May 03 2024

each step

Each step
is part of the journey.

No responses yet

Apr 21 2024

Lisel Mueller – Monet Refuses the Operation

Published by under Poetry

Monet Refuses the Operation
by Lisel Mueller

Doctor, you say that there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and changes our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

— from Second Language: Poems, by Lisel Mueller


/ Image by Nik Shuliahin /

A rare Sunday poem this week. Last week was especially full with work and dental appointments, so I didn’t get to the poem on Friday. I received several thoughtful emails following the previous week’s poem, and I didn’t get many responses out — but I read them all.

Here’s something to remind us of the hidden glory in aging. (A big thank you to Mirabai Starr and her email newsletter for remind me of this poem.)

Permission, I suppose, to be a little less focused and a little more present. I hope you feel the heavenly nearness in those haloed lamps!


Recommended Books: Lisel Mueller

Alive Together: New and Selected Poems Second Language: Poems The Need to Hold Still: Poems Dependencies: Poems


Lisel Mueller, Lisel Mueller poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Lisel Mueller

US & Germany (1924 – )
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Lisel Mueller

4 responses so far

Apr 21 2024

bleeding hearts

May our eyes see, though our hearts break.
May our hearts break, that they may open.
May our hearts bleed, that we know
life flows through them.

No responses yet

Apr 12 2024

Ivan M. Granger – First dawn

First dawn
by Ivan M. Granger

First dawn. Even the
birds in the tallest pines are
surprised by the sun.

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


/ Image by Evgeni Dinev /

I have been enjoying the spring mornings here in Eugene, Oregon. Some mornings there is a light rain falling, the world is sleepy and self-enclosed, then on other days we get morning sunshine, everything glistens and awakens to a sense of celebration. Sometimes before we begin work, my wife and I will go to a local coffee shop. I’ll get a warm cup of tea. We read and chat, listening to the hum of the community, people talking in hushed tones, the life of our small city recognizing itself. Such moments are nourishing to the soul.

I am especially appreciative of all this because of a few milestones in my life. Last week I had my birthday. I turned 55. The number feels foreign to me. It’s as if time stopped when I was 35. I haven’t really aged. My hair has just gotten grayer. Can anyone else relate to that feeling?

The other milestone: I was just honored at my work for 30 years of employment. For someone who has moved around the country and, because of health issues, has not always been able to work full time hours in the week, I am amazed — and grateful — to have found early on an employer who has been stable and adaptable and accepting. Wherever I’ve lived and whatever my work rhythms, they were always there, so I never felt the need to move on.

The renewal of springtime and these experiences invite me to reflect back on the year and a half since my wife and I moved back to Eugene. We have had so many wonderful moments returning to our childhood hometown, but the year following our move was also quite challenging. At the beginning of last year my wife was hospitalized and kept in the ICU for several days following a severe asthma attack. As she recovered, we were able to get her on new medication, and the change has been profound. It was a year of difficult finances, requiring me to put as many hours as possible into my day job. At times I felt badly, as if I have been neglecting you, the Poetry Chaikhana community, as a result. I hope to be able to do more with the Poetry Chaikhana in the future.

We never really control the circumstances of our lives. We make plans, formulate expectations, and try to build the daily structures of our lives that will lead to those outcomes — but then life plays out as it will. That regular, steady, structural process has not been my strongest suit, though I have gotten better at it in those timeless twenty years from 35 to 55. Where I have found strength, however, is in the ability to ride the flow of life, even when the details have gotten messy.

I look outside the window. It’s a cloudy morning. The ground is still damp with last night’s rainfall. But the birds are cautiously emerging and sharing their song. We have the promise of a beautiful day. That’s when our work begins, amidst the requirements of life, to discover for ourselves the beauty waiting for us.


