Friday, April 30, 2021

but perhaps


But perhaps God needs the longing, wherever else shall it dwell,
Which with kisses and tears and sighs fills mysterious spaces of air -
And perhaps is invisible soil from which roots of stars grow and swell -
And the radiant voice across fields of parting which calls to reunion there?

O my beloved, perhaps in the sky of longing worlds have been born of our love -
Just as our breathing, in and out, builds a cradle for life and death?
We are grains of sand, dark with farewell, lost in births' secret treasure trove,
Around us already perhaps future moons, suns, and stars blaze in a fiery wreath.

—Nelly Sachs
Ruth and Matthew Mead version
A Book of Women Poets from Antiquity to Now


Thursday, April 29, 2021

into the strenuous briefness


into the strenuous briefness
handorgans and April

i charge laughing.
Into the hair-thin tints
of yellow dawn,
into the women-coloured twilight

i smilingly
glide. I
into the big vermilion departure

(Do you think?)the
i do,world
is probably made
of roses & hello:

(of solongs and,ashes)

—E. E. Cummings

very grateful for this,

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

staying home


I have already died all deaths, and I am going to die all deaths again, die the death of the wood in the tree, die the stone death in the mountain, earth death in the sand, leaf death in the crackling summer grass and the poor bloody human death. I will be born again, flowers, tree and grass I will be born again.

—Herman Hesse

. . .

I will wait here in the fields

to see how well the rain

brings on the grass.

In the labor of the fields

longer than a man's life

I am at home. Don't come with me.

You stay home too.

I will be standing in the woods

where the old trees

move only with the wind

and then with gravity.

In the stillness of the trees

I am at home. Don't come with me.

You stay home too.

—Wendell Berry


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

What Happens After We Die ? ( Full TV Lecture | 1959 )


The meaning and purpose of dancing is the dance.

—Alan Watts


Life After Death, A Burden of Proof, excerpt


Whatever it is that occurs at death, I believe it deserves to be called a miracle. The miracle, ironically, is that we don’t die.

The cessation of the body is an illusion, and like a magician sweeping aside a curtain, the soul reveals what lies beyond.

—Deepak Chopra




For the raindrop, joy is in entering the river—

Travel far enough into sorrow, tears turn to sighing;
In this way we learn how water can die into air.

When, after heavy rain, the storm clouds disperse,
Is it not that they have wept themselves clear to the end?



Sunday, April 25, 2021

the imperishable, unspendable wealth of the universe


One is constantly reminded of the infinite lavishness and fertility of Nature — inexhaustible abundance amid what seems enormous waste. And yet when we look into any of her operations that lie within reach of our minds, we learn that no particle of her material is wasted or worn out. It is eternally flowing from use to use, beauty to yet higher beauty; and we soon cease to lament waste and death, and rather rejoice and exult in the imperishable, unspendable wealth of the universe, and faithfully watch and wait the reappearance of everything that melts and fades and dies about us, feeling sure that its next appearance will be better and more beautiful than the last.

... More and more, in a place like this, we feel ourselves part of wild Nature, kin to everything.

... This star, our own good earth, made many a successful journey around the heavens ere man was made, and whole kingdoms of creatures enjoyed existence and returned to dust ere man appeared to claim them. After human beings have also played their part in Creation’s plan, they too may disappear without any general burning or extraordinary commotion whatever.

—John Muir


Saturday, April 24, 2021

The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark. —John Muir


‘It happens sometimes that the Angel of Death, when he comes for a soul, sees that he has come too soon, that the man’s term of life is not yet expired; so he does not take the soul away, does not even show himself to it, but leaves the man one of the innumerable pairs of eyes with which his body is covered. And then the man sees strange and new things, more than other men see and more than he himself sees with his natural eyes; and he also sees, not as men see but as the inhabitants of other worlds see: that things do not exist “necessarily”, but “freely”, that they are and at the same time are not, that they appear when they disappear and disappear when they appear.

The testimony of the old, natural eyes, “everybody’s” eyes, directly contradicts the testimony of the eyes left by the angel. But since all our other organs of sense, and even our reason, agree with our ordinary sight, and since the whole of human “experience,” individual and collective, supports it, the new vision seems to be outside the law, ridiculous, fantastic, the product of a disordered imagination.

It seems only a step short of madness; not poetic madness … but the madness for which men are pent in cells. And then begins a struggle between two kinds of vision, a struggle of which the issue is as mysterious and uncertain as its origin.

—Lev Shestov

. . .

The value of things is not the time they last, but the intensity with which they occur. That is why there are unforgettable moments and unique people. 

