Dec 04 2013

spend a lifetime

We can spend a lifetime
looking, traveling, and acquiring.
Or we can look in the mirror.

No responses yet

Dec 04 2013

Card Set Updates

Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart – Card Sales!

Wow! The interest in the Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart Card Set has been fantastic! In less than 2 days we’ve already sold out of our initial printing!

But don’t worry — if you have placed an order or want to place an order, I am working with the printer to have more cards ready as soon as possible. They should be available in one to two weeks. Since this card set is a new item, I didn’t anticipate how hugely popular it would be, and so I ordered too few cards initially. But more are coming soon!

If you are interested in receiving a set of these cards in December, place your order soon, and I will do everything I can to get them to you on time.

International Shipment

Several of you have asked about shipping outside the US. As of yesterday, the PayPal order form has been updated to with international shipping prices. So please feel free to order from the UK, Australia, India, Pakistan… I can’t absolutely guarantee that international deliveries will arrive before the end of the year, but I’ll do my best to make it possible.

Non-PayPal Orders

I have received a few questions from people who would like to order but prefer not to use PayPal. You can always send a check or money order (in USD, please) to:

Poetry Chaikhana
PO Box 2320
Boulder, CO 80306

If you mail in payment, I will do my best to get shipments out for the earliest possible delivery.

I do not yet have a merchant credit card account set up. That means I do not have the ability to process credit card numbers directly — sorry.

Thank you, everyone, for your enthusiastic response!

No responses yet

Dec 02 2013

Announcement: Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart – Card Set

I hope you had a joyful Thanksgiving (if you’re in the Thanksgiving part of the world). My wife and I played tabletop games with friends. It is also Hanukkah. And the Winter Solstice, Christmas, and the New Year are all quickly coming up. May this be a blessed time of light and renewal for all!

And I have some news…

I am so pleased to announce that the Poetry Chaikhana is offering a beautiful new card set of sayings and short poems. It is a collection of several of my “thought for the day” sayings and a few short poems, with artwork Rashani Réa of Dharma Gaia Cards.

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

+ $2 Shipping


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!

This collection of cards came together in a surprising way: During the past few months I’ve been quietly working on a Poetry Chaikhana anthology, a selection of the amazing poetry we share each week, accompanied by my commentary and spiritual ramblings. (I know I’ve been promising this anthology for some time, but it is coming together nicely and should be available next year.) In the midst of that work, a half-formed but strong spark of an idea popped into my head: do something with cards. I casually emailed Rashani Réa, an artist I know in Hawaii who does stunning, collage-like artwork imbued with a strong spiritual element, and I suggested we think of doing something together. She surprised me several days later, saying that creative inspiration had taken over and she was already immersed in the design of the cards. A few weeks later — here they are!

Rashani also waived her normal design fee to support the work of the Poetry Chaikhana. Thanks to her generosity, your purchase of these cards doubly benefits for the Poetry Chaikhana — and you get this wonderful card set!

And, if these sell well, we may put together a series of “Poetry Chaikhana Cards” — Lalla, Rumi, Basho, St. John of the Cross… Is that something you’d like? Let us know.

Here are a few examples from the card set:

Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart, card set, sayings, short poems, Ivan M. Granger, Rashani Rea Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart, card set, sayings, short poems, Ivan M. Granger, Rashani Rea Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart, card set, sayings, short poems, Ivan M. Granger, Rashani Rea Fierce Eye, Gentle Heart, card set, sayings, short poems, Ivan M. Granger, Rashani Rea
the wild places
in yourself
See everything
with a fierce eye
and a gentle heart.
The divine
is experienced in the heart.

The intellect, at best,
can only trail behind and take notes.

Beloved, they want to know:
Did I reach up to You,
or did You reach out to me?

And they want to know:
What is real

How can I explain

– we pour
into each other.

