Tuesday, June 12, 2018

In a manner I won’t forget



Tell me, love, what I need right now so that I might sing, and be alive, as my every cell craves.

Tell me, dear, what I need right now, but
in a manner I won’t soon forget.

Then the world began to sway, its hips
invited my arms, its feet placed mine upon
them, that made all my effort easy.

A father’s toes lifting a child’s in dance caused
God to pull out a drum.

The Beloved belted out a tune, that went,
“Nothing to follow . . . for I will move you.
You need not do a damn thing . . . just laugh.”

Hafiz, “In a Manner I Won’t Forget,” from A Year with Hafiz,
translation by Daniel Ladinsky

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

A Gift Of Gratitude by Brother David Steindl-Rast



A Gift Of Gratitude 
by Brother David Steindl-Rast 
 
You think this is just
another day in your life? 
It’s not just another day;
it’s the one day that
is given to you…
today
It’s given to you. It’s a gift.
It’s the only gift that you
have right now, and the
one appropriate response
is gratefulness.
If you do nothing else but to
cultivate that response to the great
gift that this unique day is,
if you learn to respond
as if it were the first day
of your life,
and the very last day,
then you will have spent
this day very well.
Begin by opening your
eyes and be surprised that you
have eyes you can open,
that incredible array of colors
that is constantly offered to
us for pure enjoyment.
Look at the sky.
We so rarely look at the sky.
We so rarely note how different
it is from moment to
moment with clouds coming
and going.
We just think of the weather, and
even of the weather we don’t think
of all the many nuances of weather.
We just think of good weather
and bad weather.
This day right now has
unique weather, maybe a
kind that will never exactly
in that form come again.
That formation of clouds in the sky will
never be the same that it is right now.
Open your eyes. Look at that.
Look at the faces 
of people whom you meet.
Each one has an incredible
story behind their face, a story
that you could never fully fathom,
not only their own story,
but the story of their ancestors.
We all go back so far.
And in this present
moment on this day, all the
people you meet, all that life
from generations and from so
many places all over the world,
flows together and meets you
here like a life-giving
water, if you only open your
heart and drink.
Open your heart
to the incredible gifts that
civilization gives to us.
You flip a switch
and there is
electric light.
You turn a faucet and
there is warm water and cold water—
and drinkable water.
It’s a gift that millions and millions
in the world will never experience.
So these are just a few of
an enormous number
of gifts to which you can
open your heart.
And so I wish for you that
you would open your heart
to all these blessings and let
them flow through you,
that everyone whom you will meet
on this day will be blessed by you;
just by your eyes,
by your smile, by your touch—
just by your presence.
Let the gratefulness overflow
into blessing all around you,
and then it will really be
a good day.

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Amazing Maya Angelou


A BRAVE AND STARTLING TRUTH

By Maya Angelou 

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth 

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms 

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil 

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze 

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse 

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets 

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world 

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe 

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines 

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear 

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

SINGULARITY by Marie Howe



SINGULARITY
by Marie Howe

          (after Stephen Hawking)

Do you sometimes want to wake up to the singularity
we once were?

so compact nobody
needed a bed, or food or money — 

nobody hiding in the school bathroom
or home alone

pulling open the drawer
where the pills are kept.

For every atom belonging to me as good
Belongs to you.
   Remember?

There was no   Nature.    No
 them.   No tests

to determine if the elephant
grieves her calf    or if 

the coral reef feels pain.    Trashed
oceans don’t speak English or Farsi or French;

would that we could wake up   to what we were
— when we were ocean    and before that 

to when sky was earth, and animal was energy, and rock was
liquid and stars were space and space was not

at all — nothing

before we came to believe humans were so important
before this awful loneliness.

Can molecules recall it?
what once was?    before anything happened?

No I, no We, no one. No was
No verb      no noun
only a tiny tiny dot brimming with 

is is is is is

All   everything   home

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Stubborn Gladness



Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies 
are not starving someplace, they are starving 
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils. 
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants. 
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not 
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not 
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women 
at the fountain are laughing together between 
the suffering they have known and the awfulness 
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody 
in the village is very sick. There is laughter 
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta, 
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay. 
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction, 
we lessen the importance of their deprivation. 
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure, 
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have 
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless 
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only 
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil. 
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down, 
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude. 
We must admit there will be music despite everything. 
We stand at the prow again of a small ship 
anchored late at night in the tiny port 
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront 
is three shuttered caf├ęs and one naked light burning. 
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat 
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth 
all the years of sorrow that are to come.
-Jack Williams 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Comparisons


“Basho said: avoid adjectives of scale, you will love the world more and desire it less.”
- as paraphrased by Robert Hass
Just this.
Just this is it.
Our opinions, judgements and comparisons are unnecessary.
Look how far they’ve gotten us.
Why not try a different approach?
Love what is.
And celebrate the simple fact that we don’t really know what’s going on here.
That’s the true leap of love.
The vulnerability of the unknown, acknowledged and embraced.
Love, no longer relegated to mere preference, resumes its natural function in benevolent welcome to what is... as it is.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Terry Tempest Williams on earth intimacy


Earth. Rock. Desert. I am walking barefoot on sandstone, flesh responding to flesh. It is hot, so hot the rock threatens to burn through the calloused soles of my feet. I must quicken my pace, paying attention to where I step.

