Kundalini Splendor

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Going on Vacation 

Dear Friends,
I am going on vacation (Colorado, of course) for about 10 days. I will be posting again when I return.
In the meantime, be well and know that you are blessed!
Love to all,

Friday, May 22, 2009

Karma (poem) 


There is another world
and it is inside this one.
Paul Eluard

Beneath us inside the life we
live every day
is another life (that)
runs like a river beneath the city.
John Tarrant

Buddha said to be a light
unto yourself,
and so I followed
the pathless path,
carving my way
as I went.

Some insisted
they needed containers,
but who would wish to be shut up
in a cage?

I hurled all dogma
out the window,
did not spend time
sitting on a cushion

Instead I took off my clothes
and danced naked in my
living room,
field of bliss,
while Buddha looked down
from the wall, smiling.

Day after day,
seduced by Krishna's flute,
Mirabai's honeyed syllables.

What else could I do?

Dorothy Walters
Mary 21, 2009

(Image from source)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

poem by John Tarrant 

Translating The Book of Serenity in Santa Fe

I dreamed I found a lost poem of Stanley Kunitz
on the cover of an old book
with a lot of white space and black text at angles.
In the dream I was married and
I read the poem aloud over the table at the meal.
It was about a person who got an interview with God
and spoke their question across
the swirl of hyperspace and night.
The person said, "What does it all mean,
all the…and you… grief… and wanting impossible things?"--
the question standing for other questions such as:
the snow blossoms on the cotton wood trees 
and the thousands of snow geese falling out of the twilight in stages while the great sandhill cranes glide underneath, 
each to a precise place in the water shining 
with the last glow of sunset at Bosque del Apache,
but the translator is holding in memory many things such as 
the lost papyri of the Phoenicians 
and the place where the polar bears are leaving for
so in the language that crosses the turbulent dark,
only two words remain:
the question arrives as, "The dog?"
God is interested and tries,
with the means at hand,
to show the whole patter--
the response travels back through immensity
and comes out, "Woof.""Woof," says God, "Woof."
and that will have to do.
My wife was not convinced by the poem,
but when I woke up it was still here
in my chest,
though most of the words could
not cross over into waking.

John Tarrant

(picture from this site: http://users.drew.edu/vpalmier/seminar/brochure.htm )

Monday, May 18, 2009

Chi Gong Continued and poem by Mahmoud Darwish 

(The above picture of the poet Mahmoud Darwish is from Wikipedia)

Yesterday, I attended a chi gong workshop with a marvelous teacher, and, to my surprise, he spoke on the same topic I wrote about yesterday (the importance of the inner process rather than the outer appearance in chi gong and other energy practices.) I was interested in what he said, and happy to discover yet another teacher who felt that inner was more important than outer, even in traditional energy work.

At this workshop, I also met a woman who has been undergoing intense Kundalini awakening for many years, including many bliss experiences as well as various physical symptoms. In her case, she had been told by doctors many years ago that she would never walk again, but with the help of chi gong and (I think) acupuncture and perhaps other non-traditional approaches, she regained her health. She says that she now feels the energies running continuously in her body, and, like many others with active Kundalini, has had problems with crashed computers, stopped watches and the like. So, for her, as for most of us, Kundalini has brought healting and distress, ecstasy and pain--but ultimately it has brought a major "cure". It was I felt a rare gift to meet another "voyager on the path" and I was grateful for our exchange.

At the workshop, we also talked about the need for compassion. I look on compassion as the other side of bliss, and feel they should go hand in hand. I think we must never let our focus on
our own sequence of unfolding obscure our awareness of the world's needs and current challenges.
This poem by Mahmoud Darwish (l941-2008) expresses this thought very clearly: Darwish was known as the national poet of Palestine. He was celebrated world wide. When he died, Palestine declared three days of national mourning.

Think of Others
As you prepare your breakfast -think of others.
Don't forget to feed the pigeons.
As you conduct your wars - think of others.
Don't forget those who want peace.
As you pay your water bill - think of others.
Think of those who only have clouds to drink from.
As you go home, your own home - think of others -
don’t forget those who live in tents.
As you sleep and count the planets, think of others –
there are people who have no place to sleep.
As you liberate yourself with metaphors think of others -
those who have lost their right to speak.
And as you think of distant others -
think of yourself and say
"I wish I were a candle in the darkness."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

On Spontaneous vs. Patterned Movement 

On Spontaneous vs. Patterned Movement

I have long felt that it was not essential to memorize complex sequences of moves in order to get great benefit from chi gong, tai chi, or even yoga. Many teachers focus on outward form, insisting that the student stand and/or move in strict accordance with the instructions passed down from teacher to student, never including anything original or creative.

I have often wondered why such strict adherence to form was necessary, since obviously the original teachers must have made discoveries on their own (from their personal experience) rather than following inherited patterns. I suspect that many followed the energies themselves to awaken inner bliss flows.

At last I have found a chi gong teacher who apparently agrees with what I have intuited, at least in part. In his book called "Qi Dao, Tibetan Shamanic Qi Gong: The Art of Being in the Flow," Lama Somananda Tantrapa makes precisely this point I have described. The old masters, he notes, relied on personal observation and exploration, not rules or mastery of set form, since these did not yet exist. He observes that many styles of Qi Gong, including yoga, Kung Fu, and Tai Chi (all of which are variants on "moving energy"), have been reduced to "doing forms" rather than discovering one's own inner nature as well as the energetic basis of all that exists.

