Kundalini Splendor

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Monday, October 31, 2011

Things to be Emptied (poem by Dorothy) 

Things to be Emptied

Now at last
I have become

That is to say,
When I bow
And close my eyes
Before my tongka,
I see myself sitting
As he does,
Lotus pose,
Eyes shut,
Hands arranged
In delicate mudra.

I move a bit,
Feel soft energies
stir within.

Soon it will be time
To turn
To doing—
Things to be emptied,
Things to be filled,
Walks outside
To greet the new fallen snow
Weighting the boughs
With their heavy love.

Dorothy Walters
October 26, 2011

(Note: After many weeks of feeling "nothing," the sweet energies returned today. I had assumed (as I have many times before) that the process was finished at last, forgetting that I was not allowing time for it to happen.
But this morning all was restored--the sweet, soft, blissful energies opening th cellular body from root to ears, each gentle movement stirring the feelings ever more. Again, I felt the "energy body"by moving my hands a few inches away from my arms. Again, I could move the energies here and there by rotating my eyes.
Why did this happen? Last night I was in the company of a very advanced soul, someone who dedicates his life to the Mother, with little compensation or scant recognition. His presence was quiet, soothing. Before dinner, I had not felt quite well (stomach ache, eyestrain.) When I got home, everything was healed. And this morning the healing was further expressed as gentle bliss in the body.
I mention all this partly because I wish to keep a record of my own progress and partly because I am convinced that this is the path that the majority of the race will follow as evolution occurs. Human evolution is not merely a mental process. It will-must--include the body, which will open to ever higher levels of delight as it is infused with what we call "light"--divine energies descending to transform our "earth bodies" into true "light beings."

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bruce Lipton 

Bruce Lipton is one of the most evolved thinkers of our time. He is always worth hearing. I realize that this post is so late that many will miss the audiocast, but note that it is possible to download his presentation later by going to the Beyond Awakening Audio page.

TODAY: Spontaneous Evolution with Bruce Lipton

Please join us TODAY for:

Bruce Lipton:
"On the Brink of Spontaneous Evolution"

TODAY, Thursday, October 27th, 2011
at 5:30pm Pacific; 8:30pm Eastern; UTC/GMT-7

Dear Friends,

We've all heard stories of people who experienced seemingly miraculous recoveries from illness, but can the same thing happen for our planet?

According to pioneering biologist Bruce Lipton, it's not only possible, it's already happening. We are surrounded by the proof that we are poised to take an incredible step forward in the growth of our species. He offers a new and hopeful story about humanity's evolutionary destiny.

In fact, according to Bruce Lipton, changing our understanding of biology and human history will help us navigate these turbulent times

He invites us to reconsider:

The unquestioned pillars of biology including random evolution, survival of the fittest, and the role of DNA;
the blueprint for our sustainable, life-affirming future that is literally inside us - encoded in each of the trillions of cells comprising our bodies
how our beliefs about nature and human nature shape our politics, culture, and individual lives; and
how each of us can become planetary "stem cells" supporting the health and growth of our world and every individual in it.
By releasing the old beliefs that keep the status quo in place, and by building our lives and world on this heartening new story, we can trigger the spontaneous evolution of our species.

Please join us!

Terry Patten

How to Participate:
Bruce Lipton:
"On the Brink of Spontaneous Evolution"

Thursday, October 27th at 5:30pm Pacific*; 6:30pm Mountain; 7:30pm Central; 8:30pm Eastern

*Find your local time

Listen live by phone or online, or download the recording anytime.

Access Instructions
To listen live by phone, dial: 206-402-0100 (alternate #: 501-707-0312)

Then, enter Access Code: 272072#

To listen live online go to:

To download the audio after the teleseminar is complete go to the Beyond Awakening Audio Page

Join the Dialogue: About one hour into the dialogue, we'll open up the lines and you'll have the opportunity to interact with us directly over the phone or via Instant Message. Here's what to do:

1. To interact live by voice, dial into the conference line and wait until we ask for questions

2. Send us your question via Instant Message in the teleseminar window in the webcast interface on your computer.

Connect with us! You can always join the dialogue, before and after all the Beyond Awakening dialogues by posting your questions and comments on our Beyond Awakening blog.

You can also engage with Beyond Awakening's many fans, on our Facebook page.

About Our Guest:

Bruce H. Lipton, PhD is a stem cell biologist on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin's School of Medicine, where he has done original research on muscular dystrophy and human stem cells, eventually producing breakthrough studies on the cell membrane, which revealed that this outer layer of the cell is an organic homologue of a computer chip, the cell's equivalent of a brain. His research at Stanford University's School of Medicine, between 1987 and 1992, revealed that the environment, operating though the membrane, controlled the behavior and physiology of the cell, turning genes on and off, presaging the emerging science of epigenetics.

His deepened understanding of cell biology highlighted the mechanisms by which the mind controls bodily functions, and implied the existence of spirit. He applied this science to his personal biology, and his physical well-being and the quality of his daily life was greatly enhanced. He has taken his award-winning medical school lectures to the public and is currently a sought after keynote speaker and workshop presenter. He is the author of The Biology of Belief, and Spontaneous Evolution, Our Positive Future and a Way to Get There From Here.

To listen to all the Beyond Awakening dialogues, please visit our audio archive page, where you can browse, preview and download our complete collection of dialogues.

About Our Host:

Terry Patten co-developed Integral Life Practice with Ken Wilber and a core team at Integral Institute. He hosts the acclaimed online teleseminar series Beyond Awakening: The Future of Spiritual Practice. He speaks and consults internationally--inspiring, challenging, and connecting leaders and institutions worldwide. In his cutting-edge writings, talks and teaching, he not only inspires transcendental awakening, love and freedom, but calls us to accept and incarnate our full humanity. He was the senior writer and co-author, with Ken Wilber, of Integral Life Practice: A 21st-Century Blueprint for Physical Health, Emotional Balance, Mental Clarity, and Spiritual Awakening. His 8-session course, Integral Spiritual Practice guides students step-by-step in establishing a heart-centered do-able daily integral practice. His personal web sites are http://integralspiritualpractice.com, http://gobeyondawakening.com, and http://theispcommunity.com.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

About Gurus 

In ancient times in India and other regions of the far East, the truths of the traditions were "ear whispered" from guru (teacher) to follower. This knowledge was considered sacred, and the disciple was expected to follow a severe regime to make himself worthy of receiving such precious teachings.

Today, similar teachings are much easier to obtain--as print, as internet information, even on youtube. On the one hand, this is a momentous leap forward in the availability and dissemination of spiritual wisdom. On the other, there are also dangers that accompany such an advance.

