Zen

Daylight passes over the garden.

Wild green things grow thick

‘round the entranceway.

Spotted fawns have come by,

their mother not far behind.

Cat sits and watches.

 

 

Pilgrimage

All day long, I see things a painter would paint. What is there to complain about? Even my own pain has been endured by thousands before me, and depicted by master sculptors.

Pilgrimage, penance, failure, learning to hold one’s self tenderly, in friendship – all these have relevance to my experience of life. Honoring the earth, or a Saint, or a God, a parent, a personal hero, the wind, rain dripping from trees.

Turning to look into one’s own heart, seeing what’s there. It is a brave thing to search your own soul. You will endure accusations of selfishness from others, and from your own mind.

We all just want a door to open and let the light in, but what if we are the door? What if we are the light?

To the world, I say I’m sorry for so many things. To the world, I also say thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

Refugees Welcome

There are the small crystals you left as blessings, tucked just beneath the earth.

There is the love you have for everyone you feel separated from.

And there are the invisible arrows that keep you on the path, your path, all your life, so that when other people try to yoke you with their doubts and question what you’re doing, you know enough not to listen.

The learning seems to come geologically slow, but you do eventually learn when to forget them and pay attention to the voice emanating from your center.  Through deep listening, through the acknowledgement of that voice, you come to know your center, and you come to hold it.  And the things you expect from yourself begin to change.

There are the great vertical stones you have glimpsed in dreams, and also the smaller, more rounded ones along the shore.

There are the bells on the necks of all the ponies, the raindrops, fall as they may.  There are the trees, connected – like all of us – in unseen ways by unseen roots.  There is the road, the path, your shoes, yellow rice, steam rising from a bowl of soup.

All the prayers you hold inside are on display in the world around you, before you.  You don’t need anyone’s advice to learn how to see.  You only need the courage and will it takes to look – that which you already possess, but do not always choose.  Its only requirement is that you choose it above all else.

There are places to rest along the miles of all your days, if you will only sit.  There are ferries to take you across all the rivers, if you will only board them.

There are ways to remember you are not your body, if you will only forget about your clothes and your appearance.

Allow yourself to sleep.  When you wake it will still be there: this yearning to bring all knowledge inward, this thirst to move on, out, through, up, into, from all the trials you’ve undergone.

Take your time, that’s what it’s there for.

Love returns to your heart as you walk to the ends of the earth.

Now, choose something to burn.  What will it be?

 

No Fixed Course

So there is the dog, the cat, the table and chair, books, photographs, keepsakes.  The peel of an onion and a bit of parsley on a wooden cutting board.  There is the hedgehog-like orange studded with cloves, the calendar on the wall, each week’s same seven days named after the planets of our milky galaxy.  There is each day, this day, the only day, ever always and once again setting this task before you: break open your heart.  Do your work, and let it be a work in progress.  Let there be no fixed course.  

There are the organs working their magic inside of you, the longed-for renunciation of all your desires.  There is the routine each day, to some the subject of fervent dedication.  And yet the routine exists within the construct of an erratic life whose days are lived out in a world ruled by impermanence. 

There is Nature, the greatest teacher.  Here are the qualities that show us how to live in this world.  Here is the music to be revered, the architecture to be contemplated.  Let it be softly observed, gently noticed.  Not studied wildly like some mad scientist yearning for discovery.

Declaration

Friends who I have left behind, friends I’ve not yet come to know,

these drops of rain upon the hill come likewise to the valley,

to beat against your doors, streak your windowpanes,

set aglow your lighted lamps.

Return now to your visionary dream, song of your heart’s voice.

Return now to your body, at once solid and transparent.

Return now to the music in every prism at the end of every string

held loosely by the fingers of every wide-eyed child.

 

These are not the days of old maps and heavy leather-bound tomes,

gold fabric of late afternoon unsheathed, only to be slid back into a scabbard of mist,

clearing the way for a midnight sky of shattered crystal and baby’s breath.

 

These are days of cold mumbling rivers that know secrets,

cabins in the mountains, their wood beams rotting too slowly for us to see.

While walking in the morning I digest this vastness, this solitude,

this gravity that presses against the muscles around the eyes.

 

Friends, I toss myself aside for you.  I become available for you.

I eat, drink, run hands through hair for you,

scramble up the gully for you,

carry wood, fold socks, scrub pots, ever-fearless, requiring nothing.

 

These are days of time’s inhalation

pulling way up under the world’s collarbones,

stitching together the fibers of memory and intention.

These are days of emptying the mind, distilling the essence.

 

What does it matter if the world hears your voice?

We all belong to each other.  Your voice is here, mine is here,

as great, small, and equal in worth as any other.

The voice is in your heart and so the world’s heart knows it,

as surely as you know the heart of the world.

 

The line is cast before the coming of a great fish,

a sudden tug is felt through our hands

and our withered husks give rise to something new.

Steady now.

 

Among The Thistles

How can one sleep with a moon like this?  It’s so early it’s not even early, it’s late.  I mean early, you’re not up yet, not awake yet, slurps of hot liquid with eyes closed, fan of the mind humming, oscillating between two levels of consciousness, tendons shortened, digestive organs finishing up their work. 

Ten-thousand pinpricks of light still glimmer overhead, and you’re already out walking.

Hormones have been secreting, cells have been forming in your bone marrow, the liver is a tireless magician, the sublime workhorse of your heart has been laying low, half-drunk old man in a hammock.  And, like a gathering wind in the distance, love rises. 

It rises above lies and dictations, the sound of the mind.  It rises above the texture of your words, the swirling ether of your thoughts.  It blows among the thistles, it blows through your whole life.

A love so impossibly vast, unbearable its confinement.