Recommended Books: Ivan M. Granger

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


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

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

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2 responses so far

Mar 29 2024

Naropa – The Summary of Mahamudra

Published by under Poetry

The Summary of Mahamudra
by Naropa

English version by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche and Erik Pema Kunsang

Homage to the state of great bliss!
Concerning what is called Mahamudra
All things are your own mind.
Seeing objects as external is a mistaken concept;
Like a dream, they are empty of concreteness.
This mind, as well, is a mere movement of attention
That has no self-nature, being merely a gust of wind.
Empty of identity, like space.
All things, like space, are equal.
When speaking of ‘Mahamudra’
It is not an entity that can be shown.
There the mind’s suchness
Is itself the state of Mahamudra.
It is neither something to be corrected nor transformed,
But when anyone sees and realizes its nature
All that appears and exists is Mahamudra,
The great all-encompassing Dharmakaya.
Naturally and without contriving, allowed simply to be,
This unimagined Dharmakaya,
Letting it be without seeking is the meditation training.
But to meditate while seeking is deluded mind.
Just as with space and a magical display,
While neither cultivating nor not cultivating
How can you be separate and not separate!
This is a yogi’s understanding.
All good deeds and harmful actions
Dissolve by simply knowing this nature.
The emotions are the great wisdom.
Like a jungle fire, they are the yogi’s helpers.
How can there be staying or going?
What meditation is there by fleeing to a hermitage?
Without understanding this, all possible means
Never bring more than temporary liberation.
When understanding this nature, what is there to bind you?
While being undistracted from its continuity,
There is neither a composed nor an uncomposed state
To be cultivated or corrected with a remedy.
It is not made out of anything
Experience self-liberated is dharmadhatu.
Thinking self-liberated is great wisdom,
Non-dual equality is dharmakaya.
Like the continuous flow of a great river,
Whatever you do is meaningful,
This is the eternal awakened state,
The great bliss, leaving no place for samasara.
All things are empty of their own identities.
This concept fixed on emptiness has dissolved in itself.
Free of concept, holding nothing in mind,
Is in itself the path of the Buddhas.
For the most fortunate ones,
I have made these concise words of heartfelt advice.
Through this, may every single sentient being
Be established in Mahamudra.

— from The Songs of Naropa: Commentaries on songs of Realization, Translated by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche / Translated by Erik Pema Kunsang


/ Image by Best Picko /

Today is Good Friday leading into Easter Sunday in the Christian calendar. We are in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan for Muslims. In the Jewish calendar, Purim was just celebrated and Passover is coming up. For Hindus, colorful Holi was just celebrated. Let us take a moment during this time of the new life and new birth to remember the holiness and wholeness of the world we all share.

=

If you have been reading the Poetry Chaikhana emails in recent years, then you know that my wife and I moved back to our childhood home of Eugene, Oregon a little over a year ago. Before that we lived for years in and around Boulder, Colorado.

My wife and I first moved to Boulder, Colorado in the early 1990s. We were young and felt like adventurous vagabonds, exploring the world by moving from place to place. Several things drew us to the area, including the natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains, better work opportunities than in our home state of Oregon, as well as the spirituality, creativity and health-focus of the community.

One other thing drew us: Naropa University, a school in the area well known for its poetry and psychology programs, combined with classes on meditation and Eastern philosophies. Ironically, we never attended classes there, but we have friends who are graduates, and the school has helped to shape Boulder culture in beautiful ways.

Yet I don’t think I have ever featured a poem by the great Buddhist master Naropa, until today.

Concerning what is called Mahamudra

Mahamudra literally translates as “the Great Seal.” This term is rich in meaning, especially within Tibetan Buddhism. We might say that Mahamudra is the clear and enlightened recognition of all levels of reality.

We can think of it as a “seal” in that it has the stamp of confirmation. This is unfettered awareness of how reality really is.

Mahamudra is both the goal and it is also the practice or the pathway to reach that goal.

All things are your own mind.
Seeing objects as external is a mistaken concept

This is a difficult one for most of us reared within the Western mindset that has a primarily materialistic understanding of reality. Even if we hold to religious or spiritual ideals, that relationship to the world around us as a physical and sensory experience is often quite ingrained.

So what do we make of statements like “all things are your own mind”? How can external objects not be external?

We can read a lot of Eastern philosophy and begin to build a conceptual framework that allows a statement like that to seem less absurd, but at best it is a fragile idea that comes under heavy assault when we are confronted with life’s next intense, apparently external challenge. The conceptualizing mind can’t fully encompass this notion, no matter how subtle and refined we think it out.

The problem for the intellect is that, as our meditation deepens and the mind clears, this is precisely what we perceive. Everything we imagine to be outside of ourselves is actually within ourselves. And everything we think of as tangible, fixed, and “real,” is actually revealed to be merely a surface appearance that is part of a deeper, highly fluid reality.

