Kundalini Splendor

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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Where the Beauty Resides––poem by Dorothy 

Where the Beauty Resides

Will someone please tell me
what day it is,
what time?

More and more I keep on living
in that place that has no date,
and no timepieces are to be found.

And then when I return
to that other world,
the one  they call "real"
with its clocks and calendars,
its appointment books and meetings,
I come blinking and dazed,
wonder what all the confusion is about,
yearn to hurry back to that other realm
where the beauty resides.

Dorothy Walters
February 7, 2018

Friday, February 16, 2018

Questions for Kabir––poem by Dorothy 

Questions for Kabir

How is it that I write these poems
all morning,
then find these stunning verses from the Master
with the same themes all afternoon?

There is a well of truth
from which we all must drink.
Some take deep draughts,
others a few sips now and then.

Oddly the thoughts they present
often resemble each other
yet in different language,
his luminous,
mine trying to capture
invisible light.

Dorothy Walters
February 7, 2018

Thursday, February 15, 2018

These Honey Drops 

These Honey Drops

Kabir, Kabir,
when I read your poems
I melt into the earth.
Or if I stay upright,
a certain sun lights
all my pores 
and I become a vague outline
of Desire.

Tell me, who sends you
these sweetmeats
made of words. . .
who places these honey drops
on your tongue?

All I want 
is more.

Dorothy Walters
February 12, 2018

Note: Andrew Harvey has just finished a brilliant translation of the poems of Kabir, the renowned poet/sant of early India (15th century).  I find them totally intoxicating.  I will let you know when they are published.

(picture from internet)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Valentine from Kalidas 

This Valentine is from Lawrence Edwards (Kalidas)gifted poet and founder of Anam Cara Foundation.

Anam Cara Meditation Foundation
Perennial Wisdom For The Soul's Journey
February 14, 2018

Sophia's Gifts

Living Through Dying Retreat

Weekly Meditation Programs
Dear Dorothy,
We offer you these poems in celebration of Love!

The Flames of Love

Let the flames of Love cleanse you
of all clinging to illusion.
Let Love illumine the Truth.

Love is the most precious gift.
Love is the most sublime path.
Love is the most profound meditation.
Love is the highest attainment.

In Love - the fullness of compassion.
In Love - timeless patience.
In Love - unbounded awareness.
In Love - all is illumined.
In Love - vast spaciousness.
In Love - form and emptiness embrace.
In Love - I and Thou disappear.
In Love -

From Kali's Bazaar, p. 31

The Greatest Path

The greatest practice is Compassion.
The greatest discipline is Patience.
The greatest path is Love.
Resolve to faithfully and enthusiastically follow these,
And you will know yourself to be Free.

From Kali's Bazaar, p 67

Love always arises within. Searching for its source we discover its only source is the Divine within.
Visit there often. It is the living state of meditation, the living state of union. Love is the ultimate transformative power of the Divine.
May you come to revel in it as your true Self!

Upcoming Events
Living Through Dying Meditation Retreat - March 16-18. 7pm Fri - lunch on Sun.
The Garrison Institute (click to register now or get more information), Garrison, NY. Fee: $225 plus accommodations.
Throughout our lives we encounter the passing of cherished relationships, loved ones, careers, hopes and dreams. Ultimately we will face our own mortality. Living Through Dying will take you into the practices, meditations and teachings found at deepest levels of the great spiritual traditions. Themes of birth and death, the nature of the eternal and the ephemeral, dying to the ego, and the transcendent way beyond suffering into pure rapture, appear in our spiritual traditions as ways of approaching the mystery of what lies beyond the ordinary mind, both in life and in death. These wisdom practices offer us a way to be free of the past, free to let die what needs to die in order to live fully in the present.

At the heart every human being is a mystic capable of directly knowing the deep truths about the link between womb and tomb, birth and death, and creation and dissolution. The retreat includes shaktipat diksha, empowered mantra and the Maha Kali Yantra empowerment as means for directly knowing who we are beyond the ordinary mind/self.

Through teachings and practices from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Grail legend, the Heart Sutra, and non-dual teachings of Kashmir Shaivism and Vedanta we will explore the Way beyond the way.

Additional Event Information

AC Meditation Hall

Thursday Night Meditation Sessions -Everyone is welcome! Thurs. evenings 7:15-8:45
Led by Lawrence Edwards. Includes meditation instruction, discussions, chanting, and meditation. Open to everyone, fee: donation. Click here for more information.

Anam Cara Meditation Foundation

Thank you all for your notes of appreciation for our newsletter. It's great to hear from you!

