Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Compassion

Unless I am very, very careful,
I doom others by holding onto images of them
based on my preconceptions
that are in turn based on indifference
to what is other than myself.

I claimed autonomy for myself
and forgot that in so doing
I fell into the tyranny of defining other people
as I would like them to be.

By focusing on what I  chose to acknowledge in them,
I imposed an insidious control on them.

I now know
that I have to pay careful attention
in order to listen to others
with an openness that allows them to be as they are,
or as they think themselves to be.

The shutters of my mind habitually flip open and click shut,
and these little snaps form into patterns
I arrange for myself.

The opposite of this inattention is love,
 the honoring of others
in a way that grants them the grace
of their own autonomy
allowing mutual discovery.

Compassion is one of the purest springs of love.

I am mystified 
by the speed with which people condemn one another. 
Feeling as righteous as the money-changers in the temple, 
they cast their fellows into the outer darkness of their disapproval. 

This seems to give them intense pleasure. 

Whenever I am tempted by this pleasure,
 I remember some impulse in myself 
that could lead me into the same trap.

This causes me to distrust the part of myself
 that relishes self-righteousness,
constantly seeking
Compassion.



Saturday, April 22, 2017

Living MY Life

The life I was living
was not the life that wanted to live in me.

My values were based on a simplistic brand of moralism
that reduced ethical life
to making a list, checking it twice,
against an index in a catechism book of sins,
trying very hard not to be naughty but nice.

Trying to live up to
someone else’s dictates
or to live by some abstract religious norms,
invariably failed.

I stopped trying to tell my life
what I intended to do with it;
Instead I listened for what it intended to do with me.

I gave up telling my life what religious truths and values
I have decided to live up to;
Instead I let my life tell me
what truths I embody,
what values I represent.

I sought not religious conformity,
but wholeness
because blind obedience to doctrine and dogma
was an act of violence toward myself,
violence forced on myself from without
rather than wholeness grown from within.

True self resisted,
holding my life in check
until I honored its truth.

Growth came from listening.
I had to listen to my life
and try to understand what it is truly about
quite apart from what religious outsiders told me.

My life never would have represented
anything real in the world,
no matter how earnest my intentions.

I could no longer tell my life
what I wanted to do with it;
I had to listen to my life telling me who I am.

I had to listen for the truths and values
at the heart of my own identity,
not the religious standards by which I must live
but the standards by which I cannot help but live
if I am living my own life.

What a long time it took
to become the person I have always been.
How often in the process I masked myself
in faces that were not my own.

How much dissolving and shaking of ego
I had to endure
before I discovered deep identity,
the true self within,
the seed of authenticity.

Today I understand True Self quite differently
 not as a goal to be achieved 
but as a gift to be received. 

Discovering True Self 
does not mean scrambling toward some prize
 just beyond my reach 
but accepting the treasure of true self 
I already possess. 

Wholeness
 does not come from a voice out there
calling me to become something I am not.
 It comes from a voice in here
calling me to be the person I was born to be.










Unknowing

I no longer try to find answers
to the questions of life,
but only to stay with the reality of not knowing.

I strive to stay within the mystery.

Maybe one reason my mind continually asks questions
is that this questioning brings into awareness
my act of trying to separate myself.

I had assumed I was here,
and the mysterious universe was out there.
I went through life
assuming I was a separate being.

Self-inquiry challenged my assumption of separation.

The questioning gave me clues
to my attachments,
how I wanted things to be,
how I wanted things to be other than they were,
and how I suffered as a result.

When I deeply asked,
What or who am I?
I allowed myself to become one with unknowing.

I found that
at the end of unknowing
lies great awakening.
When I can doubt fully,
I will awaken fully.

Gradually it became clear
that there is no way to do away with doubt.
Doubt is an expression of what I am.

It became clear to me
that to ask deeply the question
Who am I?
was to allow myself to become doubt itself.

So it has been imperative for me 
to doubt the truth of my concepts about God, 
and at the same time to be aware that I was doubting. 


In the midst of my unknowing,
 I found that
reality could not be grasped 
by making it into an object of thought. 
But I had to try. 

Indeed, my desire for truth was deepened by trying. 
It was deepened by my wanting to know. 

But my true role
is not to know what reality is. 

Here and now 
is the source. 
I open my arms. 
I drink in the moment. 

Here and now
 is one hundred percent identical 
with every possible manifestation in the whole universe.

 When I doubt this idea deeply, 
I awaken deeply
into Unknowing.






Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Price to Pay

Can a tree that grows to a proud height
dispense with bad weather and storms?

Can I experience true growth
without misfortune and external resistance,
illness, estrangement, disappointment,
some kind of hatred, jealousy, stubbornness, mistrust, hardness,
and violence?

The most fulfilling human experiences
seem inseparable from a degree of torment,
the sources of my greatest joys
lying awkwardly close to those of my greatest pains.

In the interval between initial failure
and subsequent success,
in the gap between who I wish one day to be
and who I am at present,
must come pain, anxiety, disappointment, and humiliation.

I suffer
because I cannot spontaneously master
the ingredients of fulfillment.

Fulfillment does not come easily 
and an erroneous belief that it can
would lead me to withdraw prematurely from challenges 
that can be overcome 
when I am prepared 
for the challenges and disappointments
 legitimately demanded
 by almost everything valuable.












Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Illumination

The first and most direct outcome 
of a moment of illumination 
is exposure to of a way of knowledge 
which may be called insight or intuition, 
as contrasted with sense, reason, and analysis.

Closely connected with insight and intuition
is a conception of reality
behind the world of appearance
 and utterly different from it. 

This reality is felt to be always and everywhere close at hand, 
thinly veiled by the shows of sense, 
ready for the receptive mind, 
to shine in its glory. 

My poetry seeks to describe that illumination: 
the haunting beauty which is the faint reflection of the Creator
within us.

I strive to live in the full light of this vision, 
with a knowledge beside which 
all other knowledge is ignorance.

Monday, April 17, 2017

A New Brain

My conditioned thought
always wanted an answer to the question at hand.

What has been important for me
was developing another thinking,
a vision.

For this I had to liberate a certain energy
that was beyond my usual thought.
I needed to ¬experience
I do not know
without seeking an answer,
abandoning my need for answers
to enter the unknown.

When it was no longer my same mind,
it began engaging in a new way.
I could begin to see without any preconceived idea,
without choice,
without judging, sorting, classifying, evaluating.

In relaxing, I no longer had to choose to relax
before knowing why.

I began learning to purify my power of vision,
not by turning away from the undesirable
or toward what was agreeable.

I had to learn to stay in front and see clearly.
All things had importance,
and I became fixed on nothing.

Everything depended on this vision,
on a look that comes not from any command of my thought
but from a feeling of urgency to simply Be.

Perception, 
real vision, 
came in the interval between the old response 
and the new response
 to the reception of an impression. 

The old response was based on material inscribed in my memory. 
With the new response, 
free from the past, 
my brain remained open, 
receptive, 
in an ¬attitude of respect.

 It seemingly was a new brain 
with different cells 
and a new intelligence. 

When I saw that my thought was incapable of understanding,
 that its movement brought nothing, 
I was open to the sense of the cosmic, 
beyond the realm of human perception.


Questioned

In regard to the sacred tradition of humanity,
 I have learned that it consists, 
not in propositions or statements which are to be accepted and believed 
on the authority of some religious hierarchy,
 but in questions rightly asked, 
and in conceptions which enable us to ask further questions.

The value of all these things
 depends on their being questioned,
and even doubted,
 day by day. 

The very sacredness of a precious faith
 imposes upon us the duty and responsibility 
of doubting it, of questioning it, of testing it, of purifying 
and enlarging it to the utmost of our power. 

Those who makes use of dogma and doctrine
to stifle doubts, 
or to hamper the inquiry of others,
 are guilty of sacrilege 
which centuries shall never be able to blot out.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Rising Early

I wake up every day around 4AM
while it is still dark outside.
A serene beauty and stillness envelop the Earth at this time.

Though it is still dark out,
the early morning darkness seems to be softer than nighttime,
almost as if it’s infused with a divine light.

And rising this early benefits my body, mind, and spirituality.

As a human being,
I share an inherent relationship with the environment.
So when light begins to spread across the sky,
my mind, too, begins to experience hope and courage.

When I gaze at the sky at this time,
I know, deep in my heart,
that the sun will be here soon,
and the dark night will be consumed by the spreading light,
taking with it the fears, doubts, and ignorance
that enveloped me as I slept.

When I witness the transformation from dark to light,
from night to dawn,
there is a stirring of hope
and a spiritual presence in my subconscious being,
which begins to reveal itself,
banishing ignorance and infusing my consciousness
with divine illumination and intuitive knowledge.

For me, the early mornings are magical. 

