Alison Luterman: I confess

 

I confess

I stalked her
in the grocery store: her crown
of snowy braids held in place by a great silver clip,
her erect bearing, radiating tenderness, watching
the way she placed yogurt and avocados in her basket,
beaming peace like the North Star.

I wanted to ask, “What aisle did you find
your serenity in, do you know
how to be married for fifty years or how to live alone,
excuse me for interrupting, but you seem to possess
some knowledge that makes the earth burn and turn on its axis—”

But we don’t request such things from strangers
nowadays. So I said, “I love your hair.”

– Alison Luterman

Wendell Berry: To go in the dark

 

To go in the dark
with a light
is to know the light.

To know the dark,
go dark.

Go without sight,
and find that the dark,
too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet
and dark wings.

– Wendell Berry, Terrapin: Poems by Wendell Berry

This is a very beautiful poem and I wish to allow it to work on me and do its part in transforming me.

In our culture, we are used to elevate the light over the dark, physically and metaphorically. We light up our rooms from corner to corner. We light up the outside and the streets. We bring bright flashlights with us into nature.

We value knowledge over the unknown. We value knowing over not knowing. We use light as a metaphor for something good and desirable and dark as metaphor for something bad and undesirable.

What does it mean to go in the dark with a light? Physically, it can mean to bring a bright light into the dark, for instance when we are out in nature. We see things mostly as we do in the day, we lose our ability to see in the dark, we don’t see the stars as clearly, and it silences and scares away the animals that are out during the night.

In some situations, we may also miss out of realizing that we can navigate in the light of the stars and the moon, we just need to allow our eyes to adapt to the dark, pay more attention, and slow down.

If we instead go dark, we get to experience a whole different side of nature. We get to experience and know the night as it is, with its own life and animals and activities. And we may realize we don’t need to bring a light to function and navigate in the dark, we just need to adapt, pay attention, and slow down.

I am reminded of two of many memories of being in nature at night.

One of my most beautiful memories from childhood is of a Saturday when my mother was out of town, I was going to watch children’s TV in the evening, the TV broke down, and my father and I instead went into the local forest at dusk and quietly walked in the forest after dark. We listened to birds and other creatures rummaging in the forest. It was a magical experience I still remember fondly and it did something to me. At the most obvious level, it helped me appreciate nature at dark.

Another memory I have is on the same theme but different. I did a wilderness retreat in the beautiful desert in southern Utah with Kanzeon Zen Center. The moonlit landscape made it easy to get around at night at night without a flashlight and I never used one. Most people attending the retreat – including teachers – were loud, only in passing seemed to notice the amazing beauty of the starry sky and the landscape at night, and used bright lanterns and flashlights which must have ruined their night vision.

Metaphorically, going into the dark with a light can mean to meet another person, a situation, or ourselves thinking we know. We know how the other is. What the situation is. How we are. And we know what to do. We stay within what we know, unless there is grace and the situation surprises us enough to release us out of this fantasy.

To go dark means to acknowledge we don’t know, to meet the person or situation with curiosity, receptivity, and get to know what’s there as it presents itself to us. It means to slow down, listen, and learn.

This also applies to meeting metaphorically dark areas or parts of ourselves. Parts we – and perhaps our culture – don’t like. Parts we wished were not there. Parts that don’t fit how we want to see ourselves. Or parts we simply are unfamiliar with and perhaps didin’t even know were here.

If we think we know what these parts are and how we should relate to them, or mainly rely on familiar techniques and tools, we go in with a light and may miss out of something essential.

If we instead go dark, knowing we don’t know, with receptivity and listening, we may discover more of what’s there. We may discover how these parts of us experience themselves and us. What they would like and need from us. Something we don’t know and didn’t know we didn’t know. And how we can create a more fruitful and rich partnership.

We may get to know the dark more on its own terms and we may learn from it. We may also find that getting to know it in this way transforms us. We may find just the medicine we need in the dark, and it may be something entierly different from what we expected or knew from before.

Although we are mostly day creatures and the day and light – both physically and metaphorically – are important, useful and even essential, there is also value in the dark and in going dark and getting to know the dark on its own terms.

They are two sides of existence, and two faces of life and the divine.

They are both expressions of life, the divine, and who and what we are.

And while it seems that getting to know each requires a slightly different approach, what’s required is perhaps not so different. It’s slowing down, listening, receptivity, realizing we don’t know, and a willingness to discover and learn.

In that sense, the dark can teach us not only about itself, but about who and what we are and existence in other forms that just the dark.

