Those who have never tasted the grace of living silence sometimes mistake silence for a negation, an absence, even worse, a suppression of the human voice. But suppression is the opposite of silence: an inner scream. True silence is the flower at the heart of Being, where songs are born. Great music and poetry spring from the womb of silence. The intuitions of world-changing science flash from a fountain of quietness. When thoughts dissolve in silence, even the thought of "I," you can hear the canticle of the stars, galaxies above and below, falling up into a roar of beauty on gifted wings through ineffable depths of your soul. Silence is the voice of God.
Mural by Melozo da Forli
Breathing Through My Sole
I am in full grok of wondrous suchness feeling my sole as my soul and the sol of solitude the sun; thus mouths in my bare feet hungrier for moonlight than the pulsing wound in the crown of my skull; because the word for dust in Hebrew is "adamah," and the word for breath is the word for spirit, and ancient languages tell us how to sing not how to think; the Qi, the Ruuh, the Pneuma, the pun of soul on breath, the Lord breathing into Adamic dust to make a living person, a "nephesh," from the verb "nephash" to breathe, and yes these unshod soles are puns that make me free to wander naked in my garden under the New Moon of the First Planting, and to inhale through my whole body, from the ground up, exhaling through my crown, a dark alchemical musky fountain changing sod to consciousness, like a larva full of stars.
Put some space around your story.
A wilderness of blue encircles
Why resist the whirl
and chatter of the mind?
Just stop believing it.
This tale of lack and sorrow
is time past,
but the space you hold around it
is always now.
The journey of a seed into its fruit,
how far the ocean goes
to embrace a lost wave,
where the robin finds a galaxy
to shape her nest in April:
of unfiltered distances.
You too could fathom stillness,
fill the hollow in each cell
of your flesh,
the star-strewn vacuum in each atom
with delicious inhalation.
What is real?
An ancient Presence,
pulse of repose, deepening abyss
of honeyed silence.
in the sweet secret well
Friend, do it while you're still on earth.
This hidden work
replenishes the loam
and nurtures many souls.
Moratorium On Names
A moratorium on the name of God
A moratorium on the sobriquet
of Christ, Allah, Yahweh, Ram,
O Magdalenic Desolation.
* A poem from The Nectar Of This Breath
'Be Ye Perfect'
A life-coach told me,
"you're perfect right now."
So I tried perfection for a day
but it was boring.
After all, God is already God,
but who would be Me
if I didn't keep fucking things up
in my own peculiar way?
My blemishes define me,
jagged edges are the letters
of my true name.
Call me Broken Buddha,
This universe just wouldn't
be the same without my sins.
I am more priceless uncut,
a ruby in the mud
that looks like a fallen berry,
the gem of surprise!
Here's the sign of progress:
I'm even less perfect now
than I was yesterday.
I dedicate this poem
to you, my dear,
who discovered the hot mess
of your body on the kitchen floor
slobbering your tears
into the linoleum
while Good Morning America
bled out in the living room.
I honor the unconditional
catastrophe of your hair,
your crow's feet, the droop
of your udder destruction,
the warm spreading mystery
of your wounded smile.
You have blossomed
in the compost of uprooted plans
and wasted seeds of possibility.
No matter how deeply
you scatter, you germinate.
No matter how far you fall,
you are caught.
You plunge into the Hug
that was always already here.
We could hug each other
Anne's Photos: 'Lovely Dead Crap Still Life'
Wings of the Ordinary
The miracles we do not notice this first morning of Spring fly back to the Creator on disappointed wings. But the ones we behold fold their wings, and settle into the commonplace. Creator did not say, "Let there be light," at some ancient point in time. Creator says, "Let there be light," each instant. And this act of creation remains unfinished without the light of our awareness. We seldom hear the most important commandment, because it is the whisper of silence: "Thou shalt notice the toadstool and the hyacinth, the web of dew, the pebble, the bud." We are here on earth to pay attention, to perceive the miraculous wings of the ordinary. Our wonder completes the design.
