Friday, September 30, 2011

Who are you?

"Who are you?" is a surface question which has a vast, intricate rootage.  Who are you behind your mask, your role?  Who are you behind your words?  Who are you when you are alone with yourself?  In the middle of the night, when you awake, who are you then?  When dawn rescues you from the rainforest of the night, who are you before you slip back safely beneath the mask and the name by which you are known during the day?  It is one of the unnoticed achievements of daily life to keep the wild complexity of your real identity so well hidden that most people never suspect the worlds that collide in your heart. 

John O'Donohue
photo:  Peter Bowers

The Fall

There is no where in you a paradise that is no place and there
You do not enter except without a story.

To enter there is to become unnameable.

Whoever is there is homeless for he has no door and no identity
  with which to go out and to come in.

Whoever is nowhere is nobody, and therefore cannot exist except
  as unborn:
no disguise will avail him anything

Such a one is neither lost nor found.

But he who has an address is lost.

They fall, they fall into apartments and are securely established!

They find themselves in streets.  They are licensed
To proceed from place to place
They now know their own names
They can name several friends and know
Their own telephones must some time ring.

If all telephones ring at once, if all names are shouted at once and
  all cars crash at one crossing:
If all cities explode and fly away in dust.
Yet identities refuse to be lost.   There is a name and number for

There is a definite place for bodies, there are pigeon holes for
Such security can business buy!

Who would dare to go nameless in so secure a universe?
Yet, to tell the truth, only the nameless are at home in it.

They hear with them in the center of nowhere the unborn flower
  of nothing:
This is the paradise tree.  It must remain unseen until words end
  and arguments are silent.

Thomas Merton
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

It happens all the time in heaven

It happens all the time in heaven,
And some day
It will begin to happen
Again on earth -
That men and women who are married,
and men and men who are
And women and women
Who give each other
Often will get down on their knees
And while so tenderly
Holding their lover's hand,
With tears in their eyes,
Will sincerely speak, saying,
"My dear,
How can I be more loving to you;
How can I be more


Tender words

Tender words we spoke
to one another
are sealed
in the secret vaults of heaven.
One day like rain,
they will fall to earth
and grow green
all over the world.


There's no vocabulary

There's no vocabulary
For love within a family,

love that's lived in
But not looked at,

love within the light of which
All else is seen,

the love within which
All other love finds speech.

This love is silent. 

T.S. Eliot

Seeker of truth

seeker of truth
follow no path
all paths lead where
truth is here

e.e. cummings

A path is only a path

You must always keep in mind that a path is only a path.
Each path is only one of a million paths.
If you feel that you must now follow it,
you need not stay with it under any circumstances.
Any path is only a path.

There is no affront to yourself or others in dropping a path
if that is what your heart tells you to do.

But your decision to keep on a path or to leave it
must be free of fear and ambition.

I caution you: look at every path closely and deliberately.

Try it as many times as you think necessary.
Then ask yourself and yourself alone this one question.
Does this path have a heart?

All paths are the same. They lead nowhere.
They are paths going through the brush or into the brush
or under the brush of the Universe.

The only question is: Does this path have a heart?
If it does, then it is a good path.
If it doesn’t, then it is of no use.

Carlos Castaneda

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Observe your own body

Observe your own body. It breathes.

You breathe when you are asleep, when you are no longer conscious
of your own ideas of self-identity.

Who, then, is breathing?

The collection of information that you mistakenly think is you is not
the protagonist in this drama called the breath.

In fact, you are not breathing; breath is naturally happening to you.

You can purposely end your own life, but you cannot purposely
keep your own life going.

The expression, ‘my life’ is actually an oxymoron,
a result of ignorance and mistaken assumption.

You don’t possess life; life expresses itself through you.

Your body is a flower that life let bloom,
a phenomenon created by life.

 Ilchi Lee


Wayfarer, the only way
is your footsteps, there is no other.

Wayfarer, there is no way,
you make the way by walking.
As you go, you make the way
and stopping to look behind,
you see the path that your feet
will never travel again.

Wayfarer, there is no way -
Only foam trails to the sea.

 Antonio Machado


I believe in all that has never yet been spoken

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for
may for once spring clear
without my contriving.
If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.
Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,
streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.

Rainer Maria Rilke


The Wood is shining this morning.
Red, gold and green, the leaves
lie on the ground, or fall,
or hang full of light in the air still.
Perfect in its rise and in its fall, it takes
the place it has been coming to forever.
It has not hastened here, or lagged.
See how surely it has sought itself,
its roots passing lordly through the earth.
See how without confusion it is
all that it is, and how flawless
its grace is. Running or walking, the way
is the same. Be still. Be still.

