Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

Jun 12 2020

Kabir – Between the conscious and the unconscious

Published by under Poetry

Between the conscious and the unconscious, the mind has put up a swing
by Kabir

English version by Robert Bly

Between the conscious and the unconscious, the mind has put up a swing:
all earth creatures, even the supernovas, sway between these two trees,
and it never winds down.

Angels, animals, humans, insects by the million, also the wheeling sun and moon;
ages go by, and it goes on.

Everything is swinging: heaven, earth, water, fire,
and the secret one slowly growing a body.
Kabir saw that for fifteen seconds, and it made him a servant for life.

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


/ Image by Johnny Jet /

This is a rather loose translation, but I like it.

Everything is swinging: heaven, earth, water, fire,
and the secret one slowly growing a body.

There is a continuous flowing between the subtle and the manifest, between spirit and matter. Spirit pours through matter, giving it life and awareness. Matter, in turn, gives form to spirit, striving to embody the limitless amidst limitation.

And so the swing goes back and forth, patiently, playfully, sometimes exhilarating, sometimes frightening.

It isn’t a process where we find that perfect spot and then it all stops. “It never winds down.” It is an interplay that continues, and we find our rightful place by seeing the entire dance…

Kabir saw that for fifteen seconds, and it made him a servant for life.


Recommended Books: Kabir

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom Songs of the Saints of India
More Books >>


Kabir, Kabir poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Kabir

India (15th Century) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi
Yoga / Hindu

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Jun 03 2020

John of the Cross – Love’s Living Flame

Published by under Poetry

Love’s Living Flame
by John of the Cross

English version by Ivan M. Granger

O love’s living flame,
so softly do you sear
the deepest center of my soul!
Now that you no longer shy away,
end this game, I beg of you, today:

Rip open the veil separating us
in this sweet rendezvous!

O tender burn!
O burning boon!
O gentle hand!
O delicate caress,
that infers eternal life
and renders all debts paid!
Killing,
death into life you have made!

O beacons of fire,
in whose splendor
the blind, dark
deep grottoes
of the senses,
with strange and stately art,
warm and enlighten,
and win my love!

How tenderly is your memory
cherished in my breast,
where you alone reside and in secret rest:
Here I taste in your perfumed breath
goodness a-flood with glory–

How gracefully you’ve won my love!

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


/ Image by roujo /

I have been hesitant to send out a poem in the last few days. With the mass protests against police violence, racism, and economic injustice emerging in the US and beginning to spread across the world, along with the chaotic nature of such spontaneous uprisings, there is so much to say, but I haven’t fully distilled my thoughts. I have, instead, been processing the energies of this important moment, getting to know the currents moving through society right now. I encourage each of us to take some time to feel what is happening and why, not through the logical mind but using a more immediate, empathic part of our awareness. The pain and fear and frustration that are fueling this mass movement are significant, so this moment should not be surprising. The question is, will this movement gain focus and purpose? Or will it fragment into chaos? How harsh or accommodating will be the response of federal and state governments? Even a brutal crackdown — which, unfortunately, seems likely in the current environment — will only redirect these immense energies to find new expressions in the world. It doesn’t make things any easier that we are coming up on three eclipses within the next month. A lot of upheaval, though, on a certain level, necessary and unavoidable.

It is worth keeping in mind the saying, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” The question is not how to get things back to normal. If things felt normal even a few years ago, then we weren’t paying attention. The question is, how do we make our social systems responsive to the real needs of people, especially those who are struggling or being brutalized? On a personal level, what can we do to step out of our own bubbles of comfort in order to be a more positive presence in the world?

I encourage us all to practice awareness, keep the heart engaged, and to be of service where we can.

===

Meditating on these sharp questions, John of the Cross came to mind. He speaks so eloquently of the integrated extremes experienced by the awakening soul.

…A poem to explore the soul’s journey of wounding and death, leading to renewed life and openness and integration.

John of the Cross gives us several important themes here worth exploring:

Fire…

In the ecstasy of deep communion, there is often a sense of heat—filled with immense love—that permeates the body. As this fire moves through the body, it also moves through the awareness, consuming all thoughts (or, more accurately, the tremors from which thoughts emerge). This fire burns away even the thought of “I” until only the sense of this living flame remains.

This is such a wonderful fire that mystics often describe it as a flame of love, so enchanting that, like the moth, you want to dart in and be utterly consumed.

This is why John of the Cross refers so passionately to “Love’s living flame.”

Pain and Wounding…

The notion of wounding as part of the spiritual path has particular significance within mystical Christianity, but we find similar language in all spiritual traditions.

This “pain” has a few levels of meaning. At one level, the pain can be quite literal and even physical. But it might be more accurate to refer to this as intensity rather than pain. It can be as if the senses and the perceptual mind’s ability to process it all gets overloaded. The mystic then experiences a searing, cleansing sort of intensity that might be called pain.

Through profound opening, one feels everything more completely, a sort of universal empathy. There is a lot of hidden suffering in the world and, at a certain point, we feel it as our own. (Actually, we always feel it anyway, but in deep communion the walls of denial fall away, and we become aware of it for the first time.) In a directly sentient way, we become aware of the interconnectedness of life. Initially, that flood of feeling is intense, even painful, but that is the pain of the heart breaking open. It becomes a sort of wound one carries, but it resolves itself into a beauty and sense of unity that manages to incorporate even the most terrible suffering.

Other mystics speak of a wounding in a more metaphorical sense. The pain experienced is the perception of one’s separation from God. But that pain itself is the doorway to reunion. By allowing oneself to become completely vulnerable to that pain, to surrender to it, the mystic finds the pain transformed into the blissful touch of the Beloved.

Ultimately, all of these forms of pain are the pain of the pierced ego. For one with inner balance, where the protective but limiting shell of the ego is no longer necessary, that pain points the way to freedom.

