Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

Feb 26 2021

Mary Oliver – Spring

Published by under Poetry

Spring
by Mary Oliver

Somewhere
a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring

down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring

I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue

like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:

how to love this world.
I think of her
rising
like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
the silence
of the trees.
Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its glass cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness
coming
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her —
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.

— from New and Selected Poems, by Mary Oliver


/ Image by Marie Hale /

We have snow on the ground here in Colorado, but spring is coming. You can see it in the brilliant morning sunlight, in the first tentative buds on branches. We are, all of us, beginning to shake off the long hibernation of winter to encounter the world once again, like Mary Oliver’s bear.

The poem evokes for us the image of this black bear, this huge being, “like a black and leafy ledge,” waking from its slumbers and rather roughly encountering the world once again. But that renewed interaction between bear and gravel, grass, and tree is a form a sacrament. It is the embodiment of a questions: how to love this world.

The poem circles back to the poet, her human life filled with creativity and cities…

Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its glass cities…

But we sense that the list is incomplete. Something fundamental has been left out of the first part of that list. That connection with nature. No… deeper even than that. Something archetypal. The great primal being within as it awakens and encounters the world.

it is also this dazzling darkness
coming
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

Despite its massive presence, it is silent. Without words. Beyond words.

(The phrase “dazzling darkness” is of particular significance within Western esoteric traditions, tracing back to a poem by the important early Christian mystic Dionysius the Areopagite. I suspect Ms. Oliver used it intentionally to suggest the same mysterious, vast, silent presence.)

all day I think of her -–
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.

I have always felt a special connection with the animal world. As a child, for a time I planned to become a veterinarian. I remember often meditating as a boy on the wordlessness of animals. What sort of world do they inhabit without words, without names for things or places or people… or even for themselves? I tried to imagine that world, to enter it with my own wordlessness. Like Mary Oliver’s bear. In our wordlessness, when we stop naming things, we find that we encounter everything more immediately, more fully. When we name a thing or person or experience, we have labeled it, categorized it and, as a result, moved it outside of the realm of direct experience and shunted it safely into a mental idea of the moment, rather than the living moment itself. When we name things through incessant thought, we then encounter our thoughts about the experience and not the actual experience. We end up seeing only reflections of the mind and forget how to see the world as it is.

Mary Oliver’s bear reminds us to let that great black bear rise from its sleep and encounter the world in its wordlessness. This is how we can begin to answer the “only one question: how to love this world.” We embody perfect love when we are truly present in our dazzling silence and not elsewhere in our words and thoughts. Love is connection, contact, encountering a person or place as it is, as we are. Love is being right here.

Have a beautiful day, one of wordless spring awakening!


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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Feb 12 2021

Patrul Rinpoche – Use the time of your life

Published by under Poetry

Use the time of your life
by Patrul Rinpoche

Use the time of your life.
Develop your inner happiness.
Recognize the impermanence
of all outer pleasure.

Live as a Yogi
Do your spiritual practices.
Work as a Bodhisattva
for a happy world.

Become an Amitabha
a Buddha of love and light.
Turn your world into the paradise Sukhavati,
by unfolding the enlightenment energy within you.

Search you a spiritual master,
who knows the goal of enlightenment.
Change your world into a place of grace,
by understanding all the phenomena as spiritual exercises.

Dedicate your actions to the benefit of all beings.
Send all beings light.
Live for the happiness of all beings.
So you get the energy of light.


/ Image by Hartwig HKD /

Today, February 12, is the beginning of Losar, the Tibetan New Year, a good time to release the old and welcome in the new.

I don’t often feature poetry from the Tibetan tradition, even though I love this rich heritage. The reason is that much of the sacred poetry that comes to us from Tibetan practitioners can seem to the casual reader to be rather technical and philosophically didactic. It is rarely the fluid and ecstatic outpouring of the heart, like Rumi’s poetry, for example. But, once you have explored Tibetan expressions of Buddhism a bit and understand some of the sacred terminology, then Tibetan poetry reveals itself to be a treasure trove of wisdom and beauty.

For today, I thought I’d choose a relatively simple and direct poem by Patrul Rinpoche.

Use the time of your life.
Develop your inner happiness.

This poem is a direct appeal to seize the opportunity of our being. We have the blessing of life and awareness, so let’s joyfully use them for what they were really made for — awakening.

The outer satisfaction of pleasures and acquisitions, while they may have their place in our lives too, are always limited and, because of their exterior nature, never provide us with lasting fulfillment.

Recognize the impermanence
of all outer pleasure.

When we are wise, we cultivate our inner happiness, our wellspring of inherent bliss, which does not fluctuate with outer experiences.

We can find parallels in the Christian tradition when Jesus advises his followers to store one’s treasures in heaven where they are not vulnerable to decay or theft.

Patrul Rinpoche gives us simple, clear guidance for a life of spiritual fruition:

Live as a Yogi
Do your spiritual practices.

He reminds us to remain engaged in the practices and activities that return our focus, again and again, to our higher purposes in life. Yes, we have our daily roles and responsibilities, but we must always return to the deeper meaning of our lives and find ways to infuse even our most mundane tasks with that extra spiritual magnetic charge so that increasingly every activity becomes a spiritual practice filled with inner purpose.

Work as a Bodhisattva
for a happy world.

A Bodhisattva is one who has taken vows to work for the healing and spiritual awakening of all beings. In other words, he advises us to live in service and act with kindness, healing the world as we move through it.

Become an Amitabha
a Buddha of love and light.

An Amitabha is a Buddha of light, a radiant and loving expression of pure awakening. The spiritual path is not one of drudgery or rigid progress. We blossom with love and light.

Turn your world into the paradise Sukhavati,
by unfolding the enlightenment energy within you.
…Change your world into a place of grace.

As we discover our inner bliss, we unleash it into the world, letting it do its transformative work. Allowing that energy to move through us, we naturally strive to build outer manifestations of that inner joy, trying to awaken that awareness of paradise in others and in the social fabric we collectively weave.

The well-lived spiritual life becomes a dance of inner and outer, in which kindness and joy are both natural and logical as we more fully recognize the interrelationship of being we all share.