Everyone has the heart to be a true friend of the soul, an "Anam Cara." By embodying that ideal we may serve to help others to find love and compassion within themselves and the world.

Our highest nature is always manifest in relationship - to all other beings, to the environment, community, loved ones, and in relation to our own body and mind. Becoming mindful of the quality of our relationships allows us to learn where the light shines and where it needs to shine more. The ideal of Anam Cara is to continuously endeavor to expand the depth and the inclusiveness of the loving kindness we bring into every relationship, every moment, every breath.

If you have any suggestions, comments or sharings, for our newsletter please don't hesitate to e-mail me and I'll do my best to respond.

The Anam Cara Meditation Foundation is a 501 (C) 3, non-profit educational organization dedicated to teaching meditative practices. Our non- denominational programs are open to all. There are free meditation instructions and downloadable audio files of guided meditations on the meditation page of our website.

Thank you for the many ways you have shown support for Anam Cara . Because of your gifts we can offer free programs and instruction to thousands of people. If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to Anam Cara please click here and you'll see the donation button on the bottom of the page. Your donations will support ongoing free programs, expanding our website resources, and making meditation practices freely available to everyone. Thank you for all your support!

A special thank you to our generous supporters who give donations and make regular pledged donations.

I look forward to welcoming you in person to our programs.

With all my appreciation and love,
I thank you all.
May all beings know complete freedom from suffering and may all our actions reflect only wisdom, compassion, patience and love.
Lawrence Edwards, PhD
Founder and Director
Anam Cara Meditation Foundation

All newsletter contents copyrighted 2018

Link to Additional Resources

Lawrence Edwards, PhD, Founder & Director | Anam Cara Meditation Foundation, Armonk, NY
914-219-8600 | info@anamcara-ny.org | www.anamcarameditation.org
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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

"Gallintine's Day" 

from EMILY's List


Galentine's Day is all about celebrating women. It's a day set aside specifically to let the women in your life know just how great they are and how much you appreciate them.

And even though at EMILY's List we celebrate women every day by working to elect them, today we're taking a moment to do something a little bit more special for all of the women in our community.

Text GAL to 47717 for a Galentine's Day surprise you don't want to miss!


Talk soon,

Meg DiMartino
Digital Coordinator, EMILY's List

P.S. Want to spread the Galentine's Day cheer to one of the women in YOUR life? Forward them this email!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Something Shining––poem by Dorothy 

Something Shining

I am not one to go around saying
I have found final truth.

Truth is a vast tent
spread across the heavens.
We crawl beneath the edges of its skirts,
catch a small glimpse of something shining inside 
now and again.

Dorothy Walters
February 7, 2018

Sunday, February 11, 2018

On reading Kabir as Translated by Andrew Harvey 

On Reading Kabir as Translated by Andrew Harvey

Kabir, you have made me drunk
with your verses and I have lost
all my bearings.

Up, down, night, day, real, fantasy––
now all the same to me.

But I am not complaining.
I like this being tipsy.
Whatever you do,
don't make me get 
sober again.

Dorothy Walters
February 7, 2018

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Real Map––poem by Dorothy 

She Gave Me the Secret

She gave me the secret.
Now I live in the midst
of a busy highway
where throngs and traffic
are all headed the wrong way.
Many are lost in detours
and forget where they
are going.

I stand here shouting
and holding up signs
pointing to the true path,
but no one listens
and I realize they
are all deaf and some
are blind to boot.

Only those who follow
the one map
will reach the destination.

Dorothy Walters
February 7, 2018

Thursday, February 08, 2018

"Holy Union"––Poem by Dorothy 

Holy Union

I do not know
who you are,
where you are from,
what you look like.

Yet I know
that when you arrive,
I once more know the secret,
holy mariage,
sacred union,
you are who I am.

Then it is as though the vows
are renewed once more,
as if we have never been apart.

They talk of oneness:
abundance of connection
candle and flame
sea and wave
air and breath.

Dorothy Walters
February 7, 2018

The Beloved Shares Her Secret––poem by Dorothy 

The Beloved Shares Her Secret

I can't help it.
I keep on wondering
who you are,
why you keep coming,
how you are connected to me.

I think of a face, invisible
and smiling.

And then a voice says,
"Of course, you know me.
How could you not?
I am you and I have
never left."

"When you eat,
I am the taste
of the food you swallow.
When you hear music,
I send thrills of joy
through your body.
When you sleep,
I manufacture your dreams.

When you write poems,
you speak with my tongue.

Know that I love you,
for you are mine,
crafted from the same essence,
made of the same substance,
light and burning candle,
always one."

Dorothy Walters
February 7, 2018

Tuesday, February 06, 2018



What you must know
is this:
it will not come
as a thought
or a concept
or an experiment
in a laboratory.

