Jul 17 2020

Gratitude

Gratitude opens us daily.

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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 12 2020

every instant

Encounter every instant
entirely as it is,
in pure wonder.

2 responses so far

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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Jun 03 2020

the right place

It’s not that we have to find the right place to look.
It’s that we have to find the right way to look.

No responses yet

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 28 2020

only one

In two, there is only One.
In “you” and “I,” there are not two, but One.
In delusion, only One; in recollection, only One.
What work remains but to know?

No responses yet

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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6 responses so far

May 15 2020

like a tree

We don’t float to heaven.
Like a tree, we sink roots deep into the rocky soil,
and so, year-by-year, reach higher into the heavens.

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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

More poetry by William Stafford

4 responses so far

May 08 2020

pregnant with miracles

The world is pregnant with miracles.
All it takes is for us to approach with quiet and awe,
and the most mundane things open themselves
into infinities.

No responses yet

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 >>


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Germany (1875 – 1926) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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Apr 28 2020

give ourselves away

What we really want
is to discover
the most fulfilling ways
to give ourselves away.

One response so far

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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7 responses so far

Apr 17 2020

Forget the rest

Forget the rest.
What’s important is that you love
and that you act upon that love.

One response so far

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

6 responses so far

Apr 07 2020

fierce and gentle

See everything
with a fierce eye
and a gentle heart.

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