Photo by Laurent Berthier
A Body Shaped Like The Wilderness
Just as Christ was in Mary
there is prayer inside the breath,
a soul inside the soul,
one who watches
and one who weeps,
a body shaped like the wilderness
inside the body,
made of dark matter and fire.
Just as Christ was in Mary,
there is energy in silence.
When evening falls,
stars populate the blackness
with countless powers of minus 1.
The Magdalene holds up an egg.
Her eyes long to tell us
what she will not say.
Where is her voice?
Where is yours?
Spring trembles in white bones,
but the marrow is burnt umber.
Within the egg,
is it light or shadow,
or some green yearning
She will not speak, yet she sings
a canticle of silence
out of the belly of all things.
that passes over her tongue
like wind at night without a husband.
Just as Christ was in Mary,
love is burning, born
Painting of Magdalene by Robert Lentz, Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
The universe has no meaning or purpose other than its own playfulness. It is like a sugar pill, a placebo - harmless, yet full of energy, and whatever potency we imagine it might possess. Most of our conflicts, and much of the stress we cause each other, will dissolve when we grok this simple truth instead of resisting it. The cosmos is a placebo, and placebos work.
Here is radical freedom: we get to superimpose any story we like upon the world. Just as we attribute healing properties to a sugar pill, we attribute to the dance of creation the meaning we choose, healing ourselves by telling our story about the world. The story makes us feel good, makes our life seem more meaningful, until we finally, very gently, let go of storytelling. Then we permit ourselves to feel good without a story. True joy needs no story. Joy simply is.
It's a lot less scary, less exhausting, when we relax into this wholeness, this holiness, which is the perception that the universe is just a celebration of energy, dancing in itself, renewing itself each moment, without "meaning" anything. The task of living gets simpler because we quit insisting that others adopt our story, our religion, our politics, our diet, our taste in books, movies, ice cream...
Almost miraculously, the energy shifts from negative to positive as we remember that another person's story is valid for them, just as ours is valid for us, and all our stories are but co-entangled threads in one vast tapestry of human hope.It isn't our stories that create conflict, but the insistence that your story must be mine, or mine must be yours. People inherently do not want to tell violent, hopeless, negative stories. They love to tell stories of courage, creativity, self-renewal, and beauty. But if I rob you of your own story, and insist that only mine is true, then I force you to tell a story of resistance, retribution, retaliation, war, which is simply your reaction to my need to be right.
Let me tell my story, as you tell yours. But let us ever be ready to meet in Rumi's field, out beyond stories, in a chaos of Spring flowers, under a riot of stars, in a cosmos that needs no meaning but its own perfectly wild and Wordless energy.
Photo from my back yard taken by my daughter Abby
Be God's Body
Every woman's body is divine. Every man's body is divine. Be God's body, that is the answer. What was the question?
To honor God in your body is the most radical revolution. To honor God in another's body is political healing.
The gates of paradise are the portals of your flesh. You cannot transcend your body, but you can journey through it to the stars. Each atom is filled with the sky. Angels arrive and depart in your nuclei. Christ is born again and again at the core of a proton. No need to be washed in the blood of the Lamb: you were washed in the blood of your mother's womb. That was salvation.
The sacred practices of every wisdom tradition are techniques of Incarnation. They do not negate, but glorify, our human flesh. The bread of the Eucharist is the body of Jesus. Tribal shamans draw the Spirit from plants, animals, stones. Grace flows, not down from heaven, but up through the soles of the Qi master's feet. The whirl of a Sufi is body-meditation. Buddha's breath is lower than your belly button, in the Hara. The Tree of Life is your spine, growing in the paradise of your nerve garden. Chakras blossom here, on this tree, not in other worlds.
Esoteric paths are not as spiritual as the revelations of your flesh, yearning, sated, whole. All you need to bring to this body is Awareness. The journey beyond is a journey within. The journey up is a journey down, pilgrimage to the sacred mud between your toes. Your weight is a prayer. Gravity is grace.
You are a lightning bolt connecting earth and sky. Axis mundi, cruciform, the nexus of North, South, East, and West, your body is the radiance of the Dark Mother into form. Your body is a temple where angels meet their animal familiars, celestial gandharvas come to learn plant songs, and Holy Spirit glistens through the wish-granting prism of a dust mote. "Therefor glorify God in your body" (1 Cor. 6:20).
