Tag Archives: alchemy

Ripples in the Pond

We have never once in our history been separate. We have always been linked to one another for survival, and our joy and our sorrow have never truly been our own.  Every action, every word, every thought… they broadcast new strands of connection at every moment.  This is an inescapable truth- we cannot disconnect these strands, and we cannot stop creating them.

When we try to sever or deny their existence, any perceived success is only a numbing of our awareness, and this numbing prevents us, not only from seeing each other, but from sensing our own Self.

It is only possible to say that we don’t want to be involved because we are numb to the truth that we already are.

Every action we take has an effect on our community.  Likewise, every success and failure we experience is due, at least in part, to the previous actions of others- every law that protects us or puts us in harm’s way, every invention that eases our lives or pollutes the environment, even social conventions like family structures, greetings and the amount of eye contact we make all shape our overall wellness for better or worse.

It is common in spiritual life to honor the teachings, teachers, lineages, and traditions that have made it possible for us to walk on the path. With this comes the realization that even our walking is not our own- it is driven by every foot that has stepped before us.

This is true in every aspect of our lives…

I become aware of this with every new melody that soars from the lips, every word that descends to the page from the pen, every metaphor and poetic form, every spark of creativity arising from contemplation. My mind is simply a pot stirring its influences, and even this stirring is the product of cause and effect.  

Was it the rock that created the ripple? Or the fallen branch that dislodged the rock? Or the wind that snapped the branch? Or the heavy rains that weakened it?

Of course it is the interaction of all of it, and it is in this systemic view of things that we gain a glimpse of something bigger, deeper, whole.  It is a great honor when we can witness this Totality through our own work, when it coalesces through our individual awareness to form a new nexus in the web of life.  

These words are one such nexus. They are meant to inspire us to turn towards each other. They show that our only true possession, if there is any at all, is our sense of duty to one another.

These words are meant to inspire the next nexus of creation. The ripples in the pond inspire the frog to leap from the lily pad, and this makes new ripples.

From the first eruption of the Big Bang to the creation of carbon in the stars, these ripples pulsated through the cold depths of space and time until that right moment when the first human could translate them into words. They have since been echoed by spiritual teachers, philosophers, activists, scientists, and yes, even the lily pad in the pond. It is these ripples that convince me we are not separate, that prompted the lifting of the pen to paper, that prompted the typing of keys, that prompted the clicking of “publish.”

May this little post continue the spreading of ripples until all beings are free.


What’s in a Name?

They say that these are revealed Names, that ancient Rishis pulled these from the depths of consciousness and placed them in this world as gateways to that Infinite Abode. They say there is something invariably healing about these vibrations, that they melt the ego as they ripple through our being. They say that these Names are perfect forms of God, that the Name and what is named are one and the same.

All I really know is that these are Names of my Beloved, and by saying them sweetly I partake in the language of the heart, engaging in an eternal love affair.  I know that  countless devotees have cried their pain, suffering, yearning and joy into them, a reminder that this love affair is bigger than me. It’s as if we are all Gopis partaking in Krishna’s dance, each one of us simultaneously claiming Him as our own. I am connected to a tradition of lovers that goes back millennia.

And I know that they do work.

They remind me that my Beloved is here, right here, in this world, in this body, in the depths of my being, in the face of every person I meet…

And what more could I ask for, but to be granted the possibility that at any given moment the Beloved might reveal Herself? 

These Names are the Names of Love, and by saying them I engage in the most exquisite love making.

Maharajji said, “Go on saying your false Rams. One of these days you will get it right.”

So how do we say it? There are so many ways to say a Name.

Is it a chore list, something we ought to do? A magical incantation, a spell cast to bring the gods under our sway? Is it like rubbing flint, waiting for that one time when it will catch flame? Is it savory like morning pillow talk? Does it burn with yearning the way a flame leaps for air?

Or is it like the Gopis, whose ecstatic love moans reveal to us the potency of the Name, whose vocal emanations show us the healing vibratory power of the Name, who brought the Beloved completely under their sway simply by the power of their devotion, to whom nothing else existed except Krishna’s blissful form, who first ignited a tradition centuries ago when they screamed:

Śrī Kṛṣṇa!


nirvanarupa

The word, “nirvāṇarūpaṃ,” rests in the first line of Tulsidas’s devotional poem, “Rudrāṣṭakam.” It is a compound word that means, “the form of nirvana.” It is referring to Lord Shiva, and the particular book I am reading translates it as, “eternal bliss personified.”

That is a lovely translation, one that plays my body like a sarod, my bones ringing in sympathetic harmony to the glories of creation. It is like a spell cast on my knees, weakening their very muscles until they collapse to the ground. It has become my muse for the night, and it inspires the question, “What is the verbal root of nirvana?”

