Dive deep into love


Love comes with a knife, not some
shy question, and not with fears
for its reputation! I say
these things disinterestedly. Accept them
in kind. Love is a madman

working his wild schemes, tearing off his clothes,
running through the mountains, drinking poison,
and now quietly choosing annihilation.

You’ve been walking the ocean’s edge,
holding up your robes to keep them dry.
You must dive naked under and deeper under,
a thousand times deeper! Love flows down.

The ground submits to the sky and suffers
what comes. Tell me, is the earth worse
for giving in like that?

Don’t put blankets over the drum!
Open completely. Let your spirit-ear
listen to the green dome’s passionate murmur.

Let the cords of your robe be untied.
Shiver in this new love beyond all
above and below. The sun rises, but which way
does night go? I have no more words.

Let soul speak with the silent
articulation of a face.

–Jelalludin Rumi 1207 – 1273
Coleman Barks version

it hurts

later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered
– Warsan Shire

The Summer Day ~ Mary Oliver

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?


Stealing a Glance

What cost, your gaze?
You steal my likeness from me, make it yours
All those hours, all those years
I’ve thought and shaped
And chosen and acted
And not acted
To become me
And you glance at me
So easily
So lightly
Stealing my image away into yourself
Beyond my reach
And you walk away
And you think you know
But you do not know
And you cannot know
And I would tear out your eyes
And take it back
If I could

~A. Scott White

Joanne rose
Joanne rose

opening to this one moment

Walk Slowly

It only takes a reminder to breathe,
a moment to be still, and just like that,
something in me settles, softens, makes
space for imperfection. The harsh voice
of judgment drops to a whisper and I
remember again that life isn’t a relay
race; that we will all cross the finish
line; that waking up to life is what we
were born for. As many times as I
forget, catch myself charging forward
without even knowing where I’m going,
that many times I can make the choice
to stop, to breathe, and be, and walk
slowly into the mystery.
~ Danna Faulds

Finally, after decades of start/stop efforts to have a regular meditation practice, I have found my way. I guess I’m a slow learner. I can’t put into words the difference this is already making in my life. It has freed me, slipped into my every moment, opened my heart, and given clarity to what were foggy perceptions. In short, it has changed me from the inside out. Just a few short moments sitting in awareness, just the kind intention to befriend myself, just the non-judgmental noticing of my thoughts. I look forward now to those few moments of quiet, kind awareness. These few moments transform me, working outward to transform all of the moments in my day. I sense a shifting of my default mode from numbness and forgetfulness into mindfulness and engagement. I feel such gratitude.

come dance

The 14th-century Persian poet Hafiz wrote:

Every child has known God,

Not the God of names,

Not the God of don’ts,

Not the God who ever does anything weird,

But the God who knows only four words,

And keeps repeating them, saying:

“Come Dance with Me.”

Come Dance

Taken Away and Given – encounters in old age by Douglas Penick

This essay has stunned me. Put it here to come back to.

It is said that we who live within the mists do not see the shapes of the clouds that are our dwelling place. We do not see the light of the sun, the moon, the stars, nor do we know the vastness of the sky.

There are many stories of children, young men and young women, princesses and princes, whose parents were determined to shield them from suffering and obstacles. They were raised behind high castle walls. There are many stories of men and women who never dared to leave the security of their palaces but who could not silence the whispers of the high winds or avoid fugitive and nameless fears.
aging 1
An old man in the elevator is shaking his head. In a bitter voice, he tells me how sick he has been, that aging “takes so much away from you. You lose so much.”

I am in the same situation, of course, and I feel resistant to his depression. I wonder, isn’t there more to it? Suddenly I want to know:

“But what does old age give?”
aging 2
It is said that more than 2,000 years ago in the north of India, there was a prince, Siddhartha, who lived in a palace amid flower gardens filled with the sounds of bells, music, fountains, and songbirds. The king, his father, made sure he was surrounded by strong, lively young men and beautiful, sensitive women. The king determined that his son would grow up to succeed him, without ever knowing fear, suffering, or sadness. And yet the prince was curious. One day, he ordered his charioteer to take him in his golden chariot to explore the world outside the palace gates. They passed through the bustling crowds that filled the boulevards and marketplaces of his father’s capital. Lingering at the edges of a crowd was a couple, a woman and a man, both bent over, gaunt, tremulous, worn-out. Their veins stood out on their bodies, their teeth chattered, and their dried-out skin was a maze of cracks and wrinkles. They turned their heads anxiously in all directions, for they could not see well. People bumped into them, for they could not hear. Gray hairs hung from their scalps; their eyelids had no lashes and were crusty and red-rimmed. Their heads wobbled and their hands shook. They had the sour smell of decay. The prince asked his charioteer:
“What are these? Has nature made them thus, or is it chance?”

