Archive for the 'Ivan’s Story' Category

Jan 16 2023

Home from the Hospital, Changes to the Poetry Chaikhana

An eventful couple of weeks. A little over a week ago my wife, Michele, had an acute asthma attack, so severe that we had to call an ambulance in the middle of the night. She spent three days in the ICU and another couple of days in a regular hospital room.

She is back home now, breathing better, but of course still recovering physically and energetically from the ordeal. We are taking everything one step at a time with a sense of gratitude.

Most Americans who have insurance get it through their work, but we are both self-employed, so we are having to make changes to deal with the repercussions and new treatments being recommended for her.

I don’t want to lean on the Poetry Chaikhana community, since everyone was so generous last year in helping us with our big move — for which we are both so grateful.

What that probably means, however, is that these poetry emails may become less frequent for the near future, since I will need to maximize the hours I can put into my day job.

I feel like you are all my neighbors in a wide-reaching neighborhood, and I wanted to let you know what is going on with my family, as well as why the Poetry Chaikhana poem emails may be less frequent for a while. Even if there is a delay between emails, please know that all of your are very much in my thoughts.

Be well. Embrace the wonder of each day. Sending love to you all!

No responses yet

Dec 12 2022

Mary Oliver – Halleluiah

by Mary Oliver

Everyone should be born into this world happy
and loving everything.
But in truth it rarely works that way.
For myself, I have spent my life clamoring toward it.
Halleluiah, anyway I’m not where I started!

And have you too been trudging like that, sometimes
almost forgetting how wondrous the world is
and how miraculously kind some people can be?
And have you too decided that probably nothing important
is ever easy?
Not, say, for the first sixty years.

Halleluiah, I’m sixty now, and even a little more,
and some days I feel I have wings.

— from Evidence: Poems, by Mary Oliver

/ Image by disignecologist /

This is a rare Monday poem. It has been a few weeks since my last email, so I wanted to reach out, especially as we move through the winter holidays.

The reason I haven’t sent any emails recently is that I have been juggling a lot to help my wife create a new website for her work. I don’t recall if I’ve mentioned it before, but my wife, Michele Anderson, has been in semi-retirement for the past ten years while she cared for her ailing mother until her death a couple of years ago. My wife’s mother refused most care except for what my wife herself could provide. With few other options, that forced her into the difficult choice of having to put her career of more than 20 years on hold to give her mother the care she needed in the final years of her life.

As those of you who have cared for a sick or dying relative know, few things are more difficult. Being a caregiver is isolating, exhausting, and often unpleasant. The person dying has their own inner struggles reconciling their life and confronting their own mortality, sometimes without mental clarity, which can leave them frightened and angry. Trying to be of service in those moments can be a demanding, all-consuming responsibility. But, through the difficulties and the frequent crises, there can also be profound moments of connection, shared insight, and life resolution.

I am humbled by the strength Michele has shown through this period.

During that difficult time, I helped my wife and her mother in the ways I could. The key contribution I made was that I necessarily became the primary and sometimes sole income provider for our family. Not an easy role for a poet! Not an easy role for someone who deals with chronic fatigue patterns, either. I increased my hours as a computer programmer as much as I could, but the balance has been a struggle. You may not have known it, but your donations and purchase of Poetry Chaikhana books in recent years has been a big help through this period.

As a result of these heightened work requirements, I have not always been as regular as I would like with the Poetry Chaikhana emails. I haven’t been able to maintain and update the website much through this time. I haven’t pursued the publishing projects I would like. I have left too many of your emails to me unanswered. I hope to shift my energies and focus back to the Poetry Chaikhana in the coming months.

After the passing of my wife’s mother, there was naturally a period of grief and recovery. This was during the height of Covid, so the sense of isolation continued. As you know, a few months ago we decided to move from Colorado back to our home state of Oregon. We wanted to reconnect with extended family and also with the land where we feel our roots, where we feel a deep ancestral energy.

Now that we are settling in, Michele is preparing to return to her work as a life coach. She has a genuine gift for working with people, in ways that leave me, as a shy person, amazed. Michele has the most surprising and meaningful conversations with people in the checkout lines of grocery stores. I have sat by her side at a restaurant when she randomly told the waitress, “You would make a great actress! Have you ever considered acting?” To which the waitress replied, “Wow. I can’t tell you how much that means to me! I am studying acting.” My wife connects with people in magical ways.

Michele is a natural wise woman, an intuitive, an artist, a shaman, who continuously inspires me and frequently challenges me too. I am so pleased that she will once again be sharing her gifts with the world.

For that reason, we have been pushing hard, since before our move, in fact, to put together a new website that represents this new phase in her work.

I realize this doesn’t have much directly to do with poetry, but I wanted to share with you what has been a major focus in my life in recent months.

If you are curious, I invite you to visit my wife’s new site:

Explore. Check out the blog. Michele recently posted an article about her experiences with art therapy, something that might appeal to this creative crowd.

When you are on the site send Michele a note through the Contact page to wish her well and let her know what you think of the new site.

Of course, if you’re looking for a life coach, someone to be a personal advocate, sounding board, and mentor, I certainly recommend her highly! I may be biased, I admit it, but I have watched her work with people since the 90s and I am still impressed by how deep and transformative her work is.

I wanted to share this moment of celebration in our household with you.

I hope you are having a wonderful day!

Recommended Books: Mary Oliver

New and Selected Poems Why I Wake Early Dream Work House of Light Thirst: Poems
More Books >>

Mary Oliver, Mary Oliver poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Mary Oliver

US (1935 – 2019) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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4 responses so far

Sep 30 2022

Ivan M. Granger – Trinket

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

by Ivan M. Granger

you are too practical,

trying to put
this odd lump
to good use.

Melt me down.

Make of me
some golden trinket,
some frivolous, bejeweled thing
to please
your eye.

Hang me
from your ear;
let me rest
against the warm pulse
of your neck.

Go ahead, Mother,
it is just you and I
before the mirror.
I won’t tell
if you want to spin
and laugh
like a girl
to see
this bit of glitter
set off
your smile.

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

/ Image by lois komolafe /

It is the middle of Navratri for my Hindu friends, the nine nights of the Goddess. I thought of one of my own poems to the Divine Mother, Trinket.

Jaya Jagadambe, he Ma Durga
All praise to the Cosmic Mother, Ma Durga!

Along with all of the natural beauty of our new home here in Eugene, Oregon, we notice a significant homeless population for a relatively small city. Colorado had its homeless too, but in smaller numbers, and usually panhandling on street corners hoping for drivers to stop and stretch across the passenger seat to hand over a bill through the window.