Laugh, cry, dance, and meditate. The eye is holy. The nose is holy. Lips and tongue are holy. Holy the
clitoris. Holy the belly and buttocks. Holy each wrinkle of your skin.
The Goddess, who is the supreme power of creation, dwells in your body as this breath. Delight in Her.
Engraving by William Blake
Grace Requires No Practice
Originally published in the Quaker journal, 'What Canst Thou Say,' May 2006, and reprinted in the Quaker journal, 'The Carillon,' February 2017.
I wake at dawn. For a few moments before my mind like the rustle of yesterday's newspaper begins its habitual chatter, I am simply awake without thought... Listening to the faintest sound, a seal barking far away over the water, and beyond the faintest sound, I hear the throbbing depths of silence... Following that throb to the horizon of hearing, deeper within than the mind itself... Truly listening, there is no place but the present moment, and therefore no time... Then, right outside my window, a robin, and the universe trembles.
Dawn's misty silence,Nothing prevents me from doing this meditation each morning but one thing: the concept of "doing meditation."
changed by the first robin song
to deeper silence.
On a work day afternoon, amidst several busy projects, I take a short walk in the park. I glance up at the cloudless blue sky. How often have I looked at the sky: so available, costing nothing! Yet now, in this momentary window of grace, blue-sky-gazing is profound sadhana, spiritual practice.
The sky is like the background of my thoughts. But now, thoughts fade into the background and turquoise stains my whole attention. I don't suppress thoughts, I just don't cling to them, because my focus shifts to the marvelous blue zero above. Thank you sky. Now you are my spiritual practice.
Looking into that hollow radiance, I pass through a vanishing point, my eyes of subjectivity completely disentangled from objects. Intensely aware but unfocused, hundreds of tiny muscle fibers relax in my face. The gentle smile I felt when I was a sleeping infant returns to this old body. Then I close my eyelids to discover.... the same vastness inside!
Gaze into my heartAll my life I've been climbing: toward higher education, higher esteem, a pay raise, upward mobility, uplifting thoughts, up-scale neighborhood, higher tax bracket, higher state of consciousness, seventh heaven, cloud nine, the risen life! No wonder I'm weary. I'm always fighting gravity.
and touch a deeper sky of
But tonight I lie down, spreadeagled on the cool grass in my back yard, gazing at nameless, near, and distant stars. For a few minutes, I'll take no thought for tomorrow. I’ll just get down, stay low and fallen. I'll commit the great American sin: doing nothing.
Thoughts fade as I shift attention to my breath, my flesh. Weight on ground, skin to sod... Suddenly, a revelation of the commonplace. Why did I never understand this before? I don't need to fight my weight. I can give in to gravity! I won't even call it gravity. That's too heavy. I 'll call it earth's prayer for my body as she holds me to her breast.
My body is a ripple in the vast swell of energy that rolls across the cosmic sea. I am awash in star-waves, and they too are part of my flesh, part of the same current that connects me to our planet. Where does this body end and hers' begin? Who needs to ascend? I am already falling through the heavens, plummeting upward. The vast billow of my merest atom embraces the space beyond the galaxies, then gathers all in all, enfolding me in the infinite curve of Presence.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust... How strange to save these words of life until our funeral.
I've stood up so long.
Now, star-dazed in dewy grass,
I am so fallen!
There's a secret to this madness.
Everything is spiritual.
A toadstool is made out of God.
This rock is the supreme Being,
because it merely is.
Seen close up,
the wing of a housefly reveals
a thousand verses of scripture.
Even the fur on a golden terrier
is infested with celestial beings,
countless as the stars.
Your inhalation is the most intimate
name of Lady Wisdom,
the whisper only lovers know.
How does Mount Fuji float on a cloud?
It all happens through miracle.
The planets and suns are in free-fall,
yet they're caught and held
by some colossal stillness.
Pilgrim, didn't you know?
There's a secret to this madness.
