Archive for the 'Ivan’s Story' Category

Jul 21 2023

A note from Ivan

I feel like some aspects of the Poetry Chaikhana have been somewhat neglected in recent months. I have, for example, received several touching notes lately from different readers saying how much the Poetry Chaikhana means to you, but I haven’t been able to respond to them all. I want you to know that I receive all of your messages and they mean a lot to me.

I have also had plans for additional books, but I haven’t been able to dedicate the time to complete and publish them. I would even like to experiment with some online workshops or discussion groups.

I am in a phase right now where daily life requires me to put in as many hours as possible with my day job, while these other projects have to wait patiently. I want you all to know that you — and the Poetry Chaikhana in general — are very much in my mind still. When life allows, I very much look forward to some new creative endeavors and just connecting with you all more.

Be well and keep finding those quiet moments of inspiration that feed your soul — and have a beautiful day!

No responses yet

May 26 2023

Gabriel Rosenstock – a star

a star
by Gabriel Rosenstock

a star
a tree
and the longing in between

is an tnúthán eatarthu

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

/ Image by AlicePopkorn /

Yesterday I was a guest on Dr. Laurel Trujillo’s podcast The Yoga Hour. We had a delightful, far reaching conversation on sacred poetry, healing, the importance of inspiration to feed the spirit… and the path of longing.

We started our conversation off with this poem by Gabriel Rosenstock, so naturally I decided to share it with all of you.

Without even formulating a complete sentence, Irish poet Gabriel Rosenstock gives us the whole spiritual endeavor—rootedness and aspiration, life, light, a terrible void, and the aching heart that impels us onward.

If longing poses the question, then union is the answer.

This vibrant tension between longing and union reminds me of a story told by the 10th century Persian Sufi master Junayd. When asked why spiritually realized masters weep, he responded by telling of two brothers who had been apart for years. Upon their reunion, they embraced and were filled with tears. The first brother declared, “What longing!” to which the second brother replied, “What joy!” Longing and fulfillment, the one is not separate from the other.

We think of longing as a state of lack. There is something or someone we want in our lives, but it is not there. Longing can feel hopeless. But longing is really a spectrum. That ache, that longing pulsates on one end, while union, wholeness, and completion eternally await on the other. It’s not that they’re separate, longing and union; they are connected. The one naturally flows into the other. Longing is not the lack of union; longing leads to union. Longing is an aspect of union. Longing is a landscape we learn and explore as part of the spiritual journey. As seekers we traverse that space between longing and union, becoming its student.

The mystic maps the territory between the soul and God, between lover and Beloved, between the little self and the true Self, between the transitory and the Eternal. The road connecting these is the road of longing. Mysticism is the science of longing.

Star and tree, longing fills their dreams, but they awaken touching.


Ivan Interview on The Yoga Hour

If you want to listen my discussion of sacred poetry on The Yoga Hour podcast, you can find it here:

Recommended Books: Gabriel Rosenstock

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Haiku Enlightenment: New Expanded Edition Bliain an Bhandé – Year of the Goddess Uttering Her Name Where Light Begins: Haiku
More Books >>

Gabriel Rosenstock, Gabriel Rosenstock poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Gabriel Rosenstock

Ireland (1949 – )
Secular or Eclectic
Primal/Tribal/Shamanic : Celtic

Continue Reading »

2 responses so far

May 26 2023

Ivan Interview on The Yoga Hour

Yesterday I was a guest on Dr. Laurel Trujillo’s podcast The Yoga Hour. We had a delightful, far reaching conversation on sacred poetry, healing, the importance of inspiration to feed the spirit… and the path of longing.

