these ancient gifts

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I will whisper secrets in your ear
just nod yes and be silent.
A soul moon
appeared in the path of my heart.
How precious is this journey.
…..Rumi

may the inspiration divined from our kindreds…..the animal spirits, the old ones, and the littles in our lives…….may it all fuel our tender growing…..

THE LESSON OF THE WILLOWS
ON THE GRANDMOTHER RIVER

Do you remember
the swaying green curtains
down by the river…
their wet hems dragging this way,
then that way
in the edge currents,
catching
a flower,
a bough,
a bottle,
an old feather nest
for a time, before shaking
them loose and letting them
jolt and joggle downstream
to The Wherever.

My grandmother called
the weeping willow trees,
‘the sorry leaves.’

She meant,
one could gaze
at their bowers
when in sympathy
with struggle,
and in so gazing,
understand
from the willows–
how to proceed in
in a time of grieving.

For the willows
are dearly
committed to life;
with strong root jackets;
their wands easily woven
into vessels
without breaking;
green physicians
of medicine
for pain;
deep drinkers of water;
shaking and whipping
when wind–
calm and eddying
when not wind.

Never out of tune
with los vientos,
the winds…
and the waters
from above and below.
Constantly making
their medicines
under their skins.

My grandmother called
the weeping willows
‘the sorry leaves.’
She meant,
when in a ‘sorry state’
ourselves–
we ought sail
through willows’ dense drapes,
to feel their insistent sway,
their flexing and releasing–
rather than keeping
a hardened and
brittle strength,
and thereby breaking…
instead, becoming like
the willows’ millions
of ragged green flags
flying still strong
even though some few
had lost their grips.

To focus on the life-giving
millions and millions
of green spirits
that wave,
that remain fully wed
to their Source,
that will continue to stand
and move
both softly and in full strength.

There is such satisfaction
hearing
the sound of the heavy oars
dropped from your own hands
just right
into the steel locks
on the wooden sides
of a rowboat
still filled slightly
with tears, I mean,
with river water
from previous rowings…

And there is such satisfction
to rowing an old woman
who is wearing her tribal babushka
and her heavy winter wool coat
in the late springtime…
to row her,
across a dark green river,
to drive the oars deep
in order
to take her, the old one,
near the wall of moving
green willow curtains,
the fragrance of black iron earth
and green citrus all around us…

So,
beholding those long willow wands,
I asked my grandmother in
the ancient
child-grandparent q & a,
what it might be like
to be a green curtain of green leaves,
and what might we learn to be such.

She smiled, her eyes suddenly
animal amber flashing…
She said,
We are not the willows.
We are the river.

Now, these many decades
later, I am near my grandmother’s age
and I can see, for so many souls,
the more years I’ve gathered,
how the intelligence delivered
long ago, is true:
That the river is the soul’s school–
of capture and release,
catch and shake loose.
We are snagged,
held against our wills
for a time, and
we learn to cut loose.
We are trapped,
and yet we learn
over time,
to sever clean
as possible.

We may be aggrivated,
feel incapacitated for a time,
but on the old woman river,
the currents
under everything topside,
are ever free–
ever flowing,
ever knowing where to go next
in the most necessary push-throughs,
the most able gathering of the
huge muscle
of the wave to shoot over obstacles,
and in and with the most grace
possible.

My grandmother called
the weeping willows
‘the sorry leaves’ –
Thus, there are Willows
on the Grandmother River.
this being but one lesson
on the Grandmother River.

But/And, the river,
and the old ones
who ride the river–
our lifelong school
of learning to love,
learning to be wise,
learning to turn tempests
to kindnesses whenever possible,
of wind turning the willows
to wave their magic wands
over our hearts,
as we pass by
on our ways to our own
and good and better
Whatever, Wherever.
———————
I say unto you,
may it be so for thee,
may it be so, for me,
may it be so, for us all…
Aymen
Aymen
Aymen
[and, a little woman]
….Clarissa Pinkola Estes

these kissing fields

To learn how to ask for what we need,

only to practice accepting what we’re given.

This is our journey on Earth.

