Monday, November 7, 2016

The End


Not every man knows what he shall sing at the end,
Watching the pier as the ship sails away, or what it will seem like
When he's held by the sea's roar, motionless, there at the end,
Or what he shall hope for once it is clear that he'll never go back.

When the time has passed to prune the rose or caress the cat,
When the sunset torching the lawn and the full moon icing it down
No longer appear, not every man knows what he'll discover instead.
When the weight of the past leans against nothing, and the sky

Is no more than remembered light, and the stories of cirrus
And cumulus come to a close, and all the birds are suspended in flight,
Not every man knows what is waiting for him, or what he shall sing
When the ship he is on slips into darkness, there at the end.
–Mark Strand
The Continuous Life
in memory of the man who fell to earth



Sunday, November 6, 2016

when I die



When I die, I will see the lining of the world.
The other side, beyond bird, mountain, sunset.
The true meaning, ready to be decoded.
What never added up will add Up,
What was incomprehensible will be comprehended.
- And if there is no lining to the world?
If a thrush on a branch is not a sign,
But just a thrush on the branch? If night and day
Make no sense following each other?
And on this earth there is nothing except this earth?
- Even if that is so, there will remain
A word wakened by lips that perish,
A tireless messenger who runs and runs
Through interstellar fields, through the revolving galaxies,
And calls out, protests, screams.

–Czesław Miłosz


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

fork in the road


The experience of the gap between the cessation of one moment and the arising of the next is nothing less than the “moment of truth” that will determine our direction and shape our future experience.

In Tibetan, we say that in each moment we are at a fork in the road.

Whichever fork or direction we take, it is important to realize that all appearances are, ultimately speaking, aspects of the nature of our own mind. They do not exist in a manner that is independent of our minds.

—Dzogchen Ponlop
Mind Beyond Death

Sunday, October 23, 2016

I am involved


No man is an island,
Entire of itself.

Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.

Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee.

–John Donne

Robert Mapplethorpe
Waves (Left, Center, Right) 1980


Saturday, October 22, 2016

It Was Like This: You Were Happy


It was like this:
you were happy, then you were sad,
then happy again, then not.

It went on.
You were innocent or you were guilty.
Actions were taken, or not.

At times you spoke, at other times you were silent.
Mostly, it seems you were silent—what could you say?

Now it is almost over.
Like a lover, your life bends down and kisses your life.

It does this not in forgiveness—
between you, there is nothing to forgive—
but with the simple nod of a baker at the moment
he sees the bread is finished with transformation.

Eating, too, is a thing now only for others.

It doesn’t matter what they will make of you
or your days: they will be wrong,
they will miss the wrong woman, miss the wrong man,
all the stories they tell will be tales of their own invention.

Your story was this: you were happy, then you were sad,
you slept, you awakened.
Sometimes you ate roasted chestnuts, sometimes persimmons.

–Jane Hirshfield
for J.S.



Friday, October 21, 2016



Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Pantheist, excerpt


Yea, I am one with all I see,

With wind and wave, with pine and palm;

Their very elements in me

Are fused to make me what I am.

Through me their common life-stream flows,

And when I yield this human breath,

In leaf and blossom, bud and rose,

Live on I will….

There is no Death.

–Robert Service


Monday, October 17, 2016

life is more true than reason will deceive


life is more true than reason will deceive

(more secret or than madness did reveal)

deeper is life than lose:higher than have

—but beauty is more each than living’s

allmultiplied by infinity sans if

the mightiest meditations of mankind

cancelled are by one merely opening leaf

(beyond whose nearness there is no beyond)

or does some littler bird than eyes can learn

look up to silence and completely sing?

futures are obsolete;pasts are unborn

(here less than nothing’s more than everything)

death,as men call him,ends what they call men

—but beauty is more now than dying’s when

–E. E. Cummings


Sunday, October 16, 2016

your homecoming will be my homecoming


your homecoming will be my homecoming-
my selves go with you,only i remain;
a shadow phantom effigy or seeming
(an almost someone always who’s noone)

a noone who,till their and your returning,
spends the forever of his loneliness
dreaming their eyes have opened to your mourning

feeling their stars have risen through your skies:
so,in how merciful love’s own name,linger
no more than selfless i can quite endure
the absence of that moment when a stranger
takes in his arms my very lifes who’s you

-when all fears hopes beliefs doubts disappear.
Everywhere and joy’s perfect wholeness we’re.

E. E. Cummings



Saturday, October 15, 2016

transformed into arrows


Transformed into arrows
let's all go, body and soul!
Piercing the air
let's go, body and soul,
with no way of return,
transfixed there,
rotting with the pain of striking home,
never to return.

One last breath! Now, let's quit the string,
throwing away like rags
all we've had for decades
all we've enjoyed for decades
all we've piled up for decades,
the lot.
Transformed into arrows
let's all go, body and soul!