At this time, the darkness of the night is slowly dissipating, 
and the light of the sun, 
even before it has tangibly announced its bold presence in the sky,
 is making its subtle but commanding presence felt. 

I cannot yet see the light, 
but I can sense the light in my heart, 
wherein dwells that one consciousness that connects me 
with the sun, moon, and Earth 
and all that I know 
and also all that I cannot fathom with my ordinary senses.

 It is during this time of outer stillness and inner silence 
that I can most easily connect to the universal truth, 
and the one reality that is immutable and absolute.




Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Listening

I begin listening with ordinary caring.
I Imagine that what I am about to receive by listening
 is similar to receiving a valuable gift.

I think about the courage and/or vulnerability 
that may be necessary for the one speaking 
to divulge what they are about to say.

I strive to listen with kindhearted interest. 
In other words, I try to notice when I begin categorizing what I hear
 as good or bad, right or wrong, 
and I return to ordinary listening.

I am sensitive to the communication
 that comes through the whole experience 
and not only to the words being spoken. 
I listen for the expression of feelings.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Cliches

Too many well-intentioned people
offer cliches
in a vain attempt
to ease the pain for friends in grief.
Time heals all wounds
or
God only gives us much sorrow as we can handle
or
Your Faith will heal you
or other such over-used cliches
do not help
. . . and even can hurt.

I persist in my attempts
to stop clichés in their flight,
capture and anesthetize them,
splay their dull wings,
pin them to the specimen board,
and make them visible for all to see,
so that they may be revealed
for their true lack of color.

My intention
is to make caregivers more aware of
the occasions when they are using clichés
or when they think that they need to,
for clichés are largely used mindlessly,
given their viral proliferation.

An increased awareness of clichés
and the detriment that they typically represent
for effective communication
should serve as a motive for caregivers
to say instead
what they feel in their hearts.

It takes only a little more time, 
but considerably more effort, 
to speak mindfully than it does mindlessly.

 Speaking mindfully to one grieving
without the use of cliches 
can be developed to become a habit 
with some effort, 
just as using cliches mindlessly
 becomes a habit with no effort.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Anger

Occasionally, I’m taken to task
by people who regard anger as a spiritual flaw
to be eliminated.

I beg to differ:
When something is morally wrong,
even, or especially, when done by Church Leaders,
it does more harm than good
to put a spiritually positive spin on it.

Whitewashing religion in the name of God
doesn’t improve the world;
it perpetuates religion as a source of delusion.

If I weren’t angry about abuse by Church hierarchy,
I’d fear that I was as feckless and reckless as they are.

I’m all for forgiveness
as an antidote for anger.
I agree with those who say
that forgiveness is key to carrying on,
and I agree that not forgiving
is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.

But forgiveness, I’ve discovered,
is not always mine to give
especially in relation to a church hierarchy
that has a long history of malicious acts
and remains unrepentant.

Sometimes I have to pass the forgiveness baton
to higher powers.

I know that anger has the potential to harm me
and others my orbit.
But I have learned
that anger buried poses more threats to my well being,
and that of those around me,
than anger expressed non-violently.

Repressed anger is dangerous.
With anger harnessed as an energy,
I can ride toward new life for all concerned.
It’s redemptive.

Spirituality and anger (and humor) 
are not mutually exclusive.

.





Longing

There is a divine restlessness in my heart.

Though my body maintains an outer stability and consistency,
My heart is an eternal nomad.

No circle of belonging can ever contain all the longings my heart.

We all have immortal longings.
All human creativity issues from the urgency of longing.

The restlessness of my heart
will never be stilled.
My longing is eternal.

This is what constantly qualifies and enlarges my circle of be-longing.
There is a constant and vital tension 
between my longing and belonging.

Without the shelter of belonging,
My longings would lack direction, focus, and context;
they would be aimless and haunted,
constantly tugging the heart in a myriad of opposing directions.

Without belonging, my longing would be demented.
Just as my memory gathers and anchors time,
so does belonging shelter my longing.

If my longing died, 
my poetry would cease.

  I have discovered
That the arduous task of being human
 is to balance my longing and my belonging 
so that they work with and against each other
 to ensure that all my potential and my gifts 
that sleep in the clay of my heart 
may be awakened and realized in this life.




Wednesday, April 5, 2017

With Integrity

Every minute, every breath counts.
The truth is
death is always with me.
Everything is constantly changing.
Nothing is permanent.

Yet, embracing the truth of life’s precariousness
helps me to appreciate its preciousness.