….Mark Nepo

stepping out, exquisitely poised

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There are few things in life that are as challenging

or as rewarding

as moving from what disheartens us

to what heartens us.

….Mark Nepo

may we walk or strut or glide in color while the rain & the snow slide its gray walls all around us…..sip in gentle pleasures and shine within……

I must learn to love the fool in me–the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries. It alone protects me against that utterly self-controlled, masterful tyrant whom I also harbor and who would rob me of my human aliveness, humility, and dignity but for my Fool…… Theodore I. Rubin

shine wild

I don’t really want to become normal, average, standard. I want merely to gain in strength, in the courage to live out my life more fully, enjoy more, experience more. I want to develop even more original and more unconventional traits……Anaïs Nin

how we ruminate

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Even as I spend a portion of my days writing about matters of the spirit, a culturally conditioned voice in me constantly critiques the effort; that voice wants me to get back to doing something more successful, productive, and remunerative. He believes that constant busyness is a requirement of responsible living, and that daily reflection and meditation constitute dereliction of duty. He feels guilty when I spend time on Skype with my daughter who is overseas during that sacrosanct time called ‘the workday.’ He would be content if I’d find our teenager’s argument that ‘everyone else is doing it’ a compelling reason to grant permission for something my parental instincts have redflagged. He wants me to ponder and get worked up about deep questions like whether or not I need a marble countertop in the kitchen. His yammering gives voice to both my own dysfunction and the culture’s deep confusion. When he seems silent, it’s usually not that he has given me reprieve; rather, I have become so habituated to his presence that I have trouble distinguishing the cucumber of my authentic self from the brine of culture. How do we get out of the pickle jar of cultural confusion?….Kevin Anderson

carefully, unfailingly, with vulnerability, with integrity…….here…..like riding the ferris wheel……perspective of a wide-open heart without fear……

We are a constant process, an event, we’re change.

Our life is the house, the rest are just projections, shadows of the greater structure: even our deepest thoughts, beliefs, you, me and everything and everyone we’ve ever known, are subject to interpretation. All our constructions of reality, all the words and ideas we use to understand the world are fragile and temporary, they are a medium, they’re not the end, but just another way to understand the journey of Us.

As such, our smaller houses, our temporary homes can only be made of cards. And the I-don’t-know is the most powerful ground you could lay your house of cards on. Because it allows you to adapt to any unexpected changes and even to pick up those cards when the smallest, sudden movement, brings down any of your structures.

Loving the questions means to love yourself. You are the biggest question mark the world (your world) has ever known.

I’m embarrassed about what different alien species might think of us from outer space. You know, if they actually watched Human Reality TV on their Martian screens:

“I don’t get this dramatic species, Rango,” says a green-skinned, 2.5 meter tall, half-lizard, half-nymph, flying-lady with robot voice and snake orange eyes. “They go to the bloodiest ends to come up with the most elaborate answers about life, yet they forgot the most basic, liberating act their 5-year olds still practice: the simple art of asking. The wonder, Rango, they have lost the wonder. They love to talk about life, as if this could somehow excuse them from living it.” Rango nods and snorts green cosmic powder.

There is no truth other than your truth – as long as you exist. Somebody else’s won’t do. And you know how most doors are opened? Not by struggling to find the right keys. All you have to do is knock. Life is an endless flow of questions – meaning is always in the making and it is constantly being created as we speak. The ultimate meaning of life then is the One that creates meaning: the traveler (not the journey), the subject (not its objects, ideas, circumstances, possessions), the lover (not the love), the wayseer (not the way), the warrior (not the battle)…

You…….Andrea Balt

consider not knowing

Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.
……..Mary Oliver

blooming fresh

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 This is a journey without distance.
Stop traveling and you arrive.
……Anthony de Mello

who shadows us? who can look at the deep soul and know the distance to home? may we choose wisely……may we follow the deep path toward the heart…….

“The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us.”

Habit is that peculiar life-force that both obscures and illuminates the crucial difference between routine and ritual. “We are spinning our own fates, good or evil,” William James wrote more than a century ago in his timeless treatise on the subject. But the greatest meditation on habit I’ve ever encountered comes not from the legendary psychologist and philosopher but from a most beloved poet: Mary Oliver, who knows a great deal about the habits of heart and mind that both help us be fully alive and make sense of loss.

