Jan 21 2015

Emily Dickinson – Some keep the Sabbath going to the Church

Published by under Poetry

Some keep the Sabbath going to the Church –
by Emily Dickinson

Some keep the Sabbath going to the Church –
I keep it, staying at Home –
With a Bobolink for a Chorister –
And an Orchard, for a Dome –

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice –
I just wear my Wings –
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton – sings.

God preaches, a noted Clergyman –
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last –
I’m going, all along.

— from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, Edited by Thomas H. Johnson

/ Image by doug88888 /

Here Emily Dickinson seems to suggest that true worship occurs at home — or within oneself — rather than in the public domain of church. She celebrates a worship that is simple, essential, direct.

For her, trees form the roof of her church (“an Orchard, for a Dome”). The living world near-at-hand is her place of worship. Local songbirds form her choir. It is in her solitary moments and her private communions with nearby nature that Dickinson encounters the sacred.

She finds within this interior world that God preaches to her directly — “a noted Clergyman” indeed!

I especially love the closing lines:

So instead of getting to Heaven, at last –
I’m going, all along.

The journey to heaven has become a part of her, it fills her entire world. It is not relegated to the future, after death or at some end time, but a continuous unfolding in the present.

Recommended Books: Emily Dickinson

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry American Triptych: Anne Bradstreet, Emily Dickinson, and Adrienne Rich
More Books >>

Emily Dickinson, Emily Dickinson poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Emily Dickinson

US (1830 – 1886) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic
Christian : Protestant

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Jan 21 2015

work and strength

Don’t resent the work.
It gives you the strength to stand
whole and silent
before the Mystery.

No responses yet

Jan 16 2015

Jiddu Krishnamurti – I have no name

Published by under Poetry

I have no name (from The Song of Life)
by Jiddu Krishnamurti

I have no name,
I am as the fresh breeze of the mountains.
I have no shelter;
I am as the wandering waters.
I have no sanctuary, like the dark gods;
Nor am I in the shadow of deep temples.
I have no sacred books;
Nor am I well-seasoned in tradition.
I am not in the incense
Mounting on the high altars,
Nor in the pomp of ceremonies.
I am neither in the graven image,
Nor in the rich chant of a melodious voice.
I am not bound by theories,
Nor corrupted by beliefs.
I am not held in the bondage of religions,
Nor in the pious agony of their priests.
I am not entrapped by philosophies,
Nor held in the power of their sects.
I am neither low nor high,
I am the worshipper and the worshipped.
I am free.
My song is the song of the river
Calling for the open seas,
Wandering, wandering,
I am Life.
I have no name,
I am as the fresh breeze of the mountains.

— from From Darkness to Light: Poems and Parables, by J. Krishnamurti

/ Image by blue-a /

I have no name…
I have no shelter…

Whoever this “I” is that is speaking, is formless, fluid, impossible to define.

I am as the fresh breeze of the mountains…
I am as the wandering waters…

Very quickly Krishnamurti contrasts this “I” against the trappings of religion:

I have no sacred books…
I am not in the incense
Mounting on the high altars…

It seems obvious that the speaker is God or, perhaps, one’s own true Being. Krishnamurti is reminding us God in the truest sense is the living, flowing, unbound Reality that underpins all existence. When the deep mystic has a direct experience of the Divine, religion, in its superficial aspects, crumbles. The reality of God is far too immense to be contained in our ideas of God. Our ceremonies and writings about God at best can point us in the right direction, but they cannot contain or absolutely define the Reality they describe any more than a printed map of a country can actually contain the living reality of that nation.

Does that sound impious? Well, let’s be bold and explore a few steps further…

I am not bound by theories,
Nor corrupted by beliefs.
I am not held in the bondage of religions,
Nor in the pious agony of their priests.
I am not entrapped by philosophies…

I don’t read this as a condemnation of religion or belief; rather, it is telling us something about the greater Reality.

I understand it this way: A great soul comes along, someone with keen eyes and a pure heart. Through this individual the human consciousness has opened itself to Great Reality that we may call God. Compassionate, and a member of the human community, he or she naturally seeks to communicate what has been witnessed in ways that may be understood that the experience of truth may spread.