~ Ivan M. Granger

Purchasing these cards is a wonderful way to support the Poetry Chaikhana. They also can be given as gifts of inspiration this holiday season.

You can order through PayPal by clicking the ‘Purchase’ link above or on the Poetry Chaikhana website. Or, if you prefer, you can send a check or money order to:

Poetry Chaikhana
PO Box 2320
Boulder, CO 80306

Please be sure to include your delivery address.

I should mention that, because these cards are a new and we don’t yet know how popular they will be, our initial printing is limited — so if you want a set right away, make sure to place your order soon. If they sell out quickly, more cards will be available after mid-December.

Have a beautiful day!


11 responses so far

Nov 26 2013

Life & Death, Belief & Meaning

Published by under Other Voices,Poetry

I forwarded many of your email messages and blog comments to ebj. He sent this note and two more poems in response…


I am deeply moved, both by folks’ words and what I sense of their energy within those words.

Since some have requested more, I offer two recent pieces (one earlier this evening in response to what I’ve been moved to write because of what you’ve forwarded. The other in reference to my present state of being – on the verge of not being.


We can touch without touching,
Connect without meeting,
Love without longing.

The word is spreading
In giving we receive.
In receiving we give.
Our degrees of separation
Apparently reflect
Our degrees of connection.

With open hearts,
Centered mindfulness
Possibilities abound into the Infinite
A concept beyond conceivable
The irony is that we
Still have a word for it
To share, inspire and raise the level
Of our sacred connections
Even higher.

ebj 11/25/2013

Life & Death, Belief & Meaning

sitting on what may
become my deathbed in a few weeks
Wylie, the prince of cats, crawls on my lap.
then a question arises:
should I write down these simple thoughts
or pet him?

when he moves to my feet
I begin:

some believe in an afterlife
what if there isn’t?

some believe in paradise
the other place…

some believe in karmic rebirth
to atone for transgressions
reap rewards
until enlightenment.

some believe it all ends
at their last breath.
what if it doesn’t?

as each spends their moments
immersed in their beliefs
where are they?
what are they doing
with the water or the wood?

as we attempt to prepare
for our sacred moment-
those of us given the blessed chance to prepare
(which many of us could before it is upon us)-
what are we preparing for?
where are our thoughts, our minds?

the body is frequently denounced
for its imperfections and distractions,
its drives and constant needs,
the source of so much suffering and pain
but let us speak a moment for the body
as it carries the water and the wood
as it serves as the vehicle
for our soul in this present form
for it is always here now
until it isn’t…

ebj 11/20/2013

No responses yet

Nov 25 2013

From moment to moment

Published by under Other Voices,Poetry

I had an unexpected email dialog over the weekend, one I found deeply moving and inspiring. I am still sifting through my thoughts and emotional responses– A reader of the Poetry Chaikhana sent me a poem and a simple, honest discussion of his own death. The clarity and dignity expressed in his poem and accompanying note left me without words.

He has given me permission to share some of it with you.


Thanks for posting such great poetry.

I found “Naked in the Bee-Hive” [by Hakim Sanai] especially poignant since I now sit on my death bed with the condition of pulmonary fibrosis and a plan to fast out soon.

I write this not for your condolences. I accept this as a gift. So I send this note just to share thanks for posting thought-provoking poetry about living, loving and dying – the three most precious and sacred experiences we humans are gifted to have.

Perhaps, someday, the Mystic Poets’ words will guide all of us toward greater peace and love.

With that, I’m sending you my latest effort to express this moment in my life:

Moment of Wonder

it is written:
“…live from moment to moment…”
how is that?
what is the “to”?
is the “from moment” different
than the “to moment”?
is separation so absolute that
I am different from
you are different from
she is different from
they are different from
we are different?
is everything different
from the ultimate beginning
before time was time
and space was space?
what was the stone before
it was the stone?
what was the flower before
it was the flower?
what was the sun before
it was the sun?
who were you before
you were you
or before the earth?
what was this moment before
this moment?
and after?

