Monday, January 28, 2013

Within this tree

Within this tree
another tree
inhabits the same body; 
within this stone 
another stone rests, 
its many shades of grey
the same, 
its identical surface and weight.
And within my body, 
another body
whose history, waiting, 
sings:  there is no other body, 
it sings, 
there is no other world.  

Jane Hirshfield
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Saturday, January 26, 2013

I Am Standing

I am standing
on the dunes
in the heat of summer
and I am listening

to mockingbird again
who is tonguing
his embellishments
and, in the distance,

the shy
weed loving sparrow
who has but one
soft song

which he sings
again and again
and something
somewhere inside

my own unmusical self
begins humming:
thanks for the beauty of the world.
Thanks for my life.

Mary Oliver
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Too Lazy to be Ambitious

Too lazy to be ambitious,
I let the world take care of itself.
Ten days' worth of rice in my bag;
a bundle of twigs by the fireplace.
Why chatter about delusion and enlightenment?
Listening to night rain on my roof,
I sit comfortably with both legs stretched out. 

Photo:  Peter Bowers

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Miracle Fair

Commonplace miracle:
that so many commonplace miracles happen.

An ordinary miracle:
in the dead of night
the barking of invisible dogs.

One miracle out of many:
 a small, airy cloud
yet it can block a large and heavy moon.

Several miracles in one:
an alder tree reflected in the water,
and that it's backward and left to right
and that it grows there, crown down
and never reaches bottom,
even though the water is shallow.

An everyday miracle:
winds weak to moderate
turning gusty in storms.

First among equal miracles:
cows are cows.
Second to none:
just this orchard
from just that seed.

A miracle without a cape and top hat:
scattering white doves.

A miracle, for what else could you call it:
today the sun rose at three-fourteen
and will set at eight-o-one.

A miracle, less surprising than it should be:
even though the hand has fewer than six fingers,
it still has more than four.  

A miracle, just take a look around:
the world is everywhere.

An additional miracle, as everything is additional:
the unthinkable
is thinkable.

Wislawa Szymborska

Nothing Twice

Nothing can ever happen twice.
In consequence, the sorry fact is
that we arrive here improvised
and leave without the chance to practice.

Even if there is no one dumber,
if you're the planet's biggest dunce,
you can't repeat the class in summer:
this course is only offered once.

No day copies yesterday,
no two nights will teach what bliss is
precisely the same way,
with precisely the same kisses.

One day, perhaps some idle tongue
mentions your name by accident:
I feel as if a rose were flung
into the room, all hue and scent.

The next day, though you're here with me,
I can't help looking at the clock:
A rose?  A rose?  What could that be?
is it a flower or a rock?

Why do we treat the fleeting day
with so much needless fear and sorrow?
It's in its  nature not to stay:
Today is always gone tomorrow.

With smiles and kisses, we prefer
to seek accord beneath our star,
although we're different (we concur)
just as two drops of water are.  

Wislawa Szymborska

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills.
A bird and a tree say to him:  Friend.
Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn't matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn't always understand. 

Czeslaw Milosz 

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Moon Cannot Be Stolen

Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain.  One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing in it to steal.

Ryokan returned and caught him.  "You may have come a long way to visit me," he told the prowler, "and you should not return empty-handed.  Please take my clothes as a gift."

The thief was bewildered.  He took the clothes and slunk away.

Ryokan sat naked, watching the moon.  "Poor fellow," he mused, "I wish I could give him this beautiful moon."

Zen Flesh Zen Bones
Compiled by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki
Photo:  Peter Bowers

The Poet's Obligation

To whoever is not listening to the sea
this Friday morning, to whoever is cooped up
in house or office, factory or woman
or street or mine or harsh prison cell:
to him I come, and, without speaking or looking,
I arrive and open the door of his prison,
and a vibration starts up, vague and insistent,
a great fragment of thunder sets in motion
the rumble of the planet and the foam,
the raucous rivers of the ocean flood,
the star vibrates swiftly in its corona,
and the sea is beating, dying and continuing.
So, drawn on by my destiny,
I ceaselessly must listen to and keep
the sea's lamenting in my awareness,
I must feel the crash of the hard water
and gather it up in a perpetual cup
so that, wherever those in prison may be,
wherever they suffer the autumn's castigation,
I may be there with an errant wave,
I may move, passing through windows,
and hearing me, eyes will glance upward
saying, "How can I reach the sea?"
And I shall broadcast, saying nothing,
the starry echoes of the wave,
a breaking up of foam and of quicksand,
a rustling of salt withdrawing,
the grey cry of sea-birds on the coast.
So, through me, freedom and the sea
will make their answer to the shuttered heart.

