Amahoro: Instructions for Living & Dying

Instructions for living are instructions for dying. Instructions for dying are instructions for breathing. The most exquisite meditation only lasts a moment. We are made of moments, some never-ending.

Awakening is beyond instruction, a pearl of sun folded in the gauze of morning mist, like a wound. The grace of palliative care is not tasted in the ashram, the zendo or yoga studio, but on the death bed. Or now, in the crisis of the ordinary heart, the gossamer transition from breath to breath, when we hear a friend say: "The argument between you and yourself is over, dear. Now your work is sinking from the forehead to the chest.
                             
"Your mind has done enough complaining. It's time to place attention here, where the pain is. Your dizziness is just a disconnection from the ground. Feel the weight of your sole, your bare foot touching the wet earth. Plant yourself in the Mother and breathe through your root.
                            
"If your rib cage burns, no need to call it fear. Let this violet pool of sensation draw you home, to the spring between your eyebrows, where voluptuous and slow
you tumble through clear nectar, falling into the center of your original body. Enter the aching and plummet toward stillness. A vast compassion will catch you, dark energy arms, clouds of clustered stars, wordless and resonant with muffled lightning.
                            
"In your belly is a door, the portal of grief and loss. Step through, I will go with you. Why insist on getting smaller? You are using the wrong words, like death. A passing chill on the back of your neck. A dust mote between your exhalation and the next breath. An ocean of silence whispered in your left ear. It would be wiser to use words like opening, mother, musk.
                            
"It is time to honor how spacious you are. Let the hollow in your throat become the sky. Let the crown of your head become an active volcano of silence. No one but you has the privilege of choosing to name this moment beauty, or annihilation.
                            
“Yet the highest work is not to say anything. Just let your eye pour its cup of tears into her gaze. Whose gaze? The one who gives you this breath, the one to whom you return it as an offering. Respire with the rhythm of her breast. The Mother will administer the unction of amazement, daubing your forehead with kisses like the faintest pressure of the spirit on the flesh.

"You will feel the green forest around you, the fragrant kingdom of loam, last year's leaves, the chime of the larva beneath a stone, fellow ferns unraveling their fingers, offering seeds on the morning of Imbolc, when the veil between the seasons, between death and birth, is
a mist turning to gentle rain, rain turning to mist, the sun wrapped like a pearl, and all creatures are shrouded in Grace."

____________

* Hear this prose-poem read aloud: Link  
* Amahoro is an African greeting and blessing used in Burundi and Rwanda, meaning, 'Peace to you.' Painting by Wolfgang Otto.

Drop


Just for a moment, drop your opinions. The world will survive without them for a little while. This is a spiritual practice, is it not? Drop your opinions and feel the freedom, the ineffable clarity, the boundless expansion. Do this not just for yourself, but for the whole entangled field of consciousness. Even a moment of inward silence is of great service to humanity.

I Pray That You Will Burst


I pray that you will burst 

in darkness.

The flower of grace is
planted in your body.

Freedom embedded in pain,

joy is the birthright of death.

The rhythm of your heartbeat

heals all your ancestors.

They can no longer dance,

but you can listen.

Take courage, listen with your
eardrum, bellydrum, hipdrum,

urndrum where they keep

your ashes.

Other hearts beat in yours.

Every proton of your flesh

is the kiss of an ancient star,

each electron a wave

on the ocean of amazement.

Who is amazed? Don't ask.

Names don't count in the moment

between waking and sleep.

Who sleeps? Don't ask.

Just feel an exquisite tenderness

for those who insist

you have no right to be happy.

May the golden fingers
of your vagus nerve

hold them like an offering

of delicious fruit.

All night long, be breathed

by their gratitude.

Wake

 

Wake in the whisperless prayer of listening. Out in the blossoming plum a sparrow breaks her vigil to praise sunbeams unborn, unfallen. April morning mind hollow, free from yesterday. This could be the last morning, a crack in the glass of singing. What would you do? Go barefoot into the garden. Recognize the gardener by his garment of silence. When you touch the hem of his shadow, and he demurs, don’t believe his gesture: cling! Yearning turns darkness bright. That which bruises must be alive. Secret wine from his gashes. Ease out of pain into something more fragrant, the swollen lily of the present moment, exposing her cup of golden dust. Now the God in the sparrow's heart sees you. On tremulous strings the music rises to your throat from a throbbing hollow in your rib cage. No words, only the instrument of your body, floating on its river of distant stars. What would the stars say? What would your lyric be if your breath turned to sod, and all you had was a voice? "I love, therefore I Am."