One possible result is the desacralization of sacred knowledge. What is so easily obtained (at least as text) may be dismissed as irrelevant or unimportant by those who approach it on a superficial rather than a profound level. Without proper guidance, some may misinterpret meanings or deliberately skew them to suit their own purposes. And some may take passages literally that are intended to be interpreted symbolically or to be seen simply as examples.

There is also the danger that inauthentic teachers or gurus may present themselves and claim to be steeped in holiness when the opposite is the case. We have all heard of the gurus who abuse their power for sexual or financial gain.

Here are some suggestions for testing whether the"guru" is authentic and trustworthy.

l. Never trust a "guru" who offers to cure all ills, reward with all possible benefits, or offers a "swift path" to enlightenment. Enlightenment comes after serious and dedicated searching. It is a blessing to be received, not a frivolous favor to be bestowed on anyone who asks. As I mentioned earlier, the result of "enlightenment" may not be what the disciple was expecting.

2. Be wary of those who claim to be themselves "enlightened," or even avatars. An avatar in its original meaning is a reincarnation of a god. It seems unlikely that an avatar would try to sell his wares on the internet like any huckster.

3. Consider teachers as opposed to gurus. Gurus claim to possess all knowledge and demand total dedication from their followers. Teachers offer what wisdom they possess, and do not make such demands on their students. Instead the latter are invited to test each assertion for themselves and draw their own conclusions.

(The pictures above are those I took from my front window this morning. Two days ago the temperature was in the eighties. Yesterday, it dropped 40 degrees with the results you see in these photographs. The landscape is beautiful, and today we have sun and blue skies to make the world especially filled with magic.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


(by Jeannine Goode-Allen, inspired by Mary Oliver)

When Death comes
opening the door into Eternity,
when Death comes
letting me fall into the Beloved,
when Death comes
I do not know when or how,
I will hold it's tender hand
full of trust and awe.

Every soul I meet on this earthly path
will pass through this door,
I do not know when or how.

And I think of each life as a flower,
each one vibrant, each one growing,
with a song in its heart,
with a rhythm in its swaying,
and I feel each one's courage.
It is not a journey for wimps.

When it is over I want to say
all my life I have found
the strength to breath deeply,
the strength to look around the next corner,
the strength to continue to climb,
no matter how great the pain,
no matter how much the wind is howling.

When it is over I want to say
all my life I have looked for and expressed beauty,
I have heard and responded to the cries for love,
and I have found the Peace that surpasses all understanding
no matter how deep it is hidden
no matter how long I have had to sing.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

World Wide Meditation 11-1-11 

Fwd: 11-1-11 Worldwide Meditation

Greetings, loved ones,
It seems like a good time to pray or meditate or whatever you do to touch god.

Begin forwarded message:

From: "Evolutionary Leaders"
Date: October 24, 2011 2:16:19 PM MDT
Subject: 11-1-11 Worldwide Meditation

Countless individuals around the world share the belief that humanity's next evolutionary leap will be achieved by collectively serving conscious evolution. They support the need to build a global community, restore ecological balance and encourage social transformation that optimizes human potential. Let us together reflect upon our own individual and collective part of the evolutionary process. We invite you to join with members of the Evolutionary Leaders circle who will be meditating at their annual retreat in northern California at 11:11 AM PST on November 1, 2011.
Please begin by repeating the collective intention provided by Lynne McTaggart below and join us in silence wherever you are. You may log on to the Institute of Heartmath /Global Coherence Initiative’s Global Care Rooms to view where other participants are located through a beautiful representation of our Earth.
An audio recording of the 11-1-11 Guided Meditation will be available on the following day on the Global Care Rooms site and on the Evolutionary Leaders site at www.evolutionaryleaders.net, allowing you to continue to do the meditation and hold the intention in the coming weeks.
11-1-11 Meditation Intention:
Our intention is to transcend superficial differences that divide us – race, religion, politics, beliefs, culture – to acknowledge, experience and honor the essential bond that unites us all as one interdependent organism.
We also intend to evolve in both consciousness and action so that each of us learns to perceive the whole, relate to others in wholeness, widen our definition of ‘we’ to be all inclusive and become evolutionary leaders for a peaceful, holistic, sustainable world.

(Note from Dorothy: Lynn McTaggert's book called "The Field" is now a classic. Be sure to read it if you haven't already.)
Who knows what we might achieve if we tune our collective minds to the same frequency.)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Enlightenment Once More 

Enlightenment, Again

I have discussed the question of enlightenment before, but now I wish to turn to this topic once again, viewing it from the perspective of more years and experience, perhaps of more wisdom.

During my experience of deep spiritual transformation in l981, I became enlightened. This may seem like a grandiose claim, so I want to explain more precisely what I mean.

When Kundalini arose—totally spontaneous, totally lacking any of the disciplinary preparations of those who follow rigorous paths to awakening—my energies—ecstatic and sensuous—literally shot from my root and second chakra into my head, which itself became enraptured in a totally sensuous way. My crown opened, and I literally felt the “ten thousand lotus petals” unfolding within as an ecstatic flow of energy entered from above. It was then, at this crucial moment, that I became enlightened.

The culmination of the experience came as an overwhelming insight. The insight was the realization that I did not exist, that “I’ was a fairy tale, something I had in fact made up myself to carry me as a psychic construct along in my role as an “actor” in this world. If this invented “I” did not exist, then what was real?

And the answer flooded in: the only reality was this overwhelming, all consuming, all enveloping and totally rapturous “energy” now flowing through my head and through my body. My physical form, my thought system, my “me”—these together made up an infinitesimal particle in this great, surging, all pervasive conscious and utterly blissful energy. I was now privy to a small taste of this mighty force, for to confront it in its full intensity would be to court death. There are many myths and stories of those who “came too close” to divine essence and were annihilated as a consequence. Even Moses was allowed merely to see the backside of God as He passed by.

So—for a few minutes I realized this incontrovertible truth: only “God” (creative source) is real, and we are insignificant “molecules” in his vast body.

And thus it was that I became enlightened.

Now, many who undergo such illumination are quite disturbed, even embittered by the truth they have encountered. They are incensed to think that they are insignificant “players” on a manufactured screen. They want “enlightenment” to mean a state of perpetual bliss, all problems solved, all wisdom theirs. They wish to think of themselves as those who have transcended the human condition and attained a superior state of being.

But the opposite is true. “Enlightenment” as I encountered it is a totally humbling experience. It occurs when we realize our ultimate insignificance as separate entities apart from our source. It brings about understandings which reduce us to our proper dimension in the great scheme of the universe.