Here in Eugene, the homeless are more part of the city, more present and somehow more integrated with the city. We no longer notice someone through the windshield as we’re driving by, deciding if we want to slow down and give a couple of dollars or continue on our way. In Eugene, we share the sidewalks, walking by each other downtown. Many have their regular spots, they have their place in the community, they are known, they are still people.

Earlier this week we spoke with a neighbor who is getting rid of some items and she mentioned that she like to donate to individuals, when she can. She knew the name of a homeless person who regularly stands outside the local grocery store, so she took the items directly to him.

We recently noticed an article in the local paper about a homeless man who had died and was much loved in the community for the music he used to play around downtown. An entire article about the passing of a homeless man who was still an important part of the community.

I find that profoundly touching.

Of course, my wife and I are having to recalibrate our comfort levels as well as learn to assess safety differently. Some of the people we encounter are clearly dealing with substance abuse issues. Some have obvious mental health issues (and with social programs having been slashed in this country for decades, often the street is the only place for them). Behaviors can be erratic, unpredictable. Some are people just struggling to regain a foothold in society. Some are carried by a threadbare high while seeking an ever lower bottom to hit.

But they are us. Seeing them in and among the rhythms of this small city reminds me that, regardless of their struggles or rough appearance, they are our brothers and sisters. They are part of my community too.

So how do we interact with these individuals? How do my wife and I judge safety walking through downtown? When do we make eye contact, maybe offer a friendly word, perhaps hand over a dollar, and when is it best to cross to the other side of the street and keep our distance? We’re still figuring that out.

I’m curious what your thoughts and experiences are. What sort of charities do you give to that you think are doing good work with the complex issues of hunger and homelessness? And do you have special ways of interacting with the homeless? I know of one person who used to put together care packs of clean socks, toothbrushes, dry foods, miscellaneous necessities and just kept them with him to hand out. Have you come up with creative ideas to help or meaningful ways to connect?

May the Mother’s love connect us all and care for us all!

Recommended Books: Ivan M. Granger

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

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

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

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5 responses so far

Aug 12 2022

Rumi – Keep knocking

Keep on knocking
by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

English version by Coleman Barks

Keep on knocking
’til the joy inside
opens a window
look to see who’s there

— from The Essential Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks

/ Image by Daniel Gregoire /

We have made it to the other side of our journey and arrived safely in Eugene, Oregon. It is a homecoming for us, although we have been away for decades. Much is familiar, yet everything is new.

The drive out itself, while beautiful, was a bit of an ordeal. We passed through a heat wave affecting Utah and Idaho before entering the cooler weather of Oregon.

Eugene itself is lovely. The Willamette River running through town, trees and deep greens, blackberry bushes at the edges of alleyways just beginning to bear fruit. Walks along the river in the morning chill is a special treat. The downtown area is vibrant, more active than we remember in the early 90s. Trying to reorient to the idiosyncratic city layout, one way streets, unexpected loops and turns.

When we explore a town, the places we check out first to connect with the community: the natural food stores, the bookstores, coffee shops (though I rarely drink coffee), neighborhood parks. We’re making the rounds.

The ocean, just an hour-and-a-half’s drive away, calls to my wife. An afternoon trip coming up soon.

Boxes are everywhere. All the books arrived, though we did not bring all our old bookshelves, so just where will everything go? Which books make the cut for display on bookshelves and which get tucked away into closets?

Keep on knocking
’til the joy inside
opens a window
look to see who’s there

I want to say thank you to all of you, the entire Poetry Chaikhana community, for all of your thoughts and supportive messages through this move. My heart has been full through the miles traveled. Love to you all in return.

Have a beautiful day!

Recommended Books: Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom
More Books >>

Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi, Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

Afghanistan & Turkey (1207 – 1273) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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3 responses so far

Jul 08 2022

Move Update

Thank you so much, everyone, for your many generous donations and for all of the wonderful, warm-hearted messages as we prepare for our move to Eugene, Oregon.

While we have not yet reached our $5,000 fundraising goal, I should be able to maintain a fairly regular poetry schedule, once we get settled.

Currently, we are now surrounded by stacks of boxes and empty bookshelves. We’re engaged in a flurry of planning, coordination, phone calls, and lifting of heavy things. It’s a strange thing to have imagined myself as leading a relatively non-materialistic life, but to then be confronted by all the stuff non-materialist me has managed to accumulate over the past few decades of living in Colorado. Because there is a financial calculation to choosing to transport everything such a distance, each object presents me with a challenge or a question: Is it useful? Is it meaningful? Have I become too attached too it? Or am I being too cavalier in the name of non-attachment and should I make more of an effort to hold onto it? We’re selling a little bit and donating a lot, and still we have so much to move. How did we ever manage to move halfway across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii years ago? Youthful bravado, I suppose, and a willingness to go way beyond the limits of my then unrecognized chronic fatigue patterns. Trying to do things this time with more balance and wisdom, while still retaining a spark of that old bravado.

Wishing you magical adventures… and a beautiful day!

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Jul 01 2022

Poetry Chaikhana Move Updates

Poetry Chaikhana Move Updates

I want to say how profoundly touched I am by the many messages I have received wishing me well through this upcoming move. I haven’t been able to respond to every note, but I have read them all. Here is something I wrote to someone else also going through a move that I thought might be worth sharing:

“So much goes into a move, doesn’t it? It is not just planning and boxing and cleaning. A move becomes a sort of life review. We sift through all the things we have accumulated, furniture, books, mementos, every little thing that fills our living spaces. Each item reminds us of a memory, a time we purchased it, or when it was given to us. It can be an emotional process, reminding us of the stories of our lives, asking us what from our past we want to carry forward into the next phase.”

It’s a bit of a whirlwind around here right now, but we are so looking forward to this new phase, both personally and with the Poetry Chaikhana. We’re trying to catch the current in the midst of all the activity…

We have raised nearly two thirds of our $5,000 goal to help with the move!

The donations coming in to help with this move have been so generous! Many donations of $10, $20 and $30 have come in, along with several donations of larger amounts. I know that sometimes the smallest contributions mean the most, because they are often the most difficult to send. I am grateful to you all!

If you are still thinking of making a contribution — it is certainly welcome. It would be wonderful to reach that $5,000 goal. But if finances are too tight to send something right now, I genuinely understand. Your good wishes help too. And a friendly note of support arriving in my in-box or in the mail is always a welcome sight!

Thank you so much, everyone, for your help and encouragement through this big move. I look forward to working with you and watching the Poetry Chaikhana adapt and change in its new home!