For as far as I can see, the canyon country of southern Utah extends in all directions. No compass can orient me here, only a pledge to love and walk the terrifying distances before me. What I fear and desire most in this world is passion. I fear it because it promises to be spontaneous, out of my control, unnamed, beyond my reasonable self. I desire it because passion has color, like the landscape before me. It is not pale. It is not neutral. It reveals the backside of the heart.

I climb the slickrock on all fours, my hands and feet throbbing with the heat. It feels good to sweat, to be engaged, to inhabit my animal body. . . . Once I enter the Joint Trail . . . it is dark, cool, and narrow with sheer sandstone walls on either side of me. . . . The palms of my hands search for a pulse in the rocks. I continue walking. In some places my hips can barely fit through. I turn sideways, my chest and back in a vise of geologic time.

I stop. The silence that lives in these sacred hallways presses against me. I relax. I surrender. I close my eyes. The arousal of my breath rises in me like music, like love, as the possessive muscles between my legs tighten and release. I come to the rock in a moment of stillness, giving and receiving, where there is no partition between my body and the Earth. . . .

I touch the skin of my face. It seems so callow. Moving my fingers over the soft flesh that covers my cheekbones, I wonder what it means to be human and why, at this particular moment, rock seems more accessible and yielding than my own species. . . .

I . . . focus on breath. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. The attention of breath in love, two breaths creating a third, mingling and shaping each other like clouds, cumulus clouds over the desert. . . . My body softens as I make my wish to follow my breath. It settles on the backs of swallowtails. We are carried effortlessly through the labyrinth of these labial canyons. . . .

Inhale. Exhale. . . . I am dizzy. I am drunk with pleasure. There is no need to speak.

Listen.
Below us.
Above us.
Inside us.
Come.
This is all there is.

 
 
 
 

Terry Tempest Williams, “Desert Quartet,” Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert(Vintage Books: 2001), 195-197, 199, 210-211

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Every Riven Thing



God goes, belonging to every riven thing he's made
sing his being simply by being
the thing it is:
stone and tree and sky,
man who sees and sings and wonders why

God goes. Belonging, to every riven thing he's made,
means a storm of peace.
Think of the atoms inside the stone.
Think of the man who sits alone
trying to will himself into a stillness where

God goes belonging. To every riven thing he's made
there is given one shade
shaped exactly to the thing itself:
under the tree a darker tree;
under the man the only man to see

God goes belonging to every riven thing. He's made
the things that bring him near,
made the mind that makes him go.
A part of what man knows,
apart from what man knows,

God goes belonging to every riven thing he's made.

BY CHRISTIAN WIMAN

From a Window



Incurable and unbelieving
in any truth but the truth of grieving,

I saw a tree inside a tree
rise kaleidoscopically

as if the leaves had livelier ghosts.
I pressed my face as close

to the pane as I could get
to watch that fitful, fluent spirit

that seemed a single being undefined
or countless beings of one mind 

haul its strange cohesion
beyond the limits of my vision

over the house heavenwards.
Of course I knew those leaves were birds.

Of course that old tree stood
exactly as it had and would

(but why should it seem fuller now?)
and though a man's mind might endow

even a tree with some excess
of life to which a man seems witness,

that life is not the life of men.
And that is where the joy came in

BY CHRISTIAN WIMAN

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A ritual to read to each other

If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider--
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give--yes or no, or maybe--
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep. 


Monday, March 26, 2018

Home



“Don’t you know yet? It is your light that lights the worlds.” Rumi

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Breath breathing breath






Not Christian or Jew or
Muslim, not Hindu,
Buddhist, Sufi, or Zen.
Not any religion

or cultural system. I am
not from the east
or the west, not
out of the ocean or up

from the ground, not
natural or ethereal, not
composed of elements at all.
I do not exist,

am not an entity in this
world or the next,
did not descend from
Adam and Eve or any

origin story. My place is
the placeless, a trace
of the traceless.
Neither body or soul.

