Kuan Yin

Today is the Birthday of Kuan Yin. In this year's lunar calendar, it falls on March 31. Allow Her whose sweet grace is always already here to teach you the most subtle, ancient and powerful of spiritual practices: Don't ascend. Don't travel to a "better" place. Don't try to achieve any state whatsoever. And do not concentrate. Just mingle the sweet wine of your attention with the bread of your flesh, saturate each pulsing atom of your body with mere awareness, and radiate golden bewilderment for a thousand miles around you in every direction.

Photo: This Kuan Yin was consecrated at a local Buddhist temple and given to my wife as a gift from a Chinese friend. We created this alter where she blesses our home.

Watch and Pray

Jesus said, "Watch and pray." (Mat. 26:41) Simply to watch is perfect stillness. Just to listen is marvelous silence. There is really no difference between watching, listening, and prayer.

Without effort or concentration, let this restless mind rove wild through the cosmos. Give it vast space to roam. Just witness.

Awareness is the only discipline. No concentration, no control. When the mind has had its fill of wandering, it will return like a swan, folding its wings, to settle on the still waters of the heart. Meditation happens naturally when there is no resistance.

All Winter long, the plum branch reaches through the broken fence, toward the white blossom it was always holding.

Painting by



Hu dips up this breath

from the ancient stream

of Presence?

Hu decants moonbeams

through the hollow of your bones?

Hu drops tiny violet petals,

each filled

with the whole sky,

on a pearl-white pool

in the wilderness,

that valley of sighing

just below your heartbeat,

where a thirsty exhalation

comes down to drink

in the morning, or the cool

of the evening

like a wounded cougar?

Hu... Hu...

This is not a question

but a name

that fills your heart

with silence.



Don't mow your grass.
Don't shave your armpits.
Turn your lawn
into a vegetable patch,
your underarms
into bowers of musk rose.
As for that grotto
between your thighs,
let honeybees rejoice!
Of course we're only
speaking in signs,
how mystic
wool-shirted fools
speak about the landscape
of the soul,
so brown and golden,
musky and green,
where creatures seem
all sticky
with pollen,
glistening with sunbeams
in their sap.
All we're really trying
to say is 
that human love
grows naturally
into God.

Art: detail, Botticelli's Allegory of Spring


My soul is mist over the valley,
my flesh the old-growth cedar stand.
Deep inside my chest a stillness,
a dark pool surrounded by ferns

and trillium, where thought

may not enter, nor future, nor past.
Here I thirst, and discover

a fertile desolation. I crush

a scarlet berry full of stars

on my tongue, and cannot tell you

any more about this place
except, returning is not repetition.

This may be the furrow where we lay
before we trembled, and had lips.

In Winter, after the worm

has had her way, the sap of the apple
comes here to remember its seed.
This is where the gentle feral purr
of the mother lynx begins. Here

the silver cilia-fringed and wrinkled

crone sleeps, dreaming her next body.
Follow the deer path of this breath
to the meadow where nothing
was ever wrong, your original

innocence consumed

in the stillness of a raven's echo.
What has fallen has fallen,
broken into shards of perfection,
nursing shoots of new green up
from the moldering umber of the old log.

What are we but gold cocoon stuff

gathered in the hollow of a February bulb?
To bear our fruit will take two seasons.
But we'll be wondrous honey, the blush

of one rose in each other's cheeks.

Photo: I met this nurse long in the temperate rain forest
of Mount Rainier, near the Carbon River.

Rest and Listen

Rest in the ancient lineage
of the present moment.
Listen to the evening breeze
in pine green quietness.
You will hear creation hymns
that sang the sun and moon.
You will remember when
your tears were original rain
and your eye created the light.
Confess that your flesh
is floating pollen
in a beam of what sees,
and you are the black vacuum
at the core of what whirls.
Now use the faintest
feather brush of breath
on bone to dust away the mind.
Become the silence who
has all along been listening
to your prayers.
Knead the bread of earth
into doughy clay again.
Shape it warm by a gesture
of healing, and bake it 
in the secret fertility
of your stillness.
A stem of furious
cleansing will tremble through
your hollow obsidian bones,
from the belly to the dimple
in your crown, wedding
your ancestral darkness
to an unborn star.


Image by Marcel Van Luit

A Secret

You say there's a secret

called enlightenment.

But you are the secret

that was given away

in the beginning,

when the sky got em-pearled

in your zygote.

You were born

so that distant galaxies

might see themselves.

Now waves of amazement

with troughs of silence

crash on the shores

of your body,

cleansing your senses

with the birthless Presence

of ancient light.