The charioteer answered:

“Sire, these creatures are like all others who live into the twilight of their years. They are merely old. They were once children nursing at their mother’s breast; they grew, they were young, they had strength and beauty and they were brave, enterprising, lustful; they married, they raised their families, their lives were full. Now they are near the end of life. They suffer from the press of time that mars beauty, ruins vigor, kills pleasure, weakens memory, destroys the senses. Old age has seized these two and broken them. It has taken away all their friends and those they could rely on. They are like an abandoned house on an island pounded by a torrential flood. They are the ruin of what once they were.”

The prince asked:

“Will this also be my fate?”

The charioteer replied:

“My lord, no one who lives can escape this.”

The prince shuddered like a bull at the sound of thunder. He uttered a deep sigh and shook his head. His eyes wandered from the wretched couple to the happy crowds.

“And yet the world is not frantic with terror! How can they ignore our common fate?”

This was Prince Siddhartha’s first meeting with old age. For an instant, the prince saw through the surface of his existence as if seeing through a painted screen. Meeting old age, he encountered the first of the Divine Messengers. It was his first glimpse of the truth. Hope to escape, terror, sorrow, all are irrelevant.
againg 3
Tinnitus, various incapacities, less energy, a slightly less reliable faculty of recall—these are signs of aging, but I do not feel the process of getting old. And in the mirror there is a man, almost a stranger, 70 years old. But my mind, my habits of mind, the ways in which I am accustomed to thinking and feeling, the ways I expected myself to be have not much changed. The feeling of being old comes in sudden flashes.

The doctor diagnoses a nodular melanoma. Excised, it leaves an interesting scar. Statistics indicate a truncated life expectancy. I feel the same as before and I do not. Information has changed me as much as any virus or germ. It tells me I am moving into terrains that are uncontrollable, unknowable.

A renowned specialist has nothing of use for me. “Is there any other way I can help?” he asks. I smile. “If you can tell me the two things I doubt you know.” He raises his eyebrows. “How long will I last and how bad will it hurt?” He gives a rueful shrug.
againg 4
I feel the world moving away slightly. I am not different, really. Or the way in which I sense myself as different is difficult to grasp. But I do know that my body and world are changing in unexpected ways. I am being separated from a life I know. A new world presents itself, sharp, vivid, uncompromising. It is not what I expected.

I watch young women and men, full of certainty that the intensity of their desires, the anarchic power of appetites, the bright newness of their thoughts and insights will make the world bend before them. With the sheer force of their sexual desire, of wanting and longing; how could they think otherwise?

Living on the edge of uncertainty is somehow stimulating. The world is opening beneath my feet.
aging 5
It is said that the awakened state is the natural state.

It is said that the awakened state is all-pervasive as space.

It is said that there are more buddhas, buddha realms, kinds of teachings, realizations, assemblies of beings sharing those teachings than there are grains of sand in the Ganges and in all the beds of all the seas combined with all the universes of galaxies of stars.

It is said that every instant in the flow of illusion and suffering displays the full panoply of the unimpeded awakened state. There are no moments in which awake is not.

The core of the feeling that plagues us is that we are missing something. I am changing in ways that are both visible and utterly unfamiliar.

And I am as I somehow always was. I am missing something.

It is a time of sudden vast surprise.
aging 6
My friend’s father was a big man even in his late nineties. His hands were huge and strong. He had been a warehouse foreman and spent most of his life in the Bronx. He loved New York, and finding himself now at the end of his life living with his son in a suburban house with a tree-filled backyard, he was occasionally disoriented. It didn’t really make sense that he would end up in such a place.

He often sat in the yard, amid the trees. “It’s amazing,” he said. “I had no idea that there were so many kinds of green.”
aging 7
The world we know is aging and dying, falling beneath the hordes of the new.

