

Patience alone
will not build the temple.

Passion alone
will destroy its walls.


/ Photo by Luizdesign /

The passing of Nelson Mandela is a huge event in the world. For me, as with so many of you, he was an important icon, a great soul who inspired me to be more in myself and strive for more in society.

The world was certainly blessed by the life of Nelson Mandela, a man of courage, brilliance, and dignity, who opened a pathway of healing, not only for the people of South Africa, but for all of us around the world. He gave us a vision of hope for the future.

With Madiba’s passing, we have received an invitation and a challenge: Can we, individually and collectively, step up and step through into a better, more just, more inclusive world? Will we strive against the forces of inertia and fear, meeting them with strength, tenacity, and heart? And can we yet do so with joy and a wide-open heart? Mandela’s life says to us, it can be done.

…One further thought: Every image of Mandela you are likely to see in the next few weeks is of the thin, gentle, aging sage, with his sparkling eyed smile. The image I’ve included is a variation of that same wise face. But do yourself a favor and search the Internet for photos of Mandela as a bearded young man. You can see a surprising strength of body supporting his strength of character. But you still might catch that sparkle in his eye too.






Maya Angelou, Maya Angelou poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Maya Angelou

US (1928 – )
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Maya Angelou

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