At first I thought to purchase this book, but then I discovered that it is apparently directed toward achievement in the martial art--something I have minimal interest in.

Once again, the emphasis (in this book) is on active control and mastery (male approach) rather than opening to bliss and experiential union with divine energies (female approach).

Energy is energy, but it can be used for many different purposes.

(Image from internet)

Friday, May 15, 2009

What follows is a summary taken from James Redfield's now famous work "The Celestine Prophecy." This book summarizes and distills the wisdom that has been handed down for ages by the mystics, visionaries, and spiritual traditions of many different cultures. Although Redfield offers nothing truly original or new, his book offers a succinct introduction to the basic beliefs which underlie virtually all spiritual and mystical traditions.

I think that these fundamental insights are now being enunciated by many different visionaries on many different levels speaking to a variety of audiences. If you look closely, you will discover that what the shamans, the prophets, the sacred poets, the light workers and others of today are telling us is essentially the same basic message--now is the time, we are the people, here is what we must do at this crucial moment of transition from one age to another.

Celestine Prophecy's Twelve Insights

A Critical Mass

A new spiritual awakening is occurring in human culture, an awakening brought about by a critical mass of individuals who experience their lives as a spiritual unfolding, a journey in which we are led forward by mysterious coincidences.

The Longer Now

This awakening represents the creation of a new, more complete worldview, which replaces a five hundred year old preoccupation with secular survival and comfort. While this technological preoccupation was an important step, our awakening to life's coincidences is opening us up to the real purpose of human life on this planet, and the real nature of our universe.

A Matter of Energy

We now experience that we live not in a material universe, but in a universe of dynamic energy. Everything extant is a field of sacred energy that we can sense and intuit. Moreover, we humans can project our energy by focusing our attention in the desired direction...where attention goes, energy flows...influencing other energy systems and increasing the pace of coincidences in our lives.

The Struggle for Power

Too often humans cut themselves off from the greater source of this energy and so feel weak and insecure. To gain energy we tend to manipulate or force others to give us attention and thus energy. When we successfully dominate others in this way, we feel more powerful, but they are left weakened and often fight back. Competition for scarce, human energy is the cause of all conflict between people.

The Message of the Mystics

Insecurity and violence ends when we experience an inner connection with divine energy within, a connection described by mystics of all traditions. A sense of lightness --buoyancy - along with the constant sensation of love are measures of this connection. If these measures are present, the connection is real. If not, it is only pretended.

Clearing the Past

The more we stay connected, the more we are acutely aware of those times when we lose connection, usually when we are under stress. In these times, we can see our own particular way of stealing energy from others. Once our manipulations are brought to personal awareness, our connection becomes more constant and we can discover our own growth path in life, and our spiritual mission - the personal way we can contribute to the world.

Engaging the Flow

Knowing our personal mission further enhances the flow of mysterious coincidences as we are guided toward our destinies. First we have a question; then dreams, daydreams, and intuitions lead us towards the answers, which usually are synchronistically provided by the wisdom of another human being.

The Interpersonal Ethic

We can increase the frequency of guiding coincidences by uplifting every person that comes into our lives. Care must be taken not to lose our inner connection in romantic relationships. Uplifting others is especially effective in groups where each member can feel energy of all the others. With children it is extremely important for their early security and growth. By seeing the beauty in every face, we lift others into their wisest self, and increase the chances of hearing a synchronistic message.

The Emerging Culture

As we all evolve toward the best completion of our spiritual missions, the technological means of survival will be fully automated as humans focus instead on synchronistic growth. Such growth will move humans into higher energy states, ultimately transforming our bodies into spiritual form and uniting this dimension of existence with the after-life dimension, ending the cycle of birth and death.

Holding the Vision

The Tenth Insight is the realization that throughout history human beings have been unconsciously struggling to implement this lived spirituality on Earth. Each of us comes here on assignment, and as we pull this understanding into consciousness, we can remember a fuller birth vision of what we wanted to accomplish with our lives. Further we can remember a common world vision of how we will all work together to create a new spiritual culture. We know that our challenge is to hold this vision with intention and prayer everyday.

Extending Prayer Fields

The Eleventh Insight is the precise method through which we hold the vision. For centuries, religious scriptures, poems, and philosophies have pointed to a latent power of mind within all of us that mysteriously helps to affect what occurs in the future. It has been called faith power, positive thinking, and the power of prayer. We are now taking this power seriously enough to bring a fuller knowledge of it into public awareness. We are finding that this prayer power is a field of intention, which moves out from us and can be extended and strengthened, especially when we connect with others in a common vision. This is the power through which we hold the vision of a spiritual world and build the energy in ourselves and in others to make this vision a reality.

The 12th Insight is yet to be released . . .