For this reason, mystics and saints describe the pain as being joyful or beautiful. This pain is, in fact, the beginning of bliss.

With all this talk of pain, let’s not forget that this pain is not a negative. When we acclimate to the intensity, when the reflex to contain the flood eases, we discover that the overriding sensation is one of sheer bliss.


Recommended Books: John of the Cross

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey To Touch the Sky: Poems of Mystical, Spiritual & Metaphysical Light For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics
More Books >>


John of the Cross, John of the Cross poetry, Christian poetry John of the Cross

Spain (1542 – 1591) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

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May 28 2020

Vidyapati – My friend, I cannot answer when you ask me to explain

Published by under Poetry

My friend, I cannot answer when you ask me to explain
by Vidyapati

English version by Edward C. Dimock, Jr. and Denise Levertov

My friend, I cannot answer when you ask me to explain
what has befallen me.
Love is transformed, renewed,
each moment.
He has dwelt in my eyes all the days of my life,
yet I am not sated with seeing.
My ears have heard his sweet voice in eternity,
and yet it is always new to them.
How many honeyed nights have I passed with him
in love’s bliss, yet my body
wonders at his.
Through all the ages
he has been clasped to my breast,
yet my desire
never abates.
I have seen subtle people sunk in passion
but none came so close to the heart of the fire.

Who shall be found to cool your heart,
says Vidyapati.

— from In Praise of Krishna: Songs from the Bengali, Translated by Edward C. Dimock, Jr. / Translated by Denise Levertov


/ Image by Boris SV /

The speaker in this poem is Radha and the “him” she refers to is Krishna. Bhakti poetry often celebrates the love affair between Radha and Krishna, but it plays with multiple levels of reality at once: it can be read as erotic love poetry and, at the same time, as an exploration of the love between the soul (Radha) and God (Krishna).

Try reading this poem a few times. Start with the poem’s surface meaning, its beauty, sensuality, and yearning. And, with each reading, look progressively deeper and with an open heart. See what emerges.

Love is transformed, renewed,
each moment.

When we are in a truly open state, deeply at rest with what is, we are flooded with the most profound sense of love and bliss. As a concept, considered from outside the conscious experience, this might sound rather uninteresting.

Love is nice, and when it is strong it can feel wonderful, but even at its best, do we really want to feel it as an unending experience? Of course, in these thoughts the mind is imagining objectified love — love for a person, love for a thing or an experience — which floods us with endorphins but is also too often followed by an emotional crash. It can be the sugar rush version of love. Extreme swings are normal with that sort of love. As we mature in our relationships and our desires, the extremes level out and our connections become more steady and, hopefully, more fulfilling. But we have still externalized our ideas of love, limited it, and often used it to reinforce the ego sense of identity.

Then, just maybe we come to a point of stillness and openness, and that limited experience of love blossoms in a way we never imagined possible. It is just there, utterly and undeniably. Love. Not hooked outwardly upon a person or an experience, not tethered internally to feelings of reward or reinforcement of the ego-self. There is just the deep well of love bubbling up and flowing out in all directions.

Not only is the joy of this love indescribable (“I cannot answer when you ask me to explain”), it is somehow alive and continuously shifting its color and tone, always new, always a fresh experience from moment to moment. Love is transformed, renewed, each moment.

This is the awareness Vidyapati seems to be exploring in these lines, the delight and surprise of the continual newness of the experience, how it fulfills without sating, how experiencing it we recognize it as our natural state and seek to continuously center ourselves within it.

Through all the ages
he has been clasped to my breast,
yet my desire
never abates.

==

…Now I have to put my shoes on and go outside to plant some acorn squash. I hope to see their vines happily meandering around the edges of my garden later this summer.


Recommended Books: Vidyapati

In Praise of Krishna: Songs from the Bengali


Vidyapati, Vidyapati poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Vidyapati

India (1340? – 1430) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Vaishnava (Krishna/Rama)

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May 15 2020

William Wordsworth – Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows

Published by under Poetry

Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows (from The Prelude, Book 1)
by William Wordsworth

Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows
Like harmony in music; there is a dark
Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles
Discordant elements, makes them cling together
In one society. How strange, that all
The terrors, pains, and early miseries,
Regrets, vexations, lassitudes interfused
Within my mind, should e’er have borne a part,
And that a needful part, in making up
The calm existence that is mine when I
Am worthy of myself! Praise to the end!

— from Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty, Edited by Alan Jacobs


/ Image by Viewminder /

It has been a while since I have turned to Wordsworth, but reading these lines I have to wonder why I have stayed away so long.

Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows
Like harmony in music

Even that beginning line is worth rereading a few times. Here Wordsworth distills everything into this one elegant image of the transitory human being that is somehow, miraculously home to the immortal spirit. And that immortal spirit emerges within us, or, rather, we slowly become more aware of it throughout life as if it is an underlying harmony within music. When focused on the individual notes, as we focus on the details and specific events of life when we are younger, it can seem chaotic and fugue-like, but when we relax and allow our awareness to take it all in, we begin to recognize the underlying musical beauty:

there is a dark
Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles
Discordant elements, makes them cling together
In one society.

Then the poet shares the revelation that comes to him:

How strange, that all
The terrors, pains, and early miseries,
Regrets, vexations, lassitudes interfused
Within my mind, should e’er have borne a part,
And that a needful part, in making up
The calm existence that is mine when I
Am worthy of myself!