Rumi: I belong to the beloved

 

Not Christian or Jew or Muslim,
not Hindu, Buddhist, sufi, or zen.
Not any religion or cultural system.

I am not from the East or the West,
not out of the ocean or up from the ground,
not natural or ethereal,
not composed of elements at all.

I do not exist, am not an entity
in this world or the next,
did not descend from Adam
or Eve or any origin story.

My place is placeless,
a trace of the traceless.

Neither body or soul.

I belong to the beloved,
have seen the two worlds as one
and that one call to and know,
first, last, outer, inner,
only that breath breathing human being.

– Coleman Barks, The Essential Rumi

Mary Oliver: The Other Kingdoms

 

Consider the other kingdoms.
The trees, for example, with their mellow-sounding
titles: oak, aspen, willow.
Or the snow, for which the peoples of the north
have dozens of words to describe its
different arrivals. Or the creatures, with their
thick fur, their shy and wordless gaze.
Their infallible sense of what their lives
are meant to be. Thus the world
grows rich, grows wild, and you too,
grow rich, grow sweetly wild, as you too
were born to be.

– Mary Oliver

Kate Bush: Snowed in at Wheeler Street

 

Excuse me, I’m sorry to bother you but don’t I know you?
There’s just something about you. Haven’t we met before?
We’ve been in love forever.

When we got to the top of the hill we saw Rome burning.
I just let you walk away. I’ve never forgiven myself.
I saw you on the steps in Paris, you were with someone else.
Couldn’t you see that should’ve been me? I just walked on by.

Then we met in ’42 but we were on different sides.
I hid you under my bed but they took you away.
I lost you in a London smog as you crossed the lane.
I never know where you’re gonna be next but I know that you’ll surprise me.

Come with me, I’ll find some rope and I’ll tie us together.
I’ve been waiting for you so long, I don’t want to lose you again.
Don’t walk into the crowd again. Don’t walk away again.
I don’t want to lose you.
I don’t want to lose you.

– Kate Bush, Snowed in at Wheeler Street

This is a beautiful and somewhat heart-wrenching song. And leave it to Kate Bush to create something as beautiful, sensual, unusual, and slightly bonkers in the best possible way.

This is one of the few love stories – in western pop-culture – that continues across lifetimes.

My best guess is that we live more than once. And if we do, it’s likely that we sometimes meet again, and some of us continue our love across lives – as lovers and through other kinds of relationships.

As I have written about before, there are a few aspects to the reincarnation or re-birth idea that is worth looking at.

First, whether it’s reality or not is a question best left to research. And at some universities, they do actually do research on this. (Only considering the importance of the topic, you would think most or all universities would have a research program on this topic. It may happen in the future as – or if – our collective world-view becomes less exclusively materialistic and the stigma goes out of this and related topics.)

At a psychological level, our ideas about our own past lives are very valuable since they mirror something in us here and now. For instance, although this song is beautiful, heartfelt, and very human, it also does reflect painful beliefs. And even if I didn’t write these lyrics, they still resonate and I can use them as a pointer and reminder to take a look at this in myself. It’s an invitation to find healing for emotional around aloneness, not being worthy of love, being unfortunate, things going wrong, loss, and so on. (These are quite universal and I have some of all of those, I am no exception.)

As anything found in a religion or spiritual tradition, ideas about reincarnation have also been used to regulate groups and society. This has been helpful in some ways, although it comes with a shadow side. For instance, it’s also used to control people and justify injustice – for instance, the caste system India.

Personally, I find the idea of innumerable lives very helpful, and not just as projection objects. When I notice something in me that’s not healed and/or not awake (which happens all the time), I see that there is no time like the present. Now, I have the tools and time to invite in healing and awakening. If I put it off, I’ll just have to do it later in this life, or in a future life where I may not have the same opportunity to work with it.

Finally, if there is reincarnation – and we have many lives – it’s really the divine taking on all these forms. What continues between the lives are subtle energy structures allowing the divine to temporarily express itself as a being and take itself to be a separate being. It’s all part of lila. It’s the play of the divine.

Mary Oliver: I worried

 

“I Worried”

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
hopeless.

