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Archive for October, 2010

 

The migrating bird
leaves no trace behind
and does not need a guide.

– DOGEN –

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AUTUMN WAITING

Cold wind.
The day is waiting for winter
Without a sound.
Everything is waiting—
Broken-down cars in the dead weeds.
The weeds themselves.
Trees.
Even sunlight
Is in no hurry and stays
For a long time
On each cornstalk.
Blackbirds are silent
And sit in piles.
From a distance
They look like
Something
Spilled on the road.

– TOM HENNEN –

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Autumn persists. So lovely, languishing. The color holding death at bay. Maples still fiercely orange, red and yellow. I feel winter at my back and turn toward the autumn that remains; the warmth of afternoon sun; the long slats of light filtering through clouds.

I visit my father who is endlessly delighted to see me. I take the usual rations of junk food that he loves–this time, pretzels dunked in peanut butter and chocolate. As he reaches for them, I press them into his grasp. His fingers seem awkward, his pincer-grabber grip uncertain. I see in him the essence of his being and all the dimensions of who he has been. The boy in knickers, organizing neighborhood boys for sandlot baseball. The naval officer–boy-man navigating the Pacific, pouring over charts and poised with sextant in hand. The executive, briefcase in hand, overcoat and gray felt hat, running to catch the train. The playful father and grandfather–silly beyond measure. The man drank and smoked and outwitted all actuarial calculations, still here at 87 years of age.

This morning I attend a meditation intensive. We do a deep and slow yogic practice–holding asanas and sounding; releasing. A thunderous sadness wells up in me and I know, in a new way, that I must let him go. That it is a generous act to release him to the embrace of what he would call, “our gracious heavenly Father.” I know, too, that he is in me…not just his lineage…not just his legacy, but a complete and lovely sense of his spirit. That years from now, I will be able to say…”Well, your grandfather would have said…” or “your great-grandfather would have said…” Or, perhaps, to simply “be” as he has been in my life.

May you listen to your longing to be free.
May the frames of your belonging be large enough for the dreams of your soul.
May you arise each day with a voice of blessing whispering in your heart
…something good is going to happen to you.
May you find harmony between your soul and your life.
May the mansion of your soul never become a haunted place.
May you know the eternal longing that lies at the heart of time.
May there be kindness in your gaze when you look within.
May you never place walls between the light and yourself.
May you be set free from the prisons of guilt, fear, disappointment and despair.
May you allow the wild beauty of the invisible world to gather you,
mind you, and embrace you in belonging.

–  JOHN O’DONOHUE  –

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Over the weekend, I dusted off my camera and went walking. I walked by the Hudson, I walked the woods behind the Nature Center. The air was exquisite: purified by rain, an elemental nutrient. Each breath like a meal…deeply soul-satisfying.

There is nourishment like
bread that feeds one part

of your life and nourishment like light for another.
There are many rules about restraint

with the former, but only one rule for the latter,
Never be satisfied. Eat and drink

the soul substance, as a wick does with the oil it soaks in.
Give light to the company.

– RUMI –

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This morning, the world wet from last night’s rain…vibrant with autumn’s rusty colors and still much late summer green. I have a few moments of solitude and silence–a welcome reprieve from the busy-ness of the week. I watch leaves tremble, quiver, dance, let go with what looks like grace and ease.

I find myself focusing on particular leaves as they flutter and twist…wondering, is it your turn? Will you be the one to let go? Are you clinging, even now, to this moment? Will you be the one to joyously jettison from the branch, leaving your stem behind or taking it with you–a tiny rudder to guide your flight? Will you glide and then rise up even higher, gather momentum, dancing and soaring before settling to earth? I pose these silent questions to the thousands of leaves awaiting their turn…I pose these silent questions to myself as I practice surrender; practice non-attachment; practice non-striving; practice acceptance; practice patience, trust and letting go…

We join spokes together in a wheel,
but it is the center hole
that makes the wagon move.