—Fernando Pessoa


Friday, April 23, 2021

The Mahayana instructions for transferring consciousness at death


The five strengths; the way you behave matters. 

Power of the Virtuous Seeds

These same five powers we have been discussing, (though in a different order), will also help us achieve bodhichitta at the time of death.

The first of the five powers is the power of virtuous seeds. When we know we are going to die, the first thing we do is to give up all our possessions. We should rid ourselves of any attachment or clinging we have to our worldly things and give them with a happy mind to whomever they can most help, thinking: "May these be used by this person." We should do this without any attachment, thinking: "Because I was attached to many different things, the disturbing emotions of passion, attachment, ignorance, and so on, have arisen. Now I need to be rid of all these things, and so I give them without any attachment at all for whatever purpose they can best be used."

Power of Aspiration

Second is the strength of aspiration. The particular aspiration here is: "In this life and in all following lives, may I not succumb to the tendency of treasuring myself as more important than others. May self-cherishing diminish. May I promote again and again loving-kindness and compassion." We can make this aspiration right now, but it is especially important to make when the signs of death begin to appear. We know that there isn't much time left so our sincerity increases and deepens. It is especially important to make that aspiration at this time.Here we think: "Whatever virtue I have of body, speech and mind, may I, who have practiced mind training in this lifetime, not be separated from it in the intermediate state or in the next lifetime. May I continue to practice bodhichitta and may I not forget the teachings. In the next life may I meet with the teacher who taught me these precious things."

We pray to the lama and the Three Jewels to grant their blessings so that all of this may come about.

Power of Remorse

Third is the power of remorse. The time of death is not an easy one, because we experience a great deal of physical discomfort and pain as well as mental anguish and unhappiness. Rather than feeling despair, we should identify the main cause of our suffering as ego-clinging and make up our mind that at this point: "I will try my best not to create the causes of the negative emotions and karma created out of self-cherishing. I will really try my best to diminish ego clinging from now on into all following lives." Understanding that we should not commit what causes suffering again in the future is the strength of remorse.

At the time of death we think: "Now I am at the time of death and am experiencing suffering. The cause is attachment to myself as being precious. In reality, there is no ultimate self; the mind is not solid and real and, therefore, there is nothing that actually dies. The suffering I am now experiencing comes from clinging to the idea of myself as precious. It is this that I must destroy."

Power of Goodwill

The fourth power, goodwill, is the most important at the time of death. Whether we are in the bardo or whether we are already in the next life, what is always of greatest benefit is loving-kindness and compassion--treasuring others more than ourselves. This attitude always brings benefit. Understanding this, we should make up our mind very firmly and sincerely: "At all times and in all places I will place special energy in bringing forth the qualities of loving-kindness, compassion, and the vow of a bodhisattva."

If we have already trained ourselves in thinking like this now, then it will come back at the time of death, in the bardo state, and in future lives as well. But especially at the time of death, whatever comes to mind is much more acute and we really mean it at that time. Sincerity is much deeper at the time of death, so at that time we should especially take the vow of always placing special emphasis on loving-kindness and compassion.

At this time we pray: "May my bodhichitta increase at the time of experiencing the pain of passing away. May it also increase during the intermediate state between lifetimes, and may I experience it during the next lifetime. May I never be separated from this precious twofold bodhichitta."

The twofold bodhichitta comprises relative and ultimate bodhichitta. It is crucial to have a strong determination to engender bodhichitta at this time.

Power of Familiarization

The fifth power of growing familiar must be practiced while we are alive. We make ourselves more and more habituated to reducing self-cherishing and increasing loving- kindness and compassion. Some practitioners die while in sitting meditation. If we cannot do that, we can die in the reclining position.

The Buddha died in the position called "the reclining lion," where we place the right shoulder on the ground, one hand to the cheek, lying comfortably on our side. As we die, we gently let our attention remain in loving- kindness and compassion, making the strong wish to be of benefit to all living beings, (relative bodhichitta) or to understand that all phenomena are just mind, like dreams, like magical illusions, like a mirage (ultimate bodhichitta). Passing away like this has tremendous benefit, not only at that particular time but also for future lives. This is the outcome of the fifth power of familiarization.
The second half of this instruction is, "the way you behave matters." It is very important how we actually pass away. Jamgon Kongtrul wrote in his commentary, "There are many instructions for practitioners on how to die, but this particular one, which utilizes the fivefold strength at the time of death is most wonderful." He praised it as being of special importance for practitioners to acquaint themselves with this way of passing.

