Sunday, October 31, 2021

not to worry



Everyone is so afraid of death, but the real sufis just laugh: nothing tyrannizes their hearts. What strikes the oyster shell does not damage the pearl.




Saturday, October 30, 2021

With life as short as a half taken breath, don’t plant anything but love. —Rumi



When a person is dying, his voice goes into his mind; his mind into his breath; his breath into heat; the heat into the highest divinity. That which is the finest essence - the whole world has that as its soul. 
That is Reality. That is Atman. That art thou, Svetaketu.


—Chanodgya Upanishad 6.8.6

.  .  . 

As these flowing rivers that tend towards the ocean, on reaching the ocean disappear, their name and form are destroyed and it is called simply "the ocean" - even so of this spectator these sixteen parts that tend towards the Person [Purusha, the cosmic unity], on reaching the Person disappear, their name and form are destroyed, and it is called simply "the Person.


—Prasna Upanishad 6.5

.  .  .

[A] perseveration is ... not a repetition. The constants of one law are in turn variables of a more general law, just as the hardest rocks become soft and fluid matter on the geological scale of millions of years.

—Gilles Deleuze
Difference and Repetition


Friday, October 29, 2021




You will never be alone, you hear so deep
a sound when autumn comes. Yellow
pulls across the hills and thrums,
or the silence after lightning before it says
its names — and then the clouds’ wide-mouthed
apologies. You were aimed from birth:
you will never be alone. Rain
will come, a gutter filled, an Amazon,
long aisles — you never heard so deep a sound,
moss on rock, and years. You turn your head—
that’s what the silence meant: you’re not alone.
The whole wide world pours down.

—William Stafford


Thursday, October 28, 2021

Making Friends With Death

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


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


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Gravelly Run



I don't know somehow it seems sufficient
to see and hear whatever coming and going is,
losing the self to the victory
of stones and trees,
of bending sandpit lakes, crescent
round groves of dwarf pine:
for it is not so much to know the self
as to know it as it is known
by galaxy and cedar cone,
as if birth had never found it
and death could never end it:
the swamp's slow water comes
down Gravelly Run fanning the long
stone-held algal
hair and narrowing roils between
the shoulders of the highway bridge:
holly grows on the banks in the woods there,
and the cedars' gothic-clustered
spires could make
green religion in winter bones:
so I look and reflect, but the air's glass
jail seals each thing in its entity:
no use to make any philosophies here:
I see no
god in the holly, hear no song from
the snowbroken weeds: Hegel is not the winter
yellow in the pines: the sunlight has never 
heard of trees: surrendered self among
unwelcoming forms: stranger,
hoist your burdens, get on down the road.

—A. R. Ammons


Monday, October 25, 2021




The leaves fall from my fingers
Cornflowers scattered across the field like stars,
                                                                         like smoke stars,
By the train tracks, the leaves in a drift
Under the slow clouds
                                 and the nine steps to heaven,
The light falling in great sheets through the trees,
Sheets almost tangible.
The transfiguration will start like this, I think,
Quick blade through the trees,
Something with red colors falling away from my hands,
The air beginning to go cold …
                                                  And when it does
I’ll rise from this tired body, a blood-knot of light,
Ready to take the darkness in.
—Or for the wind to come
And carry me, bone by bone, through the sky,
Its wafer a burn on my tongue,
                                              its wine deep forgetfulness.

—Charles Wright
 from The Southern Cross


Sunday, October 24, 2021

when fear comes


The ego is the core of one's ignorance of the Self. All violence is born there; it is born within the ego. A man feels that he is everything and that the rest of the world exists for him alone. He sees himself as the center, as the focal point for all existence. The exploitation that is born of this egoism is what violence is.
Visit and Two great comprehensive sites on everything Osho!