Let’s unpack that statement because it is so rich, we don’t want to miss its beauty. He has that wonderful phrase, “when I am worthy of myself.” That is, when our identity rests in the vastness of the immortal spirit we all are, that is when the whole symphony, the entire tapestry of life reveals itself to us. The amazing thing is that is not just the lovely, delightful experiences that have a place in that blissful wholeness; the terrors and struggles have played a part too, and an essential part. How can such beauty and fulfillment emerge from such a complex patchwork of life experiences that includes suffering? Somehow it does. The bliss of that grand vision, when witnessed from the fullness of the full Self — it embraces it all, integrating everything, recognizing an all-encompassing harmony. The ego-mind that desires only pleasant, self-aggrandizing experiences rebels at this possibility, but the true self witnesses it all with a smile that heals even the cruelest wounds as it rests amidst unassailable calm. To some this may sound like one more spiritual platitude amidst life’s difficulties, but this is the actual experience when we settle into the Self we all inherently are.

Religious belief has nothing to do with this holistic vision of life. Even the impious find themselves stammering–

“Praise to the end!”

Be well, look out for one another, and discover the hidden wonders of the day.

=

PS- During the recent Covid stay at home period, we have been doing some gardening. This morning my wife said something that I thought was worth sharing: The good thing about gardening is that there is no social distancing with plants.


Recommended Books: William Wordsworth

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


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

England (1770 – 1850) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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May 08 2020

William Stafford – Cutting Loose

Published by under Poetry

Cutting Loose
by William Stafford

Sometimes from sorrow, for no reason,
you sing. For no reason, you accept
the way of being lost, cutting loose
from all else and electing a world
where you go where you want to.

Arbitrary, a sound comes, a reminder
that a steady center is holding
all else. If you listen, that sound
will tell you where it is and you
can slide your way past trouble.

Certain twisted monsters
always bar the path — but that’s when
you get going best, glad to be lost,
learning how real it is
here on earth, again and again.

— from Ten Poems for Difficult Times, Edited by Roger Housden


/ Image by Vic /

This poem was featured earlier this week in Roger Housden’s poetry email and I found myself rereading it and spending time with it in a way that told me this is one worth sharing.

Sometimes from sorrow, for no reason,
you sing.

This opening line really hooked me. The word “sorrow” here evokes for me the sense of someone who is privately wrestling with depression. I think I remember reading that the poet, William Stafford, dealt with depression in his life. I myself went through a particularly difficult bout of depression as a younger man, and several beloved friends and family members have gone through their own experiences of depression. So I read this entire poem through that lens.

This is what rings true for me in that first line– sometimes the most unexpected joy and exuberance can emerge from those dark states.

Depression is not what most people imagine it to be. It is not actually about feeling sad. Depression, in my observation, is not an emotion at all. It is more of an energetic state, an overload of the nervous system and the outward-focused attention. It becomes a forced state of interiority and disconnection from the busy external world. But depression, when understood and well-integrated, can become a rich, dark reservoir of creativity, self-awareness, and surprising fulfillment.

When intense, depression can be frightening and bleak, but when we let go of the constant need for “up” energies, cultivate stability, and learn to drink in the small, quiet joys, we discover a richer, deeper sense of self.

I will take it a step further and perhaps even upset a few people by saying that a certain amount of depression is a healthy and necessary thing. Of course, depression can get extreme for some people and, when it is not understood or well-handled, it can be devastating. But I genuinely believe that a certain amount of depression is a normal response for a healthy person in a world that is often out of harmony. In other words, depression, in its moderate forms, is not an emotion or even an illness, it is a response. The great challenge is to not deny that natural depression and, instead, to integrate it, channel it, use it well and finally emerge from that shadowed space as a more whole, clear-seeing, and compassionate individual who can exist in the world without being unbalanced by it.

I say all of this because I think a lot of people are experiencing their own private depressions right now and feeling more isolated because of it. It is important to remember that no one is alone in that experience and, as difficult as the state may feel, it can be utilized as a tool for self-awareness and personal growth. It is within these dark spaces that transformation occurs. Where it feels like only shadows and sorrow exist, a new clarity emerges, a new voice rises full of life — and you find yourself singing.

Arbitrary, a sound comes, a reminder
that a steady center is holding
all else.

Have a beautiful day full of new inspiration and unexpected joy!

Be well.


Recommended Books: William Stafford

The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems My Name is William Tell Even in Quiet Places The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy Dancing with Joy: 99 Poems
More Books >>


William Stafford, William Stafford poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry William Stafford

US (1914 – 1993) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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Apr 28 2020

Rainer Maria Rilke – I find you, Lord, in all Things

Published by under Poetry

I find you, Lord, in all Things
by Rainer Maria Rilke

English version by Stephen Mitchell

I find you, Lord, in all Things and in all
my fellow creatures, pulsing with your life;
as a tiny seed you sleep in what is small
and in the vast you vastly yield yourself.

The wondrous game that power plays with Things
is to move in such submission through the world:
groping in roots and growing thick in trunks
and in treetops like a rising from the dead.

— from Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke, Translated by Stephen Mitchell


/ Image by Ben Fredericson /

This is a poem I have featured before, but I found myself reading it this morning and decided that it was a good one to share with you again…

and in the vast you vastly yield yourself.

Isn’t that a magical line? In the second verse Rilke is really saying something of deep insight about about what real power is:

The wondrous game that power plays with Things
is to move in such submission through the world…

The “power” he is talking about is obviously not power over, not the domination of the warlord or the predator. Following on his first verse, we can read power as the power of the “Lord, in all Things.” It is the power of life itself, awareness, presence. Rilke’s use of the word “power,” makes us question the assumptions of common language: Perhaps this gentle presence is real power, rather than the fleeting assertion of force and fear.

This real power plays a game in the world of things. It expresses its power through submission, rather than control. Like water, it yields and so finds its destination. It allows, and so fulfills its purpose. It is supremely humble, and so is humbly present everywhere, in all things, without prejudice or rejection. It rises from the lowest to the highest, vivifying everything it touches–

groping in roots and growing thick in trunks
and in treetops like a rising from the dead.