Dedicate your actions to the benefit of all beings.
Send all beings light.
Live for the happiness of all beings.
So you get the energy of light.

May this be a time of cleansing endings and joyful new beginnings. Happy Losar!



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Patrul Rinpoche, Patrul Rinpoche poetry, Buddhist poetry Patrul Rinpoche

Tibet (1808 – 1887) Timeline
Buddhist : Tibetan

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Feb 05 2021

Rainer Maria Rilke – Want the change

Published by under Poetry

Want the change
by Rainer Maria Rilke

English version by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
as the curve of the body as it turns away.

What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.

Pour yourself out like a fountain.
Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.

Every happiness is the child of a separation
it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, becoming
a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.

— from In Praise of Mortality: Rilke’s Duino Elegies & Sonnets to Orpheus, by Rainer Maria Rilke / Translated by Joanna Macy


/ Image by Lulu Lovering /

This poem is a lovely meditation on change and transitoriness — as signs of life. It is only those relationships and experiences which move, and evolve, and eventually disappear that are fully alive.

Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.

We so want the opposite to be true. We reflexively want to grasp the world, to hold it fixed, so we can trust reality, know its rules, and feel secure every day. But Rilke invites us to see with the poet’s keen eye the truth of the matter: that which doesn’t change lacks life and loses beauty–

What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.

We can’t hold our lives fixed, and we can’t hold ourselves fixed within our lives. The only thing to do is to step fully into each mysterious unknown day.

I love the line–

Pour yourself out like a fountain.

This statement so powerfully evokes the courage each day requires and the generosity of self that we can bring to each encounter.

We give of ourselves not to secure our lives but to live our lives in fullness. And, in doing so, we discover more life in our lives.

Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.

If you’re not a mythology nerd, you may not have picked up on Rilke’s reference to Daphne and the laurel…

And Daphne, becoming
a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.

In Greek mythology, Daphne was a stunningly beautiful nymph who lived and hunted in the woods. Because of her beauty men constantly sought her favors, but she refused everyone. Then the god Apollo fell in love with her, but she refused him as well. Daphne fled from Apollo, who continued to pursue her. When Apollo was about to grasp Daphne, she called upon her father’s magical power, and she was instantly transformed into a laurel tree. The god Apollo, still in love with Daphne, but unable to embrace her, plucked a branch of the laurel and wore it as a wreath upon his head.

By evoking Daphne, Rilke is calling up this rich myth of beauty, and the inability to posses it. Yet that beauty, in transforming itself into something that can no longer be truly held or lusted after, takes on a new life all its own, a life that yet dances in the wind.

Rilke seems to be inviting us to encounter life with full presence and, with the courage of a witness rather than one who grasps, to appreciate beauty both in the coming and goings of life.


Recommended Books: Rainer Maria Rilke

The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke The Soul is Here for its Own Joy: Sacred Poems from Many Cultures Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God In Praise of Mortality: Rilke’s Duino Elegies & Sonnets to Orpheus
More Books >>


Rainer Maria Rilke, Rainer Maria Rilke poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Rainer Maria Rilke

Germany (1875 – 1926) Timeline
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Jan 29 2021

Edith Kanaka’ole – E ho mai

Published by under Poetry

E ho mai
by Edith Kanaka’ole


E ho mai
Ka ike mai luna mai e

O na mea huna no eau
O na mele e

E ho mai
E ho mai
E ho mai

Grant us
knowledge from above,

All the wisdom
of the songs.

Grant,
Bestow,
Grant us these things.

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


/ Image by Angela Sevin /

Years ago, when I lived in Hawai’i, I took a class in ho’oponopono. (If you sound it out slowly, it’s not the tounge-twister it first looks like.) Ho’oponopono means literally “to make things right, to return things to harmony.” It is a traditional healing method, but its emphasis is not on healing the body as it is on healing relationships, families, communities. If you think about it, what is the purpose of a healthy body except as an instrument to work for a healthier society? The small body serves the larger body.

As part of my training in ho’oponopono, I learned this chant. Hawaiian chant can be compared to Hindu mantra in that to truly say it properly can take a great deal of training. The inflections are important. The breath is important. Most of all, the sense of personal presence is important.

This Hawaiian chant must be said with force and with heart. It is a prayer, but it is not passive. It is a calling forth, a reaching out and a drawing in — of wisdom, of knowledge, of truth. It evokes in us pono, rightness.

Try sounding out the Hawaiian. Slowly at first, until the sounds become familiar. Then louder, with confidence. Say it over and over again. Imagine repeating this chant in a group. Let it ring through your body and your day!

To hear it chanted, click here
Aloha!


Recommended Books: Edith Kanaka’ole

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology)


Edith Kanaka'ole, Edith Kanaka'ole poetry, Primal/Tribal/Shamanic poetry Edith Kanaka’ole

US, Hawaii (1913 – 1979) Timeline
Primal/Tribal/Shamanic : Hawaiian

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Jan 22 2021

Civivakkiyar – In bricks and in granite

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In bricks and in granite
by Civivakkiyar

English version by Kamil V. Zvelebil

In bricks and in granite,
in the red-rubbed lingam,
in copper and brass
is Siva’s abode —
      that’s what you tell us,
      and you’re wrong.
Stay where you are
and study your own selves.
Then you will BECOME
the Temple of God,
      full of His dance and spell
            and song.

— from The Poets of the Powers: Freedom, Magic, and Renewal, Translated by Kamil V. Zvelebil


/ Image by Natesh Ramasamy /

I have always loved the poetry of Civivakkiyar since I first discovered it years ago. There is a directness that is at times blunt, along with a teasing quality, and underlying it all a radiant realization that rises up through the words. Even his name, Civivakkiyar, feels like poetry on the tongue.

This poem exhibits the Tamil Siddha opposition to orthodoxy and mindless ritualism — which tend to externalize God, separating the individual from the presence of the Divine. Civivakkiyar is proclaiming that God (Siva) is not only found in temples and objects of worship, places and things that have been separated out and defined as sacred. Not “in bricks and in granite,” not in the “lingam” (a common representation of Siva), not in the ritual objects of “copper and brass.”

To say that God is in the temple or the altar or the icon and not elsewhere impoverishes us spiritually. That perspective makes us strangers to the presence of the sacred, which is everywhere, always.