Like a dream, they are empty of concreteness.

Naturally, we must explore what the mind is. We often imagine that we are the mind, that the mind is the self. Thinking that, we have little or no control over the mind. But the mind isn’t really a lasting “thing” in oneself or outside of oneself. What we think of as the mind only exists when the awareness is in motion.

This mind, as well, is a mere movement of attention
That has no self-nature, being merely a gust of wind.
Empty of identity, like space.

When we bring the awareness to deep stillness, we discover that the mind doesn’t exist at all. Awareness remains, but mind is nowhere to be found.

It is like the wind: The air is always there, but the wind only exists when the air is disturbed and in motion. Its true nature is wide open, reaching in all directions at once.

There the mind’s suchness
Is itself the state of Mahamudra.

In Buddhist writings, we often come across an odd term that is usually rendered as “suchness” or “thusness.” This is a translation of the word Tathata. Tathata is the way a thing truly is beyond the ability of names or concepts to define it. It is the true nature of reality.

Naropa is affirming that the mind’s true nature, that is, full and open awareness, is nothing less than the full embodiment of reality.

It is neither something to be corrected nor transformed,

So often in spiritual practice we try to bring the mind under control. We work so hard to keep the mind focused on “spiritual” things and away from distractions or fixations. And, yes, that can be important.

But Naropa is giving us a deeper teaching. The shifting surface focus we call mind is only problematic when we imagine that is all that mind is and all that we are. As we begin to recognize the full awareness, we see that its expanse already encompasses everything, needing nothing added or subtracted, while the phenomenon of “mind” is simply the shifting of currents that settles of its own accord when we let it.

But when anyone sees and realizes its nature
All that appears and exists is Mahamudra,

Another key Buddhist term is then mentioned: Dharmakaya–

The great all-encompassing Dharmakaya.
Naturally and without contriving, allowed simply to be,

Dharmakaya literally means “truth body.” It is one’s true spacious being underlying all appearance or phenomenal experience. It is the foundation ground of self and being experienced by awakened masters.

Naropa is showing how these important concepts are linked, that their elevated states actually flow into each other and reveal themselves to be the same.

No-Mind -> Full Awareness -> Inherent Being -> Truth Body

Letting it be without seeking is the meditation training

This, I think, is Naropa’s core statement for the seeker: Don’t seek. Instead, recognize the true nature of things already present. Don’t look to the horizon. Wherever we are, just stop and see. That’s the tricky part. Before we can see, we must first stop. We don’t need to dominate the mind and force it to stop, but we do need to stop being carried away by every little thing caught in the shifting movements of the mind. That’s when the vision clears and we see all around for the first time.

While neither cultivating nor not cultivating
How can you be separate and not separate!

We don’t actually need to change anything about ourselves. Rather, we need to settle into ourselves. We need to be as we are. When we do that, then our outer selves naturally become an expression of the true being we actually are — no effort required to coax or curtail our actions and energies.

Like the continuous flow of a great river,
Whatever you do is meaningful,

Rather than an endless effort of trying to catch and correct every thought and emotion (and the actions that proceed from them), Naropa’s teachings allow us to recognize our destination in this very moment, discovering our true nature in our very selves right now.

Through this, may every single sentient being
Be established in Mahamudra.


Recommended Books: Naropa

The Songs of Naropa: Commentaries on songs of Realization Illusion’s Game: The Life and Teachings of Naropa


Naropa, Naropa poetry, Buddhist poetry Naropa

India (1016 – 1100) Timeline
Buddhist : Tibetan

More poetry by Naropa

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Mar 29 2024

masks

Even our masks reveal us.

No responses yet

Mar 22 2024

Stephen Levine – Millennium Blessing

Published by under Poetry

Millennium Blessing
by Stephen Levine

There is a grace approaching
that we shun as much as death,
it is the completion of our birth.

It does not come in time,
      but in timelessness
when the mind sinks into the heart
and we remember.

It is an insistent grace that draws us
to the edge and beckons us to surrender
safe territory and enter our enormity.

We know we must pass
      beyond knowing
and fear the shedding.

But we are pulled upward
      none-the-less
through forgotten ghosts
      and unexpected angels,
luminous.

And there is nothing left to say
but we are That.

And that is what we sing about.