Pablo Neruda

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What is devotion?

Jean Klein:  It is being in the total absence of oneself.  It is the deep feeling of one's homeground, one's origin where the devotee and the devoted are not two.  In the absence of oneself there is the global feeling of our dwelling place.  So devotion means to free ourself from what we are not.  When we are free from ourself, what we are shines.  Devotion means offering what we are not, offering for the love of offering, without anyone who offers anything to anyone.

Jean Klein
The Book of Listening

I Am So Glad

Start seeing everything as God, 
But keep it a secret.

Become like a man who is Awestruck
And Nourished

Listening to a Golden Nightingale
Sing in a beautiful foreign language
While God invisibly nests 
Upon its tongue.

Who can you tell in this world
That when a dog runs up to you
Wagging its ecstatic tail,
You lean down and whisper in its ear,

I am so glad You are happy to see me,

I am so glad,
So very glad You have come."


Monday, January 14, 2013


Early in the morning we crossed the ghat, 
where fires were still smoking,
and gazed, with our Western minds, into the Ganges.
A woman was standing in the river up to her waist;
she was lifting handfuls of water and spilling it
over her body, slowly and many times,
as if until there came some moment
of inner satisfaction between her own life and the river's.
Then she dipped a vessel she had brought with her
and carried it filled with water back across the ghat,
no doubt to refresh some shrine near where she lives,
for this is the holy city of Shiva, maker
of the world, and this is his river.
I can't say much more, except that it all happened
in silence and peaceful simplicity, and something that felt
like the bliss of a certainty and a life lived
in accordance with that certainty.
I must remember this, I thought, as we fly back
to America.
Pray God I remember this. 

Mary Oliver

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Seeing her face this morning I had to send praise

Ananda Ma says, "God comes to us in the guise of suffering."
Crowded 'round are those who wish to fill their heart with her, 
"To be close to The Mother is all we want."
She comes in our dreams, sleeping or waking, and tells us she is 
as close as a thought.  Comes when she is summoned.  Lives just 
beneath our skin.  
Whether we find our true teachers in a momentary glance or a 
lifetime of service, in a book or in a cathedral, in a single gatha or a 
stupa, in Her eyes or His, it is an initiation greater than birth.

Mother Teresa said she saw the ill and dying as "Jesus in His
distressing disguise."  How dedicated the heart must be to catch its
own reflection in another.
In India passing and departing many say "Namaste"
acknowledging the divine in each other.

So many kind personifications, so many reasons to be thankful.  
Genuflecting before a great ponderosa, or touching our 
forehead to the feet of a gratitude-soaked image of the formless, or
covering our head before the first form, we continue our pilgrimage
into a certain Oneness.
Some see this Oneness in the eyes of their teacher; others catch
a glimpse in a flickering candle or a grain of sand, in a breaking wave
or a tear rolling slowly down a child's cheek.  Zen masters note it in
the snap of a twig or the death of their mother.

In our longing is the irresistible draw toward the great satisfaction
of devotion.  Devotion of greater consequence than any object 
of devotion.

Step after step, breath after breath, we are able to step
within each step, to find the breath within each breath, and 
within that the sacred essence
just where Kabir said we would.

Stephen Levine
Photo:  Kathleen Knipp

Friday, January 11, 2013

You are like a perfect poem

You are like a perfect poem
Imagined by a poet 
Undivided from her own creation

Your form is word and sound
Your meaning is fluid and alive
But your essence is silence

You have no conclusion
Except the wonder of seeing the world
With brand new eyes

Jeff Foster