Oct 09 2015

personal myth

The ego is a personal myth,
a story we tell ourselves
about who we are.
That story can change, expand,
or grow silent.

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Sep 30 2015

Akka Mahadevi – Like a silkworm weaving

Published by under Poetry

Like a silkworm weaving
by Akka Mahadevi

English version by A. K. Ramanujan

Like a silkworm weaving
her house with love
from her marrow,
                  and dying
in her body’s threads
winding tight, round
and round,
                  I burn
desiring what the heart desires.

Cut through, O lord,
my heart’s greed,
and show me
your way out,

O lord white as jasmine.

— from Speaking of Siva, by A K Ramanujan


/ Image by schmoo15 /

The Pope’s visit to the US. The terrible tragedy in Mecca recently. I’m not sure that my thoughts on these events have settled enough to comment on them. In the background we also had a celestial event of note…

Did you get a chance to watch the moon’s eclipse on Sunday? We had a stunning show where I live in Colorado, a massive orange moon climbing above the horizon at dusk, the first shadow appearing about 7:00 pm as the moon rose higher in the evening sky, and by 8:00 o’clock the full eclipse, then slowly the shadow passed into the night.

An eclipse is a powerful reminder to contemplate the shadows in life.

The thing about the dark parts of life and the dark parts of our own psyches is not so much that we are supposed to disown them or even transcend them. Often the real spiritual growth is when we recognize them and make room for them, finding ways to re-integrate them into a larger, more complete sense of self and world. But what does that really mean?

What we call the shadow is not necessarily harmful or destructive, it is simply what is hidden. It is what we have hidden from our own surface awareness. It is not something that is “bad” or “evil.” Most often what we have pushed into shadows is something painful, frightening. It only becomes destructive when we try to keep it chained in the shadow; then that imprisoned part of ourselves acts out violently, disrupting our polite, carefully crafted exteriors, demanding attention.

The eclipse invites us to really sit in the darkness and see what’s there. It is meant to be uncomfortable. We have the opportunity to become more comfortable with discomfort. We can learn to feel more of ourselves, we learn to recognize the lost, discarded, and scapegoated parts of ourselves. If we are wise, we stop exiling them into darkness and begin to listen to what they have to say, about ourselves, about our world, and it becomes possible to consciously craft healthier expressions of their energies. That all sounds very psychological, but there is an essential spiritual and energetic process occurring here as well: By reclaiming those condemned parts of ourselves, we become more complete, more aware of our whole Self, and our spiritual energies become more fully available to us, enabling more natural and spontaneous spiritual opening.

Despite the religious stories, true saints and sages are rarely brittle ideologues full of condemnation. It takes a nuanced sense of the complexity of the self and a compassionate awareness of the difficult, often traumatic experiences of human life, all integrated with a true artist’s skill — just to free up the spiritual energy necessary for deep spiritual awakening.

The lesson of the eclipse, the lesson of the eclipsed parts of ourselves, is to stop seeking artificial ideas of perfection through severance, but to seek wholeness through wise, compassionate, and careful integration.

Today’s poem by Akka Mahadevi is just haunting enough to contemplate in the aftermath of the eclipse.

Like a silkworm weaving
her house with love
from her marrow…

Akka Mahadevi’s silkworm weaving a cocoon becomes a striking, visceral image of the divine impulse to turn inward, creating an interior space from one’s love and the very marrow of one’s being.

But the process can feel claustrophobic, suffocating. There is inevitably an encounter with death:

…and dying
in her body’s threads
winding tight, round
and round,

Looking inward we come to a confrontation with ourselves, all of our being, the shadow as well as the light. It is painful, frightening. Seeing ourselves so nakedly, we often find our deep wells of shame and self-condemnation. Yet we can no longer turn away.

At this harsh moment, something must die for the silkworm’s transformation to proceed. The immature worm itself must die, the old, limited, divided sense of self realizes it cannot continue. The silkworm must summon every ounce of energy, available only from its whole, undivided self, if it wants to emerge and fly.