3 responses so far

Jul 01 2022

Jacopone da Todi – As air carries light

As air carries light poured out by the rising sun
by Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti)

English version by Ivan M. Granger

As air carries light poured out by the rising sun,
As the candle spills away beneath the flame’s touch,
So too does the soul melt when ignited by light,
      its will now gone.
Lost within this light,
      the soul, dying to itself, in majesty lives on.

Why fish among the waves for wine
Spilled into the sea?
It has become the ocean.
Can wine once mingled be drawn again from water?
So it is with the soul drowned in light:
Love has drunk it in,
changed it, mixed it with truth,
      until it is entirely new.

The soul is willing and yet unwilling,
For there is nothing the soul now seeks,
save for this beauty!
No longer does it hunger or grasp,
      so emptied by such sweetness.
This supreme summit of the soul rises
      from a nothingness shaped
      and set within the Lord.

— from This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World, Edited by Ivan M. Granger

/ Image by Dulcey Lima /

As air carries light poured out by the rising sun,
As the candle spills away beneath the flame’s touch,
So too does the soul melt when ignited by light…

With these recognizable images, we begin to get an idea of how the soul is transformed in exalted states. Flooded by the light of illumination, we, like wax near a fire, melt. The self is no longer a fixed, hardened thing, but something fluid and formless. In this dynamic state, the soul loses its dull opacity, becoming clear, allowing the light to shine through it.

Lost within this light,
      the soul, dying to itself, in majesty lives on.

The old, inanimate self melts away, becoming a new and fluid being that expresses itself through yielding. In its yielding, the soul discovers its real life.

So it is with the soul drowned in light:
Love has drunk it in,
changed it, mixed it with truth,
      until it is entirely new

The spiritual concept of surrendering the will is difficult to accept in any age, but especially so in the modern era when accomplishment through aggressive exercise of the will is idolized.

The soul is willing and yet unwilling…

The most immediate objection is that without will, we can do nothing. On a certain level, we prove our existence by acting in the world, right?

When deeply examined, however, the will is revealed to be more complex than we might casually think. There are different expressions of will. On one level, will is volition or the impulse to act. Will can be our sense of firm determination. Will is also the capacity to choose, our free will.

Mystics regularly use terms like “self-will” to express a further understanding of what the will is and how it works. We can say that self-will is selfish will, as opposed to the willingness to be of service. Or we might say that self-will is willfulness, when we are consumed by our own private purposes and no longer pay attention to feedback from other people or the environment. But there is more to self-will than that.

Self-will isn’t always cruel or destructive, at least not in obvious ways. It is quite possible to perform great philanthropic works and still have it be an expression of self-will, for example. Self-will is will that is under the control of the ego. Its actions serve and reinforce the ego. Self-will renews the trance of the ego-self.

Most of what we call will is involved somehow in self-will. But the opposite of self-will is not inaction. There is another form of will that does not originate with the ego and does not constantly return our attention to it. This selfless will is potent, yet it is not our own. To unleash this other will in our lives requires an elegant balance between yielding and stepping forward, between selflessness and presence. We engage in action, but we are not the actors. What we normally think of as the self is not directing the action.

This frees up a great amount of trapped psychic energy, and we become awestruck witnesses to the unexpected grace and power of life acting through us — a vision of immense beauty!

For there is nothing the soul now seeks,
save for this beauty!

Recommended Books: Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti)

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World 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

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Jun 30 2022

Poetry Chaikhana is Moving!

I have a big announcement: The Poetry Chaikhana is moving – and so am I. After many years of living in Colorado, my wife and I have decided to move back to our hometown of Eugene, Oregon.

I am a traveler, You are my road.
I go from You to You.

~ Zeynep Hatun

Deciding to Move

We had discussed the idea of returning to Oregon before, but it never felt like the right time. My part-time job as a computer programmer is here in Colorado. We have friends and spiritual circles in Colorado that are important to us. Though we had been vagabonds as young adults, we now felt like “grown ups” who had finally settled down.

Then some big shifts began to happen. Several friends moved out of the area. Covid hit. And just as the first Covid lockdowns started, both of my wife’s parents died (unrelated to Covid). The grief she felt was magnified by the isolation of Covid world. We felt increasingly disconnected in Colorado. Reconnecting with our extended families in Oregon began to feel essential.

(Downtown Eugene, Oregon. Image: Rick Obst, Flickr)
(Downtown Eugene, Oregon. Image: Rick Obst, Flickr)

Oregon, Poetry and Nature

In addition to people who are dear to us in Oregon, the land itself has always quietly called to us. Oregon’s deep green forests and its generous rain inspires a contemplative, quieter approach to life. A good place for poetry.

Now that all thoughts have subsided
off I go, deep into the woods,
and pick me
a handful of shepherd’s purse.
Just like the stream
meandering through mossy crevices
I, too, hushed
become utterly clear.

~ Ryokan

An Encounter and a Decision

In April, as we were driving through our neighborhood deep in conversation about the idea of a move, a huge eagle swooped down from around the corner and flew right at our car. As it passed above our car, with its bright white head and immense wingspan, we could clearly see that it held prey, what looked like a fish from the nearby lake, in its talons.

(Not our eagle, but it looked similar. Image: Jongsun Lee, Unsplash)
(Not our eagle, but it looked similar. Image: Jongsun Lee, Unsplash)

Encountering that eagle at that exact moment headed straight for us felt like a divine blessing, an affirmation.

When the universe speaks, we find it’s best to listen. We set aside our hesitations and agreed to move.

Just a few days later, we found a home to rent in Eugene that we loved. We committed to move at the beginning of August.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

~ John O’Donohue

Poetry Chaikhana Community Support

When we first started making plans for this move, my wife and I thought we could do it quickly and cheaply, the way we did in our 20s. It turns out that moving when you are over 50 is not the same experience as when you’re young! Who knew I had accumulated so many poetry books over the past couple of decades? Even selling and donating larger things, like furniture, there is a lot to move. We are struggling to find the funds to cover all of the expenses.

It felt like it was time to once again reach out to you, the Poetry Chaikhana community.

I was surprised to realize that it has been more than five years since I last sent out a direct appeal for donations.

My strong hope is that this move will usher in a new flowering of the Poetry Chaikhana. I would love to have community support and encouragement through this move as I begin to explore new poetic avenues in a new community.

Our Goal: Let’s raise $5,000 to help with the move.
That may sound like a big number, but with a community of several thousand people across the globe, I think we can raise that sum together.

Your donation will help in several important ways:

  • Logistically, it will help us cover necessary expenses, like a moving truck, gas (which, as you all know, has become expensive) and lodging during the move.
  • For the Poetry Chaikhana, it will help with a smooth transition, minimizing the amount of extra work I have to commit to my day job to cover expenses, allowing more time for poetry. This will lay the groundwork for establishing the Poetry Chaikhana in our new community and begin to imagine new projects, both local and global.
  • On a personal level, you will be helping us return home to our roots.

