Ode to Hands

I honor your hands, those skillful bones, tendons,
knuckles and fingers: you awe me, tool-holder!
I bow down to you, my own hands inept,
little accomplishing, hardly able to fold themselves.
You who tie knots and make shelters, you
who reach into the blood of birth and turn
the breached foal's head in the womb of the mare;
woodcarver, carpenter, thrower of pots,
blacksmith, diamond cutter, pruner of fruit trees;
you who swing bats or sink three pointers,
loaf kneader, roller of noodles, whirler of pizza dough;
calligrapher allowing clouds, expressing mountain
and bamboo in wrists and fingertips, I honor you!
Squirting milk into a bucket from the goat's teat,
or fingering the Uileann pipes as you gaze inward
at the eyes of Danu, Mother of green Eirre; 
you, lonely cosmetician with your palette of faces, 
I do not forget, nor you foot maseuse, nor plumber,
chiropractor, nurse, laying hands on the sick at midnight
unknown to the doctor; you the surgeon as well,
you, the veterinarian who operates on puppies;
I do not forget the engineer in the ribcage of the ship,
or the navigator by stars in oceanic night
on the bridge with his sextant and compass.
I honor the greaser and breaker of rusted bolts, you,
mechanic changing my mother's tire on the highway;
you who lay brick walls in a straight line, who play
steel stringed guitar with tough delicate fingers;
poodle groomer, binder of wounds on the battlefield!
I honor your hands, sword-wielder, marksman,
backhoe driver, shaker of the shaman's rattle at the moon.
I honor the deft diaper changer and the mixer of cocktails;
the Ayurvedic pulse-reader, the miner with infernal drill;
distiller of barley malt, brewer, grafter of grape vines;
you who bless tinctures and ointments, crushing flowers
into homeopathic salve, all of you equally adept.
I honor the handyman and midwife, the builder of campfires,
mudra-weaver in your mountain shrine, you, love-maker. 
With my hands that make nothing, I offer you this poem.

Not Enough

It's not enough to be the sky,
you must become loam.
Not enough to alchemize
into an angel.
You must become a mycorrhizal hypha
plunging like a dolphin through waves of sod.
Not enough to be more than you are,
you must become all that you were.
Find the farthest star in grit-spark
closed in clam shell, chaffed
by darkness into pearl.
Churn a butter song from silence.
Anther and ovule, you and I,
wedded in one calyx,
golden idol of death,
the absolute continuum of musk,
incense, and putrefaction.
It's not enough to be loam.
You must become the sky.

Micro-photo of a maggot by L.C. Lewis

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



To become conscious of consciousness is freedom. To become aware of pure awareness - whether awake, or dreaming, or in deep sleep - is the crest-jewel of liberation. Consciousness unbounded, empty, self-luminous, vibrating in stillness. When this pure consciousness outshines perception of the object, outshines the dream, outshines even the darkness of deep sleep, the veil between the worlds dissolves. It is Love, all-pervading, all-forgiving, all-unifying. Your love or God's love? No need to ask. Consciousness permeates even that veil, and you love the other as your self. Then otherness sparkles even more wondrously, even more intimately. Waves of joy in the stillness of Being, waves of Twoness in the One, for the sake of love. Whether of man or woman, insect or angel, pebble or toadstool or Mother Divine, otherness irradiates creation with beams of grace that emanate from your own heart. It is You, it is You who have been saying all along, "Let there be light!"


Eight billion mirrors

look the same

when unbroken.

But when they fall,

no two shatter alike.

No two reflect

the wild rose window

of a similar world.

Rejoice in the jagged


of your singularity,

the shattering

that makes you whole
and holy unlike.

The miracle is not

to merge with God

or evaporate into
the One: the miracle
is to become

a Person.

The mirror of
Christ fallen,
spilling its emptiness

into creation.

Let us imitate the love,

but not the pattern,

for we each have our own.

The more naked,

the more unique.

Now take off your veil,

then take off the veil

under the veil.

Show me the gaze of

your most radiant wound.

Photo: NASA's WISE space telescope shows a cosmic rosebud blossoming with new stars, including the Berkeley 59 cluster and a supernova remnant.

Don't Tell

Don't tell me what

enlightenment is.

Tell me how like a thief,

while others sleep,

you silently come to unlock

the cages of the mind.

How you release the feral breath

into its meadow, the sky.

Speak not of angels or Goddesses,

but dangerous lovers

who swim in the ocean

of the uncreated, deeper

inside you than a soul.

Speak of the ancient eye

of the shelter dog.

Speak of the fragrance

that spills from your bruises,

what seeps from the broken

pomegranate, your heart

oozing thousands of other hearts.

Tell how you keep one secret:

the taste on the tongue,

the musk of sweet syrup

containing the stars,

their crushed fermented light

that makes the darkness holy.

Have your lips touched

the rim of the cup?

Why do you need a grail?

You are the thirst,

and you are the wine.