Poetry | Nostalgic Stirrings

I wrote this a few weeks ago for a friend. I can’t recall the prompt or challenge, but it succinctly captures some experiences and ideas I’ve explored on this blog in the last year – love, loss, remembrance – while riffing on a lot of references including posts I’ve written over years without any sense of name-dropping. In a way, it’s a short, poetic expression of my first intentionally recorded philosophy riffing post on my birthday last year (my most joyous birthday present to myself). I had a sense that my friend would never listen to that much longer description, and I think this poem did a decent enough job of capturing the same experience from a slightly different perspective now.

I honestly wasn’t going to share this poem, but I’m currently getting better from COVID, and I saw it on my computer randomly a couple days back. The words took me aback. Something about the feeling of growing onward into health and flourishing makes me feel like it’s an affirmation to share it, even if I doubt my own stepping out of the Moon card into the Sun card will be anything like the experience described.


Synchronicity, resonance in time
An abstract word
Until our heartbeats entwined
As though from plan designed
Ideas absurd
But doubting the experience – a crime

Together was a new understanding
Of life, of love
An explosion of heart
And the sense of flying high
Wings spread on the warm wind,
Gliding along,
Companionship of brightest warmth
Of greatest power

I held her once
Lying in the dark, listening to a chorus
Frenetic frolick of froggy frenzy
Spring’s promise

My heart-mind fell away
My body ceased to be
Universal presence
Hyperabundance – no longer her and me
No us, no separation
Just everything: love loving itself
The lightning bolt of flashing into being

The night was the most chaste
No kissing, fondling, or exploring erotic arts
And yet
An intimacy more profound
Than many ever experience

From time to time
Sounds – frogs, the wind, laughter, birds’ chirping
Resonate
And synchronicity momentarily returns
The beautiful sound of hyperabundant love
Playing the heartstrings for a few fleeting seconds

Poetry | Instrumental Music

I wrote this poem as a brief, spontaneous creative exercise from a prompt. I didn’t make a second pass to polish. It’s simply an impromptu response that took a few minutes. I thought it worth sharing. It feels particularly poignant, as I’m excited to go to a post-rock mini-festival this weekend.

The prompt:
1. Paint your lyrics on my canvas
2. Between a rock and a soft place

Music without words
Flows
An emotional landscape
The whole body reverberates as a canvas
For the instruments to paint
Their “lyrics” on
A symphony of sensation
Beyond words

The mind is hard
Seeking certainty, truth, and absolutes
It crushes down to powder and cuts to pieces
With sharp edges and a hard core
The heart is soft
Feeling and beating with the world
It touches and is touched by all
With connection and the break of disconnect

The right music
Tickles the beating heart’s feeling
And defies the ready capture of the mind
Drifting between them
Inspiring the greatest power of both
Defying both’s petrification
It is unstoppable
Between that rock and a soft place

Heartbreak | Poetry | Crimson Drops

A rough attempt at poetry – initially thought of during a recent run. The beginning is merely a symbolic expression of the pain of loss – not any message of intention at self-harm.


Languid flow oozes – ebbing life and death
Crimson crystals coagulate
Drops fall to the ground
Mixing with the salt of tears

The stain of such a staunched flow
Crimson – the deep color of compassion
Mahayana monk’s tender tone
A reminder: death (XIII) is transition

Romance may have withered and fallen
The faded crimson of a dead rose
Yet heart’s vulnerability
Can hear the cries of the entire world

Twisted knot on my arm
Crimson dyes of tattooed ink
A lucky symbol and inspiration
Wisdom and compassion: entwined as reality

No matter my despair
My raw flesh of heart
Can pull in all the despair of the world
And push out peace to all – tonglen


May this pull in the despair of heartbreak from all those who feel it, take it upon myself, and replace it in everyone out there with warmth, acceptance, and peace.

Gassho!

Heartbreak | Poetry for a Pulverized Heart

I’ve wanted to explore the topic of heartbreak and healing through a spiritual lens by riffing on a few of my favorite spiritual texts and trying to make them into some heartfelt poetry. This will be an attempt at that.