All your questions

have been washed away.

Each breath is the answer.

In the Living Goddess

In the empire of the living Goddess 

there is no "should," no rule to disobey, 

no path to follow. The way is dissolving.

Can the earth leave its orbit round the sun?

So I cannot take my gaze from your face.

This is the freedom of love's bondage.


Clouds look like a garland of thorns,

a crown of poppies, yet the sky is always 

formless and blue. Invisible sap 

puts on the glory of a hyacinth,

clear plasma takes the color of blood,

and silence allows herself to be wounded,

pierced by a wordless song.


Of course I could endure the Spring

without listening to a single sparrow, 

then boast, "I am liberated from Beauty."

Yet I would rather drown in the blossom

of your eyes, because they chose me

for drowning. We are dead bees

in each others' goblet of raindrops,

slaves of unshackled sweetness.


Your emptiness feels like a baby's cheek.

I gladly wear the chains of longing,

just as my Beloved wears this body, 

a dark veil around her breath. 

If you don't understand, 

you have never breathed.


Make mischief, drop your burden.

Discipleship is for donkeys and ants.

A Guru is for dumbfounded lovers

who leap like dolphins in waves of night.

El Shaddai

As quantum physics envisions it, the universe is made of energy, energy consists of fluctuations in the vacuum, and these frequencies of vibration, which are verily sound-waves, become matter. Cosmos is logos. A Vedic verse declare, "Adau Bhagavan shabda rasahi: in the beginning the Lord created the universe through a stream of sound."

Yet whence did the stream emanate? From the silence of the vacuum. Yes, cosmos is logos. Yet logos is the Word of silence.

Myriad names of God swirl from the womb of holy silence. Just so, stars spiral from a black hole at the center of the galaxy. Yet all the black holes in the cosmos are one and the same fertile void. This star-birthing singularity, the infinite hush of the maternal dark, is not far away. It is the core of your being, the bindhu at the center of your heart.

In Jewish Kabbala, the Great Seal of Protection is a mandala containing the 72 divine names. We can find similar mantra-mandalas made of Tibetan and Sanskrit letters. In the untranslated letters of St. Pachomias, "father of Christian monasticism," I have seen such mandalas of syllables written in Old Latin. They were possibly derived from the Demotic, the language of Egypt, home to the wisdom schools of Christian Gnosticism. In all these mystical traditions - Indian, Tibetan, Hebrew, Christian - the names are bija mantras, healing sound-vibrations used in meditation.

In the Hebrew Great Seal, we can see the divine names emanating from the Star of David, with the letters of the Tetragramaton -Yod, Heh, Vau, Heh - in four corners of the star. This unutterable Name is usually interpreted as a form of the word breathed to Moses on Mt. Sinai: I Am. Yet at a deeper center of the mandala, in the space within the Star, is another mystical name, Shaddai.

In Genesis chapter 17, the Lord tells Abraham that, "my name is El Shaddai," usually translated as God Almighty. But the etymology is uncertain. As with many sacred Hebrew words, there are alternate roots, each with its own significance, resulting in parallel commentaries. These multiple roots are complimentary, not contradictory.

One root of Shaddai means "fertile field, uncultivated wilderness." This would suggest that the other divine names, which are the very energies of creation, spring from a wild impregnable field to which the intellect of man may lay no claim - or what the Christian mystic Ruysbroeck called, "the wayless wilderness of the Godhead."

Another root means "destroyer," which seems like the opposite of the former. But in this center, opposites converge. As in a black hole, what destroys also creates. New star stuff spins out of the same virgin void that consumed the old creation. A line from Bhagavad Gita 11 comes to mind, where the Lord of Love declares, "Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds." We may also recall a Biblical verse, "the Lord your God is a destroying fire." (Deut 4:24)

Yet in the most popular etymology of the Hebrew word, Shaddai means "mother's breasts." El Shaddai is the "God who is like a mother's breasts," the feminine power. So countless worlds, innumerable energies, and all the names of God are born of one Mother, who is divine Silence. This Silence we may experience, but never know. For this is the Silence of the Beloved, who annihilates the knower, with all his efforts to be certain, and all his attempts to name the ineffable.

Is A Blossom Right Or Wrong?

This blossom covered with dewdrops, is it right or wrong?
The mind's first need is to be 'right.' The heart's first need is to feel connection. I can survive being wrong. I cannot survive being disconnected.

On a Spring morning, breathing this blossom in has nothing to do with right or wrong. It is electric connection to the Shakti pervading all creation.