The truth is that God is not ‘out there’ (wherever we imagine ‘there’ to be). The Divine is right here, right now, within us:

Stay where you are
and study your own selves.
Then you will BECOME
the Temple of God…

It is only within ourselves that we find the proper ground to worship and ultimately encounter God, whether we stand in the temple precinct, or the marketplace, the forest grove, or the office space.

When we stop running from sacred place to sacred place and, instead, finally recognize the living sacred presence everywhere — and most especially within ourselves — then we experience such an uninhibited flow of life and delight that we become filled with the eternal “dance and spell / and song.”


Recommended Books: Civivakkiyar

The Poets of the Powers: Freedom, Magic, and Renewal


Civivakkiyar

India (9th Century) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shaivite (Shiva)

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Jan 15 2021

Mary Oliver – In Blackwater Woods

Published by under Poetry

In Blackwater Woods
by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

— from American Primitive, by Mary Oliver


/ Image by Claudio /

This is one of my favorite poems by Mary Oliver. It speaks to so many levels of the human experience.

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light…

Those opening lines draw me in every time I read them. They remind me that nature, too, is a heavenly realm. But there is also the beginning hint of loss here, something evanescent and fleeting. It is as if these trees, in their glow, are fading from the physical world, receding from us. It is a lovely, melancholy sort of transcendence.

Lines in this poem also suggest to me, at times, formless awareness:

and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.

Notice the intentional ambiguity of that final line break above. She could be saying that the ponds are now nameless, or that they are nameless Now, nameless Presence. Contemplating that double meaning can throw the mind into meditation.

She uses a similar line break immediately preceding that: “name is, is”. The break forces us unconsciously to think of how no matter what a place (or person) is named, it IS. It’s existence is undeniable, not somehow dependent on human definitions or categories or names. The line break tricks the mind into contemplating the relationship between pure being and our mental categorization of existence.

But the part of the poem that touches me most is the courageous willingness to embrace both connection and loss:

To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.


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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Jan 08 2021

Namdev – The drum with no drumhead beats

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The drum with no drumhead beats
by Namdev

English version by Nirmal Dass

The drum with no drumhead beats;
clouds thunder without the monsoon;
rain falls without clouds.
Can anyone guess this riddle?

I have met Ram the beautiful,
and I too have become beautiful.

The philosopher’s stone turns lead into gold;
costly rubies I string with my words and thoughts.
I discovered real love; doubts, fears have left me.
I found comfort in what my guru taught me.

A pitcher will fill when plunged in water,
so Ram is the One in all.
The guru’s heart and the disciple’s heart are one.
Thus has the slave Namdeva perceived Truth.

— from Songs of the Saints from the Adi Granth, Translated by Nirmal Dass


/ Image by Waywuwei /

Namdev starts this song with a riddle: a drum sound “with no drumhead”, and “thunder without the monsoon”… We have the reverberation, but without an initiating event. In deep meditation an inner sound is heard resonating everywhere. In various Indian traditions this primal sound is called shabd or omkara.

And his riddle also tells us that “rain falls without clouds.” The rain that falls is amrita, the bliss-filled drink of divine communion. This is an actual substance, though a subtle one. When the mind is entirely clear and purified (“without clouds”), this “rain” descends from the sky-bowl of the skull, touching the tongue with indescribable sweetness, warming the heart, and filling the awareness with a transcendent joy.

Try rereading the poem with that sense of inner meaning. Read slowly this time, savoring it, feeling what this ecstatic saint is really saying. “The drum with no drumhead beats…” Do you hear it quietly resonating within your own settling awareness? “Clouds thunder without the monsoon…”

Here are my favorite lines:

I have met Ram the beautiful,
and I too have become beautiful.

In this state of bliss and profound unity, we recognize that we ourselves, as individual beings, are a pure emptiness, without any substance of our own. Finally seeing this, we recognize ourselves as being of the same nature as the Divine Reality we witness — and that presence is vast, radiant, whole, and “beautiful.” It is beautiful, and we too are that beauty!

It is as if by touching something utterly whole and perfect, all of our imperfections and divisions are dispelled by that total vision.

The philosopher’s stone turns lead into gold

It is that contact that transmutes the “lead” of the fragmented ego identity into the “gold” of unbounded awakened awareness.

I discovered real love; doubts, fears have left me…

In such an immense ocean of “real love” and the wholeness of gnosis, one’s underlying existential doubts and fears dissolve.

A pitcher will fill when plunged in water

This is a reference to popular yogic metaphor. The individual ego-self is like a leaky pitcher that requires constant refilling to keep even a small amount of water in it. The only way to fill it up is to toss it into the ocean. The pitcher is for the finally filled with water, surrounded by water. The separating walls of the ego become meaningless, since the water of that divine consciousness is both inside and outside with no difference… Suddenly we see a world of drowned pitchers, the same water filling and surrounding everything.

Ram is the One in all.

=

It is a new year, and that is always a time for hope, yet many problems remain unresolved, accompanied by much anger. It is easy to get caught up in the escalations of outrage. I am focusing my life to meet the uncertain road ahead with a combination of practicality, flexibility, and engaged love. Meditation and poetry are two excellent ways to continuously return to the heart that we may know the way forward.

Blessings to you all in the new year!


Recommended Books: Namdev

Songs of the Saints from the Adi Granth Namdev, His Mind and Art: A linguistic Analysis of Namdev’s Poetry Hindi Padavali of Namdev


Namdev, Namdev poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Namdev

India (1270 – 1350) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Vaishnava (Krishna/Rama)
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Dec 11 2020

Symeon the New Theologian – We awaken in Christ’s body

Published by under Poetry

We awaken in Christ’s body
by Symeon the New Theologian

English version by Stephen Mitchell

We awaken in Christ’s body
as Christ awakens our bodies,
and my poor hand is Christ, He enters
my foot, and is infinitely me.

I move my hand, and wonderfully
my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him
(for God is indivisibly
whole, seamless in His Godhood).