Form is emptiness.
Emptiness is form.
Form is nothing other than emptiness.
Emptiness is nothing other than form.
Love is nothing other than heartbreak.
Heartbreak is nothing other than love.
The arising of love is the flux that also flows out into its absence.
With gain is loss. With attachment is separation.
All such dharmas, every dharma, the entirety of the ten thousand things,
Each, no more substantial than dreams.
Each as empty – impermanent and without a Self, an identity that lasts.
As such: “Slogan 2. Regard all dharmas as dreams”.
Each can pop and be gone in the blink of an eye.
Even a life can.

The pulverized heart – pulverized: something crushed into powder: pulver.
It is perhaps the greatest emptiness.
A flux of confusion, hurt, memory, despair, hopelessness,
And perhaps, the last reverberations of a beat:
A small echo of the past and a yearning for it to grow back into life.
None of it solid. None of it stable.
Complete emotional rawness.
Potential opening for vulnerable wisdom – a being-here to sit with.

Form is emptiness.
Emptiness is form.
There is no love. No heartbreak. No connection. No rupture. No gain. No loss. No joy. No grief. No healing. No hurt. No learning. No forgetting. No path. No resolution.
All of it, gone, gone, beyond gone, completely beyond the concept of gone.

And yet…
Form is form. In each moment, just this – the entire universe is this present moment.
Emptiness is emptiness. The goings and comings are being-time; time-being.
We misunderstand them because we don’t understand the beat of time.
For love to last, effort must be put in – the consistency that is accomplished through change.
Be water, my friend.

Seeing clearly is sitting without attachment.
It’s cutting through the grasping onto form, emptiness, and any arising.
It’s severing the ties that hold us to our devils: all being creations of mind.
When heartbreak arises, cut through the narratives, justifications, and demons of ego.
When love arises, cut through the narratives, justifications, and demons of ego.
As should be remembered:
“Flowers fall even though we love them. Weeds grow even though we dislike them.”

Just this.


For reference, this free-form poetry is riffing hard on The Heart Sutra, Dogen’s Genjokoan from his Shobogenzo, some ideas from Mahayana Buddhism in general, particularly the 8 worldly concerns (gain and loss being two of them), The Tao Te Ching, the 52 slogans from the 7 points of mind training (Lojong) in Tibetan Buddhism, and Machik Lapdrön’s The Great Bundle of Precepts (the founder of Chöd and an absolutely radical female monk from the Middle Ages – highly suggested reading).

To end, I’d like to quote three poetic passages from Addiss and Lombardo’s as well as Red Pine’s translations of The Tao Te Ching, as I find them absolutely beautiful and inspirational, and I feel they speak to this problem of duality in experience and how to behave as a Sage who gets to the fundamental aspect of doing well without getting caught in the self-involved pain of trying to jump only from gain to gain to gain to gain.

Recognize beauty and ugliness is born.
Recognize good and evil is born.

Is and Isn’t produce each other.

Hard depends on easy,
Long is tested by short,
High is determined by low,
Sound is harmonized by voice
After is followed by before.

Therefore the Sage is devoted to non-action.
Moves without teaching,
Creates ten thousand things without instruction,
Lives but does not own,
Acts but does not presume,
Accomplishes without taking credit.

When no credit is taken,
Accomplishment endures.

Tao Te Ching – trans. Addiss and Lombardo; chapter 2

7

Heaven is eternal and Earth is immortal
the reason they’re eternal and immortal
is because they don’t live for themselves
hence they can live forever
sages therefore pull themselves back
and end up in front
put themselves outside
and end up safe
is it not because of their selflessness
whatever they seek they find

8

The best are like water
bringing help to all
without competing
choosing what others avoid
they thus approach the Tao
dwelling with earth
thinking with depth
helping with kindness
speaking with honesty
governing with peace
working with skill
and moving with time
and because they don’t compete
they aren’t maligned

Lao-Tzu’s TaoTeChing – trans. Red Pine; chapters 7 and 8

Heartbreak | Poetry | Undeath

Loss, death, grief
The heart stills
And feels empty
Yearning for a spark
Life — no longer present

And yet, not dead either
Like a hungry ghost,
Starving for the desired
While still shambling around in this body
A facsimile of the person before

Unheimlich” — unhomey, uncanny
The space between alive and dead
The heart between overflowing and pulverized
How do you sit here in undeath? In unlife?
The presence of sitting contains multitudes…

The depths of feeling light the way
Truth lies not in a covered heart, in a comfortable story that explains away
Courage to face everything authentically
Such is real love
Such is the intensity of life and death to wake the heart


May this help others find their own ability to sit in the feelings of loss, confusion, and despair.