... So whenever fear comes to you, don't suppress it, don't repress it, don't avoid it, don't get occupied in something so that you can forget about it. No! When fear comes, watch it. Be face to face with it. Encounter it. Look deep into it. Gaze into the valley of fear.
Of course you will perspire, and you will tremble, and it will be like a death, and you will have to live it many times. But by and by, the more your eyes
become clear, the more your awareness becomes alert, the more your focus is there on the fear, the fear will disappear like a mist. And once fear disappears, sometimes, even for only a moment, suddenly you are deathless.

There is no death. Death is the greatest illusion there is, the greatest myth -- a lie. For even a single moment, if you can see that you are deathless, then no meditation is needed. Then live that experience, then act out of that experience, and the doors of eternal life are open for you.
Much is being missed because of fear.
We are too attached to the body and we go on creating more and more fear because of that attachment. The body is going to die, the body is part of death, the body is death -- but you are beyond the body.
You are not the body; you are the bodiless. 
Remember it. Realize it. Awaken yourself to this truth -- that you are beyond the body. You are the witness, the seer. Then death disappears and fear disappears, and there arises the tremendously glorious life -- what Jesus calls 'life abundant,' or 'the kingdom of God.'

The kingdom of God is within you.



Saturday, October 23, 2021

every cell is a kingdom



I think of the medieval Islamic philosopher Avicenna’s floating man, who, denied all sensation, still knows, as proof of the soul, that he exists. I am not sure I believe him. A better answer is found in the Roman poet Lucretius’s argument in his epic poem, ‘De rerum natura,’ that we can die inch by inch. Every cell is a kingdom of both substance and spirit, and any kingdom can be overthrown. 

Our life force, like our flesh, never seems to issue away from us all at once. Anyone who has been half dead can attest to this. What we call our soul can die in small quantities, just as our bodies can be worn, amputated, and poisoned away, bit by bit. The lost parts of our souls are no more replaceable than the lost parts of our bodies, life incrementally lifting from life, just like that.

Anne Boyer
The Undying: A Meditation on Modern Illness

. . .

It is dreadful when the body we have made demands a soul from us. But it is far more horrifying, dreadful, and uncanny when we have made a soul, and it demands its body from us and chases after us. When we think a thought, we have made such a soul, and our thought gives us no peace until we give it its body, until we have brought it to sensory appearance. 

The thought wants to be deed; the word wants to be flesh. And wondrously! A human being, like God in the Bible, has only to express his thought, and the world forms itself; there is light or there is darkness, the water divides itself from the dry land, or wild beasts even appear. The world is the word’s signature.

On the History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany


Friday, October 22, 2021

Scars, excerpt



there are sorrows
a choir can’t reach when they sing.

—William Stafford


Thursday, October 21, 2021

a science most profitable




Thou shalt understand that it is a science most profitable, and passing all other sciences, for to 
learn to die. 

–Heinrich Suso


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

single note

Sophie Bray, Oceanic: Surface. 
Pencil on paper, 50 x 66 cm, 2010


The sea has no renewal, no forgetting,

no variety of death,

is silent with the silence of a single note.

—Basil Bunting


Tuesday, October 19, 2021

in the kingdom of transformation




Losing too is still ours; 
and even forgetting
 still has a shape 
in the kingdom of transformation.

When something's let go of, it circles; 
and though we are
 rarely the center of the circle, 
it draws around us its unbroken, 

—Rainer Maria Rilke
(For Hans Carossa)


Monday, October 18, 2021



The body is at home in time and space
and loves things, how they come and go, and such
distances as it might cross or place
between the things it loves, and its own touch.

But for you, soul, whom the body bred in error
like some weird pearl, everything is wrong.
Space is stone, and time a breakneck terror
where you hold to nothing but your own small song.

