Jun 04 2014

Farid ud-Din Attar – A slave’s freedom

Published by under Poetry

A slave’s freedom
by Farid ud-Din Attar

English version by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis

Loghman of Sarrakhs cried: “Dear God, behold
Your faithful servant, poor, bewildered, old–
An old slave is permitted to go free;
I’ve spent my life in patient loyalty,
I’m bent with grief, my black hair’s turned to snow;
Grant manumission, Lord, and let me go.”
A voice replied: “When you have gained release
from mind and thought, your slavery will cease;
You will be free when these two disappear.”
He said: “Lord, it is You whom I revere;
What are the mind and all its ways to me?”
And left them there and then — in ecstasy
He danced and clapped his hands and boldly cried:
“Who am I now? The slave I was has died;
What’s freedom, servitude, and where are they?
Both happiness and grief have fled away;
I neither own nor lack all qualities;
My blindness looks on secret mysteries —
I know not whether You are I, I You;
I lose myself in You, there is no two.”

— from The Conference of the Birds, Translated by Afkham Darbandi / Translated by Dick Davis


/ Photo by Lucas Incas /

This paints a striking image, doesn’t it? An old man, a slave all his life, bent, worn, prays to God for his freedom.

My first question: Whom is the old man slave to? He is not begging some human master for freedom. He is asking God. So does that mean he is God’s slave? Perhaps. A lot of religious language — Muslim, Christian, Hindu — refers to the faithful as slaves or servants of God. But that imagery can also make us uncomfortable. It can conjure images of a cruel and arbitrary God. It does, however, convey the absolute dedication of the servant, a willingness to merge the personal will with the Divine.

Another way of look at the old man’s servitude is that he has been a slave to the world. Remember that “the world” is not reality, it is consensus reality, a false and limited idea of reality. The world is reality hidden by the heavy blanket of our mental projections. At best, the world gives us only a rough idea of the contours of reality in its fulness… that is, until we stop perceiving through the imperfect filter of the mind under the control of the nafs (the ego).

He [the slave] said: “Lord, it is You whom I revere;
What are the mind and all its ways to me?”

Having spent himself totally in the immense labor of his life, the old slave has little reason left to cling to the false images of the mind. So he lets that old habit fall away and “in ecstasy / He danced and clapped his hands…” This one act of exhausted courage is all he needs for liberation.

Attachment to the mind and its ways is the fundamental attachment. Every other attachment, every desire and hatred, every habit, every disharmonious pattern stems from that fundamental attachment. True renunciation does not necessarily require monk’s robes or retreating to a mountain cave. It only requires dropping that fundamental attachment to mind, freeing the full awareness from mind’s filters and stickiness. Whether we are a solitary desert dervish or a career person with a large family, that’s the one act of renunciation we all must accomplish to find our freedom.

Notice also that freedom was always available to the slave. He could have had his freedom at any time, at any point in his long life. But the reality is that we often don’t find the courage, or even think to ask the questions that lead us there, until we’ve worn ourselves out in the endless efforts of slavery. This is why I sometimes say that the purpose of spiritual practice is to wear yourself out. We need to come to a point when we grow weary of our own patterns and compulsive ways of seeing ourselves that we finally, wearily give ourselves permission to take that single step beyond the mind’s clutches. The rigors of life alone will do that just fine, but it can be a slow, grinding process and we have to walk our path with open awareness and open heart, which is not easy amidst the onslaught of daily challenges. Spiritual practices allow us to internalize that intensity while imbuing it with a purpose that encourages us to keep heart and awareness open.

But all that’s really needed is that one step.

Then, free from that chained sense of reality, all sense of effort falls away. Even the sense of self falls away. All that remains is the blissful sense of melting with divine reality.

“Who am I now? The slave I was has died;
What’s freedom, servitude, and where are they?
Both happiness and grief have fled away;
I neither own nor lack all qualities;
My blindness looks on secret mysteries —
I know not whether You are I, I You;
I lose myself in You, there is no two.”

Farid ud-Din Attar, Farid ud-Din Attar poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Farid ud-Din Attar

Iran/Persia (1120? – 1220?) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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4 responses so far

Jun 04 2014

renounce

Renounce the past.
Renounce the future.

Rediscover them in the present.