Gassho!

Poetry and Life: “Stufen”

I’ve recently been looking for new bands which catch my ear and speak to my heart. I love post-rock, and it’s a genre that’s difficult to wade through, in the sense that there are a lot of bands that sound similar within separate subsets of the genre, and if you like one style, you may only have a few other bands that really speak to you, but finding them may take listening through a lot of other stuff. What can I say? I’m a bit picky.

In any case, I found a German band, Frames, yesterday, and was impressed with their album, “In Via”. The second song blew me away with a sampling of a poem by Hermann Hesse, in which he’s reading his “Stufen”, which I had not run across previously. Furthermore, this poem is amazingly apropos for me, as it speaks of how every stage of life is transitory and how we must go through them with an open heart of joy. Even in death, there are further possibilities for ourselves and for the rest of the world.

Here is a link to a site with both the poem and the full recording of Hesse’s reading. I’m providing the poem here with my own attempt at an English translation, which I love to do but have not had the chance to in some time. If you’re interested in just the English, scroll down to it.


Original German:

Wie jede Blüte welkt und jede Jugend
Dem Alter weicht, blüht jede Lebensstufe,
Blüht jede Weisheit auch und jede Tugend
Zu ihrer Zeit und darf nicht ewig dauern.
Es muß das Herz bei jedem Lebensrufe
Bereit zum Abschied sein und Neubeginne,
Um sich in Tapferkeit und ohne Trauern
In andre, neue Bindungen zu geben.
Und jedem Anfang wohnt ein Zauber inne,
Der uns beschützt und der uns hilft, zu leben.

Wir sollen heiter Raum um Raum durchschreiten,
An keinem wie an einer Heimat hängen,
Der Weltgeist will nicht fesseln uns und engen,
Er will uns Stuf´ um Stufe heben, weiten.
Kaum sind wir heimisch einem Lebenskreise
Und traulich eingewohnt, so droht Erschlaffen;
Nur wer bereit zu Aufbruch ist und Reise,
Mag lähmender Gewöhnung sich entraffen.

Es wird vielleicht auch noch die Todesstunde
Uns neuen Räumen jung entgegen senden,
Des Lebens Ruf an uns wird niemals enden,
Wohlan denn Herz, nimm Abschied und gesunde!


My attempt at an English translation:

As every blossom withers and every youth
Subsides with age, blossoms every lifestage,
Blossoms every wisdom and also every virtue
In its time and cannot last forever.
The heart, with life’s every call,
Must be ready for the farewell and a fresh start,
In order to give itself to other, new connections
With mettle and without mourning.
And magic resides within every outset,
Which protects us and helps us live.

We should buoyantly stride through one space to another,
Hanging onto none as a homeland,
The World-Spirit* does not want to shackle and narrow us,
It wants to lift us from stage to stage, to broaden us.
Barely have we gotten accustomed in a circle of life,
And cozily settled, before enervation threatens;
Only those ready for departure and journey,
May escape paralyzing habituation.

Even the final hour will perhaps
Send us freshly towards new spaces,
Life’s call to us will never end,
Now then, Heart, take leave with health!

SONY DSC

Note: “Stufen” is more literally translated as “Steps”. In the poem, it makes more sense as “stages”.

* – Note: The “World-Spirit” is a concept from Hegel’s philosophy about the development of the universe’s consciousness (to put it as simply, and perhaps, overly ham-handedly as possible).


May this poem inspire others in making sense of the changes in life.

Gassho!

Respir(it)ation

Note: To fully appreciate the title and the topic of this poem, read about the etymology of “spirit” here.


Air brushes in
Rasping gently through
Tight passages
Winding its way
Deep inside
Lungs fill
Oxygen crosses membranes
Blood absorbs
*Thump, tha-thump*
Heart beats
And the entire body
Is provided life
Breath, air, oxygen
Spirit

What was moments ago
Outside, separate, part of the World
Other, inanimate, simple gas
Has, in a breath,
Intimately entwined itself
Into the depths of the body —
Life, animation, blood and energy
Respir(it)ation
Me

file2341263158331

Blood flow returns
The waste, the exhaust
Exchange CO2 for O2
— Lungs never empty —
Inside for outside
Outside for inside
— The answer to life’s mystery:
A chiasm between inner and outer?
Between Self and World? —
Air pressed back out
As diaphragm asserts
Body becomes World
As remnants of
Respir(it)ation
Are secreted
This is the great secret
No separation
Where does one end
And the other begin?