The radiance of your final destination
illuminates your starting place,
and the space between them
is a single breath of grace.
All that prevents your enlightenment
is seeking it.
Everything is spiritual.
Now polish the earth with your footsteps
like a grail.
What does it mean to whirl?
It means to give up the journey
and dance in all directions
Painting by Ananya Poddar
Look Into My Tears
"Seek the remedy inside the pain, because the rose came
from the thorn and the ruby came from a stone." ~Rumi
Look into my tears.
Just as the proton carries a hidden charge
of dark energy,
so every heart encircles a secret night.
We don't know its name,
but it's the same ache in each of us,
thought we hide it under a smile
because we are afraid it might be ours alone.
We never imagine that the face
who smiles back at us
also carries the uncreated matter
of the shadow.
We find that out much later,
when we gaze into each other’s tears,
when we embrace the night
within each other and it blossoms
into a luminous rose,
not because we've been forgiven,
but because a radiant grace
is the nature of the hour before dawn,
and the true smile rises
from a heart that stops trying
not to grieve.
Here is a deeper secret, friend,
one that has no shadow at all.
I smile from your heart.
You smile from mine.
Goddess of Night
In the history of light
nothing like this splendor
has ever fallen on
a human face.
The crystal goblet becomes
the color of the wine,
and I take the form
of the beauty I behold.
What could be more
exquisite than the black
gaze of the Goddess
A breath is the subtlest object of sensation. And yet it is the fragrance of the soul. When awareness meets breath, spirit and matter kiss. Heaven bends to caress the earth.
Gently brushing breath with awareness generates the friction of bhakti, kindling the flame of divine love.
The Goddess wears your breath as a luminous veil. She hides her face behind it, practicing the most ancient and cunning modesty.
Her modesty is love play. Remember this while you fall asleep, which is to fall in love, which is to drown among galaxies clustered like living coral in the ocean of your flesh.
She will make you so vast, you will become the stillness around the whirling of the All.
You are the witness, not the dream. In the bell of your heart, hear the unstruck resonance that created the sun. O yes, as a luminous veil She wears your breath. Don't ask her name. Let her name you.
To see her face, you must be neither sleeping, nor dreaming, nor awake. You must be her mirror. You must reflect her brilliant darkness, trillions of eyes in a single tear.
Don't try to understand this. Just become the night.
Photo by Aile Shebar
Those who have dwelt in heaven, as have we all, know that a time comes in the life of each angelic soul, when God calls you aside, sits you down in a little office, and says, “We need to talk.”
You say to yourself, “I knew this was too good to last.”
“How is everything?” God asks.
“Well, fine,” you answer. “just like always.”
“I’m referring to this business of perfection. How’s it working out for you?”
“Is there something wrong?” you ask.
“Of course not,” God laughs. “How could there be anything wrong with perfection? I was just wondering if you might need a change.”
You gulp. You knew this was coming.
“I was just thinking,” God continues, “it might be time for…”
You feel a furrowing in your brow. “Are you talking about… that place?”
“I think you know what I’m talking about,” God says gently. “You’re ready.”
“Please, no. Not ready, no.”
“Admit it,” God says. “You’ve been getting a little bored here.”
“Well, maybe a little. Because, you know, everything is perfect. But I haven’t complained, have I? I’ve learned to put up with it.”
“But maybe its getting a little old?” God suggests.
“My work has gotten an A-rating, just like everyone else’s. Have I ever veered from your will for an instant?”
“All that is quite irrelevant,” God replies.
“But how could I survive in that place?”
Desperate now, your voice quivers. Something new and salty drips from your eyes. “I wouldn’t last a moment there: 70, 80 years at most!”
“About right,” God says.
“And I’d have to endure… birthmarks, crow's feet, impure thoughts!”
God gravely nods. “Every imperfection in the universe, all bundled into one planet, one lifetime, one body.”
You cease to struggle. Your shoulders droop as with heavy, wet, desultory wings. “Why would you ask this of me?”
“Because you’re ready.”
“Ready for what, Lord?”
“If I could tell you the answer, you wouldn’t need the experience.”
Your white light dims. Soon, you are so dark you begin to take on shades of color.