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


/ Image by DCist /

That opening statement is so true—

There is a grace approaching
that we shun as much as death,
it is the completion of our birth.

Most of us spend our entire lives avoiding that inner opening. It is that quiet itch at the back of the awareness that makes us squirm and turn away. And when it really presses on us, it can arouse terror, as if we were facing down death.

That’s the thing: That oh-so-sweet moment of awakening is only sweet on the other side of the threshold. But to approach it is to face death. It is the death of our old worldview, the death of patterned awareness, the death of our limited notion of who we are. All we thought ourselves to be stops—and so it is a sort of death. To feel that grace approaching, to welcome it, requires a wild sort of courage.

It is an insistent grace that draws us
to the edge and beckons us to surrender
safe territory and enter our enormity.

It requires courage and, yes, surrender. We have this idea that spiritual opening is a terrible effort. No. That unfolding wants to occur within us. The only effort is to let go of our endless strategies to halt the process. We all feel it, a gentle prodding to let the heart open, to know ourselves truly, to be present and radiate ourselves into the world.

That opening is insistent, trying to happen within us. Call it grace, if you like. The question is before us: Do we courageously accept the invitation to grace?

It does not come in time,
      but in timelessness
when the mind sinks into the heart
and we remember.

For those of us who live in modern urban society, think how hard it is to stop the ticking of the clock. From an early age we internalize the sense of time and progress and deadlines. Yet, in doing so, we forget that these are all just concepts, just one way to understand the unfolding of being and experience. That sense of time is a powerful tool for doing and accomplishment, but it isn’t inherently real. It doesn’t have much to do with who or what we are. There is a flow of days and months, but they are the surface current of a much deeper timelessness.

I remember as a young man trying to figure out what timelessness was. I sought to live in remote places. I got rid of the television (to which, as a child raised on 70s sitcoms, I had a serious addiction). I spent a lot of time in nature. I slowly learned to let go of the endless buzzing of thoughts. This might sound like a brutal endurance sport, but that wasn’t how I experienced it. I wanted to feel what life was without the filters of the 20th century mindset and 20th century time. I wanted to know who I was in the space of timelessness.

It is fascinating how we use the hyperactivity of thought to define the world, to frame our perception of the world, and in some ways to limit our notion of the world. The other thing about thought: It creates time. When thought settles down, we discover timelessness. And as the poet said, the mind comes to rest, not in the head, but in the heart.

Having come to rest, we remember. It is not through intellection but through stillness that we remember. Remember. Re-member. To remember is to finally see how the apparent separation of reality actually fits together in a single wholeness. Discursive thought can only ever examine pieces of the whole. To re-member is to have the full vision of Wholeness, as things actually are. But this vision is found in timelessness and stillness, through the quiet mind unfiltered.

And there is nothing left to say
but we are That.

And that is what we sing about.


Recommended Books: Stephen Levine

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Breaking the Drought: Visions of Grace A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last Who Dies?: An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying Healing into Life and Death
More Books >>


Stephen Levine, Stephen Levine poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Stephen Levine

US (1937 – 2016) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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3 responses so far

Mar 22 2024

permission

We spend most of our lives striving so hard
to earn our own permission to be at rest
where we are
— when we could have done it all along.

No responses yet

Mar 08 2024

Akka Mahadevi – It was like a stream

Published by under Poetry

It was like a stream
by Akka Mahadevi

English version by A. K. Ramanujan

It was like a stream
      running into the dry bed
      of a lake,
                  like rain
      pouring on plants
      parched to sticks.

It was like this world’s pleasure
      and the way to the other,
                              both
      walking towards me.

Seeing the feet of the master
O lord white as jasmine,
      I was made
      worthwhile.

— from Women Writing in India: 600 BC to the Present: Volume 1, Edited by Susie Tharu / Edited by K. Lalita


/ Image by Omar Ob /

It is Mahashivaratri, a celebration in honor of the Hindu god Shiva, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to feature a poem by the great Shiva mystic, Mahadevi.

You know, there is always a question people are hesitant to ask, or just don’t think to ask… So let’s ask it now:

What in the world are these poets and mystics really talking about? Is there anything real behind all of these esoteric poems and sacred scriptures?

Once we step away from heavily laden words like God or heaven or enlightenment, we have to ask if these are just lovely word games and endless philosophical speculation.