~ ebj 11/14/2013

…The perspective I’ve come to adopt on life and death have been heavily influenced by the Mystics of history and present times. Through them, and many personal relationships, I have discovered the beauty of living with integrity, mindful that all experience is transient while still inherently meaningful, and serving others through one’s heart can serve us well along our path and help alleviate much of life’s suffering as is illuminated by the First Noble Truth.

With this belief as a guide, I’ve been blessed to experience the ineffable sense of Oneness where death is as sacred as birth along with all forms of conscious experience (perhaps even non-conscious experience!)

In peace and with love along our paths…


My sincere thanks and admiration to ebj for allowing me to share his insight and poetry at this profound moment in his life.

Sending love to ebj and to all of you!


20 responses so far

Nov 22 2013

Rainer Maria Rilke – Want the change

Published by under Poetry

Want the change
by Rainer Maria Rilke

English version by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
as the curve of the body as it turns away.

What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.

Pour yourself out like a fountain.
Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.

Every happiness is the child of a separation
it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, becoming
a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.

— from In Praise of Mortality: Rilke’s Duino Elegies & Sonnets to Orpheus, by Rainer Maria Rilke / Translated by Joanna Macy

/ Photo by wayoftheGoo /

This poem is a lovely meditation on change and transitoriness — as signs of life. It is only those relationships and experiences that move, and evolve, and eventually disappear that are fully alive.

Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.

We so want the opposite to be true. We reflexively want to grasp the world, to hold it fixed, so we can trust reality, know its rules, and feel secure every day. But Rilke invites us to see with the poet’s keen eye the truth of the matter: that which doesn’t change lacks life and loses beauty–

What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.

We can’t hold our lives fixed, and we can’t hold ourselves fixed within our lives. The only thing to do is to put ourselves fully into each mysterious day.

I love the line–

Pour yourself out like a fountain.

This statement so powerfully evokes the courage each day requires and the generosity of self that we can bring to each encounter.

We give of ourselves not to secure our lives but to live our lives in fullness. And, in doing so, we discover more life in our lives.

Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.

If you’re not a mythology nerd, you may not have picked up on Rilke’s reference to Daphne and the laurel…

And Daphne, becoming
a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.

In Greek mythology, Daphne was a stunningly beautiful nymph who lived and hunted in the woods. Because of her beauty men constantly sought her favors, but she refused everyone. Then the god Apollo fell in love with her, but she refused him as well. Daphne fled from Apollo, who continued to pursue her. When Apollo was about to grasp Daphne, she called upon her father’s magical power, and she was instantly transformed into a laurel tree. The god Apollo, still in love with Daphne, but unable to embrace her, plucked a branch of the laurel and wore it as a wreath upon his head.

By evoking Daphne, Rilke is calling up this rich myth of beauty, and the inability to posses it. Yet that beauty, in transforming itself into something that can no longer be truly held or lusted after, takes on a new life all its own, a life that yet dances, one with the wind.

Rilke seems to be inviting us to encounter life with full presence and, with the courage of a witness rather than one who grasps, to appreciate beauty both in the coming and goings of life.

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

3 responses so far

Nov 22 2013


Balance must be discovered
each day.

No responses yet

Nov 20 2013

Mansur al-Hallaj – You glide between the heart and its casing

Published by under Poetry

You glide between the heart and its casing
by Mansur al- Hallaj

English version by Bernard Lewis

You glide between the heart and its casing as tears glide from the eyelid.
You dwell in my inwardness, in the depths of my heart, as souls dwell in bodies.
Nothing passes from rest to motion unless you move it in hidden ways,
O new moon.

— from Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems, Translated by Bernard Lewis

/ Photo by Joy Krauthammer /

You glide between the heart and its casing as tears glide from the eyelid.

Isn’t that a wonderful opening line?

