Nov 21 2016

Surprise Announcement: A New Book!

I have a surprise announcement to make: The Poetry Chaikhana will be publishing two books in the near future. Yes, I said two books.

The first will be available in just a few days — Gathering Silence, a book of meditations, sayings, and breathtaking art. (The second book, which will be available by the spring, will be a new Poetry Chaikhana anthology. More about that in the next couple of months.)

* Pre-Order Now for the Holidays *
Gathering Silence, sayings, Ivan M. Granger, Rashani Rea

Gathering Silence

Sayings by Ivan M. Granger
Collages by Rashani Réa

Pre-Order before Dec. 5



Available soon through Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Gathering Silence is a collection of meditative sayings and bits of poetry, accompanied throughout by stunning full-color artwork by internationally-known collage artist, Rashani Réa.

The sayings are brief, often just one or two per page, allowing each page to become a restful space for contemplation and inspiration.

Gathering Silence is a truly beautiful book, filled with color, creative thoughts, and meditative moments. Perfect for an altar or meditation space, by your bed or on a coffee table. A wonderful gift for family, friends, and fellow seekers!

A few pages from Gathering Silence ~

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

Protect the wild places in yourself.

There is something fierce in every saint and sage.

How else could they free love from its cage?

Regardless of belief,

everyone is agnostic
until gnosis.

Whittle yourself down

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

When you know where the Beloved lives,
you are content,
no need to argue with others
over street names.

The individual is really a magical act of seeing with no fixed eye.

Your most secret wound is the doorway.

All of mysticism comes down to this:

to recognize
what is already
and always here.

Outwardly, determined effort is necessary.

But within, nothing is needed
except to yield.

How can you settle into yourself

Don’t strain toward enlightenment.
Relax into it.

* Note that pre-order shipments outside of the US and Canada may not arrive until after the new year — unless you request priority or expedited shipping.

About the sayings

I inherited my love of short, insightful statements from my grandfather. As a child, spending Christmas at my grandparents’ house, I remember playing with their roll-top desk, fascinated by the way the wooden slats rolled up and down along their grooved curving path. That’s when I discovered a small box tucked away in the desk containing dozens of index cards. Each card had just a sentence or two written in my grandfather’s neat hand. My grandfather had been collecting favorite quotes, jokes, even overheard snippets of conversation. This felt like a magical window into the private thoughts of a man I both loved and idolized.

I began to keep index cards with me, usually half-bent in my pocket, at the ready anytime I wanted to write down a random thought, lines from a novel, an uplifting quote, a half-remembered dream. I still do it today. I keep little stacks of index cards strategically placed throughout the house. Sometimes in meditation a thought or insight will pop into my head, fully formed in the silence, and I’ll write it down.

And that’s the interesting thing about my relationship to the short meditations and sayings in Gathering Silence. I wrote them, but sometimes I feel that I found them rather than formulated them. Am I their author or simply a transcriber? In my most lucid moments, they are my words in my voice. But they are also the guidance I turn to when life’s burdens weigh heavily and the spiritual path seems unclear. It is as if a larger self that is me is leaving helpful notes to a smaller, sometimes struggling self that is also me.

So I offer these sayings as both author and audience. I hope you find that they guide and illuminate, prod and awaken, as they continue to do for me. And, in your quiet moments, perhaps they will even speak to you in your own voice.

For the Holidays

We have the book’s artist, Rashani Réa, to thank for making this book available in time for the holidays. I imagined I would be publishing Gathering Silence early next year. But as I started sending these sayings to Rashani, she was inspired and spent several late nights creating her amazing collages for the book. Each morning I would wake up to find new works of stunning, colorful art waiting in my email In box. As the artwork poured out of her, I realized that I had better pick up my own pace in preparing Gathering Silence for publication.

And I couldn’t be happier that it is ready in time, because Gathering Silence makes a wonderful gift book. It is compact and filled with celebratory color. It is uplifting, inspiring, occasionally challenging, without promoting any particular system of belief. It will bring a smile to your favorite Christian contemplative, Sufi, yogic practitioner, painter, or poet.


At $18.95, Gathering Silence is a bit pricier than previous books published by the Poetry Chaikhana, but that is necessary to cover the costs of the full-color artwork throughout its pages. When you hold it in your hands and look through page after page of Rashani Réa’s stunning artwork, I think you’ll agree that it is worth a few extra dollars.