No responses yet

May 30 2014

Maya Angelou – Phenomenal Woman

Published by under Poetry

Phenomenal Woman
by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

— from Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems Celebrating Women, by Maya Angelou


/ Photo by KealaKC /

Many of you have probably heard by now of the passing of the great American poet and activist Maya Angelou, so I thought we’d have a poem today in honor of that phenomenal woman.

Of course we have to read this poem aloud in order to enjoy the song in the rhyme and rhythm — go ahead, make some noise. Catch its sassy swaying proclamation of selfhood.

Woman, not some idealized form found in glossy magazine. Woman, not defined by a man as lover, wife, mother. Woman, not the virgin stripped of sex, and not the whore plastered with it. But woman, full and strong and bold. Praise to that mighty presence! Phenomenal woman.

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

US (1928 – 2014) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Maya Angelou

7 responses so far

May 30 2014

discipline and love

Holiness is born of love,
not discipline.

Discipline only increases
your capacity to love.

No responses yet

May 29 2014

Video: David Whyte TED Talk

Published by under Poetry,Videos

David Whyte: “Alertness is the discipline of familiarity.”

One response so far

May 21 2014

Kobayashi Issa – even poorly planted

Published by under Poetry

even poorly planted
by Kobayashi Issa

English version by David G. Lanoue

even poorly planted
rice plants
slowly, slowly…green!

– from the website http://haikuguy.com/issa/


/ Photo by Deboarah Austin /

Something so… healing about this haiku. Do you have the same reaction?

To me these words suggest that no matter how imperfect we imagine our circumstances — lack of education, finances, travel, guide, whatever we think might be missing that’s holding us back — still we inexorably grow green. Spirit awakens within us with utter disregard to the limiting details of our lives. And what is truly beautiful is watching the unique ways that greenness comes upon us. The story we get to share with the world is the specific way the spirit rises in us, the special path it finds around the obstacles that make up our specific lives, and how we are often strengthened by this navigation.

And while daily life itself may have its challenges and struggles, that greening process, well, it just happens. Slowly, patiently, naturally. All we have to do is let it.

Kobayashi Issa, Kobayashi Issa poetry, Buddhist poetry Kobayashi Issa

Japan (1763 – 1828) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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4 responses so far

May 21 2014

each step

Each step
is part of the journey.

No responses yet

May 19 2014

Dorothy Walters – After

Published by under Poetry

After
by Dorothy Walters

There is one thing certain.
Once you have stood
in the midst of that
searing flame,
been struck down
to earth
like a pilgrim
entered by light at last
and have lain there,
waiting,
not quite certain —

how can you ever know again
what it is
not to be blinded by the light,
never to have gone there
to the top of the snow hung peak
and felt that nameless something
descend onto your shoulders,
your breast,
even as you bent forward
in disbelief.

— from The Ley Lines of the Soul: Poems of Ecstasy and Ascension, by Dorothy Walters


/ Photo by Trekking Rinjani /

Hold onto your doubt, if it serves you. Keep questioning even in the moment of your most radical transformation.

Once you have stood
in the midst of that
searing flame,
been struck down
to earth
like a pilgrim
entered by light at last
and have lain there,
waiting,
not quite certain –

But don’t think your disbelief can trump the reality you now see and know.

how can you ever know again
what it is
not to be blinded by the light…

It may not fit our world view, it may not fit our religion, and we know all too well our foolish failings, yet still there is this flood of light eager to burst forth within us and overturn all our rock-solid understanding.

and felt that nameless something
descend onto your shoulders,
your breast,
even as you bent forward
in disbelief.

Dorothy Walters

US (1928 – )
Secular or Eclectic

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No responses yet

May 19 2014

myth

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

No responses yet

May 16 2014

Yunus Emre – True speech is the fruit of not speaking

Published by under Poetry

True speech is the fruit of not speaking
by Yunus Emre

English version by Kabir Helminski & Refik Algan

True speech is the fruit of not speaking.
Too much talking clouds the heart.

If you want to clear the heart,
say this much, the essence of all talking:

Speak truly. God speaks through words truly spoken.
Falsity ends in pain.

Unless you witness all of creation in a single glance,
you’re in sin even with all your religion.

The explanation of the Law is this:
The Law is a ship. Truth is her ocean.

No matter how strong the wood,
the sea can smash the ship.

The secret is this:
A “saint” of religion may in reality be an unbeliever.

We will master this science and read this book of love.
God instructs. Love is His school.