I move my foot, and at once
He appears like a flash of lightning.
Do my words seem blasphemous? — Then
open your heart to Him

and let yourself receive the one
who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,
we wake up inside Christ’s body

where all our body, all over,
every most hidden part of it,
is realized in joy as Him,
and He makes us, utterly, real,

and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in Him transformed

and recognized as whole, as lovely,
and radiant in His light
he awakens as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.

— from The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry, by Stephen Mitchell


/ Image by rpphotos /

Since we are coming into the Christmas season, I thought I would take the opportunity to share one of my favorite poems by Symeon the New Theologian.

Symeon doesn’t urge us to merely honor or love the Beloved (Christ within the Christian tradition) from a distance. We melt into the Divine, become one with the Divine, share the same body.

I move my hand, and wonderfully
my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him

Some of these lines remind me of the poem attributed to Teresa of Avila, You Are Christ’s Hands with it’s lines– “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, / no hands but yours…”

This poem by Symeon is one I just want to drink in — it feels so deeply healing and generous to the soul.

and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in Him transformed

and recognized as whole, as lovely,
and radiant in His light
he awakens as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.

Thinking of Christmas, I have always felt a particular love for manger scenes, ceramic, porcelain, or carved wooden figurines of the Christ Child laid in a bed of straw, Mary knelt over her new child, Joseph with his lamp, the Three Magi holding their gifts, a shepherd with a few sheep, an ox and an ass at rest. Often the scene has a hut-like manger as background, the roof covered with moss — with the announcing angel and the Christmas star shining above. That iconic scene has always felt magical and alive to me, rich with unspoken meaning.

And it is. We can read the gospel stories of the birth of Christ as simply describing events, or we can read it more deeply as being imbued with spiritual meaning.

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

Looking at Mary and Joseph, one way to understand Mary in the Nativity story is that she represents the heart or the soul, while Joseph represents the intellect. From this perspective, the gospel story of the virgin birth takes on ever deeper dimensions.

In the mystical tradition, the soul must first stop attempting to take false lovers through every outer experience, and yearn so deeply for the true Beloved within that she (the soul) becomes restored to her natural “untouched” state (Mary’s virginity). That is, the soul must become purified, inward focused, unattached, “untouched” by the experiences of the outer world. Mary’s virginity is a virginity of awareness.

When this happens deeply enough, the divine touch comes, and a new life (the Christ child in Christian tradition) is formed within the soul. The overwhelming sense of joy and spiritual bliss that is felt becomes a new presence in the body and mind.

But the father of this new life is not Joseph. The heart does not conceive by the intellect, but through direct communion with the Eternal. At this stage, the intellect has a choice: Retreat into cold denial, proclaiming, ‘I do not know that child’ and reject the heart and the life it carries; or it can recognize that something deeply sacred is taking place, something not of its own making, and then take responsibility and provide for the growth and maturation of that inner illumination.

In this way, the Christian gospel drama is played out in you and me and in all devout mystics. This isn’t something experienced only by Christians; here, we are simply using Christian language to describe a universal mystical experience…

In the traditional iconography, we see the infant Christ on a bed of straw in a manger surrounded by animals. In the gospel tale, two animals are mentioned specifically: an ox and an ass. Why those two animals? Esoteric Christian teachings sometimes explain it this way: the ox (an ancient symbol of Venus), represents sensuality and passion; the ass can be seen as embodying either the ego or reason. What are they doing in this image of divine birth? Notice that they are not suppressed; the ox and ass are not chained or slaughtered. No, they rest, they are at peace, tamed by the presence of spiritual light. More than that, they are actually protecting the infant, giving him their strength. As one 20th century Christian teacher phrased it, “They are warming the Christ child with their breath.” Viewed this way, the nativity gives us an image not of suppression, but of integration of the energies of life in support of the awakening soul.

There is, of course, much more to explore. The cave or manger of the birth. The three Magian wise men from the east. But I hope I have suggested some good ideas to contemplate and inspire a bit more spiritual connection this Christmas.

he awakens as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.

Wishing each and every one of you a beautiful Christmas, Hanukkah, and Solstice. May this time when the light renews itself amidst the darkness also bring a renewal of the light and life within you and everyone your life touches.


Recommended Books: Symeon the New Theologian

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 The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry The Book of Mystical Chapters: Meditations on the Soul’s Ascent from the Desert Fathers and Other Early Christian Contemplatives
More Books >>


Symeon the New Theologian, Symeon the New Theologian poetry, Christian poetry Symeon the New Theologian

Turkey (949 – 1032) Timeline
Christian : Eastern Orthodox

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Dec 04 2020

Mary Oliver – What is There Beyond Knowing?

Published by under Poetry

What is There Beyond Knowing?
by Mary Oliver

What is there beyond knowing that keeps
calling to me? I can’t

turn in any direction
but it’s there. I don’t mean

the leaves’ grip and shine or even the thrush’s
silk song, but the far-off

fires, for example,
of the stars, heaven’s slowly turning

theater of light, or the wind
playful with its breath;

or time that’s always rushing forward,
or standing still

in the same — what shall I say —
moment.

What I know
I could put into a pack

as if it were bread and cheese, and carry it
on one shoulder,

important and honorable, but so small!
While everything else continues, unexplained

and unexplainable. How wonderful it is
to follow a thought quietly

to its logical end.
I have done this a few times.

But mostly I just stand in the dark field,
in the middle of the world, breathing

in and out. Life so far doesn’t have any other name
but breath and light, wind and rain.

If there’s a temple, I haven’t found it yet.
I simply go on drifting, in the heaven of the grass
and the weeds.

— from New and Selected Poems, by Mary Oliver


/ Image by rema1n5 /

I don’t think I’ll say much about this poem today, just encourage you to read it again, savoring its words…

heaven’s slowly turning
theater of light

and its imagery…

But mostly I just stand in the dark field,
in the middle of the world, breathing

in and out. Life so far doesn’t have any other name
but breath and light, wind and rain.

and finding the peace and self-acceptance held within.

If there’s a temple, I haven’t found it yet.
I simply go on drifting, in the heaven of the grass
and the weeds.