The spiritual path is not about navel gazing. It is life and death, and understanding the energies of each.

I burn
desiring what the heart desires.

Why does the rest of the poem shift and talk about desire and greed?

One way to understand the spiritual path is as a confrontation with addiction. Does that sound like a strange statement? Let’s consider the question for a moment…

Spiritual traditions all over the world speak of the problem of desire. I mean, where would institutional religion be without favorite words like “covet” and “lust”? But the real spiritual core of this teaching is not about sexual prudery, it is about the problem of allowing the awareness to become fixated on transient, outward, sensory-fed experiences that distract us from inner growth and wholeness. Another way of saying this is that the real problem is addiction.

Addiction, when we think about it, isn’t really about substance abuse, it is about attachment and the inability to let go. I would go even further and say that it is the unconscious belief that we somehow *are* the things and experiences we are attached to. We associate the feelings of that outer experience with life, but when that experience changes — as things have a tendency to do — we then react with terror and desperation because that feeling of life is about to change or diminish.

Overcoming addiction always, always demands a confrontation with death. It requires the painful recognition that whatever the experience, when it ends, we may experience terror, pain, or grief with shattering intensity… but what we really are continues, surprisingly alive and well.

Cut through, O lord,
my heart’s greed,
and show me
your way out…

The heart’s greed… The heart is the self, one’s center. During the most profound states of self-awareness, the sense of one’s full Self is felt to be without limit or location, but, shifted to the individual level, it is simultaneously felt to be majestically at rest within the center of the breast. This is why so much spiritual language refers to the heart as the spiritual center. And the heart is inherently complete.

When the heart becomes “greedy” and desires something outside of itself, we have falsely externalized ourself — and that is when attachment begins and we start to experience problems on a spiritual level. It isn’t so much that certain activities or desires are evil or unspiritual, it is that we are no longer centered in the true self, and we have become confused as to what that “self” actually is. The result is that we end up feeling fragmented and incomplete. In order to re-experience wholeness we try to regain self though the compulsive pursuit of outer experiences and sensations, but it never quite works because the real self is always found within.

Clearly, I am not talking only about narcotics, alcohol, or other substances we normally associate with the word “addiction.” Looked at this way, virtually anything can be — and often is — addictive. Anything that draws the awareness out from the heart and holds it while compelling action to perpetuate the outward focus can be called addiction.

One can even go so far as to say that the ego is a phenomenon of addiction. When we falsely perceive ourselves as our outer experiences, we find ourselves caught in the tides of compulsive actions and reactions, all serving to strengthen that exteriorized self.

But the more we re-integrate those enshadowed, exiled parts of ourselves with our conscious being, the more inherent fulness we feel, and the less vulnerable we are to such problematic patterns of “greed” and psychic addiction. This does not mean that one necessarily avoids pleasure or pain or any experience, just that one becomes more aware of their hooks, and then chooses healthier ones without clinging to them as they pass, while remaining more fully engaged with the heart’s upwelling joy.

Addiction, death, shadow… too much? Did I mention that the eclipse is also a good time to unleash your inner Goth? Black nail polish anyone?

I hope you have a beautiful day, and a rich night. Sending love.


Recommended Books: Akka Mahadevi

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Speaking of Siva The Shambhala Anthology of Women’s Spiritual Poetry Women Writing in India: 600 BC to the Present: Volume 1 Sacred Voices: Essential Women’s Voices Through the Ages


Akka Mahadevi, Akka Mahadevi poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Akka Mahadevi

India (12th Century) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shaivite (Shiva)

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6 responses so far

Sep 30 2015

crucial ingredient

Your life needs one crucial ingredient:

you!

