A New Book

Pilgrim, traveler, isn't it time
to depart from the kingdom of fear?
Time to begin our journey across
the ocean of surrender.
Yes, this body is a frail boat,
but it holds a vast sail
unfurled before the breath
of the Beloved.
And whether the night is
covered with clouds or
clustered with stars,
we move through waves
of sleep and waking
under the boundless dome
of a Mother's silence.

The new book with a beautiful cover painting by Sue Ellen Parkinson is available for pre-order at all major book sellers, with an official release date of October 12. It would make a lovely holiday gift for yourself or a dear friend!

Inward Healing


I hear so many complaining of anguished dreams and sleepless nights, frayed nerves and a torrent of disturbing thoughts, feeling like they are going crazy. The important thing to know about this is, it's not just you. It's all of us. The second thing we need to know is that this crisis of anxiety is caused from within us, not from the external world. It is not the world but the mind that is off-kilter. Therefore the crisis must be healed within us, before we can heal any world "out there."

The dissonance begins in the subtler realms of the astral and mental planes. When we are inwardly chaotic, it not only shows up in our dreams and night-sweats, but through our senses and perceptions of the world. Then we speak and act on those perceptions, and project our inner discord outwardly.

Since the cause lies within, the solution cannot lie outside. The solution is not "fixing" the economy, or our politics, or the social system. Those are effects, not causes, and the effects will not change until our consciousness shifts into a state that is more stable, centered, and harmonic. What influence, what transforming power, can bring about such an internal shift? It won't be a shift in the stars and planets, or a descent of some ascended Master into the world. It will come in a "still small voice of calm," the whisper of a blessing that is more interior to our heart that our own thoughts.

Meditation is the art of opening to this interior shift. It is not escape from the world, or "by-passing," or narcissistic fantasy. Meditation is the application of wisdom at the level of the cause rather than the effect. Yet this salvific blessing cannot come from self-effort. It cannot come from our own mind, since our mind is the problem. This mind cannot save itself, cannot even change itself. For the mind who acts on the mind is still the same tormented mind.

Peace comes only when we learn the art of surrendering the mind to Grace. Then we drop immediately from the head into the heart, where we can hear the unstruck sound of a power much deeper than thought (I say "deeper" rather than "higher"). In silence, the Grace of the Friend fills the field of mind, not with thoughts, but with vibrations of healing love. Let the will and the intellect harmonize to that inner tuning fork. The sound of divine Love is called the Mantra. It resonates in the field of the Heart. This vibration of Love does not come down from above; it wells up like a tear from the core of your chest, percolating through every neuron into all the cells of your flesh, irradiating the body and senses, greening the world.

If you are, like so many, experiencing the nightmares, sleepless torments, and jangled nerves of despair, don't waste time and energy on blame. Blame neither yourself, nor others, nor any external cause. The cause is within. By returning to the silent core of your own heart, and reposing on the breast of the Friend, you will feel the healing caress, yes, but not only you will feel it. That healing caress will pass effortlessly from your center into other hearts, touching all humanity.

Beneath our separate and separating thoughts, there is a quantum field where we all pulse like ripples in one sea of empathy. Here there is no need for thought or image, for in simple silence the breath surrenders. Here we are each the secret self of the other. And when we meet here, our hearts repose in one another. We share from a single bottomless cup, at rest in Rumi's meadow, where there are no rights and wrongs, only energy.

Painting by Breughel

Day of Atonement

Atonement is return
to the beginning.
Rest in the place
where God is creating
the heavens and the earth,
and the earth is tohu wa'bohu,
formless and void.
Darkness is over the face of the deep.
And the breath of wisdom,
who is the paramour,
plays upon the waters,
brooding like a mother bird
over the infinite egg,
stirring, ruffling the silence
into waves.
It is not far.
The pilgrimage of soul-retrieval
is a journey of one inhalation
from the sun in your chest
to the starry ayin soph
in your forehead.
And the practice of returning
is a journey of one exhalation
from the pulse between your eyebrows
to your heart.
On the way you will become a tadpole
smothered in womb jelly.
You will be a mushroom spore,
a shard of moonlight wounding the imaginal cell
of an ambiguous cocoon,
a ululation of DNA on the tooth of a cougar.
You will be the soundless blade of the owl's wing,
one and the same final sigh
in 5,784 deaths.
You will pass through a forest of rainbows
rooted in the blackness of the aquifer,
the rain itself.
It is not far.
The pilgrimage of the soul is the body.
The journey of our unending breath
back to the Wordless beginning.
Imagine the silence.