It will not be an extension
of all that has been proved
by wise men
in tomes and cubicles
for centuries before.

It will happen
within what you call
your body.
You will not know
where your flesh ends
and a feeling comes that is
both outside and inside,
a realization arriving
as an experience,
a happening
you have no words to describe.

Of course, you can try.
You can speak of it
as rapture, as ecstasy,
as a flowing field of bliss.

But once it happens,
your will recognize it
as that which unites all
and of which you are an
indivisible part.

Drop to ocean,
cells to body,
the nameless you to

Dorothy Walters
February 6, 2018

To a Young Poet––poem by Dorothy 

To a Young Poet

She is indeed young
and beautiful
and gifted.

She has won prizes
and travels widely
to share her
with grateful audiences.

Her eyes gleam with the
of someone
who knows where
she has been,
where she is
going and why.

Her poems are filled
with sharp insights
and nuanced texture,
she does what
artists have long
been instructed to do:
look on the world
in its fullness
with an unflinching gaze,
include that which is
random or else sought after,
you are the seer,
the teller of truth.

She is concerned
that she will soon
be forty,
though she is already
well established
in the world.

she was born
with the gift of saying,
words filling her mouth
even as she drew
her mother's milk.

She carries her burden of fame
lightly, as if it were a blessing
or a boon.

I observe and marvel
in amazement and awe,
silence descending over me
like a cloak of rain.

Dorothy Walters
February 6, 2018

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Some Context for Rumi's Bawdy Poems 

Some context for Rumi's bawdy poems by an unnamed Rumi scholar:

LATIN TRANSLATION OF THE MATHNAWI (courtesy of 'Ordinary Sparrow").  She forgot to include the author of this article.

We have the greatest respect and admiration for Professor Nicholson who devoted a lifetime to the translation of the Mathnawi into English. He has chosen, however, to render some 133 out of 25,700 couplets into Latin. His reason he explains in his Introduction to Volume II of the Mathnawi (translation of Books I and II). Rumi, he thinks, 'is too outspoken for our taste' on certain' topics 'and many pages' of the Mathnawi 'are disfigured by anecdotes worthy of an Apuleius or Petronius but scarcely fit to be translated.’ Form a total of about 4000 verses (4855 to be exact) the translator takes exception to nine odd couplets which in his view are not fit to be translated into English.
The Maidservant and the Ass is by far the most provocative story in the Mathnawi, were one to accept the yard-stick applied so far by the translator. He uses the blue pencil even in the prose heading of the story which begins with the following verses rendered into Latin [Vol. Vi, p.82.]:

A passionate, pleasure-loving maidservant had trained an ass to perform the sexual functions of a man. The crafty woman had a gourd which answered the measurement of the male, so that at the time of intercourse only half of it could penetrate. Had the whole member gone into her, her womb and intestines would have been in utter ruin.
The story is allowed to proceed. The ass was becoming lean, and his mistress was worried, but no ailment could be discerned in him. She began to investigate on earnest until one day, through a crack in the door, ‘she saw the little narcissus sleeping under the ass’ [V, 1343.]:

The ass was treating the maidservant exactly in the same manner as a man takes a woman. [V, 1345.]

The mistress became envious and said: ‘Since this is possible, then I have the best right, for the ass is my property.’ The ass had been perfectly trained and instructed and the mistress decided to take advantage of him. Feigning to have seen nothing, she knocked at the door. The maid with a broom in her hand opened the door. The mistress treated her like an innocent person. Later one day she sent her away on an errand. The crafty maid, whilst she went on her errand, knew exactly why she was being sent away. She was saying to herself: ‘Ah, mistress, you have sent away the expert. You will set to work without the expert and will foolishly hazard your life. You have stolen from me an imperfect knowledge and you are ashamed to ask about the trap.’
After the maid is gone the narrative lapses into Latin:

[V, 1361-64.]

She was happy at the (anticipation) of the pleasurable passion. She closed the door behind her and said (to herself): ‘Now I can shout my thanks! Now I am free from all worries: (I have perfect uninterrupted privacy).’ Out of pleasure her vagina (was singing like) a nightingale. She was impatient for the flame of passion. Having reached the height of excitement it was no wonder she was already feeling dizzy.
Lustful desire, goes on Rumi, makes the heart deaf and blind, so that an ass seems like Joseph, fire like light. Cupidity causes foul things to appear fair. Sensuality has disgraced a hundred thousand good names. Its spell made dung seem honey to you, it caused an ass appear like Joseph. And then we are allowed a peep into the room where the mistress is now closeted with the ass, and of course it is Latin again:

[V, 1382-90.]
That woman closed the door and dragged the ass and undoubtedly she enjoyed herself. Slowly she pulled him into the house and slept below the big ass. In order to achieve her and she stood on the same chair as she had seen the maidservant use. She raised her legs and the ass penetrated her. From his member he set her on fire. The ass politely pressed the lady up to his testicles until she was dead. The member of the ass burst her liver and tore apart the intestines. She did not utter a word and laid down her life. The chair fell on one side and the woman on the other. The courtyard of the house was smeared with blood, the woman lay prostrate. Without doubt the calamity had come. Such a bad end, O reader; have you ever seen a martyr to the member of an ass!
Immediately after this scene the moral follows:

Hear from the Qur’an (what is) the torment of disgrace: do not sacrifice your life in such a shameful cause. Know that the male ass is this bestial soul: to be under it is more shameful than that (woman’s behavior).If you die in egoism in the way of the fleshly soul, know for certain that you are like that woman. [V, 1391-93.]
When the maid returned she found that her worst fears had come true. Addressing the dead mistress she says:

[V, 1420-21.]
You only saw the member which appeared so tempting and sweet to you, but in you greed you omitted to see the gourd. Or else you were so absorbed in you love for the ass that the gourd remained hidden from your sight.
The following verses which bring out the moral of the story have been rendered into Latin:
The Master of domesticated animals cut off the head of the fools and invited the wise ones to his assembly to eat them. Their flesh alone is useful while the wise ones (have many uses such as) humble prayer and sincere supplication. The maidservant then came in from the little creek of the door and saw the lady dead below the ass. ‘O stupid lady!’ she said, ‘what is this? Did your teacher ever provide you with the proper picture? You saw only the appearance and the secret remained hidden from you. You simply opened a shop without mastering the tricks of the trade!’
A story which may seem saucy and scintillating in parts has to be read in its entirety and judgment suspended until after the author has concluded it. Any court of critics would concede that Rumi is by no means a pedlar in pornography and yet parts of the story being singled out, irrespective of the context, for translation into Latin tend to create an effect which is perhaps entirely opposite to the one intended by the translator. The censored part, like all forbidden fruit, becomes more delicious and one is apt to exaggerate rather than digest it within the general framework of the narrative. Keeping this essential requisite in mind we make bold to relate another story which the translator seeks to obscure by his peculiar technique. If the very mention of sex can cause a flutter in some petticoats, the remedy does not lie in cloaking words which merely reflect a fundamental fact of life. The Sufi, Rumi has stated time and again, is like a highly polished mirror. He only reflects your own reality. If you see an ugly face it is you; and if you see a beauteous visage, it is you. The reader, who makes a powerful, penetrating breach into the island of the Mathnawi, will see nothing but light and spiritual fervor. There is a point, therefore, in seeking to liquidate the mystery created by the lavish use of Latin in Book V...

This article does indeed provide some context for Rumi's use of bawdy narration, but I still am offended and grieved to find such vulgar passages in his poetry.   As for the writer of the above, I am bothered by his condescending attitude suggesting that only prudes would object to such materials: "If the very mention of sex can cause a flutter in some petticoats, then...".  He lays a double trap.  If you object to such material, you are by (his) definition a prude and a puritan.  Whatever you say can and will be used against you.   As I may have mentioned earlier, this entry  disturbs me as much as if Mother Teresa suddenly started telling dirty jokes.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Like Light Playing Over Water 

Like Light Playing Over Water

Happening again.
She has come.
Even sitting here,
typing these words,
I feel Her stirring

I do not know where
She comes from,
why She visits,
how She travels.

Now sweetness moves
from feet
to temples,
then back again.

Each time it is
like a lover's kiss
after long absence.

Why am I trying to
make sentences
about this?

The answer
is in the breath.

Dorothy Walters
February 3, 2018

(image from internet)

Friday, February 02, 2018

"The Second Jesus"––Gharib Nawaz, (1142–1236?) 