In one section of the altogether soul-stretching Long Life: Essays and Other Writings, Oliver considers the mesmerism of habit — a peculiar manifestation of rhythm— and how it frames and paces the rampant messiness of our lives:

In the shapeliness of a life, habit plays its sovereign role… Most people take action by habit in small things more often than in important things, for it’s the simple matters that get done readily, while the more somber and interesting, taking more effort and being more complex, often must wait for another day. Thus, we could improve ourselves quite well by habit, by its judicious assistance, but it’s more likely that habits rule us.

Habit is a paradoxical thing — at once a human invention and a core feature of nature. (The driving force behind evolution, of course, is a kind of habit — for what else is adaptation if not the honing of habit for optimal survival?) Touching ever so gently on the enduring question of free will, Oliver captures this elegantly:

The bird in the forest or the fox on the hill has no such opportunity to forgo the important for the trivial. Habit, for these, is also the garment they wear, and indeed the very structure of their body life. It’s now or never for all their vitalities — bonding, nest building, raising a family, migrating or putting on the deeper coat of winter — all is done on time and with devoted care, even if events contain also playfulness, grace, and humor, those inseparable spirits of vitality. Neither does the tree hold back its leaves but lets them flow open or glide away when the time is right. Neither does water make its own decision about freezing or not; that moment rests with the rule of temperatures.

But rather than limiting the flow of life in our human world, she suggests, habit becomes a stand-in for those natural rhythms and thus liberates our vitality:

What some might call the restrictions of the daily office they find to be an opportunity to foster the inner life. The hours are appointed and named… Life’s fretfulness is transcended. The different and the novel are sweet, but regularity and repetition are also teachers… And if you have no ceremony, no habits, which may be opulent or may be simple but are exact and rigorous and familiar, how can you reach toward the actuality of faith, or even a moral life, except vaguely? The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us. Our battles with our habits speak of dreams yet to become real……Maria Popova

this fresh beginning

That is the ultimate beauty of awareness,

that anything that comes out of it

is simply beautiful,

is simply right,

and without any effort.

….Osho

who looks back in the mirror?

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For a time
I rest in the grace of the world,
and am free.
…….Wendell Berry

may we understand the stories that run over and over in our lives may not be our true stories….maybe we are caught…..maybe a simple shift in perspective can show us a new way…..may simply by honoring the playback, we can let it go…..

If you pay careful attention in the midst of your crises, you will begin to sense a witnessing consciousness, a wise presence inside of you that could be called “the one who knows.” This knowing presence is consciousness itself, your undying spirit, present in every moment of your life, even when it feels far away from you. Even in the toughest times of illness and loss, in your deepest depressions and griefs, underneath even your most catastrophic challenges and fears, the one who knows in you remains calm and clear. It already accepts whatever’s going on. It sees beyond the immediate situation to something much larger. It knows that whatever change has come—no matter how much of a surprise it was to you—was going to happen. It knows that whatever is, Is—whether we accept it or not. The one who knows is even often able to see grim humor in the most difficult situations. And it knows long before we do that the end of our suffering begins when we turn to face our suffering and embrace its truth and healing wisdom.

Loss and betrayal tear open the heart.
Look through this gate
for the wisdom that lies there.
What matters now?
What would the wise ones do now?

But how we can find this “one who knows” in the midst of our most overwhelming difficulties? Go to the mirror. Look at your face. You will see someone who looks older than you looked several years ago, though inside you don’t feel any older. This is because it is only your body that has aged. The timeless awareness through which you see your body is the one who knows. Your body is only a temporary vessel for this awareness. It is a temporary and impermanent container for the undying consciousness of the one who knows………Jack Kornfield