Wendell Berry
Photo:  Peter Morgan

Sunday, September 25, 2011

All things are empty

All things are empty: 
Nothing is born, nothing dies, 
nothing is pure, 
nothing is stained, 
nothing increases and nothing decreases. 

So, in emptiness, there is no form, no feeling, no thought, no will, no consciousness. 
There are no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind.
 There is no seeing, no hearing, no smelling, no tasting, no touching, no imagining. 
No plane of sight, no plane of thought. There is no ignorance, and no end to ignorance. 
There is no old age and death, and no end to old age and death. 
There is no suffering, no cause of suffering, no end to suffering, no path to suffering. 
There is no attainment of wisdom, and no wisdom to attain.

 the heart sutra

This is fullness

This is fullness.
That is fullness.
From fullness springs fullness.
Take fullness from fullness
and only fullness remains.
Om peace, peace, peace.

Om purnam-adah
Purnaat purnam-udachyate
Purnasya purnam-aadaaya
Om shanti shanti shanti

Invocation Brhadarayaka Upanishad
photo:  Peter Bowers

Old Pond

Old pond,
frog jumps in -


Living World of Longing

Each person is a living world of longing.  You are here not simply because you were sent here.  You are here because you long to be here.  A person is an incarnation of longing.  Behind your image, role, personality, and deeper than your thoughts, there is a pulse of desire that sustains you in the world.  All your thoughts, feelings, and actions arise from a secret source within you which desires life.  This is where your sense of life is rooted.  Your sense of life expresses itself in your convictions, intentions, and passions; it precedes them.   Your sense of life is pre-reflective, yet passionate and powerful.  This secret presence of longing helps you endure the routine of the daily round; it emerges strongly when difficulty entangles you, or when suffering strips away your networks of connection with the world.  Your sense of life is not something you can invent or force with your mind.  It is the wisdom of your clay and is eternally acquainted with awakening.


Johon O'Donohue
Eternal Echoes

The Deepest Words

In our souls everything
moves guided by a mysterious hand.
We know nothing of our own souls
that are ununderstandable and say nothing.

The deepest words
of the wise man teach us
the same as the whistle of the wind when it blows
or the sound of the water when it is flowing.

Antonio Machado
photo:  Peter Bowers

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

We dance around in a ring

We dance around in a ring and suppose,
but the secret sits in the middle and knows.

Robert Frost
photo:  Peter Bowers

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Unknown Evokes Wonder


The unknown evokes wonder. If you lose your sense of wonder, you lose the sacramental majesty of the world. Nature is no longer a presence, it is a thing.  Your life becomes a dead cage of fact.  The sense of the eternal recedes, and time is reduced to routine.  Yet the flow of our lives cannot be stopped.  This is one of the amazing facts about being in the dance of life.  There is no place to step outside.  There is no neutral space in human life.  There is no place to go to get out of it.  There is no little cabin down at the bottom of the garden where the force and familiarity of life stop, and you can sit there in a space outside your life and yourself and look in on both. Once you are in life, it embraces you totally.

John O'Donohue
from Eternal Echoes
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Absence is full of tender presence

May you know that absence is full of tender presence and
that nothing is forgotten.
May the absences in your life be full of eternal echo.
May you sense around you the secret Elsewhere which
holds the presences that have left your life.
May you be generous in your embrace of loss.
May the sore well of grief turn into a well of seamless
May your compassion reach out to the ones we never hear
from and may you have the courage to speak out for
the excluded ones.
May you become the gracious and passionate subject of
your own life.
May you not disrespect your mystery through brittle
words or false belonging.
May you be embraced by God in whom dawn and twilight
are one, and may your belonging inhabit its deepest
dreams within the shelter of the Great Belonging.

John O'Donohue
from Eternal Echoes
photo:   Peter Bowers

Friday, September 16, 2011

What the Living Do

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably
    fell down there.
And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes
   have piled up.

waiting for the plumber I still haven't called.  This is the everyday we
   spoke of.
It's winter again:  the sky's a deep headstrong blue, and the sunlight
   pours through.

the open living room windows because the heat's on too high in here, and
   I can't turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street,
   the bag breaking,

I've been thinking:  This is what the living do.  And yesterday, hurrying
   along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my
   wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush:  This is it.
Parking.  Slamming the car door shut in the cold.  What you called
   that yearning.

What you finally gave up.  We want the spring to come and the winter to
   pass.  We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss - we want more and more and
   then more of it. 

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the
   window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing
   so deep.

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm
I am living, I remember you. 

Marie Howe


You keep waiting for something to happen,
the thing that lifts you out of yourself,

catapults you into doing all the things you've put off
the great things you're meant to do in your life,

but somehow never quite get to.
You keep waiting for the planets to shift

The new moon to bring news,
the universe to align, something to give.