The Second Jesus
By Gharib Nawaz
(1142? - 1236?)
English version by Peter Lamborn Wilson and Nasrollah Pourjavady

O Lord, it's me: blanked out in divine light
and become a horizon of rays flashing from the Essence.
My every atom yearned for vision
till I fell drunk on the manifestations of lordship.
Love polished the rust from my heart's mirror
till I began to see the mysteries;
I emerged from the darkness of my existence
and became what I am (you know me) from the Light of Being:
blackened like charcoal dark soul's smoke
but mixed with love fires and illumined.
Some say the path is difficult;
God forgive them! I went so easily:
The Holy Spirit breathes his every breath into Mo'in--
who knows? Maybe I'm the second Jesus.
-- from The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry, Translated by Peter Lamborn Wilson / Translated by Nasrollah Pourjavad

Dorothy Walters: To wonder if "I'm the second Jesus" seems like a boast. Yet when we are profoundly awakened, we may feel that we are indeed some supernatural being. The energies may be extreme. The mind may no longer be capable of rational thought. When I had my awakening many years ago, I initially wondered if I was some kind of buddha. I was unable to interpret my experience in rational terms.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

More on Rumi Discussion 

More on Rumi Discussion

I wrote a post on a very different topic, then it disappeared before I got it posted.  However, the question about Rumi evoked an interesting discussion on FB (from original post) and I am reprinting some of those responses here:

Gurudev Khalsa Two thoughts, dear Dorothy. Perhaps a bit like Sparrow Mattes, I think we do a disservice to the nature of humanity when we expect perfection of our idols--or ourselves. Ernest Kurtz' "The Spirituality of Imperfection" is a great antidote in that regar...See More

The Erasure of Islam from the Poetry of Rumi

Dorothy Walters Dear Kurudev Khalsa, Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I was deeply disappointed and disturbed by these "poems' attributed to Rumi. They are not a result of inaccurate translation. The subject matter is clearly pornographic. If you want to read ...See More

Write a reply...

Irina Kuzminsky
Irina Kuzminsky Not all Turks I have spoken to idolize Rumi in the same way as many Westerners do ...

Like · Reply · 3h

Irina Kuzminsky replied · 4 Replies · 1 hr

Dorothy Walters Guru Khalsa: I have now read the New Yorker article you mention. I am quite familiar with the charge that Barks offers renditions rather than actual literal translations of the original works by Rumi. However, I found the article quite interesting, f...See Mor

Dorothy Walters However, this article in no way addresses my concerns. I have called these particular poems as "pornographic" and even "obscene." I have also wondered if Rumi even wrote them. If so, then he must have had a split personality: one a devout mystic, a...See More

Dorothy Walters I was hesitant to publish this entry, but felt I needed to get some of these concerns "off my chest." As for the references to the unethical behavior of gurus and teacher, I feel that pedophilia is wrong, that using devotees as sexual objects and so f...See More

Gurudev Khalsa Thank you so much, Dorothy, both for initially writing of your deep concerns and for following up with your replies to me. I'm sorry I wasn't more sensitive to the depth of your horror at what you read, and am feeling rather silly myself for offering my comments without having read what you read. Please accept my apologies. I haven't had a chance to track down the passages yet, but hope to tomorrow. In the meantime, I can say that I agree with much of what you say above--that moral relativism must have limits, and that I actually prefer the poetry of Barks over literalism, without which I and millions of others might never have fallen in love with Rumi. But as a cross-cultural professional, I also know how much does get lost "in translation," both literally and metaphorically. It is apparent from the strength of your revulsion that you feel it is impossible that could explain what you have read. I suppose, in my own way, I am hoping to find what could soften the blow for both of us. Have you reached out to Andrew Harvey about this? I'd be very curious to learn of his perspective. Let us keep reflecting and sharing, in the hopes of learning how to make better sense (both in head and heart) of what you have discovered.

Dorothy Walters Dear Gurudev,

Dorothy Walters
Dorothy Walters Thanks for this further commentary. The two poems are: "The Importance of Gourdcrafting" (about women who have sex with a donkey) and "Two Ways of Running" (about a wife who discovers graphic evidence that her husband has had sex with the maid). I found them on pp.181 and 178 on "The Essential Rumi" of Coleman Barks and John Moyne.

Dorothy Walters By the way, I have always assumed that John Moyne was the actual translator and that Barks went from there with his renditions. I would like to ask Andrew about this problem, but at present cannot get in touch with him. I do know another deep Rumi sc...See More

Dorothy Walters As a retired professor of English lit, I enjoy delving into these problems of interpretation and much appreciate your comments.

Dorothy Walters All my best to you, Gurudev.

Ron Sult
Ron Sult there are controversial stories / elements (to put it mildly) about the lives and conduct of so many prominent spiritual figures (many that are even considered "spiritual giants"), that one almost comes to expect it.. :)

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

When Our Idols Fail Us 

When Our Idols Fail Us

One of the most difficult experiences to deal with occurs when someone we have looked up to and even idolized proves to have feet of clay.

The excesses of various gurus are familiar to all, as are the transgressions of certain priests and teachers, who take advantage of their positions of power to corrupt their followers.

I was indeed sorry to learn that Omar Khayyam, one of the greatest mystical poets, died 
 of alcoholism at a rather early age. 