Confessions of a Wanderer

 "Be a wanderer." ~Jesus, Gnostic Gospel of Thomas

"The grail knights thought it a disgrace to quest in a group. So each entered the forest where there was no path, and where it was darkest."
~La Queste del Saint Graal, 13th C. 

Up until the age of seven, I wandered. Then I began to buy the propaganda of my school. The teachers insisted that if I wanted to grow up I had better get life all figured out, and learn to be a success. Of course, they were just passing along to the next generation their own fear of failure.

Took me the next half century to realize that they were pretending. Absolutely every adult I met was pretending to know. Over the years I too pretended, and played the role of knower. So that I could be a successful do-er.

Now I know that I don't know. And the more I don't know, I know who I am. And the more I am, I do. Because it is not the do-er who does, but Being.

If you've found the true path, congratulations: please don't guide me. If you've found the movement that will finally save humanity, congratulations: please don't sign me up. Because what I have found is the courage to wander again.

I have abandoned the compass of technique. Now I enter the ancient forest precisely where the trees are unfelled. I have no desire to super-impose any map of consolation over this unfathomably green mystery.

Meandering like a bee, I'm glad for any honey I can selve from the unselved sweetness of the sacred garden. When good and lost, I no longer move toward the center: I am the center, wherever I may stumble or stand. It's when I join the movement that I get stuck, and stop moving.

You and I rest by a spring in the forest. The spring is our gaze. We drink from each other. My sparkling ignorance encircles you, and you are at home.

The blossom of Correct Teaching withers away: we are the fragrance that remains. Just by admitting we know nothing, we sigh together and breathe life.

Letting go of our search, we meet each other where we get lost, and arrive at our destination.


Photo: Took this in the Carbon River rain forest near Mt. Rainier. 

Chrystalize

Christ all eyes and then dissolve. Dissolve the soul into the body, the body in the soul. Everything is made out of wonder. In the marrow of emptiness is a diamond light that precipitates from no-thing - the pith of each atom in your flesh. Those who make a distinction between transcendence and embodiment are like infants crying for milk. Now stop crying and drink. The silence of I, the silence of Thou: exactly the same. A resounding absence of word or thought, yet containing the intimate mystery of relationship. This silence is your Being, but because it is boundless, there is always more of it to become, to dissolve into, and thus a perpetual otherness in the depth of your heart.


Painting, Mary Magdalene by George De La Tour

Winter Morning

Simply observing that this inhalation is given, not taken, turns breathing into Grace.

As crystals melt in my hand I hear the thunder of seeds under snow, preparing for the feast of Imbolc.

A very tiny embryo in each seed, stamping her feet on the ground and reaching her fingers toward a star.

The stunning perfection of this snowflake is directly proportional to its transience. If I am not willing to melt, to dissolve, I will never be beautiful.

Every Cause must pass through the crucible of the miraculous to bring about its Effect. The miraculous is the space between thoughts.

Causation is an illusion imposed by the mind's hunger for control. If you want to live in the realm of the miraculous, the shamanic, you must give up this hunger. Break every connection between cause and effect, embracing the possibility of other worlds between this moment and the next.

In fact, nobody has any idea what the fuck is happening, where it comes from, or where it is going. It is all a bonfire of mercy. "Cause" and "effect" are jagged sparks, fractal afterimages of the miracle, reflected in the mind.

No line of reasoning threads the multiverse together. The cosmos is a burst of singularities, separate particles, unique selves, all made out of exactly the same luminous no-thing, all happening at exactly the same moment in eternity. To see one is an illusion. To see many is an illusion. God is wonder.

This is not an idea on a Winter morning, this is a drop of sap on the beak of a rose-breasted nuthatch.

Blade



Just as your flesh

has a soul,

so your inhalation

is a sheath

containing a sword

of sweet fire.

Awaken the angel

in every breath.

Plunge this blade

into your heart.

You are here to die

of love.