What inspired us, what drew us on, the prospect of making something new in the world, some kind of new home, new love, new child, the prospect of living, all this is being worn out. The house is old, the lover has gotten sick, the children are adults and have their own concerns. And the sense of what was precious, important, necessary to promulgate, these are values no longer so widely shared. Perhaps in earlier times there were values that transcended generational limits; now they barely survive a single human life.

The world we have worked for is neither so fresh nor, to those younger than us, so desirable.

“You’re only as old as you think you are,” my son says.

“Oh, only young people think that,” I say.

The world is aging, dying.

We look at those we love. We look at those whose intimacy sustains us. Their bodies are betraying them. They are in decline. Their minds are in retreat. They look at us tenderly, but their glance moves inward to secret fears and losses of their own. Among these losses, they are looking at us, our bodies, our minds in retreat from a world that is losing us.

The younger ones, as they must and should, struggle to grasp and hold on. They look at us and turn away. The vector of our existence is not the same as theirs. It is the time of parting.

Unexpected perspectives appear, new light shines on enduring patterns and new intensities. More than ever before, we are faced with utter uncertainty. More even than when we were adolescents, we are moving into something completely unknown. It is frightening, and so very interesting, seductive, even.

Memory no longer chained to the pragmatics of seizing and holding.

We are dazzled among patterns. We now enter a world and worlds transforming unimaginably. We are being changed without regard to pain or dignity or accomplishment or punishment or regret. Even the forms of consciousness we believe are valuable or true will not necessarily obtain. Uncertainty is unceasing.
againg 8
The past becomes vivid and slippery.

I am looking across the front seat of the speeding car at my grandfather. He is looking intently through his pince-nez glasses at the blacktop rippling in the summer air. He looks over at me, and I look away. The cicadas are churning the air. I am 8 years old.

The spotlight reflected off the green-robed tenor’s naked sword flashes suddenly across the vast auditorium right into my eyes. I am 11 years old. He turns and begins to sing. Why do such moments come unbidden? Why are they now so clear?

Memories no longer quite provide the story of why things are the way they are. They arise as the framework that once linked them seems to fall out from underneath. I have far less to hide. I am suddenly and shamefully aware of specific moments when I have disappointed parents, teacher, friend, lover, stranger, son, my wife. I cringe, but there is nothing to be done.

Moments as baby, child, adolescent, young man and then older loom vivid and clear. Moments, once markers of some effortful identity, each with different tonalities, thrusts, senses of containment. Now they display new patterns as former meanings drift.

I am looking out the window of a train as day turns to night, as landscapes unfold, become briefly more intense, and the train hurtles toward a sunset I cannot see.
againg 9
And I recall driving east over a ridge into Arizona at sunset. A great basin already in shadow opens as far as the eye can see. Far to the north, a mysterious array of mesas and buttes glow in the orange light while beyond, a dark red palisades blocks the horizon. These huge formations seem to flow across the tawny desert floor, like a secret epic now being enacted just beneath the threshold of thought and memory.

Late in life, many artists have painted, written, composed work that is far different from what they had done earlier, and far different from work anyone else had done. The late works of Bach, Michelangelo, Titian, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Matisse, to mention a few, expand on what they did before but enter unexpected new terrains. This work often is a summit that neither illuminates the past nor provides a pathway to any known future.

Legend goes: To create the dance theater of Japan, Hata came from Korea. He said:

Theater is the genius of the old.
The world draws way from them;
Their horizon widens.
The wide world is seen for what it is.
It draws away.
The future shortens
And the past speaks with greater clarity.

The body is no longer the focus of the world.
Beings of light show themselves.
againg 0
Driving on a gray dirt road, scraggly yellow sunflowers on either side. It’s late morning. The sun is pale and the dusty soil pale gray. I’m a little lost. The road occasionally runs through a stand of skinny leafless trees. It’s a cool day in mid-spring. I’m looking for a crossroad that will get me back to . . . that leads to another road that will take me wherever it is I’m going.

I am sleeping, dreaming. But is this a dream? As I dream, it seems slightly familiar, but I can’t remember anything like this in waking life. I wonder: perhaps this is a return in dream to a dream landscape that occasionally appears. It is not a particularly meaningful place. Pale gray, gritty soil and pale blue sky, bright yellow flowers, and being lost here, but not seriously so. I’m quite certain that I’ll find the way to wherever it was I was intending to go.