I belong to the beloved,
have seen the two
worlds as one and 
that one
call to and know,

first, last, outer, inner,
only that breath breathing

human being.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

sister gift

In 2016 my best friend died of cancer.  I sat at her bedside a few weeks before and said, "Mich, this is not how I thought the story would end."  She pressed my hand, answering, "Neither did I?"  A few weeks later she was gone.  This loss has turned me upside down and inside out.  Not just the loss of my lifelong friend and soulmate-sister but the overwhelming groundlessness accompanying her loss.  Suddenly nothing made sense.  All my belief structures and conceptual models simply collapsed. The only statement I could make with any real conviction was,  "I don't know".  With that there was little left to say.  Little to write.  Little to create. I gave away my loom, my paints, my art boards and supplies.  My well of creativity just ran dry, replaced by an edge of cynicism and apathy.  

What would my sister tell me to do?

I didn't know.  She was gone.  I couldn't pick up the phone and hear the reassurance of her voice or lean into her arms for comfort or turn toward her honesty for truth.  To say "I miss her" doesn't begin to approach this loss.  It would be more honest to say, "I miss myself".

In our world today, we rarely approach genuine loss and the ungraceful feelings of being human, with candor and honesty.  Instead we present botoxed, photoshopped, smiling images accompanied by upbeat quips about life going our way.  I've tried that, for a millisecond.  It's like surviving with nothing to eat but rice cakes- bland, tasteless and beyond boring.  My sister met the rawness of the human experience and it's wide horizon of feeling with a warm welcome.  She wasn't afraid to greet your messiness.  She was as interested in your shadow as in your light.  I have rarely found her like.  

Her open hearted acceptance didn't stand for bullshit.  Hell no.  She exuded an inner strength and would tell you how she saw it with a warmth and camaraderie that left you empowered rather than shamed. In her absence, I see more clearly what is lost when we shy away from human complexity in favor of our best face, mine or yours.  We miss the depth available in the human experience and the gift of authentic connection.  Of course life sometimes hurts like hell.  It is also unspeakably beautiful and undeniably amazing. Trying to have one without the other is a pipe dream unworthy of us.

Since her death I have been living my life in tiny sips.  Perhaps that is what grief looks like sometimes.  Michelle would tell me it's time to turn toward the banquet instead of the rice cake.  She would have counseled guzzling life rather than sipping it.  She would have asked me to feel, even though it hurts, and write because that's what I do.  She would have reminded me that such feeling involves great courage and that courage implies vulnerability.  

After the longest writer's block in my life, this post is my birthday gift to her.

Michelle Lawhorn would have been 59 on February 28th.  I love you sister-sister.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A little holiday perspective

Driving to work last week I saw two signs in a nearby yard.  The first read, "Jesus Christ is the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to GOD except through HIM."  
The next sign situated in the same yard along the walkway, read, "NO TRESPASSING. KEEP OUT."
Of course, after I laughed aloud at the ironic signage, I was struck by what it unwittingly revealed. All too often religions espouse a monopoly on what is "right" or just and cling to it with closed fists, minds and hearts.  In one yard, two signs provided a perfect metaphor for how the story of Christmas, with it's little family looking for a place to rest and deliver a child, is all to often overlooked.  
There is no room at the Inn. 
"NO TRESPASSING. KEEP OUT!"  
How often do our beliefs, ideologies and misplaced moralities ward off travelers who are merely looking for refuge or safe harbor?  How often do we think ourselves in possession of the truth and find our minds and hearts hardened toward an open embrace?  This year has challenged many of us, politically, socially and personally.  We have watched our collective shadow parade across the social screen with all the pomp and circumstance of a bad reality television show (is there another kind?).  We have retrenched and barricaded ourselves behind values, platitudes and ideals, while climate change, environmental degradation, racism, misogyny, prejudice and greed run amuck.  All of this brought to mind Carl Sagan's words following the Voyager expedition forty years ago to photograph the planets of our outer solar system.  At the very end of the expedition, just as NASA had decided to turn off the cameras to conserve energy, Sagan convinced the powers that be to turn the cameras around and photograph the Earth from that great distance.  The resulting grainy image revealed a small, pale blue dot in a ray of solar light.
 Of this blue dot, Sagan wrote:
"From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity — in all this vastness — there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves."
With this in mind perhaps we will reconsider our sharp adherence to beliefs, whether Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Non-dual, Agnostic, Atheist, Republican, Democratic and the list goes on.  Let's reconsider this KEEP OUT! I'M RIGHT,YOU'RE WRONG model of self preservation.  Conceivably, we could open our hearts and minds and make room in the inn for a new vision of humanity.  One that welcomes and stewards the living things and preserves this miraculous pale blue dot, spinning through the vastness of space. Our common home.  