Meanwhile, the piles of papers, the laundry, the dishes, the job -
it all stacks up while you keep hoping

for some miracle to blast down upon you,
scattering the piles to the winds.

Sometimes you lie in bed, terrified of your life.
Sometimes you laugh at the privilege of waking.

But all the while, life goes on its messy way.
And then you turn forty.  Or Fifty.  Or sixty...

and some part of you realizes you are not alone
and you find signs of this in the animal kingdom -

when a snake sheds its skin its eyes glaze over,
it slinks under a rock, not wanting to be touched,

and when a caterpillar turns to butterfly
if the pupa is brushed, it will die -

and when the bird taps its beak hungrily against the egg
it's because the thing is too small, too small.

and it needs to break out.
And midlife walks you into that wisdom

that this is what transformation looks like -
the mess of it, the tapping at the walls of your life,

the yearning and writhing and pushing,
until one day, one day

you emerge from the wreck
embracing both the immense dawn

and the dusk of the body,
glistening, beautiful

just as you are.

Leza Lowitz

Thursday, September 15, 2011

All things change and die

All things change and die and disappear.
Questions arrive, assume their actuality, and disappear.
In this hour I shall cease to ask them
and silence shall be my answer.
The world that Your love created,
that the heat has distorted,
that my mind is always misinterpreting,
shall cease to interfere with our voices.

Thomas Merton
from Dialogues with Silence
photo:  Peter Bowers

The Last Time

The last time we had dinner together in a restaurant
with white tablecloths, he leaned forward

and took my two hands in his hands and said,
I'm going to die soon.  I want you to know that.

And I said, I think I do know.
And he said, What surprises me is that you don't.

And I said, I do.  And he said, What?
And I said, Know that you're going to die.

And he said, No, I mean know that you are.

Marie Howe 

The Gate

I had no idea that the gate I would step through
to finally enter this world

would be the space my brother's body made.  He was
a little taller than me:  a young man

but grown, himself by then,
done at twenty-eight, having folded every sheet,

rinsed every glass he would ever rinse under the cold
and running water.

This is what you have been waiting for, he used to say to me.
And I'd say, What?

And he'd say, This - holding up my cheese and mustard sandwich.
And I'd say, What?

and he'd say, This, sort of looking around. 

Marie Howe

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Sweetness of Dogs (Fifteen)

What do you say, Percy?  I am thinking
of sitting out on the sand to watch
the moon rise.  Full tonight. 
So we go

and the moon rises, so beautiful it
makes me shudder, makes me think about
time and space, makes me take
measure of myself:  one iota
pondering heaven.  Thus we sit,

I thinking how grateful I am for the moon's
perfect beauty and also, oh! how rich
it is to love the world.  Percy meanwhile,
leans against me and gazes up into
my face.  As though I were
his perfect moon.

Mary Oliver

The darkest point

You enter the forest at the darkest point,
where there is no path.

Where there is a way or a path,
it is someone else's path;
each human being is a unique phenomenon. 

The idea is to find your own way. 

Joseph Campbell
photo:  Peter Bowers


Not until a person dissolves, can
he or she know what union is.

There is a descent into emptiness.
A lie will not change to truth
with just talking about it.

Longing is the core of mystery
Longing itself brings the cure.
The only rule is, suffer the pain.

Your desire must be disciplined,
and what you want to happen
in time, sacrificed.

photo:  Peter Bowers


Listen to presences
inside poems,
Let them take you where they will.

Follow those private hints,
and never leave the premises.

photo:  Peter Bowers

No Room for Form

On the night when you cross the street
from your shop and your house
to the cemetery,

you'll hear me hailing you from inside
the open grave, and you'll realize
how we've always been together.

I am the clear consciousness-core
of your being, the same in
ecstasy as in self-hating fatigue.

That night, when you escape the fear of snakebite
and all irritation with the ants, you'll hear
my familiar voice, see the candle being lit,

smell the incense, the surprise meal fixed
by the lover inside all you other lovers. 

This heart-tumult is my signal
to you igniting in the tomb.

So don't fuss with the shroud
and the graveyard road dust.

Those get ripped open and washed away
in the music of our finally meeting.

And don't look for me in a human shape.
I am inside your looking.  No room
for form with love this strong.

Beat the drum and let the poets speak.
This is a day of purification for those who
are already mature and initiated into what love is 

No need to wait until we die!
There's more to want here than money
and being famous and bites of roasted meat.