I guess all of that is a roundabout way of asking the blunt question, What is the real point to a lifetime of spiritual striving?

Here’s a little secret not often mentioned in church or mosque or synagogue: In deepest communion, when the mind is still and the heart open, we are flooded by such an immense, ecstatic joy that nothing else can compare to it.

Let me say that again, because it is not some pretty philosophical notion. It is real, and directly perceived: When the mind is still and the heart open, we are flooded with an immense, ecstatic joy beyond describing.

That flood brings with it a profound sense of life. It is a sense of being alive that is utterly new, unknown until that moment. It is as if we experience what it means to be alive for the first time. Christians speak of this as the rebirth. Eastern traditions speak of it as awakening. That flood — it feels like a rushing stream — finally slakes a deep thirst we didn’t know we had.

It was like a stream
      running into the dry bed
      of a lake,
                  like rain
      pouring on plants
      parched to sticks.

In other words, yes, these poets are actually describing something real. It is something felt and tangible. The spiritual journey is not about withering discipline or theological correctness, clinging to a dusty ideal unto the grave. It is about life! And a very real deep, mysterious delight!

The theologian reformulates other people’s descriptions of sugar, and tells himself he is content. But the mystic is only satisfied with tasting it.

The spiritual journey is about discovering the very real sweetness that you are.

O lord white as jasmine,
      I was made
      worthwhile.

=

And to all of my beloved Muslim friends, Ramadan Mubarak. Have a blessed Ramadan this coming week, bringing a renewed sense of self, healing, and hopeful new possibilities into the world.


Recommended Books: Akka Mahadevi

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Speaking of Siva The Shambhala Anthology of Women’s Spiritual Poetry Women Writing in India: 600 BC to the Present: Volume 1 Sacred Voices: Essential Women’s Voices Through the Ages


Akka Mahadevi, Akka Mahadevi poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Akka Mahadevi

India (12th Century) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shaivite (Shiva)

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8 responses so far

Mar 08 2024

bliss

bliss heals

No responses yet

Mar 01 2024

Hadewijch – You who want

Published by under Poetry

You who want
by Hadewijch

English version by Jane Hirshfield

You who want
knowledge,
seek the Oneness
within

There you
will find
the clear mirror
already waiting

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


/ Image by Lea Chvrl /

“You who want
knowledge…”

I suppose that is all of us. We all want knowledge.

Society tells us that “knowledge is power,” but we don’t really have a clear sense of what knowledge is. In the modern era, we tend to think of knowledge as information, data. We think of knowledge as the feeding and exercise of the intellect. All of that is certainly important, but real knowledge is something else.

We can’t think our way into heaven.

When mystics speak of “knowledge” they speak of gnosis. This is not information, but a profound Knowing. The knowledge we are talking about has more to do with full awareness. It is as if one floats in the vast ocean of knowingness itself. This “knowledge” is an all-encompassing recognition of meaning and interrelationship. It is direct and permeates one’s whole being. It is the full bodied perception that living meaning somehow flows through all of existence, unifying everything within a living self-awareness.

Information is observational, external, and always limited. This is not to say that gnostic knowledge has nothing to do with informational knowledge, however. In spiritually open states, one’s intuition may be refined and heightened. Clear insight about a certain person or situation may just pop into your mind as a fully formed understanding, as if you suddenly see the whole pattern without having to work so hard to connect all of the individual bits of information. But this is more of a byproduct, an ornamentation on the face of knowledge, not the knowledge itself.

Real knowing, gnosis, is alive, all-permeating, all-unifying. It reconnects us within the living whole… and leads us into ecstasy.

…seek the Oneness
within

This is why real knowing is about seeking oneness, turning within, learning to see ourselves honestly, truly, clearly.

Surprisingly, none of this knowledge is ever acquired. It isn’t a new possession or experience or even a new thought. It is already here, at rest in the center of things. When it is found, it is as familiar as our bones. It is our very nature. It is already waiting.

There you
will find
the clear mirror
already waiting

Have a beautiful day!


Recommended Books: Hadewijch

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women The Shambhala Anthology of Women’s Spiritual Poetry Hadewijch: The Complete Works (Classics of Western Spirituality) Christian Mystics: Their Lives and Legacies throughout the Ages Meister Eckhart and the Beguine Mystics: Hadewijch of Brabant, Mechthild of Magdeburg, and Marguerite Porete
More Books >>


Hadewijch, Hadewijch poetry, Christian poetry Hadewijch

Belgium (13th Century) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

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3 responses so far

Mar 01 2024

embody

We embody
each other.