I wish all of you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Kwaanza, Shab e Yalda, Solstice or whatever your family celebrates, with the deepest meaning and spirit of the season.  

Friday, March 31, 2017

death, words and connection

Death comes unbidden, like a salesman in the night marketing unwanted wares.  My soul's companion and dearest friend for two-decades died this year.

At first grief fell like a torrential downpour, wet with tears.  Next, it arrived in a series of emotional tsunamis leveling everything in its wake. Eventually it settled into the ebb and flow of feeling. Loss is simply there, like a familiar friend who sometimes draws close enough to hold my hand and walk with me awhile before leaving and lifting the heavy mist of sorrow.

With my sister's passing, all creativity ran dry.  My verbosity and delight in words simply stopped.  I gave away my paints, put my loom in storage and my notepads gathered dust.

I simply had nothing left to say.

Words, my long time companions, simply proved insufficient to this part of life's journey. They separate totality into this and thatsubject and objecthere and thereyou and me.  Words provide a conceptual framework but are incomplete by design. Silence is better suited to the paradoxical simultaneity of life and death, in all it's disguises.

Silence.

And yet words can also connect.  Syllables reaching out from the individuated bias of personal experience toward the warmth of understanding in others.

A verbal thaw has begun. Words melt toward union... toward connection... toward life.

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Truth

The resolve is to tell the truth.
And the deeper truth.
And the deeper truth.

Stop looking

Stop looking.
Not in the next moment when you have what you are looking for.
But now.
In this moment.
And you will discover that all you have ever sought is what you have been all along.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Flight

I have been unable to write.
All words seem an unnecessary distraction,
inadequate to the expansion back of them and woefully deficient.
Loss, grief, confusion, joy, bliss, expansion, contraction, heart ache... all pass through the web of experience ... some linger longer than others.
Such is the dance of the human.
Perhaps if I add a few words here,
the words will break free and give my heart room to breath once more.
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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Nearly there

 "Yell into the belly of the Earth", she told me, "she will listen and ease your aching sorrows". I yelled until I was hoarse. I was twenty-one. Burdens fell from careworn shoulders and we were sisters ever more. 

The other day a friend entrusted me with a Kabbalistic myth. In the telling, 144 souls were created at the dawn of time. Those 144 souls eventually splintered into the multitudinous fragments of sentient life on planet Earth. Now I look out upon the mosaic of life and believe that my kindred spirits are my clearest reflections of the original soul from which we sprang.  

Now she travels the final steps along the sharp, stony terrain of cancer, I walk with her, my heart aching.  I see ahead a field, beautiful and inviting, with tall grass, clear skies, shade trees and a small bubbling creek nearby. There are ample places to rest.  She is tired.  I say, softly, lean on me, we're nearly there.

This grief has settled in and it's not what I expected. It's not the sharp, growling grief of suffering, but a sweet, tender sadness held in generous arms of love.  Of course, even in my sister's departure I am held.
I love you Michelle.
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Monday, September 19, 2016

Only love, only love

Words.
Insufficient, awkward, clumsy tools with which to communicate.  They have all but dried up.  Each one spilling forth is incomplete and one-sided, ill-suited to its task.  Drawing water from an infinite well, they cough wet sand on the surface of things, unable to match wholeness with anything other than division.
Ah yes, but these are what we have.
My beloved heart-sister, one of the greatest loves of my life, is leaving form and I, with deep tenderness, am breaking open, admitting that I know nothing and yet am so generously known as everything.
She freely shared her love with me, year after year, until my own well was discovered to have been full all along.
The heart never grows tired of loving, no matter the cost.  It pours love like an inexhaustible river filling the parched places so long tended by words alone.
Now, I have no words to offer at this parting.  Each one spills out, empty and inadequate. The heart simply breaks and love spills out, flooding life, every where I move until there are no divisions, only love.
Only love.
In this great truth, there are no partings.
Only love.
Only love.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

And then You are like this

And then You are like this:

A small bird decorated 
With orange patches of light 
Waving your wings near my window, 

Encouraging me with all of existences's love -- 
To dance. 

And then You are like this: 

A cruel word that stabs me 
From the mouth of a strange costume You wear; 
A guise You had too long tricked me into thinking 
Could be other -- than You. 

And then You are... 

The firmament 
That spins at the end of a string in Your hand 
That You offer to mine saying, 
"Did you drop this -- surely 
This is yours." 

And then You are, O then You are: 

The Beloved of every creature 
Revealed with such grandeur -- bursting 
From each cell in my body, 
I kneel, I laugh, 
I weep, I sing, 
I sing. 

-Hafiz