This power flowing through us and all our “fellow creatures” binds us all with the same life. You’ll notice, it is not even our life at all. Rilke says “your life,” the Lord’s life. It is something we participate in, a current we ride as it flows through us and the world, but it is not our own. Rilke is hinting at a larger vision in which there is only one Life flowing through a million “Things.”

Hildegard von Bingen, the great medieval mystic, called this the viriditas or greening power of God.

Too much of our relationship with the natural world is built on ideas of separation and domination. Such foolishness can only ever harm us. When we see clearly, we see as Rilke does that we are part of the same shared Life. To harm the natural world is to rebel against God. Is that language too religiously loaded? Reread Rilke’s poem, and then think about it.


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
Secular or Eclectic

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Apr 17 2020

Shabkar – One must remain in the vastness

Published by under Poetry

One must remain in the vastness
by Shabkar (Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol)

English version by Matthieu Ricard

One must remain in the vastness,
      alert and lucid,
Letting one’s gaze encompass
      the infinity of the sky,
As though seated on the summit
      of a mountain open
      to all the horizons.

— from Rainbows Appear: Tibetan Poems of Shabkar, Translated by Matthieu Ricard


/ Image by Thom Chandler /

I am acutely aware of the anxiety being felt by everyone — concerns about Covid-19, uncertainty about jobs and the economy in general, the increasingly messy political situation, all surrounded by the pressures of isolation. The first thing to remember is that, even though we are not yet able to interact with people in the ways we are used to, we are not alone. Whatever worries you may be feeling are being shared by many. Even in uncertainty and isolation, there is connection and community and, therefore, strength.

As I like to say, everything is an opportunity for awareness. Even in moments of fear, we should always be asking ourselves, what can I learn from this? How can I use this moment as a way to step free from limited ways of thinking and open my heart?

One observation that comes to mind is that when society is moving along in expected ways we are much more likely to align with the group mind. The group mind asserts that reality is a certain way and the routine functioning of day-to-day life seems to confirm it, so we enter into that shared psychic current — for good and for bad. We can list many of the ways that is a good thing, but it also lulls us into a rather narrow band of perception and self-awareness. When those outer certainties, which were never certainties in the first place, change, when the rhythms of the human world shift and become less predictable, the fear we feel is more fundamental than the question of a paycheck or health concerns; it is a fear that reality itself is falling apart. It is worth reminding ourselves that reality itself is never vulnerable and the only thing that changes is our agreed upon description of it. We are being coaxed to see reality in a new way, to see different aspects of reality, to see a wider view of reality.

One must remain in the vastness,
      alert and lucid

In chaotic or uncertain moments, it is as if we are stepping out of a dense forest onto the open plain. The change in what we see and how we understand it can be overwhelming at first. The spaces we inhabit are so different. It can feel like entering an undefined emptiness. But, of course, it is not empty; the plain too is filled with life. This is the challenge, to quickly adapt our awareness to the new terrain, to recognize its regular features, to find what is familiar and identify what is new, to be at home in a more open space. Even the forest inhabits that open space, we just weren’t as aware of it.

Letting one’s gaze encompass
      the infinity of the sky

In other words, the less rigidly we hold to some idea of how things used to be or “should” be and, instead, allow our minds to acclimate to what is happening right now, the more naturally and confidently we can step forward.

As conscious beings we always want to perceive as clearly as we can. We want to perceive as much of reality as we can. And we must remind ourselves that what we call reality is just a mental model of what actually is. When that mental model is shaken, we can try to prop it up exactly as it was before, but more rickety and at a tenuous angle, or we adjust it, improve it, strengthen it to reflect new understanding.

Moments of uncertainty are a genuine opportunity to update that mental approximation of reality. We have the opportunity to notice who has been suffering and neglected all along. We have a chance to review our assumptions and assess which ones don’t stand up to scrutiny or stress. We are invited to embrace possibilities that had previously been rejected. We can use this time for redefinition and improved perception.

Moments of uncertainty are a genuine opportunity to update our descriptions of reality, both personally and collectively, in order to more fully reflect the immensely mysterious space of being we inhabit together.

The big challenge is to not shut our eyes as our vision expands.

As though seated on the summit
      of a mountain open
      to all the horizons.


Recommended Books: Shabkar (Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol)

This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World Songs of Spiritual Experience: Tibetan Buddhist Poems of Insight & Awakening Rainbows Appear: Tibetan Poems of Shabkar The Life of Shabkar: The Autobiography of a Tibetan Yogin Food of Bodhisattvas: Buddhist Teachings on Abstaining from Meat


Shabkar (Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol), Shabkar (Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol) poetry, Buddhist poetry Shabkar (Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol)

Tibet (1781 – 1851) Timeline
Buddhist : Tibetan

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Apr 07 2020

William Stafford – Starting with Little Things

Published by under Poetry

Starting with Little Things
by William Stafford

Love the earth like a mole,
fur-near. Nearsighted,
hold close the clods,
their fine-print headlines.
Pat them with soft hands —

Like spades, but pink and loving; they
break rock, nudge giants aside,
affable plow.
Fields are to touch;
each day nuzzle your way.

Tomorrow the world.

— from The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems, by William Stafford


/ Image by Treemad Madagascar /

I know that I missed last week, no poem email. In the midst of so much uncertainty for everyone, I have been striving to keep my work hours solid and, of course, just trying to navigate the shifting social environment. First, the guidelines are about social distancing, but we still need to go to the grocery store and walk the dog, so everything must be done with care and attention. Then guidelines in our area state that we should be wearing masks and gloves in public. Going to the grocery store looks like going to the hospital. Eyes become furtive. Are people smiling a greeting behind those masks? Checkout counters now have plexiglass barriers erected.

But there is also often a friendliness during our cautious outings. People, keeping their distance, say hello with the warmth of shared experience. Everyone is going through this. Everyone’s life is disrupted. Everyone’s plans have become questions. And a sort of community emerges.