Image by joe-maccer.deviantart.com

3 A.M.

 

She is a ribbon of moonlight
rippling on still water.
Is she the path, the saunterer,
or the gleam inside this inhalation?
She is a tall thin vase of spikenard
saved for my burial,
its round bottom nestled firmly
in my hipbone,
its lips unsealed, spilling
stars from my skull,
that other mouth of speechless praise.
Her wisdom is the warmth of my blood.
Her vision is a branch
of plum buds blossoming
in the darkness behind my eyes.
She rises and falls inside my chest,
ancestral breath
who keeps resounding
with a prophecy of silence.
At my throat I wear her sky,
an edgeless sapphire
of burning emptiness.
Her name means "tower of spices,"
bittersweet myrrh
saved for my wedding.
I was betrothed to her, and she to me,
before we were two.
She is the mother of this poem.

Ancient Breath: A Kirtan


While it is still dark

and the stars are still singing,

listen, listen
to this ancient breath,

this ancient breath.

 

While it is still light

and moth wings pulse

on the rim of the lily,

listen, listen

to this ancient breath.


At dawn and evening

meditate,
listen to the unborn light.

Hear evening fall.
Receive this ancient breath.

At dawn and evening,

meditate
on the one who pours the Milky Way

down your spine,

this ancient breath.

The one who comes

at midnight

on silent wings

like the moon, like a hummingbird

to the garden of your heart.

 

Beyond the far

faint music of the galaxy,

listen to the darkness, friend.

Listen to the silence

of this ancient breath.

 

Listen, cleanse your soul.

Wake the sparkling grace

of the present moment.

Bow down, bow down

to this ancient breath.

Listen, listen
with your whole body.

Shatter your crown on the earth

and spill a trillion stars.
Bow down, bow down.

 

So’ham, So’ham,

this ancient breath, this ancient breath...

Stirring the Earth

 

The old man in his cottage by the cedar forest stirs honey in his tea. He is stirring the earth around the sun. The single mother is up at 3 a.m. rocking her sick baby. She is rocking the planet very gently on its axis. That moth you met on the mountain last summer, settling blue wings on a lupine: it fanned the air just enough to bring snow this Winter, a promise of thistle blossoms in Spring. Now it is morning, time you bowed down to this ancient breath. The world is not saved by much doing.


Water color, Andrew Wyeth

No Other

 

"There is no Other." ~Ramana
"Love thy neighbor as thy Self." ~Jesus
"Every wave of love returns to the ocean of the Self." ~Maharishi

Why did we turn s-e-l-f into a four-letter word? As if there were something wrong, something self-centered, something greedy and small about the Self, when in fact the Self is a center that is everywhere, without circumference, an ocean of grace that swells in the stillness of love, a generous radiance that illuminates all creatures with the bliss of the Uncreated.

When we insist on a distinction between the "activist" and the "contemplative," between serving others and delighting in the presence of God, we break the universe in two. Understanding this is a hard truth, for it dissolves the pride of the do-er. Yet it is a soft truth, melting the mind in the heart.

There is no greater act of "social justice" than dissolving. No greater service to the other than merging I and Thou in the radiance of the hridaya, at the center of this body. Then we taste the nectar pressed out from the union of Shiva and Shakti, subject and object, even in this world of pain. We touch the reality: our hearts are not separate particles, but a single field of hopelessly entangled energy. Melting the heart is the purest seva.

Friend, did you come here to figure everything out, or get amazed? Did you come here to solve the countless problems of the future, or to dance with the ineffable grace of the present moment? A tight little bud has everything under control. But it has no idea what a flower is. To the bud, blossoming is a catastrophe.

Photo: one of my favorites by Aile Shebar

Work

 


It is very difficult for God

to say, "Let there be light"

without your eyes.

The work of Glory

is the play of your flesh.

Your hand at a honey spoon.

Or smoothing the horse's

wet pelt.

Your palm pressed in mine.

Now get busy

shining through each atom.

Didn't you know?

Every photon in your finger bone

contains the whole sun.

A quark of darkness

in your little toe

encircles the Milky Way.

Knowledge is not enough.

Your body must dance

with fire.

Don't try to understand.

Just be a solar storm

arriving at midnight.