No responses yet

Sep 23 2015

Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi – look at love

Published by under Poetry

look at love
by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

English version by Nader Khalili

look at love
how it tangles
with the one fallen in love

look at spirit
how it fuses with earth
giving it new life
why are you so busy
with this or that or good or bad
pay attention to how things blend

why talk about all
the known and the unknown
see how the unknown merges into the known

why think separately
of this life and the next
when one is born from the last

look at your heart and tongue
one feels but deaf and dumb
the other speaks in words and signs

look at water and fire
earth and wind
enemies and friends all at once

the wolf and the lamb
the lion and the deer
far away yet together

look at the unity of this
spring and winter
manifested in the equinox

you too must mingle my friends
since the earth and the sky
are mingled just for you and me

be like sugarcane
sweet yet silent
don’t get mixed up with bitter words

my beloved grows right out of my own heart
how much more union can there be

— from Rumi: Fountain of Fire, Translated by Nader Khalili


/ Image by Lenny Montana /

It is the equinox, when the length of day and night become equal, when summer gives way to fall (or winter to spring, for you southerners). It is a global transition point. A threshold. A time to release the old and welcome the new.

More than any other time of the year, we are reminded to stand centered on this very moment, neither leaning back nor tipping forward, and feel how memory reweaves itself into new possibility. It is during the equinox that a new dream is formed, a new vision of ourself, a new vision of the world. What new dream waits inside you?

look at the unity of this
spring and winter
manifested in the equinox

As the equinox joins the past with the future, we have a greater opportunity to see how all things that seem separate, distant, in conflict are really a continual union.

the wolf and the lamb
the lion and the deer
far away yet together

Even life and death we imagine to be incompatible opposites, when the two flow naturally together, making them one.

why think separately
of this life and the next
when one is born from the last

It is this recognition of unity everywhere that makes the mystic’s journey possible.

the known and the unknown
see how the unknown merges into the known

A journey within the known is no journey at all. But a journey entirely in the unknown leads to disorientation and confusion. A mystic learns to recognize that indistinct threshold, where the known and the unknown merge. We start from there, take attentive steps, and discover that the borderland moves with us into new territories. The meeting point becomes internalized until we recognize that every hill and hollow of the unknown is secretly bordering the known, allowing the mystic to continually reorient and journey on.

This teaches us two things: When we feel lost in the unknown, all we must do is stop, grow still, and see once again familiar territory nearby. The other lesson is that when we feel stuck in the known, we don’t need an elaborate escape to exotic corners of the world; wherever we are, we just need to take the unexpected step, and a new path opens up before us.

But no path leads from A to B. A path is not an inconvenient distance that allows us to escape from one place and rush to another. Every path is ultimately a reminder that A and B are joined. Properly understood, every journey recalls the awareness of union to the heart.

my beloved grows right out of my own heart
how much more union can there be


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

Sep 23 2015

hide-and-seek

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

One response so far

Sep 18 2015

Rainer Maria Rilke – As once the winged energy of delight

Published by under Poetry

As once the winged energy of delight
by Rainer Maria Rilke

English version by Stephen Mitchell

As once the winged energy of delight
carried you over childhood’s dark abysses,
now beyond your own life build the great
arch of unimagined bridges.

Wonders happen if we can succeed
in passing through the harshest danger;
but only in a bright and purely granted
achievement can we realize the wonder.

To work with Things in the indescribable
relationship is not too hard for us;
the pattern grows more intricate and subtle,
and being swept along is not enough.

Take your practiced powers and stretch them out
until they span the chasm between two
contradictions… For the god
wants to know himself in you.

— from Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke, Translated by Stephen Mitchell


/ Image by u07ch /

I get the sense that many people are dealing with intensities in their lives right now, difficulties and fears rising up. And in the headlines there is a heightened sense of tensions ready to snap.

I offer this poem by Rilke as a balm. He seems to be saying something about the power of intangible feeling, imagination, and hope as the surest way to navigate through life’s threats.

And something about the pure beauty of this poem heals as it awakens. Take a moment and reread the lines of this poem. Feel them as they settle upon your mind, line by line.

the winged energy of delight…
childhood’s dark abysses…
unimagined bridges…

Words written with such heart, words of deep kindness and empathy from a poet who witnessed the terrible traumas of the early 20th century. Words of a modern man who keenly felt the psychic schism of the modern era, and sought integration.