Pre-Order Offer

For those of you willing to place a pre-order, the Poetry Chaikhana is offering a special deal: Purchase a copy before December 5th to receive a discounted price of $17.95.

Pre-ordering is also a great way to show your support for new publications from the Poetry Chaikhana.

  • To purchase a special pre-order copy of Gathering Silence click here or the ‘Purchase’ link above for payment through PayPal.

A Note About Shipping: Pre-order copies will ship directly from the printer. Since the printer is in the US, overseas customers may need to request priority shipping, if you wish to receive your order before the end of the year.

If you look forward to purchasing a copy of Gathering Silence, but not as a pre-order, it will be available for general purchase through Amazon and Barnes & Noble in December.


I guess you can tell that I am enthusiastic about this latest publication. I hope this book brings a smile and acts as a soothing balm during this tumultuous time.

Sending love to everyone during this time of renewal and reawakening light that we variously call Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, and the New Year.


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Nov 16 2016

Kahlil Gibran – Good and Evil

Published by under Poetry

Good and Evil
by Kahlil Gibran

And one of the elders of the city said, Speak to us of Good and Evil.
And he answered:
Of the good in you I can speak, but not of the evil.
For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?
Verily when good is hungry it seeks food even in dark caves, and when it thirsts it drinks even of dead waters.

You are good when you are one with yourself.
Yet when you are not one with yourself you are not evil.
For a divided house is not a den of thieves; it is only a divided house.
And a ship without rudder may wander aimlessly among perilous isles yet sink not to the bottom.

You are good when you strive to give of yourself.
Yet you are not evil when you seek gain for yourself.
For when you strive for gain you are but a root that clings to the earth and sucks at her breast.
Surely the fruit cannot say to the root, “Be like me, ripe and full and ever giving of your abundance.”
For the fruit giving is a need, as receiving is a need to the root.

You are good when you are fully awake in your speech,
Yet you are not evil when you sleep while your tongue staggers without purpose.
And even stumbling speech may strengthen a weak tongue.

You are good when you walk to your goal firmly and with bold steps.
Yet you are not evil when you go thither limping.
Even those who limp go not backward.
But you who are strong and swift, see that you do not limp before the lame, deeming it kindness.

You are good in countless ways, and you are not evil when you are not good,
You are only loitering and sluggard.
Pity that the stags cannot teach swiftness to the turtles.

In your longing for your giant self lies your goodness: and that longing is in all of you.
But in some of you that longing is a torrent rushing with might to the sea, carrying the secrets of the hillsides and the songs of the forest.
And in others it is a flat stream that loses itself in angles and bends and lingers before it reaches the shore.
But let not him who longs much say to him who longs little, “Wherefore are you slow and halting?”
For the truly good ask not the naked, “Where is your garment?” nor the houseless, “What has befallen your house?”

— from The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran

/ Image by butler.corey /

As I was considering which poem to send out this morning, I came across this meditation on good and evil by Kahlil Gibran. I last featured this poem and commentary about six years ago, and I thought it might be worth sharing again…

I like this meditation on good and evil. It challenges assumptions and and raises important questions. Gibran suggests there is only good, for that is everyone’s inherent nature, and what we call evil is simply being lost and uninspired. He calls us to be compassionate to those who are selfish and cruel, for they suffer from greater poverty than the homeless and greater hunger than the starving; they suffer from poverty of the soul.

I strongly feel one should never passively allow the hard-hearted to inflict harm or hoard what belongs to all. Such actions must be opposed with strength and courage and cunning. The vulnerable must always be protected. That is a basic duty. But even complete success in one such action does not stop the fundamental dynamic of harm, just that particular instance. We must always remember that those who inflict harm and encode selfishness into systems and institutions, those people are also seeking their way, just blinded by their spiritual poverty. That’s where the real, patient work of the ages is found… finding how to open eyes and hearts long used to to being shut, finding how to redirect them toward the forgotten goodness and generosity held within.

