March 20, 2017: Reading the Bhagavad Gita in the Age of Trump

FEBRUARY 6, 2017, BHAGAVAD GITA TALK #2: NONBEING CAN NEVER BE; BEING CAN NEVER NOT BE. BOTH THESE STATEMENTS ARE OBVIOUS TO THOSE WHO HAVE SEEN THE TRUTH.

Soon after we began reading the Bhagavad Gita, I was listening to a radio news show, I think it was NPR’s All Things Considered, and learned that Steve Bannon is a big fan of the Gita. Checking this out online, I discovered that Heinrich Himmler was also an admirer. He evidently kept a leather bound copy with him at all times. So we have Bannon, the architect of Trump’s policy agenda, and Himmler, the architect of the Nazi “Final Solution,” twisting the ideal of dharma to serve their twisted worldview. Two sociopaths fixated on the Gita’s notion of righteous war to justify their own pathologies. If you want an example of the dangers of belief, I give you this: Himmler believed Hitler was an incarnation of Krishna. One can only hope Bannon is not similarly deluded about the monster he serves.

It does give one pause.
And begs the question: How do we discern truth from belief?

The Bhagavad Gita may use the notion of “righteous war” to start a conversation. But the conversation is not about war. It’s about consciousness. The conversation between Arjuna and Krishna is a mirror of the conversation that goes on inside of us all the time. The conversation between the small self or ego (what we refer to in Yoga as the “I-maker”) and the Great Self of the Heart. And by “Heart,” I mean the ineffable hugeness that doesn’t speak in words. It’s more like a quivering or shimmering from deep within us. In those miraculous moments when we ground there, we embody everything the Gita teaches. In fact, in those miraculous moments, we are the Gita.

What Bannon doesn’t understand now and what Himmler didn’t understand then, is that we don’t go to war against the “other,” we go to war against that inside of us which creates the idea of “other.” We go to war inside of ourselves against the notion that we are somehow separate from and entitled to destroy that “other.” We go to war against this outmoded paradigm that has always been questionable and has demonstrated over a few thousand years that the only thing it excels at is making a tremendous mess of everything it touches.

We have to read the Gita the same way we should live our lives. We have to slip beneath the surface, read between the lines. We have to probe deeper and deeper, within a text, within ourselves, until the mind becomes so spacious, so still, that the “I”’ that drives the historical, cultural, psycho-emotional, and spiritual narratives that rule us ceases to be. Only in that stillness is the possibility of insight, and only in that insight, the possibility of truth. Anything that comes before that must be questioned.

I was talking with someone recently who was feeling very uncertain about her own gifts, and along with that, judging herself for not being more certain. This is the trap of dualistic thinking. It’s not about hard-edged certainty or soft edgeless uncertainty. Certainty and uncertainty are opposite poles of a stuckness that is quite destructive either way. What we want to develop is clarity. Which is neither certainty nor uncertainty. It’s just clarity. In that koan-like way Verse 2.16 so eloquently sings: “Nonbeing can never be; being can never not be. Both these statements are obvious to those who have seen the truth.’

Here’s my dharma talk from February 6. Which was Bhagavad Gita Talk #2, a rather freewheeling contemplation on the first forty or so verses from Chapter Two, The Practice of Yoga.

Here are the verses from this talk.  (If you’re visiting this blog for the first time, please note we’re working with Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Bhagavad Gita. See my last post for more on that.)

Although you mean well, Arjuna
your sorrow is sheer delusion.
Wise men do not grieve
for the dead or the living.

Never was there a time
when I did not exist, or you,
or these kings; nor will there come
a time when we cease to be.

Just as, in this body, the Self
passes through childhood, youth,
and old age, so after death
it passes to another body.

Physical sensations—cold
and heat, pleasure and pain —
are transient: they come and go:
so bear them patiently, Arjuna.

Only the man who is unmoved
by any sensations, the wise man
indifferent to pleasure, to pain,
is fit for becoming deathless.