“I’m not that strong. I think I might fail.”
“You will.” God replies.
Gazing at God in surrender, you see a softness in those eyes you never noticed before. God whispers, ”It’s already begun, hasn’t it?”
“Yes. I feel afraid but... so alive inside. What’s happening?”
“Humanity is kicking in.”
“Will I return, or will I die?”
“Yes,” God says.
Though you try to speak, no sound comes from your agonized lips, but a murmurous ichor, as from the drowned. Radiance fades from your countenance. God's graceful fingers close the lids of your eyes. Lifting you up in arms that offer no more solace, God hurls you through an open window, a portal that widens into the vast and terrible glare of birth.
Illustration by Gustav Doré, from 'Paradise Lost'
From the Dreamtime of The Fur
Today I went to see my therapist, because I felt the ancient anxiety returning, that shadow of the past, that ghost in my body, with all its stories of conflict.
So I visited my therapist and lay my body down on her couch. Without speaking a word, she rubbed her silken spine against me, gently climbed on top of me, sat on my chest and gazed into my eyes, her pupils expanding with implacable nowness. She let me stroke her cheeks and run my fingers through her fur.
Her body shivering with delight, she arched her back, and I could feel the stress flowing out of me, a current of stale electricity cluttered with images of yesterday. My muscles released their grip on themselves. My brain dissolved its stories. My neurons became vibrant hollows filled with golden streams of imageless bliss. Because I was whole again, the world was whole again - the actual world of furry suchness, without blame or division.
Suddenly, the therapist leapt off my body and walked out of the room. My session was over. She had another appointment.
Photo, our dear Basquiat, 20 years old
Some say political action
transforms the world.
Some say the world is cleansed
Some say we heal the world
through waves of silence
rising in a heart that drowns
in the ocean of ananda.
I say, don't worry.
The world was annihilated
a moment ago
and recreated just now,
a sparkle of delicious fire
on a dragonfly's wing.
Now do what you love.
Photo by dear friend Aile Shebar
God is not an OBE.
God is the taste
of the strawberry void
at the center
of each cell,
in every proton.
are on fire
through the hollow
of your bones,
and turns into wine
the moment you
14 thousand years ago, when I was 9 years old, my father sent me into the meadow to herd his meager goat flock. From the forest, where I was told never to wander, I heard a thrush song so melodious that it almost seemed like the call of an angel. At the time I did not know that songs do not descend from above, but rise up from the animal kingdom.
Allured, I abandoned my goats, who grazed contentedly on thistles and clover, and plunged into the woods where it grew thickest, greenest, and most wild.
Under a blossoming dogwood tree I met a boy my own age. His skin was blue as a rain-laden cloud in early May. His eyes were twin trillium dancing in fern shadows. Being a prince, he superciliously gave me a commandment: "Leave all your duties and make mischief with me."
"Is this permitted?" I asked.
"Yes," he said, " because the world needs mischief more than work."
"What about the rules?"
"There is only one rule. Fall in love. Then it is your duty to break every other law."
He taught me how to turn my body into a wounded flute with seven holes. He showed me how to pour tears through it. He taught me to catch peacocks by the tail and follow their outraged flight to the moon. He taught me to transcend both sleep and dreams, and to sing all night.
Then my dark blue playfellow led me to a deep pool filled by a waterfall in the forest, where the daughters of his royal cousins were bathing. We tiptoed over the moss and stole the clothes that they had scattered on the bank. Climbing up in a yew tree, we hung them from every branch, laughing and teasing the ladies below, who shrugged their shoulders and covered their buoyant breasts with crossed hands.
I accidentally dropped my wallet into the pool, a little bag filled with my most precious heirlooms. One of the girls dove for it, then came up gasping, waving the purse and shouting, "You must give us our clothes to get this back!"
I called, "There's nothing in that bag but my name, my grandfather's diamond signet ring, and the deed to my father's property. Throw it back into the water. I'd rather see your nipples!"
She did just that, causing the blue boy to laugh with delight. "Well done!" he said, clapping his hands. A very large salmon leaped out of the water with my wallet in its mouth, then swam down the stream toward the sea.
