Monday, December 31, 2012

To Marvel At

Be like the wing on the way to the party
that can lift yourself and others.

Expectations, let them serve you, until the
present is always enough to marvel at. 

Photo:  Peter Bowers 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

...the future unknown...


The calendar all booked up, the future unknown.
The cable silently hums some folk song
but lacks a country.  Snow falls in the gray sea.  Shadows
fight out on the dock. 


Halfway through your life, death turns up
and takes your pertinent measurements.  We forget
the visit.  Life goes on.  But someone is sewing 
the suit in silence.  

Tomas Transtromer
translation:  Robert Bly 
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Friday, December 28, 2012

I happened to be standing

I don't know where prayers go,
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it 
crosses the street?
The sunflowers?  The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance.  A condition I can't really
call being alive.
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that's their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep.  Maybe not.

While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open, 
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm, 
I don't know why.  And yet, why not.
I wouldn't persuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don't .  That's your business.
But I thought, of the wren's singing, what could this be
if it isn't a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air.  

Mary Oliver

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

For Freedom

As a bird soars high
In the free holding of the wind,
Clear of the certainty of ground,
Opening the imagination of wings
Into the grace of emptiness
To fulfill new voyagings,
May your life awaken
To the call of its freedom.

As the ocean absolves itself
Of the expectation of land,
Approaching only
In the form of waves
That fill and pleat and fall
With such gradual elegance
As to make of the limit
A sonorous threshold
Whose music echoes back along
The give and strain of memory,
Thus may your heart know the patience
That can draw infinity from limitation.

As the embrace of the earth
Welcomes all we call death,
Taking deep into itself
The tight solitude of a seed, 
Allowing it time
To shed the grip of former form
And to give way to a deeper generosity
That will one day send it forth,
A tree into springtime,
May all that holds you
Fall from its hungry ledge
Into the fecund surge of your heart. 

John O'Donohue
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Monday, December 24, 2012

On Christmas Eve

I salute you.  I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep.
There is nothing I can give you which you have not.
But there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take.
No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today.
Take heaven !

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant.
Take peace !
The gloom of the world is but a shadow.
Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.
There is a radiance and glory in darkness, could we but see.
And to see, we have only to look.
I beseech you to look !

Life is so generous a giver.
But we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away as
ugly or heavy or hard.
Remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendor,
woven of love by wisdom, with power.

Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel's hand that brings it to you.
Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty, believe me,
that angel's hand is there.
The gift is there and the wonder of an overshadowing presence.
Your joys, too, be not content with them as joys.
They, too, conceal diviner gifts.

Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath its covering,
that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.
Courage then to claim it; that is all!
But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together,
wending through unknown country home.

And so, at this time, I greet you, not quite as the world sends greetings,
but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, now and
forever, the day breaks and shadows flee away.

Fra Giovanni
(1435 - 1515)
letter written to Countess Allagia Aldobrandeschi on Christmas Eve 1513

Millennium Blessing

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

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

But we are pulled upward
through forgotten ghosts
and unexpected angels,

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

And that is what we sing about.

Stephen Levine
Photo:  Peter Bowers

For Absence

May you know that absence is alive with hidden
presence, that nothing is ever lost or forgotten.

May the absences in your life grow full of eternal 

May you sense around you the secret Elsewhere
where the presences that have left you dwell.

May you be generous in your embrace of loss.

May the sore well of grief turn into a seamless flow
of presence.

May your compassion reach out to the ones we never 
hear from.

May you have the courage to speak for the excluded

May you become the gracious and passionate subject
of your own life.

May you not disrespect your mystery through brittle
words or false belonging.  

May you be embraced by God in whom dawn and
twilight are one. 

May your longing inhabit its dreams within the 
Great Belonging.

John O'Donohue 
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Message From Space

Everything that happens is the message:
you read an event and be one and wait,
like breasting a wave, all the while knowing
by living, though not knowing how to live.

Or workers built an antenna - a dish
aimed at stars - and they themselves are its message, 
crawling in and out, being worlds that loom, 
dot-dash, and sirens, and sustaining beams.