the masters play too

We learn the way
by knowing our hearts.
…….Ivan M. Granger

the empty heart

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True emptiness is not empty, but contains all things. The mysterious and pregnant void creates and reflects all possibilities. From it arises our individuality, which can be discovered and developed, although never possessed or fixed. The self is held in no-self, as the candle flame is held in great emptiness. The great capacities of love, unique destiny, life, and emptiness intertwine, shining, reflecting the one true nature of life. The I Ching speaks of having a well that is finely constructed and closely lined with stones, so that clean, deep, and pure water will always fill it. This purity, our true nature, is found beneath all images of self and emptiness, in the great silence of our being. The qualities we develop are not to be named or possessed. As soon as we try to fix them, they become distorted. Instead, the development of our spirit and the release of our spirit come together, a mystery of form and formlessness. Then, like the water in the well, everything becomes clear and drinkable, and clear water is seen everywhere, in the earth and the sky above…..Jack Kornfield

how can we lessen our grip on our own hearts? what would that look like? what would that feel like? what would we know if the heart was unveiled?

The most important key that has been given to me
and that I want to pass on, is that there is no game “out there”.
You create the game.

Sometimes that means that you have to stand alone at the edge of evolution. Especially since we live in a culture that so heavily emphasizes masculine values, there will be a lot of times when no one can affirm that you are on the right track.

If you look to the old paradigm for approval, you will only recreate the same old story. You have to be willing to walk, perhaps with trembling legs, into uncharted territory.

We are pioneers, and we are the ones that have to take a stand and value what we love,
no one can do that for us.
That is what it means to be a leader.

……..Chameli Ardagh

Find ecstasy within yourself.

It is not out there.

It is within your innermost flowering.

The one you are looking for is you.

….Osho

destiny revisited

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Some say the creative life is in ideas, some say it is in doing. It seems in most instances to be in simply being. It is not virtuosity, although that is very fine in itself. It is the love of something, having so much love for something—whether a person, a word, an image, an idea, the land, or humanity—that all that can be done with the overflow is to create. It is not a matter of wanting to, not a singular act of will; one solely must.

…….Clarissa Pinkola Estés

this crack in the light of intuitive & creative flourishing seeps into our fears & lifts us to who we are….follow those tiny urges….

To travel your journey—that journey that is yours alone—you need to prepare mentally for the unexpected. You need inner stability, inner peace. You need some toughness. You will get scared sometimes. The ups and downs are significant when you live your adventure.

……..Roderick MacIver

vague memories

If you listen,
not to the pages or preachers
but to the smallest flower
growing from a crack
in your heart,
you will hear a great song
moving across a wide ocean
whose water is the music
connecting all the islands
of the universe together,
and touching all
you will feel it
touching you
around you…
embracing you
with light.

It is in that light
that everything lives
and will always be alive.

 ……….John Squadra

the passing cold

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Last night

the rain

spoke to me

slowly, saying,

what joy

to come falling

out of the brisk cloud,

to be happy again

in a new way

on the earth!

That’s what it said

as it dropped,

smelling of iron,

and vanished

like a dream of the ocean

into the branches

and the grass below.

Then it was over.

The sky cleared.

I was standing

under a tree.

The tree was a tree

with happy leaves,

and I was myself,

and there were stars in the sky

that were also themselves

at the moment

at which moment

my right hand

was holding my left hand

which was holding the tree

which was filled with stars

and the soft rain –

imagine! imagine!

the long and wondrous journeys

still to be ours.

….Mary Oliver

in remembrance of Mom……it was so cold last year when she died…..and here we are again….so cold…….and so it is in these cycles of holding and letting go…..

Witnessing the transformation of the dying process with any degree of receptivity, participating as a fellow human being enters deeply into grace, is unforgettable and inexpressible. With such grandeur, such solemnity, and awesome revelation, we open to new levels of being. Looking at ourselves at this point in evolution, we see the opportunity to move into a deeper apprehension of the nature of reality. Life itself is calling us. Life itself wants to reveal to us the precious, vast, ceaseless, ever present nature of Spirit. Life is welcoming the contraction we call our self to relax. Grace is the common thread linking dying, contemplative practice, and spiritual growth. May we undertake the contemplative practices that will nurture our deeper and more inclusive consciousness in the midst of our lives rather than at its edge, and allow ourselves to be offerings of love and hope for those who live contracted in suffering………Kathleen Dowling Singh

where love is

Enlightenment for a wave is the moment

the wave realizes that it is water.

At that moment,

all fear of death disappears.