If you have thought about making a donation to the Poetry Chaikhana in the past, if you have been touched by a poem or commentary featured in one of the Poetry Chaikhana emails, if you would like to keep the poem emails coming regularly… now is an especially helpful time to make a donation.

Ways you can help:

– Make a secure online donation in any amount through PayPal by clicking the “Donate” button on the Poetry Chaikhana website at

– Send a check or money order in US funds, addressed to:
Poetry Chaikhana
PO Box 2320
Boulder, CO 80306
(This address will obviously be changing soon, but all mail will be forwarded once the new PO box is set up.)

I am also grateful for your help through supportive thoughts and prayers. Every contribution, financial and energetic, is sincerely appreciated.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

~ Rumi

(Bike path along the Willamette River, Eugene, Oregon. Image: Don Hankins, Flickr)
(Bike path along the Willamette River, Eugene, Oregon. Image: Don Hankins, Flickr)

Poetry and Personal Transformation

We forget how fundamental poetry is, not only to culture, but to consciousness. Poetry is meditation in the form of words. I posted this on the Poetry Chaikhana website years ago, and it’s just as true today:

“Poetry has an immediate effect on the mind. The simple act of reading poetry alters thought patterns and the shuttle of the breath. Poetry induces trance. Its words are chant. Its rhythms are drumbeats. Its images become the icons of the inner eye. Poetry is more than a description of the sacred experience; it carries the experience itself.”

The Politics of Poetry

In addition to the spiritual importance of this sacred poetry, there is also a cultural, even a political motivation behind the Poetry Chaikhana. Here’s how I described it in a interview a few years ago:

“Sacred poetry has the unique benefit of being a deeply personal expression of spiritual truth while, at the same time, being largely free from dogma. In the United States, for example, there is an increasing prejudice and fear about the Muslim world. But who can read Jelaluddin Rumi without immediately recognizing the deep truth that Islam can express? The same is true for a non-Hindu reading Lal Ded or a non-Christian reading St. John of the Cross. Sacred poetry is the natural goodwill ambassador for the world’s religions. Poetry can reach across cultural divides, soften prejudices, and shed light on misunderstandings. I hope the Poetry Chaikhana can help to facilitate that process.”

Sacred poetry is transformative on both a personal and a global level.

The Poetry Chaikhana has become a community that reaches across the globe. We have visitors from every continent and more than 220 countries and territories!

The Poetry Chaikhana is an important resource for people all over the world seeking to more deeply understand their own wisdom traditions as well as the spirituality of other cultures in an atmosphere of mutual respect.


Thank you for being such a supportive and inspiring community all of these years! I mean that genuinely. I have always felt that we form an extended family for each other. This community has helped me though challenges and changes and shared in my joys. I hope you feel that too. Sending love and poetic nectar from my tea house to yours!


No responses yet

Jan 21 2022

Thomas Merton – O Sweet Irrational Worship

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

O Sweet Irrational Worship
by Thomas Merton

Wind and a bobwhite
And the afternoon sun.

By ceasing to question the sun
I have become light,

Bird and wind.

My leaves sing.

I am earth, earth

All these lighted things
Grow from my heart.

A tall, spare pine
Stands like the initial of my first
Name when I had one.

When I had a spirit,
When I was on fire
When this valley was
Made out of fresh air
You spoke my name
In naming Your silence:
O sweet, irrational worship!

I am earth, earth

My heart’s love
Bursts with hay and flowers.
I am a lake of blue air
In which my own appointed place
Field and valley
Stand reflected.

I am earth, earth

Out of my grass heart
Rises the bobwhite.

Out of my nameless weeds
His foolish worship.

— from Selected Poems of Thomas Merton, by Thomas Merton

/ Image by Begbie Images /

Well, I seem to be mostly recovered from the Covid I picked up a couple of weeks ago. It’s been no fun, certainly, a miserable sort of flu, but not the sort of thing to bring society to a halt. I know that different people have different reactions, that the vaccine can lessen symptoms, and that vulnerable individuals can end up in the hospital, but, having come through, I find myself asking if it is truly worth all of the fear and blame and isolation that has gripped society.

I shake my head and step outside where life continues. I listen to the wind. I wait for the winter clouds to part to feel the afternoon sun on my face.

Wind and a bobwhite
And the afternoon sun.

Bobwhite, if you don’t know what it is, is a quail-like bird with a unique whistle that sounds like bob-WHITE, bob-bob-WHITE. Reading the opening lines to Merton’s poem, I imagine a walk on a slow afternoon, a gentle breeze, the airy space cut by the clear whistle of the bobwhite.

By ceasing to question the sun
I have become light,
Bird and wind.

I can see a few possible reactions to this statement. Some might read the phrase “ceasing to question” as one of religious dogma, suggesting that a certain freedom comes from no longer questioning one’s belief system. Knowing Merton’s spiritually inclusive philosophy, I don’t think that’s what he intended.

Rather than standing outside of the moment, turning the scene into an external landscape for the questioning mind to define and label and remain apart from, we become quiet and present. We merge into the moment. We don’t see a pretty seen awash in light, we become the light itself… and the birdsong and the breeze. We fill the space.

I am earth, earth
All these lighted things
Grow from my heart.

The boundaries of identity expand. Who we are is not limited by the body or the stories we tell ourselves. We are everything spread out before us, the earth itself. From the earth’s deep heart, our heart, all things grow and emerge to be bathed in the light of the sun.

A tall, spare pine
Stands like the initial of my first
Name when I had one.

I love the way a bold, solitary tree stands forth to become a signifier of — what? An initial, one’s first name, one’s personal name. But that name itself has become ephemeral, lost in the larger self. With a quiet mind, we have become not only wordless, but nameless. Finding the wider self in the wider reality, we have moved beyond names.

Out of my nameless weeds
His foolish worship.

However we define worship, reverence, the celebration of life and innate goodness, may we allow ourselves to be swept up in it fully — foolishly.

Recommended Books: Thomas Merton

Selected Poems of Thomas Merton The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton A Thomas Merton Reader The Strange Islands: Poems by Thomas Merton Thomas Merton Monk & Poet: A Critical Study

Thomas Merton, Thomas Merton poetry, Christian poetry Thomas Merton

US (1915 – 1968) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

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Dec 10 2021

Ivan Interview: Poetry, Spirituality & Meditating in a Cave

This is an interview I did with PMC last year about spirituality, poetry, and my own personal journey.

(The introduction and questions are in Hindi, but my responses are in English. Hopefully, an interesting puzzle to solve for non-Hindi speakers.)