Icon: 'Eve at Peace' by Sue Ellen Parkinson


September now.
I hear petals weeping,
singed with their own fire.
I hear seeds grieving lost goldenrod
and mountains gliding home on clouds.
I follow the glistening pilgrimage
of that old summer snail across the hosta leaf.
Yet I have renounced world sorrow
for the hidden pain of love,
given up charity and pity to gaze
into your face, where I find all
the otherness I can endure.
With a single inhalation, I bind and heal
the wounds of rich and poor,
oppressor and victim.
My brain is busy with forgiveness.
Both chambers of my heart are murmuring
with gratitude: the empty one says
thank you to the one that pours,
then offers back the ancient gift
of my grandmother’s blood.
My temple is the pillaged garden,
my alter the sky.
We hold satsang in the wetlands,
the frogs, blackbirds, and I.
When in doubt, I walk barefoot
in wet grass at midnight,
un-naming the stars.
Friend, it’s not the world that makes you suffer,
but your judgments about it.
And surely, the last judgment
is the silence of a white chrysanthemum
bursting under the Autumn moon.
This is the Gospel of Astonishment.

This poem is from my book, 'The Nectar Of This Breath.'
And this is a watercolor, not a photograph, by Rukiye Garip.


Still in love with light, incline
toward darkness now, the mothering etherium.
Settle in the cleft of seasons, see
through the golden shadow.
Tugged no longer by the sun, let your
umbilicus run back into the marrow
between stars.
Night motivates your bones, your melancholy
made of Winter and pearl.
It only takes one breath to change the world.
Don't be too sure you ever got out of the egg.

Art by A. Gokhan Gultekin

The Fire Of The Magdalene

In the gaze of Mary Magdalene there is a certain severity, the searing power of her shakti, which we too often try to soften into a comforter. Yet there is naught so soft, so comforting, as the no-thingness that burns away all that we are not.

What is Mary Magdalene's mission? Is she just another archetype of "the divine feminine?" Are we called to abstract her, with all the other Gods and Goddesses, into the faceless hegemony of the One?

Or does she, in Shakespeare's words, "give to airy nothing a local habitation, and a name"? Her feral astonishing bittersweet gaze, calling us toward some task quite unheard-of and outrageous?

Her darshan is a droplet of terrible fire that consumes us, burns us down and burns us up, in such accurate alchemy that our dross turns to gold, all that is not ourselves annihilated. No thing remains but the christ-all hologram of our uniqueness, irradiating every particle of the cosmos with the intimacy of our peculiar heart.

The eyes of the Magdalene behold us, and we are held. We are held in the most severe and lethal demand: the demand of bhakti. Her gaze is not the fire of anger or judgment, but passionate devotion.

Mary is devotion. That is what bhakti means. But devotion to what task? To loving Jesus? Attaining Gnosis? Embodying Sophia? Dear friend, she burns with an even deeper, purer bhakti: devotion to becoming herself.

When the drop merges with the ocean, it is our spiritual work. When the ocean merges with the drop, it is our spiritual play, our lila, our anointing.

Mary's olive-eyed glance pierces the heart, calling us to the work and play of the great transformation. She points to our becoming and whispers, "Be yourself!" She who refuses to be an archetype or a symbol, refuses to signify any truth other than her own jagged broken perfect wholeness, calls us to the ineluctable suchness of Personhood.

My new book is dedicated to the work and play of Mary Magdalene. This painting of the Magdalene by Robert Lentz.

Still Searching


I'm still searching for a Word
to describe what it's like
to discover the sky in my body
between two breaths,
what its like to swirl through
the blues in my rib cage,
a Word to explain precisely
how the immeasurable curve
of the Milky Way
shapes my eyeball,
and a silent stream of stars
pours all night down the hollows
of my spine. Perhaps
the Word is simply "Friend,"
whispered, naming
the one whose hand
touches my chest
like a feather on a cloud,
or like a blade of honey
so finely honed, my heart
hardly knows
it has been severed
into "I" and "Thou."