Have a beautiful 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

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Nov 29 2020

Holiday Poetry Book Recommendations 2020

It has been a challenging year for most of us, I know. As we approach the winter holidays, our normal celebratory feeling is muted. We are more cautious about big family gatherings. Economic times are uncertain for many. And the new year remains unknown. But we can choose to use this as a time of spiritual opportunity. So much that we have taken for granted — in the world around us and within ourselves — has been losing its rigid certainty. When things return to a formless and changing state, that is when the greatest potential is available to us. This is a time for dreaming as new patterns form and take shape. And what better time to dream than in the deep of winter? Let us cultivate new visions for who we are and who we are becoming. Let us rediscover our native voices.

I strongly believe that poetry is one of the most powerful, resonant tools for the spirit to reach out into the world. Words and images, rhythms and silences, these expand our awareness, they shift our focus, they open our hearts — and we, in turn, inevitably affect the world around us.

So consider treating yourself to some enlightening moments of poetry this winter. Offer it as a transformative and healing gift to your family and friends. Watch as it works its magic within you and the world around you.

“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.”


Here is a a holiday sampler to consider as gifts for you and your loved ones:

Poetry Chaikhana Publications

Of course, we have to start with the Poetry Chaikhana’s books!

To satisfy that longing (or awaken it)…

The Longing in Between

Sacred Poetry from Around the World
A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology

Edited with Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

In many ways this is my most personal publication, combining favorite soul-inspiring poems from the world’s great religious and spiritual traditions, accompanied by the thoughts, meditations, commentary, and occasional tangents that have been central to the Poetry Chaikhana poem emails for years. Selections from Rumi, Whitman, Kabir, Machado, Issa, Teresa of Avila, Dickinson, Blake, Yunus Emre, John of the Cross, Lalla, and many others.

These are poems of seeking and awakening… and the longing in between.

The Longing in Between is a work of sheer beauty. Ivan M. Granger has done a great service, not only by bringing [these poems] to public attention, but by opening their deeper meaning with his own rare poetic and mystic sensibility.”

ROGER HOUSDEN
author of the best-selling Ten Poems to Change Your Life series




READ MOREPURCHASE


This Dance of Bliss, Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World, A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology, Ivan M. Granger


This Dance of Bliss

Ecstatic Poetry From Around the World

A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology

Edited with Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

This Dance of Bliss is an inspiring collection of poems and wisdom stories from the world’s great sacred traditions. Rumi, St. John of the Cross, Lalla, Goethe, Hildegard von Bingen, Dogen, Khayyam, and many others gather together within these pages to sing their ecstatic songs.

Ivan M. Granger accompanies each poem with his own reflections and meditative commentaries, inviting us to explore the insights and private raptures of these mystics, seers, and saints-until we too are swept up in this dance of bliss!

This book is a treasure, a feast, an oasis. Ivan M. Granger’s profound gift for selecting the kind of poetry that lights up the cave of the heart and melts the boundaries between the soul and the Divine is fully met by his lucid reflections on the soul-transfiguring power of each piece in this magnificent collection.

MIRABAI STARR
author of God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity & Islam


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Haiku Enlightenment, Gabriel Rosenstock

Haiku Enlightenment
New Expanded Edition

by Gabriel Rosenstock


PURCHASE



   

or ask at your local independent book store

Haiku Enlightenment is a delightful, often playful look at haiku as both a poetic craft and a pathway of awakening – for poets, seekers and creative rebels.

Gabriel Rosenstock has given us a rich collection of insights, distilled from a lifetime dedicated to the art and practice of poetry, on stepping into inspired moments. Using a generous selection of contemporary and classical haiku, he explores ideas of creativity and perception, encouraging us to calm the restless mind, notice what is overlooked, explore the world around us, and fully encounter each glowing moment.

From such moments, haiku – and enlightenment – emerge.

Haiku happens in this world of daily miracles and is a perfect prism through which Nature herself enlightens us.
– Gabriel Rosenstock, from Haiku Enlightenment

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the moon    
has found it for me    
a mountain path    

    Michael McClintock   

    the body of the Buddha
    accepts it–
    winter rain

         Issa


Gathering Silence

Sayings by Ivan M. Granger
Collages by Rashani Réa

All of mysticism comes down to this:
to recognize
what is already
and always here.

Gathering Silence is a collection of meditative sayings and bits of poetry, accompanied throughout by stunning full-color artwork by internationally-known collage artist, Rashani Réa. This is beautiful book, filled with color, creative thoughts, and meditative moments. Perfect for an altar or meditation space, by your bed or on a coffee table. A wonderful gift for family, friends, and fellow seekers!

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Marrow of the Flame
Poems of the Spiritual Journey
by Dorothy Walters

Introduction by Andrew Harvey

Dorothy Walters explores the spiritual journey through its ecstasies, struggles, and vistas. Each step is observed with the keen insight and clear voice of a modern woman who is both a skilled poet and genuine mystic.

READ MORE
PURCHASE


This year I thought I would change things up a bit with a more personal list. Rather than giving you a list of general gift suggestions, I thought why not create a list of the sacred poetry books that have meant the most to me at key points in my life.

I had a pleasant afternoon going through my bookshelves, pulling books I’ve loved, remembering key moments in my journeys of spiritual and poetic exploration, until I was surrounded by stacks of cherished books. I thought, this is it! This will be my holiday recommended book list this year. It was only when I then went back and checked my holiday book lists from the previous few years that I realized I have been recommending many of these personally beloved books all along. So here they are (again): my list of books recommended for the holidays, books that have opened doorways in my mind and heart, awakening a deep love of poetry as a way to express the ineffable. I hope these books will mean something special to you and your loved ones these holidays…

A Sampling of Sufi Wisdom…

Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom
By Andrew Harvey and Eryk Hanut

Something about Andrew Harvey’s selections and translations always strike a pure note. This book is a delightful collection of poetry and Sufi wisdom stories. Rumi, Kabir, al-Hallaj, Shabistari, Ansari… This is one I return to again and again.

Nobody, Son of Nobody: Poems of Shaikh Abu-Saeed Abil-Kheir
Renditions by Vraje Abramian

I read this book early in my exploration of Sufi poetry — and I was hooked! Abu Said Abil-Kheir’s poetry ranges from the ecstatic and celestial, to struggles with abandonment. His poetry has an immediacy and even a sort of devoutly wry petulance. This book remains a personal favorite of mine.