No wonder you would rather stay asleep
than wake again to your live burial.
But sometimes, shrinking in your tiny keep
you make out through the thousand-mile-thick wall
the faint tapped code of one as trapped as you,
saying: those high white mansions—I dream them too—

—Don Paterson 
Ploughshares, Spring 2011


Sunday, October 17, 2021

the hardest part


One fine morning
I'm gonna ride out
Yeah, one fine morning
I'm gonna ride out

Just me and the skeleton crew
We're gonna ride out in a country kind of silence
We're gonna ride out in a country silence
Yeah one fine morning

Yeah it's all coming back to me now
My apocalypse, my apocalypse
The curtain rose and burned in the morning sun
Yeah the curtain rose and burned in the morning sun

And the mountains
And the mountains bowed down
In the morning sun
Like a ballet of the heart
Yeah the mountains bowed down
Like a ballet
In the morning sun

And the baby and we all lay in state
Yeah the baby and we all lay in state
And I say "Hey! no more drovering!"
I say "Hey! no more drovering!"

When the earth turns cold
And the earth turns black
Will I feel you riding on my back?
Yeah when the earth turns cold
And the earth turns black
Will I feel you riding on my back?

And for I am a part of the road
Yeah I am a part of the road
The hardest part
The hardest part

My apocalypse
DC 4 5 0
DC 4 5 0


Saturday, October 16, 2021

considering ...




We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.
—Charles Bukowski


Friday, October 15, 2021




I remember how I would say, “I will gather
These pieces together,
Any minute now I will make
A knife out of a cloud.”
Even then the days
Went leaving their wounds behind them,
But, “Monument,” I kept saying to the grave,
“I am still your legend.”

There was another time
When our hands met and the clocks struck
And we lived on the point of a needle, like angels.

I have seen the spider’s triumph
In the palm of my hand. Above
My grave, that thoroughfare,
There are words now that can bring
My eyes to my feet, tamed.
Beyond the trees wearing names that are not their own
The paths are growing like smoke.

The promises have gone,
Gone, gone, and they were here just now.
There is the sky where they laid their fish.
Soon it will be evening.

—W. S. Merwin
from The Moving Target


Thursday, October 14, 2021

In Praise of Mortality



We set the pace.
But this press of time --
take it as a little thing
next to what endures.

All this hurrying
soon will be over.
Only when we tarry
do we touch the holy.

Young ones, don't waste your courage
racing so fast,
flying so high.

See how all things are at rest --
darkness and morning light,
blossom and book.

—Rainer Maria Rilke
Sonnets to Orpheus, Part One, XXII 


Thursday, October 7, 2021

variation on a theme



Thank you my life long afternoon
late in this spring that has no age
my window above the river
for the woman you led me to
when it was time at last the words
coming to me out of mid-air
that carried me through the clear day
and come even now to find me

for old friends and echoes of them
those mistakes only I could make
homesickness that guides the plovers
from somewhere they had loved before
they knew they loved it to somewhere
they had loved before they saw it

thank you good body hand and eye
and the places and moments known
only to me revisiting
once more complete just as they are
and the morning stars I have seen
and the dogs who are guiding me

—W. S. Merwin


Wednesday, October 6, 2021

love is



Love—is anterior to Life— 
Posterior—to Death— 
Initial of Creation, and 
The Exponent of Earth— 

  —Emily Dickinson


Tuesday, October 5, 2021

you are marvelous




your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.

be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.

be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.

you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.

your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous.
the gods wait to delight
in you.

—Charles Bukowski
the laughing heart


Monday, October 4, 2021

Picnic, Lightning


It is possible to be struck by a
meteor or a single-engine plane while
reading in a chair at home. Pedestrians
are flattened by safes falling from
rooftops mostly within the panels of
the comics, but still, we know it is
possible, as well as the flash of
summer lightning, the thermos toppling
over, spilling out on the grass. 
And we know the message can be
delivered from within. The heart, no
valentine, decides to quit after
lunch, the power shut off like a
switch, or a tiny dark ship is
unmoored into the flow of the body's
rivers, the brain a monastery,
defenseless on the shore. This is
what I think about when I shovel
compost into a wheelbarrow, and when
I fill the long flower boxes, then
press into rows the limp roots of red
impatiens -- the instant hand of Death
always ready to burst forth from the
sleeve of his voluminous cloak. Then 
the soil is full of marvels, bits of
leaf like flakes off a fresco,
red-brown pine needles, a beetle quick
to burrow back under the loam. Then
the wheelbarrow is a wilder blue, the
clouds a brighter white, and all I
hear is the rasp of the steel edge
against a round stone, the small
plants singing with lifted faces, and
the click of the sundial as one hour
sweeps into the next.