Since the glance of the saints fell on poor Yunus
nothing has been a misfortune.

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


/ Photo by Professor Zeeshan Shah /

Yunus Emre is always such a delight to me! This poem, for example, isn’t it wonderful? It’s difficult not to break into a smile reading it… even when some words sting.

With this song, Yunus Emre gives us a sharply teasing reminder that even if we follow all of the rules of our religious tradition, that’s not the same thing as achieving saintliness or holiness.

The secret is this:
A “saint” of religion may in reality be an unbeliever.

This is something fundamentalists of every religion keep stumbling over: Following your religion’s ritual, rules, and way of life can be a profound pathway, an enriching and challenging spiritual practice; but it is not the goal in itself. The living ocean of truth is the goal.

The explanation of the Law is this:
The Law is a ship. Truth is her ocean.

No matter how strong the wood,
the sea can smash the ship.

The goal must never be lost in the minutia of the rules. A true believer is someone who merges fully with that divine ocean, however that soul manages to reach the water. Even someone who perfectly lives the life of a “saint”, if that person isn’t drenched and blissfully drowning, that person is still an unbeliever…

Mystics have the irritating habit of cutting through religious pretense while restoring its heart:

Unless you witness all of creation in a single glance,
you’re in sin even with all your religion.

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

Turkey (1238 – 1320) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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4 responses so far

May 16 2014

contact

Every person: God.
Every animal, every plant: God.
Everything: God, God!
The slightest contact is worship.

No responses yet

May 09 2014

Nazrul Islam – He who has seen my Mother

Published by under Poetry

He who has seen my Mother
by Nazrul Islam

English version by Rachel Fell McDermott

He who has seen my Mother
can he hate his brother?
She loves everyone in the three worlds;
her heart cries for all.
With her there’s no difference of caste,
no distinction between high and low;
all are the same.
If she sees a Candala
like Rama with Guhak
she clasps him to her breast.
Ma is our Great Illusion, highest Nature, and
Father our highest Self;
      that’s why one feels love for all
      we feel love for all.
If you worship the Mother
hating her children
she won’t accept your puja;
the Ten-Armed One will not.
The day we forget the knowledge of difference
            on that day only
            will Ma come home to us.

— from Singing to the Goddess: Poems to Kali and Uma from Bengal, Translated by Rachel Fell McDermott


/ Photo by thelearningcurv /

This Sunday is Mother’s Day in the US, Canada, and many other countries. My own mother died a few years ago, so her birthday, which was May 3rd, followed closely by Mother’s Day, has a particular resonance for me. I think about my mother, who she was, what she meant to me, but I also notice a softening of the once hard edges of my memory of her. The mother I remember is a specific woman with whom I share life history, but my memory of her expands, becomes more universal. In her I sometimes see the woman who was my mother, and sometimes I find myself relating to an archetypal idea of Mother.

So I thought this poem addressed to the Great Mother by Nazrul Islam might be a good one to contemplate today…

The Great Mother is my mother, yet the mother of all. She is the mother of the people, the mother of the world, the bringer into being of all that is. Through the one universal Mother, we are all brothers and sisters.

He who has seen my Mother
can he hate his brother?

All faiths recognize a universal brotherhood of humanity, but too often it feels like a vague philosophical concept or merely a pleasant statement. But when we bring an image of the Divine Feminine into our sense of sacred reality, whether as one of the other great Hindu goddesses, Mother Mary, Sophia, one of the pre-Christian goddesses of Europe, even a revered female saint, the universal family of life becomes a more tangible, felt reality to us. That touch of the Mother frees our philosophies from the head and brings them into the heart and into the belly, and we experience the interconnectedness of things in a more visceral, immediate way. Brotherhood ceases to be a nice idea and becomes the simple and obvious reality.

In the Mother/Father dichotomy, the Divine Father is often seen as the embodiment of the pure essence of being, while the Divine Mother is the power of creation… and her will to create comes from Love. So she is also Love. Every being is her child whom she loves.

She loves everyone in the three worlds;
her heart cries for all.

And she loves all her children equally.

With her there’s no difference of caste,
no distinction between high and low;
all are the same.

And they don’t often mention this in greeting cards, but Mother’s Day was started as a peace movement. The idea behind it was that, if we remember and honor our own mothers, we will remember that every person has a mother who loved them, which turns war into a terrible farce. Mother’s day is a day of family love and world peace.