At the time of death, we use the power of familiarization or habituation by thinking: "I have practiced bodhichitta and will not forget it, no matter what suffering I am currently experiencing. I will continue to practice bodhichitta during the suffering I am experiencing now, during the intermediate state, and in the next lifetime, I will not forget it."

It is very important that we make a great effort to practice bodhichitta now because when we are in the midst of sickness and suffering it is not easy to follow through. We have to rely on the force of familiarity to maintain our resolve during trying circumstances.

To be more specific: there are some methods we can physically invoke to help the practice. It is said that the very best thing we can do is sit in the sevenfold posture of Vairocana. If that is not possible, we should lie down on our right side with our right hand on our right cheek, blocking the right nostril. This is because the winds of karma go through the right subtle channel and right nostril. The wisdom air moves through the left subtle channel, which is why the left nostril is kept open. With the air moving through that nostril, we meditate on sending and taking as much as we are able. These are the oral instructions of the Kadampa masters.

—Thrangu Rinpoche
Root text translation © 2004 Michele Martin


Thursday, April 22, 2021

on living



Living is no laughing matter:
 you must live with great seriousness
  like a squirrel, for example–
   I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
  I mean living must be your whole occupation.
Living is no laughing matter:
 you must take it seriously,
 so much so and to such a degree
   that, for example, your hands tied behind your back,
                                            your back to the wall,
   or else in a laboratory
 in your white coat and safety glasses,
 you can die for people–
   even for people whose faces you’ve never seen,
   even though you know living
 is the most real, the most beautiful thing.
I mean, you must take living so seriously
   that even at seventy, for example, you’ll plant olive trees–
   and not for your children, either,
   but because although you fear death you don’t believe it,
   because living, I mean, weighs heavier.

Let’s say we’re seriously ill, need surgery–
which is to say we might not get up
   from the white table.
Even though it’s impossible not to feel sad
   about going a little too soon,
we’ll still laugh at the jokes being told,
we’ll look out the window to see if it’s raining,
or still wait anxiously
  for the latest newscast... 
Let’s say we’re at the front–
 for something worth fighting for, say.
There, in the first offensive, on that very day,
 we might fall on our face, dead.
We’ll know this with a curious anger,
        but we’ll still worry ourselves to death
        about the outcome of the war, which could last years.
Let’s say we’re in prison
and close to fifty,
and we have eighteen more years, say,
                        before the iron doors will open.
We’ll still live with the outside,
with its people and animals, struggle and wind–
                                I  mean with the outside beyond the walls.
I mean, however and wherever we are,
        we must live as if we will never die.

This earth will grow cold,
a star among stars
               and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet–
   I mean this, our great earth.
This earth will grow cold one day,
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even 
but like an empty walnut it will roll along
   in pitch-black space... 
You must grieve for this right now
--you have to feel this sorrow now–
for the world must be loved this much
                               if you’re going to say “I lived”... 
—Nâzım Hikmet Ran 
1902 - 1963 


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Enriching the Earth


To enrich the earth I have sowed clover and grass
to grow and die. I have plowed in the seeds
of winter grains and various legumes,
their growth to be plowed in to enrich the earth.

I have stirred into the ground the offal
and the decay of the growth of past seasons
and so mended the earth and made its yield increase.

All this serves the dark. Against the shadow
of veiled possibility my workdays stand
in a most asking light. I am slowly falling
into the fund of things. 

And yet to serve the earth,
not knowing what I serve, gives a wideness
and a delight to the air, and my days
do not wholly pass. It is the mind's service,
for when the will fails so do the hands
and one lives at the expense of life.

After death, willing or not, the body serves,
entering the earth. And so what was heaviest
and most mute is at last raised up into song.

—Wendell Berry





Tuesday, April 20, 2021

A Ring of Endless Light


The earth will never be the same again 
Rock, water, tree, iron, share this grief 
As distant stars participate in the pain. 
candle snuffed, falling star or leaf, 
dolphin death, this particular loss 
Heaven-mourned; for if no angel cried 
If this small one was tossed away as dross, 
The very galaxies would have lied. 

How shall we sing our love’s song now 
In this strange land where all are born to die? 
Each tree and leaf and star show how 
The universe is part of this one cry, 
Every life is noted and is cherished, 
and nothing loved is ever lost or perished.

Madeleine L’Engle 





Hear more often things than beings,
The voice of the fire listening,
Hear the voice of the water. 
Hear in the wind
The bushes sobbing,
It is the sigh of our forebears. 