Nonbeing can never be;
being can never not be.
Both these statements are obvious
to those who have seen the truth.

The presence that pervades the universe
is imperishable, unchanging,
beyond both is and is not:
how could it ever vanish?

These bodies come to an end;
but the vast embodied Self
is ageless, fathomless, eternal.
Therefore you must fight, Arjuna.

If you think the Self can kill
or think that it can be killed,
you do not well understand
reality’s subtle ways.

It never was born; coming
to be, it will never not be.
Birthless, primordial, it does not
die when the body dies.

Knowing that it is eternal,
unborn, beyond destruction,
how could you ever kill?
And whom could you kill, Arjuna?

Just as you throw out used clothes
and put on other clothes, new ones,
the Self discards its used bodies
and puts on others that are new.

The sharpest sword will not pierce it;
the hottest flame will not singe it;
water will not make it moist;
wind will not cause it to wither.

It cannot be pierced or singed,
moistened or withered; it is vast,
perfect and all-pervading,
calm, immovable, timeless.

It is called the Inconceivable,
the Unmanifest, the unchanging.
If you understand it in this way,
you have no reason for sorrow.

Even if you think that the Self
is perpetually born and perpetually
dies—even then, Arjuna,
you have no reason for your sorrow.<

Before birth, beings are unmanifest;
between birth and death, manifest;
at death, unmanifest again.
What cause for grief in all this?

Some perceive it directly
in all its awesomeness; others
hear of it and never know it.

This Self who dwells in the body
is inviolable, forever;
therefore you have no cause to grieve
for any being Arjuna.

Know what your duty is
and do it without hesitation/
For a warrior, there is nothing better
than a battle that duty enjoins.

Blessed are the warriors who are given
the chance of a battle like this,
which calls them to do what is right
and opens the gates of heaven.

But if you refuse the call
to a righteous war, and shrink from
what duty and honor dictate,
you will bring down ruin on your head.

Decent men, for all time,
will talk about your disgrace;
and disgrace, for a man of honor,
is a fate far worse than death.

These great heroes will think
that fear has driven you from battle;
all those who once esteemed you
will think of you with contempt.

And your enemies will sneer and mock you:
“The mighty Arjuna, that brave man—
he slunk from the field like a dog.”
What deeper shame could there be?

If you are killed, you gain heaven;
triumph and you gain the earth.
Therefore stand up, Arjuna;
steady your mind to fight.

Indifferent to gain or loss,
to victory or defeat,
prepare yourself for the battle
and do not succumb to sin.

This is philosophy’s wisdom:
now hear the wisdom of yoga.
Armed with this understanding,
you will shatter your karmic bonds.

On this path no effort is wasted,
no gain is ever reversed;
even a little of this practice
will shelter you from great sorrow.

And as often is the case, the final word goes to Mary Oliver:

HOW TURTLES COME TO SPEND THE WINTER IN THE
AQUARIUM, THEN ARE FLOWN SOUTH AND
RELEASED BACK INTO THE SEA

Somewhere down beach, in the morning, at water’s edge, I found
   a sea turtle,
its huge head a smoldering apricot, its shell streaming with
   seaweed,
its eyes closed, its flippers motionless.
When I bent down, it moved a little.
When I picked it up, it sighed.
Was it forty pounds, or fifty pounds, or a hundred?
Was it two miles back to the car?
We walked a little while, and then we rested, and then we
   walked on
I walked with my mouth open, my heart roared.
The eyes opened, I don’t know what they thought.
Sometimes the flippers swam at the air.
Sometimes the eyes closed.
I couldn’t walk anymore, and then I walked some more
while it turned into granite, or cement, but with that
   apricot-colored head,
that stillness, that Buddha-like patience, that cold-shocked
   but slowly beating heart.
Finally, we reached the car.

                                                       ***

The afternoon is the other part of this story.
Have you ever found something beautiful, and maybe just in time?
How such a challenge can fill you!
Jesus could walk over the water.
I had to walk ankle-deep in the sand, and I did it.
My bones didn’t quite snap.