For the wise woman…

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women
Edited by Jane Hirshfield

This is the first anthology I got years ago that made me say, Wow! Includes Sappho, Rabia, Yeshe Tsogyel, Hildegard von Bingen, Mechthild of Magdeburg, Hadewijch of Antwerp, Lalla, Mirabai, Bibi Hayati, Marina Tsvetaeva. The best collection I’ve found of women’s voices in sacred poetry.

Kali: The Black Goddess of Dakshineswar
by Elizabeth U. Harding

Not really a poetry collection, but this was the book that first introduced me to the fierce and passionate poetry of the great Kali devotees, like Ramprasad and Kalamakanta. Elisabeth Harding has done a beautiful job of gathering together Kali lore and presenting it to a primarily Western audience, while remaining reverent toward Kali and traditions of Kali worship. She discusses the traditional symbolism of Kali and the shocking, violent images associated with Her. Kali emerges in the reader’s mind as the loving destroyer of illusion, ecstatic slayer of demonic qualities.

For illumination…

The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry
Edited by Stephen Mitchell

This is a compact anthology, but a wonderful collection that includes Li Po, Wu-Men, Rumi, Kabir, Mirabai, Rilke… And the added bonus of Stephen Mitchell’s way with words. One of my personal favorites.

The Illuminated Rumi
Translations by Coleman Barks
Art by Michael Green

I keep recommending this year after year. It is a beautiful gift book with excerpts of Rumi’s poetry accompanied by amazing digital collage artwork that draws you deeply into each page. This book entrances on several levels. An excellent gift book.



For the Christian contemplative…

The Book of Mystical Chapters:
Meditations on the Soul’s Ascent from the Desert Fathers and Other Early Christian Contemplatives
Translated and Introduced by John Anthony McGuckin

This is the book that, years ago, introduced me to the stunning poetry of Symeon the New Theologian, igniting my passion for his visionary poetry of light and transformation. You’ll also find poems and poetic renditions of writings from many other saints and mystics of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Still a favorite of mine.

Selected Poems of Thomas Merton
by Thomas Merton

I can’t recommend this collection highly enough. Merton, in addition to being a deep mystic, was a truly excellent contemporary poet. His poems feel entirely modern, yet touch on the eternal. While drawing on Catholic imagery, one can hear whispers of Eastern philosophy and insight in his words. Poems to reread and meditate deeply upon.

Hadewijch: The Complete Works
Translations by Mother Columba Hart

I was introduced to the divine love poetry of the Flemish mystic Hadewijch in the excellent anthology Women in Praise of the Sacred, edited by Jane Hirshfield. I knew I had encountered a something amazing, but the sampling in that book was frustratingly small. I finally found this book with the complete works of this mysterious Beguine spiritual figure — visions, letters, and a beautiful collection of sacred poetry. The love mysticism of her poetry rightly draws comparisons to the rich traditions of Sufi and Bhakti poetry.



For the Jewish mystic…

The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse
Edited and Translated by T. Carmi

The most complete collection I’ve found of sacred Hebrew poetry, including Judah ha Levi, Solomon ibn Gabirol, Samuel Hanagid, the early Hekhalot Hymns, and many more. My only complaint: the translations in this encyclopedic collection are not versified, even though the Hebrew originals were. I still love it simply because it pointed me in a dozen enlightening different directions.

The Poetry of Kabbalah: Mystical Verse from the Jewish Tradition
Translated and Edited by Peter Cole

Finally we have a truly excellent collection of sacred Jewish poetry. While T. Carmi’s Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse is more comprehensive, Cole’s The Poetry of Kabbalah has more of a poet’s sense of language and even catches of few sparks from the mystic’s fire. This is poetry that startles and transports. The Poetry of Kabbalah has become my favorite source for Jewish mystical poetry in English.
While T. Carmi’s Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse is more comprehensive, Cole has more of a poet’s sense of language. Very highly recommended.



A moment of Zen…

The Zen Poetry of Dogen: Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace
Translations by Steven Heine

Although best known for his Zen discourses and his role establishing Zen practice in Japan, Dogen was an exceptional poet too. Quiet moments of insight expressed in a bare minimum of lines. One of my favorites.

Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter
Edited by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto

A good collection without being overwhelming. I especially like it’s selection of Japanese haiku: Basho, Buson, Issa, Masahide…

Sun at Midnight: Muso Soseki – Poems and Sermons
Translations by W. S. Merwin and Soiku Shigematsu

A friend introduced me to this collection, and I was entranced. Muso Soseki is known today for establishing rock gardening as meditative Zen practice, but his poetry — wonderful! And with translations by WS Merwin, you can’t ask for more!

(And don’t forget the Poetry Chaikhana’s publication of Gabriel Rosenstock’s, Haiku Enlightenment!)



Artist, Therapist, Shaman…

Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-Making
By John Fox

Not a book of poetry, but a book that belongs on every poetry lover’s bookshelf. This is a book about the transformational nature of poetry – reading it, speaking it, writing it. Poetry as therapy. Poetry as a pathway to self-exploration. Poetry to rediscover your true voice. I was surprised how much I liked this book.



Transcendent Hindu verses…

Speaking of Siva
Translated by A. K. Ramanujan

This book became an immediate favorite of mine ever since I picked up a copy of it a few years ago. Stunning poems from the Shiva bhakti tradition of India. Basava, Devara Dasimayya, Akka Mahadevi, Allama Prabhu. The commentary in the book, though a little academic, is genuinely insightful. Enthusiastically recommended!

For Love of the Dark One: Songs of Mirabai
Translations by Andrew Schelling

Andrew Schelling’s translations embody that tension between heartbreak and ecstasy that runs through all of Mirabai’s poetry. These poems can be read as love poems or as spiritual poems — but, of course, they are both. A lovely collection.

And for blessings…

To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings
by John O’Donohue

I keep being told by people how much they love this book of poetic blessings from the Irish philosopher, poet, and mystic, John O’Donohue. These poetically crafted blessings and meditations on the passages of life manage to elevate the spirit, warm the heart, and, on occasion, bring a tear to the eye.

For even more book recommendations, click here.


(Every year my list gets longer. Even so, I had to leave off so many amazing books.)