Rumi has long been such an idol for me.  I have read and loved his poetry for years, especially the quatrains and  odes.  I first found him at a time when I was very lonely on my journey and his poems gave me sustenance and inspiration for many years thereafter.  His verses are like vases of delicious spiritual wine that overflow with joy.  I have often been inspired to write my own poems just from reading his lines.

I have never really explored the "teaching  poems" of Rumi's Mathawni, but last night I looked around a bit in these works and was astonished and disappointed in what I found there.  I only read 2 or 3 that I happened to turn to.  These were narrations that, to be honest, were extremely vulgar and even obscene.  I was shocked to think they had come from the voice of the great spiritual teacher admired all over the world as a profound mystic able to describe his connection to the divine in such eloquent and stirring lines.  They seemed more appropriate for a locker room or even the gutter than in a collection of eloquent spiritual expressions.

I do not understand how these writings came to be.  I am not a prude, but these went beyond the bounds of good taste and decency.  Coleman Barks, speaking of these, says that early translators put these verses into Latin, so they would not give offense to the ordinary reader.  Frankly,  I wondered if Rumi had suffered some kind of stroke or illness that had impaired his judgment  or intellect so that he produced such uncharacteristic pieces.

I was deeply sorrowed by my discovery and hope that at some point I will learn how these disturbing stories came to be.

Mathew Arnold, in "Dover Beach," concludes with 'Ah, love, let us be true to one another."  For me, the "lover"is the Beloved Within, and indeed, She will never leave or betray.

Dorothy Walters
January 31, 2017

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

"Where We Are Going"––poem by Dorothy 

Where We Are Going

"I live my life in widening circles."

No one knows where we are going.

Is it into magnificence
or into the darkness of vastness.

Will we follow light
into paradise
and be enfolded
in indescribable love,
strains of ethereal music,
or fall into oblivion,
like the petals of a fallen

What does it matter.
We came here for our journey.

Now it is over.
Perhaps then we will at last discover
its meaning.

Were we
a pebble, a cloud, or a scent 
floating in moonlight?

Dorothy Walters
January 30, 2017

Monday, January 29, 2018

Edna St. Vincent Millay: Forgotten Mystic 

Edna St. Vincent Millay: Forgotten Mystic

Even her name is musical.

When I was in high school, I was enamored of this woman and her poetry, as were many others at the time.  She was above all a "romantic" poet, that is, one who felt there was more to our perceived existence than the mundane activities or routines of ordinary existence.  She was not afraid to unleash the unspoken passions of the heart, to allow all us to know, in deep and moving ways, the feeling aspects of our existence, framed in ways that take us out of the realm of the ordinary and into transcendent spheres of imagining and experience.

Her most famous poem, "Renascence," propelled her into fame and celebrity at the age of 20.  Her physical appearance enhanced her fame, for she was indeed a beauty.  In addition she had a moving, deeply resonant voice that lent added effectiveness to her oral presentations.  Furthermore, she was, by the standards of the time, a  wanton, a woman who went freely from lover to lover, against the moral strictures of the age.  Doubtless many woman who read her poems identified with her life as a rebel, one who allowed them to experience, if only vicariously, their own secret longings and ambitions.

I, like many who cherished her work when we were adolescents, lost interest in her when we grew older, more 'sophisticated," more in touch with our heads rather than our hearts.  We scoffed at her earlier passionate outcries, and moved, along with many of the critics, into a new phase of "realistic" examination of the human experience.

This morning I happened by chance on a reprint of "Renascence" and realized, with a shock, that it is more that most of us ever noticed when we encountered it earlier.  It is, in fact, a sweeping, deeply felt, and brilliantly executed account of a classic mystical experience, including features we now identify as those characterizing universal experiences of such inner awakening.  There is a deep identification with the pain of all who suffer in the world.  The sense of knowing all there is to know.  The sudden realization of the vastness of the unknown source.  And, overriding all the rest, the sense of personal spiritual death and separation from all the concrete features of the familiar "multiform" elements that define our human experience.

And then, of course, there is the almost magical resurrection, the return of the life force and God's love, and reconnection with the beauty and abundance of the embodied world.

I feel that this poem stands with and compares favorably with many of the famous accounts of spiritual death and awakening, including those of St John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, among others.  I do not know what personal experience lies behind Millay's vision, but clearly she has gone through the profound spiritual death and resurrection as detailed in the classic literature of the mystic transformation.  Yet this aspect of her work has (to my knowledge) escaped notice of those readers and critics who continue to deride her for her "immature vision" and her unrestrained romanticism.