 Come on in, and see me smile.
I probably won’t stop for hours.
Already, in the warmth, the turtle has raised its head, is
   looking around.
Today, who could deny it, I am an important person.

–Mary Oliver, House of Light

Communication, Communion, and the Mind According to Yoga…

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I think a lot about listening. What it means to really listen to oneself. What it means to listen to another. What is means to listen to the world. How do we cultivate ears that truly hear. How do we foster a communication between ourselves and everything of our world that makes communion happen. So much gets in the way of that. So much mucks up the clear space within and around us. So that rather than communion, we often end up with separation. We cling to our belief systems. We cling to our stories. We cling to our idea of being right. Which doesn’t let in much space for listening. We’re too busy telling…

Here’s a talk about listening that weaves in yogic teachings on the mind, aka, the Four-Part Psychic Instrument or antahkarana. Like so much passed down through the Hindu Yogic system, this perspective on the mind is quite simple and profound. I unpack it in the talk, but here are the technical terms spelled out.

The four levels of antahkarana or the Four-Part Psychic Instrument

Manas: often translated as mind-stuff. From our western perspective, think of it as your conscious mind.

Chitta: translated in a myriad of ways. From our western perspective, think of it as the unconscious.

Ahamhara: in the yogic system, this is the sense of “I.” Often referred to as the ego.

Buddhi: the discriminating faculty.

Here’s the talk:

And here is a wonderful poem from Mary Oliver who is perhaps one of the greatest listeners we have.

 

The Fist
Mary Oliver
 
There are days
when the sun goes down
like a fist,
though of course

if you see anything
in the heavens
in this way
you had better get

your eyes checked
or, better still,
your diminished spirit.
The heavens

have no fist,
or wouldn’t they have been
shaking it
for a thousand years now,

and even
longer than that,
at the dull, brutish
ways of mankind—

heaven’s own
creation?
Instead: such patience!
Such willingness

to let us continue!
To hear
little by little,
the voices—

only, so far, in
pockets of the world—
suggesting
the possibilities

of peace?
Keep looking.
Behold, how the fist opens
with invitation.

from Thirst, Beacon Press, 2006.

6/06/16 Monday Night Class: Sun Mantras, Ganesha, and the Incredible Lightness of Being…

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This week’s class fell on 6/06/16 which got me thinking about the significance of the number six. If you stop think about it, the number six is composed of 2 3’s and/or 3 2’s. The 2’s represent opposite poles and the movement towards balance. The 3’s represent a unifying synthesis, the sacred trinity we find in so many traditions. When you put that all together, you can see why you end up with a number that is connected to the exuberant amazing glorious expressive, and most of all life-giving Sun…

Here’s a quote from Vicki Noble’s Motherpeace Tarot:

Sixes: Exuberance

The Sixes are full and expressive, a peak number, always expansive and positive in some way. Six represents exuberance or triumph, being on top of things. Like the Sun sitting at the center of the solar system, Six sits at the center of the Kabalistic Tree of Life and radiates out in every direction, saying, “yes!” Six represents a moment of decisive action or a climax of some sort, a moment of glory.

Which all seemed an excellent jumping off point for a class that constellated around the fifth Sun mantra, the creation story of Ganesha, and the inner possibility of soaring…

ॐ खगाय नमः
om khagāya namaḥ |
Salutations to Khaga, who travels the sky like a bird…

I love all the Sun mantras, but this is one that always jumps out at me. I love the image of light traveling through the sky like a bird. I also love the way “light” as in light and “light” as in lightness are so connected. Which gets me thinking about the incredible lightness of being we feel in the presence of people who are, well, full of light. People who have a buoyancy of spirit and soul that soars like a bird. And what a delight (there’s that word again) to have them in our lives. Because let’s face it. Most of us lean towards the heaviness of being. We are gravity-based creatures. And that’s not just the gravity of Earth. There’s a potent gravitational force in the demands of daily life, in the stress we hold in our bodies, in the narratives and belief systems that can (and often do) keep us down. Although we don’t like to admit it, many of us prefer to be stressed out. It’s familiar, provides solid reasons for everything that’s not working in our lives, and most of all, distracts us from remembering we are finite being living in an unfathomable mystery we will never be able to control. The irony being that the Mystery does seem to be made of light…