So I have been starting with little things…

I have been making a point of regularly connecting with friends through online video calls. My day job has always involved working remotely, so our weekly office video conference call continues.

Our kitchen counter once again holds jars of sprouts — alfalfa sprouts, adzuki sprouts, lentil sprouts are a favorite. We have a tray of sunflower greens happily growing near the window. I loved growing sprouts in past years but had fallen out of the practice. This seemed like a good moment to start up again. The fresh food is wonderful, of course, but even more, I love the sense of life it brings into our home. Bright, growing green things. Gently watering them each morning and evening becomes a sweet communion with the living world.

And that has led me to one of my bigger projects, starting a vegetable garden. I have a space in our yard that has been waiting for several years as I worked through my excuses. I had been telling myself that, while I liked the idea of growing vegetables, I didn’t have a natural instinct for working in the earth. Air, fire, even water come fairly naturally to me, but earth, that feels like labor. Here’s the thing, though– I have to remind myself that I have been doing that earthy work. Nearly twenty years ago, something in my passionate, erratic nature found an inner sense of fulfillment and… just settled into itself. I have been consciously cultivating steadiness and follow-through in my life ever since, as a direction and as a daily practice. I surprise myself these days by how much satisfaction I derive from the quiet rhythms of each day and its small rituals. To me, that is earth. And, through significant labor, I have learned to love it like a mole. The nearness of mundane life. Its friendly jostling. Its tactile presence.

So I have been digging in the earth this past week, running my hands through the soil. Today I’ll be mixing in some compost and turning the soil. We haven’t experienced our last frost for the season, but I’ll be planting in a couple of weeks, a few early season vegetables — and flowers for joy.

Fields are to touch;
each day nuzzle your way.

Tomorrow the world.

I hope you and your loved ones remain well and that you continue to find ways to be engaged with life, day to day and hand to earth. Have a beautiful day!


Recommended Books: William Stafford

The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems My Name is William Tell Dancing with Joy: 99 Poems Even in Quiet Places The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy
More Books >>


William Stafford, William Stafford poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry William Stafford

US (1914 – 1993) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by William Stafford

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Mar 24 2020

Yeats – Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Published by under Poetry

Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
by William Butler Yeats

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

— from The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats, by William Butler Yeats


/ Image by Rene Schroder /

In the midst of work and scrambling, like all of you, to make sure my family is safe and provided for as best as possible through the shifting dynamics of this outbreak, I have also been trying to find the time to connect with all of you and send out another poem.

In this period of social distancing, connection is such an important thing. I feel that, on some level, that is at the heart of what this illness represents — just as it forces us to keep our distance, it highlights the need for connection. We can view it as a challenge, or an invitation, if we like, to dispel the illusion of separation and, instead, to open our hearts, to connect genuinely, and to re-establish community. While we may feel like there is an enforced distance and isolation happening, it is important for us to remember that there is, in fact, no distance, except whatever distance we carry in our hearts.

Even in my own neighborhood I have witnessed some truly moving acts of connection happening. A few days ago, my wife was checking in on her mother, who lives nearby. While she was there some neighbors we’d never met before approached but kept a safe distance, and told my wife that they knew her mother lived here and was elderly and they offered to help in any way they could — run errands, pick up medicines. We were deeply touched and realized just how profound a simple offer of neighborly help can be, and how rare it is for all of us. There is a large elderly population where we live, and I now see similar open offers of help being posted by many people on our local neighborhood bulletin board. These sorts of actions are so healing to communities dealing with crisis.

I encourage all of us to find ways to stay connected and, when possible and safe, to be of help.

This time can be understood as a social reset button, a disruption in our old patterns and rhythms in order to formulate new and healthier social norms.

A few suggestions that may help through these periods of solitude and anxiety…

– Recognize the beauty all around you. Appreciate nature, which continues to share its beauty with undiminished generosity.

– Take time for quiet and contemplation. Meditate or pray. The more comfortable we are with our own stillness, the more whole we are in every situation.

– Stay physical and playful. Go for a walk if it is safe. Practice yoga or tai chi. Turn up the radio and dance with abandon!

– Be willing to accept that we aren’t fully in control of the situation as it unfolds. Trust that we have the awareness and inner resources to navigate through.

– Stay in touch with friends and family — our outer resources. We humans are social creatures; we exist both as individuals and in groups, and we need all levels to be healthy and balanced. To minimize the feelings of separation, use face-to-face methods of talking — try Google Hangouts, Skype, or Zoom. They’re free and you get to see everyone’s smiling face.

– Stay connected with your neighbors, even meet neighbors you’ve never spoke to before, through neighborhood bulletin boards. Create a mutually supportive network that is local.

– Break out the tabletop games and puzzles in your home.

– Reconnect with life through plants. If you have a yard, start a vegetable garden. If you don’t have a yard, start growing sprouts — alfalfa sprouts, lentil sprouts, mung bean sprouts. Not only do these activities provide a healthy addition to the diet, they remind us of the sheer beauty and magic of life, especially needed when one feels enclosed.

– Read. Read poetry.

– Send love into the world and be willing to help when you can. That’s how a world works well.

Of course, sending so much love to all of you…

Now, for some poetry.

=

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

I had heard this line long before I discovered it was from a poem by Yeats — this poem.

Isn’t that a wonderfully evocative line? So vulnerable, yet as wide open as the world of dreams. The statement invites us to be gentle and to be aware, for who knows what has been laid before us and with what care?

Go back and reread the entire poem. Read it aloud.

Notice how it feels like it rhymes, but it doesn’t actually rhyme. The poet instead is repeating the same words at the end of his lines: cloths… light… cloths… light.

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,

But we get that powerful alliteration in the fourth line: night… light… half light. It is simple, almost a child’s rhyme, but it has impact. It is more like a chant, as if the poet is summoning the child’s mind within us.