The Design

*Click*…
Right into place
The position of rest
Purpose relaxed
Yet poised
One click away
From action

The pen’s form
Serves its purpose
A design
Essence preceding
Existence
We seek the same
Purpose, aim, meaning
In our lives
Yet they remain
Always already
A design in progress
An essence unfolding
Both hidden and familiar
Emptiness coming into…
Emergence
Don’t grasp
*Click*…

IMG_20170411_084706

Savoring the Moment

Rushing
Exhausts
But gives meaning
Excitement about the next:
Thing
Event
Experience
Time ticks by
So quickly
Hardly experienced at all
Each moment passed over
For the next
A succession
No calm
No focus
Just consumption
With an ongoing
Indigestion
Not savoring any moment
In its fullness

Stop
Just breathe
Just be

file8311250394878


May this help you pause and attend to your ephemeral existence in its fullness.

Gassho!

Giving Heart (Part 1)

Then what is the answer?- Not to be deluded by dreams.
To know that great civilizations have broken down into violence,
and their tyrants come, many times before.
When open violence appears, to avoid it with honor or choose
the least ugly faction; these evils are essential.
To keep one’s own integrity, be merciful and uncorrupted
and not wish for evil; and not be duped
By dreams of universal justice or happiness. These dreams will
not be fulfilled.
To know this, and know that however ugly the parts appear
the whole remains beautiful. A severed hand
Is an ugly thing and man dissevered from the earth and stars
and his history… for contemplation or in fact…
Often appears atrociously ugly. Integrity is wholeness,
the greatest beauty is
Organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty
of the universe. Love that, not man
Apart from that, or else you will share man’s pitiful confusions,
or drown in despair when his days darken.

-Robinson Jeffers, “The Answer”


Recent times have felt dark, dramatic, frustrating, tiring, and for many, hopeless. The ongoing machinations of politics churn on, day by day, and the constant news cycle and endless coverage which makes scandals of both sides a spectacle of semingly equivalent duality, breeding a jaded cynicism. “It doesn’t matter. They’re all the same.” Or: “I’m tired of voting for the lesser of two evils.”

This has been on my mind recently because this false equivalence and apathy loom as dangerous for all of us, for the entire planet. This post is meant as a message to give heart to the importance of the lesser of two evils, and a second post will aim to help you find engagement in an even more important way: stepping forward to bring goodness, kindness, and wholeness — integrity to your own life and those you encounter around you.

The poem I’ve quoted speaks volumes. We get so caught up in abstract notions of justice and how our society would be made perfect. We yearn for our own benefit or maybe that of our closest connections, yet the world changes around us: wars tearing others’ lives and families apart and environmental changes ravaging the whole system with the full scale of its impact yet to be seen. Recent news stories tell of the death of the majority of wildlife in the next couple decades; some speak of this as the sixth extinction occurring in our midst. However, we worry ourselves about missing emails and whether candidates are really friends with Russia or not. For the choosing of the lesser of two evils, it would be wise to consider these much larger issues, remembering our place in the unity of all — overcoming the general separation that we feel from our place in that greater whole. We should ask ourselves how a candidate will improve or harm the well-being of everyone in this country and around the world. Ask yourself if this person could or would stand against climate change, the suffering of others, and the systemic problems that grow in a changing world. We’re part of it all. Walling ourselves off from each other and our environment out of idealistic reasons may strengthen the ego, but in the long run, such actions hurt you and all of us, the life of the entire planet. Choose after you have really thought about this. Make the choice that avoids open violence – against fellow men and the divine life of nature that is this precious home we live in. Instead of squabbling over ideals and abstract absolutes, make the choice that furthers the protection and health of these things – life itself – and in so doing, you can make a choice of integrity, one that is both necessary and one that helps you wake up from deluded dreams. This is how you affirm a choice that would otherwise make you feel cynical.

sludge


May this help you see the greater unity that can be served by making choices for the betterment of all.

Gassho!

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