This is a poem about hidden movement, natural, free-flowing. And it is a poem about rest too. And the heart.

You dwell in my inwardness, in the depths of my heart, as souls dwell in bodies.

In states of deep spiritual communion, when the agitations of the mind are at rest and the attention is not seeking outward distractions, awareness naturally settles into the heart. And encounter takes place there– an immense sense of Being and expansive Love is seated there, in quiet majesty.

Nothing passes from rest to motion unless you move it in hidden ways

This poem beautifully evokes the sense of how, in the sacred state, movement ceases for the individual, though there is not inactivity. All action — inner and outer — becomes only an appearance of self-governed movement, when, in reality, it is found to be the natural flowing of the Divine through us. The individual identity only pretends to be directing the movement but, like a gull resting on the ocean waves, it is simply carried along by the moon’s tug upon the tide.

Just as we have the rhythm of the heart, so too do we have the flow of the breath until we discover the resting point between the in-breath and the out-breath. When the shuttle on the loom has made its full circuit and pauses just long enough to glimpse the pattern… before it moves again to continue weaving the fabric.

Mansur al- Hallaj

Iran/Persia (9th Century) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Continue Reading »

3 responses so far

Nov 20 2013

forgiveness & freedom

The path of forgiveness
is the path of freedom.

Forgiveness is a rebellion
against the ego’s self-importance.

No responses yet

Nov 18 2013

Lalla – Intense cold makes water ice

Published by under Poetry

Intense cold makes water ice
by Lalla

English version by Coleman Barks

Intense cold makes water ice.
Then the hard ice turns to slush
and back to water, so there are three
forms of consciousness: the individual,
the world, and God, which in the sun
of True Awareness melt to one flowing:

Lalla is that.

In meditation, I entered the love furnace,
burned impurities away, and as the sun
of a new knowing rose, I realized
that the words “Lalla” and “God”
point to this peacefulness.

— from Naked Song, by Lalla / Translated by Coleman Barks

/ Photo by net_efekt /

I spent most of my growing up years in Los Angeles — endless city, and no winters. I remember the one time as a child when the temperature dropped down to 30 degrees, and I implored the weather gods for snow. But it was not to be. It was Southern California, after all. A little more bundled than usual, I still had to go to school.

So when I moved to Colorado as an adult, you can imagine my sense of wonder at the snow each winter. In fact, I lived in places up in the mountains where the snow would build up until it literally covered part of the ground floor windows. One more reminder for me that, no matter how much we humans construct our own environments, we are still residents within the world of nature, and that natural world is immense, stunningly beautiful, and ignored at our own peril…

Intense cold makes water ice.
Then the hard ice turns to slush
and back to water…

Lalla is giving us a simple spiritual metaphor, but although the intellect can quickly comprehend what she is saying, it’s important not to rush past it. Sit with the metaphor for a bit, let the imagery and meaning ferment quietly in your mind.

Water becomes solid ice when it is cold enough. It becomes almost rock-like: impenetrable, graspable, tangible… an unavoidable ‘thing.’ With a little bit of warmth, it starts to melt and becomes a slushy mixture of states, in some ways still seemingly solid, yet a hand can pass through it. When it has fully yielded to the warmth, it is liquid again, fluid, ungraspable, less a ‘thing’ and more of a filling of space.

Even so, all are the same substance: water. There has been no essential change other than the form perceived by the witness; it is a continuum that only appears different.

…so there are three
forms of consciousness: the individual,
the world, and God, which in the sun
of True Awareness melt to one flowing

And Lalla is reminding us that the individual and God are the same, separate only in apparent form, but in essence it is all one continuum of consciousness. The individual, the world, and God, when seen clearly in the warming sunlight of True Awareness are seen to “melt to one flowing.”

Lalla is that.

Her insight: In that instant of true seeing, we cease to identify ourselves as the individual or ego, and instead recognize ourselves as “that” — the flowing that moves through the entire spectrum of existence.