—Billy Collins 

kevin steele

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Excerpts from the The Ninth Elegy



Why, when this short span of being could be spent
like the laurel, a little darker than all the other green, 
the edge of each leaf fluted with small waves 
(like the wind’s smile) — why, then, do we have to be 
human and, avoiding fate, long for fate?
Oh, not because of happiness,
that quick profit of impending loss really exists.
Not out of curiosity, not just to exercise the heart
– that could be in the laurel, too…

But because being here means so much, and because all
that’s here, vanishing so quickly seems to need us
and strangely concerns us. Us, to the first to vanish.

Once each, only once. Once and no more. And us too,
once, even if only once, to have been on earth just once 
— that’s irrevocable.

And so we keep on going and try to realize it,
try to hold it in our simple hands, in our overcrowded eyes, 
and in our speechless heart.

Try to become it. To give it to whom? We’d rather
keep all of it forever… Ah, but what can we take across
into that other realm? 

Not the power to see what we’ve learned so slowly here, 
and nothing that’s happened here.
Nothing. And so, the pain; above all, the hard work of living; 
the long experience of love – those purely unspeakable things. 

But later, under the stars, what then? 
That’s better left unsaid.

For the wanderer doesn’t bring a handful of that unutterable 
earth from the mountainside down to the valley, but only some 
word he’s earned, a pure word, the yellow and blue gentian. 

Maybe we’re here only to say: house, bridge, well, gate, jug, 
olive tree, window – at most, pillar, tower… but to say them, 
remember, oh, to say them in a way that the things themselves
never dreamed of existing so intensely. 

When this silent earth urges lovers on, isn’t it her secret 
reason to make everything shudder with ecstasy in them?

Doorsill: how much it means to a pair of lovers
to wear down the sill of their own door a little more, 
them too, after so many before them, and before all 
those to come…gently.

This is the time for what can be said. Here is its country. 
Speak and testify. The things we can live with are falling 
away more than ever, replaced by an act without symbol.

Our heart survives between hammers, just as the tongue 
between the teeth is still able to praise.

Look, I’m alive. On what? Neither childhood nor the future 
grows less…
More being than I’ll ever need springs up in my heart.

—Rainer Maria Rilke



Saturday, October 2, 2021

a maxim


To live each day as if it might be the last
Is an injunction that Marcus Aurelius
Inscribes in his journal to remind himself
That he, too, however privileged, is mortal,
That whatever bounty is destined to reach him
Has reached him already, many times.

But if you take his maxim too literally
And devote your mornings to tinkering with your will,
Your afternoons and evenings to saying farewell
To friends and family, you’ll come to regret it.
Soon your lawyer won’t fit you into his schedule.
Soon your dear ones will hide in a closet
When they hear your heavy step on the porch.
And then your house will slide into disrepair.

If this is my last day, you’ll say to yourself,
Why waste time sealing drafts in the window frames
Or cleaning gutters or patching the driveway?

If you don’t want your heirs to curse the day
You first opened Marcus’s journals,
Take him simply to mean you should find an hour
Each day to pay a debt or forgive one,
Or write a letter of thanks or apology.

No shame in leaving behind some evidence
You were hoping to live beyond the moment.

No shame in a ticket to a concert seven months off,
Or, better yet, two tickets, as if you were hoping
To meet by then someone who’d love to join you,
Two seats near the front so you catch each note.

—Carl Dennis