(The above excerpt appears on the website http://www.qigonghealer.com/beliefs.html offered by By Lama Somananda Tantrapa)
(Image from K. Connors)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I Am not I (poem by Juan Ramon Jimenez) 

(Above Portrait of Juan Ramón Jiménez, by Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida. Found on Wikipedia.)
I am not I

I am not I. I am this one
Walking beside me whom I do not see,
Whom at times I manage to visit,
And whom at other times I forget;
The one who remains silent when I talk,
The one who forgives, sweet, when I hate,
The one who takes a walk where I am not,
The one who will remain standing when I die.
(In this poem, the Spanish poet Jimenez (1881-l958) is describing the relation of the "little self" (ego/identity) to the "larger Self" (higher Self, spirit, soul--that part that is central to our being, but that we are in touch with only from time to time.) This higher part of our essential nature is immortal, and will continue to exist even after the body and local identity perish.)
The saints and highly realized beings are those who are in effect one with (merged with) this inner self, and the rest of us get only occasional glimpses of this transcendent reality.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Poem by Gregory Orr 

The Man Who Killed His Brother

I do not know
how to spare him
from this wound
that still throbs
beneath the flesh.

Reminder of how it was,
that sudden rip of light,
that toppling,
the discovery
that nothing
could be undone, ever, act frozen in

How he has lived with it,
so many days,
so many nights
stretching into manhood,
carrying it
like a weight of
stone fastened to his back,
always the sorrow,
unending grief,
ceaseless lamentation
of the heart.

Even now it is sobbing quietly,
still not knowing,
if it ever did,
how not to remember.

Dorothy Walters
May 12, 2008
(The man who accidentally killed his younger brother (in a hunting accident) was the well known poet Gregory Orr. I wonder how many of us still carry the pain of unintentional hurts we dealt to others at some time in the past.)

Monday, May 11, 2009

About Breath 

As many of us know, breathing (pranayama) is considered vital in yogic practice (as well as chi gong, tai chi, and similar arts). For years, I was unable to do much specialized breathing, because I had a hiatal hernia (in the diaphragm) and each time I attempted to do pranayama, it disturbed the hernia and there were grave consequences for the entire digestive system. So I gave up, and thought I could never do this basic practice.
But--finally--after years of searching and careful manipulation of my diet and other things, I can--finally--do a bit of pranayama. I am now going to describe three simple exercises that are of great help as part of the morning chi gong practice. (These will be familiar to many of you.)

First exercise: Breathe in slowly through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. This is the quickest path to relaxation I have found. It can swiftly release bodily tension and leave you in a welcome state of near total relaxation.

Second exercise: Alternate nostril breathing. With hand over nose, cover one nostril with you thumb. Breathe in slowly through the other. Uncover the first nostril and repeat, now with middle finger closing the second nostril. (There are variations on this, such as "locks" in which you contract the anal muscles after each inhalation and again after the exhalation.)

Third exercise: Breathe in slowly through nose, filling your lungs from the bottom up possibly to the count of 8. Then exhale slowly, from the bottom up again (or else the top down--both are possibilities, I think.)

I did these three simply exercises as part of my morning routine today, and they felt splendid--the energies were not bliss as such, but rather a "Wow, does this feel great!" experience in which everything seemed to "open up" as the body awakened. There is nothing wrong with feeling healthy and strong in your body.

Now, as I said above, these are incredibly simple exercises, but I have found that one need not do anything very complicated or even for very long to have amazing results. Likewise, yesterday I referred to a site that offers 18 chi gong exercises. Some may wish to do all 18, but for many of us, 4 or 5 will produce an excellent response. Often what we are seeking can be discovered through extremely simple methods. Indeed, at times less is more.

As the Shaker song goes,

" 'tis the gift to be simple,
'tis the gift to be free."

(Picture from Yoga Journal website)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

More on chi gong 

Yesterday, I said a bit about chi gong and the inner energies. Here is another site that offers fine instruction on the various postures and moves:


Below is an excerpt from the text presented on this site, but the site itself also includes illustrations that are very helpful. A total of 18 exercises are presented on the site, but even a few of these would be quite helpful for many of us.

Some further reflection:

Sometimes when we do chi gong, the sweet energies flow easily. At other times we feel as though we are simply "doing exercises" for the physical body (also good for us). Today a friend and I discussed why our responses vary so much from day to day. Our conclusion was that we simply do not know--many factors are involved, some of which we can guess at (tiredness, weather conditions, illness, distraction, and others), but ultimately all is mystery with no tangible cause.

Patricia (my friend I have often mentioned) is a lap swimmer. Recently she swam half a mile in pool laps, an outstanding achievement for anyone, I think. Yet, she pointed out, on other days for some reason swimming was more difficult and she could not swim nearly that far. So, physical energy, like spiritual energy, has its own variations, due to unknown causes.

As one speaker said in "Awakening Osiris" (by Normandi Ellis): "Some days it is harder to communicate with the gods than others."

The following material was excerpted from the site listed above:

The Eighteen Tai Chi Chi Kung Moves were extracted from traditional Tai Chi Chi Kung exercises and reformulated into these simplified movements by Master Lim in China. They are an internal breathing exercise and work with specific meridians of the body to improve circulation and the flow of chi, cardiovascular strength, and the general health of the body’s internal systems. For maximum benefit, it is important to maintain proper body alignment, focus on the breath, and keep a slow and even pace.
Begin standing straight with feet shoulder width apart. The feet should be parallel to each other, with the toes pointed forward. It is important to maintain this foot position throughout the exercises, except when the left foot is moved with one step forward in moves 11-13 and again when the feet are lifted in move 17. Also, arms should move from the shoulder, not from the elbow or wrist. Move fluidly from one move to the next, never changing abruptly, pausing, or stopping in between. [Click on images to see larger view. Hit back button to return.]