One response so far

Nov 19 2021

Ivan M. Granger – Holy Ground

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Holy Ground
by Ivan M. Granger

Let the vision
of the vastness
you are
leave you
in glorious

Pilgrims will come
to imagine
the grand temple
that once stood,
not realizing

            the wreck
            made this empty plain
            holy ground.

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

/ Image by Stuzal /

I thought I’d share one of my own poems with you today…

So often we imagine our spiritual journey to be one of construction. We want to build a great shining monument within ourselves. It comes as a terrible shock how much the real spiritual work is actually about tearing down our structures.

Watch a wild field at dawn. Sit among the uneven grasses and opening wildflowers. Look at that empty space all around you. It is empty, yes, empty of our own constructions. But it is filled with life. It is an inherently holy space.

The same is true of the quiet depths in the heart. No perfect construction of spirituality is needed. We need to reveal the holy life that is already the foundation of our being. With courage and supreme balance, stand back and do nothing. Staying poised, just look. Notice all those fine structures we’ve erected over a lifetime, proclaiming, “Here I am!” Look closely, look long enough, and we start to see fine cracks appear. When we don’t actively shore them up, the cracks quickly expand. And then, all of a sudden — RUMBLE — the whole facade collapses.

THAT is the moment we’re waiting for! That is when we discover the empty plain beneath our feet. And we are a part of that living space.

The saints and sages of the past, the great artists and visionaries too — we imagine the grandeur of spirit they attained. But the truth is that their greatness was attained in their own collapse, amidst the ruins… and the giddy open spaces they then discovered.

Recommended Books: Ivan M. Granger

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

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

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

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Sep 17 2021

David Whyte – All the True Vows

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

All the True Vows
by David Whyte

All the true vows
are secret vows
the ones we speak out loud
are the ones we break.

There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.

Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don’t turn your face away.

Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.

Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made
nor the work they have chosen

nor the one life that waits
beyond all the others.

By the lake in the wood
in the shadows
you can
whisper that truth
to the quiet reflection
you see in the water.

Whatever you hear from
the water, remember,

it wants you to carry
the sound of its truth on your lips.

in this place
no one can hear you

and out of the silence
you can make a promise
it will kill you to break,

that way you’ll find
what is real and what is not.

I know what I am saying.
Time almost forsook me
and I looked again.

Seeing my reflection
I broke a promise
and spoke
for the first time
after all these years

in my own voice,

before it was too late
to turn my face again.

“All the True Vows” from The House of Belonging by David Whyte.
Copyright © 1997, 2004 by David Whyte.  Used by permission of the author and Many Rivers Press (  All rights reserved.

/ Image by Tevin Trinh /

I read this poem by David Whyte as a meditation on the alienation most of us feel at one time or another in our own lives. Too often we aren’t really present in our lives–

There is only one life
you can call your own…

He is saying that something powerful, even sacred, occurs when we stop contorting ourselves to reach for lives that are not our own. When we settle into ourselves, when we start to actually live our own lives, embody our own lives, we not only begin to really experience life deeply for the first time, we start to tap into “the one life that waits / beyond all others.”

Living this way, we find our true face, our true reflection.

I especially like the ending verses:

Seeing my reflection
I broke a promise
and spoke
for the first time
after all these years

in my own voice.

To rediscover our own voice, our true voice which has been socialized back into the shadows of our awareness, we have to break an old agreement, a “promise.” We must decide to no longer identify with the roles and expectations set up for us. Finally dropping the masks we wear, we discover our true face, our “reflection.” Then, “for the first time,” we can speak in our own voice.

Worth reading more than once…

David Whyte’s words hold a special place in my personal journey.

In the early 2000s, I was living with my wife on the island of Maui. It was a beautiful time in my life, but aimless. I was just doing work to get by, with no career to speak of. I was cut off from the world, by distance and by choice.

A friend sent me a series of talks by David Whyte on cassette tape, and I went for long drives along Maui’s meandering country roads, through the tall sugar cane fields and among the rows of spiky pineapple plants, listening to David Whyte’s molasses accent as he recited poetry and told stories about brilliant and troubled poets, like Antonio Machado and Anna Akhmatova.

It was Christmastime and I was quietly going through a deep and difficult self-confrontation. New Year’s Day came and went, while I hovered in that open limbo state. This combination began to ferment in my mind, the poetry and the personal crisis.

In early January it all converged. I picked up a book of conversations with the Indian sage Ramana Maharshi, read a couple of pages and—POW!—I was catapulted into an ecstatic stillness. Everything about me and my world came to a complete stop. The person I thought of as “Ivan” disappeared. It was as if some undefined, wide-open awareness was quietly witnessing the world through my eyes. An indescribable joy bubbled up inside me. The entire world was an intangible outline sketched upon a golden-white radiance, and I was a ghost happily lost in that light.

That moment set the trajectory for the unfolding of my life since. And it planted the seed for the Poetry Chaikhana. I am always thankful to David Whyte for the role he played at that transformative period in my life.


And have a wonderful weekend! The moon is growing full and luminous in the evening sky. In chaotic times, dance!

Recommended Books: David Whyte

The House of Belonging Where Many Rivers Meet

David Whyte, David Whyte poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry David Whyte

US (1955 – )
Secular or Eclectic

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4 responses so far

Apr 12 2021

R. S. Thomas – But the silence in the mind

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

But the silence in the mind
by R. S. Thomas

But the silence in the mind
is when we live best, within
listening distance of the silence
we call God. This is the deep
calling to deep of the psalm-
writer, the bottomless ocean.
We launch the armada of
our thoughts on, never arriving.

It is a presence, then,
whose margins are our margins;
that calls us out over our
own fathoms. What to do
but draw a little nearer to
such ubiquity by remaining still?

— from For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics, by Roger Housden

/ Image by MindSqueeZe /

A rare Monday poem email. Since it has been nearly a month since I last sent a Poetry Chaikhana email out, I decided not to wait until the end of the week. There are several reasons for the unannounced pause in the emails.

I live outside of Boulder, Colorado and, as many of you are probably aware, there was a terrible shooting in Boulder a few weeks ago at a local grocery store. When my wife and I first moved to the area years ago, we lived within a few blocks of that store and often shopped for groceries there. We now live several miles away and were not in immediate danger during the shooting. But, of course, we still felt the trauma of the community, magnified by our own personal history with the scene of so much bloodshed.

In the aftermath, I didn’t want to immediately send out a poem. I wasn’t quite ready to talk about the event, and it would have felt wrong to ignore it.

Soon after, I had a birthday and Easter came up. And through it all, my day job has been especially busy.