Let’s remember that, in the midst of winter’s dark, this is the time to renew the light — within ourselves and our world. Regardless of religion, may we recognize our shared brotherhood and sisterhood within the human family, all within the lap of the generous green earth that is our home.

I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful holiday season — and that the new year offers you new life and new inspiration!

Ivan

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Nov 20 2020

Mirabai – Out in a downpour

Published by under Poetry

Out in a downpour
by Mirabai

English version by Andrew Schelling

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

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


/ Image by jarr1520 /

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

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

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

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

And you have gone to a distant country.

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

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

letter after letter…

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

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

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


Recommended Books: Mirabai

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry To Touch the Sky: Poems of Mystical, Spiritual & Metaphysical Light The Winged Energy of Delight Songs of the Saints of India
More Books >>


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India (1498 – 1565?) Timeline
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Nov 13 2020

Ivan M. Granger – The Warbler Knows

Published by under Poetry

The Warbler Knows
by Ivan M. Granger

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

Forgetting false future
suns, she sings

in no voice
but her own.

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


/ Image by B W /

I know this feels like a difficult time for many of us. New Covid lockdowns as we approach the winter months, holidays that feel uncharacteristically isolated, a US presidential election that is over but without a smooth transition of power, and more economic uncertainties. Anxiety is high. Depression is not uncommon. Everyone is facing some form of struggle in this period. I would like to remind us all to be kind toward one another — and kind toward ourselves. Compassion and being willing to help when we can will help us through.

It is useful to think of this period as a sort of doubled winter, an enforced time of inturning, reflection, and inner work. We can either exhaust ourselves by fighting the larger pattern or we can work with it, use it. This is a good time for meditation and rediscovering our purpose, so that, when the thaw comes, we can step out into the world renewed and strengthened.

Another important reminder is that even amidst the darkest days, the light we seek we carry within ourselves. The dark days are the best days to recognize that light, to tend to it and help it to grow.

So I thought today I would share a poem of light and renewal, one of my own poems…

=

Dawn is the flood of light that comes from the east which causes us to awaken. When we allow ourselves to become fully aware of this sacred state, we know nothing else, see nothing else; the spiritual dawn engulfs all, enlightening everything.

And we experience this state most strongly in the breast, a warming and radical opening and deep centering in the heart.

Utterly content in the eternal present, we forget the mind’s endless fantasies and fears about the future. All the future ever can be is an extension of the present, and it is here, now that we reside — always.

Recognizing this, we settle into silence, “no voice.” Yet a song emerges from the stillness, nonetheless. The voice that sings is not the mind or the ego, but the presence quietly and eternally seated behind those fluctuating elements; it is the deeply familiar voice the true Self.

The poet Gabriel Rosenstock translated this poem into the Irish language —

Ní heol don cheolaire
ach maide gréine
an mhaidneachain
ar a brollach.

Dearúdann sí na bréag-ghrianta
a thiocfaidh, ní chanann

i nguth ar bith
ach ina guth féin.

Something about reading this poem in an unfamiliar language makes me smile. It’s like seeing an old friend through new eyes.


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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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 >>


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Oct 16 2020

Shankara – You are my true self, O Lord

Published by under Poetry

You are my true self, O Lord
by Shankara

English version by Ivan M. Granger

You are my true self, O Lord.
      My pure awareness is your consort.
      My breath, my body are your handmaids.
I am your holy ground.

My every action is an offering to you.
      My rest is my melting into you.
Every step I take circles you.
      Every word I speak is a song for you.

Whatever work I do, that work is worship of you,
      O Fountain of Bliss!

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


/ Image by DieselDemon /

I feel like I should say something about this poem by the great Adi Shankara, but I’m not feeling especially verbal this morning. Sometimes it’s best for me to just step aside and let the poem speak for itself. Enjoy!

And be well.


Recommended Books: Shankara

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) A Treasury of Sanskrit Poetry Shankara’s Crest Jewel of Discrimination Upadesa Sahasri: A Thousand Teachings Shankara and Indian Philosophy
More Books >>


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India (788 – 820) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Advaita / Non-Dualist

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Oct 09 2020

Thich Nhat Hanh – Please Call Me by My True Names

Published by under Poetry

Please Call Me by My True Names
by Thich Nhat Hanh

Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow —
even today I am still arriving.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope.

The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that is alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing
on the surface of the river.
And I am the bird
that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily
in the clear water of a pond.
And I am the grass-snake
that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant,
selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo,
with plenty of power in my hands.
And I am the man who has to pay
his “debt of blood” to my people
dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.

My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and my laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart
can be left open,
the door of compassion.

— from Call Me by My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh, by Thich Nhat Hanh


/ Image by AlicePopkorn /

A number of days ago, word began to circulate that the great Vietnamese Zen teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, who is nearly 94, had stopped eating and his followers felt he may be ready to pass any day. Just a couple of days ago, however, a new message was posted by his community that he is now stable and that there is no immediate cause for concern. Thich Nhat Hanh has been such an important international figure of spirituality, integrity, and compassion, all combined with peace activism, that his passing, when it comes, will be felt by so many across the globe.

Because he has been in my thoughts this week, I thought I’d share one of his most loved poems today…

=

This is a lovely, unflinching meditation on how all of being and all of human experience weaves together into a single tapestry of the whole. It can even draw comparisons with Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” where everything, terrible and beautiful, is one, is witnessed, and is found within oneself.

Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow —
even today I am still arriving.

Most of us have learned to anticipate what will happen next, and we end up mentally dwelling in our fantasies and fears about the future. But the future is merely an idea; it never has reality. The present moment is all that is ever real. And that is where we must dwell if we want to truly be alive and know what is real.

The present is a state of “still arriving.” Because the present moment is not a fixed space in time, we can’t say that anything encountered in the present is fixed and settled either. The present is a gossamer thin, moving thread of light where all things are just barely stepping into the visibility of being… as the moment keeps moving. Everything, everyone, in every second is always just arriving. The present is a continuous becoming.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest…

Another fascinating thing is discovered when we truly, deeply perceive the present moment: Not only are we and all things “still arriving,” but the illusion of boundaries and separate being falls away. The notion of identity expands and recognizes itself just as naturally in all things witnessed. We find we are not just the person watching the bud on the Spring branch, but in our arriving we are equally the Spring bud, the young bird, the caterpillar in the flower, the jewel waiting in the stone. This is not some poetic game of words; it is what we actually perceive ourselves to be.