When you discover that this very breath is the subtlest power and most intimate body of the Goddess, She who played with the Almighty at creation, swirling her sweet milk into galaxies, then you can rest in the Wordless prayer of your heartbeat that says more than all the scriptures, and savor the whole story of salvation in the rising and falling of your chest.

Photo: another lovely one by Aile


The Hamsah swan
alights without a whisper
on the still heart's lake.
“Hamsah” means both
swan and soul
in the first language
of meditation.
We received this mantra
at the highest initiation,
our birth.
Breathe in Aham, I Am.
Welcome the grace
of your existence,
because Being is nothing
but grace.
Breathe out Sah, She who Is.
Gift yourself to the Giver.
Why are you here?
To make an offering
of your body
to the one who enfolds
each atom with a kiss,
and kneads
each particle of no-thing
into gristle and bone.
Now rest in the folding
of the swan's wings,
a boundless dot
between out and in
where Ham and Sah dissolve.
How could there be more
than Zero?
Before creation,
each creature already
rests in God,
You in I, I in You.
And with each exhalation,
we return
to rest in God.
It's no secret, friend.
Just to breathe
is the purest worship,
and every breath
is God's name.

Too Beautiful

Too beautiful, the peonies

in your garden!

By all means enjoy them,

yet be only half distracted.

Keep a tincture of pure attention

stored in your chest.

Don't let the seductions

of pain or beauty utterly pluck

that other flower, deepest grown,

the one that has always

already blossomed in your body

with its shades of fire

beyond imagining,

kaleidoscope of nameless fragrances

wound loose as mere light

on the trellis of your bones.

One day you will discover

that consciousness itself

is the Beloved.

How can you be sure?

Keep the promise of this breath.

Photo by my dear friend, Aile Shebar


Life became
more soft
and radiant,
and interesting
when I stopped
preferring This
to That.
Green tea,
black tea.
Yes please.
When I discovered
the ocean of diamonds
in this breath,
and the mountain
of silence
in a gentle
Not to hurry
but to touch
the earth,
This is our arrival.
Not to say,
'Meet me here,'
for we have
already met
in the temple of Being.
Now rest
and drink
from the well
of my presence.
Pour out all
your sparkling
Let me taste them.
Thank you.
They are


Even on the most radiant days, there is a sorrow at the heart of life. When we deny it, the day becomes a desperate quest for happiness, and the night is very long. But when we absorb the trough into our rhythm, the shadow of a breath, this benign negation infuses all things with spaciousness, and tinges creation with golden poignancy, like Autumn itself. What is heavy is not sadness, but the denial of sadness. A cricket in the alder taught me this.

Last roses, by Kristy Thompson

No One Escapes This Miracle

No one escapes the miracle

of embodiment,

not even God.

Don't you long to return

to where you are?

When the Teacher says,

you are not your body,

say, I Am.

This moss-green stone is your body,

so ancient it was here

before you were born.

The Milky Way is your body

pouring over the mountains

of the spine.

Stranger, I am your flesh.

Bound by lymph node,

gristle and tear

is a heart that has no edges.

A bee asleep on a withered mum.

Each quark of you a circle

That can't quite nip its tail.

The light that has not yet reached us

is your body.

The fragrance of next Spring's flowers.

Musk of an elk on thistle.

Consider also the dark matter

of dreams.

Your dreams are my bones.

Don't you long to return

to where you are?

No body escapes the miracle,

not even God.

Thoughts won't enlighten you.

The past won't comfort you.

The future won't complete you.

Love happens in this moment,

this breath,

this body.

Photo, Mt. Adams, Outbound Collective


Earth Is The Place

Earth is the place where the subtle
dances with the crude.

If you think This is superior to That,

you're basically fucked.

You'll never be happy here.

This planet wasn't created 

to be a gluten-free utopia for angelic hipsters

where the immaculate State imposes
Bodhidharma's diamond equity

on all sentient citizens.

That would be heat death, the republic

of entropy. 

Some voluptuous creator made us as crazy

as She is, frustrating every attempt 

to taste the world through ideas.
This lost paradise was made

for hugging opposites.