How can we say we worship the Most Loving One yet harbor hate in our hearts? Can we divide ourselves from our brothers and sisters and still think ourselves worthy of the Universal Mother?

If you worship the Mother
hating her children
she won’t accept your puja [worship]

I should point out that this poem may have been written with an important, but somewhat less elevated intention behind it. Nazrul Islam, as his name implies, was Muslim, yet some of his poetry is addressed to Kali, the Mother Goddess of Bengali Hindus — though he often refers to her more generically as Mother or Ma. Nazrul Islam composed his poetry during the time of British control of India and, in Bengal, the Mother Goddess came to be viewed as a personification of Mother India and the determination to be free of foreign domination. So, rather than a poem of universal brotherhood, this might be read as a poem to awaken national unity between the Indian Muslims and Hindus while striving to free themselves from the British imperial yoke.

That perspective transforms the final lines–

The day we forget the knowledge of difference
            on that day only
            will Ma come home to us.

–into the practical insight that only when they work together will they succeed in re-establishing an independent Indian nation.

The Mother, it seems, is both a peace activist and an independence fighter. In the immensity of her being, the Mother integrates and embodies both.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Nazrul Islam, Nazrul Islam poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Nazrul Islam

India/Bangladesh (1899 – 1976) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi
Yoga / Hindu : Shakta (Goddess-oriented)

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3 responses so far

May 09 2014

some days

Some days it’s best
to do nothing
but ring like a tapped bell.

No responses yet

May 05 2014

14 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Me

First dawn. Even the
birds in the tallest pines are
surprised by the sun.
~ Ivan M. Granger



I woke up this morning, and thought, Why not do something different to start the week off? Some miscellaneous things for you today…

14 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Me

Here are several things about me that may not be very important, but some of you might find interesting —

1. I was born with a caul over my face and torticollis (neck atrophy). My parents were advised by doctors to surgically sever the muscles of my neck. They refused, thankfully. Thanks to my parents’ instincts, I have full mobility in my neck today.

2. I was named after Ivan Karamazov, from Dostoyevski’s Brothers Karmazov. I finally read the book when I was 18. I asked my mother why she named me after that particular brother. She said she always imagined him to be an interesting, deep-thinking intellectual. I said, yes, but you know he goes crazy, right? I mean, I could have been named after the good-hearted, naive mystic, instead.

3. I was once under suspicion for murder. (Why are you looking at me that way? No, I didn’t do it.) The crime took place in a state I’ve never visited. But the suspect did look a lot like me. I spent a very long 30 minutes being grilled by detectives before they released me.

4. When I was in high school, I wrote a short horror story and sent it to Stephen King. He sent back a typed index card saying that he liked the story and made a few friendly suggestions. I also wrote a science fiction novel when I was in my 20s. Never got it published. It’s sitting in the back of one of my closets, somewhere.

5. I got very skinny in my 30s, under 130 lbs (for a someone who stands 5′ 11″ tall). Several years ago I decided to radically alter my energies and I intentionally put on weight in order to be more physically present in the world. I had to train myself to eat more. I even lifted weights. In the space of 8 months, I added nearly 50 lbs to my body.

6. I am the son of hippie parents, yet I have never smoked pot… or drunk alcohol. Not once. (OK, I have had a sip of red wine and I think champagne, and maybe two other drinks — I wanted to know what they tasted like.) It’s not a weird religious thing, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with those things in moderation. For some reason that I don’t understand myself, I made a personal vow not to drink at age 13, and I’ve always stuck with it. On my 21st birthday, I did go to a bar, but mainly because I wanted to finally hear some good live music. A friend met me there and surprised me with a pitcher of beer. I spent all night pretending to drink the beer, but that glass of beer oddly never went down in level. The music was great, though.

7. I went to three universities in three years and graduated from none of them. In my freshman year, I was wait-listed for USC’s school of film. I thought of becoming a movie director, the next Kubrick.

8. I wanted to be Spider-Man as a child.

9. My father lived in Tehran, Iran in the 70s. He was a university professor there, and he left just before the Islamic Revolution kicked into full gear.

10. The only country outside the US I have visited (so far) is Canada. I have not yet been to Europe or India or South America. In all my teenage years in LA, I never crossed the border into Mexico. I have, however, lived in Oregon, California, Hawaii, Washington, and now Colorado. I’ve primarily been an internal traveler. We’ll see if I someday have the opportunity for international travel.