The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that is alive.

When we finally see this truth, for the first time we can truly witness the world as it is. And that is what this poem is most about: witnessing. Thich Nhat Hanh invites us to courageously witness the panorama of life, wonders and horrors alike. Through this honest witnessing, we are not spectators watching others from a distance; no, it all unfolds upon us and in us. We are witnessing ourselves in many forms. We recognize that anything that happens anywhere in the world, is actually happening to us. Everything done, is done by ourselves… to ourselves. There is no unfolding experience in the world that we are not participants in.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart
can be left open,
the door of compassion.

This is why compassion is not altruistic. This is why service is no effort. When we finally see things as they are, it is all part of our own selves. When we offer our heart, when we offer our hand, we are simply helping ourselves. Who among us, when he touches a hot iron, doesn’t immediately pull back and then soothe the burn under cool water? That’s not altruism, it is the natural response to pain in one’s body. When we see clearly, we see we are all of one body, and the joys and pains of any other is our own as well.

Compassion and a heart that has broken open are the natural result of being awake to this truth, and they are no effort at all.


Recommended Books: Thich Nhat Hanh

Call Me by My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering Into Peace, Joy & Liberation


Thich Nhat Hanh, Thich Nhat Hanh poetry, Buddhist poetry Thich Nhat Hanh

Vietnam/France/US (1929 – )
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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Sep 30 2020

Awhad al-Din Kirmani – Swept Away

Published by under Poetry

Swept Away
by Awhad al-Din Kirmani

English version by David and Sabrineh Fideler

At first, the way of your love
seemed easy.

I thought I’d reach
your union
with speed.

After taking a few steps,
I found
the way
is an ocean.

When I stepped in,
a wave swept me away.

— from Love’s Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition, Translated by David Fideler / Translated by Sabrineh Fideler


/ Image by mikebaird /

I love what this poem has to say about the spiritual path…

At first, the way of your love
seemed easy.

I thought I’d reach
your union
with speed.

At the beginning, when we first decide to explore the path of spirit, it can appear all too easy. We imagine we just need to profess a certain belief, join a certain group, read a certain scripture, pray a certain way. Do that, and everything is assured.

Sadly, this is where much of the religious world stays stuck. This approach too often leads to narrow minds and constricted hearts.

After taking a few steps,
I found
the way
is an ocean.

But when we take those first steps beyond that overly simplistic notion and begin to explore more deeply and sincerely, we come to an honesty with ourselves. That honesty overwhelms us, if we let it, by showing us the immense path ahead. So much to strive for within ourselves, so much suffering in the world to soothe… Seeing this, how can one hope to attain heaven, or wholeness, or peace?

In that moment, the best response is one of courageous determination… without expectation. We commit to the patient inner work and outer service, not because of some immediate spiritual “payoff” of enlightenment or fixing of the world’s wrongs, but because, simply, that is what is needed. It is what the heart requires of us, so why do anything less?

Head lowered, we put our shoulders to the task. That’s when the work works on us — challenging, overturning, refining.

At some point, we stop holding back. The effort ceases to be effort and it becomes rhythm, instead. We begin to dance in the waves of the ocean we once feared.

When there is less “doing,” there is less “me” doing it. Laughing, looking around, there is no “me” there, just the movement of the waves endlessly kissing the shoreline.

When I stepped in,
a wave swept me away.


Recommended Books: Awhad al-Din Kirmani

Love’s Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition Awhad al-Dīn Kirmānī and the Controversy of the Sufi Gaze


Awhad al-Din Kirmani

(1163 – 1238) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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Sep 25 2020

Denise Levertov – Beginners

Published by under Poetry

Beginners
by Denise Levertov

Dedicated to the memory of Karen Silkwood and Eliot Gralla

“From too much love of living,
Hope and desire set free,
Even the weariest river
Winds somewhere to the sea–“

But we have only begun
To love the earth.

We have only begun
To imagine the fullness of life.

How could we tire of hope?
— so much is in bud.

How can desire fail?
— we have only begun

to imagine justice and mercy,
only begun to envision

how it might be
to live as siblings with beast and flower,
not as oppressors.

Surely our river
cannot already be hastening
into the sea of nonbeing?

Surely it cannot
drag, in the silt,
all that is innocent?

Not yet, not yet–
there is too much broken
that must be mended,

too much hurt we have done to each other
that cannot yet be forgiven.

We have only begun to know
the power that is in us if we would join
our solitudes in the communion of struggle.

So much is unfolding that must
complete its gesture,

so much is in bud.

— from Candles in Babylon, by Denise Levertov


/ Image by ShinyPhotoScotland /

A beautiful, questioning poem by the American poet Denise Levertov. She is holding the Buddhist ideals of compassion and awareness up against the realization of the nature of nonbeing. She asks, how can we let go into nirvana when there is so much undone, and so much cruelty done, and so much beauty we’re disconnected from? How can we leave the living world when there is so much yet unlived?

I think Denise Levertov wants us to struggle and to strive, and discover the communion we share with each other in the process. She wants us to recognize the heaven, or the potential heaven, we already inhabit, before we rush off to vague spiritual realms.

Rather than try to offer a simple answer to the questions she is raising, let me ask what you think… How are compassion, service, respect for each other and the natural world in conflict with the pursuit of spiritual liberation and freedom from the pains of the world? How are they served by it? Does our history of imperfections make the spiritual quest irresponsible? Is the ideal of desirelessness and the awareness of nonbeing just an attempt to escape? Is it appropriate for “beginners,” greatly stumbling beginners, to rush to the end point?

Important questions… The way we answer these questions colors our path to deep awakening.


Recommended Books: Denise Levertov

Denise Levertov: Selected Poems Poems of Denise Levertov: 1960-1967 Breathing the Water The Great Unknowing: Last Poems Candles in Babylon
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Denise Levertov, Denise Levertov poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Denise Levertov

US (1923 – 1997) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic : Beat
Jewish

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