And again, he repeats the ending phrases: under your feet… my dreams… under your feet… my dreams.

I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

With that we are witness to magic, sealed with a child’s singsong repetition. A healing spell that breaks the heart with such vulnerability, and heals it again with hope and the heavens.

May as well chant it again.

I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.


Recommended Books: William Butler Yeats

The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse Holy Fire: Nine Visionary Poets and the Quest for Enlightenment The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats Byzantium The Secret Rose
More Books >>


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Mar 13 2020

Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi – Like This

Like This
by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

English version by Jonathan Star

If someone asks,
“What does perfect beauty look like?”
Show him your own face and say,
Like this.

If someone asks,
“What does an angel’s wing look like?” — smile.
If he asks about divine fragrance
Pull him close, his face in your hair,
Like this.

If someone asks,
“How did Jesus bring the dead back to life?” —
Don’t say a word —
just kiss him softly on the cheek,
Like this.

If someone asks,
“How does it feel to be slain by love?”
Close your eyes and tear open your shirt,
Like this.

If someone asks about my stature,
Stare into space with your eyes wide open,
Like this.

The soul enters one body, then another.
If someone argues about this
Enter my house and wave him good-bye,
Like this.

I am the storehouse of all pleasure,
I am the pain of self-denial.
To see me, lower your eyes to the ground
Then raise them up to heaven,
Like this.

Only the gentle breeze
Knows the secret of union.
Listen as it whispers a song to every heart,
Like this.

If someone asks,
How does a servant attain the glory of God?
Become the shining candle
That every eye can see,
Like this.

I asked about Joseph’s perfume
Which rode the wind from city to city —
It was your scent
Blowing in from God’s perfect world,
Like this.

I asked how Joseph’s perfume
Gave sight to the blind —
It was your breeze
Clearing the darkness from my eyes,
Like this.

Perhaps Shams will be generous
And fill our hearts with love.
Perhaps he will raise one eyebrow
And cast us a glance,
Like this.

— from Rumi: In the Arms of the Beloved, by Jonathan Star


/ Image by Fadzly Mubin /

I was considering holding off on sending out a poem this week. I’ve been busy with my day job and rather tired, but mostly there are such important concerns demanding our attention — people are anxious about the coronavirus pandemic and, in the US, the elections. I don’t want to ignore these issues and share poems that can feel disconnected from people’s real worries.

Of course, poetry, especially sacred poetry, is not disconnected or merely ornamental. Poetry speaks to the heart of the matter much better than any headline. Poetry reminds us of our humanity… and our divinity. It is an exploration of feeling and perception and reality. It leads us into an open field with unanticipated possibilities. It is our companion in grief and fear, and it gives us words for our exultation and raptures. Poetry allows us to be more fully ourselves. It invites us to fill out our lives with a richer sense of who we are.

So more poetry not less.

Like this.

=

Have a beautiful weekend. Be appropriately aware and cautious, but don’t give in to paranoia. The real sickness being spread by this disease is a breakdown of human connection within society. Find a healthy balance that keeps a warm, supportive sense of community alive.


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 >>


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

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Mar 06 2020

e. e. cummings – i carry your heart with me

Published by under Poetry

i carry your heart with me
by e. e. cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

— from E.E. Cummings: Complete Poems 1904-1962, by e. e. cummings


/ Image by Florian L /

This poem grabbed my attention this morning, one of the most loved of e. e. cummings poems.

It is a love poem, but its language somehow elevates us beyond romantic sentiment.

I won’t say a lot today, just highlight a few of my favorite lines:

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

and, most especially–

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Oh, and have a beautiful full moon weekend. It feels like an intense moon so go gentle on yourself and others. And maybe we’ll figure out “whatever a moon has always meant…”


Recommended Books: e. e. cummings

E.E. Cummings: Complete Poems 1904-1962 73 Poems 1 x 1 [One Times One] 50 Poems 95 Poems
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Feb 21 2020

Hildegard von Bingen – O nobilissima viriditas

Published by under Poetry

O nobilissima viriditas
by Hildegard von Bingen

English version by Barbara Newman

Most noble
evergreen with your roots
in the sun:
you shine in the cloudless
sky of a sphere no earthly
eminence can grasp,
enfolded in the clasp
of ministries divine.

You blush like the dawn,
you burn like a flame
of the sun.

— from Symphonia: A Critical Edition of the Symphonia armonie celstium revelationum, by Hildegard of Bingen / Translated by Barbara Newman


/ Image by joemacjr /

Every week or so I check the visitor statistics on the Poetry Chaikhana website to see which poets’ pages are the most visited. I regularly update the top ten on the Poetry Chaikhana home page, if you’re curious. Hildegard von Bingen is often one of the more popular poets on the site, but I realized it has been a while since I last selected one of her poems for an email. It also occurs to me that I have featured quite a few contemporary poets recently, and perhaps it is time to dip into the rich well of wisdom from our past. So something today by Hildegard von Bingen…

The evergreen tree is used by Hildegard von Bingen as a symbol of eternal life — it is always green and vibrant, even during winter, the season when the light withdraws, the season most associated with turning inwards, meditation and death. Within the Christian tradition, the evergreen is specifically a symbol of Christ, the one who overcomes death, the one who is the embodiment of light and eternal life. Christ is particularly associated with the tree based on prophetic associations of the messiah with a tree and, of course, because of his crucifixion (the cross being another representation of the tree).

So when Hildegard sings to the evergreen, she is singing to Christ, the Beloved, the Living One.

But what does Hildegard mean when she refers to the tree as having its “roots in the sun”? This is one of the more interesting lines to me. In the Western alchemical tradition, the seat of the body, the “root,” is sometimes associated with fire (in Yoga we would say the fiery Kundalini); and in alchemical engravings, we often find the the image of a sun at the body’s base. Hildegard von Bingen was apparently using the language of spiritual alchemy. This raises the fascinating question: Was Hildegard von Bingen, in addition to being a Catholic nun, also an initiate of secret esoteric traditions? Her work as a healer certainly could have introduced her to medical alchemy practiced at the time.