The Warrior and the Pacifist picnicking

in a meadow of bloodstained poppies.

The Man and the Woman dissolving

anger into the musk of love.

Virgin and Whore, both reflected

in crystal wings of a dragonfly.

The Manufacturer guarantees that your heart will break,

scattering songs of immaculate catastrophe.

I'm sorry, forgive me, I love you, whip me again.

Lock my handcuffs and lead me through your

rattling nest of bright-fanged chromosomes.

Now guide me through the bowels of your fossil.

Take off all your man hole covers

and show me the lie of the ancestors.

I am not afraid of your hollow

subterranean trans bones,

or the vast quantum embodiment where every atom

of traumatic flesh is 99.9% emptiness.

The trigger is God. Boom!

Thread me through your scarlet labyrinth of sewers

to the bridal chamber of the exiled queen,

She who gazes into seven thirsty cups

and fills me with the sparkling wine
of the void.


Listen to this poem HERE. Painting by Vladimir Oftcharov.

Meeting the Magdalene

A true story of grace and transformation, originally published in the Quaker journal, 'What Canst Thou Say.' I share it again for the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, which begins at Vespers on July 21.

In all wisdom traditions, she is here in the anahatta chakra. Her secret name is the Unstruck Sound. She personfies our yearning for divine Beauty. For Longing and Beauty ceaselessly merge, separate, and merge again. This is the eternal pulse in the whirling heart of the universe. Radha yearning for Krishna, a Sufi's ecstatic dance with Ruuh, Magdalene longing for Jesus: all creation is a likeness of their lila, the divine play of "bhedabheda," which in Sanskrit means, "two, not-two." Dear friend, do not be troubled by this resonant play of reflections. Just rest between two breaths, and become the mirror... I know there are many of you who embody this same rhythm of longing and union, who yearn for Divine Beauty. So I share this story of my quest with you.
  In the early 1970s, I was a pilgrim. Not to India, but to the Medieval shrines of Europe, seeking the heart of Christian prayer. I'd spent several years exploring the wisdom of India with my guru, Maharishi Mahesh. I told him that I longed to know the mystery of Christ. I was not a Hindu.

"Be a Christian," he said. "Take this meditation into the Church."

On my pilgrimage, I visited Vezeley in central France. In the crypt beneath the church is the pilgrim's shrine to the Magdalene: there I discovered that her tomb was nearby. I had no idea she was buried in France. For the first time in my life, I prayed through a saint. "O Mary, mother of devotion, guide me to the heart of Christ!" I wasn't even Catholic.

Much later, I learned her mythic story. After the crucifixion, Mary Magdalene boarded a ship bound for Britain with Joseph of Aramethea. On the coast of Provence, where now is the port of Marseilles, Mary disembarked while Joseph continued to Britain with the holy grail. Secluded in a cave in the hills of Provence, Mary became the first Christian mystic.

But as I wandered on, I forgot about my prayer to her. Several weeks later, in the pilgrim church of Conques, I met an old priest with whom I shared my quest. We did not discuss Mary Magdalene. We spoke of Gregorian Chant and the old traditions. I asked him if he knew of a monastery where the old way of Gregorian chant was still practiced. Mumbling about a tiny Benedictine priory in the south, he scribbled a note which said, "Bedouin, near Carpentras." I stuck it in my wallet.

A month later, bound for Italy, I got off the train in Marseilles by a sudden intuition. I took another train to Avignon, where I reached for the crumpled note in my wallet. "Bedouin, near Carpentras." Carpentras was a three-hour bus ride into Provence. In the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says, "Be a wanderer." I had no idea where I was going. I had truly become a wanderer.

In Carpentras, I hitched a ride toward Bedouin, which was fifteen miles further into the countryside and not even on the map. No bus, no train stopped there, few cars. I had to walk the last few miles. The village dozed in golden light. Poppies and lavender danced in the fields. Granite hills shimmered in waves of noon-day heat. Everyone in Bedouin was napping: not a soul about town! Was there a priory near-by? A single old man I met didn't know. I started to hike.
Covered with dust and sweat, I walked for hours past meadows baking in the drone of crickets. I came upon a run-down farm where a young British couple leaped through the long grass with butterfly nets. They told me there was no priory near-by and they said that everyone in the region was as crazy as they were. By evening, I was back in Bedouin. With desperate faith, I tried one more country lane at the far end of the village. The sun was an orange candle on the purple hills. I ambled another mile, through apricot groves and a flock of goats without a herder. Then, around a bend, I saw a dome.