But there is an unavoidable dilemma here: Even the most honest, heartful, and pure description of reality falls short of the actual experience, always. To make it even more problematic, we humans have a very bad habit of confusing our descriptions of reality for the reality itself. We confuse our thoughts about reality for actuality. We confuse other people’s descriptions of reality for reality. Far too easily, we mistake religion for God. In its best expressions, religion may be profound, deeply meaningful, inspiring, and, hopefully, enlightening — but what we call God is a fluid, living Reality that is much too big to be contained by any one religion or philosophy, or even all of them together.

There’s another element to this dynamic that I think is worth mentioning as it relates to religious extremism. Those of us who believe that sincere religion and spirituality must incorporate an open mind, a compassionate heart, and a willingness to be of service in the world, we naturally see religious extremism in all its forms as a terrible corruption. I certainly have my moments when I am deeply offended by the cruelties and foolish beliefs of people who call themselves religious. So many people thump their Bible/Quran/Torah/Gita and shout “God!” yet, clearly, they have only a thin and strangled relationship with the great living Reality that is God. But here’s the thing: No matter how tortured and twisted their ideas about God may be, the basic nature of God remains untainted. We can only corrupt our ideas about God, not the reality that is God. Human ideas about God may blossom or collapse within culture, but even when large portions of the population succumb to very limited and cold ideas about God, the living, shining Reality remains, ready to be discovered anew — and communicated anew — by sincere souls.

I am Life.
I have no name,
I am as the fresh breeze of the mountains.

Have a beautiful day!

Recommended Books: Jiddu Krishnamurti

From Darkness to Light: Poems and Parables

Jiddu Krishnamurti, Jiddu Krishnamurti poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Jiddu Krishnamurti

India/US (1895 – 1986) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Advaita / Non-Dualist

More poetry by Jiddu Krishnamurti

3 responses so far

Jan 16 2015


Spiritual awakening
is the fundamental political act.
Awareness spreads outward
into the world.

No responses yet

Jan 14 2015

Yamei – Swallowing the open field

Published by under Poetry

by Yamei

English version by Ivan M. Granger

the open field —
pheasant’s cry

— from The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology), Edited by Ivan M. Granger

/ Image by TheLizardQueen /

I’ll say it now, this poem by Yamei is one of my favorite examples of haiku.

I lived for several years in Hawaii, on the island of Maui. It’s a largely rural island, and I lived “upcountry” where you’ll find lots of hilly fields and cow pastures. I’d drive my car through the winding country roads of Maui, and every once in a while I’d catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye of a burst of color — a pheasant startled from its hiding place. It’s ascent was always full of effort, churning earthen wings pushing its sunburst bright head aloft. But then, landing a few yards away, its dignity restored, breast out, watchful eye upon the yellowing sea of grass, the pheasant left no doubt as to who ruled that quiet field. One shrill cry confirmed it.

This haiku reminds me of those island moments.

And something about the way Yamei describes the cry as “swallowing” the field. You can almost hear the sharp sound hanging over the field’s dewy silence, defining the space. It is a wild cry, an assertion of self, an assertion of being and improbable lordship, Whitman’s “barbaric yawp.” It’s as if the pheasant’s cry casts out a net that draws in its whole world, making it his, making it a part of himself. That call creates union.

That pheasant’s call, it wants to burst from your breast too. Let it loose. See what it draws into you.

Recommended Books: Yamei

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Zen in English Literature and Oriental Classics


Japan (1662? – 1713) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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Jan 14 2015


Finding that light, we discover
that we too shine
like the stars within the deep mystery.

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Jan 09 2015

Juan Ramon Jimenez – Oceans

Published by under Poetry

by Juan Ramon Jimenez

English version by Robert Bly

      I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
                        And nothing
happens! Nothing…Silence…Waves…

      –Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?

— from News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness, Edited by Robert Bly

/ Image by inottawa /

I was introduced to this poem several years ago, and its words are still with me.

The poem is haunting, isn’t it? It speaks to us of depths and a hidden “great thing.”