Keeping wrists soft and palms facing downward, inhale and move from the shoulders as you slowly raise both arms in front of you to shoulder height. Exhale as you lower your arms back down to the front of your thighs, bending the knees slightly as you go.

Inhale, raising arms as in move 1, then extending them out to the sides as you reach shoulder height. Exhale as you return arms to center then lower back down to the front of the thighs, bending the knees as in move 1.

like a tree . . . Inhale and raise arms simultaneously, moving your right arm out to the side at shoulder height, palm upward, while the left arm bends over the head, palm positioned over the crown. At the same time, the feet remain planted while the body shifts left, left leg bending while the right leg remains straight. The bent leg will be fully loaded as the straight leg is empty. Hold the position as you exhale, looking at the outward palm. Inhale as you shift from one side to the other, bending the right leg and straightening the left, moving your arms simultaneously over your head to the left, right arm bending over the head and left arm extending out from the shoulder. Exhale as you look at your left palm.Keeping the flow continuous, move back to center and . . .

Moves 4 Through 7 Return to Intro
(picture from Wikipedia)

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Chi Gong, Kundalini, cellos, Rumi and a day in the Park 


(The above is a site I just happened to discover a few minutes ago--I posted it here because it contains, among other things, videos showing the actual movements the speaker is describing, making it easy to follow his instructions. Chi gong includes a myriad of forms and exercises, but these are presented here in an especially clear manner.)

Other videos are available on youtube--you can type in chi gong on the search site. Several of these are clearly directed toward the martial arts--I find these of no personal interest. I prefer a much more "feminine" approach, with a slow movement directed toward connecting with the "heavenly spirit" rather than preparing to do combat. Here is another site which seems to be more in line with this description, but I have not watched all of it:


However, although precise instruction in established forms can be useful, you can in fact make up your own movements for chi gong, following the energies themselves as they move through the body. I think it best to take an occasional class to keep in touch with tradition, but ultimately I follow a "free form" practice, in which the energies direct me rather than vice versa. I learn a great deal that way, much of which is not offered in formal instruction (that I have encountered.)

Today was my lucky day, filled with unexpected delights. But then I've been having lots of lucky days recently. For beginners, we have had several days of sun in a row in San Francisco, and when these happen, everyone suddenly becomes happier and friendlier, and the atmosphere changes in every way. Even the birds in the park seem to be celebrating--what?--the coming of spring, perhaps, or finding a mate or the birth of young ones--or else they simply sing from pure joy.

Question: What do the various items mentioned in the title have to do with each other? Very little, except they all seem to be an important part of my experience the last two or three days.

First, the morning practice continues to be outstanding, with lots of fresh and lovely chi running, especially when I stand before Buddha in my wall thangka and visualize the outlines of his body, then run energy through intention around these lines within my inner visual field (something new for me.) Is this why dedicated Buddhists spend years memorizing each detail of the chosen deity? Don't know, but maybe it is for this purpose, to bring the specifics of the energies to the very points included in the mental diagram. (I am now calling my energetic flow chi instead of Kundalini, though I believe what I now feel is simply a stepped down version of the original sensations. Both are exquisite.)

Then later I dropped by a nice vitamin/health store near Golden Gate Park. And I met the owner himself, a charming man who was extremely knowledgeable about supplements and who also--I discovered--a long time chi gong practitioner. We had a fascinating conversation and I was delighted to learn the he too experiences blissful inner energies, and could answer some of my questions that no instructor has adequately responded to over the years. When I showed him my "delicate practice" (slight movement of fingers or eyes), he was not at all surprised, and explained that you could move chi through intention alone, and that the eyes were in fact one of the primary means of directing those energies through the body. He also told me that you could rotate the energies around your body, swirl them around the room, and perform other interesting feats. He had learned much of this from his one time teacher, who is no longer alive, she having died at the age of 100.

When I left, I heard gorgeous cello music flowing from the corner a few blocks away. I stopped to listen to this young student, who had studied at a neighborhood non-profit music school which serves many low income students who might not otherwise be able to take lessons. Adults and children paused to listen in fascination and rapture to this glorious sound emanating from the youth and his magical instrument (there is something quite special about the cello, I think.)

On the bus home, I sat next to a delightful woman who had also heard this ethereal music and we agreed that what the world needs is more cello music (and artistic expression of all kinds). Then I discovered that she was also a poet, and a lover of Rumi and Mary Oliver (plus Rilke), all of whom are my special favorites. She also has explored expressive movement as well as gardening, all good for the soul. When we got off together, we agreed to meet in future and share poems and reflections.

So I counted this as a special day, one in which rare and significant connections occurred and a day I will indeed not forget soon.