Painting by Reza Badrossama

My Teacher's Birthday (Jan 12)

 

He would be 106 today. I still overflow with gratitude for the silent whisper of his gift, grace-fresh this morning as it was at my initiation, 55 years ago. When one is ripe, either with yearning or pain or both, the Guru enters your life to nudge your true nature awake. Then you taste the sweetness of what was always already here. The Self outshines all its shadows. The Guru doesn't give you a new philosophy or religion, but a direct experience of God in the radiance of your heart, nearer than breath, more intimate than thought. The Guru doesn't come to be your therapist or fortune teller, your surrogate mommy or daddy. The Guru has one sole purpose in your life: to pour the stars down your spine, and ignite the boundless splendor of pure consciousness. Happy birthday, ancient Friend.

What the Ocean Whispered to the Wave

A small group of us were sitting with Maharshi in 1972, marveling at how graceful meditation is. We asked him, "Who created the teaching that meditation requires effort, concentration, control?"

Maharshi laughed and made up a little parable right on the spot: "The wave asked the sea: could I be like you? The sea replied: it's easy, just settle down!"


So much harm has been done in every religion by the teaching of concentration, control, and effort to over-come the body with the mind. This obsession with spiritual effort stems from a sense that there is something wrong with me, an essential sinfulness, a journey I need to take, some distance between me and my source.


But a wave does not need to go anywhere to merge with the sea. No distance ever exists between the wave and the water. At its peak the wave may appear to be an individual, but at its base, every wave is already the whole ocean. Therefore, no energy is required for a wave to return to its resting state. As the wave returns, in fact, energy increases. The practice of meditation is not an effort to rise upward: it is a settling down to rest in the simplest state. 


Meditation is not concentration, but de-concentration. When the wave settles into the sea, it does not become more concentrated, but gracefully expands into boundlessness

*
Returning to the sea, a wave makes a gentle sound, sizzling cool, fresh over sand. As mind settles back into Source, there is a faint whisper: the sound of the finite dissolving into the infinite, the sound of the mantra.
  The Rig Veda declares: Adau bhagavan shabdha rasahih. "In the beginning, God manifested as sound." Likewise in Biblical tradition, God manifests through sound, through the Logos: "In the beginning was the Word." Modern quantum physics confirms the ancient vision. In the vacuum at the source of energy there is an internal vibration of "virtual electrons and photons." Physicists call this internal self-resonance "fluctuations of the vacuum."
The mantra, in its subtlest form, is this very resonance at the heart of creation. It is not an ordinary word. The mantra is part of that primordial sound through which the vacuum generates particles of matter, that primordial Word through whom the Creator speaks creation. 
Real meditation is not an attempt to rise above the physical body. Meditation is listening to what the body actually is: infinite spiritual energy. For every photon and atom of the body is permeated with this same creative sound. The mantra given to us by the guru at initiation is just a vehicle for the mind to settle down into the cosmic Word that eternally pulsates in divine silence, waves merging with the sea. We experience the mantra-wave in its subtle form by the grace of the ocean. As that grace draws the mantra's sound inward to silence, the individual mind merges with divine mind, and the body is infused with the energy at the source of creation.
The sea whispers in the wave: so the Almighty whispers in every particle of this body. Seen through the Eye of transcendental deep meditation, there is no distinction whatsoever between God and Man, Heaven and Earth, Consciousness and Matter. We taste the divine in every atom of creation.
In the words of Jesus, "If your Eye is single, your whole body will be full of light."  (Luke 11:34)
*
When I was young, someone taught me that God is far above and difficult to attain. 
Someone taught me that I must leave my lowly flesh and journey upward until, at the last day, after immeasurable striving, I will reach heaven. Someone told me that I can only be with God when I die. Someone told me the goal is to become like an angel, or an ascended master. Someone separated heaven and earth, higher and lower, spirit and body. Someone lied.
Whoever those teachers were, their time is over. Hierarchy is over. Spiritual striving is over. Now is the time to awaken a simpler truth: God is not the end but the beginning.
What yearning for God is made of, is God. I am a wave in the ocean of divine love, and God dances in every ripple of my being. God hums divine music in my body. God is my zero. Any number of steps I climb only take me further from Source, for Source is at the bottom of the stairs.
A real Guru does not say, "Strive upward! Take a long journey, and you will one day reach the kingdom!" A real Guru says what Jesus said: "The kingdom of God is already within you... My yoke is easy, my burden is light."
Sink into God before you rise up. Kneel upon God before you take the first step. Then God will be with you wherever you go, whether rising or falling. This is why we bow: to touch God below, at the bottom, in the beginning.