Read "Renascence" and discover its forgotten treasures.  You will be well rewarded.  And you may discover echoes of your own journey of death and awakening.



All I could see from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood;
I turned and looked another way,
And saw three islands in a bay.
So with my eyes I traced the line 
Of the horizon, thin and fine,
Straight around till I was come
Back to where I'd started from; 
And all I saw from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood.

Over these things I could not see;
These were the things that bounded me;
And I could touch them with my hand,
Almost, I thought, from where I stand.
And all at once things seemed so small
My breath came short, and scarce at all.

But, sure, the sky is big, I said;
Miles and miles above my head;
So here upon my back I'll lie
And look my fill into the sky.
And so I looked, and, after all,
The sky was not so very tall.
The sky, I said, must somewhere stop,
And—sure enough!—I see the top! 
The sky, I thought, is not so grand;
I 'most could touch it with my hand!
And reaching up my hand to try,
I screamed to feel it touch the sky.

I screamed, and—lo!—Infinity
Came down and settled over me;
Forced back my scream into my chest,
Bent back my arm upon my breast,
And, pressing of the Undefined
The definition on my mind,
Held up before my eyes a glass
Through which my shrinking sight did pass
Until it seemed I must behold
Immensity made manifold;
Whispered to me a word whose sound
Deafened the air for worlds around,
And brought unmuffled to my ears
The gossiping of friendly spheres,
The creaking of the tented sky,
The ticking of Eternity.

I saw and heard, and knew at last
The How and Why of all things, past,
And present, and forevermore.
The Universe, cleft to the core,
Lay open to my probing sense
That, sick'ning, I would fain pluck thence
But could not,—nay! But needs must suck
At the great wound, and could not pluck
My lips away till I had drawn
All venom out.—Ah, fearful pawn!
For my omniscience paid I toll
In infinite remorse of soul.

All sin was of my sinning, all
Atoning mine, and mine the gall
Of all regret. Mine was the weight 
Of every brooded wrong, the hate
That stood behind each envious thrust,
Mine every greed, mine every lust.

And all the while for every grief,
Each suffering, I craved relief
With individual desire,—
Craved all in vain! And felt fierce fire
About a thousand people crawl;
Perished with each,—then mourned for all!

A man was starving in Capri;
He moved his eyes and looked at me;
I felt his gaze, I heard his moan,
And knew his hunger as my own.
I saw at sea a great fog bank
Between two ships that struck and sank;
A thousand screams the heavens smote;
And every scream tore through my throat.

No hurt I did not feel, no death
That was not mine; mine each last breath
That, crying, met an answering cry
From the compassion that was I.
All suffering mine, and mine its rod;
Mine, pity like the pity of God.

Ah, awful weight! Infinity
Pressed down upon the finite Me!
My anguished spirit, like a bird,
Beating against my lips I heard;
Yet lay the weight so close about
There was no room for it without.
And so beneath the weight lay I
And suffered death, but could not die.

Long had I lain thus, craving death,
When quietly the earth beneath
Gave way, and inch by inch, so great
At last had grown the crushing weight,
Into the earth I sank till I
Full six feet under ground did lie,
And sank no more,—there is no weight
Can follow here, however great.
From off my breast I felt it roll,
And as it went my tortured soul
Burst forth and fled in such a gust
That all about me swirled the dust.

Deep in the earth I rested now;
Cool is its hand upon the brow
And soft its breast beneath the head
Of one who is so gladly dead.
And all at once, and over all
The pitying rain began to fall;
I lay and heard each pattering hoof
Upon my lowly, thatched roof,
And seemed to love the sound far more
Than ever I had done before.
For rain it hath a friendly sound
To one who's six feet underground;
And scarce the friendly voice or face:
A grave is such a quiet place.

The rain, I said, is kind to come
And speak to me in my new home.
I would I were alive again
To kiss the fingers of the rain,
To drink into my eyes the shine
Of every slanting silver line,
To catch the freshened, fragrant breeze
From drenched and dripping apple-trees.
For soon the shower will be done,
And then the broad face of the sun
Will laugh above the rain-soaked earth
Until the world with answering mirth
Shakes joyously, and each round drop
Rolls, twinkling, from its grass-blade top.

How can I bear it; buried here,
While overhead the sky grows clear
And blue again after the storm?
O, multi-colored, multiform,
Beloved beauty over me,
That I shall never, never see
Again! Spring-silver, autumn-gold,
That I shall never more behold!
Sleeping your myriad magics through,
Close-sepulchred away from you!
O God, I cried, give me new birth,
And put me back upon the earth!
Upset each cloud's gigantic gourd
And let the heavy rain, down-poured
In one big torrent, set me free,
Washing my grave away from me!