My illumination did not last in the sense of a continuing state of bliss and of “tne thousand petals opening.” I ultimately “came back” to what we on this plane call “reality.” But I did retain a strong memory of that pivotal episode in my life. And from then on I had to learn to walk in the “two worlds,” the mundane and the sublime,

And I came to realize that, although in the absolute sense, I was “nothing,” on the human plane, my life—like that of each of us—had meaning and purpose. I realized that compassion itself was the highest expression of divine service. Though we could not fathom the totality of “God’s”
nature, we could each dedicate our gifts and our spirits to the service of humanity, for this was our rightful destiny, despite what some might call a contradiction of logic. This dedication without expectation of reward was how we redeemed ourselves, how we proved our worth to ourselves and to our fellows.

Thus, though I experienced a brief taste of enlightenment, I make no claim to “be” enlightened. I am grateful for that experience, as if I had been, momentarily, lifted to the top of the mountain and given a glimpse of the Edenic realms beyond. And I wonder, even though we are “nothing” on this plane, what will we be when we ascend in light to source once we leave behind this level of existence?

Friday, October 21, 2011

"Role Models" (poem by Doothy) 

Role Models , or How I Became a Lesbian

Every day in the summer I was ten
I ran the four blocks
to the library of the teachers’ college
where they had a magic corner
called “the children’s collection” and let
you check out books.
Two was the limit at one time
So as soon as I got my quota I rushed
Back home to read as fast as I could,
Then dashed back for two more.
That way I got to read almost
All the books in the children’s collection
That summer,
And also found my role models
For life:
Jo in a window seat,
bent over her book as she
munched an apple,
Her mane of chestnut hair
Cascading down her back.

And then there was Heidi,
Always sledding down
The mountain,
Or toasting cheese
over her open fire.
I had never seen an “open” fire
But faithfully held my Velveeta slice
Over the blue orange flame
Of the front burner
Of our gas stove
Each day
And prayed it didn’t melt
off the fork,
But usually it did.

I also had never seen a mountain,
For I lived on a prairie,
which was flat,
but planned to visit Switzerland
as soon as possible
when I grew up,
and there I would dance
among the wild flowers
in spring
and ride a sled down to
the valley during winter
and then go home
and get warm
in front of the great open fire
and eat more cheese.

In fifth grade,
I met a real life role model—
Miss Johnson, our teacher, whose hair
was quite short and who later served
in the WAACS during the war.
She had a booming voice
And sparkly brown eyes and
lived with her female partner--
something about her
seemed familiar,
as if Jo and Heidi
had gotten melted
into a single person
and I knew I wanted
to be just like her
when I grew up,
cut my hair short
and have another girl
for my roommate
and indeed,
that is pretty much
what happened.

I still read books
and eat cheese
and think of Miss Johnson
and wonder
where she is now,
whether she ever
reads in a window seat somewhere,
while nibbling
on pieces of apple
and toasted cheese.

Dorothy Walters
Oct. 14, 2011

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Nathalie Delay in Boulder 

Nathalie Delay of the Kashmiri Shaivite tradtion comes to Boulder

I am printing the following information because it so happens that Kashmiri Shaivism is the tradition I feel the closest alliance with. I was never formally initiated into this tradition, but when I discovered it, I realized that I had an important link to this lineage. It is basically a Tantric tradition, which some approach from a sexual perspective. For me, it is the delight of feeling the inner energies flow from simple arm and hand movements in a non-prescribed (intuitive) fashion. This practice is called a "Tandeva" dance (the dance of Shiva) in the Shaivite tradition. I discovered that I had been doing it for years before I found out it had a name and was a regular practice for some.

Nathalie received her transmission from Daniel Odier, who writes sometimes about sexual tantra, sometimes not. She currently lives in Berkeley, so it is a real treat to have her come to Boulder. After the evening described below, she will be giving a two day workshop at another location in Boulder--you can get more info by calling or e-mailing Yuko as listed below.

Shaivism of Kashimir: a non-dual tradition with Nathalie Delay

October 28, 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM | Public Talk
Nathalie is considered one of the masters of Shaivism of Kashmir, and particularly its Pratyabhina lineage, a non-dual authentic tradition. She embodies perfectly the ideal of Pratyabhijna, which...
resorts to no ritual, no form, no stratagem, but proposes a direct dive into the source of the Self. Please join us!!!
Category: Awakening
Location Charlie & Lyra's home
1340 King Ave.Boulder, CO, 80502
Date(s) October 28, 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Fee At the door $20.00
Contact Yuko Hashimoto, 303-443-3237

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Can You go Home Again? 

This is a personal entry. It has to do with a recent experience I had just this past weekend, when I returned to my home town for my brother's 90th birthday. I had not visited "home" for 15 years, nor had I had any regular contact with him. The event was celebrated with an open house for some 100 people, and, since I do not like crowds and did not expect to know anyone there outside of family (my brother and his wife, and some three nieces and nephews and their spouses) I was not looking forward to the event with any enthusiasm. It was a "duty visit," rather than a pleasure trip.

I was in for a great surprise. My brother and his wife, neither of whom had hugged me or even shaken my hand in past times, greeted me cordially, hugged me, and did all they could to make me feel welcome. My brother had changed considerably over the years (as had I), and now seemed to be a gentle, sweet elder, someone who had finally come to terms with life, and was happy to be reunited with his "little sister."

The open house had barely begun when someone I did not recognize sat down next to me (chairs were lined up against the wall) and asked me if I had attended the local college. I of course had, starting with my senior year in high school when I enrolled in algebra and Freshman composition at the college, for I was eager to begin my academic career.

My freshman English teacher was someone who made a profound impression on me. She was a deeply spiritual woman (Christian Science) who considered all writing a sacred activity and all writers part of the chosen ones. Her favorites were Emerson, Wordsworth, Thoreau and the like, and thus she fed my great hunger for contact with great minds by focusing on exciting writers of vast wisdom and vision. For her, these were not simply texts to be dissected, but invaluable repositories of eternal truths, deep wells to quench our thirst for connection with that which was greater than ourselves. She was the first to encourage me in my writing, and to point me toward an authentic awakening from the cultural trance (see Plato's allegory of the cave, for example, or Wordsworth's sonnet "The World is too much with us.") I felt I had entered a new realm, a world where reality as opposed to mere appearance prevailed. I was giddy with my new knowledge, and vowed to beeome a writer worthy of my teacher's trust. At age 16, I underwent a deep spiritual transformation into mystical consciousness, and the world turned beautiful in every sense, for I seemed to perceive the underlying sacredness of all objects and every person. Divine love was the key, and I felt bathed in its tender rays.

For the next two years, I took every course I could from this master teacher. I traveled with her each Sunday to her "Church of Christ, Scientist" in a nearby city and with the others repeated "There is no life, truth, substance or intelligence in matter: all is infinite mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is all in all." Although a few years later I drifted away from this unquestioning faith, I never forgot this woman, for she was indeed one of the great shaping forces of my life. I felt very blessed to have encountered such an amazing soul so early in life, and felt that i carried her blessing with me thereafter.