For all of those reasons I felt it was best to wait.

But with spring blossoming in our area, it feels like it is now time to return to poetry and the reawakening of life. So I have a beautiful poem of silences for us today…


But the silence in the mind
is when we live best…

Isn’t this poem delightful in its stillness?

This is the deep
calling to deep of the psalm-
writer, the bottomless ocean.

I particularly like the image of launching an armada of thoughts out on the bottomless ocean of silent mind.

We launch the armada of
our thoughts on, never arriving.

The silence is so vast that the thoughts can never arrive; they just fade into the misty distances. The image puts proper scale to our thoughts. They are small things with barely any substance amidst the great expanse we discover in silence.

The silence is seen, then, not as a negation or emptiness, but as an overlooked, all-encompasing dimension of reality and being:

It is a presence, then,
whose margins are our margins

And it is a challenge to us, a beckoning call…

that calls us out over our
own fathoms.

I was a teenager in the 1980s, when the first personal computers started to become available. And, yes, I was one of those nerdy computer kids, spending hours in front of the computer screen, when I wasn’t down at the neighborhood arcade feeding quarters into Pac Man and Space Invaders. It was a new medium, a new world built of light, different ways to display light, manipulate light, and finding meaning in that light. The mathematics, art, and movement of light were mesmerizing.

But once the giddiness and sense of power wears off, you realize how restless that world is. The human mind, never much at ease in any historical period, now has endless promptings to remain entranced and agitated.

I went through a period when I rejected computers along with as many other elements of modern technology as I could. I desperately wanted to find out what it meant to live in the essential state of being human. What did it mean to be human 500 years ago? 5,000 years ago? What is the essential human experience of life and self-awareness?

I began to seek remote places in nature, where I could meditate and fast.

I wanted to discover that “silence in the mind” that brings us–

listening distance of the silence
we call God.

Don’t get me wrong– I’m a modern person, a product of the modern era. I would greatly resent being thrust back into some previous era. I don’t take the freedoms and possibilities of my modern life for granted.

But we so miss having a place in society for silence. We are given very little encouragement to cultivate stillness. More than ever we must fight to create the space for silence in our lives. I feel great love and respect for all you misfits and spiritual revolutionaries out there quietly holding ajar the doorways to silence. You are the hope of the world.

What to do
but draw a little nearer…?

…All this, typed on a computer, sent out over the Internet. (Ivan, still trying to find ways to make light move, yet in ways that inspire peace.)

Recommended Books: R. S. Thomas

For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics Soul Food: Nourishing Poems for Starved Minds R. S. Thomas: Selected Poems R. S. Thomas (Everyman Poetry) R. S. Thomas: Collected Poems 1945-1990
More Books >>

R. S. Thomas, R. S. Thomas poetry, Christian poetry R. S. Thomas

Wales (1913 – 2000) Timeline

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Oct 30 2020

William Wordsworth – Thus while the days flew by

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Thus while the days flew by, and years passed on (from The Prelude, Book 2)
by William Wordsworth

Thus while the days flew by, and years passed on,
From Nature and her overflowing soul,
I had received so much, that all my thoughts
Were steeped in feeling; I was only then
Contented, when with bliss ineffable
I felt the sentiment of Being spread
O’er all that moves and all that seemeth still;
O’er all that, lost beyond the reach of thought
And human knowledge, to the human eye
Invisible, yet liveth to the heart;
O’er all that leaps and runs, and shouts and sings,
Or beats the gladsome air; o’er all that glides
Beneath the wave, yea, in the wave itself,
And mighty depth of waters. Wonder not
If high the transport, great the joy I felt,
Communing in this sort through earth and heaven
With every form of creature, as it looked
Towards the Uncreated with a countenance
Of adoration, with an eye of love.
One song they sang, and it was audible,
Most audible, then, when the fleshly ear,
O’ercome by humblest prelude of that strain
Forgot her functions, and slept undisturbed.

— from Complete Poetical Works, by William Wordsworth

/ Image by Justin Kern /

Fires have been burning here in Colorado and last week we were busily preparing for the possibility of having to evacuate. Firefighters, helped at times by the weather, were eventually able to contain the two fires closest to us, though major fires are still causing terrible destruction elsewhere in the state. I know people who have lost cherished family homes. Entire communities have been uprooted. And, of course, these fires are devastating to the wildlife and the beautiful land itself. I know California, Oregon and other western states have been going through similar ordeals. Heartbreaking.

Thinking about these fires returns me to my love of the natural world, reminding me what nature represents, how it expresses the divine vastness and interconnectedness.

From Nature and her overflowing soul,
I had received so much…

This is a poem worth repeating. Speak it aloud. Feel the sound of it resonating in the air.

when with bliss ineffable
I felt the sentiment of Being spread
O’er all that moves and all that seemeth still;
O’er all that, lost beyond the reach of thought
And human knowledge, to the human eye
Invisible, yet liveth to the heart;
O’er all that leaps and runs, and shouts and sings,
Or beats the gladsome air; o’er all that glides
Beneath the wave, yea, in the wave itself,
And mighty depth of waters.

…beats the gladsome air…

When we remember, we recognize the natural world as the foundational ground upon which our endless physical and mental creations rest. It is the deep green embrace which is our shared home.

Communing in this sort through earth and heaven
With every form of creature, as it looked
Towards the Uncreated with a countenance
Of adoration, with an eye of love.
One song they sang

It is where we rediscover our song within the upraised voice of life.

Have a beautiful day!

Recommended Books: William Wordsworth

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse Complete Poetical Works William Wordsworth: Selected Poems
More Books >>

William Wordsworth, William Wordsworth poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry William Wordsworth

England (1770 – 1850) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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Jul 17 2020

Francis of Assisi – The Canticle of Brother Sun

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

The Canticle of Brother Sun
by Francis of Assisi

English version by Ivan M. Granger

My Lord most high, all-powerful, all-good,
Celebration, light, and all sweet blessings are yours,
      yours alone.
No man speaks
      who can speak your Name.

Praise to you, my Lord, and to all beings of your creation!
Praise especially to brother sun,
      who fills the day with light
      — through whom you shine!
Beautiful and bright, magnificent with splendor,
He shows us your Face.

Praise to my Lord for sister moon
      and for the stars.
You have formed them in the firmament,
      fine and rare and fair.
Praise to you, Lord, for brother wind,
      for the air, for the clouds,
      for fair days and every turn of weather
      — through which you feed the world.

Praise to my Lord for sister water,
      precious and pure, who selflessly serves all.

Praise to my Lord for brother fire,
      through whom you fill the dark with light.
Lovely is he in his delight, mighty and strong.