Those who are dead are never gone:
They are there in the thickening shadow. 
The dead are not under the earth:
They are in the tree that rustles,
They are in the wood that groans,
They are in the water that runs,
They are in the water that sleeps,
They are in the hut, they are in the crowd, 
The dead are not dead.  

Those who are dead are never gone,
They are in the breast of the woman,
They are in the child who is wailing
And in the firebrand that flames. 
The dead are not under the earth:
They are in the fire that is dying,
They are in the grasses that weep,
They are in the whimpering rocks,
They are in the forest, they are in the house,
The dead are not dead.

—Birago Diop


Monday, April 19, 2021

a stone i died


A stone I died and rose again a plant;

A plant I died and rose an animal;

I died an animal and was born a man.

Why should I fear? What have I lost by death? 






We are the same as plants, as trees, as other people, 
as the rain that falls.

We consist of that which is around us.

We are the same as everything.



in praise of mortality, excerpt




You who let yourselves feel: enter the breathing
that is more than your own.
Let it brush your cheeks
as it divides and rejoins beside you.

Blessed ones, whole ones,
you where the heart begins:
You are the bow that shoots the arrows
and you are the target.

Fear not the pain. Let its weight fall back
into the earth;
for heavy are the mountains, heavy the seas.

The trees you planted in childhood have grown
too heavy. You cannot bring them along.
Give yourselves to the air, to what you cannot hold.

—Rainer Maria Rilke 
Anita Barrows/Joanna Macy version



Sunday, April 18, 2021

heaven to be unhurtable


When I’d picture my death, I would be lying on my back,
and my spirit would rise to my belly-skin and out
like a sheet of wax paper the shape of a girl, furl
over from supine to prone and like the djinn’s
carpet begin to fly, low,
over our planet—heaven to be
unhurtable, and able to see without
cease or stint or stopperage,
to lie on the air, and look, and look,
not so different from my life, I would be
sheer with an almost not sore loneless,
looking at the earth as if seeing the earth
were my version of having a soul. But then
I could see my beloved, sort of standing
beside a kind of door in the sky—
not the door to the constellations,
to the pentangles, and borealis,
but a tidy flap at the bottom of the door in the
sky, like a little cat-door in the door,
through which is nothing. And he is saying to me that he must
go, now, it is time. And he does not
ask me, to go with him, but I feel
he would like me with him. And I do not think
it is a living nothing, where nonbeings
can make a kind of unearthly love, I
think it’s the nothing kind of nothing, I think
we go through the door and vanish together.
What depth of joy to take his arm,
pressing it against my breast
as lovers do in a formal walk,
and take that step.

—Sharon Olds 


long ago and not even at all


Dear Edie,

I have a lot of things to teach you now, in case we ever meet, concerning the message that was transmitted to me under a pine tree in North Carolina on a cold winter moonlit night. It said that Nothing Ever Happened, so don't worry. 

It's all like a dream. Everything is ecstasy, inside. We just don't know it because of our thinking-minds. But in our true blissful essence of mind is known that everything is alright forever and forever and forever.

Close your eyes, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, stop breathing for 3 seconds, listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world, and you will remember the lesson you forgot, which was taught in immense milky ways of cloudy innumerable worlds long ago and not even at all.

It is all one vast awakened thing. I call it the golden eternity. It is perfect. We were never really born, we will never really die. It has nothing to do with the imaginary idea of a personal self, other selves, many selves everywhere, or one universal self. Self is only an idea, a mortal idea.

That which passes through everything, is one thing. It's a dream already ended. There's nothing to be afraid of and nothing to be glad about. I know this from staring at mountains months on end. They never show any expression, they are like empty space. Do you think the emptiness of space will ever crumble away? Mountains will crumble, but the emptiness of space, which is the one universal essence of mind, the one vast awakenerhood, empty and awake, will never crumble away because it was never born.

The world you see is just a movie in your mind.

Your eternal old man,
The Portable Jack Kerouac


for what is it to die?


For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.

And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

—Kahlil Gibran


Saturday, April 17, 2021



What is it that you contain? The dead. Time. 
Light patterns of millennia opening in your gut. 

Every minute, in each of you, a few million potassium atoms succumb to radioactive decay. The energy that powers these tiny atomic events has been locked inside potassium atoms ever since a star-sized bomb exploded nothing into being. 

Potassium, like uranium and radium, is a long-lived radioactive nuclear waste of the supernova bang that accounts for you.

Your first parent was a star.

—Jeanette Winterson




Energy, like you, has no beginning and no end. 
It can never be destroyed. 
It is only ever shifting states. 