It was an ancient Romanesque dome of well-fitted stones, near a farm house and cinder-block dormitory, tidy gardens, no sign at the gate. From the domed chapel came a sound as timeless as the longing in my heart: Gregorian chant.

I knelt in gathering darkness where nine young monks chanted Vespers. An oil lamp flickered from a niche in the granite alter. Carved in relief upon that stone was a woman, wild and naked, long hair covering her breasts. She held the oil lamp in her stone hand and gazed at me.
After Vespers, the monks greeted me in silence and beckoned me to supper: vegetables, cheese, lentil soup and bread without words. Then the prior, a young priest named Father Gerard, returned with me to the chapel, where we could whisper despite the rule of silence. In stumbling French I told Pére Gerard of my quest and he invited me to stay.

"I don't even know the name of this place," I said.

"C'est Le Prieuré de la Madeleine."

Pointing to the woman in the alter I asked, "Who is she?"

"La Madeleine." It was Mary, and this place was hers. Only then, after weeks of wandering, did I recall my prayer at her tomb. "Her cave was in these hills," said Gerard. "This shrine was built for her in the ninth century. She was the first Christian monk. And you are just in time."

"For what?" I asked.

"Her feast."

A Catholic feast begins with Vespers at sundown. My saint had guided me to Magdalene Priory precisely at Vespers on July 21. The next day, July 22, was The Feast of St. Mary Magdalene. As Tolkein wrote, "Not every wanderer is lost."
For months I worked in the apricot groves, sang the daily Latin Hours, rose for Vigils at 3 AM. There was hard work in the gardens, but the real work was prayer. In that ancient dome, before the soft granite gaze of the Magdalene, I prayed for hours each day, using the meditation technique with which my guru had graced me. The stillness inside me grew boundless, then vibrant, then dazzling. I tasted the light at the center of the soul, where the tiny bud of "I" dissolves into the blossoming "Am" of God. Yet I still longed for a personal connection to the Infinite.
Suddenly, doubt shattered my devotion. Can I unite with Christ through a meditation practice from India? Impossible, impure, even adulterous! I vowed to give up meditation and adopt the Jesus Prayer. I would only use the name of Jesus as my mantra. I tried several forms of Christian practice, but none united me with Christ like my guru's subtle sadhana.

Then came the breakthrough. With a single breath I sighed into realization. I saw that the conflict was not about East vs. West, but intellect vs. experience. God cannot be thought, for God is. I must surrender my intellect, and plunge into a darkness without concepts, a silence without thoughts. From this emptiness, love is born: light from darkness, Christ from the Virgin's womb.

Meditation deepened and softened, softened and deepened, until my longing was fulfilled. I realized that my bija mantra, the subtle Sanskrit sound heard in meditation, was really an echo of the one divine Word, the Logos "through whom all things were made" (John 1).

This Word pulses through every ancient language of prayer: Sanskrit, Hebrew, Latin, Arabic, the chants of the Amazonian rain forest. For the Logos is the resonant field of silence: pure consciousness vibrating in a singularity, a seed syllable at the root of creation, before sound condenses into matter. As one Spirit-Breath gives birth to all material creatures, so all languages are born of one Logos, and all prayers return to one God.

Gazing into the abysmal intimacy at the heart of creation, I beheld the face of the Beloved. Yet I saw no form, for Christ's features are dissolved in light, and that light is the fruit of darkness. When two kiss, they are one. They no longer see, but the Beloved is nearer than the lover's own heartbeat. One, yet two, we fall in love with Love.

Then I understood the Song of Songs, "For your lips are sweeter than wine, and your name is perfume poured out!" I tasted the vintage beyond perception, sweetness beyond naming. The person of Christ was essentialized in the sapphire radiance at the center of my soul.
"Taste and see that the Lord is good!" cries the Psalmist. O seeker, trust in the authority of your own experience. For we are led by the heart to understanding, not by understanding to the heart.

LINK: on 'Kenosis,' to read along with this memoir.