 

Here’s my opening dharana on the mantra Om Namaha Shivaya  as a bird with two wings:

 

And here is this week’s dharma talk, a weaving of the well-known creation story of Ganesha from the Shiva Purana with 5th Sun mantra. I’m interested in what it takes to foster the incredible lightness of being embodied in Ganesha and articulated in this mantra. One point I didn’t get into in this talk is looking at Ganesha as a threshold keeper. If you look at the two common epithets assigned to “him,” Lord of Beginnings and Gatekeeper of the Sacred Feminine, you can see what I’m talking about. But what does that really mean, to be a threshold keeper. Ganesha resides in the space between, embodying a perfect balance, a lightness of being that makes it possible to ride on the back of mouse without crushing it. In my opinion, this is the reason for spiritual practice. So that we can walk lightly on the Earth, lightly through ups and downs of daily life, and perhaps most important since it makes these first two possible, walk lightly within ourselves…

 

 

The Glow of Your Presence
Hafiz  [English version by David and Sabrineh Fideler]

Where have you taken your sweet song?
Come back and play me a tune.

I never really cared for the things of this world.
It was the glow of your presence
that filled it with beauty.

Monday, 5.23.16 Class: We Cling to the Present Which Has Already Become the Past Because We’re Terrified of the Future: Om Bhanave Namaha and the Kleshas

The literal translation of the fourth Sun mantra, ॐ भानवे नमः om bhānave namaḥ is “Salutations to Bhānu, the bright splendor of light.”  I’ve also seen it translated as “the diffuser of light.” Thinking about this week’s class, I was intrigued by the notion of diffusing, less as an aspect of the Sun — more in the way the mind diffuses light. Specifically that innate light otherwise knows as the inner Self. Which is the light that actually illuminates the mind so we’re even aware we’re thinking, let alone having peak experience enlightening flashes of insight.

When the mind is crystal clear, this inner light diffuses in its bright splendor aspect. When it’s not, the light diffusing through the mind’s lens (or lenses), will be distorted. Sometimes just a bit. Sometimes so much that it’s obliterated in the opacity.

Which brings me to the kleshas, those lovely lenses so brilliantly articulated in the great text of yogic psychology, Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutra. If you’re new to this blog and/or unfamiliar with this text, do visit May 15, 2011 in the Archive. For a quick reference, here you go:

The Kleshas
Avidya is the lens that clouds our ability to know our true nature, which according to Yoga is light.
Asmita is the lens that tricks us into buying into that small sense of self that is prone to suffering.
Raga is pleasure, which, when tangled up with avidya and asmita, gets us all caught up in clinging to what makes us feel good.
Dvesha is aversion, which when tangled up with avidya and asmita, creates a profound separation from everything and anything we label as “bad.”
Abinivesha is clinging to life (or any situation) because we fear death (or change).

Needless to say, the mind is a complex instrument, managing any number of receiving, perceiving, discerning, projecting, remembering, associating, etc. functions at the same time. And the kleshas are right in there, wreaking havoc in the process. So this week’s talk explores the relationship between the kleshas and this fourth Sun mantra.

Here’s the opening dharana:

Here’s my dharma talk:

There were new people in the room this week so I spoke a bit about mantra.  Here is that clip:

 

Finally, here are this week’s readings. First two poem from Coleman Bark’s translation of the poetry of Lalleshwari, Naked Song.  Although Lalla would not have known the Yoga-Sutra, you can see how in both these poems, she is teaching about the kleshas.

 

Two From Lalleshwari

1.
Wear just enough clothes to keep warm.
Eat only enough to stop the hunger-pang.

And as for your mind, let it work
to recognize who you are,
and the Absolute, and that
this body will become food
for the forest crows.