One line I do question, however, is, “Pity that the stags cannot teach swiftness to the turtles.” To suggest that some people are stags and others turtles might be read to imply that our spiritual unfolding is fixed. Every human being harbors something of the heavenly within. There is no speed to the process. All that is needed is the right reminder of what we already are. Then begins the steady process of discovering how to encourage that ember and let its warmth permeate all aspects of our lives. Turtles don’t need to become stags. Humans simply need to become themselves. Humans just need to become more human.

But how to reach those who would armor themselves against the urging of their own hearts? No simple formula, nor single action nor organization can accomplish this. Not a year nor a generation nor a century will accomplish this. Still, that is what must be done. That is the real, hard, slow work given to us all to accomplish, each in our own lives, our work, our world.

Knowing our work, let’s be impatient to begin and supremely patient in its accomplishment. Knowing our work, what cause is there for anything but joy in turning to it each day?

In your longing for your giant self lies your goodness: and that longing is in all of you.

Recommended Books: Kahlil Gibran

The Prophet The Beloved: Reflections on the Path of the Heart Broken Wings Jesus the Son of Man Kahlil Gibran: His Life & World
More Books >>

Kahlil Gibran, Kahlil Gibran poetry, Christian poetry Kahlil Gibran

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

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4 responses so far

Nov 16 2016

never separated

You can never be separated from your Self, your being, God.

The only “work” there is to do
is to become fully aware
of this immutable fact.

One response so far

Nov 11 2016

Theodore Roethke – In a Dark Time (thoughts on the election)

Published by under Poetry

In a Dark Time
by Theodore Roethke

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood —
A lord of nature weeping to a tree,
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.

What’s madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day’s on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall.
That place among the rocks — is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.

A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is —
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.

— from The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke, by Theodore Roethke

/ Image by iNeedChemicalX /

I know many of us are deeply disturbed and frightened by the results of the US elections this week. I won’t say that things are okay. I will just say what I have said elsewhere in recent days:

Before election day and after election day, the work remains the same– to give a helping hand, to protect the vulnerable, to cultivate a livable future, to be less blind to others, to be fully present, to embody love in a troubled world.


This poem by Roethke is one of those poems to keep close in difficult times.

In a dark time, the eye begins to see

The struggle against despair, disorientation, darkness. The solitary individual lost in a lost world. We have all been there at some point in our lives. Deep seekers have a particular tendency to travel through those shadowed spaces.

I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall.

That despair is often a deep seated sense that something is fundamentally wrong with the human world presented to us. It can feel uncaring, limited, violent, broken, and incomplete. In other words, it is a place that does not accept the individual as he or she is. To operate in the human world, we are forced into games of pretense and self-disguise. It is a feeling of homelessness and isolation.

What does one do when the soul is at odds with circumstance? It creates a terrible crisis. As social creatures, we align with the group mind, often without awareness or consent. The more naturally we do this, the better we fit into society and exist in the human world. But what about the eccentrics and visionaries, those who resist that psychic pull in order to answer the soul’s need to be itself and see beyond social artifice?

The edge is what I have.

They tend to dwell at the edges. That is where both danger and possibility are found. There we gain the possibility of seeing clearly for the first time, witnessing reality as a complete and self-fulfilled individual.

But the danger is very real, as well. No longer relying on socially constructed reality as our boundary we also lose our safe landmarks. The psyche becomes disoriented and fragile.

To navigate this necessary dark night of the soul, the seeker and the artist must cultivate a highly refined inner sense of balance and discipline. This is an important reason for developing a vigorous spiritual practice. Without the necessary inner solidity, the tendency is to rely on dangerous crutches, like excessive drinking and drug use — a terrible problem for so many creative non-conformists.

Think of it this way: The normal consensus reality is like the rigid shell of an egg. It does an excellent job of safely containing the unformed individual and protecting it from exposure to the unknown outside reality. But, if the individual remains within that shell forever, he never experiences the fullness of life. Through spiritual practice, one awakens the fire of life and takes on inner solidity and form. Then, when the shell has become too confining, we can break free into the open air without danger of fragmentation, ready to encounter the new world.

…Those dark periods we experience, they do actually serve a purpose, awakening clarity of vision and a compassionate heart. When we feel most vulnerable and lost, we are often going through our greatest growth and transformation, readying for the blaze of light.

Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

We must learn to work deeply amidst the darkness. We discover who we really are slowly emerging from the shadows, for that is our stable landmark when all else shifts about.