This is the encounter with the great Mystery. And the truth is that every moment we stand at that threshold. At the beginning of the New Year, more than at any other time of year, we are aware of the threshold of time. The past is laid out behind us, and the future stretches out before us, and here we each stand, eager yet hesitant to take the next step. For here, in this fragile forward tilting moment is an invitation into new territory full of surprising possibilities, beauty, and danger too. Who knows what the next moment truly holds? Every step is a step into mystery. We are everywhere surrounded by depths of being, eager to swallow up our surface perception of reality.

It’s terrifying! And exhilarating. And that is the state of being alive. Certainty and comfort have no part in this equation. Our thoughts about thoughts are a thin sort of armor.

The most momentous encounter with mystery is mute. Silent. As if nothing happens. Or…

Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?

Recommended Books: Juan Ramon Jimenez

The Winged Energy of Delight News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness The Soul is Here for its Own Joy: Sacred Poems from Many Cultures Invisible Reality Time and Space: A Poetic Autobiography
More Books >>

Juan Ramon Jimenez, Juan Ramon Jimenez poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Juan Ramon Jimenez

Spain (1881 – 1958) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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Jan 08 2015

claim them

When you pray,
don’t ask for enlightenment or wisdom or divine love.
Claim them!
They are yours by right!

One response so far

Jan 08 2015

Interview on Nonduality Talk Radio

I recently spoke with Jerry Katz of Nonduality Talk Radio about sacred poetry, The Longing in Between, and the relationship between poetry, language, and nondual awareness. I read a few poems, of course, and share my thoughts on the alchemical nature of sacred poetry, and also explain my personal approach as to why I comment on sacred poetry in the unusual ways that I do. The interview officially aired on January 7.

You can listen to the full one hour interview online at:


00:00 – 5:10 Introduction. Purpose and nature of Poetry Chaikhana. Ivan’s perspective on sacred poetry as personal, conversational, and mystically inclined.

5:10 – 7:56 Ivan’s view of sacred poetry as alchemical more than intellectual.

7:56 – 16:52 What is sacred poetry? Ivan reads a poem and comments.

16:52 – 20:28 Coleman Barks discussed. Ivan’s desire to introduce the public to great sacred poetry besides the few that are well known such as those by Rumi. How Ivan started the Poetry Chaikhana project.

20:28 – 24:58 Ivan talks about his own poetry and writing journey, especially the nature of metaphors in sacred poetry.

24:58 – 30:24 Ivan reads and discusses a haiku.

30:24 – 38:03 Poet Gabriel Rosenstock discussed and his haiku read and discussed. The centrality of longing within the spiritual journey.

38:03 – 44:45 Poets Dorothy Walters and Elizabeth Reninger discussed. Ivan reads one of Elizabeth’s poems, Bird Bath.

44:45 – 45:40 Ivan talks about doing poetry readings.

45:40 – 49:42 Ivan reads a poem from Lalla and discusses it in relation to his own searching. Longing recognizing itself.

49:42 – 52:41 Ivan reads one of his poems, Parched, and talks about it. He also reads his poem Holy Ground and expands on its meaning in relation to the experience of emptiness rather than a structure of some sort.

52:41 – Ivan talks about sacred poetry as culturally important, especially with regard to religion, as it lets one see the mystic heart of all religions. Closing words and music.

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Dec 23 2014

Li-Young Lee – Nativity

Published by under Poetry

by Li-Young Lee

In the dark, a child might ask, What is the world?
just to hear his sister
promise, An unfinished wing of heaven,
just to hear his brother say,
A house inside a house,
but most of all to hear his mother answer,
One more song, then you go to sleep.

How could anyone in that bed guess
the question finds its beginning
in the answer long growing
inside the one who asked, that restless boy,
the night’s darling?

Later, a man lying awake,
he might ask it again,
just to hear the silence
charge him, This night
arching over your sleepless wondering,

this night, the near ground
every reaching-out-to overreaches,

just to remind himself
out of what little earth and duration,
out of what immense good-bye,

each must make a safe place of his heart,
before so strange and wild a guest
as God approaches.

— from Book of My Nights, by Li-Young Lee

/ Image by stoneage11 /

How about another poem for the Christmas season today?