11. I attended a Montessori school as a young child.

12. My wife, Michele, and I lived a few houses away from each other as children in Eugene, Oregon — though we didn’t meet until I was in my 20s. Her family moved out a few months before mine moved in. When we met and started dating as adults, we discovered we have shared childhood memories of all the same places.

13. I can name most of the obscure border crossings throughout Europe. I worked for Rail Europe (in the US) for several years. I eventually moved to the Russian desk; since I could read and write a bit of Russian, part of my job was to fax ticket requests to Moscow.

14. The Greek side of my family can be traced to the island of Chios, near the coast of Turkey. Apparently, I still have distant cousins living on the island.

==

Some further thoughts on education…

My comments on knowledge and education accompanying Friday’s poem made a few people uncomfortable. To some it sounded as if I was negating the value of education and academic learning, which I really wasn’t trying to do.

I used strong language to make a point about our cultural assumptions. But I should be clear that I am by no means anti-intellectual or blind to the huge value of a good education. In my day job I work as a computer programmer and database designer. I definitely acknowledge the power of a well-exercised intellect that has the ability to think logically and can utilize information effectively. None of that would be possible without a solid education, a few special teachers along the way, and access to good information resources.

When I have a few extra dollars, I tend to buy books. I have shelves filled with books of poetry, history, novels, natural health, and, of course, religion and spirituality.

But– that is still not knowledge in the deep sense.

My real point is that education, books, and the skills of critical thinking can open a life up in profound ways: intellectually, yes, spiritually, professionally, socially, in so many ways. I think it’s hugely important and sometimes undervalued in general American culture and in government priorities. At the same time, we idolize this form of cognition and forget that, for all of its potential, it has significant limitations which causes blind spots within both the individual and in society. Real knowledge, full knowledge, comes from a deeper place within the awareness.

Having a good education with a keen intellect is like having the most powerful computer in the office. You can do amazing things with it. Creative things. Productive things. Or pointless things. Or even destructive things. It all depends on the operator. There are lots of reasons to acquire a capable computer, but we tend to forget that much more important is real knowledge of how — and why — to use it at all.

I strongly support education, intellect, and critical thinking, just not becoming lost within them. I value the intellect but, personally, I tend to value wisdom more and the knowing heart most of all. The question is not which to choose and which to reject, but how to develop them all in proportion and balance.

==

Fund Drive

Once more, thank you so much for the many generous donations sent in support of the Poetry Chaikhana. I’ll have a few more names to thank in upcoming emails.

To everyone who has sent a donation so far, your help makes a huge difference!

Ivan



Image by gregster09

The warbler knows
only dawn’s shaft
of light
on her breast.

Forgetting false future
suns, she sings

in no voice
but her own.

~ Ivan M. Granger

16 responses so far

May 02 2014

Ryokan – Even if you consume as many books

Published by under Poetry

Even if you consume as many books
by Ryokan

English version by John Stevens

Even if you consume as many books
As the sands of the Ganges
It is not as good as really catching
One verse of Zen.
If you want the secret of Buddhism,
Here it is: Everything is in the Heart!

— from Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf: Zen Poems of Ryokan, Translated by John Stevens


/ Photo by guillermocarballa /

I was an academic sort of kid. As I entered high school I was part of a college-oriented program that attracted some truly brilliant students. And in my own oddball social circle, we were early 80s computer nerds. Since we were not athletes or at the top of the adolescent social pecking order, we had to find our own outcast sense of pride, our own currency of superiority — and ours was knowledge. Our conversations were stuffed with (often unnecessary) information about anything and everything, from scientific advances to computer programming shortcuts to pop culture trivia.

We thought of it as knowledge but, you know, it wasn’t. It was just data. Valuable, perhaps, in the right context, but it was not actual knowledge.

This is a particularly difficult thing for headblind modern society to really understand: Accumulated information is not the same thing as knowledge. By the time I left high school, I came to this unsettling conclusion. I had witnessed the brilliant and the information-saturated among my peers, and I felt that something crucial was still missing. I didn’t want to acquire information, I wanted to know.

That’s a serious dilemma to be wrestling with as you begin your university years. My grades plummeted as I questioned the very nature of learning and academic institutions in general. I dropped out of college — twice. In many ways, that’s when my real education began.