Praise to my Lord for our sister, mother earth,
      who nourishes us and surrounds us
      in a world ripe with fruit, pregnant
            with grassy fields,
            spangled with flowers.

Praise to my Lord for those seeking your love,
      who discover within themselves forgiveness,
      rejecting neither frailty nor sorrow.
Enduring in serenity, they are blessed,
For they shall be crowned by your hand, Most High.

Praise to my Lord for our sister death,
      the body’s death,
      whom none avoid.
A great sadness for those who die having missed life’s mark;
Yet blessed they whose way
      is your most holy will —
Having died once, the second death
      does them no ill.

Sing praises!
Offer holy blessings to my Lord!
In gratitude, selflessly offer yourself to him.

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

/ Image by rkramer62 /

Thank you to everyone who sent a note of concern about my absence from these poetry emails. I apologize about that unannounced pause. Let me reassure you that I am doing well and my health is okay. The reason I haven’t sent any poems during this past month or so is because my wife’s mother needed to go to the hospital, then hospice care, and then passed away. (Her death was not related to the current pandemic, however.)

Since my wife was her mother’s only relative, she bore a heavy burden in caring for her and in handling each new challenge and crisis as it arose. It is a profoundly difficult balance to deal with the whirlwind of decisions and responsibilities while also feeling the grief and complex emotions surrounding a close family member’s death. I went through all of this myself when both of my parents died about ten years ago. I was also an only child, but my mother had an extended family of many sisters who helped with everything. My wife has been on her own in dealing with her mother’s death, having only me to help her.

So we have been dealing with nurses and doctors and hospital administrators, sometimes having to fight with them on her mother’s behalf. Worrying questions of nursing homes and healthcare coverage switched to meetings with hospice care workers, who are the saints of the healthcare world. We wrestled with the uncomfortable questions of burial versus cremation and meetings with funeral home directors. We did a weekend sprint to move all of her mother’s worldly possessions from her tiny apartment before month’s end, rapidly sorting through things of emotional significance as if they were random objects that take up too much space. We navigated the bureaucracy necessary to close out financial accounts. I say ‘we’ but much of that effort was led by my wife. While I have helped in all the ways I could as well as acting as emotional support, I have primarily been pushing to keep my work hours high in my day job through all of this so that, in the midst of everything else, my wife can also take time to grieve without worrying about her own work.

Death is such a huge event, the final life passage. I like to think of it as our final initiation, our graduation ceremony. It is quite a challenge to find the balance that allows us to hold the appropriate sense of reverence in the midst of so many pressing practical demands. As a poet and a spiritual practitioner, I naturally want to be internal, contemplative and, of course, a loving presence to the person crossing such a profound threshold, but it takes real skill to accomplish all that is necessary and still hold that inner sacred space.

I continually stand in wonder at the immensity and beauty and crushing challenges of this human life — as well as its closure. I am in awe of every single person on this planet: we all walk a courageous path through this life.

St. Francis composed his masterpiece, the Canticle of Brother Sun, in three parts. The first part in praise of the beauty and holiness of nature as a reflection of the Divine, was written in the Spring of 1225, immediately after he received the stigmata during an extended meditation retreat among a group of caves.

The second section, the segment on forgiveness and peace, was composed soon after, perhaps in response to the squabbling of political and religious authorities in Assisi.

The final verses were written late the following year as St. Francis was dying, in which he seems to be greeting “sister death.”

This hymn is one of the first great works written in Italian. At the time, Latin was the language of the Church and of learning. Yet, as part of Francis’s humility and affinity with the common people, he composed this praise poem in simple Italian so all could be inspired by it.

Praise for brother sun and sister moon, for the living wind and water and fire and earth. Praise for love and peace, without which the living awareness collapses to barrenness. And praise to death, too, who, in the fulness of time, brings completion and life’s final initiation. Through this poem we witness the whole pageant of life as it expresses itself through us and all the world.

Be well, everyone — and bright blessings!

Recommended Books: Francis of Assisi

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey Francis and Clare: The Complete Works: The Classics of Western Spirituality For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time
More Books >>

Francis of Assisi, Francis of Assisi poetry, Christian poetry Francis of Assisi

Italy (1181 – 1226) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

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Jan 06 2020

Macy, Barker and Leonard – Ecosattva Vows

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Ecosattva Vows
by Joanna Macy

Composed in collaboration between Joanna Macy and One Earth Sangha’s co-founders, Kristin Barker and Lou Leonard

– – –

Based on my love of the world and understanding of deep interdependence of all things, I vow

      To live on Earth more lightly and less violently in the food, products and energy I consume.
      To commit myself daily to the healing of the world and the welfare of all beings; to discern and replace human systems of oppression and harm.
      To invite personal discomfort as an opportunity to share in the challenge of our collective liberation.
      To draw inspiration, strength and guidance from the living Earth, from our ancestors and the future generations, and from our siblings of all species.
      To help others in their work for the world and to ask for help when I feel the need.
      To pursue a daily spiritual practice that clarifies my mind, strengthens my heart and supports me in observing these vows.

/ Image by Alice Popkorn /

This is a hard one, but a hopeful one…

I had a lovely Christmas, though it was a modest one. If you have read recent Poetry Chaikhana emails, you know that we had to replace our family car a few weeks ago. Here in Colorado, especially in the winter, having a reliable car is essential. We are so grateful that we had the money to put down a deposit and purchase a car right away. So that was our main gift to each other this Christmas. We had a beautiful holiday. We lit candles Christmas Eve, burned frankincense on Christmas Day, played Joan Baez’s Noel on the stereo, watched as our dog gleefully shredded the wrapping paper from our few other gifts to each other. It filled my heart.

The day after Christmas, something strange happened: the tip of my nose started getting large and bulbous and red. We made jokes about Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. I looked like old cartoons depicting someone who drank too much, which we laughed about because I don’t drink at all. Whatever it was, it seemed to go away after a day. But another day passed and then the whole left side of my face began to swell up and turn bright red.

When that didn’t go away after a day, and my temperature started to rise, it became a serious crisis for us. Being Americans and without health insurance, we knew that if I went to the hospital, that would bankrupt us, especially after having just committing most of our savings to our car purchase. We had to do that terrible assessment so many Americans do these days of deciding blindly just how serious the situation is. I mean, when I broke my ribs about 10 years ago, I never went to a doctor or a hospital, I just toughed it out for a miserable few weeks, but I survived and got past it. This time, however, something told me that whatever I was dealing with was different and I shouldn’t just wait it out.