2.
Enlighten your desires.
Meditate on who you are.
Quit imagining.

What you want is profoundly expensive,
and difficult to find,
yet closeby.

Don’t search for it. It is nothing,
and a nothing within nothing.

 

And a Sheikh Nasrudin story and commentary from Swami Muktananda’s, Where Are You Going? A Guide to the Spiritual Journey:

 

Once Sheikh Nasrudin woke up early in the morning, before it was light. He called his disciplele, Mahmud, and said, “Go outside and see if the sun has risen.” Mahmud went out and came back inside.

   “It’s pitch black,” he said. “I cannot see the sun at all.”

   At this, Nasrudin became very angry. “You fool,” he shouted. “Haven’t you got the sense to use a flashlight?”

   That is exactly what we do. To expect a spiritual technique to reveal the indwelling God is like expecting a flashlight to illumine the Sun. A flashlight cannot shine beside the Sun. Like the Sun, the Self is always shining with its own effulgence. What sadhana can illumine the Self. Only through a subtle and sublime intellect can we know it. We meditate and perform spiritual practices only in order to make the intellect pure enough to reflect the effulgence of the Self.    

Baba did teach a great deal from Patanjali and in this quote, although he’s not using technical language, he is very much speaking about spiritual practice as a way to clean and polish the mind (here referred to as intellect) so that nothing hinders, obstructs, distorts, or extinguishes the shining bright splendor of the Self.

May 20, 2016: We May As Well Love It Cause It’s Not Going Away…

The last time I checked in here, it was November and I was settling into my new home. What I’d not yet begun to write about was my discovery and subsequent love affair with the Surya Namaskar mantras. These mantras came to me in April 2015 and after a few weeks of singing them, it was clear they were the centerpiece of our next album in The Mantra Project collection. That album, Mantras of the Sun,  released April 22, 2016 and debuted at #2 on iTunes World Music Chart. I’m developing a new blog devoted solely to these mantras and my own contemplations of the Sun. More on that when it goes live. In the meantime, if you’d like to listen or buy it, it’s available wherever music is streamed and/or sold. And if you have any problems finding it online, please visit my website, suzingreen.com.

The Sun mantras are elemental mantras, embodying twelve aspects of the Sun. For me personally, working with them has been an ongoing revelation. Early on in the process, I realized how much I’ve taken this extraordinary star that just happens to be our Sun, for granted.  It is after all the source and sustainer of life on Earth, always there even when we don’t see it. The absolute center of our solar system, it’s way more than a metaphor or archetype. It’s a fully embodied form and rather amazing mirror of our own inner light.

For those who visit this blog who don’t attend class or have not been to Mantras of the Sun concerts, I’ll include the mantras at the end of this post.

We’ve now had many classes constellated around these mantras. Over the coming months, as I’m able to blog here, I’ll post more content from this last year of Monday Night Class. Rather than go back to the beginning however, I’m posting material from this week, Monday, May 16, 2016. The contemplation for this class was “Generosity” and the mantra we focused on was:

om sūryāya namaḥ |
Salutations to Sūrya, the self-luminous light

 

Here’s the opening dharana: 

 

As I wrote above, the topic for class this week was “Generosity.” And if you think about the Sun, I think you’ll agree, among its many aspects, generosity is a key one. The Sun shines down on this entire planet, offering its life giving energy in the forms of light and heat and asking nothing, NOTHING, in return. You want a role model for right living, perhaps I should call it “light living,” make friends with the Sun.

 

Here’s my dharma talk from May 16:

[audio

 

Here are the poems and the story:

Making the House Ready for the Lord
Mary Oliver

Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you. Under the sink, for example, is an
uproar of mice – it is the season of their
many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves
and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances – but it is the season
when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And
the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;
what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will
come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know
that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.