I realized
that the words “Lalla” and “God”
point to this peacefulness.

Reread those last lines, but insert your own name for Lalla’s.

Have a beautiful day!

Lalla, Lalla poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Lalla

Kashmir (India/Pakistan) (14th Century) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shaivite (Shiva)

Continue Reading »

5 responses so far

Nov 18 2013

trysting place

Approach the trysting place

If you come any other way,
what’s the point?

No responses yet

Nov 15 2013

Hakim Sanai – The way to You

Published by under Poetry

The way to You
by Hakim Sanai

English version by Priya Hemenway

The way to You
lies clearly in my heart
and cannot be seen or known to the mind.
As my words turn to silence,
Your sweetness surrounds me.

— from The Book of Everything: Journey of the Heart’s Desire, by Hakim Sanai Al-Ghaznavi / Translated by Priya Hemenway

/ Photo by Lel4nd /

This poem poem by the great Sanai — short and oh so sweet. I won’t disturb its silence with a lot of my own words, except to thank everyone for the many warm-hearted comments and emails.


PS- Sending many blessings to the people of the Philippines. You’ve been very much in my thoughts this past week.

Hakim Sanai

Afghanistan (1044? – 1150?) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Continue Reading »

One response so far

Nov 15 2013

don’t externalize

Don’t externalize your power.
Don’t externalize your delight.
Don’t externalize your purpose.

No responses yet

Nov 13 2013

My Introduction to Sacred Poetry

Ivan M. Granger

I am often asked how I came to the world of sacred poetry. What set me on this path? Was there a particular poet who opened the doorway or a line that hooked me? What was my inspiration for starting the Poetry Chaikhana?

My father, Steven Granger, was a poet, so I heard poetry from a young age. Like many young people, I wrote a bit of poetry as I grew up, but I didn’t take it too seriously. Most of the poetry I was exposed to was, well, boring to me. I thought of poetry as belonging my father’s world. To me it was mostly an intellectual game of words.

In the year 2000, I moved with my wife Michele to Maui. A friend from the mainland sent me a series of talks by the poet David Whyte on cassette tapes. I went for long drives along Maui’s country roads, through the tall sugar cane fields, among the rows of spiky pineapple plants, listening to David Whyte’s molasses accent, as he told stories and recited poetry by poets I hadn’t heard of before: Antonio Machado, Anna Akhmatova.

Maui’s natural beauty and quiet rhythms of land and sea and sky inspired me to go deeper into my spiritual practices. I was meditating deeply, praying, fasting, going for long walks in the eucalyptus forests that grew along the slopes of Haleakala Volcano. It was idyllic, yet I was going through a personal crisis.

/ Photo by alierturk /

I had just broken with a spiritual group I had been practicing with for nearly ten years. So, while I was engaged in intensive spiritual practice, it had lost its context. Should I still be following the same form of prayer, the same focus in meditation? I was flailing about.

Christmas came, and the sense of crisis deepened. The holidays just seemed to emphasize my disorientation. I was in my early 30s by that point and had no career to speak of. I was just doing work to get by. I was largely cut off from friends and family, cut off even from the American mainland. My one driving goal was spiritual growth. That was my only identity. And it was in disarray.

I came to a profound personal confrontation. For the first time I really saw myself. And that was a terrifying thing. I dropped all pretense and projection, all the fantasies of who I thought I was or who I might become. I just looked at myself plainly, as I was. What I saw wasn’t terribly impressive. I felt I was a mostly good-hearted person, but largely ineffectual. I had the ironic recognition that I was basically a likable flake. What truly surprised me, though, was the thought that followed, which was that it was okay.

New Years came and went, while I hovered in that limbo state.

