In The Musée d'Orsay

 

What is Grace

but falling

through the silent flower

of this breath

and being held

by the unspeakable radiance

of your own heart?

Compare it to

a thrush's egg

opening at midnight.

The moon suddenly

surfacing on a forest pond.

The fragrance

of Summer morning rain

in hay grass.

A sleeping infant

who smiles with a secret

you have forgotten.

Or in the Musée D'Orsay,

a stranger gazing

at the same Renoir as you.

Both turn

and you recognize

a lover from long ago.

At once your chest is filled

with liquid fire.

Surely, you choose

each sacrament

of the ordinary

so that you

may be chosen.



Photo: Dance at the Moulin de la Galette, Renoir, Musée d'Orsay

Wanderer's Welcome

 

"We seldom notice how each day is a holy place
where the Eucharist of the ordinary happens."
~John O'Donahue

Out beyond Christianity
Mary Magdalene and Jesus are dancing
in a garden where things grow wild,

where things grow simply into what they are.
Many paths lead here, not one,
and the gates are always open.

Over each there is a sign that says,
“Wanderers Welcome.”
Mary thinks Jesus is less like a god

than a gardener, and he is.
They drink the wine that turns
these temples into bodies again.

She reaches out to take his hand,
and he lets her.
There are three rules here:

Yearn, Risk Everything, Connect.



A poem from my book, 'Wounded Bud.'
Photo from my back yard.

Trinity


The Holy Trinity is love falling in love with love. Originally, it ws not a theological doctrine, but an experience in the depths of contemplative prayer. The Holy Trinity reveals relationship within the absolute. Yearning that moves in the motionless. Silence that tells a secret.

Pure consciousness vibrates in waves of divine love. Through this vibration, love becomes its own object, its own Beloved, and beholds itself as an other, even though there is only One. Love embraces itself, and through that very embrace, Lover and Beloved dissolve back into the love from which they flowered. This dissolving is the joy of the Spirit. And this constant vibration of love in the heart of transcendental silence -Lover, Beloved, and the Joy of their union - is the same Trinity found in the heart of the Vedic tradition - Sat, Chit, Ananda - Being, Consciousness, Bliss.

The Holy Trinity is the hidden seed of every relationship in creation. Wherever a subject beholds an object, whenever two meet in communion, on any world, on earth or in heaven, it is but a reflection of the divine Self-relation of the Holy Trinity within the un-manifest and un-created space of the Godhead. The play of Lover and Beloved, springing out of Love, then dissolving into Love, creates those waves in divine stillness that quantum physicists call "fluctuations in the vacuum," forming virtual photons of light and virtual electrons of energy. Thus worlds are tossed out of the love-ocean, for the purpose of loving.

Every soul who is awake in wonder, marveling at the wildflower or the sound of a sparrow on Easter morning, recapitulates in the merest sense-perception the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Through these infinitesimal sacraments of the commonplace, we fall in love with the world. For the world we perceive is the expression of our yearning for ourselves. And each of our souls is but a reflection of God's yearning to meet God, through love.

I wrote a poem about this many years ago and published it in my first book, 'Wounded Bud.'

In the beginning,
the Father gazed
into the mirror of the Spirit
and saw Christ.
That mirror was the womb
of eternal silence,
for even God is mothered
by a mystery.
Then Christ gazed in the mirror
and saw You.
You too were born
of that joy!

 

Down Cast


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 yet, 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?”

“You couldn’t.”

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'

The Passion: Maunday Thursday


 

Nothing is pure

that has not fallen.

Be an apple petal on a stream,

a pale seed

in the mother-brown furrow.

Be a spark of the iron hammer

on the lock of the prison door,

lamb's blood on the lintel,

the silent footstep

of a slave

escaping in haste at night.

If you cannot stay

for one hour,

stay for now

and be whole.

Nothing crushed

in these green shadows

can fail to rise.

Be the glut of a rain drop

on the mouth of a lily,

the starry wine that pours

into the small cups

of your own body.

Breathe Christ

through the broken places.

Sown


Try not to rise

above your longing.

Sink deeper, plant pain in the earth.

Try not to rise

above your weariness.

Sink deeper, plant sorrow in the loam.

Try not to rise above your body.

Sink deeper, plant every breath.

To the Mother, you are sown.

Breathing and sorrow are seedlings.

Offer them.

Her grace will open you

like a sprouted wound.