The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.


Which poem do you read when you are troubled or frightened? What gives you comfort, clarity, or courage? Let me know.

Sending love.

Recommended Books: Theodore Roethke

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke Theodore Roethke: Selected Poems On Poetry and Craft The Glass House: The Life of Theodore Roethke
More Books >>

Theodore Roethke, Theodore Roethke poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Theodore Roethke

US (1908 – 1963) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Theodore Roethke

16 responses so far

Nov 11 2016

security and control

Peace and joy — that’s what everyone wants.
It is fear that twists this natural yearning
into the compulsion
for security and control.

No responses yet

Nov 04 2016

Yunus Emre – We entered the house of realization

Published by under Poetry

We entered the house of realization
by Yunus Emre

English version by Kabir Helminski & Refik Algan

We entered the house of realization,
we witnessed the body.

The whirling skies, the many-layered earth,
the seventy-thousand veils,
we found in the body.

The night and the day, the planets,
the words inscribed on the Holy Tablets,
the hill that Moses climbed, the Temple,
and Israfil’s trumpet, we observed in the body.

Torah, Psalms, Gospel, Quran —
what these books have to say,
we found in the body.

Everybody says these words of Yunus
are true. Truth is wherever you want it.
We found it all within the body.

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

/ Image by herfairytale /

We encountered the house of realization,
we witnessed the body.

Not only is the sacred always present — right here, right now — but that holiness is actually felt within the body.

When we talk of “the body” we tend to have a very concrete, materialistic idea of what we mean, this physical thing composed of muscle and bone. Its boundaries are hard and limited. In the end this body-thing contains very little.

But the body is more than this. Consider your dreams for a moment. In dreams, often you have a body there, as well. It is clearly not the same as the physical body, yet it too is your body within the reality of the dream. That dream body is capable of many actions and even transformations the physical body cannot. But is it not your body?

Both bodies, the physical body and the dream body, become the seat of our perception through which we experience the reality of the moment. Both bodies in some way are us.

These are just two of the many bodies we experience.

Let us call all of these collective bodies we inhabit the Body. Or we may call this the Self. This is the unedited and fully integrated being one is.

That limited package of organs and actions and sensory inputs doesn’t seem so claustrophobic to the spirit anymore.

The whirling skies, the many-layered earth,
the seventy-thousand veils,
we found in the body.

So when a mystic declares that entire worlds are found within the body, that isn’t just poetic metaphor. What this body actually is is much more than we first imagine. The boundaries of the body, which we once thought to end abruptly at the skin, are actually not there at all. The body continues, opening itself outward. All that we encounter and experience but imagine to be outside ourselves, all of that is actually contained within the body.

Here is what Yunus Emre is saying: By looking within the body, the body expands to encompass the universe. The fullness of reality is not outside oneself. It can never be fully recognized and integrated within the consciousness by looking outward. But by looking inward it is all there. And it is all you. Within the body.

Not only are all the pieces found within the body, but there they fit together harmoniously to form an integrated and harmonious whole. The natural interconnectedness of reality is recognized, which is the deep truth of all traditions.

Torah, Psalms, Gospel, Quran —
what these books have to say,
we found in the body.

In this expanded view of the Body/Self, let us not disregard the physical body, which was our starting point. The vision of harmonious immensity found within does, in fact, touch and affect the physical body too.

This vision is perceived as a rapturous bliss permeating all levels of awareness, including the physical body. In the physical body, every cell feels awakened, alive, sanctified. The whole body, from the most subtle to the most physical, vibrates with delight.

I am reminded of Kabir, the great Indian poet, who sang:

How could I ever express
How blessed I feel
To revel in such vast ecstasy
In my own body?

The touch of the Divine is tangible, it is felt… and it is always there, within the body.

Everybody says these words of Yunus
are true. Truth is wherever you want it.
We found it all within the body.

Recommended Books: Yunus Emre

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 The Drop That Became the Sea: Lyric Poems of Yunus Emre Quarreling with God: Mystic Rebel Poems of the Dervishes of Turkey
More Books >>

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

Turkey (1238 – 1320) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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2 responses so far

Nov 04 2016

helping hand

A helping hand
is a holy thing.