But the blue boy wanted to give the girl a little punishment for throwing my wallet away, not because she had done wrong, but just to tease her. So he blew a breath upon her that transformed her body into a mourning dove. "You may return to your human form tomorrow," he said.
Beating her wings in distress, the dove flew to a willow branch that wept over the water. All night she keened the plaintive ululation only lovers understand. At dawn her sweet mist-muted cry came from afar, over many hills.
When the sun was high and the mist had burned away, she wandered back to her friends, naked and human, her bare feet delicately pressing last night's dew from the moss. "Sorrow is lovely," she said. "Now I will never be afraid. I miss the dark."
Almost 10 thousand years later, while wandering through Manchuria, I met the Old Master of the Way, hitchhiking out of the empire. I was still a young boy. "Before you escape from civilization," I asked the old fellow, "what can you teach me?" He taught me to breathe through the soles of my feet. I still hate shoes.
I followed the caravan routes across Persia to the Roman Empire. On the way, I passed through a picturesque little kingdom called Israel, noted chiefly for die-hard zealots who kept challenging the authority of Caesar, getting themselves crucified, then coming back for more.
I befriended the son of the High Priest while I was stealing pomegranates in the crowded marketplace. He took me to his father's house and, discovering that I had met some sages in the East, the High Priest asked me if I wanted to visit the temple. Of course I did. He made me bathe several times and cover my body in a white robe, then escorted me through the court of the gentiles and into the sanctuary, where I had no right to be.
"Are you sure the temple guards won't arrest me?" I asked.
The High Priest just winked and said, "You're a traveler. Speak well of what you see here as you travel Westward."
He led me down aisle after aisle, past many tables where merchants were selling pigeons, lambs, and wine for the devout to offer in sacrifice. There were pots filled with dinarii and other trinkets of silver. In the heart of the temple, I walked up the stairs past alters of incense and sacrifice, carefully stepping over trenches in the floor that ran with the warm blood of rams and bulls. The Levitical priests seemed entranced by their work of slaughter and didn't notice me, a 12-year-old goy in their midst.
Then the old man led me to the Holy of Holies, its door barely visible in the cloud of incense that perpetually gloomed the pillars and alters. He asked me not to speak, then opened the golden door. We walked into the shrine room at the center of God's little kingdom.
Imagine my surprise. There I expected to see another alter, with a holy book lying upon it. Or perhaps the Ark of the Covenant, containing the tablets that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai. Or even the lost tablet, the one Moses broke in fury, on which a single commandment was written: "Love thyself."
But instead I saw another door wide open, actually more like the black throat of a cave. The High Priest beckoned me with a sweeping gesture, and I walked through. Before my eyes grew accustomed to the dark, I seemed to be spinning through a vacuum, tumbled by waves of pure possibility, like a wildly unbalanced quadratic equation searching desperately for Zero, buffeted and baffled by expanding and contracting bubbles of space-time. I was lost in the swirling maelstrom of infinitesimal worlds smaller than Planck's Constant.
Suddenly I touched solid ground and could see again. I had passed through some mysterious portal into an ancient forest. Thick with cedar, hemlock, ferns and trillium, green shadows echoed with the sound of birds, shrieks of monkeys and other hominids, only the eyes of whom were visible, glinting from the dark. Reptiles with human faces twined around every tree trunk, smiling like flowers, singing so softly that their descant was an all-pervading whisper, mighty in its quietude.
Looking at the High Priest, I yearned for an explanation yet was unable to speak. In a very deliberate and barely audible voice, he said, "No temple can ever contain Adonai, the Lord of Creatures, whose true name is unknown. For God is wilderness, and order is chaos. In the presence of her mystery, all words perish, all thoughts fall silent. A holy scripture is holy only when it conjures images of the ancient forest. To find enlightened, you must be feral again."
So I walked deeper into the green shadows, and swooned... Then I found myself sitting in the market place, eating that pomegranate among the merchants' booths. Where was the High Priest and his son? Had it merely been a reverie? Were the seeds of the pomegranate fermented?