(An alternate way to read the roots in the sun metaphor is as a yogic image. In Yoga, the subtle energetic body is often described as a tree whose trunk is the subtle spine. Like this yogic tree, Hildegard’s evergreen is upside-down, with its roots in heaven, the radiant crown chakra, making its branches the energetic pathways of awareness that reach outward through the senses into the world. That reading, of course, raises even bigger questions…)

I love the description of the tree shining “in the cloudless / sky of a sphere no earthly / eminence can grasp…” It is as if she is describing a state of pure awareness. Not even a vapor or cloud of a thought exists there. It is a state beyond the control of any earthly power (or the grasping mind). In this space of radiance and life, there is nothing to hold onto — a vision of spacious presence.

This tree, Hildegard’s evergreen “shines,” it “blushes like the dawn.” Hildegard is clearly drawing a parallel with the burning bush Moses experienced in his direct encounter with God. If the burning bush witnessed by Moses is the same as Hildegard’s burning evergreen, and that tree is understood to be the structure of the subtle spiritual body in both cases… well, we, as mystics, have some interesting avenues to explore…


Recommended Books: Hildegard von Bingen

Symphonia: A Critical Edition of the Symphonia armonie celstium revelationum German Mystical Writings: Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Jacob Boehme, and others Hildegard of Bingen’s Book of Divine Works with Letters and Songs Women of Wisdom: A Journey of Enlightenment by Women of Vision Through the Ages The Book of the Rewards of Life: Liber Vitae Meritorum
More Books >>


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Feb 19 2020

Anna Swir – Priceless Gifts

Published by under Poetry

Priceless Gifts
by Anna Swir

English version by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan

An empty day without events.
And that is why
it grew immense
as space. And suddenly
happiness of being
entered me.

I heard
in my heartbeat
the birth of time
and each instant of life
one after the other
came rushing in
like priceless gifts.

— from The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy, Edited by John Brehm


/ Image by Roman Iakoubtchik /

I think I’ll be quiet today and let this poem just hover there. Enjoy!


Recommended Books: Anna Swir

Talking to My Body Dancing with Joy: 99 Poems The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy


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Feb 14 2020

Jayadeva – When he quickens all things

When he quickens all things (from The Gitagovinda)
by Jayadeva

English version by Barbara Stoler Miller

When he quickens all things
To create bliss in the world,
His soft black sinuous lotus limbs
Begin the festival of love
And beautiful cowherd girls wildly
Wind him in their bodies.
Friend, in spring young Hari plays
Like erotic mood incarnate.

— from Love Song of the Dark Lord: Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda, Translated by Barbara Stoler Miller


/ Image by Infinite Eyes /

Today is Valentine’s Day, the day for lovers. But, you know, there is more than one way to be a lover.

When he quickens all things
To create bliss in the world,
His soft black sinuous lotus limbs
Begin the festival of love…

This excerpt from Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda strikes a surprisingly erotic note. Is it “spiritual” at all? Is it really just love poetry? The answer is that it is both.

The Gitagovinda is quite passionately erotic, but it is also considered a highly spiritual work, sung daily in many Indian temples dedicated to Krishna.

For many in the Krishna bhakti tradition, the Gitagovinda is read with a reverence similar to the Song of Songs in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Through song, it tells of the love play, separation, and final union between Krishna (Hari) and the cowherdess Radha.

On an esoteric level, Radha is understood to be the individual soul that feels abandoned by God (Krishna/Hari) who, in turn, loves all souls (and is therefore accused of infidelity by Radha). But Radha finally overcomes her hurt and rejoins her lover in passionate union.

Using the hugely magnetic power of desire, this bhakti classic describes a pathway to return to Oneness with the Divine.

As a result, we can read this work as both an earthy, erotically charged song of love, and just as honestly it speaks deep truths about the journey of the soul through longing and integration to union and enlightenment. And it reminds us of the importance of intense passion, that it is meant to be fuel for awakening.

Whether or not your Valentine’s Day is a day of romance, I hope you find time for a secret passionate embrace with the Eternal!


Recommended Books: Jayadeva

Songs of the Saints from the Adi Granth Love Song of the Dark Lord: Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda


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Feb 11 2020

Richard Wright – I am nobody

Published by under Poetry

I am nobody
by Richard Wright

I am nobody:
A red sinking autumn sun
Took my name away

— from Haiku Enlightenment: New Expanded Edition, by Gabriel Rosenstock


/ Image by Philip Male /

The great African-American writer, Richard Wright, is best known for his novels Native Son and Black Boy, but less well-known is that late in his life, while living in self-exile in Paris, he wrote thousands of haiku.

This is one I keep re-reading since I first discovered it as I was editing Gabriel Rosenstock’s Haiku Enlightenment.

This haiku resonates on so many levels.

I am nobody

We start with negation. The author is not there. We ourselves as readers are not there. I imagine an outline where a person might have stood, a shadow, a silhouette. Awareness is there, but no self.

A red sinking autumn sun

Then we have the massive glowing presence of the red sinking sun. We go from negation to immensity. The vastness of that vision has a gravitational pull to it. It has grabbed us and carried us away. It…

Took my name away

And that’s what it is, this state of being nobody. The witness — the author, the reader — is still there on some essential level, but the “name” has disappeared. That self-referential loop within the mind has stopped its ceaseless spinning and we have become a thing undefined. In that quiet, selfless state, we stand in open mystery with great beauty open before us.

=

I write all this, obviously not during the autumn, but looking out the window at a blanket of snow glistening in bright morning sunlight. Of course, anything can be that autumn sun for us, a mountain, a symphony, a thought. It’s not so much a matter of putting ourselves in the presence of the right thing, so much as being present ourselves, open, and ready to be swept away into silence.