….Thich Nhat Hanh

the bubbling up of doubt & wonder

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Longing has its own secret future destination, and its own seasonal emergence from within, a ripening from the core; a seed growing in our own bodies. It is as if we are put into relationship with an enormous distance inside us leading back to some unknown origin now emerging and with its own secret and even ruthless timing, indifferent to our wills, while on the outside we feel it as an intimate sense of intimacy and proximity, to a lover, to a future, to a transformation, to a life we want for ourselves; to the beauty of the sky and the need for a ground beneath it on which to stand. In longing we move and are moving from a known but abstracted elsewhere, to a beautiful, about to be reached, someone, something or somewhere we want to call our own….David Whyte

that uncomfortable ease….that contradictory ache for something……that unnerving questioning seething with beautiful and necessary doubt…….

It’s like this: You are going along fine, thinking “So far so good,” and then you hit a rough patch and find you can’t keep doing what you’ve been doing. You have to take a fresh look. Disturbing questions about your life arise without asking your permission. Though you are annoyed, you are also curious. Then you run into a friend (perhaps the friend is you in a reflective moment) and after your repeat your complaints a few times, she says something like, “All that stuff you are having a hard time with? Your mind might be doing it, you know. The difference between happy and sad might be inside your mind.” At such a moment, you might say to yourself, “In theory, yes, I have something to do with my difficulties, of course. But in this case, that guy at work really is the problem.” To consider that you might have a part in your own difficulty is like a loss of innocence. Loss of innocence comes with some advantages though, the main one being self-knowledge. If you no longer believe that the problem is entirely outside, you can be curious. This thrilling but also deeply disturbing, because you thought you were your thoughts, and now you begin to suspect that you are not. In which case, who are you? Who is thinking? Being curious- about who you are and your part in your life – is a first step. But into what? Probably into a meditation practice……..John Tarrant

against the grain

Do you ever ask yourself about the meaning of life? Do you sometimes look around at this burning world and say “WTF?” Perhaps you continue to have seemingly unanswerable questions that preoccupy you. In Zen Buddhism, this type of questioning is not a problem. In fact, it’s a prerequisite for the practice of koan inquiry. There are thousands of traditional Zen koans, but they all stem from two fundamental inquiries, “Who am I?” and “What is reality?” Eventually, the discursive mind stops coming, and may be replaced by a feeling of profound wonder. This feeling, sometimes called “great doubt,” is highly valued in Zen. In this state of great doubt, something surprising might reveal itself to you. As you continue to set aside all of your conventional answers, you also set aside all of your experience into theories and memories. Don’t let anything turn solid. Keep asking and don’t give up. Eventually uou will learn to live a new kind of life- one that is continually surprising, profoundly ordinary, and full of wonder…..Melissa Myozen Blacker

casting shadows over ice

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Each new day offers possibilities and
promises that were never seen before.
…..John O’Donohue

those tears are so true…..never to reveal anything other than the wholeness of a life searching under ice……sun slowly melts and softens the heart…….swim softly……

True maturation on the spiritual path requires that we discover the depth of our wounds. As Achaan Chah put it, “If you haven’t cried a number of times, your meditation hasn’t really begun.”

Almost everyone who undertakes a true spiritual path will discover that a profound personal healing is a necessary part of his or her spiritual process. When this need is acknowledged, spiritual practice can be directed to bring such healing to body, heart, and mind. This is not a new notion. Since ancient times, spiritual practice has been described as a process of healing. The Buddha and Jesus were both known as healers of the body, as well as great physicians of the spirit.

Wise spiritual practice requires that we actively address the pain and conflict of our life in order to come to inner integration and harmony. Through the guidance of a skillful teacher, meditation can help bring this healing. Without including the essential step of healing, students will find that they are blocked from deeper levels of meditation or are unable to integrate them into their lives.

…..Jack Kornfield

lay it down

What then is our course, what the manner of our flight? This is not a journey for the feet; the feet bring us only from land to land; nor need you think of coach or ship to carry you away; all this order of things you must set aside and refuse to see: you must close the eyes and call instead upon another vision which is to be waked within you, a vision, the birth-right of all, which few turn to use.”

……Plotinus