Blessings to all. May your days also be filled with joy and exultation, good health and unexpected encounters with delight.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Poem by Hafiz 

Shrine dedicated to Hafiz


Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,
Break all our teacup talk of God.
If you had the courage and
Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights,
He would just drag you around the room
By your hair,
Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world
That bring you no joy.
Love sometimes gets tired of speaking sweetly
And wants to rip to shreds
All your erroneous notions of truth
That make you fight within yourself, dear one,
And with others,
Causing the world to weep
On too many fine days.
God wants to manhandle us,
Lock us inside of a tiny room with Himself
And practice His dropkick.
The Beloved sometimes wants
To do us a great favor:
Hold us upside down
And shake all the nonsense out.
But when we hear
He is in such a "playful drunken mood"
Most everyone I know
Quickly packs their bags and hightails it
Out of town.

(translated by Daniel Ladinsky)

(picture from www.poetseers.org)

Because many of us know very little about the life of Hafiz, I am including here an article from the site named "Poet Seers", a wonderful source for sacred poems and inspirational thought. (see http://www.poetseers.org)

Life of Hafiz

From Paul Smith --"Hafiz: Tongue of the Hidden" ()

Hafiz was born in Shiraz in southeast Persia (modern Iran) in approximately 1320 A.D., twenty two years before the birth of Chaucer and a year before the death of Dante. He was named Shams-ud-din, which means 'Sun of Faith' Mohammed. Later when he began to write poetry he selected Hafiz for his pen-name or 'takhallus'' 'Hafiz' is the title given to one who has learnt the whole of the Koran by heart and Hafiz claimed to have done this in fourteen different ways.
Hafiz was small and ugly but even as a young boy he began to show the great gifts that would finally take him to the height of artistic and spiritual achievements. He was loving and helpful to his parents, brothers and friends, and he had a wonderfully ironic sense of humor that caused him to continually see the humorous side of everyday life. Even at this early age he was fascinated by the poetry and prose of Persia's great poets and writers and stories about the spiritually advanced souls and Perfect Masters. He loved the Koran, which his father read to him and he began to memorize it. He discovered he was blessed with a remarkable memory, and before he was a man he had memorized the Koran and many of the poems of the great poets.
"As a boy his favorite poet was Saadi, Shiraz's most loved poet of the time, who had died about thirty years previously. All of Shiraz was singing his beautiful songs, his ghazals, and telling his magical stories, and Hafiz was no exception. He dreamed of becoming a great poet like Saadi or like Faridud-din Attar, or Rumi, or Nizami, all of whom he admired.
Then a change occurred in his life. His father died and left his family in difficult circumstances. Baha-ud-din's business of being a coal merchant had failed because he had suffered from a long illness, and Hafiz's mother could only raise enough money to pay back all the debts. His two older brothers left home to work in another city and young Hafiz and his grief-stricken mother went to live with Hafiz's uncle, Saadi . . .fancied himself a poet like his famous namesake.
"Because of the poverty that they now experienced, Hafiz's mother had to obtain work and Hafiz had to leave day-school and although only in his early teens, he began work in a drapery shop and later managed to find work in a bakery. Half of his salary he gave to his mother and the other half he used to go to school at night where he learned calligraphy and a wide variety of subjects, while continuing to memorize the Koran.
"Hafiz was twenty one years old in 1341, and was still working in the bakery and studying at night. He had memorized the Koran and had adopted the pen-name for the occasional poem he wrote but until this time had not gained much success as a poet. He had become skilled in jurisprudence and had learnt all the sciences, including mathematics and astronomy. For the past ten years he had constantly been studying all of the great poets and the lives and works of the great Spiritual Masters. He was fluent in Arabic and had also learnt Turkish.
"Then, one day at the bakery, one of the workers who delivered the bread was sick, and Hafiz had to deliver the bread to a certain quarter of Shiraz where the prosperous citizens lived. While taking the bread to a particular mansion, Hafiz's eyes fell upon the form of a young woman who was standing on one of the mansion's balconies. Her name was Shakh-i-Nabat which means 'Branch of Sugarcane'. Her beauty immediately intoxicated Hafiz and he fell hopelessly in love with her. Her beauty had such a profound effect on him that he almost lost consciousness. At night he could not sleep and he no longer felt like eating. He learnt her name and he began to praise her in his poems.
"Hafiz heard that she had been promised in marriage to a prince of Shiraz and realized how hopeless was his quest for her love. Still, the vision of her beauty filled his heart, and his thoughts were constantly with her. Then one day he remembered the famous 'promise of Baba Kuhi'. Baba Kuhi was a Perfect Master-Poet who had died in Shiraz in 1050 A.D., and had been buried about four miles from Shiraz, at a place called 'Pir-i-sabz', meaning 'the green old man', on a hill named after Baba Kuhi. The promise that Baba Kuhi had given before he died was that if anyone could stay awake for forty consecutive nights at his tomb he would be granted the gift of poetry, immortality, and his heart's desire. Hafiz, interested in the third of these three, vowed to keep this vigil that no one had yet been able to keep.
