Welcome, traveler! Enter and take your rest...

A chaikhana is a teahouse along the legendary Silk Road pilgrimage and trading route linking China to the Middle East and Europe. It is a place of rest along the journey, a place to shake off the dust of the road, to sip tea, and to gather together to sing songs of the Divine...

Out in a downpour

by Mirabai

English version by Andrew Schelling

Out in a downpour
in a sopping wet
And you have gone to a distant country.
Unbearable heart,
letter after letter
just asking when,
my lord, when
     are you coming?

-- from For Love of the Dark One: Songs of Mirabai, Translated by Andrew Schelling

/ Image by jarr1520 /

View All Poems by Mirabai

I don't know what it is about this imagery, but this poem has stuck with me ever since I first read it. A woman standing out in a downpour and not caring, consumed by a great and terrible love -- it is like a scene from a classic film. Visceral, intimate, yet epic.

(This picture I found doesn't do justice to the image in my mind. I see something in black-and-white. A lovely young Indian woman, the camera looking down upon her, as she lifts her face and opens her arms to the downpour. And the open-mouthed expression I see on her face, is it one of pain? Or the beginning of laughter? Or a feral combination of the two...?)

We are witnessing a moment in a great love story. But this is Mirabai, and her beloved is God.

Often we like our saints and sages to be born in stable, perfect enlightenment, a simple picture with no struggle or drama, never having sensed separation. But that pain of separation, desperately looking for the lost love, is essential for the flowering of full self-awareness and true union.

And you have gone to a distant country.

That sense of separation -- separation from God, separation from Source, separation from Home -- is the fundamental pain of the soul. Every life pain, when we really trace its tendrils, reaches down to that root pain. The basic belief of separation from the Eternal. Every hunger, every craving, is an attempt to spread a thin layer of pleasure, or at least comfort, over that pain. Every self-inflicted hurt is an attempt to overpower that great ache with the sharp intensity of the moment. Most actions, when carefully dissected, are an attempt to distract ourselves from that terrible emptiness.

You can see that so much of our life force is spent in avoidance, avoidance of confrontation with that gulf between the individual and the Eternal.

letter after letter...

Most people look away, spend all their life running from that canyon of separation. But the mystic sits on the cliff edge and, though frightened, stares endlessly into the great spaceā€¦ until suddenly an amazing thing happens -- in a flash the emptiness is seen to be not a distance but a connection, a joining. The gulf is itself the bridge spanning the distance, and we discover that we can walk upon it, that there was, in fact, never any separation or distance.

It is the very intensity of our yearning that is finally recognized as the point of connection with the Eternal. And then the pain flips, turning to such sweetness.

Next time it rains, don't run for cover. Step out in the downpour, feel what it's like to be drenched!

Share Your Thoughts on today's poem or my commentary...
(Or visit the poem's blog page to click the FB 'Like' button.)

/ Photo by Daisuke Matsumura /

Donations to the Poetry Chaikhana

New donations in the past week:

- Deborah C. -- thank you!

- A big thank you to everyone who is a regular supporter through automatic monthly donations.

A NOTE: While donations are important and greatly appreciated to keep the Poetry Chaikhana running, I know that personal finances are feeling uncertain for many people. I don't want anyone to feel that they have to make donations to receive these emails. If you need to cancel your monthly donation for any reason, I understand. When donations are easy, then I welcome them; but please do not strain your finances to donate. I want you all to be well.

A few reasons to consider making a donation of your own...

  • The poem email gives you something quiet and sacred to look forward to at the end of the week.
  • Signing up for a monthly donation is not a permanent commitment. You can cancel at any time -- and still continue to receive the poem emails.
  • Consider making a donation to another organization in the Poetry Chaikhana's name. Some suggestions: your local food bank or homeless shelter, immigrant and refugee advocacy organizations, organizations that work for racial justice, wherever you feel that spark of inspiration to reach out and help.
  • $2 per month... the cost of one cup of chai... or a latte... or a soda. Less, actually.
    (I'm occasionally asked if there is a way to give a little more than $2 each month. You can always sign up for more than one monthly subscription with PayPal -- two or three $2 subscriptions, if you like.)
  • You don't have to donate a lot to help out. Large donations are great, but it is the small donations that keep the Poetry Chaikhana moving forward each month.
Poetry Chaikhana