No responses yet

Feb 16 2024

Ayaz – The Making of Sand

Published by under Poetry

The Making of Sand
by Ayaz

Empty pages
Flap in the wind
In the sovereign silence
There is no history
There is only the cracking
And polishing of stones
by the sun
You see the making of sand
Is a long business
Shaped and re shaped
By surrender

— from The Holy Algorithm, by Ayaz Angus Landman


/ Image by Kunj Parekh /

I should feature the poetry of Ayaz Landman more often. I should just read his poetry more often — note to self. Every time I read his poetry I am surprised anew by how his words ring in the still moments of the day.

This poem, for example, it feels to me like a meditative journey…

Empty pages
Flap in the wind

We start with an image of a book open, its pages empty and flapping in the wind. A bare sketch, dreamlike. Where are the words that should fill the pages? Why would a book’s pages be empty? Perhaps the book is a blank canvas, a space for creativity, a place of possibilities.

Where is the writer? Or the reader? Why is the book out in the wind?

An empty book, an empty space, but with movement, life.

In the sovereign silence
There is no history

These are the words that first grab my attention. That phrase, “the sovereign silence…” That is one to sit with and savor.

Within that silence there is no history. No past. No inner dialog. No self-story. There is just presence.

The empty pages of the book, that must be us. We have become wordless, a part of the silence.

There is only the cracking
And polishing of stones
by the sun

This section is almost alchemical. There is no one there, no history, a place beyond time, but there is a refining process happening. Stones are being polished, refined, by the light of the sun.

What an interesting, almost startling detail in, that sound of cracking in the midst of the silence. A bit of projection on my part, perhaps, but that line suggests to me the inner sound heard in silent meditation and prayer. It can be a soft sound, like the hum of bees or a distant waterfall… or sand carried by the wind, or it can be clear and crisp, like a bell or flute… or perhaps the cracking sound of stones.

The inner sound is the sound of the self’s refinement. And that process is patient work.

You see the making of sand
Is a long business

It is not even that we are doing it. The action is done by the wind, the sun, by the subtle, eternal forces that act upon all things.

Our job is simply to let that process happen…

Shaped and re shaped
By surrender

…to allow ourselves to be remade by our own surrender.


Recommended Books: Ayaz

For You: A Collection of Prayer Poems The Holy Algorithm For You Too


Ayaz

England (Contemporary)
Muslim / Sufi

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3 responses so far

Feb 16 2024

flavor

Real freedom carries the flavor of timelessness.

No responses yet

Feb 02 2024

Yunus Emre – A single word

Published by under Poetry

A single word can brighten the face
by Yunus Emre

English version by Kabir Helminski & Refik Algan

A single word can brighten the face
of one who knows the value of words.
Ripened in silence, a single word
acquires a great energy for work.

War is cut short by a word,
and a word heals the wounds,
and there’s a word that changes
poison into butter and honey.

Let a word mature inside yourself.
Withhold the unripened thought.
Come and understand the kind of word
that reduces money and riches to dust.

Know when to speak a word
and when not to speak at all.
A single word turns the universe of hell
into eight paradises.

Follow the Way. Don’t be fooled
by what you already know. Be watchful.
Reflect before you speak.
A foolish mouth can brand your soul.

Yunus, say one last thing
about the power of words —
Only the word “I”
divides me from God.

— from The Drop That Became the Sea: Lyric Poems of Yunus Emre, Translated by Kabir Helminski / Translated by Refik Algan


/ Image by Ahmad Bader /

A single word can brighten the face
of one who knows the value of words.

This is one of my favorite poems by Yunus Emre, but I have never really written up a good commentary to accompany it. Perhaps it is because it is a poem about words, the singular power of words, or the power of a singular word — and I don’t want my meditative ramblings to take away from the poem itself. It says it all so beautifully.

Ripened in silence, a single word
acquires a great energy for work.

I love that line. I have been busy with my day job of late, and I haven’t been resting in deep meditation as much as I would like. The outer world has required a lot of energy from me lately. Yet I have still managed to catch moments of silence gently flowing beneath the activity. That’s where the ripening happens.