We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.

We hammer wood for a house,
but it is the inner space
that makes it livable.

We work with being,
but non-being is what we use.

– TAO TO CHING –

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“Be exactly where you are…”

Recently, two friends and colleagues died. One last week. Both recently migrated to Vermont. Both deep spirits with bright and hopeful hearts. Howard and Nancy, your presence was a gift…your absence is a loss.

REVELATION MUST BE TERRIBLE

Revelation must be
terrible with no time left
to say goodbye.

Imagine that moment
staring at the still waters
with only the brief tremor

of your body to say
you are leaving everything
and everyone you know behind.

Being far from home is hard, but you know,
at least we are all exiled together.
When you open you eyes to the world

you are on your own for
the first time. No one is
even interested in saving you now

And the world steps in
to test the calm fluidity of your body
from moment to moment

as if it believed you could join
its vibrant dance
of fire and calmness and final stillness.

As if you were meant to be exactly
where you are, as if
like the dark branch of a desert river

you could flow on without a speck
of guilt and everything
everywhere would still be just as it should be.

As if your place in the world mattered
and the world could
neither speak not hear the fullness

of it own bitter and beautiful cry
without the deep well
of your body resonating in the echo.

Knowing that it takes only
that one, terrible
word to make the circle complete,

revelation must be terrible
knowing you can
never hide your voice again.

– DAVID WHYTE –

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Today, reading again Cold Mountain Poems by Gary Snyder. Remembering reading them so long ago, backpacking in the Gila Wilderness with my dear friend Tom. Day one, a twelve mile hike scrambling up and down through canyon after canyon. Early fall, rocks still radiant with summer heat; the smell of Ponderosa pines–tall, straight, cinnamon-colored bark; Cooper’s hawks circling, sky empty and enormous.

In twilight, cradled in a soft meadow, reading the first line…”The path to Han-shan’s place is laughable…” I felt a shimmer of recognition; something ancient, something present, something familiar without words…Poem 1.

The path to Han-shan’s place is laughable,

A path, but no sign of cart or horse,

Converging gorges–hard to trace their twists

Jumbled cliffs–unbelievably rugged.

A thousand grasses bend with dew,

A hill of pines hums in the wind.

And now I’ve lost the shortcut home,

Body asking shadow, how do you keep up?

I was then, thirty nine years ago, a Buddhist–or perhaps better said, a student of mindfulness–in the making. That southwestern earth was my great teacher, my Cold Mountain introduction. The luminous night sky opened my heart-mind. Free of suburban expectations and ennui, I learned the braille of nature. I walked the ditch banks of Corrales, sat in hot springs, climbed Pecos Baldy, kayaked the Green River, picked wild flowers in the Uinta Mountains. Time was vast in a way that I’ve almost forgotten. Life was fantastically simple.

I’ve lived at cold Mountain–how many autumns.

Alone, I hum a song–utterly without regret.

Hungry, I eat one grain of Immortal medicine

Mind solid and sharp; leaning on a stone.

I lived without running water and electricity; I lived with cold running water from a red metal hand pump that drained into a stationary sink, electricity, a wood stove, an outhouse and a party line; I lived in an army mess tent that cost $5.00 that was 20 x 30 with a 17 foot ridge pole. I planted a garden, I baked bread in my wood cook stove, I made yogurt, I bathed in Las Huertas creek. I played my flute, I meditated, went to Kirtan, watched the sun rise and set, I watched the moon rise over Sandia Peak and set behind the Black Mesa.

My home was at Cold Mountain from the start,

Rambling among the hills, far from trouble.

Gone, and a million things leave no trace

Loosed, and it flows through the galaxies

A fountain of light, into the very mind–

Not a thing, and yet it appears before me:

Now I know the pearl of the Buddha-nature

Know its use: a boundless perfect sphere.

– GARY SNYDER –

I recognize that what was home then, lives in me now. Life is both complicated, laughable and deeply lovable.

 

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