The Yoga Hour

0:00 Introduction
– Introduction to Ivan
– Short meditation by the host
6:15 Poem: a star, a tree…
7:40 The Longing in Between
– The path of longing
– spectrum between longing and union
10:42 continues
12:30 Poetry and prose
16:22 Poem: Navajo Prayer
– restored in beauty
– healing and wholeness
– bridge or meeting point between earth and heaven
22:20 How to form a relationship with a poem
– Poem as participation in the breath and consciousness of poet
29:25 Poem by Yogacharya O’Brien: OM
32:53 What does “chaikhana” mean?
– Teahouses along the Silk Road
– Connection of East and West
– Sufi story of Tea as the drink of initiates
36:10 Mystics
– The word “mystic” preferred to words like, saint or sage
– Free from cultural baggage
– Avoids dogma
– Someone who seeks the living truth, not just following rules
40:17 Poem: Last night as I was sleeping…
43:34 Metaphor and describing the indescribable
– Mundane awareness can work with simile
– Expanded awareness witness union, the interconnectedness of things
– Real metaphor emerges from this realization
– This is what sacred poetry emerges from
46:27 Poem by Yogacharya O’Brien: Satsanga
48:02 Through poetry the illuminated state becomes contagious…
– How poetry conveys the sacred experience
52:30 Poem: One Thread Only
53:07 Inspiration is essential food for the spirit

No responses yet

Feb 17 2023

Dorothy Walters – The Abundance of Brightness

The Abundance of Brightness
by Dorothy Walters

      God is not unknown on account of obscurity
      but on account of the abundance of brightness.
            — St. Thomas Aquinas

Dante Mounting to the Rose of Heaven

Not one of us
could breathe this air,
face this naked radiance
Here music turns to light,
a tone so sweet
that we, dulled by
our familiar calliope,
mistake its sound for silence.

Dante, mounting to tiers of
trembling flame,
found light. Light everywhere.
Circles, wheels,
light on light,
a dance of invisibles.
The flames pulsating, as if
measuring the breath of heaven.
At the last, he falls forward,
caught in widening rings
of implacable bright.

At Eleusis

Even at Eleusis,
after the long journey,
the sea-bath among the sacred waves,
the accounts of the grieving mother
and her vanished child,
at the end
the shouts rang out
like birth-cries in the throats
of the startled pilgrims, blinded
by the flare of torches sweeping
from frames of darkness.
Then silence. Then they saw.

A Celebration

And then quiet.
Someone who whispers:
now we are free.

Which was, almost,
but only in the way
a bird,
leaving a limb,
goes freely into
a different realm,
an atmosphere
more pure,
more transparent,
but that, too,
maintaining its fixities.

The Clinging

[for those who] have beheld the Tao… gems sparkle on dusty roads; puddles appear as pools of lapis lazuli; tough weeds acquire fragile beauty…
      — John Blofield

The I Ching calls it clinging, fire:
“Fire has no definite form,”
it says,
“but clings to the burning object
and thus is bright.”

— from Marrow of Flame : Poems of the Spiritual Journey, by Dorothy Walters

/ Image by Jackson David /

I found out a few days ago that Dorothy Walters passed away at the beginning of this week. She would have been 95 next month.

Dorothy and I had been good friends for nearly 20 years. She reached out to me over the Internet in the early days of the Poetry Chaikhana, back when I had just put the website up and had begun circulating these poetry emails. At the time, she still lived in San Francisco but, as a retired professor, she had deep ties to where I lived in Boulder, Colorado and its university, and she soon moved back.

We liked to meet for brunch and far-ranging conversations. We also, for awhile, met together with a few others to read and discuss spiritual poetry.

Though a few decades younger than her, I was often in awe of her energy. She attended multiple groups exploring questions of spirituality, psychology, and human awareness. Invariably, everyone was drawn to her small frame and big heart. She contributed essays to a few different books on Kundalini experience, and she spoke several times at different Kundalini conferences. On top of all that, she maintained many rich, personal correspondences with people all over the country and the world who contacted her to discuss their experiences of spiritual and energetic opening.

She has been a special presence in the world — and in my own life. As I enter my elder years, I hope to follow her example of joyful, enthusiastic, and heartfelt service. She continues to be an inspiration.

Thank you, Dorothy!

Recommended Books: Dorothy Walters

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World Marrow of Flame : Poems of the Spiritual Journey The Ley Lines of the Soul: Poems of Ecstasy and Ascension Diamond Cutters: Visionary Poets in America, Britain & Oceania
More Books >>

Dorothy Walters, Dorothy Walters poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Dorothy Walters

US (1928 – 2023) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

Continue Reading »

No responses yet

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

Continue Reading »

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

Continue Reading »

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

Continue Reading »

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!

No responses yet

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

Continue Reading »

2 responses so far

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

Continue Reading »

6 responses so far

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

Continue Reading »

5 responses so far

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

Continue Reading »

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

Continue Reading »

4 responses so far

Next »