So--imagine my surprise and near disbelief when the woman who had sat down next to me announced, 'I remember you, for I was your English teacher's assistant and I graded your themes for freshman composition." I was, in fact, a bit stunned. How was it that this particular woman, who shared my admiration and love for this marvelous woman, had manifested beside me, as if by fate. How did she remember grading my essays some 67 years later? We shared precious memories and agreed that Miss Molly Ruth Bottoms was indeed a unique spiritual being.

But there was more to come. As various persons came by to introduce themselves, I sometimes remembered them from long ago, sometimes not. And then one man appeared, said his name, and asked if I remembered him. Indeed I did, for when our grade school performed the operetta "Peter Rabbit," he was the lead character . (I was "First Lettuce.") It so happened that I had been smitten with deep love for this boy (I was about ten at the time) though I never "spoke my love", but I confessed to him now. This "crush" (for it was never acted on or openly acknowledged) lasted for many years, and I mourned deeply being separated from him the following year when he was assigned to a different school. In fact, I grieved for this "loss" for several years, almost as if I were acting out a script of "abandonment" (how could there be abandonment in such a secret relationship?) which was to recur in actuality in my life later. (I am a Pisces, and Pisces likes to suffer.) So this relation also was an important landmark in my life, the first of many such episodes in my life.

Then "Peter Rabbit" asked if I had done my graduate work in Englsh at the state university, and I had, taking the PHD in English in l960. He said that he had also attended this institution (in another department) and knew many of the English professors there, and wondered if I had known Victor Elconin. The man he named was my beloved dissertation director, again someone who had had a vividl impact on my life. We then reminisced about the others in that department, which was, in fact, outstanding in the caliber of the faculty, who loved literature and taught with enthusiasm and dedication.

Keep in mind that this trip down memory lane includes connections from the beginnings of my life (my brother remembered the day of my birth), then as a young child, my early teen years, then my graduate school days. It was a life review in every sense, more or less like the old "This is your life" program that used to be on T. V. As one friend put it, it was like a tapestry that was missing some threads that were now restored and rewoven, the fragments now arranged in order and integrated into a whole.

I did not sleep much that night, for I had great deal to process. It was, for me, a truly significant occasion, linking past to present, memory to current life.

Where did such synchronicities come from? If I had talked with others in that room of 100 people, I don't think I would have made such significant connections. It felt as though the entire sequence of unlikely discoveries had been orchestrated elsewhere, perhaps from an unseen benevolent presence in the other realms who wished to endow me with a blessing of grace.

(The picture is of me standing in front of the "Old North Tower," on the campus where I attended my first two years of college. At that time (during WWII and soon thereafter) the enrollment was about 500. Today it has expanded into a university with an enrollment of about 15,000. The town as well has expanded vastly in geography and population (about 150,000 now). It was a little village when I was born there (about 2,000 souls). It now is one of the wealthiest communities in Oklahoma. Since I left that "village" in l946 to go away to college, my life has unfolded in many chapters, and I have become in some ways a vastly different being--through such experiences as becoming a professor, setting up an early women's studies program when such areas were extremely controversial, discovering I was a lesbian, living for 21 years in San Francisco with its vast array of cultural and spiritual offerings, and, of course, awakening the Kundalini energies in such a dramatic fashion and experiencing them play out over 30 years, publishing various books, including two (in my seventies) of spiritual poetry and one of spiritual autobiography. But I believe those early years set the tone, "planted the seeds," of all I was to become later. They were extremely important in laying the foundation for a much more complex life in later years, but I treasure them still.)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Poem by David Whyte 

The Faces at Braga

David Whyte

The Faces at Braga
In monastery darkness
by the light of one flashlight
the old shrine room waits in silence
While above the door
we see the terrible figure,
fierce eyes demanding, "Will you step through?"
And the old monk leads us,
bent back nudging blackness
prayer beads in the hand that beckons.
We light the butter lamps
and bow, eyes blinking in the
pungent smoke, look up without a word,
see faces in meditation,
a hundred faces carved above,
eye lines wrinkled in the hand held light.
Such love in solid wood!
Taken from the hillsides and carved in silence
they have the vibrant stillness of those who made them.
Engulfed by the past
they have been neglected, but through
smoke and darkness they are like the flowers
we have seen growing
through the dust of eroded slopes,
then slowly opening faces turned toward the mountain.
Carved in devotion
their eyes have softened through age
and their mouths curve through delight of the carvers hand.
If only our own faces
would allow the invisible carver's hand
to bring the deep grain of love to the surface.
If only we knew
as the carver knew, how the flaws
in the wood led his searching chisel to the very core,
we would smile, too
and not need faces immobilized
by fear and the weight of things undone.
When we fight with our failing
we ignore the entrance to the shrine itself
and wrestle with the guardian, fierce figure on the side of good.
And as we fight
our eyes are hooded with grief
and our mouths are dry with pain.
If only we could give ourselves
to the blows of the carvers hands,
the lines in our faces would be the trace lines of rivers
feeding the sea
where voices meet, praising the features
of the mountain and the cloud and the sky.
Our faces would fall away
until we, growing younger toward death
every day, would gather all our flaws in celebration
to merge with them perfectly,
impossibly, wedded to our essence,
full of silence from the carver's hands.
- David Whyte

David Whyte will be giving a workshop in Boulder October 22 (Friday).

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Poem by Joyce Sutphen 


by Joyce Sutphen

I spend part of my childhood waiting
for the Sterns County Bookmobile.
When it comes to town, it makes a
U-turn in front of the grade school and
glides into its place under the elms.

It is a natural wonder of late
afternoon. I try to imagine Dante,
William Faulkner, and Emily Dickinson
traveling down a double lane highway
together, country-western on the radio.

Even when it arrives, I have to wait.
The librarian is busy, getting out
the inky pad and the lined cards.
I pace back and forth in the line,
hungry for the fresh bread of the page,

because I need something that will tell me
what I am; I want to catch a book,
clear as a one-way ticket, to Paris,
to London, to anywhere.

The first stage of the path to God in the Sufi tradition is the stage of longing. Even when we are children, we often yearn for "something more," something larger, more stimulating, some kind of escape from the tedium of the everyday life. Many of us, like the author of this poem, sought such expansion of soul and insight as children through reading. Books opened a door into another world, perhaps magical realms where miracles occurred.

I think that that such longing in childhood can lead us into the "longing for the divine" that drives many into the arms of God as adults. We are seeking a different world, a "higher" version of reality than that found in the shrunken landscape about us. We are not willing to settle for "it is what it is," but seek ceaselessly for the truth beneath the surface, the hidden connection that points us toward the treasure within.

And for many, Kundalini is the key, the secret implement that unlocks the door, reveals the enchanted landscape we have unknowingly prepared for all of our lives.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches? (poem by Mary Oliver) 

Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches?