 

 

The Place I Want to Get Back To
Mary Oliver
 

is where
in the pinewoods
in the moments between
the darkness
 
and first light
two deer
came walking down the hill
and when they saw me
 
they said to each other, okay,
this one is okay,
let’s see who she is
and why she is sitting
 
on the ground, like that,
so quiet, as if
asleep, or in a dream,
but, anyway, harmless;
 
and so they came
on their slender legs
and gazed upon me
not unlike the way
 
I go out to the dunes and look
and look and look
into the faces of the flowers;
and then one of them leaned forward
 
and nuzzled my hand, and what can my life
bring to me that could exceed
that brief moment?
For twenty years
 
I have gone every day to the same woods,
not waiting, exactly, just lingering.
Such gifts, bestowed,
can’t be repeated.
 
If you want to talk about this
come to visit. I live in the house
near the corner, which I have named
Gratitude.

This post is already so long I’lll end with the mantras and include the Jataka Tale  I told on my next post. Here are the mantras.

THE TWELVE SŪRYA NAMASKAR MANTRAS
ॐ मित्राय नमः
om mitrāya namaḥ |
Salutations to Mitra, the friend of all
ॐ रवये नमः
om ravaye namaḥ |
Salutations to Ravi, whose radiance hums
ॐ सूर्याय नमः
om sūryāya namaḥ |
Salutations to Sūrya, the self-luminous light
ॐ भानवे नमः
om bhānave namaḥ |
Salutations to Bhānu, the bright splendor of light
ॐ खगाय नमः
om khagāya namaḥ |
Salutations to Khaga, who moves through the sky like a bird
ॐ पूष्णे नमः
om pūṣṇe namaḥ |
Salutations to Puṣan, whose cleansing light gives strength
ॐ हिरण्यगर्भाय नमः
om hiraṇyagarbhāya namaḥ |
Salutations to Hiraṇyagarbha, the golden egg resplendent as the sun
ॐ मरीचये नमः
om marīcaye namaḥ |
Salutations to Marīci, the shining particle of light
ॐ आदित्याय नमः
om ādityāya namaḥ
Salutations to Āditya, the son of Aditi, the mother of the gods
ॐ सवित्रे नमः
om savitre namaḥ |
Salutations to Savitṛ, the vivifying power of the sun
ॐ अर्काय नमः
om arkāya namaḥ |
Salutations to Arka, whose flash of light is a song upon the earth
ॐ भास्कराय नमः
om bhāskarāya namaḥ |
Salutations to Bhāskara, the beautiful splendor of light

Sunday, November 29, 2015

    Had someone had told me in early June, that by September I’d have sold my house and moved to an in-town apartment, I would have said, “No way.” Yet here I sit, marveling at the change that brought me here and reveling in the perfection of the timing and lightening of my load.
     One of the many wonders of this stunningly unanticipated shift has been watching my cat Lily adjust to her new home. Lily is ten years old and a creature of profound and sedentary habit. In the language of Yoga we would say she is kapha on steroids, tamasic to the nth degree.  I knew the change would be traumatic for her, but was unprepared for the extent. She spent her first three weeks here hiding under my bed. By the end of the first month, she was slowly emerging. By week six, she’d finally found her groove.
     That’s when I noticed the transformation. And transformation is not a word I associate with cats. Nevertheless, as Lily embraced her new surroundings, she regained that marvelous feline curiosity and a new bounce in her gait. Her eyes looked brighter. Her coat had more shine. Her sedentary habits had slipped away.
     Watching Lily’s transformation was such a confirmation of the yogic impulse to push through limitation. All those narratives, conscious and hidden, that diminish our sense of Self. Physical pain, fears, belief systems, psycho/emotional wounding, habitual patterns, the list of stifling possibilities goes on and on. And as we’ve all experienced so many times, every time we push through these holding patterns, we get bigger. We taste our infinite possibility. We become more of who we actually are. I’ve always known this is true of humans. I had no idea it is also true of cats…
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    While these individual acts of reclamation may not be enough to transform the toxic narratives that threaten our 21st century world, I think each one adds a drop to the ocean of wisdom, the ocean of light. And one of these days or years or eons from now, that ocean will devour the terrible darkness that knows only how to cause harm.
     For now, we can only do what we can do. Some are called to the front lines. Others work in the unseen corners. But wherever we may be, we can always shift out of stuck patterns. Any small act will do. It can be as simple as saying “yes” if our default is “no,” or “no,” if our default is “yes.” The key is in pushing through our comfort zones. Be they physical, intellectual, emotional, or spiritual. We’ve all had the experience ten thousand times. Every time we move past those self-imposed fences, something wonderful opens up inside.
     I recently fell in love with a new poem from Mary Oliver. She sings this truth so beautifully. If you receive my eNewsletters, you have it in the Thanksgiving blast. If you do not, enjoy…..