Feeling very sick at this point, I went online and started researching options other than the hospital in my area. I found an urgent care facility not far away, where the typical expense was several hundred dollars rather than the several thousand dollars of a hospital visit, not counting the cost of any tests or treatments. I went there hoping they wouldn’t need me to do a bunch of tests or just send me to the hospital anyway. They examined me and it turned out that I had picked up a bacterial infection, relatively easy to treat with antibiotics, though quite dangerous if untreated. I had made the right decision and found an option that avoided financial crisis.

I have spent the time since healing and recovering — and feeling immense relief that my wife and I are okay financially. Sadly, many people are in much worse circumstances than we were in.

But, as I have been recovering and getting into the rhythms of the new year, I have been watching heartbreaking images of the wildfires all across Australia. In my vulnerable state, I have been especially empathizing with the people and the communities, the wildlife and the land itself, all being devastated by those massive fires. Such terrible destruction is a tragic warning to all of us to not tolerate delays or half-measures on climate change legislation and international environmental agreements.

And, of course, I have to mention the news of the American assassination of General Soleimani and the Iraqi official al-Muhandis, at Baghdad International Airport. This seems like an act by the Trump administration intended to provoke a war or at least an attempt to dramatically heighten tensions with Iran, while also being an unforgivable insult to the sovereignty of the country of Iraq. Too much is in motion right now to say with confidence what will result, but the main question is how much suffering will results in the world from this action.

I think for many people the year ended with some hope but the new year has begun with fear. Fear is not the stopping point, however. It is meant to be a doorway. What we first experience as fear or anxiety or even dread can, with attention, transform itself into a flinty clarity about what is actually happening, which then crystallizes our true priorities, prompting us to take necessary action.

Hope does not come from easy experiences. Hope comes from having the courage to face difficult truths and be changed by that encounter. Remade, we naturally remake the world around us. Sometimes this is because we are newly inspired to overt activism and service. But it can be in modest ways, as well, in our daily interactions, the way we move in the world, the way our individual insights filter into the group awareness. The energies we embody always — always– affect the world around us, both through action and through resonance.

What is most important is that we don’t freeze up and grow numb, holding to some idea of who we once were or what the world once was. Movement, even clumsy movement, is so important because movement is life. Through movement we encounter and discover and further awaken. Through movement we feel, which is not always comfortable, but feeling too feeds our life and our awakening. If we feel pain, if we feel heartbreak, then so be it; that is in the world too and our inherent compassionate nature calls to us through it, just as much as through joy, which is also there.

This is the adventure life offers to us. Despite what we so strongly want to believe, it is not always meant to be comfortable or easy or pristine. To be alive is itself an act of incomprehensible magic and wonder. Through the simple fact of life, every one of us is a being of immense courage, and we have capabilities beyond our imaginings. Let us use this difficult moment as it was meant to be used, to renew our vision of ourselves, to reawaken our energies and our presence in the world, and to recommit to the family of life on this beautiful earth.

To commit myself daily to the healing of the world and the welfare of all beings…

Sending love to you all.

Joanna Macy

US (Contemporary)

More poetry by Joanna Macy

10 responses so far

Nov 26 2019

Basho – snow-viewing

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Come, let’s go
by Matsuo Basho

English version by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto

Come, let’s go
till we’re buried.

— from Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter, Translated by Lucien Stryk / Translated by Takashi Ikemoto

/ Image by dadofliz /

I am sitting here at my computer reading poetry in snow boots. I just came in from shoveling the sidewalk. It looks like we might get two feet of snow today.

My car is in the shop and probably needs to be replaced. After 15 years of loyal service, it died on the road just as the first snowflakes started falling yesterday. In the space of a few blocks of driving it went from running fine, to making a strange noise, to completely dying. I had to jog half a mile in the snow to my home because I don’t have a cell phone, call a tow truck, and then watch as our car got hoisted up on the truck bed, and ride with it to the repair shop.

Rather than going into anxiety about the whole situation in the midst of the increasing snow, I found myself… dare I say it?… content. Even entertained. Accepting the situation for what it is, I rode along with the events. It became a sort of adventure.

I’m being told that it’s probably not worth the cost of repairs at this point, so in a few days, when we dig ourselves out, I will be shopping for another car.

A longtime car becomes a sort of family member, like a pet or trusted workhorse. Some people may feel it’s silly, but I’m fond of that old car and there is a bit of sadness at saying goodbye. I hope to adopt a new wheeled family member who becomes just as much of a friend.

Thankfully, past chronic fatigue patterns have been in abeyance for most of the past year, so I have been working more hours at my day job and I have a small amount saved that can now be used as a down payment for our next car.

When events just happen and there is no avoiding their cascading onslaught, sometimes the best option is just to grow still, enjoy the scene, and laugh as we are buried.

So, with no car at the moment and nearly two feet of snow on the ground and with more snow falling, it is a good day to pause and go snow-viewing…

That phrase “snow-viewing” may seem rather odd, if poetic, but it is actually a playful twist on the Japanese practice of tsukimi or moon-viewing. In Japan, there is a tradition of moon-viewing in autumn. Towns have moon-viewing festivals, a family might invite friends over for moon-viewing. To me, as an outsider, that sounds like a beautiful way for all of society to slow down and appreciate the masterful artwork of nature, communing with the rhythms of the world. Basho’s snow-viewing is an expansion of that idea — inviting a friend to step outside in order to appreciate the beauty of a recent snowfall in quiet companionship and shared ritual.

Particularly the Zen poetry, snow often carries with it the suggestion of deeper meanings we might want to explore.

When the difficulties and coldness and enforced internalization of winter are emphasized, snow can represent the struggles of spiritual practice that precede the spiritual awakening of spring.

When the silence that settles of the world bathed in snow is emphasized, it can represent the perfect stillness of mind that occurs in true meditation.

When the quality of blanketing all things in a uniform whiteness is highlighted, snow can be seen as an allusion to the unifying white or golden-white light that shines through everything, the light one perceives when the mind awakens.

This haiku by Basho can carry variations of all of these meanings, but especially the last one.

Notice the joke in these lines: By viewing the snow we become buried in it — and that is what Basho is really inviting us to do. With a lot of snow (and a dash of wit), Basho might be saying that by viewing something deeply, we become the beauty we perceive. Seeing the universal radiance, we become the radiance. Hearing the silence, we become the silence. Witness the eternal, and we become consumed by it, the ego self becomes lost in the blanket of white that covers everything, making all of existence one.

Have a beautiful day, with or without snow! And be warm and safe!

Recommended Books: Matsuo Basho

Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library) Haiku Enlightenment The Four Seasons: Japanese Haiku
More Books >>

Matsuo Basho, Matsuo Basho poetry, Buddhist poetry Matsuo Basho

Japan (1644 – 1694) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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