Have you ever tried to enter the long black branches
of other lives --
tried to imagine what the crisp fringes, full of honey,
from the branches of the young locust trees, in early morning,
feel like?
Do you think this world was only an entertainment for you?
Never to enter the sea and notice how the water divides
with perfect courtesy, to let you in!
Never to lie down on the grass, as though you were the grass!
Never to leap to the air as you open your wings over
the dark acorn of your heart!
No wonder we hear, in your mournful voice, the complaint
that something is missing from your life!
Who can open the door who does not reach for the latch?
Who can travel the miles who does not put one foot
in front of the other, all attentive to what presents itself
Who will behold the inner chamber who has not observed
with admiration, even with rapture, the outer stone?
Well, there is time left --
fields everywhere invite you into them.
And who will care, who will chide you if you wander away
from wherever you are, to look for your soul?
Quickly, then, get up, put on your coat, leave your desk!
To put one's foot into the door of the grass, which is
the mystery, which is death as well as life, and
not be afraid!
To set one's foot in the door of death, and be overcome
with amazement!
To sit down in front of the weeds, and imagine
god the ten-fingered, sailing out of his house of straw,
nodding this way and that way, to the flowers of the
present hour,
to the song falling out of the mockingbird's pink mouth,
to the tippets of the honeysuckle, that have opened
in the night
To sit down, like a weed among weeds, and rustle in the wind!
Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?
While the soul, after all, is only a window,
and the opening of the window no more difficult
than the wakening from a little sleep.
Only last week I went out among the thorns and said
to the wild roses:
deny me not,
but suffer my devotion.
Then, all afternoon, I sat among them. Maybe
I even heard a curl or tow of music, damp and rouge red,
hurrying from their stubby buds, from their delicate watery bodies.
For how long will you continue to listen to those dark shouters,
caution and prudence?
Fall in! Fall in!
A woman standing in the weeds.
A small boat flounders in the deep waves, and what's coming next
is coming with its own heave and grace.
Meanwhile, once in a while, I have chanced, among the quick things,
upon the immutable.
What more could one ask?
And I would touch the faces of the daises,
and I would bow down
to think about it.
That was then, which hasn't ended yet.
Now the sun begins to swing down. Under the peach-light,
I cross the fields and the dunes, I follow the ocean's edge.
I climb, I backtrack.
I float.
I ramble my way home.
~ Mary Oliver ~
(West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

More Recommended Books 

More books recommended by Ivan Granger from http://www.poetry-chaikhana.com/blog/books/

Sacred Poetry – General Anthologies

The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry
by Stephen Mitchell
This is a compact anthology, but a wonderful collection that includes Li Po, Wu-Men, Rumi, Kabir, Mirabai, Rilke… And the added bonus of Stephen Mitchell’s way with words. One of my personal favorites.

Music of the Sky: An Anthology of Spiritual Poetry
Edited by Patrick Laude / Edited by Barry McDonald
A shorter anthology of world sacred poetry with an emphasis on rhymed verse translations. Selections from Sufi, Buddhist, Hindu, and Christian traditions. And several beautiful Native American and African poems and songs.

To Touch the Sky: Poems of Mystical, Spiritual & Metaphysical Light
Translated by Willis Barnstone
Willis Barnstone’s translations balance the scholarly with the poetic — a real treat! This anthology ranges from Sappho and early Biblical utterances, to Wang Wei, Rilke, and St. John of the Cross. I like to leaf through the pages until something catches my attention and I’m pleasantly lost in the poem.

The Soul is Here for its Own Joy: Sacred Poems from Many Cultures
Edited by Robert Bly
Another good, wide-ranging selection of sacred poetry gathered by Robert Bly. From Hafiz to Freidrich Holderlin, Mirabai to Mirza Ghalib, Rumi to Rilke. A very good book to pick up, open to a random page, and then disappear…

The Winged Energy of Delight
Translated by Robert Bly
A very nice collection with a modern feel. Poetry ranges from Rilke, Antonio Machado, and Juan Ramon Jimenez, to Rumi, Hafez, Kabir, and Mirabai.

News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness
Edited by Robert Bly
Another good collection of world poetry selected by Robert Bly. The collection feels a little scattered to me, but contains many treasures too.

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty
Edited by Alan Jacobs
This is a treasure chest of world sacred poetry, especially in Western, Hindu, and Sufi traditions. I’ll admit that the translations aren’t always my favorite, and you won’t find biographical notes about the poets, but this book will introduce you to many new voices. Recommended for sheer scope and enthusiasm.

The Essential Mystics: Selections from the World’s Great Wisdom Traditions
Edited by Andrew Harvey
An excellent anthology from Andrew Harvey. Poetry and brief excerpts from sacred writings among many world traditions: primal cultures, Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Ancient Greece, Christianity, and Islam. Open to any random page and you’ll find an uplifting verse, saying, explanation, or wisdom story.

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women
Edited by Jane Hirshfield
This is the first anthology I got years ago that made me say, Wow! Includes Sappho, Rabia, Yeshe Tsogyel, Hildegard von Bingen, Mechthild of Magdeburg, Hadewijch of Antwerp, Lalla, Mirabai, Bibi Hayati, Marina Tsvetaeva. The best collection I’ve found of women’s voices in sacred poetry.

The Shambhala Anthology of Women’s Spiritual Poetry
Edited by Aliki Barnstone
Another very good anthology of spiritual poetry by women, from ancient to modern times. Covers many of the same poets as Women in Praise of the Sacred, like Mirabai, Mahadevi, Lal Ded, Sappho, Sun Buer, Dickenson, Tsvetaeva, but also several different poets. The two books together make a good collection.

Technicians of the Sacred: A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, Europe & Oceania
Edited by Jerome Rothenberg
A wonderful collection of songs, chants, and poetry from primal and ancient cultures around the world. African, Native American, Pacific Islands, pre-Christian Europe… The renderings into English have a very fluid feel. Often it works well, avoiding too much form or forced rhyme; sometimes it may feel a little too modern. Overall, though, an excellent collection.

Sufi Poetry

The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry
Translated by Peter Lamborn Wilson / Translated by Nasrollah Pourjavady
One of my favorite collections of the Persian Sufi poets, some you may have heard of and others who may be new to you: Jami, Attar, Hamadani, Iraqi, Hafez, Ibn Arabi, Sanai, and many others. If you like Sufi poetry, this is a book you should have. Excerpt…

Love’s Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition
Translated by David Fideler / Translated by Sabrineh Fideler
Another very good collection of Persian Sufi poetry. This book focuses on poems and poets that are not as well known in the West. A good place to discover some new names.

Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi
Translated by Mahmood Jamal
Highly recommended for its broad range of Sufi poets, some hard to find in English translation, as well as for it’s approachable translations. Excerpt…

Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from the Sufi Wisdom
by Andrew Harvey / Eryk Hanut
Something about Andrew Harvey’s selections and translations always strike a pure note. This book is a delightful collection of poetry and Sufi wisdom stories. Rumi, Kabir, al-Hallaj, Shabistari, Ansari… This is one I return to again and again.

Quarreling with God: Mystic Rebel Poems of the Dervishes of Turkey
Translated by Jennifer Ferraro / Translated by Latif Bolat
This is an excellent sampling of poetry of Turkish Sufis, most of whom haven’t been translated into English until now. You’ll find a few poems by well-known figures, like Yunus Emre, but many other stunning works by names you’re less likely to have heard of, such as Ummi Sinan, Kul Himmet, Seyh Ibrahim Efendi, and Niyazi Misri. Recommended.

Umar Ibn al-Farid: Sufi Verses, Saintly Life
Translated by Th. Emil Homerin
Umar Ibn al-Farid’s poetry is often considered to be the pinnacle of Arabic mystical verse, though surprisingly little known in the West. His two masterpieces: “The Wine Ode,” a beautiful meditation on the “wine” of divine bliss, and “The Poem of the Sufi Way,” a profound exploration of spiritual experience along the Sufi Path. I keep returning to this book for another taste of the “wine.”

Fakhruddin Iraqi: Divine Flashes (Classics of Western Spirituality)
by William Chittick / Nasr Seyyed Hossein
Iraqi bridged several Sufi traditions and traveled through much of the Muslim world. Born in Iran (not Iraq), he became a member of an important Sufi order in India/Pakistan. For political reasons, he escaped to Turkey. There he studied the philosophy of Ibn Arabi, inspiring his stunning “Divine Flashes” — spiritual commentaries, peppered with short poetic verses. Very highly recommended!

Nobody, Son of Nobody: Poems of Shaikh Abu-Saeed Abil-Kheir
Translated by Vraje Abramian
I read this book early in my exploration of Sufi poetry — and I was hooked! Abu Said Abil-Kheir’s poetry ranges from the ecstatic and celestial, to struggles with abandonment. His poetry has an immediacy and even a sort of devoutly wry petulance. This book remains a personal favorite of mine.

The Illuminated Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks
Excerpts of Rumi’s poetry accompanied by digital collage artwork that draws you deeply into each page. This book entrances on several levels. An excellent gift book.

The Conference of the Birds
Translated by Afkham Darbandi / Translated by Dick Davis
Attar’s masterpiece about a group of birds (human souls) under the leadership of a hoopoe (spiritual master) who determine to search for the legendary Simurgh (God). The birds must confront their own individual limitations and fears before they ultimately find the Simurgh and complete their quest. This translation is the best I’ve found — though I’m still waiting for a translation that transports me in the same way that FitzGerald’s translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam does.

The Conference of the Birds: The Selected Sufi Poetry of Farid ud-Din Attar
Translated by Raficq Abdulla
Not a complete rendering of the Conference of the Birds (see the Penguin Classics version for that), but a nice selection of “highlights” paired with beautiful Persian paintings. Makes a nice gift book.

The Drop That Became the Sea: Lyric Poems of Yunus Emre
Translated by Kabir Helminski / Translated by Refik Algan
I found this book by accident. I had read a single poem by Yunus Emre and, transfixed, I blindly ordered this book of translations by Helminski and Algan. This “sea” is beautiful and deep. His poetry expresses a deep personal mysticism and humanism and love for God. If you like Rumi, do yourself a favor and read this too.

Wine of the Mystic: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyan: A Spiritual Interpretation
by Omar Khayyam / Paramahansa Yogananda
A 20th century Indian Yogi commenting on the spiritual meaning of an 11th century Persian Sufi’s poetry. That combination yields both perfume and controversy — but plenty to contemplate. Lovely artwork and border scrollwork. And Fitzgerald’s delightful translation of this classic. Recommended.

The Secret Rose Garden: Mahmud Shabistari
Translated by Florence Lederer / Edited by David Fideler
Shabistari’s “Secret Rose Garden” expresses a unified vision of Reality similar to the perspective of the great Sufi philosopher Ibn Arabi, but expressed through the rich Persian poetic tradition. Every page contains meditative treasures.

Perfect Harmony: (Calligrapher’s Notebooks)
by Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi
Brief selections from Ibn Arabi’s metaphysical love poem “The Interpreter of Desires” combined with the amazing Arabic calligraphy of Hassan Massoudy. If you didn’t think calligraphy could be fine art, you have to look at this book. Find a quiet place, open this book, and lose yourself in any page…

The Shambhala Guide to Sufism
by Carl W. Ernst PhD
Not a collection of poetry, but good book to help you begin to understand who the Sufis really are. It’s been a couple of years since I last read this book, but I remember it as an intelligent, insightful look at the history, practices, philosophies, schools, and even politics of Sufism. If you’ve loved the poetry of Rumi but only have a vague idea of how Sufism fits within the Islamic faith, this book is an excellent place to start.

Buddhist and Taoist Poetry

The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhalla Library)
Edited by Sam Hamill / Edited by J. P. Seaton
A very nice sampler of Japanese and Chinese Zen poetry. Han Shan, Li Po, Wang Wei, Basho, Soseki, Ryokan, Issa… The book fits well in your hand when you’re walking to the riverside or the local coffee shop.

Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry
Edited by Wu-chi Liu / Edited by Irving Yucheng Lo
An encyclopedic anthology of Chinese poetry. You’ll find selections from every major and many lesser-known Chinese poets, including Li Po, Wang Wei, Han Shan, Tu Fu, Tao Chien, and far too many more to list. If you’re a lover of Chinese poetry, this is a must have book!

The Shambhala Anthology of Chinese Poetry
Edited by J. P. Seaton
Another excellent collection of Chinese poetry. Less voluminous than Sunflower Splendor, and thus less disorienting. A very good collection if you are just becoming familiar with the rich world of Chinese poetry.

Songs of Spiritual Experience: Tibetan Buddhist Poems of Insight & Awakening
Translated by Thupten Jinpa / Translated by Jas Elsner
Believe it or not, I found this one in a discount bin at my local bookstore — but what a find! One of the best general anthologies of Tibetan Buddhist poems I’ve found. Several verses attributed to Milarepa, as well as many other Tibetan yogis and masters. If you haven’t read much Tibetan poetry, this book is an excellent place to start.

Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter
Translated by Lucien Stryk / Translated by Takashi Ikemoto
A good collection without being overwhelming. I especially like it’s selection of Japanese haiku: Basho, Buson, Issa, Masahide…

A Drifting Boat: Chinese Zen Poetry
Edited by J. P. Seaton / Edited by Dennis Maloney
Although it has an unassuming cover, this book contains a very good collection of Chinese Ch’an (Zen) poetry. Several different translators, often rendering the work with a modern touch. The world of Chinese poetry can be disorienting; this is a good place to get your bearings.