And sometimes no one is calling but we turn up
eye and ear - suddenly we fall into
sound before it begins, the breathing
so still it waits there under the breath - 

And then the green of leaves calls out, hills
where they wait or turn, clouds in their frenzied
stillness unfolding their careful words:
"Everything counts.  The message is the world."

William Stafford
Photo:  Peter Bowers 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Task

It is a simple garment, this slipped-on world.
We wake into it daily - open eyes, braid hair - 
a robe unfurled
in rose-silk flowering, then laid bare.

And yes, it is a simple enough task
we've taken on,
though also vast; 
from dusk to dawn,

from dawn to dusk, to praise, and not
be blinded by the praising.
To lie like a cat in hot
sun, fur fully blazing,

and dream the mouse;
and to keep too the mouse's patient, waking watch
within the deep rooms of the house,
where the leaf-flocked

sunlight never reaches, but the earth still blooms. 

Jane Hirshfield

Saturday, December 8, 2012

So Much Happiness

It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against, 
A wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up, 
Something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.

But happiness floats.
It doesn't need to hold you down. 
It doesn't need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
And disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
And now live over a quarry of noise and dust
Cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
It too could wake up filled with possibilities
Of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
And love even the floor which needs to be swept,
The soiled linens and scratched records...

Since there is no place large enough
To contain so much happiness,
You shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
Into everything you touch.  You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
For the moon, but continue to hold it, and to share it,
And in that way, be known.

Naomi Shihab Nye
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Friday, December 7, 2012

Half Life

We walk through half our life
as if it were a fever dream

barely touching the ground

our eyes half open
our heart half closed.

Not half knowing who we are
we watch the ghost of us drift
from room to room
through friends and lovers
never quite as real as advertised.

Not saying half we mean
or meaning half we say
we dream ourselves
from birth to birth
seeking some true self.

Until the fever breaks
and the heart can not abide
a moment longer
as the rest of us awakens,
summoned from the dream,
not half caring for anything but love. 

Stephen Levine
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Two Loves

I have two Loves.
One is Immanence,
The other, Transcendence.

Loving each more than words can say,
I fear I cannot Live
Without either of them,
Even as one slowly...slips...away.

Growing older, I'm as a man on a train,
My Love on the platform, gazing wistfully.
Our certain parting,
Making Her more Beautiful than I can bear.

For some time now, I've seen Her everywhere,
Breathed Her, Heard Her voice in every sound,
Felt Her beneath my feet as I walk,
And Her warmth as sunlight upon my face.

This Knowing, that I'll not long be with Her,
A Poignancy, near unbearable,
Rather than diminishing our time, Enriches

As Life lurches forward, I hold Her closely.
But Vanishing Time, ever more so,
Allows only our Hearts to touch.
All that has ever...really...mattered.

I see Her still, our touch endures,
For how long, I do not know.
Her Perfume still surrounds me,
For how long, I do not know.

And yet...even as I leave one Love,
Arriving at another, in a time not known,
There is no place, within or without,
Where one ends...and the other begins.

No place where She ends,
and She begins.
No place where I end,
And I begin.

I leave, without moving,
From my Love,
To my Love,
As my Love.

Beloved Immanence,
Appearing within, 
And as,
My Beloved Transcendence. 

Photo:  Peter Bowers

Sunday, December 2, 2012

As Shams Was to Me... (or You Are a Lion ! )

A sheep who had just lost her lamb was in grief, and 
the fullness of milk throbbed heavy within.  And she
prayed the best she could, in her sheep soul, for help.

Soon after that, she came across a lion cub, all alone
and near dying.  Although the scent of him triggered
every warning to her, 

her grief was so great to have a beloved near, and one 
who could bring release of the building pressure in
her glands, that she lay down beside him.

And after a while, he began to suckle her, and they
and God smiled in unison.

Strong, the young cub became, and he was accepted
into the flock by most, always reflecting their traits.
He even developed a passable baa.

About a year went by, when then a real lion came upon
the herd, and saw one of his own eating grass and 
thinking it was a timid creature.

So the aged lion said to his kin, "Brother, what has
happened to you, acting like that?  You have completely
identified with something you are not.

Come down to the lake with me, we will look into
it together.  It will be our mirror.  You will see you
are just like me, a great and powerful king."