Not many centuries later, I was strolling through a village near the source of the Ganges, and who do you think I encountered? Bodhidharma, the 6th Patriarch, on his way to the North. He invited me to go with him but I answered, "I'm too young. Besides, I've already been there."
That night we lay under the stars. Bodhidharma gave me a pearl and said, "Rest this between your eyebrows." So I did. "Now look into the stars." Then I saw my seven grandmothers riding galactic bicycles, pregnant with light years, bearing the galaxies from virgin silence.
On my way home, I wandered through Macedonia. One night I left the path to sleep in a forest cave. About midnight I was wakened by a goat-footed singer with a three-stringed lyre, who was climbing through the cave on his way back from the Underworld, where he had been dallying with his lover. He gave me a drink from his wine skin and played the richest harmonies, the most haunting melodies, on just those three strings, for the complexity of the universe is only the music of the Trinity, Three in Zero. I began to weep with incomprehensible waves of grief. The singer said, "You must make a lyre of body, breath, and mind if you want to turn your tears to laughter."
I am not sure if this was a dream, but he touched his lyre to my lips and the strings melted like maple sugar candy, dripping down through the hollows of my rib cage, each drop echoing in the cavern of my belly. The goat-man said, "Loop these strings through your nostrils and stretch one to your heart, one to your navel, and one to the tip of your spine." I did as instructed. "Now breathe," he commanded.
As I inhaled, each neuron tingled with a love song. As I exhaled, strange rhyming couplets spilled from my lips in words of evaporated crystal. Even today I breathe these bejeweled sounds. This is how I remain just twelve years old, though I have outlived the world's most ancient volcanoes.
About 2000 years later, I met Jesus. He was an honored guest in the house of my master Levi, where I was a servant boy. Reclining on his elbow by the low table, as was the custom at Hellenistic feasts, Jesus said, "Come here, boy. What are you serving?"
"Olives, sir." I offered him my plate of succulent brown ones.
"Not sweet enough for me," Jesus said. "Do you have any grapes?"
The whole room grew quiet. My master Levi and all the men reclining at the feast wanted to see what I would do, for it was a great sin to insult a guest, and I was a slave boy. "No grapes, sir," said I, "Only olives; but my master's olives are more luscious than any fruit."
At that, both host and guests sighed with relief, resuming their debate on the philosophy of love. Jesus reached his fingers into my dish of olives, drawing out a dripping fistful. Holding his hand over my head, he crushed the olives in his palm and drizzled their juice over my hair. It spilled down my forehead into my eyes and over my lips. Jesus said, "Boy, I anoint you with oil. You are the Christ, just as I Am. Together, we will become pure breath, and enter the bodies of saints and fools."
Deeply disturbed, my master Levi cried, "Why do you anoint this servant boy as if he were a prophet? He belongs to me!"
Jesus simply gazed into my eyes and commanded, "Speak, boy!"
My mouth made sounds, but were they words? Was this a language anyone could understand? I had no idea what I was saying, but I knew exactly what I meant:
"You have wandered too long in blazing desert sun. Come to my oasis of figs, pomegranates, cocoa and apple boughs. Rest in my green shadows."When your eyes take root in my fecund darkness, you will see gemstones lying among the lilies: rocks of amethyst and jagged topaz, blackest onyx, sapphires gleaming with their own inward light."Turn them over one by one and behold, a gushing spring under each stone. And see, dwelling in those gurgling fountains of night are all the serpents that were ever banned by priests of religion from every nation on earth. Now they dwell here, in my oasis, beyond good and evil. Press your face into my streams and drink of these serpent waters!"That was a very sweet night.
Several centuries later, I wandered through the ancestral hills of Eire, searching for elves and leprechauns, having read in a wicked book that Ireland was the last place on earth where the little people could still be found - at least out here on the world's surface. I climbed over a mysterious mound covered with clover and eglantine. Ancestral commotions rumbled from under the ground. In the thicket, a five-point stag was waiting for me. He whispered, "Follow quickly, we are hunted."