Even if you consume as many books
As the sands of the Ganges
It is not as good as really catching
One verse of Zen.

Especially in the spiritual realm, if we don’t understand this tension between information and knowledge, we run into serious problems with terrible repercussions for religion and culture. When we confuse knowledge of scripture with divine truth, we imagine that the letter of the law is the same as the spirit of the law. When the letter of the law is all we acknowledge, it becomes brittle, fragile, threatened by every social change and new perspective. Its greatest threat becomes the spirit of the law itself, for that stays active in the changing world, while the letter stays rigidly fixed. We stop looking deeply, living deeply, afraid of seeing a disconnect between the information of the written “truth,” and our knowledge of the living truth. This happens in the sciences as well as in religion.

Here’s a way of understanding that helps me to personally keep perspective: Any information that can be written in a book, stored in a computer, or committed to memory may be a hugely valuable tool — spiritual or practical — but it is only a tool, not real knowledge. It only gains its meaning through use. The meaning comes from what we create in the world and in ourselves with that information. The real value in every action and thought is discovered as it leads us back to the center of centers, for only there is true knowledge found.

If you want the secret of Buddhism,
Here it is: Everything is in the Heart!

Ryokan, Ryokan poetry, Buddhist poetry Ryokan

Japan (1758 – 1831) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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4 responses so far

May 02 2014

permission

We spend most of our lives striving so hard
to earn our own permission to be at rest
where we are
— when we could have done it all along.

No responses yet

Apr 30 2014

Andrew Colliver – The Further You Go

Published by under Poetry

The Further You Go
by Andrew Colliver

Mercy, there have been revelations.
Grace, there has been realisation. Still, you must
travel the path of time and circumstance.

The further you go, the more it comes back to paying attention.
The rough skin of the tallowwood, the trade routes of lorikeets, a sky lifting
behind afternoon clouds. Staying close to the texture of things.

People can go before you and talk all they want,
but only one thing makes sense: the way the world enters
and finds its voice in you: the place you are free.


/ Photo by Bunnis /

Mercy, there have been revelations.
Grace, there has been realisation. Still, you must
travel the path of time and circumstance.

Those opening lines say something so important, that just isn’t said often enough: Even with that sweet touch of mercy and grace, “Still, you must travel the path of time and circumstance.”

After being enrapt by such full, spacious silence, we are disoriented by the recognition that rent is still due, dishes still wait to be done. I think we so romanticize states of opening that we imagine all work and responsibility will step aside for us. Yet the world goes on and, if we’re not living in a forest or a cave, we must still answer its demands.

So then we start asking ourselves just what this revelation or realization actually means.

The further you go, the more it comes back to paying attention.

This poem suggests to me that our opening becomes its own practice. We discover a new sense of self which encounters the world more fully, with more fully engaged awareness, allowing something big to express itself through us in our simple daily activities.

In the collapse of our fantasies of enlightenment, we discover the opportunity live an embodied enlightenment, instead. The result may not look much like enlightenment at all. No robes, no blissfully glassy gaze, no gathering of disciples, just an ordinary person leading an ordinary life. Except that that ordinary life starts to ring with a certain quiet resonance. It touches and transforms. It sees the secret glistening beneath the world’s hard surfaces. It speaks with a new and truer voice.

Love those final lines:

People can go before you and talk all they want,
but only one thing makes sense: the way the world enters
and finds its voice in you: the place you are free.

…The way the world enters and finds its voice in you.




Andrew Colliver

Australia (1953 – )
Secular or Eclectic

Andrew Colliver is a psychiatric social worker working in rural New South Wales in Australia.

His major influences in writing are Mary Oliver and David Whyte, “with a dash of Rumi’s exuberance.”

When asked about the transcendent themes within his poetry, he says, “Poetry has always been a part of my reading, with occasional forays into writing, but for my own eyes only. Then, in 2006, the experience — now happening to thousands across the globe — of consciousness awakening to itself within the human form, began to up-end my life, and also to seek expression in words. Poems suggest themselves from the more profound experiences of awakeness, and what I do is then sculpt and refine them into something that I hope is intelligible to others. Ideas and words come most frequently when I’m in nature, but any setting can be seen at any time for what it is: the expression of undivided consciousness.”

More poetry by Andrew Colliver

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