Yes, that is the role of the Teacher, as Shams was to
me - showing the one who they are, so they can stop
bleating, crying at the night, and never again be afraid.  

tranlation by Daniel Ladinsky

Friday, November 23, 2012


My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird - 
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old?  Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?  Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is 
that we live forever.

Mary Oliver
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Monday, October 22, 2012

Body Revelations

Today I woke seeing
not with my eyes,
but seeing the world
through the heart.
The location of things
seemed to drop
from my brain
and was peering
out from my chest.
My forehead unwrinkled
its long years of worry;
my throat released
all of its grip;
and now there's a breath
that fills my whole being,
a breath so open and free
that instead of stopping
at the top of my lungs,
it pirouettes in the heavens above
and swirls inside middle earth.
And here in this body,
this small human body,
that's always and only 
belonged to God,
the secret of deep
abidance in peace seems
to be to live from the heart;
for the mind of the brain
seems to want some gain,
but the mind of the heart stays clear.
Who would ever believe 
that this very body,
the one I spent years to transcend,
would turn out to be
Truth's continual key
to abide as the One I am?
And who could imagine
it's possible to see,
not through eyes,
but the heart's pure intimacy?

Dorothy Hunt
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Long Before We Ever Tried

To meditate is
to realize what has
always been meditating,
the vast and empty sky
in which the 
clouds of meditating
and not meditating
appear and
then disappear.
To meditate is to
realize this sky
that kissed the
clouds long before
we ever tried
to love what is.

John Astin
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Friday, October 12, 2012

What Can I Say

What can I say that I have not said before?
So I'll say it again.
The leaf has a song in it.
Stone is the face of patience.
Inside the river there is an unfinishable story
and you are somewhere in it
and it will never end until all ends.

Take your busy heart to the art museum and the
chamber of commerce
but take it also to the forest.
The song you heard singing in the leaf when you 
were a child
is singing still.
I am of years lived, so far, seventy four,
and the leaf is singing still.

Mary Oliver
Photo:  Peter Bowers 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Ever Arriving

"At the still point of the turning world...
there the dance is...
Except for the point, the still point,
there would be no dance,
and there is only the dance."
T.S. Eliot 

I think of it
as the Swirling Radiance,
movement that never ceases,
ever arriving
from the last moment 
of eternity,
the plundered second
of all that will ever be.

And you, here,
are at the midpoint,
the demarcation
of what has always been
and what is perpetually approaching,
your seeing is that which sustains,
carries forth,

You are the perpetual 
heaven's link to time.
If you listen, you can 
almost hear it swish 
as it goes by.

Dorothy Walters.
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Friday, October 5, 2012

Journey of Return

When the Beloved wants to take you Home, 
extend your hand to His welcoming
even though your body may be trembling
and your mind may want to flee;
even though those around you grieve,
and you yourself have mourned, even before they,
the changing form of your body.
Tears are not the final truth
though they will come and go
like stars that need a dark sky to be seen.

Death is not a failure of a mind
that is not strong enough,
or positive enough, or pure enough.
Those who hold such views are simply
masking fear with ideas of being in control
We are being lived by the Creator of this life.
Do you really think a finite mind can change
the mind of God?  Jesus tried and failed.
"Please take this cup from me!" he begged,
as we all do in the midst of anguish.

But anguish, fear, or deepest grief
cannot alter Who you really are.
The beautiful Spirit that extended Itself
in space and time, and called Itself by your name,
is simply ready to return, unencumbered by a body,
to Its vast and spacious Unborn Self,
that kisses you at birth,
and holds your hand in death,
and never for a moment
forgets you are Itself.

The mind imagines you are leaving,
but where could you truly go?
You are Life Itself!  Unceasingly flowing,
moment to moment unfolding Yourself.
A body is born; a body dies; but you do not. 
Deep within your heart, you know this Truth.
Rest there.  Rest in the knowing that
opens your heart to all that IS,
that loves Itself in all that comes,
and returns to Itself in all that goes. 

Dorothy Hunt
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


To see your face
with the eye of emptiness
is to have your face
as my own, and to find
between seeing and loving
not even a hairbreadth.