No responses yet

Oct 28 2016

Dionysius the Areopagite – Lead us up beyond light

Published by under Poetry

Lead us up beyond light
by Dionysius the Areopagite

English version by Ivan M. Granger

Lead us up beyond light,
beyond knowing and unknowing,
to the topmost summit of truth,

where the mysteries lie hidden,
unchanging and absolute,
in the dazzling darkness
of the secret silence.
All light is outshined
by the intensity of their shade.

Our senses are flooded, our minds blinded
by such unseen beauty
beyond all beauty.

/ Image by Sudhamshu /

You may not be familiar with them, but the lines are hugely important in the history of Western mysticism and spirituality. Virtually all European esoteric traditions have drawn inspiration and meaning from them. So take a moment to reread them and consider what is being said and why Western mystics have been inspired by them through the centuries.

In particular, that phrase about the “dazzling darkness,” like a Christian koan, is contemplated endlessly and keeps reappearing in esoteric writings.

Dionysius is saying something about knowledge and the limitations of knowledge, using the metaphor of light and darkness.

Lead us up beyond light,
beyond knowing and unknowing,
to the topmost summit of truth…

We might say that intellectual knowledge is knowledge dependent on things being visible, in the light. But clearly Dionysius feels that such knowledge does not attain the “topmost summit of truth.”

There is another level of knowing, deeper, more obscure, yet all-encompassing. This is the knowledge sought by the mystic. This is the knowledge found within deep inner silence. This is the knowledge that connects us with genuine truth. Amidst this darkness, the truth shines.

…where the mysteries lie hidden,
unchanging and absolute,
in the dazzling darkness
of the secret silence.

But this language of darkness and blindness and unknowing as descriptions of this ultimate knowledge is more than evocative metaphor and playful contradiction.

That wonderful phrase, the “dazzling darkness,” is a reference to a very real state of awareness experienced in deep communion when the mind has settled completely into stillness and no longer projects a conceptual overlay upon reality.

We can even say that seeing (in the normal sense) stops, while perception opens as if for the first time. A person is no longer seen as a person, a table is no longer seen as a table. Surfaces and categories — the foundation of mundane perception — become ephemeral, dreamlike, insubstantial. One stops witnessing the surface level of reality in the common sense, and this can be compared to blindness or darkness. Yet everything shines! Everything is seen to be radiant with a living interpenetrating light. And the same light shines in everything.

This is the dazzling darkness of Dionysius. This is why many mystics assert they no longer even see the world and, instead, only see God. It is not that they bump into furniture when they walk across a room; perception on the mundane level doesn’t stop (except in the most ecstatic states), but surfaces take on a thin or unreal quality; it only occupies a minimal level of the awareness. It is as if the world everyone always assumes to be the real world, the visible world, is actually a world of shadow, but underlying that is an unseen world of brilliance and indescribably beauty.

Our senses are flooded, our minds blinded
by such unseen beauty
beyond all beauty.

This is the dazzling darkness sought by mystics throughout the ages.


Speaking of darkness, Halloween is coming up, Samhain in Celtic tradition, the Dia de los Muertos. This is considered to be a time of year when the veil between this world and the Otherworld thins, when we can reconnect with the spirits of our ancestors, when can gain unexpected insight. It is a time of magic and reconnection and stepping into the unknown.

And it is a time of the good darkness. This is the time of year (in the northern hemisphere) when the light of summer and the harvest season recedes, the days grow shorter, and the darkness of winter takes ascendance. This is the good darkness that balances the year. With darker, shorter, colder days, we are less active and turn inward. It is a time that reminds us to return to the dark cave of home and self. It is in this internal, inturning time that we gain insight and strength and, through endurance, find ourselves renewed and ready for the new light to come in springtime. This darkness is the time of spiritual practice that prepares us for the springtime of life and enlightenment. For only in darkness does new life gestate. Only in darkness do our eyes learn to see.

So let’s celebrate those who came before us and made a way for us in the world. Let’s celebrate the infinitely unknown possibilities yet available to us. And let’s celebrate the good darkness — and the light and life we discover there!