Take your practiced powers and stretch them out
until they span the chasm between two
contradictions…

All leading us to that final line which sums up the real reason for the world and our journey through its dangers and delights:

For the god
wants to know himself in you.

Be kind to yourself and those around you this weekend — and have a beautiful day!


Recommended Books: Rainer Maria Rilke

The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke> The Soul is Here for its Own Joy: Sacred Poems from Many Cultures Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God In Praise of Mortality: Rilke’s Duino Elegies & Sonnets to Orpheus
More Books >>


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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Sep 18 2015

arc of movement

Each step, each arc of movement
and point of rest,
is another instance of delicious touch
in the divine love affair that is life’s journey.

No responses yet

Sep 15 2015

Layman P’ang – When the mind is at peace

Published by under Poetry

When the mind is at peace
by P’ang Yun (Layman P’ang)

English version by Stephen Mitchell

When the mind is at peace,
the world too is at peace.
Nothing real, nothing absent.
Not holding on to reality,
not getting stuck in the void,
you are neither holy nor wise, just
an ordinary fellow who has completed his work.

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


/ Image by makani5 /

When the mind is at peace
The world too is at peace.

This is such a lovely statement that seems to feed so naturally into a serene state, but it is also saying something very powerful that overturns our common assumptions.

Most often we imagine that if our lives and society and the world as a whole would just settle down, then perhaps we could experience peace. And so we turn all of our efforts outward, trying to force a sense of peace in the world. That doesn’t usually work so well, does it?

It can get to the point that turning inward, prayer, meditation can feel like a betrayal, as if we are abandoning the outer world to chaos, while we selfishly seek a separate sort of peace.

But the strange truth is that we don’t create a peaceful environment and then experience peace. The reality is the reverse. We discover peace within, and only then can we recognize it without. More surprising still is that we come to see that the “world” outside of ourselves is but a reflection of our own inner state. When we discover peace within, the world comes to rest as well. Does that mean problems in the world disappear? No. But we recognize the peace that underlies even those problems, and we begin to see new ways to coax that peace to the surface. At peace, in peace, we invite peace.

Nothing real, nothing absent.
Not holding on to reality,
not getting stuck in the void…

Enlightened awareness is not a game of carefully constructed definitions. It is not a feat of the intellect, which tends to separate and categorize perceived reality. Even at its most subtle and incisive, when the intellect tries to separate the real from the non-real, it is setting up a filter upon the awareness.

When the mind is truly at peace, not only have thoughts come to a rest, but more importantly those unconscious mental filters no longer pre-sift the perception of reality.

The poet seems to be describing a trail for us to follow, a path found precisely where existence meets Nirvana, and we must gracefully walk between the two.

With no clinging to either “reality” or “void,” the whole and unfiltered vision comes upon us.

Engulfed by this truth, we are not “wise” or “holy” — those are further categories. No, we just are. We are not this or that, we are.

…an ordinary fellow who has completed his work.

We no longer feel the need to do something to validate our existence; we undeniably are. No work remains to be done. One may still be active in the world, but there is no “work” behind it, simply the dance of stillness, presence, and flow. Observers may disagree, but you understand that all that seemed important about your identity has trickled away, and you have become unremarkable, purely as you are — an ordinary fellow, alive in this extraordinary world.


Recommended Books: P’ang Yun (Layman P’ang)

The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry The Sayings of Layman P’ang: A Zen Classic


P'ang Yun (Layman P'ang), P'ang Yun (Layman P'ang) poetry, Buddhist poetry P’ang Yun (Layman P’ang)

China (740? – 808) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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3 responses so far

Sep 15 2015

un-certain

To really meet the mystery,
we must be uncertain.

No responses yet

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!

No responses yet

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.

No responses yet

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 >>


Sarmad

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

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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

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