Colin Oliver
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Thursday, September 27, 2012


And a poet said, Speak to us of Beauty.
And he answered:
Where shall you seek beauty, and how
shall you find her unless she herself be your
way and your guide?
And how shall you speak of her except
she be the weaver of your speech?

The aggrieved and the injured say, 
"Beauty is kind and gentle.
Like a young mother half-shy of her
own glory she walks among us."
And the passionate say, "Nay, beauty is
a thing of might and dread.
Like the tempest she shakes the earth
beneath us and the sky above us."

The tired and the weary say, "Beauty is
of soft whisperings. She speaks in our spirit.
Her voice yields to our silences like a faint
light that quivers in fear of the shadow."
But the restless say, "We have heard her
shouting among the mountains, 
And with her cries came the sound of
hoofs, and the beating of wings and the
roaring of lions."

At night the watchmen of the city say,
"Beauty shall rise with the dawn from the 
And at noontide the toilers and wayfarers
say, "We have seen her leaning over
the earth from the windows of the sunset."

In winter say the snow-bound, "She shall
come with the spring leaping upon the hills."
And in the summer heat the reapers say,
"We have seen her dancing with the autumn
leaves, and we saw a drift of snow in her
All these things have you said of beauty, 
Yet in truth you spoke not of her but of
needs unsatisfied,
And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy.
It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty
hand stretched forth,
But rather a heart enflamed and a soul enchanted.  

It is not the image you would see nor the
song you would hear,
But rather an image you see though you 
close your eyes and a song you hear though
you shut your ears.
It is not the sap within the furrowed bark,
nor a wing attached to a claw,
But rather a garden for ever in bloom and
a flock of angels for ever in flight.

People of Orphalese, beauty is life when
life unveils her holy face. 
But you are life and you are the veil.
Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity and you are the mirror.  

Kahlil Gibran 
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


You are woken in the night
by something that cannot speak
in daylight, that has no purchase
in the hard currency of your life.

Outside is the shallow well
of a sleeping town; electric lights
peek faintly into black space,
and the lithe ghost of the dark

slips into the only house that
bids it welcome.  Your husband
lies snoring, dreams of another
world, offers you rough the gift

of aloneness:  Know this
what arrives here cannot
be other than itself, and
has no care for you.  It

has no words, and no respect
for yours, so finds your body,
colonises your spine, feeds
you up into the sea of stars.  You

may think you are changing,
or hope; but you are simply
failing to forget, allowing
stillness to be recognized.

You are momentarily disappearing,
to enter your own voice, see
with your own eyes, become
 the body you gave birth to;

you have returned to
your own faithfulness,
your own unimaginable

Andrew Colliver
via Poetry Chaikhana
Photo:  Peter Bowers

...content with not-knowing

(The Master) lets the confused
stay confused
if that is what they want
and is always available
to those with a passion for the truth.

In the welter of opinions
She is content with not-knowing.

She makes distinctions
but doesn't take them seriously.

She sees the world constantly breaking
apart, and stays centered in the whole.

She sees the world endlessly changing
and never wants it to be
different from what it is.  

Adapted by Stephen Mitchell
Photo:  Peter Bowers


Then a priestess said, Speak to us of Prayer.
And he answered, saying: 
You pray in your distress and in your need; 
would that you might pray also in the fullness 
of your joy and in your days of abundance.

For what is prayer but the expansion of yourself
into the living ether?
And if it is for your comfort to pour your
darkness into space, it is also for your 
delight to pour forth the dawning of your heart.

And if you cannot but weep when your 
soul summons you to prayer, she should spur
you again and yet again, though weeping,
until you shall come laughing.

When you pray you rise to meet in the 
air those who are praying at that very hour,
and whom save in prayer you may not

Therefore let your visit to that temple invisible
be for naught but ecstasy and sweet communion.

For if you should enter the temple for no 
other purpose than asking you shall not receive:

And if you should enter into it to humble 
yourself you shall not be lifted:

Or even if you should enter into it to
beg for the good of others you shall not be heard.

It is enough that you enter the temple invisible.