The combination began to ferment in my mind – the poetry and the personal crisis. Continue Reading »

40 responses so far

Nov 11 2013

Basava – Where they feed the fire

Published by under Poetry

Where they feed the fire
by Basava

English version by A. K. Ramanujan

In a brahmin house
where they feed the fire
as a god

when the fire goes wild
and burns the house

they splash on it
the water of the gutter
and the dust of the street,

beat their breasts
and call the crowd.

These men then forget their worship
and scold their fire,
O lord of the meeting rivers!

— from Speaking of Siva, by A K Ramanujan

/ Photo by /

I hope it is obvious that this poem is meant to make us laugh at an absurd turnabout. We have a proper brahmin house with a fire altar, and they are feeding that fire as a god. But the moment that god steps out of bounds and starts to burn things up, the worshippers are terrified and try to extinguish that god with gutter water.

Of course, there is a lot being said in this poem…

On the surface, the poem pokes fun at what the Virasaiva sect considered the idolatry of worshipping fire “as a god,” particularly doing so only when the fire stays within comfortable bounds. Yet “when the fire goes wild,” then the fire is instead treated like a dangerous, insentient force that must be suppressed. Suddenly the worshipper has set himself above his god!

On a deeper level, the fire here is the divine fire of bliss. Basavanna is chiding those who worship the sacred reality and mystical truth, but only so long as it is nice and neat and socially acceptable — intellectualized and not actually experienced directly. When the fire of bliss “goes wild” and “burns the house,” filling the awareness with the fire of the one all-consuming reality, then these casual worshippers become terrified and try to suppress this sacred process, denigrating the mystics and saints who embody this fiery truth.

They splash on it
the water of the gutter
and the dust of the street

They try to cover this blazing reality with an overwhelm of emotion, sensory experience, and mundane perception. They “call the crowd” and attempt to return to the limited consensus reality shared by the mass of people. Still identified with the ego, they feel threatened by this bliss-fire and, instead of dancing amidst the flames, they “forget their worship” and “scold their fire.”

So Basavanna challenges us to ask ourselves honestly: Do we worship only what is comfortable, a god of our making and under our control, a safely caged notion of the Divine? Or do we truly worship and hold nothing back as we recognize the blissful, blazing Reality?

Basava, Basava poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Basava

India (1134 – 1196) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shaivite (Shiva)

Continue Reading »

3 responses so far

Nov 11 2013

moment of recognition

A miracle isn’t an event or an experience.
It is a moment of recognition:
We glimpse the wider reality,
and what we witness washes us away.

No responses yet

Nov 08 2013

Denise Levertov – Primary Wonder

Published by under Poetry

Primary Wonder
by Denise Levertov

Days pass when I forget the mystery.
Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions
jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber
along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing
their colored clothes; cap and bells.
And then
once more the quiet mystery
is present to me, the throng’s clamor
recedes: the mystery
that there is anything, anything at all,
let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything,
rather than void: and that, O Lord,
Creator, Hallowed One, You still,
hour by hour sustain it.

— from Denise Levertov: Selected Poems, by Denise Levertov

/ Photo by ryoung /

Days pass when I forget the mystery.
Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions…

We all wrestle with this, the demands of daily life, of work and family, all our plans and hopes and fears, the need to order everything every moment. In the midst of it all we struggle to remember that “quiet mystery.” Balancing a life in this world with that wide open wonder, it can feel like too much to achieve, at times. The demands of the day sometimes demand our all. Yet it is the wonder and the mystery that fills our our lives and gives them meaning.

When “problems” fill the day, then those problems are the day’s worship. The most mundane and seemingly meaningless effort, when approached with a sense of service and a questing heart, becomes an act of beauty. And when we finally come exhausted to a quiet moment, we are ready to fall silent before the mystery. Too tired to maintain our pretenses, we rest in awe.

And then
once more the quiet mystery
is present to me…

Denise Levertov, Denise Levertov poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Denise Levertov

US (1923 – 1997) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic : Beat

More poetry by Denise Levertov

3 responses so far

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