Darkness will nourish you with

infinitesimal starry voices

rising from the furrows of her plough.

Beauty is an underground power.

It knows how to ascend,

just as it knew how to fall.

What has no name

meets no resistance.

Something green and

ineffably innocent trembles

from your astonished heart.

Here's the secret:

the warmth that draws us upward

is inside.



Painting: Detail, Mary Magdalene at the foot of the Cross, by Botticelli

Pasche


"Holy places are dark places. It is life and strength, not knowledge and words, that we get in them. Holy wisdom is not clear and thin like water, but thick and dark like blood." ~ C.S. Lewis

In the core of your heart is a black hole, where fierce immaculate silence submerges the antipodes before they can escape into creation. The portal you've been searching for is the infinitesimal bindhu between breaths, drowning all the words you used, like "left" and "right," "doing" and "not-doing," "suffering" and "God,” in the primordial flood. Worlds bubble out of your loss. Immerse in the bee-drowning cup of this wound. Deeper than sadness, deeper than sin, the darkness you have fallen in. Neither retribution nor injustice have any meaning here. The vulva laceration in Christ's side, leads to the kingdom of the unborn. Pain and beauty comingle in one nectar. Love's vintage ferments. The poem keeps starting over. In the core of your heart is a black hole, a cauldron of swirling stillness. It is the agony of Spring, the passion of petals in a bud. No one can imagine their sorrow. Wine pours from the gash in the ribs of the dead poet, Jesus. You thought you might rise and soar, but you sink into a secret well of prayer, your tiny feet, your wings dragging you deeper through the sweetness, as you struggle to make a humming sound, but cannot even say, "Thank You."

____________

Image: The wound in Christ's side from the Psalter of Bonne de Luxembourg, circa 1349. This is not the only Medieval manuscript portraying Christ's wound as a vagina, showing the feminine aspect of his fully human nature, the Holy Spirit as divine mother. Unlike contemporary fundamentalists - and atheists - who insist on reading the scripture literally, either to reject it as absurd, or turn it into a bludgeon, Medieval Christian artist/mystics contemplated the mythic symbols of the Easter story as portals to the collective unconscious, the realm of the archetypes. The cross of Christ was the central archetype of all, the convergence of opposites. For where opposites converge is the only locus of truth. No compassion, and no transcendence, without bearing the pain of creation. Selah.

Living Silence


Those who have never tasted the grace of living silence sometimes mistake it for negation, absence, even worse, suppression of the human voice. But suppression is the opposite of silence. Suppression is 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 true science flash from a fountain of quietness. When thoughts dissolve in the Wordless, even the thought of "I," you can hear the canticle of the stars, galaxies falling up in a roar of beauty on gifted wings through ineffable depths of your soul. Silence is the call of God.


Mural by Melozo da Forli

Ode To Emptiness

You say you have a Guru? Listen, your Guru is empty. Just ask him. If he, or she, is really a Guru, they'll tell you, "I am Hollow. I am Nobody. Nobody will save you."

We're waves of emptiness. That's what we're made of, waves of emptiness in a strange quark. Each cell of your flesh is hollow, your belly hollow, lungs hollow, veins, bones hollow, mouth, ears, nostrils, anus, eyeballs, skull and vagus nerve, all hollow, your skeleton hollow, all dissolving into dark matter right now.

Your hearth and home are hollow, the dome of your temple, your mosque. All the Apostles worshiped the hollow in the left ventricle of their own hearts and called it Issa Elohim. They tasted their own breath as the Holy Spirit, mysteriously flowing in and out of the hollow in their chests.

Hollow is the tree of life. Hollow the stem of a rose. Hollow a well, a wadi to be filled with Spring rain, a valley to be fruitful and green, a mountain hiding jewels of fire. The Great Mudra of Supreme Compassion is the gesture of rainbow stillness in a hollow cocoon.

The earth is hollow, the solar system hollow, the galaxy spinning like a top balanced on groundlessness. The cosmos is an echo in an empty bell. The edges of your body are the fractal stuff a bubble is made of.

Whose breath blows it all? The pinprick of a single word whispered by the Hollow One will pop you! Listen, all creatures are hollow: cow-pods and stars, poppies and tears, the time it takes moonlight to pass through the crystal wings of a beetle, the memory of your baby's face in the moment of your last breath, milk drops spilling from a lonely nipple, prayers for the dead, a sperm, your shout in a dream, bell chime of the red winged blackbird over a wetland, ebb-tide foam evanescent upon sand.