But I know I’m dreaming, and I want to remember this. I am wondering if this is just some landscape hovering in space to which I have inadvertently returned. A set of images through which a mind that is mine, for no reason, is just passing through.

I wake and work to remember. Yes, it is a real place, a place near Salida, Colorado. I was driving there with my wife. We were momentarily and pleasantly lost on the way home. It is ordinary and strange.

Mrs. T. was not like any of my mother’s friends. Witty, dark and sensuous, she held herself with mysterious reserve. Eyes wide open, smile amused, a bit aloof, she favored both the men who flirted and the women who whispered as she entered the room with ironic merriment. She was wickedly good at card games, too. Of course, she’d had a discreet face-lift. They said she’d been widowed twice before she was 28.

We wrote each other at Christmas. She was in her midnineties, living in a nursing home. Her correspondence had become less and less detailed. I did not know whom to ask about her condition. Finally my card was returned, stamped deceased.

The year before she had written only: “You know, I’m very flattered that you think I’m still within reach of the U.S. Postal Service.”

building open spaces

Have you noticed how often it happens that a really good idea – the kind of idea that looks, as it approaches, like the explanation for everything about everything – tends to hover near at hand when you are thinking hard about something quite different? There you are, halfway into a taxi, thinking about the condition of the cartilage in the right knee joint, and suddenly, with a whirring sound, in flies a new notion looking for a place to light. You’d better be sure you have a few bare spots, denuded of anything like thought, ready for its perching, or it will fly away into the dark ~ Lewis Thomas


What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.
So building fires
requires attention
to the spaces in between,
as much as to the wood.
When we are able to build
open spaces
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs,
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and absence of the fuel
together, that make fire possible.
We only need to lay a log
lightly from time to time.
A fire
simply because the space is there,
with openings
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.

being here

I am learning to befriend restlessness
To spend fewer moments sleep walking
Or giving into continuous movement
Disguised as productive activity
Learning not to resist by collapsing
Into endless distraction and dissatisfaction
(So many shiny objects disappoint)
I am learning to ground in the scent of here
The taste of what is
The soft sound of my breathing
The colour and texture
Of landscapes- inner and outer
After all these years of longing
I am learning to be

Oriah Mountain Dreamer


It takes both

Sadness gives depth. Happiness gives height. Sadness gives roots. Happiness gives branches. Happiness is like a tree going into the sky, and sadness is like the roots going down into the womb of the earth. Both are needed, and the higher a tree goes, the deeper it goes, simultaneously. The bigger the tree, the bigger will be its roots. In fact, it is always in proportion. That’s its balance ~ Osho

What is the goal in the spiritual life? Is it to be happy, to ease or end suffering, to be at all times peaceful and content? I don’t think so. I think that grabbing ahold of any spiritual teaching or religious effort with this goal in mind is misguided. Nirvana isn’t the lack of sadness. Nirvana is this moment, lived completely. Only this one moment. This moment is all we have. To live a life fully, to be engaged and experience what IS, right now, is nirvana. To experience this one precious life, this one precious moment, is to come face to face with sorrow and pain. Not hiding, not numbing, not covering over. Being with the sorrow, sitting with the pain. It is the path of non-resistance.

We all want to be happy. We all want to feel joy. But joy and happiness don’t come alone. Sorrow and pain are their shadow companions. In order to experience life fully, to dive into joy, to dance with happiness, sorrow and pain must also be acknowledged. They also must take a turn on the dance floor. To reject and hide from pain is to lesson your ability to experience joy. To live in this moment, fully engaged and awake, we must welcome the dark as well as the light. Without fear, without reservation. We must be willing to dive into sorrow with the same abandon as we dive into joy. In doing this, we find the treasures hidden and come away changed.

And what are these treasures? I’ll speak of one: a heart that becomes increasingly more open. To dance with sorrow is to learn compassion, for ourselves first and then for others. We learn to walk softly with others, to recognize the pain hiding behind the bluster of those who previously irritated us. Our hearts become more open to the suffering of others as we become slowly aware that they desire the same happiness and struggle with the same brokenness. An open heart is the shining reward for sitting with pain. Open to life, open to others, open to receive all that this precious life pours forth daily, hourly, in each moment.