"Every day Hafiz would go to work at the bakery, then he would eat, and then walk past the house of Shakh-i-Nabat, who had heard some of the poems that he had composed in praise of her. She had noticed him passing her window every afternoon, each day more weary, but with a fire in his eyes that had lit the lamp of her heart for him. By this time Hafiz was in a kind of a trance. Everything that he did was automatic, and the only thing that kept him going was the fire in his heart and his determination to keep the lonely vigil.
"Early the next morning the Angel Gabriel (some say Khizer) appeared to him. Gabriel gave Hafiz a cup to drink which contained the Water of Immortality, and declared that Hafiz had also received the gift of poetry. Then Gabriel asked Hafiz to express his heart's desire. All the time that this was happening, Hafiz could not take his eyes off Gabriel. So great was the beauty of the Angel that Hafiz had forgotten the beauty of Shakh-i-Nabat. After Gabriel had asked the question, Hafiz thought: "If Gabriel the Angel of God is so beautiful, then how much more beautiful God must be." Hafiz answered Gabriel: "I want God!" On hearing this, Gabriel directed Hafiz to a certain street in Shiraz where there was a shop selling fruit and perfumes that was owned by a man named Mohammed Attar. Gabriel said that Attar was a Perfect Master, a God-realized soul, who had sent Gabriel for Hafiz's sake, and that if Hafiz would serve Attar faithfully, then Attar promised that one day Hafiz would attain his heart's desire.
"So Hafiz joined the small select circle of Attar's disciples, but it wasn't until many years later, after Attar had dropped his physical form, that Hafiz revealed his Master's identity, and by this time Hafiz had received the mantle of God-realization from Attar. Unlike Attar, Hafiz's fame spread far and wide, and as will be seen further on, it was only Hafiz's quick tongue and sense of humor that constantly saved him from the gallows.
"The story of Hafiz's vigil had made him known throughout Shiraz, and the poetry that he now wrote, in praise of his Beloved and out of longing to gain his heart's new desire became known and sung throughout Shiraz. Shakh-i-Nabat had lost her heart to him, but the difference in their status caused many problems. Also,
Hafiz saw and thought of her beauty only as a reflection of God's beauty; the beauty of her Creator. As his love for her increased, it increased his desire for his Beloved (God) Whom he now saw as her higher Self, and it was to this higher Self manifesting through her grace and beauty, that he composed his ghazals.
"He also saw the wisdom and mercy of God manifesting through his Master Attar, and he composed many poems praising his Master and begging Attar to fulfill the promise of Union of God. When
Hafiz went to visit Attar, Attar would ask Hafiz to read his latest poem, then Attar would spiritually analyze it for the sake of Hafiz and the other disciples, (this practice continued for forty years). Then the disciples would put tunes to the ghazals and the songs would soon be sung throughout Shiraz, with the fame of Hafiz continuing to grow.
"While the
poems that he wrote during the time of Abu Ishak could be called 'spiritual romanticism''and those under Muzaffar the dictator: protest poems, the poems of the following period had begun to break new ground, and he was creating an impressionistic way of writing that was completely new, fresh, vibrant and subtle.
"But the period of Shuja's reign was also not without problems for Hafiz. Shuja, who also knew the Koran by heart and considered himself something of a poet, grew jealous of Hafiz although it was because of their common interests that a friendship developed between them in the beginning. Hafiz's enemies, the orthodox clergy and some other poets who were jealous of him, had made Shiraz an unsafe place by constantly slandering him and complaining about him to Shah Shuja, who was now completely under their sway for Haji Kivam was no longer at court to protect him.
"Hafiz was about to go into hiding but this proved unnecessary because early in 1363 Shuja's brother Shah Mahmud who was the ruler of Abarguh and Isfahan took Shiraz. Shuja retaliated by invading Isfahan and this produced a treaty between the two brothers. But this was not to last, for in the next year Mahmud with the help of Uvays the ruler of Baghdad since 1355, attacked Shiraz and after eleven months of fierce fighting he entered the city.
The enemies of Hafiz, wary of the new ruler, refrained from their persecution of him. His popularity with the citizens of Shiraz, who called him 'The Tongue of the Hidden' and 'The Interpreter of Mysteries' had grown, and by now had spread all over Persia.
"By 1368 the danger in the situation became critical and Hafiz and his wife packed some provisions and late one night fled the city, taking the road to Isfahan, 300 miles to the north-east. They were to spend the next four years there, and many of the poems written during this bitter time were full of homesickness for Shiraz, where Hafiz's Master was, and where his friends, including Shakh-i-Nabat, waited his return.
"Back in Shiraz, Shuja had become embroiled in the bitter controversy over whether
Hafiz should be allowed to end his exile and return to Shiraz. The people were calling for the return of their favorite poet and champion, and on the other side Hafiz's enemies continued to slander him. Shuja had become wary and weary of the influence of the clergy upon him and decided to deal them a blow by allowing Hafiz to return, and by so doing this, not only would he put them in their place, but again gain the love and respect of the common people. He sent a message to Yazd, asking Hafiz to come back to Shiraz.
"On returning he was once again re-instated to his position at the college and he resumed his old life and his relationship with his Master, Attar. It was late in 1375 and Hafiz had been obeying his Master for 35 years and still he had not gained his heart's desire. When he once again complained to Attar about this, Attar replied: "Patience is the key to Joy".