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems

Elias Amidon: Friend, you lie quiet

 
Friend, you lie quiet, watching the dawn light color your heart, dreaming of healing for your hurt body lying there unanswerable to your will. You breathe deep and your breath has two sides: inside and outside. You are on both, being breathed. The future approaches. You will heal or you will go back to being God. Which will you do? Oh by all that is beautiful – May it be that you live! May your body heal happy and whole! May energy fill and delight you! May we join the dance your presence gives! May you live! And if you die? Oh dear self, by all that is beautiful, Know you are Safe! Everything is All Right Forever and Ever and Ever! The most wonderful, exquisite, familiar Truth is what is True, and welcomes you. It will be very easy. You lie quiet now, praying. A great healing is coming and you want to be ready. The colors of your heart blend with the light of the morning. You are blessed. – Elias Amidon

Rumi: The Guest House

 
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi ~

A hundred complex cases against God in court

 

I know you have a hundred complex cases
Against God in court,

But never mind, wayfarer,
Let’s just get out of this mess

Hafiz/Ladinsky

A hundred complex cases

We all have a hundred complex cases against God in court. A hundred complaints. A hundred reasons why God should do things differently.

So let’s get out of this mess. Let’s explore these cases, thoroughly investigate them, evaluate the testimonies and the evidence. Let’s have a clear verdict, based on what is revealed.

Let’s get out of this mess. (Through one of the many forms of inquiry.)

A belief means identity with content

 

They decided to divide the stone into pieces.
Of course then the Priceless became lost.

Most everyone is lousy at math
And does that to God –

Dissects the Indivisible One,

By thinking, saying,
“This is my Beloved, he looks like this
And acts like that,

How could that moron over there
Really
Be
God.”

– from The Gift

In an earlier post, I mentioned the shifts from (a) a sense of I as seen, as content of awareness, as this human self, to (b) I as seeing, as pure awareness, as Witness, as that which content arises to and within, to (c) a realization of absence of I in seeing and seen, and Ground as seeing and seen.

Whenever there is a belief in a thought, in any thought, there is automatically an identification with content.

An idea is attached to, it is believed in, it is taken as true. Right there, the world is split.

It is split into I and Other. I is placed one segment of the world, leaving the rest to Other.

It is split into I as having a particular identity and Other as outside of this identity. I am those segments that fit into this network of ideas making up an identity, and whatever is left is Other.

Right away, there is an identification with content. I am this, not that.

Right there, the center of gravity is in content.

Right there, comes a sense of drama and struggle.

Right there, forgetfulness comes in.

Forgetting myself as the seeing, as pure awareness.

Forgetting myself as Ground, as seeing and seen, absent of I anywhere.

Hafiz: Lousy at Math

 
Lousy at Math

Once a group of thieves stole a rare diamond
Larger than a goose egg.

Its value could have easily bought
One thousand horses

And two thousand acres
Of the most fertile land in Shiraz.

The thieves got drunk that night
To celebrate their great haul,

But during the course of the evening
The effects of the liquor
And their mistrust of each other grew to such
An extent

They decided to divide the stone into pieces.
Of course then the Priceless became lost.

Most everyone is lousy at math
And does that to God –

Dissects the Indivisible One,

By thinking, saying,
“This is my Beloved, he looks like this
And acts like that,

How could that moron over there
Really
Be
God.”

– Hafiz, from The Gift translated by Daniel Ladinsky.

How can Bush, republicans, liberals, terrorists, fundamentalists, cancer, nuclear war, hatred, suffering, death, confusion, how can it really be God? God is everything that I believe is good, and not everything I believe is not good. Right there, the world is split. The Priceless became lost. Right there.

Hafiz: Why Aren’t We All Screaming Drunks?

 
Why Aren’t We All Screaming Drunks?

The sun once glimpsed God’s true nature
And has never been the same.

Thus that radiant sphere
Constantly pours its energy
Upon this earth
As does He from behind
The veil.

With a wonderful God like that
Why isn’t everyone a screaming drunk?

Hafiz’s guess is this:

Any thought that you are better or less
Than another man

Quickly
Breaks the wine
Glass.

– Hafiz, from The Gift translated by Daniel Ladinsky.

Any belief in any thought, and the wine glass is broken. Any belief splits the world, creates a sense of I, sets up an identity for this I, and then creates a sense of I and Other.

Hafiz: Until

 

According to the introduction in The Gift, Meher Baba saw the poems of Hafiz as a complete teaching in themselves. And I don’t find any reason to disagree.

Until

I think we are frightened every

Moment of our lives

Until we

Know

Him.

– Hafiz, from The Gift translated by Daniel Ladinsky.

When our center of gravity, our main identifiaction, is with the seen, with our human self, there is bound to be a sense of unease, dissatisfaction and fear.

This is a natural effect of filtering the world into I and Other.

The only remedy is to shift the center of gravity, the sense of I, into the seeing itself, into pure awareness.

And then to realize the absence of any I anywhere, in the seing and in the seen.