Studying Sanskrit is another way for me to practice my devotion. I have a restless mind, the kind that would enjoy scrabble or a crossword or filling silence with meaningless words. I study Sanskrit for the same reason I write poetry. I am not disciplined enough to sit and meditate on the word “nirvāṇarūpaṃ” for 5 hours straight, but I find my own strange way, following inspiration like bread crumbs as I traverse the depths of the heart. First I find the page I need from the tomes of Sanskrit grammar.  Loosening it from its binding, I then meticulously fold it into an origami murti and place it on the altar of the wind.

Nirvana comes from the root √ “to blow.” It is in the past passive participle form “na,” meaning “blown.” It has the prefix “nis”, which here means “out.” Nirvana is final liberation, a state reached when the last trace of desire has been “blown out” or “extinguished.”

I quite like the translation of “eternal bliss personified.” It’s a poetic one that inspires devotion, reminding us that worship of the Beloved’s form is the highest bliss. The gods in heaven rain down flowers on the poet who translates it this way, knowing as they do how it captures the devotional mood. Tulsidas sings with them in a unison of praise, for he also writes in this bhāv. His words are arrows of fire. They melt the thoughts of even the most restless mind.

This flame reaches its climax at the Rudrāṣṭakam’s end. My eyes wince at the brightness of the page, and the night sky mistakenly prepares for the Sun. Lifetimes of longing are awakened in an instant when I read those glorious words, “O Lord! I do not know yoga, japa, or ritual worship. O Shambhu! I simply bow to you at all times and at every moment.”


Because the World Needs us.

I have been writing much about suffering, so today I thought I would write about love. It’s difficult to discuss it in a way that is fresh and alive. The word itself died long ago in the coffin of cliche and teenage romance. What good will saying it one more time do?

When I first heard Ram Dass say the word’s “Souls not roles,” I felt my nerves tingle and cells sing. I printed out those words and taped them on my dashboard. When I drove, it seemed the whole world sang their glory. It only took a few days for the song to fade, and then they too were just words.

When I studied poetry in college, I learned the golden rules of modern American verse. The universal is gleaned at through the specific, and the abstract is earned through imagery and sound. Love requires the highest price; even better to invoke it without saying it.

Rumi, Hafiz, and Kabir served as a bridge to the devotional poetry of India, which seemed to have its own set of golden rules. It can appear soft and trite for the unprepared. Tulsidas writes for those on the path. His words are earned through years of practice. We prepare ourselves, working our emotions, attachments and mind, so when the gods shower us with rose petals we can appreciate their perfume. Tulsidas takes us beyond the clouds to be obliterated by the Sun.

I don’t know how to reach that depth of love without acknowledging suffering. Maybe it’s protestant guilt, unknowingly inherited through our culture and embedded in a poetry that teaches us love must be earned. Or, maybe its because my Guru once said, “I love suffering. It brings me so close to God.” We know Ram Dass has earned it when he looks from his wheelchair and says, “Suffering is grace.”

In Truth, the world has already earned it. It cries out tears of anguish, desperately in need of that Love.


Autumn’s Cry

 
A leaf lightens 
into gold
and leaps 
from the branch to the sky.

        What whirling what spinning what dancing what joy!

(It is jealousy that clings 
the other leaves to their branches, but only
for so long.)

Autumn knows this secret-
that we are all becoming beautiful
together.

Freedom

A forehead splits
down the center like a
lightning-struck tree

and swings open
like doors on the
hinges of each ear.

A flock of birds
flies like smoke
from the opening,

and the heart
sings praises
to their wings.


Ahhhh…

 
You are huddled
against a flower's stamen, naked
and much too cold to smell the fragrance
soon to overtake your world. This void-black 
sky is the outstretched arms of
rose petals, enclosed over you like a domed 
cocoon, fingers meeting high overhead 
and interwoven like strands 
of a grandmother basket.

         **Gasping Amazement!  (sucking in)  ...haaaaaaa

That's the sound that you
and this entire world make
when the sky unravels, at first
almost by accident, but then...

             pollen dances
       in the soft-beamed light
                         falling like a breath

  *heart-melting sigh  (release) ahhhhhhh...

first fragrance
of spring.

Release

What would be left of you
for me
if I no longer wanted
you
to be a something
else?


Splendor

The gods and saints
never stopped showering us with flowers.

We have just forgotten
how to walk on this earth
lightly
as if every step
pressed into a petal
to release its sweet
fragrance.


Don’t Worry

Don’t Worry,
this pain you are feeling
is nothing more than
the excruciating agony
of two holes drilled in your back
and wings shoved in.


Butterfly

Taste your sorrows
the way a caterpillar
sinks his feet in the mud-
each of his leg hairs tremble
as they lick the wet, savory
earth.


Coconut

You crack open my head
like a coconut, snap off my wrist,
and use my finger as a straw
to suck out my water. My hand
is a spoon to scoop out my meat.

I am carved deep and empty.
What remains of my shell
is in love with you madly.


True Conversion

True conversion
is not the swapping of words,
the trading of dogma
or the switching of casings
that harden the heart.

It is when the shells shatter
from a swelled heart blossoming
that we are truly born again.