Maybe we should first ask, just what does this poem have to do with the Nativity anyway? What does it have to do with the traditional scene of the Christ child lying in a manger?

The poem starts with a question asked in the dark by a child: What is the world? The responses he gets are beautiful and soothing, but also fleeting. There is something haunting about asking such a question in the darkness.

So, back to the Nativity. In the Nativity, we discover the pure spark of light that is the Christ child, surrounded by the vast emptiness of the night. The Nativity is an image of light in the darkness. A small child, vulnerable, humble, poor, a tiny point of existence, surrounded by the immensity of the night… but with the promise that the light will increase until it floods the world with its light. (It’s no accident that Christmas occurs near the Winter Solstice, when the world is plunged in darkness and awaits the rebirth of the sun.)

Li-Young Lee, asking his question into the night, feels that smallness. The boy first asking the question is small, the man grown feels small too. Even the question itself seems ready to be swallowed up in the dark. But it isn’t. The question persists. It persists and grows and shines.

The question is alchemical. It causes the child to become aware of existence. As he grows, he notices the process of coagula et solve of existence, the way life both gathers together and then dissolves. He discovers “earth and duration,” but also the “immense good-bye.” Though they seem opposites, one flows into the other. And from their living, dynamic tension, the mind is stretched open. And the heart, broken and warmed, broken and warmed, it too opens.

That question — What is the world? — haunting the nights and the years, working its quiet alchemy, becomes an invitation and a challenge in the awareness, coaxing us to make of the heart the true manger:

each must make a safe place of his heart,
before so strange and wild a guest
as God approaches.

Recommended Books: Li-Young Lee

Book of My Nights Rose The City in Which I Love You Behind My Eyes: Poems

Li-Young Lee, Li-Young Lee poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Li-Young Lee

US (1957 – )
Secular or Eclectic

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7 responses so far

Dec 23 2014

don’t rush

Don’t rush through the journey,
impatient only for its end.
The adventure is your soul’s story.

No responses yet

Dec 17 2014

Levi Yitzchak of Berditchov – Where I wander — You!

Published by under Poetry

Where I wander — You!
by Levi Yitzchak of Berditchov

English version by Perle Besserman

Where I wander — You!
Where I ponder — You!
Only You everywhere, You, always You.
You, You, You.
When I am gladdened — You!
And when I am saddened — You!
Only You, everywhere You!
You, You, You.
Sky is You!
Earth is You!
You above! You below!
In every trend, at every end,
Only You, everywhere You!

— from The Way of the Jewish Mystics, Edited by Perle Besserman

/ Image by Lidusha /

Happy Hanukkah! I thought this poem would be a nice celebration for us during this season of light…

I love the way this simple poem fills us with the ecstatic recognition that God is in everything, IS everything. All of existence becomes a grand game of hide-and-seek.

A chant that can open the heart and eyes:

Only You, everywhere You!
You, You, You.

Recommended Books: Levi Yitzchak of Berditchov

Music of the Sky: An Anthology of Spiritual Poetry The Way of the Jewish Mystics

Levi Yitzchak of Berditchov

Poland (1740 – 1810) Timeline

Levi Yitzchak of Berditchov is a greatly beloved figure in Eastern European Jewish history. He introduced Hassidism to Poland as part of a spiritual reform movement that confronted the more rigid, intellectual, and unengaged forms of Judaism that dominated rabbinical practice in the region. Rabbi Levi was a student of the Hassidic master Dov Baer, the Maggid of Mezhirech, who was the chief disciple of the Baal Shem Tov. Rabbi Levi’s teachings emphasized joy, intensely devout prayer, and the importance of recognizing good in all people.

More poetry by Levi Yitzchak of Berditchov

3 responses so far

Dec 17 2014

commune with nature

Commune with nature.

But don’t go out and do something in nature.
Go out and let nature do something in you!

No responses yet

Dec 10 2014

Jacopone da Todi – How the Soul Through the Senses Finds God in All Creatures

Published by under Poetry

How the Soul Through the Senses Finds God in All Creatures
by Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti)

English version by Serge and Elizabeth Hughes

O Love, divine Love, why do You lay siege to me?
In a frenzy of love for me, You find no rest.