I ceased; and through the breathless hush
That answered me, the far-off rush
Of herald wings came whispering
Like music down the vibrant string
Of my ascending prayer, and—crash!
Before the wild wind's whistling lash
The startled storm-clouds reared on high
And plunged in terror down the sky,
And the big rain in one black wave
Fell from the sky and struck my grave.

I know not how such things can be;
I only know there came to me
A fragrance such as never clings
To aught save happy living things;
A sound as of some joyous elf
Singing sweet songs to please himself,
And, through and over everything,
A sense of glad awakening.
The grass, a-tiptoe at my ear,
Whispering to me I could hear;
I felt the rain's cool finger-tips
Brushed tenderly across my lips,
Laid gently on my sealed sight,
And all at once the heavy night
Fell from my eyes and I could see,—
A drenched and dripping apple-tree,
A last long line of silver rain,
A sky grown clear and blue again.
And as I looked a quickening gust
Of wind blew up to me and thrust
Into my face a miracle
Of orchard-breath, and with the smell,—
I know not how such things can be!—
I breathed my soul back into me.

Ah! Up then from the ground sprang I
And hailed the earth with such a cry
As is not heard save from a man
Who has been dead, and lives again.
About the trees my arms I wound;

Like one gone mad I hugged the ground;
I raised my quivering arms on high;
I laughed and laughed into the sky,
Till at my throat a strangling sob
Caught fiercely, and a great heart-throb
Sent instant tears into my eyes;
O God, I cried, no dark disguise
Can e'er hereafter hide from me
Thy radiant identity!

Thou canst not move across the grass
But my quick eyes will see Thee pass,
Nor speak, however silently,
But my hushed voice will answer Thee.
I know the path that tells Thy way
Through the cool eve of every day;
God, I can push the grass apart
And lay my finger on Thy heart!

The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky,—
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.
But East and West will pinch the heart
That can not keep them pushed apart;
And he whose soul is flat—the sky
Will cave in on him by and by. 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

About Patricia Lay Dorsey 

About Patricia Lay Dorsey

I have written about Patricia before, since she is one of my best friends and one of the most unusual people I have ever known.  I have great admiration for her.

Recently, Patricia, who has MS, experienced a major fall.  She ended up in emergency, then was hospitalized for several days, and now is headed for some 2-3 weeks in rehab.

Patricia is a devoted photographer and her work is displayed on instagram, where she has thousands of followers.  Like the dedicated artist she is, she has recorded her hospital journey on film and and posted these shots on instagram.  She has received messages of sympathy and promises of prayers from all over the world.  She is known and loved by countless numbers of her audience.

If you wish to view the visual record of her hospital experience, you can go to


Send her good thoughts and prayers for a full and speedy recovery!

Friday, January 26, 2018

"Ithaka"––C. P. Cavafy 


As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

~ C.P. Cavafy ~

(Collected Poems, Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard)

In Homer's great epic, "The Odyssey,"  the Greeks travel for many years on their way home from the Trojan War.  For Odysseus, their great warrior/hero, home is Ithaka, an island in the Mediterranean.  He sails for ten years on his return and has many adventures along the way, including encounters with various monsters, supernatural beings, and threatening gods (Laistrygonians, Cyclops, Poseidon).

It seems to me that this poem can be read as an allegory of our own life journey, which may be very long indeed, and certainly holds many experiences both challenging and delightful.   "Ithaca' is our place of starting out.  It could be the actual spot (our home town) or the society that surrounded us in childhood (family, socially approved ways of behaving or thinking.)  More likely "Ithaca" is simply who we were when we began our journey, and the destination we imagine we wish to return to.  Without that background and foundation, we could never have begun our worldly adventures.  But now, when we reconsider that time of our lives, we have much experience beyond those early years of innocence.  We have become someone else.  Looking at "Ithaka" with the eyes of experience, we will finally see that earlier being in a different light, and understand what our beginning really meant.

(photo from internet)

Thursday, January 25, 2018

"When I Was Looking" ––poem by Dorothy 

When I Was Looking

How is it 
that when I was 
looking for You,
You were seeking me also.

Silently You watched and waited.
Sometimes gave me
a brief glimpse
or taste
of who You were,
like a shy deer in the forest
that vanishes when
you turn to look.

And so I roamed,
looking here and there,
gazing at the cyphers on trees
or peering into flowers for secret revelations,
listening to the waves
pounding the shore for messages,
examining books and stars,
seeking essence.

Finally I gave up my searching,
surrendered my deep desire
to stillness.
And then You gave me a kiss
that lasted forever.

Dorothy Walters
January 25, 2018

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