The air is shouting! Piercing the air
let's go, body, and soul!
In dark daylight the target is rushing towards us.
Finally, as the target topples
in a shower of blood,
let's all just once as arrows

Never to return!
Never to return!

Hail, arrows, our nation's arrows!
Hail, Warriors! Spirits of the fallen!

–Ko Un
Brother Anthony translation


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Making Friends With Death

Myogen Steve Stücky
Colleen Morton Busch

When I die, don’t say I battled cancer.
Please say I befriended it.
I don’t have cancer—yet—but the person I’ve shared my life with for the past 15 years does, as do many others I love. Breast cancer runs in my family. It’s probably just a matter of time until the suspicious finding on the mammogram turns out not to be benign. I’ve borrowed this idea of befriending from a man who died of an aggressive pancreatic cancer in 2013 and modeled how to meet his own death with a radical curiosity.

I got to know Myogen Steve Stücky, former abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center, while writing a book about the wildfire that nearly burned down Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, a sister temple, in 2008. Abbot Steve, as he was affectionately called, led the decision by five resident priests to turn back during an evacuation. They saved Tassajara with no professional backup. Abbot Steve, who grew up laboring on a farm in Kansas, told me it was among the most intense work he’d ever done.

During and after the fire, Abbot Steve talked about meeting it as another neighbor in the valley. He spoke of “getting to know the fire” and having a “relationship” with this element that is an essential part of the ecosystem. He thought of the fire as a friend that required strictness and boundary setting. He recognized the fires within—the flames of digestion and cognition, the heat of feelings.

In the fall of 2013, five years after he’d helped save Tassajara, Abbot Steve got a terminal diagnosis. He treated the cancer, but when he saw that it had gained too much ground for him to survive, he accepted his situation and turned his attention to dying with as much awareness as he could muster. He danced with death, like he danced with fire, remaining open and fully engaged even as he suffered grave losses and felt intense pain.

In an October 2013 blog post, not long after his diagnosis, he turned his shocking situation into an opportunity for reflection: “It is three weeks tomorrow that I started my new life. I am learning things every day.” Note: new life.
In early November, Abbot Steve reminded his students, “This is a good time to examine the reality of impermanence in all of our lives. And to continue to express our love for each other.”

Abbot Steve was the last person anyone expected to get sick and succumb to illness. Like my uncle Paul Reinhart, a distance runner who never smoked and died of metastatic lung cancer, certain vexing questions arose. Why me? Why this deadly cancer? Why this awful pain?

Abbot Steve met these questions whole-heartedly.

Around Thanksgiving, he wrote: “The ‘practice of gratitude’ for me begins simply with saying the word ‘gratitude’ and allowing whatever arises in thought to be regarded as loveable no matter who or what it may be. This...acknowledges that everything, absolutely everything is fully participating in the fact of my existence this moment.”

He went on, “These days...I wake up and say ‘gratitude’ and the next thought is ‘pain in the belly’ or ‘cancer’ or it’s ‘not fair!’ To accept such thoughts with gratitude may be impossible and even contribute to further unwholesome states of mind. So, it is realistically healthier to enter this practice by creating a field of positive energy by first naming what you know from experience is nourishing for you.”

Because I was telling a story in which the threat of death was real and present, I asked Abbot Steve about death often. People died during the course of my working with him—his mother, dear friends. Abbot Steve used those occasions to talk about grief as a teacher, as something that asks us to realize the truth of impermanence. We grieve because we love, because we hold close what cannot be held on to. Because as humans, we have attachments, first and foremost to our own lives.

Gratitude is a practice. Befriending what we haven’t chosen is also a practice. And the two are intimately connected. I know that if myeloma were on the march—eating away at my husband’s bones and clogging his kidneys—or if I were facing a terminal diagnosis, to welcome my experience without resistance would be difficult.

But as I write this, fire is burning towards Tassajara again. And even as I hope for Tassajara’s safety, I respect the fire. I acknowledge that it too is “fully participating” in its life.

Of course, we try to keep a wildfire or cancer from destroying what we love, but whatever comes, I won’t use the word battle. It creates an unhelpful opposition, as if cancer or wildfire were separate from us rather than potential teachers or invitations to transformation. Making enemies just isn’t the response I want to choose. To become defensive is to harden, and when I harden, I miss so much. Things have a tendency to deflect off of me—essential things like love and the warmth and wonder of life.

When that final fire came for him, Abbot Steve lived his dying as he’d lived his life—not pushing away what was difficult or unknown, expanding even as physically he wasted away. He died with a slight smile on his face.

Thank you, Abbot Steve, for that beautiful example of—not surrender—but letting go.