The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain
Translated by Red Pine
Han Shan (Cold Mountain) is one of the great figures of Chinese Ch’an/Taoist poetry, playful, cantankerous, rich with insight. There are several other good English renderings of his work, including by Gary Snyder. But in my mind this collection by Red Pine is the authoritative English version. The whole collection is here, along with the poetry of Han Shan’s companions, Feng-kan and Shih-te.

The Zen Poetry of Dogen: Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace
by Steven Heine
Although best known for his Zen discourses and his role establishing Zen practice in Japan, Dogen was an excellent poet too. Quiet moments of insight expressed in a bare minimum of lines. One of my favorites.

Sun at Midnight: Muso Soseki – Poems and Sermons
Translated by W. S. Merwin / Translated by Soiku Shigematsu
A friend introduced me to this collection, and I was entranced. Muso Soseki is known today for establishing rock gardening as meditative Zen practice, but his poetry — wonderful! And with translations by WS Merwin, you can’t ask for more!

Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf: Zen Poems of Ryokan
Translated by John Stevens
It’s hard not to like Ryokan – his poetry, yes, but the man behind them too. A hermit and Zen practitioner, at times a comical figure, losing himself in the moment, in a game of ball with the local children, chasing down a thief who left something behind. His poetry encompasses the fulness and absurdity of life.

Call Me by My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh
by Thich Nhat Hanh
Poetry by the beloved modern master Thich Nhat Hanh, exploring service and suffering, humanity and interbeing, breath and stillness, beauty and bliss.

Hindu/Yoga Poetry

Speaking of Siva
by A K Ramanujan
This book became an immediate favorite of mine ever since I picked up a copy of it a few years ago. Stunning poems from the Shiva bhakti tradition of India. Basava, Devara Dasimayya, Akka Mahadevi, Allama Prabhu. The commentary in the book, though a little academic, is genuinely insightful. Enthusiastically recommended! Excert…

The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice
by Georg Feuerstein
This is not a collection of poetry, but an excellent book to help you make sense of the ancient, complex philosophies, practices, and beliefs that make up yoga. The Yoga Tradition is truly encyclopedic. This book will free you from the misconception that yoga is just an elaborate form of stretching. It introduces us to ancient and modern yogic philosophies and practices. The many expressions of Hindu yoga, Jain yoga, Buddhist yoga, Sikh yoga, saints, philosophers, and reformers… This book helps us to get oriented amidst thousands of years of complex history with a refreshingly coherent approach. Very highly recommended.

Christian Poetry

Christian Mystics: Their Lives and Legacies throughout the Ages
by Ursula King
This is not a book of poetry, but highly recommended if you want a brief survey of important visionaries and trends within the sometimes hidden history of Christian mysticism. Francis of Assisi, Hildegard von Bingen, the Beguines, Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Brother Lawrence, Jacob Boehme, Symeon the New Theologian, and many others. The author of this book has done a nice job of balancing history with spirituality. This little book makes an excellent introduction to depths of the Christian tradition that are too often overlooked.

For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics
by Roger Housden
This has quickly become one of my favorite collections of sacred poetry within the many Christian traditions. John of the Cross, Thomas Merton, Hildegard von Bingen, Kahlil Gibran, Dante, Angelus Silesius, Mechthild of Magdeburg, Meister Eckhart, William Blake… and Roger Housden’s brief, thoughtful insights. Another excellent book by the editor of Ten Poems to Change Your Life, Ten Poems to Open Your Heart, and Ten Poems to Set You Free.

And I’m pleased to be able to point to an example of my own work in this book, my translation of “The Sum of Perfection” by John of the Cross.

The Book of Mystical Chapters: Meditations on the Soul’s Ascent from the Desert Fathers and Other Early Christian Contemplatives
Translated by John Anthony McGuckin
This is the book that, years ago, introduced me to the stunning poetry of Symeon the New Theologian, igniting my passion for his visionary poetry of light and transformation. You’ll also find poems and poetic renditions of writings from many other saints and mystics of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Still a favorite of mine.

German Mystical Writings: Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Jacob Boehme, and others
Edited by Karen J. Campbell
The commentary is a little dry, but an excellent selection of poetry by Hildegard von Bingen, Mechthild of Magdeburg, the Granum Sinapis, Angelus Silesius, as well as writings by Eckhart, Boehme, and others.

Francis and Clare: The Complete Works: The Classics of Western Spirituality
Translated by Regis J. Armstrong, OFM CAP / Translated by Ignatius C. Brady, OFM
I discovered this book years ago in a used book store on Maui, early in my days of reading sacred poetry. I was instantly hooked because, for some reason, it never really occurred to me that you can read the actual personal letters of such great saints of the Catholic tradition, like Francis and Clare of Assisi. But here they are: letters, spiritual guidelines… and poetry. If you’re new to medieval Christian mysticism and thought, this probably isn’t the place to start. But I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to cultivate a more intimate understanding of the spiritual life of one of the most loved saints of the West. Excerpt…

Hadewijch: The Complete Works (Classics of Western Spirituality)
by Mother Columba Hart
I was introduced to the divine love poetry of the Flemish mystic Hadewijch in the excellent anthology Women in Praise of the Sacred, edited by Jane Hirshfield. I knew I had encountered something amazing, but the sampling in that book was frustratingly small. I finally found this book with the complete works of this mysterious Beguine spiritual figure — visions, letters, and a beautiful collection of sacred poetry. The love mysticism of her poetry rightly draws comparisons to the rich traditions of Sufi and Bhakti poetry.

Jacopone da Todi: Lauds (Classics of Western Spirituality)
Translated by Serge and Elizabeth Hughes
The Lauds is a series of ecstatic poems praising love and the total transformation of self through love. Dive deep and explore.

Selected Poems of Thomas Merton
by Thomas Merton
I can’t recommend this collection highly enough. Merton, in addition to being a deep mystic, was a truly excellent contemporary poet. His poems feel entirely modern, yet touch on the eternal. While drawing on Catholic imagery, one can hear whispers of Eastern philosophy and insight in his words. Poems to reread and meditate deeply upon.

Jewish Poetry

The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse
Edited by T. Carmi
The most complete collection I’ve found of sacred Hebrew poetry, including Judah ha Levi, Solomon ibn Gabirol, Samuel Hanagid, the early Hekhalot Hymns, and many more. My only complaint: the translations are not versified, even though the Hebrew originals were. Still, worth reading.