Storage
Mary Oliver

When I moved from one house to another
there were many things I had no room 
for. What does one do? I rented a storage 
space. And filled it. Years passed.
Occasionally I went there and looked in,
but nothing happened, not a single 
twinge of the heart.
As I grew older the things I cared 
about grew fewer, but were more 
important. So one day I undid the lock 
and called the trash man. He took
everything.
I felt like the little donkey when 
his burden is finally lifted. Things!
Burn them, burn them! Make a beautiful 
fire! More room in your heart for love,
for the trees! For the birds who own 
nothing–the reason they can fly.

from Felicity, Penguin Books, 2015. Click here to order a copy. 

 

July 7, 2015: Poems and Readings from Recent Classes

Those who follow this blog are well aware of my (sadly) infrequent posting. Never for lack of caring; only for lack of time. Five years ago when I began this blog, the idea was to create a collecting place for readings I bring to class. In the spirit of that simplicity, I offer a handful of readings from recent weeks. Two poems by Andrew Colliver (with apologies in advance for any WordPress template formatting changes over which I have no control) and a Nasruddin story.  Enjoy…

Come
Andrew Colliver

Every day I am astonished by
how little I know, and discouraged,
 obedient as I am to the demand to
know more — always more.

But then there is the slow seep
of light from the day,
and I look to the west where
the hills are darkening,

setting their shoulders to the night,
and the sky peppered with pillows
of mist, their bellies burnt
by the furnace of the sun.

And it is then that I notice
the invitation didn’t say, Come
armed with knowledge and a loud voice.
It only said, Come.

The Further You Go
-Andrew Colliver

Mercy, there have been revelations.
Grace, there has been realization. Still, you must
travel the path of time and circumstance.

The further you go, the more it comes back to paying
   attention.
The rough skin of the tallowwood, the trade routes of
   lorikeets, a sky lifting
behind afternoon clouds. Staying close to the texture of
   things.

People can go before you and talk all they want,
but only one thing makes sense: the way the world enters
and finds it voice in you: the place you are free.

This is one of my favorite Nasruddin stories. They all tell it like it is but this one is infused with a blush of the heart I find especially appealing…

Nasrudin and the Gardener
-from Christina Feldman and Jack Kornfield’s Stories of the Spirit, Stories of the Heart

Mulla Nasrudin decided to start a flower garden. He prepared the soil and planted the seeds of many beautiful flowers. But when they came up, his garden was filled not just with his chosen flowers but also overrun by dandelions. He sought advice from gardeners all over and tried every method known to get rid of them, but to no avail.
Finally he walked all the way to the capital to speak to the royal gardener at the sheik’s palace. The wise old man had counseled many gardeners before and suggested a variety of remedies to expel the dandelions but Mulla had tried them all. They sat together in silence for some time and finally the gardener looked at Nasrudin and said, “Well, then I suggest you learn to love them.”

* * * * *

I learned of Andrew Colliver through poet, anthologist, and webmaster Ivan Granger. Ivan’s online poetry portal, Poetry Chaikhana is an incredible resource for sacred poetry. If you’d like to visit (and see more of Andrew Colliver’s sublime poetry) here’s a link: The Poetry Chaikhana Blog