Here is a meditation for clearing your circuits and re-booting your Presence: Spend a minute assuming that you are wrong about almost everything. Then gaze quietly into a flower, breathing in nameless beauty.

Why does such a simple act of non-doing restore so much energy, not only to one's self, but to the environment?

Because you discover that being 'right' or 'wrong' isn't very important. Even when the mind is 'wrong,' the heart can connect, responding profoundly to other hearts, to a raindrop, the moon, the sound of a robin at dawn, the pollen on a stamen tip.

In fact, it's easier to be connected when we're 'wrong,' because the mind is humbled into quietness. We just shut up and listen. This is response-ability.

Would you like to walk this planet as a joyful healer? Then please remember, it has nothing to do with your righteousness, nothing to do with imposing your moral code on the world. Joyful healing happens organically, as a practice of embodiment, when you connect the earth to the radiance of your heart through the soles of your feet.

God knows, I could be wrong about this...

What Shall You Wear?

Be the moon with no mantilla,
the sky without a cloud, 
the blues that stain a lover's thoughts.
Be a naked mirror wearing
your hijab of reflections,
yet keeping the secret unstained.

Savor melting gossamer illusions
of the wound around your heart,
expanding the sweetness of
irremediable loss by refusing
to tell a story about it.
Rest in the catastrophe,
reposing like a burnt lamb
on the lapis alter of your breastbone.

Let others make the haj.
Your task is being more hollow.
A mind that no longer seeks
is a scintillating jewel
in the erotic splendor of the void.

To the cup it feels like something that pours,
to the wine, like stillness.
Did no one teach you to die with every breath?
Grace is an eternal withering
and turning gold.

Fear was for another life,
this one is for wonder.
Now what shall you wear to the wedding?
Just this golden veil of joy
with no one inside.


Painting by Marc Chagall

Be Uncertain

A volatile state of Uncertainty. Yet Uncertainty is nourishing. Ever-expanding. Ever-creating.
The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle: each particle of the physical world vibrates out of the vacuum from boundless, unlocalized, mere probability.

Uncertainty could be mother-like, and full of grace. Yet it makes us panicky, reactionary, eager to blame.

Try this, friend. Use another name. Don't call it "Uncertainty," but "Possibility." Taste the infinite possibility of holy bewilderment.

In a state of wonder the apple bud bursts, not knowing, "Will there be sunshine or rain?" Delicate petals unfold the inexorable geometry of the void, but no one can solve this broken symmetry of Zero.

In a state of wonder the cloud unveils a moon, whether she is full or new. Just so the miracle in the egg, blindly muscling a golden path through cracks in darkness.

Uncertainty, maturing into Wonder, dissolves fear. All we have is presence. We can listen. We don't need to know. Now be very quiet. Breathe down into the heart of possibility. Way will open.

No Metaphor

When the mind sinks
in the heart ocean
there shines an ineffably
soft and luscious glow
that is manna for the body
and bliss for the soul.
Taste the wine.
The fire that mystics speak of
is no metaphor,
nor figure of speech,
but the essence of dark energy,
the sap of thorn and rose,
the juice of the mind
who feels the prick
and tastes the fragrance.
Call it Jesus, Amitabha, Kali Ma.
All the gods have been trampled
like grapes in the press
of your heart.
Their blood has soaked
into the loam.
Names don't matter there.
Just tend your bed of coals
in the forest at night.
Surrender each step
to a small pool of splendor
on the way of shadows.
Follow the warm wordless path
of this breath Om
to a place that was here
before God said,
“Let there be light,”
a place where each electron
bathes in the glory of its origin,
every photon collides
with the darkest particle
of its other self.

Shivaratri (March 11)

Now is Shivaratri, "Night of Shiva," wedding of the Lord and Mother Divine. We pass through the liminal door between darkness and light, Winter and Spring, dissolution and re-creation - the holiest, most auspicious time for meditation in the Vedic calendar.

Clear out a place in your body for the dancers, the wild girls from the village, with their spilling buckets of fresh milk. Also make room for us who want to drink stronger stuff, the fermented nectar of emptiness, aged in the cellar of our own chest.

Everyone is a beggar here. Therefor we are all royals. Perhaps you would have time to attend this wedding, if you weren't so busy with the politics of blame, if you weren't so busy deciding whether to be a man or a woman, so busy arguing about what color you are, so busy searching for listeners to your ancient tale of woe.

Just for tonight, awaken from this dream of busy-ness. Just for tonight, embrace bewilderment as the only explanation. Just for tonight confess: even though your story includes the whole past and future, no story can contain the present moment.