Now, what shall we call this new sort of gazing-house
that has opened in our town where people sit
quietly and pour out their glancing
like light, like answering? 

photo:  Peter Bowers

Monday, September 12, 2011

How I go to the Woods

Ordinarily I go to the woods alone, with not a single
friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore

I don't really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds
or hugging the old black oak tree.  I have my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours.

Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible.  I can sit
on top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned.  I can hear the almost
unhearable sound of the roses singing.


If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love
you very much.

Mary Oliver
photo:  Peter Bowers

That would really be something

I would like to make nothing
a verb.  I nothing.  You nothing. 

We nothing.  That second person
plural is my favourite conjugation. 

Imagine.  Both of us nothinging together. 
Where?  I don't care.  The garden.

The alley.  The canyon.  The floor. 
More nothing.  Oh, it's nothing. 

Nothing is sacred, anymore. 
And there, on the altar of air

our minds and bodies rest.  They unfold
in the hollow, the gaps.  Though

when nothing happens, that's
all I want to talk about.  I thrill

at nothing.  I love nothing.
Nothing's perfect.  Nothing's easy.

The grass continues to grow.
Nothing to do.  Nothing to say

Let's nothing together all day. 

Rosemerry  Wahtola Trommer


The way the dog trots out the front door
every morning
without a hat or an umbrella,
without any money
or the keys to her doghouse
never fails to fill the saucer of my heart
with milky admiration.
Who provides a finer example
of a life without encumbrance—
Thoreau in his curtainless hut
with a single plate, a single spoon?
Gandhi with his staff and his holy diapers?
Off she goes into the material world
with nothing but her brown coat
and her modest blue collar,
following only her wet nose,
the twin portals of her steady breathing,
followed only by the plume of her tail.
If only she did not shove the cat aside
every morning
and eat all his food
what a model of self-containment she
would be,
what a paragon of earthly detachment.
If only she were not so eager
for a rub behind the ears,
so acrobatic in her welcomes,
if only I were not her god.

Billy Collins

I would like to live

I would like to live
Like a river flows,
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding

John O'Donohue

When despair in the world grows in me

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

 Wendell Berry
 photo:  Peter Bowers

Happy are those who know

Happy are those who know
behind all words, the Unsayable stands,
and from that source, the Infinite
crosses over to gladness, and us.
Free of those bridges we raise
with constructed distinctions;
so that always, in each separate joy,
we gaze at the single, wholly mutual core.
Grace is not something to be acquired from others.
If it is external, it is useless.
All that is necessary is to know its existence in you.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Who says words with my mouth

All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that,
and I intend to end up there.
This drunkenness began in some other tavern.
When I get back around to that place,
I’ll be completely sober. Meanwhile,
I’m like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary.
the day is coming when I fly off,
but who is it now in my ear, who hears my voice?
Why says words with my mouth?
Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul?
I cannot stop asking.
If I could taste one sip of an answer,
I could break out of this prison for drunks.
I didn’t come here of my own accord, and I can’t leave that way.
Let whoever brought me here take me back.
This poetry. I never know what I’m going to say.
I don’t plan it.
When I’m outside the saying of it,
I get very quiet and rarely speak at all.



Silence of the forest

One might say
I had decided to marry
the silence of the forest.
The sweet dark warmth of
the whole world
will have to be my wife.
Out of the heart of
that dark warmth
comes the secret that is heard
only in silence,
but is the root of all the secrets
that are whispered
by all the lovers in their beds
all over the world.
So perhaps I have an obligation to
preserve the stillness,
the silence, the poverty,
the original virginal point of
pure nothingness
which is at the center
of all other loves.

Thomas Merton

Wind in the Pine Trees

No writing on the solitary, meditative dimensions of life can say anything
that has not already been said better by the wind in the pine trees.
These pages seek nothing more than to echo the silence and peace
that is “heard” when the rain wanders freely among the hills and forests.

But what can the wind say when there is no hearer?

 There is then a deeper silence:
 the silence in which the Hearer is No-Hearer.
That deeper silence must be heard before one can speak truly of solitude.

Thomas Merton

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Be still

Be still.
Listen to the stones of the wall.
Be silent, they try
To speak your

to the living walls.
Who are you?
are you? Whose
Silence are you?

Who (be quiet)
Are you (as these stones
Are quiet.) Do not
Think of what you are
Still less of
What you may one day be.
Be what you are (but who?) be
The unthinkable one
You do not know.

Thomas Merton
photo:  Peter Bowers

I dream of a quiet man

I dream of a quiet man
who explains nothing and defends
nothing, but only knows
where the rarest of wildflowers
are blooming, and who goes,
and finds that he is smiling
not by his own will.

Wendell Berry
photo:  Peter Bowers

Monday, September 5, 2011

mysteries, yes

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
"Look!" and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

Mary Oliver