"One day in 1381 Hafiz went to visit Attar. Hafiz's patience had come to an end. When he was alone with Attar he began to weep and when his Master asked him why he was weeping, Hafiz through desperation cried out: "What have I gained by being your obedient disciple for nearly forty years?" Attar replied: "Be patient and one day you will know." Hafiz cried: "I knew I would get that answer from you," and left the room.
It was exactly forty days before the end of their forty year relationship. Hafiz went home and entered a circle that he drew on the ground. Throughlove and desperation he had decided to enter self-imposed 'Chehel-a-Nashini," in which the lover of God sits within a circle for forty days and if the lover of God can succeed in this difficult practice, God will grant whatever he desires. The love and strength and bravery of Hafiz was so great that he succeeded in never leaving the circle, no matter what God had in store for him.
"On the fortieth night Attar again sent to him the form of the Angel Gabriel as he had done forty years earlier, who asked him what was his heart's desire. Hafiz replied: "My only desire is to wait on the pleasuof my Master's wish."
"Before dawn appeared on the last day Hafiz left his circle and rushed towards the house of his Master, Mohammed Attar.
Attar met him at the door and embraced him, gave him a drink of two year old wine and made him God-realized. Hafiz had finally attained his heart's desire after forty long years.
"During the remaining eight years of his life, Hafiz wrote half of the poems that bear his name. He no longer wrote of his desire for the Beloved, for now he was the Beloved. He wrote of the Unity of God, of the temptation of the world and its works and of the stages of the Path to God-realization and he gave advice to others how to best avoid the traps of the Path. The poems written after Realization are written from the Authority of Divine Knowledge and have a Perfect detachment and Merciful involvement that sets them apart from the other poems that were written from various stages on the road to the Truth.
"Quickly Hafiz gathered his disciples around him and began to teach them, using his poems to illustrate the various Spiritual points that he wanted them to understand. Because his fame had become so widespread and people were traveling from all parts of Persia and other countries to be in his presence, he had to seclude himself to a degree to be able to continue to teach his chosen disciples, and to write his ghazals that were eagerly awaited by his many devotees, and his enemies who continued to plot against him.
"It was early 1388 and in under two short years Hafiz's time to leave his physical form would come. He continued to write, but now at a faster pace for he could see that his old body was preparing to blend with the dust of Shiraz. The poems that he wrote during this period are beautiful for their understanding and their poignant love for the people of Shiraz and the whole world, and because of his knowledge of his impending death.
"By 1389, his body was racked with a sickness that he had been suffering for many years. The small ugly form had served him well for 69 years and this old cloak that his soul wore, had been the vessel that had helped to steer him to the Realization of the Existence that has no beginning or end.
The news rapidly spread through the city that their most loved (and hated) citizen had passed away. Thousands walked towards his home where he lay, surrounded by his closest disciples. However, his lifelong enemies, the hypocritical orthodox clergy had also heard the news of the death of their rival and castigator.
"Later, Hafiz's body was carried towards the Muslim burial ground in the rose-bower of Musalla, on the banks of the Ruknabad, which he loved and praised in his poems, and to where he often walked and sat down to write many of his ghazals.
"The Ulama of Shiraz, with his fellow clergy, refused to allow for Hafiz's body to be buried as a Muslim and claimed that his poetry was impious. The long knives that they had been trying to drive into his back were now fully on show, for he was no longer there to defend himself against them with his sharp wit and sense of irony.
"The followers of Hafiz and the many citizens of Shiraz began to argue with those who followed the orthodox point of view, and in the heat of the argument, someone suggested that they should ask the poet himself for the solution. The clergy, by now afraid of the size and fervor of Hafiz's supporters, reluctantly agreed to the suggestion of tearing up many of his poems into couplets and placing them into a large urn, and to call on a small boy in the crowd to select one couplet from it. The couplet that was selected was couplet no. 7 from ghazal 60:
"Don't you walk away from this graveside of Hafiz, because, Although buried in mistakes, he is traveling to Paradise."
"Even after death, Hafiz had, with tongue in cheek, outwitted his bitter rivals, and this practice of consulting his Divan as an oracle has continued from this incident, shortly after his death, down into the present age. The tomb of Hafiz was surrounded by a garden of roses and his body was laid at the foot of a cypress tree which he had planted.
"Soon after his death Hafiz's popularity had reached such proportions that even the orthodox Muslims claimed him as one of their own.
"It is thought that Hafiz never collected all of his poems together during his lifetime (although some scholars say that he did, and the collection was lost) even though many of his friends constantly asked him to do so. After his death two collections of his ghazals and other poems were assembled. One was an edition by a friend and fellow-student, Muhammad Gulandam, who also wrote a preface to this edition: and another collection was made by one of Hafiz's young disciples Sayyid Kasim-i-Anvar who died in 1431. His collection consisted of 569 ghazals and was called the 'Divan i-Khwaja-iHafiz.'
'The change of consciousness in the world brought about by
Hafiz during his lifetime has been great, but his influence on the world, and on art and poetry had only just begun and we are still being greatly affected by it."