=

…I have been reminded by a reader that it is important to remember that Richard Wright, as a black man who lived his later years in France in rejection of institutionalized American racism may also be making a comment about the experience of African Americans in the US down to literally having their names taken from them. I really appreciate that reminder about perspective. A good poem can be read in multiple ways at the same time.


Recommended Books: Richard Wright

Haiku Enlightenment: New Expanded Edition Haiku: The Last Poetry of Richard Wright


Richard Wright, Richard Wright poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Richard Wright

US (1908 – 1960) Timeline
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Feb 05 2020

Ivan M. Granger – Thief of hearts

Thief of hearts
by Ivan M. Granger

Thief of hearts,
you have ransacked
this beggar’s hut,
left me
nothing.

All I see
now
is the print
of your pilfering hand
everywhere.

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


/ Image by notsogoodphotography /

It has been a while since I featured one of my own poems. Here is one for you today in homage to that “thief of hearts,” who is, of course, the Beloved, God.

Let’s face it, from the ego’s point-of-view, the relationship with the Divine is a problematic one. What the heart recognizes as liberation, the ego sees as theft. It’s really very funny… when we’re not tormented by the spiritual dilemma, that is.

All that the ego claims as its own slips from its grip. Control and possession define the ego. So what is it to do when the master thief breaks into the awareness and reveals everything to be the filmy stuff of dreams and light?

In that ultimate moment, however, the emerging bliss is so all-pervasive that even the drowning ego laughs with its last gasp.

Something I thought I’d point out about the poem’s structure: The poem itself is a pair of thieving hands. It has two groups of five lines, suggesting two hands with five fingers each.

Also, notice that the lines “left me / nothing” are intentionally ambiguous. They could be saying that the thief of hearts has left me with nothing — having taken everything — or perhaps it is saying the thief has left me as nothing — without identity or sense of ego.

The line breaks for “All I see / now” leads the unconscious mind to read several layers of meaning into the lines. Some part of the awareness will read that first line as a complete statement of its own: “I see all.” To follow with the single word “now” snaps the awareness into the present moment. When one sees all, one is fully present, now. Or, when one sees, all is in the present moment.

In this supremely full moment, the “pilfering hand” has removed everything. The world normally perceived as a scattered collection of disconnected people and objects disappears. But — and here’s another secret — that hand secretly gives as it takes. The “print” of that hand leaves us, instead, within a magical universe filled with immensity and life and a giddy sense of being that flows everywhere.

===

Too much explanation? Maybe we should just let the poem itself do its work…


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 >>


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

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Jan 24 2020

Rabindranath Tagore – On many an idle day

Published by under Poetry

On many an idle day have I grieved over lost time
by Rabindranath Tagore

English version by Rabindranath Tagore

On many an idle day have I grieved over lost time. But it is never lost, my lord. Thou hast taken every moment of my life in thine own hands.
      Hidden in the heart of things thou art nourishing seeds into sprouts, buds into blossoms, and ripening flowers into fruitfulness.
      I was tired and sleeping on my idle bed and imagined all work had ceased. In the morning I woke up and found my garden full with wonders of flowers.

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


/ Image by James Petts /

Something for self-healing and inner nurturing today…

This chapter from Tagore’s Gitanjali, like most of the book, is addressed directly to God as a sort of a prayer. But Tagore is not asking for something. He is acknowledging a surprising truth, he is proclaiming to God the dawning realization that growth is taking place in his “garden” of spiritual awareness always, secretly, quietly, even when he despairs of his own efforts. He “imagined all work had ceased” — he felt his own spiritual work had come to nothing and his deflated spirit temporarily gives up — but he wakes up surprised to find his “garden full with wonders of flowers.” This happens all the time for those striving spiritually, but why?

The metaphor of a garden to represent one’s spiritual awareness is an ancient one used throughout the world, and it is perfect for what is being said here. Think about a garden for a moment. What is it? First, it is a place where things grow, a place of life. It is the opposite of death, which is the state of nonspirituality. The plants of the garden are rooted in the earth, yet they reach upward toward the light of the sun. On an even subtler level, a garden is a place of nourishment and of beauty. That which grows in our spiritual gardens feeds us through its “fruitfulness,” and it brings beauty, the awareness of harmony to our consciousness. The flowers of the garden represent the spiritual qualities that have opened within us, which in turn cause us to open to the Divine. The flowers are within us, and we are the flowers. From the yogic point of view, the flowers sometimes represent the chakras that open during spiritual awakening. Also, a garden is a place of contemplation and rest. It is a place where we give ourselves permission to simply be, to settle into the present moment. The garden represents the soul at rest in the living presence of the Divine.

But, returning to this verse from the Gitanjali, why is a garden such a perfect metaphor here? Because every plant of the garden grows with a life of its own. The gardener, the spiritual aspirant, may need to till the ground and plant the seeds, water them regularly, keep them free from encroaching weeds — but for all that work, the gardener does not actually make the seeds grow and flower. The gardener just prepares the environment, but it is the divine spark of life “hidden in the heart of all things” that nourishes “seeds into sprouts, buds into blossoms, and ripening flowers into fruitfulness.”

Tagore is surprised to realize that his only job is to prepare the garden bed and keep it ready, but the growth of the seeds is effortless, for the seeds are alive with the vitality of God. Even when he can conceive of no further effort, the seeds still grow. The seeds WANT to grow. And they will grow. It is their nature to grow once given the right environment. All we have to do is prepare ourselves, make ourselves ready. The spiritual growth will happen of its own accord. Then one morning we wake up surrounded by “wonders of flowers!”


Recommended Books: Rabindranath Tagore

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Gitanjali The Lover of God The Fugitive Lover’s Gift and Crossing
More Books >>


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