I needed to learn to not hold my opinions, my desires,
and even my own identity
so tightly.

Instead of pinning my hopes on some reward in the life hereafter,
I needed to focus on the present
and being grateful for what I have in front of me
right now.

I say, I love you more often.
I have tried to  become kinder,
more compassionate
and more forgiving.

In welcoming everything,
I don't have to like what's arising
or necessarily agree with it,
but I strive to be willing to meet it,
to learn from it.

The word Welcome
asks me to temporarily suspend my usual rush to judgment
and to be open to what is showing up at my front door,
to receive it in the spirit of hospitality.

More than once
I have found an undesirable aspect of myself,
one about which I felt ashamed,
to be the very quality
that allowed me to meet another person’s suffering
with compassion instead of fear or pity.

It is not  my expertise,
but the exploration of my own vulnerability
that enables me to build an empathetic bridge
and be of real assistance to others.

I learned that to be whole,
I needed to include and connect all parts of myself.
Wholeness does not mean perfection.
It means no part left out.

I work to cultivate a mind 
that's open and receptive, 
not limited by agendas, roles, and expectations,
free to discover. 

When I was filled with knowing, 
when my mind was made up, 
it narrowed my vision 
limiting my capacity to act. 
I only saw what my knowing allowed me to see. 

I don’t abandon my knowledge;
 it’s always there in the background should I need it,
 but I let go of fixed ideas. 
I let go of control.

And so
this is how I try to live
with
Integrity.













Ignorance

For me, the collection of facts is not an end, 
as true knowledge is not an accumulation
 dispelling ignorance.

On the contrary,
I keep exploring the widening circle of my ignorance, 
where data simply frame the unknown. 

The Jesuits helped me to learn to think in questions, 
how to manage ignorance. 

I learned that good education is not the filling of a pail, 
but the lighting of a fire.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Present Moment

Why did I bother
trying to be fully in the present moment.
What was the point of practicing coming home to the present moment,
gently letting go of thinking and striving,
opening up to what is here and now.

The point was to be open to those moments of grace
that come right in the midst of life.
Indeed, it was often in the wake of my biggest failures
and my most wrenching losses
that I glimpsed powers and forces and gifts
that I had previously overlooked.

Moments of love and kindness, for example.
Moments of shared humanity.
Unexpected moments of Joy throughout my life.

I discovered that
having a spiritual life
did not mean striving to stop the rain from falling
or keeping my heart from breaking.

It meant letting go of my resistance to life
and my willful separation from others.
It meant taking my place in the greater whole of life.

This surrender
tended to happen in moments of loss
but also in moments of great love.

In those moments,
 it became natural for me
 to say or inwardly feel
Thy will be done,
I surrender,
opening to the rain and the sun and all that came,
realizing that I was more than I thought I was.

In those moments 
when I stopped running and resisting what was happening, 
when I brought my attention home to the present moment, 
I discovered my Spiritual Path,
a greater light 
and a greater life,
Joy.



Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Seeking

My True Self
could only be discovered with a finer quality of energy
than was found in my usual fragmented state of being.

I found resonance
with a teaching,
a book,
a teacher,
a work of art
that corresponded to something finer in myself
that I wished to know better
and to develop.

However, the danger of my search being usurped
by my ego was not only ever-present
but at times seemed prevalent.

I could not seek Truth, Wisdom, the Divine, True Self
simply to become a better,
more effective person.

This type of spiritual seeking is the ego in drag.

The desire for mere self-improvement,
the hypnotic seduction
found in religious rituals,
and the belief that compliance with doctrine and dogma
assured me of paradise,
and that with simple obedience,
I could not possibly be out of step with the divine plan
are all common manifestations of a religious spirituality.

This type of search, 
a religious spirituality,
seeking reward in the next life
through obedience and compliance 
in this life,
is  a shallow, religion-based spirituality.

Genuine search placed me in the eye of the tiger.
It was raw and anathema to the religious teaching of my youth.
It demanded rigor and discipline 
and the striving towards impartial self-observation
which brought a certain kind of suffering and discomfort.





Genuine spiritual growth is fundamentally transformative,
not merely a rearrangement of my personality
or an increased ability to meet some sort of religious requirements.

It entailed learning to serve a different master,
a search for higher consciousness
and the awakening of my conscience,
placing my ego and my conditioned personality
in a secondary,
not primary, role.

Awakening exacted a price,
and I paid in different ways at different times,
at different stages along my path.