The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492
Edited by Peter Cole
A very good collection of the great Hebrew poets and writers who emerged from the flowering of Jewish culture in Medieval Spain. A nice sampling of important figures of Kabbalah, philosophy, and culture, like Hanagid, ibn Gabirol, Halevi, Abulafia, and many more.

Modern Poets

Why I Wake Early
by Mary Oliver
You can’t go wrong with anything by Mary Oliver, but if you’re looking for a good introduction to her poetry, Why I Wake Early is a nice place to start. This collection is one to enjoy, one poem at a time, in those quiet moments before the busyness of the day starts.

Book of My Nights
by Li-Young Lee
Rise early for Mary Oliver and stay up late with Li-Young Lee. Something so direct yet startling in the quiet revelations of his poetry. Book of My Nights is the perfect place to start with his poetry.

Where Many Rivers Meet
by David Whyte
Adventurer, contemplative, business consultant — but, most deeply, poet. David Whyte is one of the most dynamic and insightful poets today. Where Many Rivers Meet is an excellent introduction to his voice.

To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings
by John O’Donohue
I keep being told by people how much they love this book of poetic blessings from the Irish philosopher, poet, and mystic, John O’Donohue. These poetically crafted blessings and meditations on the passages of life manage to elevate the spirit, warm the heart, and, on occasion, bring a tear to the eye.


Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-Making
by John Fox
Not a book of poetry, but a book that belongs on every poetry lover’s bookshelf. This is a book about the transformational nature of poetry – reading it, speaking it, writing it. Poetry as therapy. Poetry as a pathway to self-exploration. Poetry to rediscover your true voice. I was surprised how much I liked this book.

Saved by a Poem: The Transformative Power of Words
by Kim Rosen
What can I say? Read the first few pages and you won’t want to stop. An exploration of the power of poetry to open our lives in surprising, healing ways and, at the same time, an engaging personal memoir. Highly recommended.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Spiritual Books--Ivan Granger 

The following books are all recommended by Ivan Granger, the editor and publisher of the Poetry Chaikhana. As always, his taste is quite discerning:

Christian Mystics: Their Lives and Legacies throughout the Ages
by Ursula King

Highly recommended if you want a brief survey of important visionaries and trends within the sometimes hidden history of Christian mysticism. Francis of Assisi, Hildegard von Bingen, the Beguines, Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Brother Lawrence, Jacob Boehme, Symeon the New Theologian, and many others. The author of this book has done a nice job of balancing history with spirituality. This little book makes an excellent introduction to the depths of the Christian tradition that are too often overlooked in favor of creeds and rites. Even if you were raised within the Christian tradition, my guess is that much of your own spiritual history was not handed down to you. Here is a good place to start to regain that connection.

(I will post more titles tomorrow--when I try now, I lose this post.)

The Shambhala Guide to Sufism
by Carl W. Ernst PhD

I am currently re-reading this book. It as an intelligent, insightful look at the history, practices, philosophies, schools, and even politics of Sufism. It doesn't get deeply into the more esoteric aspects of the Sufi world, but it gives a good overview. If you've loved the poetry of Rumi but only have a vague idea of how Sufism fits within the Islamic faith, this book is an excellent place to start.

The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice
by Georg Feuerstein

Unlike the other two books, which are relatively brief introductions to their subjects, The Yoga Tradition is truly encyclopedic. Dubbed "The Blue Phonebook" for its size and color, The Yoga Tradition completely dispells the misconception many have that yoga is just an elaborate form of stretching. It introduces us to ancient and modern yogic philosophies and practices. The many expressions of Hindu yoga, Jain yoga, Buddhist yoga, Sikh yoga, saints, philosophers, and reformers... This book helps us to get oriented amidst thousands of years of complex history with a surprisingly readable, coherent approach. Very highly recommended.

Friday, October 07, 2011

"Ego" by Peter Baumann and Michael W. Taft 

by Peter Baumann and Michael W. Taft (found on SoundsTrue website)

The Fall of the Twin Towers and the Rise of an Enlightened Humanity

Albert Einstein wrote of the human condition:

A human being is a part of a whole, called by us “universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

Trapped in a complex web of emotion and thought, we understand ourselves as a cluster of identifications with race, nationality, religion, political beliefs, age, gender, and profession. Alone, these concepts would be ephemeral, but they are underpinned by knee-jerk emotional reactions, intense pleasure-and-pain conditioning in our bodies that resists any change or insight. Cobbled together, these concepts lock us in a sense of permanence and isolation, disconnected from the visceral common sense that would tell us at every moment just how wrong we are in our daily apprehension of reality.

Evolution acting through the mechanism of natural selection created the emotions that motivate and direct our behavior, as well as the imagination we use to model possible outcomes for that behavior. Over millions of years, these developed in our animal and proto-human ancestors into an extremely potent combination. As a system, our thoughts and feelings have ratcheted our species up the escalator from harsh, brutal survival in the dirt to the comfort, cleanliness, and convenience of sipping tea on a transcontinental flight.

And yet, like any technology—our body/brain system represents a highly advanced biological technology—there is almost as much of a downside as there is an upside. The same imagination that allows us to build jet airliners can dream up a plan to crash them into skyscrapers full of people. Our religious feelings motivate us to feed and clothe the needy, or to kill nonbelievers. The same empathic emotions that allow us to care for our families and children can motivate us to annihilate anyone we think threatens our loved ones. This downside doesn’t just drive international terrorists or even the murderer down the block. It drives the anxiety, depression, and alienation that plague us today.

Given that our bodies and brains, and therefore our thoughts and feelings, are the result of evolution, it is likely that evolution will also adapt in us a trait or capacity that provides a way out. Our genetic makeup is not written in stone, and is constantly changing. And although Einstein talks about taking individual responsibility to free ourselves from this prison—he was, after all, writing this quote in a letter to a rabbi—it may turn out not to be a personal matter at all. Perhaps it is more an issue of humanity, as a species, slowly marching toward an escape hatch.

The evolution of our species has not come to an end. Human beings are not a finished product, but instead a perpetually unfinished process, a moving target, and our current state, the human condition, is not the final word on the subject. Humanity is in motion as the wave of evolution continues to push us forward. The expansion of awareness that originally allowed us to become conscious of our thoughts and feelings is still under way. The rise in brainpower has not only created an explosion of skills—inventing tools, language, medicine, technology, civilization—it has at many times during the last two thousand years allowed some random outliers to glimpse something shocking: that who we think we are—our mental self- concept, or ego—is not actually what we are. Our self-concept is a symbol, an idea like any other. As evolution stumbles forward in its blind march of accidental brilliance, this radical insight that was once the province of a special few will slowly become the normal viewpoint: nothing special. The unfolding of the physical universe, the laws of nature, and evolution of life are generating the expanded perspective that will allow humanity to make the biggest prison break of all time—escaping the prison of ourselves.

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