O seeker, clinging to your axe! O pilgrim, bent with the past and future on your shoulders! Why drag this sack full of old stories across the flowering meadow of Presence? Drop the worn handle of your father's weapon. Empty the bag of yesterday's breath. Let the universe arises in your forehead, in the palm of your hand, in the hollow of your wound, the emptiness more solid than diamond!

Art by S. Maruyama, Bruce Silverstein Gallery, New York


Both


Let me no longer speak of Higher and Lower.
Let me no longer speak of Oneness and duality.
Let me no longer speak of the cosmic Self
and the petty little ego.
For my petty little ego
is the playground of the devas.
My personality is the jungle gym
of the Goddess Kundalini.
Let me no longer speak of East and West,
left and right,
enlightenment and ignorance.
From now on I will speak 
only of Lover and Beloved.
Let this proclamation be a murmuring
so soft your heart must be still 
to listen.
Don't shatter the rose window
just to enjoy the sun.
The white light and the dome of glass
are both holy.
Smell and taste and touch
are golden temples of emptiness.
The artist mixes God's radiant beams
with umber dust
to make a pigment for the invisible.
Shiva sits very silent for his portrait,
and Shakti loves to wear bling.
The Lord who dwells beyond all forms
is dancing in your body.
Christ gets bored with himself alone.
He longs for friendship.
Without you the Buddha
could feel no intimacy.
Don't listen to philosophers
who tell you to root out desire.
Listen to the flute-mad whirler,
the blind harper whose strings
are beaded with tears,
the feral priestess fermenting
underground fungus wine.
Be a warrior of the faery kingdom
suddenly springing up like a mushroom
beneath the full moon.
Never hesitate to sing about
your yearning to become
who you already are.
Savor your relationship
with the Ineffable,
a smoldering that gives off musk.
You are both one and two,
the flame inside a flame.

Photo: My backyard in Spring, taken by my daughter Abby

Merely

5 a.m. meditation. Blue sky fills every cell of flesh, each with its own sun. But it is all one sky. Beams of the heart don't stop at the outline of flesh, they penetrate other bodies, distant hills, every grass blade and moth wing. Do I have edges? No need to wonder what a star is. Trembling drop of neuro-peptide soma-juice on an axon tip, dripping into a synapse of pain or delight. Just like the dawn reflected in myriad puddles after a Spring rain, I am the mud, I am the sky, I am the sun. And what is the sun after all? A golden sound, God's resonant quietness. This Sabbath meditation only lasts for one vanishing instant of eternal radiance. Yet afterward, these words linger on the breath: "Silence is alive. Space is awake. Emptinesss is a sea of diamonds, the rippling transcendental light of the body. Merely to Be is to love."


Photo by Erwin Buske, cherry blossoms at dawn, University of Washington

Whenever I Touch...


Whenever I touch my dogs I feel a shift in my nervous system, a shift not into the new age, but into the ancient Kingdom of the Fur.

Election




I voted.


I voted for the rainbow.

I voted for the cry of a loon.


I voted for my grandfather’s bones

that feed beetles now.


I voted for a singing brook that sparkles

under a North Dakota bean field.


I voted for salty air through which the whimbrel flies

South along the shores of two continents.


I voted for melting snow that returns to the wellspring

of darkness, where the sky is born from the earth.

I voted for daemonic mushrooms in the loam,

and the old democracy of worms.


I voted for the wordless treaty that cannot be broken

by white men or brown, because it is written in star semen,
new moons,
thistle sap and weevil hieroglyphs on prairie oak.

I voted for the ancestral bison scrawled on the seeping
limestone cavern of your heart.


I voted to erase maps, straight lines, right angles of the surveyor
and the conquistador, I voted for the sacred curve of rivers and hills.

I voted
to wash away both white and black in a rainbow of tears.
I voted to
keep the edges of the vineyard ragged and ungleaned
for the hungry stranger.


I voted for lonely pilgrims who wander in
the ambiguous land between male and female.

I voted for open borders between death and birth.


I voted for the commonwealth of the ancient forest,

a larva for every beak, a wing-tinted flower for every

moth’s disguise, a well-fed mammal’s corpse

for every colony of maggots!