Recommended Books: Dionysius the Areopagite

The Essential Mystics: Selections from the World’s Great Wisdom Traditions Christian Mystics: Their Lives and Legacies throughout the Ages

Dionysius the Areopagite, Dionysius the Areopagite poetry, Christian poetry Dionysius the Areopagite

Syria (6th Century) Timeline

Continue Reading »

3 responses so far

Oct 28 2016

until you find yourself saying

until you find yourself saying —

this moment is enough.

No responses yet

Oct 26 2016

Wu Men Hui-k’ai – The Great Way has no gate

Published by under Poetry

The Great Way has no gate
by Wu Men Hui-k’ai

English version by Eiichi Shimomisei

The Great Way has no gate,
A thousand roads enter it.
When one passes through this gateless gate,
He freely walks between heaven and earth.

/ Image by frestro79 /

A koan for us today. A thousand roads enter it, but there is no gate. When we pass through this gateless gate, we are liberated.

We always want to understand, as if we can think our way into heaven. But a confounded head, paired with a striving heart is a powerful combination. From that friction enlightenment can be sparked.

We don’t find gateways. We ourselves open.

Recommended Books: Wu Men Hui-k’ai

The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry The Gateless Gate: The Wu-men Kuan The Gateless Barrier: Zen Comments on the Mumonkan The World: A Gateway: Commentaries on the Mumonkan

Wu Men Hui-k’ai

China (1183 – 1260) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Oct 26 2016


Be thankful for this day
of possibility.
Who knows what magic will unfold?

No responses yet

Oct 26 2016

Video: Poetry as Transformative Experience

A short video in which I discuss poetry, mysticism, and transformation, exploring ideas, such as–

– There is something inherently esoteric in all poetry
– Poetry is the natural language of mystical experience
– Poetry affects thought patterns and rhythm of breath
– Poetry and trance
– Poetry is built of words, which are built of breath
– We participate in the poet’s breath
– Poetry can convey sacred experience directly

From a 2008 interview with Ivan M. Granger by the Ecstatic Arts and Theater Project

The Poetry Chaikhana
Poetry from all the world’s great religious and spiritual traditions. Explore by poet, tradition, theme, or timeline.
The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World
An anthology of sacred poetry edited with commentary by Ivan M. Granger — including this haiku by Issa.

Theme Music by The Yuval Ron Ensemble. Used by permission.

Copyright 2016 Poetry Chaikhana

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Oct 21 2016

Ivan M. Granger – Every Shaped Thing

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Every Shaped Thing
by Ivan M. Granger

every shaped thing

Your altar
cannot seat
the thousand thousand

Holding them,
what do you have?

Each gilded god

“I am
by the sun.

I can only

— from Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey, by Ivan M. Granger

/ Image by maxpower /

it has been quite a while since I featured one of my own poems. This morning I heard this one running through my thoughts…

I wrote this poem when I lived on Maui years ago. I had just finished a meditation and stepped outside to gaze at the forest of eucalyptus trees. Slowly looking around, I saw how everything is reaching, turning, pointing heavenward. The material world, when objectified can become a confusing tangle of solidity, separation, and objects of desire, but in that moment, with my mind at rest and my eyes clear, the world danced before me, filled with a golden light. And I saw that while the world hides the Eternal, at the same time it ardently reveals it.

In that pure moment it was clear to me that everything is giddy with its own inner light. Consciously or unconsciously, everything is always orienting itself toward the light from which it draws its own life. All of creation — every person, every thing, even every idea, “every shaped thing” — is just a reflection of the divine radiance present everywhere.

That beauty, that luminosity is both the snare and the key for us as souls active within the material world.

Whenever we desire a thing… or person or experience, we artificially deify it. The desire and mental fixation becomes a form of worship. We may tell ourselves, “I want this, I want that,” but what we unknowingly crave is not the thing itself, it is that spark of the Eternal glimpsed within it. The desired object becomes a “gilded god” — false in the sense that it is not truly the wholeness we seek; but also, like an “idol” or icon, when approached sincerely and openly, it embodies something essential for us: it points to the Divine which it reflects.

The frustrating truth is that no individual can ever gather enough objects of desire to satisfy desire. Every time we acquire that desired object or experience — a new job, a new lover, money, an ice cream sundae — there is a fleeting sense of satisfaction… and then it is gone. Within minutes we are once again feeling desire and looking for the next object to hang that desire on. We’re looking for the next thing that sparkles. But it is not the object we actually seek, it is that shine. And that shine is the spark of the Divine.