War is cut short by a word,
and a word heals the wounds,
and there’s a word that changes
poison into butter and honey.

I think this verse is the heart of the poem for me. I read it over and over again.

In my Hawaii days, at the same time I was doing all that fasting and meditating in a cave, I was also running an email chain called the Peace Pages. No website, just by word of mouth, but it grew quickly to a significant circulation in the couple of years that it existed. It usually consisted of summaries of overlooked international news stories, often with a few comments for context, as a more holistic counterbalance to the fixed perspectives we were receiving in US news reports at the time. A major focus of the Peace Pages was the terrible situation in Israel/Palestine and my instinct that the suffering of the Palestinian people could become a flashpoint for a widening conflict on the world stage. This was about 25 years ago.

In the morning I would awaken, often lightheaded from fasting the day before, then go for a walk barefoot into the nearby forest where I had found a small cave. I would sit in meditation in the cave for several hours. When I returned, I might eat something light – at that time I was eating mainly island fruit and sprouted foods – then I would turn on my computer, scour the early Internet for news stories, and put together the Peace Pages email to send out.

In some ways, that work was an early template for what would become the Poetry Chaikhana.

Those emails helped me to gain a clearer, more expanded perspective on what was really happening in the world as I began to formulate my own response as a person aspiring to genuine compassion. It always meant empathy with those who are struggling and suffering, never seeing anyone as less than human or a less valuable human than myself. It also, challengingly, meant I had to recognize the suffering of even those who impose suffering on others. The black-and-white world of newsprint became, instead, a complex tapestry of shades and tones.

It also taught me that every conflict comes down to a breakdown in communication. Slow, simmering suffering, accented by explosive, often cruel action, is always about thwarted communication. Groups of people refusing to listen to the needs and concerns of other groups of people.

We tell ourselves that war and fighting are either about control of limited resources or sometimes we just want to say that the other side is “crazy” or, at least, unreasonable. But, when we really look, the clash usually has to do with the stories we tell and how we have tried to fix those stories in concrete. Conflict is often the result of having an overly rigid story about who we are and what our future should be, while trying to eliminate with a vengeance anyone with a different story.

The word that heals, the word that stops war is lost amidst our shouts of accusation.

We can never let allegiance to our personal or national stories be greater than our commitment to compassion and humanity. Let history become messy. Let our stories adapt and evolve to make room for other stories. We don’t need the triumphant fulfillment of our personal stories, what we need, and secretly crave, is the fulfillment of our humanity… even when our stories become something new and our future becomes unknown.

When we drop the terrible purpose of our stories and restore our hearts, that is when we recall the word that heals.

I think will say no more today, and let Yunus have the final word–

Yunus, say one last thing
about the power of words —
Only the word “I”
divides me from God.


Recommended Books: Yunus Emre

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems The Drop That Became the Sea: Lyric Poems of Yunus Emre Quarreling with God: Mystic Rebel Poems of the Dervishes of Turkey
More Books >>


Yunus Emre, Yunus Emre poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Yunus Emre

Turkey (1238 – 1320) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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Feb 02 2024

holy

Do that
which makes your life
holy.

No responses yet

Jan 26 2024

Sa’di – In Love

Published by under Poetry

In Love
by Sa’di

English version by Mahmood Jamal

In Love there are no days or nights,
For lovers it is all the same.
The musicians have gone, yet the Sufis listen;
In Love there is a beginning but no end.
Each has a name for his Beloved,
But for me my Beloved is nameless.
Sa’di, if you destroy an idol,
Then destroy the idol of the self.

— from Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi, Translated by Mahmood Jamal


/ Image by Greg Rakozy /

The Poetry Chaikhana is back. So too am I, mostly. The winter holidays have been celebrated and survived. The world continues to shift about and demand our hearts.

Each has a name for his Beloved,
But for me my Beloved is nameless.

Here I stand beneath the full moon, quiet, not entirely sure who it is awash in that light.

Sa’di, if you destroy an idol,
Then destroy the idol of the self.

Sending love!


Recommended Books: Sa’di

Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom The Gulistan of Sadi: The Rose Garden The Mystics of Islam Winds of Grace: Poetry, Stories and Teachings of Sufi Mystics and Saints


Sa'di, Sa'di poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Sa’di

Iran/Persia (1207? – 1291) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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