—Panache Desai


form is emptiness, emptiness is form


All beings are vortices through which the world pours.
All beings pass through each other.

One being contains innumerable others.

If we could free ourselves from our temporal blindness, we would see ourselves not as individual units, but as interconnected nodes within a cloud of matter and energy.

The idea that the sixty or seventy or eighty liters of space that our
limited body occupies is “our” space is hopelessly myopic.

In reality we occupy the world and each other.
This, in a sense, is our true form.

Living as a River


Friday, April 16, 2021

Any Night


Look, the eucalyptus, the Atlas pine,
the yellowing ash, all the trees
are gone, and I was older than
all of them. I am older than the moon,
than the stars that fill my plate,
than the unseen planets that huddle
together here at the end of a year
no one wanted. A year more than a year,
in which the sparrows learned
to fly backwards into eternity.

Their brothers and sisters saw this
and refuse to build nests. Before
the week is over they will all
have gone, and the chorus of love
that filled my yard and spilled
into my kitchen each evening
will be gone. I will have to learn
to sing in the voices of pure joy
and pure pain. I will have to forget
my name, my childhood, the years
under the cold dominion of the clock
so that this voice, torn and cracked,
can reach the low hills that shielded
the orange trees once. I will stand
on the back porch as the cold
drifts in, and sing, not for joy,
not for love, not even to be heard.

I will sing so that the darkness
can take hold and whatever
is left, the fallen fruit, the last
leaf, the puzzled squirrel, the child
far from home, lost, will believe
this could be any night. That boy,
walking alone, thinking of nothing
or reciting his favorite names
to the moon and stars, let him
find the home he left this morning,
let him hear a prayer out
of the raging mouth of the wind.

Let him repeat that prayer,
the prayer that night follows day,
that life follows death, that in time
we find our lives. Don’t let him see
all that has gone. Let him love
the darkness. Look, he’s running
and singing too. He could be happy.

—Philip Levine

Igor Shpilenok

When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice, excerpt


I am fifty four years old, the age my mother was when she died. This is what I remember: We were lying on her bed with a mohair blanket covering us. I was rubbing her back, feeling each vertebra with my fingers as a rung on a ladder. It was January, and the ruthless clamp of cold bore down on us outside. Yet inside, Mother's tenderness and clarity of mind carried its own warmth. She was dying in the same way she was living, consciously.

"I am leaving you all my journals," she said, facing the shuttered window as I continued rubbing her back. "But you must promise me that you will not look at them until after I am gone."

I gave her my word. And then she told me where they were. I didn't know my mother kept journals.

A week later she died. That night, there was a full moon encircled by ice crystals.

On the next full moon I found myself alone in the family home. I kept expecting Mother to appear. Her absence became her presence. It was the right time to read her journals. They were exactly where she said they would be: three shelves of beautiful clothbound books; some floral, some paisley, others in solid colors. The spines of each were perfectly aligned against the lip of the shelves. I opened the first journal. It was empty. I opened the second journal. It was empty. I opened the third. It, too, was empty, as was the fourth, the fifth, the sixth - shelf after shelf after shelf, all my mother's journals were blank.

—Terry Tempest Williams


only because I love


Love is life.
All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love.
Everything is, everything exists, only because I love.
Everything is united by it alone.

Love is God, and to die means that I, a particle of love,
shall return to the general and eternal source.

—Leo Tolstoy

Wednesday, April 14, 2021



For me there is no materiality to apparent materiality. In our bodies, 3 billion cells a minute are dying and being reborn. So our bodies look solid, but they aren't. How many minutes have just gone by and how many cells have died and been reborn? 
We're like a fountain. A fountain of water looks solid, but you can put your fingers right through it. Our bodies look like things, but there's no thingness to them.

—Li-Young Lee



The human body essentially recreates itself every six months.

Nearly every cell of hair and skin and bone dies and another
is directed to its former place.

You are not who you were last November.

—Donald Miller
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years:
What I Learned While Editing My Life



Nowhere is it the same place as yesterday.
None of us is the same person as yesterday.
We finally die from the exhaustion of becoming.
This downward cellular jubilance is shared
by the wind, bugs, birds, bears and rivers,
and perhaps the black holes in galactic space
where our souls will all be gathered in an invisible
thimble of antimatter. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Yes, trees wear out as the wattles under my chin
grow, the wrinkled hands that tried to strangle 
a wife beater in New York City in 1957.
We whirl with the earth, catching our breath
as someone else, our soft brains ill-trained
except to watch ourselves disappear into the distance.
Still, we love to make music of this puzzle. 

—Jim Harrison
Saving Daylight