The first payment was to leave behind the religious dictates of my youth
to follow the dictates of my genuine search,
to accept the inevitable struggle and discomfort
 of turning away from my religious upbringing
towards my inner life.

I was asked to place my ego and conditioned personality in question,
not to blithely follow the insistent voices from the past,
but to open myself to the deeper impulses
that led me towards the influences that I needed
whether in the form of books, people, or a wisdom teaching.

A certain leap of faith was required,
one that I could only resolve by looking deep within.
The seeker in me is authentic;
I knew by the taste of certain influences what it needed,
and that I had to be open to those influences
and begin to allow them to act on me,
like a young plant seeking water and air.

And I had to stay in touch with the inner taste
of the influences that I allowed into my being.

Impressions are food
and to some degree, I am what I eat.
Rigor and discipline were required
to maintain a discriminating faculty that knew from within
what my nascent True Self needed for growth
and evolution.



I am deeply indebted
to all the living and no-longer-living teachers
who have helped show me the way.
Their presence and their words
reverberate long beyond their lifetimes.
They have provided the help that I need
 for awakening
to my True Self,
Being in Love,
one with my Creator,
BEING-in-Love.








Sunday, March 26, 2017

Biblical

As history and revelation,
the bible’s stories have long ago fallen away;
we now know that
almost nothing that happens in it
actually happened,
and that its miracles, large and small,
are of the same kind and credibility
as are all the other miracles that crowd superstition.

Only a handful of fundamentalists,
in America sometimes more like an armful,
and at times like a roomful,
read it literally.

We read and dissect the books and verses of the Bible
because they tell beautiful stories,
stirring and shapely.
We read the good book because it is a good book.

We explore the stories because they are transfixing stories,
dense and compelling.

The beauty of the Song of Songs,
or the nobility of the account of creation in Genesis,
or the poetic hum of the Psalms
are as beautiful as poetic myths alone can be.

The Bible contains good tales
and great poetry,
and we need not worry about their sources.

We read them as we read all good fiction,
for their perplexities as much as for their obvious points.

Reading the Bible requires intellectual detachment,
with a sense that the miracles imagined
do not diminish what they tell us about imagination,
or about mankind.
We read the holy book
in order to learn why we need none.

Many moral ideas
 of inclusion, tolerance, pluralism, and the equality of man, 
and the emancipation of women
 depend on the diminishment and destruction 
of the traditional idea of an authoritarian God
depicted in the Bible.
The Bible is inspired
 as are many other great works of Art,
but what makes the Bible holy
or sinful
is what we do or don’t do with it.



Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Death

The great secret of death,
and perhaps its deepest connection with me,
is that in taking from me a life I have loved,
death does not wound me,
 but lifts me
toward a more perfect understanding of life
and of myself.

I am not saying that I can love death,
but rather that I should love life so generously,
without picking and choosing,
so that I automatically include it in my life,
in my love.

This is what actually happens with love,
which cannot be stopped or constricted.
It is only when I exclude love in my life,
that death becomes more and more foreign to me
and, ultimately, an enemy.

It is conceivable
that death is infinitely closer to me
than life itself.

Death is not the opposite of life,
simply the opposite of birth,
both a normal part of life.

As long as I stand in opposition to Death 
I disfigure it. 

 Death is a friend, 
a close friend, 
perhaps the only friend who can never be misled 
by my ploys and vacillations,
 not in the sentimental, romantic sense 
of distrusting or renouncing life. 

Death is a friend 
precisely because it brings me into absolute and passionate presence 
with all that is here, 
that is natural, 
that is love.

Life always says Yes and No simultaneously. 
Death  stands before eternity and says only
 Yes.





Monday, March 20, 2017

Bible Stories

Why did it take
one, two, three or more generations
to write down all the things
Jesus said and did?

Kind of strange
given all that Jesus was said
to have done.

Why did Paul,
who’s letters preceded the gospels,
not even mention,
virgin birth,
miracles,
and bodily resurrection?

Two of the four evangelists
had the third evangelist’s writings in hand
as the wrote,
hence similar testimonies.

But John, the last,
about 100 years after Jesus,
made up a load of stuff on his own,
seeing Jesus as the way, truth, and life,
the light of the world
and the bread of life.

Parts of John’s Gospel
were not even written by John,
new bits added up to 300 years later,
including the bit about casting the first stone.

If someone wrote today
about how things actually happened
during the French Revolution,
who said and did what,
how many of the world’s historians
would simply nod and agree?