Hearing the huntsman's horn, the buck and I ran into the white fog, then emerged in a cedar forest, walking along a deep crevasse in the broken earth. I heard no horn of huntsman now, but elfin music rising from that cleft in the earth. "Fairies?" I asked the deer. But the stag had dissolved into mist.
As I was very tired, and it was evening, I lay down among morning glory vines whose blossoms were folded up. A sweet breath of warmth pervaded that cluster of green. Falling into deep sleep, I dreamed that tiny dancers entered and left my body, carrying excavated treasures which they loaded into carts carved from bone, pulled by winged dolphins who flew up into the night. They exported my whole body, atom by atom, into the stars. And I was made of stars.
Awoken by sunbeams, I was refreshed but hopelessly entangled in morning glories. The blossoms opened wide and gaped with foolish grins, yet the songs they sang were just tremors of silence in the breeze. I had the peculiar sense that this breeze and its silent songs were emerging from my own bone marrow.
Then I noticed a little man sitting beside me on the ground, his endless wheaten beard spiraling around him. Those vacant limpid eyes were like pools of cream, and somehow I knew that he was blind. But he gazed upon me with second sight, holding a ruddy glistening fish in his arms, as one might hold a fat furry cat. It was the salmon who had stolen my wallet in a previous age. This fish had no trouble breathing the sunny air.
"Who are you, sir?" I asked the small wheat-bearded man.
"My name is Turlogh," he said, "Turlogh, the Blind Harper."
"Have you come to teach me to harp, or to see?"
"Ah," he said, "You are so clever! Have not the little people been teaching you my songs all night?"
At that, I remembered the music in my marrow, and watched my breath sink into my heart, where a flame burst out, undulating in the emerald form of a lady with a serpent's tail, on which she could tiptoe and spin, spreading enormous rainbow wings. Her eyes were filled with tears, her lips with a succulent smile. Yes, a harp sang inside me. And deep underground, a chorus answered the song of my body, echoing from the crevasse. I understood that the elves, who lived down in the heart-wound of the earth, had been teaching me their songs throughout the ageless hours of darkness.
"Now you comprehend your name!" Turlough said. The truth was, I had always hated my name, "Alfred." But I never knew what it meant until now. "It is Anglo-Saxon," the little man added. "Elf-Read, which means, Taught-by-Elves."
That is when I awoke a second time, and Turlogh was gone. Or was it the third time I awoke? I am losing count. My life has been a never-ending rosary of awakenings. There in the grass beside me was a rabbit, a squirrel, and a fat raven. They plucked, pulled, and untangled the morning glory vines from my body.
The raven said, "None of the beings you have encountered until now were real. Not one. But we are real. We are animals. We come to you in dreams, disguised as other sorts of people whom you respect more. But you have been learning from us the whole time."
The rabbit and the squirrel stared at me with great kindness, then hopped off into the forest. The fat raven beat his wings and rose into the air, making a croak that seemed like the gong of an enormous star-encompassing bell. At that, I seemed to awaken yet again.
"Wait!" I shouted, "Was it all a dream within a dream?"
The raven called, "Yes!"
I shouted back, "Not so, because ravens can't talk!"
And the raven, now very high above, disappeared into the morning sunshine, singing, "This too!"
Invitation to a New Age Workshop
Excited to invite you to the Eighth Heavenly Tantric Zoom Initiation of Prophet Elijah’s Astral Chariot Prayer, during which you will definitely gaze upon the Face of the most Ancient of Days. or your money back! The cost is more than you could possibly afford, the sum of your remaining lives. All proceeds go to the Self. You will not only ascend to the Intergalactic Cathedral of Unknowing through the diamond dorge of your wisdom crown, but you will descend, through the fiery Portal of the Ordinary into the Cavern of Now, receiving a precious blood-stained Garment of Flesh. No need to register. Your account has already been charged. You have already taken the workshop. You were anointed in your mother’s womb. All you need is to remember, then look around you, and behold! Wherever you are, whatever you see, is the Christic Majesty of the Divine Countenance, whose eyes are ever fresh with tears. Now disappear without a trace into the inconceivable vastness of the next moment.
Hibiscus on my porch, a portal to what Is.