The moon has been kissed into darkness. The eyes have been closed, the tongue laid to rest in the dome of your mouth, like a dove in the roof beams. And through the alchemy of listening, your ears have spiraled into conch shells, overflowing with silence.

Whether the blackness at the center of your spinning is an absence of light, or the blindness caused by too much, you will not understand til the wedding is over and you whisper "I do" - the vow that makes you hollower than God.

Tonight is the night of un-knowing, when you bathe each cell of your body in this breath, filling it like a scabbard with the scintillating flame of No-Mind. Let that fatal fire consume all distances, and dissolve all otherness.

Then You and I, You and I and Thou, will meet under a canopy of tears, in the bridal chamber of Shakti and Lord Shiva, which is the bridal chamber of Magdalene and Christ, which is the bridal chamber of the sigh and the inhalation, the surrender and the grace, which is the place under your breastbone where we were never two.


A net cannot catch water –
the mind cannot hold who you are.
When blackness murmurs with light
do you need to inhale?
The moon only appears to hang
on a plum branch.
Let your next breath be an effervescence
of emptiness.
The Self floats in cells of flesh,
the body in the Self.
Don’t try to understand this,
just let the glow between your nerves
be a crop of stars hanging above you
in the orchard of prayer.
To wake up is a ceremonial drowning,
every threshold dissolved in one sensation:
the grape into nectar, the nectar into
a fine mist, the distillate
into bewilderment.
True inebriation is clarity –
crush the moon in this dance,
your feet oozing a ferment
of sweetness.
Leave it to the raven
to scatter your seeds –
only a dark wisdom sniffs
the difference between wine and death.
Most people fear the end
with every exhalation.
That is why their breathing is incomplete.
But you have the privilege of dying right now,
your lungs filled with burgundy and stars.
Don’t struggle upward like a swimmer for the sun –
that is not how babies are born.
Be the infant who knows
from a single exultation of air
that this is the last day.
Everything has its cost.
Not even the grace of the Mother is free.
What is her price? Surrender.
All night, be a constellation turning
with the majesty of a pearl-encrusted corpse
in the ebb and flow of the void.
All day, keep this secret
hidden in your smile.

Think Globally, Act Like a Gorilla

I'm too dense to get the environmentalist motto, “Think globally, act locally.” So here's mine: "Think globally, act like a gorilla."

Naturally in tune with their environment, Gorillas hardly think at all. They avoid higher education and lead a sustainable green lifestyle without credit cards or student loans. Because Gorillas aren't ashamed of being naked, they don't go shopping. They consume little water because they rarely, if ever, wash their hair.

Sticking to their homeland, gorillas gently mind their own business. They won't invade and occupy another animal's habitat. When gorillas want to strut, they just strut, without putting on uniforms and eating each other.

Gorillas slowly munch fresh vegetables, poop often, and shun paper products. They have no need for jet fuel, cosmetic surgery, or Gortex.

Gorillas neither whine about taxes nor demand entitlements. They don't care whether the frigging stock market goes up or done. And when a gorilla dies, he doesn't spend a million dollars on artificial life-support. He just dies.

Gorilla economics is based on trust, not debt. No money is required. Gorillas do not establish corporations. They form worker-owned cooperatives.

Avoiding politics and religion, gorillas practice what humans only preach.

But like many quiet gentle species, gorillas are nearly extinct. We should learn from them while we can, because they will never return.

In fact, we might learn how to dwell peacefully on this planet from all sorts of animals and plants, before we too disappear.

Not Enough Light

The milky way is not enough,
the star-stream tapped from leaf veins,
the indefatigable chloroplast,
the hidden factory of golden nectar in loam,
photons immolated in sacrifice
to mold your bronze nakedness –
still, not enough, not enough light!
The sun does all she can, the moon
dips cup fulls from her dark mysterious cellar,
pours sparkling stuff into the lips of Spring cloud.
Winter makes prisms of remembered splendor,
galaxies of roses imprisoned in a snow crystal.
But all this in-pouring is not enough,
this shoring up of light in you,
the radiance pooled and nuggeted
in protons of flesh, the beam of your soul
undrawn from its scabbard of loneliness.
Light Hoarder, sheathed, un-shining,
you darken the universe!
Friend, haven’t you treasured this fire
too long? Now spend it, waste it,
irradiate everything seen!
Be the Outpouring, bright warm
wounded glory gushing
from the hidden well where stars are born,
coiled down in your tap root, your
deepest gash…
Open it. Wound it wider.