Colleen Morton Busch

Abbot Steve posing in his robes with fire gear after the
2008 Basin Complex fire. 
Mako Voelkel  

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Saturday, August 13, 2016

stand with your lover on the ending earth-


stand with your lover on the ending earth-

and while a (huge by which huger than
huge) whoing sea leaps to greenly hurl snow,

suppose we could not love, dear; imagine

ourselves like living neither nor dead these
(or many thousands hearts which don't and dream
or many million minds which sleep and move)
blind sand, at pitiless the mercy of

time time time time time

how fortunate are you and I, whose home
is timelessness: we who have wandered down
from fragrant mountains of eternal now

to frolic in such mysteries as birth
and death a day (or maybe even less)


–E. E. Cummings


Friday, August 12, 2016

in time of daffodils(who know



in time of daffodils(who know
the goal of living is to grow)
forgetting why,remembering how

in time of lilacs who proclaim
the aim of walking is to dream
remembering so(forgetting seem)

in time of roses(who amaze
our now and here with paradise)
forgetting if,remembering yes

in time of all sweet things beyond
whatever mind may comprehend,
remember seek(forgetting find)

and in a mystery to be
(when time from time shall set us free)
forgetting me, remember me


–E. E. Cummings
from Selected Poems


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Now i lay(with everywhere around)me


Now i lay(with everywhere around)me
(the great dim deep sound
of rain;and of always and of nowhere)and
what a gently welcoming darkestness--

now i lay me down(in a most steep
more than music)feeling that sunlight is
(life and day are)only loaned:whereas
night is given(night and death and the rain 

are given;and given is how beautifully snow) 

now i lay me down to dream of(nothing
i or any somebody or you
can begin to begin to imagine) 

something which nobody may keep.
now i lay me down to dream of Spring

–E. E. Cummings 


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Death don’t have no mercy in this land…



Death don’t have no mercy in this land
Death don’t have no mercy in this land
He’ll come to your house and he won’t stay long
You look in bed the morning and somebody will be gone.

Saturday, July 23, 2016



With all its eyes, the natural world looks out into the Open. 
Only our eyes are turned backward, and surround plant, animal, child like traps, as they emerge into their freedom.
We know what is really out there only from the animal's gaze; for we take the very young child and force it around, so that it sees objects - not the Open, which is so deep in animals' faces. Free from death.
We, only, can see death; the free animal has its decline in back of it, forever, and God in front, and when it moves, it moves already in eternity, like a fountain.
Never, not for a single day, do we have before us that pure space into which flowers endlessly open. Always there is World and never Nowhere without the No: that pure unseparated element which one breathes without desire and endlessly knows.  
A child may wander there for hours, through the timeless stillness, may get lost in it and be shaken back.  Or someone dies and is it.
For, nearing death, one doesn't see death; but stares beyond, perhaps with an animal's vast gaze.

Lovers, if the beloved were not there blocking the view, are close to it, and marvel...
As if by some mistake, it opens for them behind each other... But neither can move past the other, and it changes back to World. Forever turned toward objects, we see in them the mere reflection of the realm of freedom, which we have dimmed.  

Or when some animal mutely, serenely, looks us through and through. That is what fate means: to be opposite, to be opposite and nothing else, forever.

–Rainer Mara Rilke



Monday, July 18, 2016

the way I go


In a mist of light
falling with the rain
I walk this ground
of which dead men
and women I have loved
are part, as they
are part of me. 

In earth,
in blood, in mind,
the dead and living
into each other pass,
as the living pass
in and out of loves
as stepping to a song.
The way I go is
marriage to this place,
grace beyond chance,
love's braided dance
covering the world.

–Wendell Berry

The Wheel


Sunday, July 17, 2016

so not-so


You find a flower half-buried in leaves,
And in your eye its very fate resides.
Loving beauty, you caress the bloom;
Soon enough, you’ll sweep petals from the floor.

Terrible to love the lovely so,
To count your own years, to say “I’m old,”
To see a flower half-buried in leaves
And come face to face with what you are.

–寒山 Han Shan


Saturday, July 16, 2016

we are our ancestors


When we hear the sound of the bell, we should open ourselves up
to allow all the generations of ancestors in us to hear the bell
at the same time as we do. 

It means we shouldn’t imprison ourselves in a shell of self –
we should allow our ancestors to listen to the bell at the same time. 

That is our practice at that moment, because all the generations of ancestors,
including our father and our mother are in us in a very concrete way –
in every cell of our body. 

The body contains the mind – the soma contains the psyche,
and we could say that the mind also contains the body. 

That means that the psyche contains the soma and that psyche includes
feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness
and we should learn to see our mental formations are made out of cells,
just as the body is made out of cells. 

The cells of the body contain the cells of the consciousness
and the cells of the consciousness contain the cells of the body.

–Thich Nhat Hanh