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

In Blackwater Woods--poem by Mary Oliver 

In Blackwater Woods

Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Poem by Mirabai 

The Heat of Midnight Tears
By Mirabai(1498 - 1565?)

English version by Robert Bly

Listen, my friend, this road is the heart opening,
Kissing his feet, resistance broken, tears all night.
If we could reach the Lord through immersion in water,
I would have asked to be born a fish in this life.
If we could reach Him through nothing
but berries and wild nuts,
Then surely the saints would have been monkeys
when they came from the womb!
If we could reach him by munching lettuce and dry leaves,
Then the goats would surely go to the Holy One before us!
If the worship of stone statues could bring us all the way,
I would have adored a granite mountain years ago.
Mirabai says:
The heat of midnight tears
will bring you to God.

(Image from source)

Monday, May 04, 2009

When Pleasure Turns into Pain 

Although Kundalini blesses us with much ecstatic experience, there are also many "downs," even painful experiences throughout the journey. Each time we enter the "valley of pain," rather than the "vale of bliss," we try desperately to discover what has gone wrong, so that we may avoid these "downers" in future.

Yesterday was such a day for me. A delightful young man came to my house to do a "sound infusion" complete with gong and crystal bowls. I had heard both of these (briefly) before, and knew that I loved the sound of Tibetan bowls (made of metal), so I was anticipating a truly ecstatic experience, enraptured by pure sound.

Alas, this did not happen. First this most dedicated and most spiritual healer sounded a massive gong, again and again, so that my head grew weary, and indeed I began to feel throbs of pain throughout my body. After about half an hour, he switched to the crystal bowls, together making up some 15 different notes on the scale. Relief, I thought.

But this was not to be. As the infusion continued, my pain grew more intense, until at last I was longing for the end of the experience.

For a finale, he played a lovely melody on a Native American flute, and this music was indeed beautiful

For some reason, my energy body had tightened and indeed had shrunk away from such a massive "invasion" of loud tones. I wondered what it meant. After the session was over, my body began to relax, and an hour or so later--after taking some aspirin and allergy pills-- most of the pain had disappeared. I concluded that the intensity had simply been too much for me, threatening to overpower my energy body--I am now keyed to much "higher," more delicate, more subtle vibrations of the energy spectrum--these too are immensely rapturous, as I have often noted--harps rather than tubas.

Today I woke up feeling truly centered and indeed filled with a sense of health and well being. I went in to my little practice area (before my Buddha thongka), bowed, and immediately felt pleasurable energy flow--perhaps more like chi than pure Kundalini, but extremely refreshing and truly delightful.

But--in a few hours, I once again felt the painful "prickly" sensations of the day before. My eyes ached with a feeling of immense pressure. Once more I hurt all over.

Then I realized that I had had such symptoms many times before.--eye pressure is a common sigh of blocked Kundalini energies and allergies also cause such sensations. I took some natural allergy pills plus some very effective homeopathic remedies. I also took a couple of small aspirins.

Within about 45 minutes my symptoms had essentially cleared. The remedies had worked.

But--this was also what had happened yesterday--pain in early afternoon, then relief and release as the day wore on.

I remembered that I have long had an acute sensitivity to changes of atmospheric pressure. And I live in an area next to the ocean where the fog constantly shifts back and forth, in and out over the shore and land.

So--I now feel it was not merely the sound of the instruments that brought me such pain yesterday. I think it was a combination of several factors, and a similar session at a different time might have produced quite different results.

In any event, it was a pleasure to meet such a radiant young man, full of love and spirit--I felt grateful for this overall experience, from which I learned much.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sacred Art of Bhutan 

Currently, an amazing exhibit of the sacred art of Bhutan is showing at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. Most of these items have never before left Bhutan, and they are prized not as art works but as sacred objects, reverenced in ceremony and worship. This exhibit will be displayed in only a few major cities of the world.

If you are interested in seeing the kinds of sacred sculpture and thangka painting contained in this collection, go to the link below, which carried wonderful photographs of the highlights of this exhibit.

P. S. Monks traveling with the exhibit conduct ceremonies twice a day to insure the purity of the items, cleansing the entire collection from contamination by the spectators. They are doing sacred painting, sacred dance, and sacred chant.


(picture from exhibit website)

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Always Sunset

You know the moment.
The lovers are drifting
farther and farther apart,
on open sea.

They have kissed
and said goodbye
and made their pledges of reunion,
but they know they will
never see one another again.

One will go on to become a famous
with many followers,
flowers every day.

The other will land
on a quiet beach,
a place where there
are few visitors,
little to break the soft
breathing of the palm trees,
the swish of the taffeta waves
the shore.

She will wonder what became
of her one lost love,
her passion of so long ago.
Little will change here.
It will always be sunset,
the moon opening like a silver fan
spreading above the earth’s curved arc.

Dorothy Walters
May 2, 2009
(This poem more or less "came through" while I was listening to Wagner on the radio this afternoon--his is a piece about lovers torn apart by fate and the lasting sorrow it brings. Lovers separated can also be seen as an allegory of the soul's separation from God.)

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Fire Ceremony (poem) 

The Fire Ceremony

O, Shiva of the Radiant Body,
enter me.
Let me, like you,
be a world dancer,
one who turns
to keep the world alive.

Let all that is
be infused with light,
the holy ones arriving
bearing green boughs and incense.

Let the fires we now summon
illumine our souls
and bring you closer
to our world.

Let us lay the offering
to the sacred design.
Let the sacrifice be
our spirits,
awakening light
out of darkness.

Dorothy Walters
May 1, 2009

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