From five sides You move against me,
Hearing, sight, taste, touch, and scent.
To come out is to be caught; I cannot hide from You.

If I come out through sight I see Love
Painted in every form and color,
Inviting me to come to You, to dwell in You.

If I leave through the door of hearing,
What I hear points only to You, Lord;
I cannot escape Love through this gage.

If I come out through taste, every flavor proclaims:
“Love, divine Love, hungering Love!
You have caught me on Your hook, for you want to reign in me.”

If I leave through the door of scent
I sense You in all creation; You have caught me
And wounded me through that fragrance.

If I come out through the sense of touch
I find Your lineaments in every creature;
To try to flee from You is madness.

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

/ Image by psychicLexa /

We are in the midst of the Christmas Advent season, so I thought I would select a poem by Jacopone da Todi. His meditations on the power of love always move me, and sometimes startle me.

This is an interesting selection to me, the way it reverses several common ideas in sacred literature. Jacopone addresses Love — Divine Love — as a force laying siege to him.

O Love, divine Love, why do You lay siege to me?

So often, on the spiritual journey, we imagine that Divine Love is something we must struggle to attain or awaken, yet, to the poet, Love is all around him, trying to claim him, not the other way around.

Love’s “attack” naturally takes the form of love:

In a frenzy of love for me, You find no rest.

Once we get past the violence of the image, I find I really like this reversal. When we seek to attain something, that comes hand-in-hand with the assumption that we lack what we seek. But in Jacopone’s vision of Love as the assailant, Love is already there, and all we have to do is drop our defenses. There is no lack and no effort, simply a pure yielding into the Divine Presence already with us. We come to recognize that all of our effort is used in avoiding Love, not in attaining it.

The other reversal of this poem is how it meditates on the five senses as reminders of God.

From five sides You move against me,
Hearing, sight, taste, touch, and scent.
To come out is to be caught; I cannot hide from You.

Much of sacred writing, especially from the monastic world, is about transcending the world of the senses, yet in this poem Jacopone describes each sense as a sort of divine trap, designed to unavoidably lead him to the awareness of Love’s presence everywhere. Sight, hearing, taste, scent, and touch — they all reflect something of the divine nature of reality.

There is an interesting duality of approach here. I myself have engaged in meditative practices that withdraw the awareness and energies that tend to flow out through the senses. And this can be such a powerful thing, creating a profound sense of completeness within oneself while breaking the normal compulsion to always be outwardly focused. Yet, when we perceive the sensory world in such a way that we no longer engage in the constant categorization of “I want this sensation, but I don’t want that sensation,” the senses don’t hide; they reveal. When we engage with the senses but leave the ego’s desire to possess experiences behind, we find that the senses themselves reveal the most heavenly expressions of Reality. When we really learn to look (or feel, or hear, or smell, or taste) we discover that everything is part of the playful mask that never fully hides the Beloved’s smiling Face.

To try to flee from You is madness.

Recommended Books: Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti)

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty Jacopone da Todi: Lauds (Classics of Western Spirituality) All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time

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

Italy (1230 – 1306) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

Continue Reading »

4 responses so far

Dec 10 2014

holy heart

Find the holy heart
of the moment.

One response so far

Dec 03 2014

Request for Reader Reviews

I have received so many wonderful and warm-hearted responses to The Longing in Between via email — which have touched me deeply. I would love to introduce this anthology to a wider readership, to people who may have never heard of the Poetry Chaikhana. One of the best ways to do that is through reader reviews posted to key book sites online. If you already have a copy of The Longing in Between and want to encourage more people to discover it, consider going to one of these sites and sharing your thoughts about the book:

Barnes & Noble

Mostly, I hope the book speaks to you in some important way!

No responses yet

Dec 03 2014

Kindle Edition is Now Available

Several of you asked when The Longing in Between would be available in ebook form for the Kindle. Well, the answer is today! Here is the link.

Depending on interest, I may also release the new anthology in other ebook formats, like iBook, Nook, and Kobo. If you would like to read The Longing in Between in one of these formats, please let me know.

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