I voted for the mule that Jesus rode into the city,
proclaiming forgiveness of all debts,
who is the same mule Rumi rode backwards
into exile, gazing Eastward toward eternal loss -
that mule, I tell you, will be president!

I voted to compost and manure the floor of the Senate,
entangling
politicians in hemp moss and honeysuckle,
turning the dome of Congress into an enormous
hummingbird feeder!


I voted for a motherland where politics dissolves
into folk music, story-telling, fermented cabbage,
totem-carved hoes handed down from mother to son
in the fire-side quietness of heroic listening.


I voted on the ballot of a fallen leaf of sycamore

that cannot be erased, for it becomes the dust and rain,

and then a tree again.

I voted for the local, the small, the brim

that does not spill over, the abolition of waste,

the luxury of enough.


I voted for more fallow time to cultivate wild flowers,

more recess to cultivate play, more leisure, tax free,
more space between our days.


I voted to increase the profit of evening silence

and the price of a thrush song.

I voted for ten million stars in your next inhalation.

________________


A poem from my book, The Nectar Of This Breath
Chalk mandala by biology teacher Karyn Babaian.

Easter Message from Issa (A Poem from Strangers & Pilgrims)

Savor your breath, it is my Holy Spirit:
this is the anointing of the Christ.
While still on earth, taste each photon of your flesh
as infinite light: this is my Resurrection.
Welcome all into the radiance that shines
from your chest: this is my Kingdom.
Crucify my otherness, glorify me as your Self,
for suffering is clinging
to an ever-perishing outward form.
Be risen from the tomb of the past
into the garden of this moment.
I taught this simple Gospel before entering
eternal samadhi as your very Presence.
What does it mean to say that I am risen,
ascended to the right hand of God?
It means, I have become
the silent Witness within you.
Feel my compassion as your own true nature.
Have a joyful feast, share everything.
Billions of years ago, this Easter feast began
when the Breath of Creation offered the stars,
the galaxies, garlands of galaxies, to her Beloved.
In silent worship He witnessed her whirling,
for He is the wonder and She is the dance.
In her dance, She offered you, before
you were conceived, a trembling flame
in the mirror of his love.
Who told you about “original sin?”
You were whole, you were divine, you were
a perfect oblation before the sun and moon were lit.
And still with every inhalation you are washed in beauty.
Then why did that mothering Breath make offerings:
a hyacinth, a host of stars, your embryo, a tear?
So that Love could taste the Beloved in each creature.
The cosmos is not an atonement, but a feast.
Have a joyful celebration, share everything.

The Answer


Sometimes the answer
is vast Unknowing, sometimes
the first apple bud.

The Difference


Take this wound of wildness in your palm,
Here is your mistake.

Assuming that God is the cause

when God is just as bewildered as the rose.

She does not search for an answer,
simply rides astonished waves,

spiraling inward and outward
on petals of purple fire, like yours.

The difference?
You don't dissolve in what you see.

But God has fallen, tumbled
into fungi and fern vein,

sunk into a bulb of Spider Lily
and confused her own

diaphanous eye with a dragonfly wing.
She whispers through your heart.

 
It is your own breath, saying,
You are not here to suffer. 

Learn from the bee.
You are here to make honey,
 
to visit the dark sticky places
in everything that blossoms.”




Alberta Wild Rose by Elsie Baer

O My Soul

 

O my soul, you breathe out 

but forget to breathe in,

speak, but do not listen, spend

more than you earn, mostly on pain,

 

the entropy of your thoughts

spinning the world from a hollow core

where light escapes, never to come home.


Waking at morning, you turn

to your shadow instead of the sun.

Why won't you, even for an instant,

return to the beginning

 

where rainbow pinions enfold you,

not God’s wings, but your own.

Unfurl them, though 

they sparkle with tears.


Dry them in the golden morning

of the Self.

Choose merely grace,

and you will discover that grace

has already chosen you.


Gaze through the tiniest violet

and fall into the sky.

Let your drunkenness

be the harmony of the stars.


What feels to the cup like pouring

is stillness for the wine.

You are not a grail any more.
You are a fermented Spirit

bubbling over the rim of your body.

How could there be such a thing

as silence?

The void is a sea of infinitesimal bells.

 

Press music out of emptiness

by gazing within.

Descend into the chorus of your heart.

Listen!
A sound of bliss creates the world.

 

 


Water color by Marney Ward