I cannot teach you how to pray in words.
God listens not to your words save when 
He Himself utters them through your lips.
And I cannot teach you the prayer of the 
seas and the forests and the mountains.
But you who are born of the mountains
and the forests and the seas can find their
prayer in your heart.
And if you but listen in the stillness of the 
night you shall hear them saying in silence,
"Our God, who art our winged self, it 
is thy will in us that willeth.
It is thy desire in us that desireth.
Is is thy urge in us that would turn our
nights, which are thine, into days which are 
thine also.

We cannot ask thee for aught, for thou
knowest our needs before they are born in us:
Thou art our need; and in giving us more
of thyself thou givest us all."

Kahlil Gibran 
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Speak to us of Children...

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Kahlil Gibran

Sunday, June 24, 2012


I think it is enough,
at times,
to go without knowing
where the end is,
what the beginning - 
so long ago.

Perhaps you have friends
who can whisper
such things
in your ear,
hear little bits of 
in the laughter of children

But mostly we just proceed ahead,
not remembering
how it all started,
where it is leading,
not sure
if we are the waiting animal
or the animal's passing
in the grass.

Dorothy Walters
Photo:  Peter Bowers 

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Bright Core of Failure (or.. My Heart is a Saucepan)

Sometimes you enter the heart.  Sometimes
you're born from the soul.  Sometimes you

weep a song of separation:  all the same
glory.  You live in beautiful forms and

you're the energy that breaks images.  All 
light, neither this nor that.  Human beings

go places on foot; angels, with wings.  Even
if they find nothing but ruins and failure,

you're the bright core of that.  When angels
and humans are free of feet and wings, they'll

understand that you are that lack, pure
absence.  You're in my eyes like a taste of 

wine that blocks my understanding.  That
ignorance glorifies.  You talk and feel in

the talking:  kingdom, finances, fire, smoke,
the senses, incense:  all are your favourites! 

A ship, Noah, blessings, luck, troubles that 
pull us unknowingly toward treasure:  look,

he's being dragged away from his friends! 
Nobody will see him anymore.  This is your

story.  I ask you, "Should I talk to this one?
Is he being drawn to me?"  Silence.  That too.  

What is desire? What is it! Don't laugh, my
soul.  Show me the way through this desiring.

All the  world loves you, but you are nowhere
to be found.  Hidden and completely obvious.

You are the soul! You boil me down in a 
saucepan, then ask why I'm spilling out.  Is

it time for patience?  Your bright being.  My
heart is a saucepan.  This writing, the record

of being torn apart in your fire, as aloe
wood most becomes itself when burning up.

Enough talk about burning!  Everything, even
the end of this poem, is a taste of your glory.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The True Person

The true person is 
Not anyone in particular; 
But, like the deep blue colour
of the limitless sky,
It is everyone, everywhere in the world.


Friday, June 1, 2012

Mother, Silence

Sometimes when life is difficult,
I curl up in my Mother's lap 
and drink her ever-present love
that never has required
a single thing to change.

And when my life requires courage,
or I don't know what to say
or how to be, 
I go to her and
listen with my heart.

My Mother birthed the world
and everything that's in it.
Her wisdom excludes nothing; 
and yet she rushes to my side
if I but beckon her.

What a pure, abiding presence
is my Mother, Silence.  

Dorothy Hunt
photo:  Peter Bowers

Love is...

Love is what gives joy to creatures.
Love is what provides all sorts of happiness.
We were not born from women; love gave birth to us.
A hundred blessings and praises to our mothers ! 

photo:  Peter Bowers

Monday, May 28, 2012

no poem

no poem
no song
no ritual
captures the simple beingness of a stone 
let alone a mountain of stone

but let the stone write the poem 
let the mountain sing in your heart
let the rituals fall like gentle rain to nourish the gods
 inside every stone 
and every mountain
let your soul rise above the mountain 
above the rain
above the clouds
the journey home requires no effort
only willingness to release your claw like grip
on the familiar ground 

then the stone speaks unspeakable truth
then the mountain fills your heart with a silent song
of peace
and rituals sprout wings of surrender in your soul
and you arrive


Sunday, May 27, 2012

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 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? 

Mary Oliver
photo:  Peter Bowers