When we learn to see in gold the glimmer of the sun, then we see that everything shines — everything! — ourselves included. It is not possessing that object or experience that we desire, it is that we ache to recognize and participate in that glow. And everything glows. Recognizing this is when the heart is truly satisfied and comes to rest.

Recommended Books: Ivan M. Granger

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics Diamond Cutters: Visionary Poets in America, Britain & Oceania Poems of Awakening: An International Anthology of Spiritual Poetry
More Books >>

Ivan M. Granger, Ivan M. Granger poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Ivan M. Granger

US (1969 – )
Secular or Eclectic
Yoga / Hindu : Advaita / Non-Dualist

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4 responses so far

Oct 21 2016

magical act of seeing

The individual is really
a magical act of seeing
with no fixed eye.

No responses yet

Oct 19 2016

Fakhruddin Iraqi – These perfumes

Published by under Poetry

These perfumes
by Fakhruddin Iraqi

English version by William Chittick and Peter Lamborn Wilson

These perfumes:
      musk, clove…
all from the hyacinthine shadows
      of those tresses.
You think you hear
      a nightingale’s song…
No. It is the voice
      of the Rose.

— from Fakhruddin Iraqi: Divine Flashes (Classics of Western Spirituality) , Translated by William Chittick / Translated by Nasr Seyyed Hossein

/ Image by Zwoing /

I wanted to bring you a hint of perfume today…

This brief poem has that delightfully ambiguous Sufi tendency of using erotic language when describing the heart’s yearning for the Eternal.

Iraqi starts with several sensuous evocations of perfume: musk, clove, hyacinth. Can you smell them?

Many mystics experience a scent that can be rapturously overwhelming or tantalizingly subtle. This blissful scent can also be understood as the perfume worn by the Beloved (“of those tresses”) that awakens sacred ardor upon the spiritual journey.

And, of course, perfume is scented oil, oil being the substance used to anoint and initiate.

To suggest the almost erotic sense of divine union, sometimes the earthier scent of musk is described. Musk is the aphrodisiac oil of the musk deer. Deer, being creatures of profound silence and shyness, are themselves symbols of the elusive Beloved.

The scent of flowers is often evoked, as well. Blossoms and flowers are natural symbols of enlightenment, the unfolding of awareness and the opening of the heart.

And, of course, the flower precedes the fruit, whose juice ultimately yields wine…

Iraqi then shifts from perfume to song. He speaks of the nightingale and the rose.

The nightingale is said to sing such an enchanting, mournful song because it is hopelessly in love with the rose. The rose is the Beloved, the Heart of hearts, and the nightingale is the lover, the seeker, the Sufi. So the nightingale’s song is the crying out of creation for the Beloved.

But here Iraqi turns the imagery around and asserts that what is heard is not the nightingale, but the “voice of the Rose.” He seems to be saying that when we call out to God, we are actually hearing God calling to us. Said in an even more all-encompassing way, all of creation is a part of God, and its every song, when heard with an open ear, is really the song of God to God. Every song is the voice of the Rose. Your own song is the Rose’s song within you.

Recommended Books: Fakhruddin Iraqi

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Fakhruddin Iraqi: Divine Flashes (Classics of Western Spirituality) Love’s Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition

Fakhruddin Iraqi

Iran/Persia/India/Turkey (? – 1289) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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5 responses so far

Oct 19 2016

bigger than our stories

What can one do but stand
in silent awe of the vision that emerges,
showing us how much bigger we are
than even our best stories?

One response so far

Oct 12 2016

Rainer Maria Rilke – I believe in all that has never yet been spoken

Published by under Poetry

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken
by Rainer Maria Rilke

English version by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for

may for once spring clear
without my contriving.

If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,

streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.

— from Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, by Rainer Maria Rilke / Translated by Joanna Macy

/ Image by Lel4nd /

What can I say to this poem — but Yes!

I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for

may for once spring clear
without my contriving.

May we all find the key that unlocks within ourselves creativity, capability, compassion…. that our lives may become a more perfect song to the Eternal.

May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back…

So what waits within you?

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
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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

5 responses so far

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