Jai Guru Dev. 

Color of Silence

"Above all things, love silence." ~St. Isaac of Ninevah


Listen to silence. The silence of pure listening is love. Attraction of a subject for an object, a lover for the beloved, is only love's shadow. Before any subject or object arise, before Creator even speaks the Word, "Let there be light," pure love trembles in waves of the primal sea, the quantum vacuum.


The darkness of love is the color of silence. Sink into this voluptuous darkness. To attain the light, you must ascend, but to embrace divine darkness, you need only fall. Give up the work of rising. Let gravity be your prayer.


"Now the earth was formless and void" (Genesis 1:2). Be the formless fertility of emptiness. Be where light is born, a seed dropped into the mothering furrow. Let gravity be your prayer.

You must ascend into light, but you need only sink into darkness. Give up the work of rising. Be where the light is born, a seed dropped into the mothering furrow of silence. The absolutely ineffable is the womb of all.


The Black Madonna dwells at the core of every proton in your flesh. Prayer is no metaphysical work of the mind, but a chthonic sensation of the infinitesimal Ayin Soph in the heart of the electron that flashes through a synapse in your brain. Yet this self-effulgent dot of no-thing is the same black whole that throbs at the core of the galaxy. Light emanates from every empty center, the quantum entanglement of quark and star. The empty center of love permeates all matter, and the total universe of information is stored in silence.


Awakened silence releases a silken spore, a thread of grace that passes from the your sacrum through each tear on the rosary of your spine. A subtle glistening root ignites your cerebellum, illumining the cortex with arboreal fire. Is your nervous system not the Tree of Life at the center of the garden, the Burning Bush that Moses saw in a cloud of Unknowing? Let that radiant cilium, born from total surrender to the dark, dance through your backbone to the soft spot in your crown, raveling you up into clustered galaxies.

Silence weaves through the hollow of all that whirls, threading each particle, each mote of Mother Matter, to a star. Savor this silence in deep meditation, or walking through the December forest, where berries burst in the void, wood and stone suffused with compassion, dreamless seeds awake in the loam, murmuring, "April, April come..." Nothing ever dies here.


Let distance dissolve in the splendor between your breaths. Ever returning to your inner solstice, let the sun be born, Winter upon Winter, cradled in your chest. This is your labor of grace.

At the end of your exhalation, there is a dark and infinitesimal pause. The is where worlds are formed. Here, creation is centered in a sparkling singularity, the crystal of divine night. Listen to the silence. Your listening is love.


Photo: Spencer Butte, OR

Happy Birthday To Me

 

Dear Freddy, happy birthday, you are not one moment old!

Today the laws of nature break themselves laughing.

Your behavior is totally unacceptable, but You are perfect.

May the blue sky fill every synapse in your squirmy brain.

Sing this poem til the hummingbirds return.


Who’s the old magician gazing up at you
from the well of the unborn, mumbling zeros

with no 1 before them?
How do you both enjoy the same fresh fruit

on an ancient tree, the ripening of Now?
It took the cardamom seed ten thousand years to attain
supreme emptiness, but you got it in your first inhalation.
Distant galaxies fall through the soft spot in your skull

like rebel angels.

 

May you ever return to the font of howling

in your Winter body, where shivering wounded wolves

curl up to heal in blood-stained snow.
May you ever smell April melting in their fur.

That is how near your heart must ever tremble

to the heart of the animal.
And may the terrible hunter, Time, never come here.
Slice the lips of the persimmon void,
spill luscious seeds of poetry with no creator.
The nectar of your foolishness ferments into wisdom.
How does it happen, Freddy?

You must have been playing with your breath again.
You must have been secretly touching the name
of the Goddess under your breastbone.

You are hopelessly disobedient, but that is why I love you.

When I wrote my commandments on stone,

you became the stone, pulsing softly,
exuding seven planets and a moon.

 

I am You, but never reveal the secret.

Just mutter the runes and call them poems.
Fill viridescent darkness with worlds of pearl,
like the sweat of sweetness on a plum.

Tell how you crush the hollow places into juice.

How amethysts and emeralds fall,
jagged and burning from your eyes,
reflecting the starlight that has not arrived.
But don't say too much, Freddy. Just tell
whether it's all yearning, or gratitude.