Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting — over and over announcing your place in the family of things.
The sky cleared I was standing under a tree. My work is loving the world. Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird — equal seekers of sweetness. Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums. Here the clam deep in the speckled sand. Are my boots old? Is my coat torn? Am I no longer young, and still half-perfect? Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work,.
The phoebe, the delphinium. The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,. I was walking by. He was sitting there. It was full morning, so the heat was heavy on his sand-colored head and his webbed feet. I squatted beside him, at the edge of the path. He didn't move. I began to talk. I talked about summer, and about time. The pleasures of eating, the terrors of the night. About this cup we call a life. About happiness. And how good it feels, the heat of the sun between the shoulder blades.
He looked neither up nor down, which didn't necessarily mean he was either afraid or asleep. I felt his energy, stored under his tongue perhaps, and behind his bulging eyes. I talked about how the world seems to me, five feet tall, the blue sky all around my head. I said, I wondered how it seemed to him, down there, intimate with the dust. He might have been Buddha — did not move, blink, or frown, not a tear fell from those gold-rimmed eyes as the refined anguish of language passed over him. What lay on the road was no mere handful of snake. It was the copperhead at last, golden under the street lamp.
I hope to see everything in this world before I die. I knelt on the road and stared. Its head was wedge-shaped and fell back to the unexpected slimness of neck. The body itself was thick, tense, electric. Where these had, oh, such shyness, this one had none. When I moved a little, it turned and clamped its eyes on mine; then it jerked toward me. I jumped back and watched as it flowed on across the road and down into the dark.
My heart was pounding. I stood a while, listening to the small sounds of the woods and looking at the stars. After excitement we are so restful. When the thumb of fear lifts, we are so alive. When for too long I don't go deep enough into the woods to see them, they begin to enter my dreams. Yes, there they are, in the pinewoods of my inner life. I want to live a life full of modesty and praise.
Each hoof of each animal makes the sign of a heart as it touches then lifts away from the ground.
Unless you believe that heaven is very near, how will you find it? Their eyes are pools in which one would be content, on any summer afternoon, to swim away through the door of the world. Then, love and its blessing. Then: heaven. Meditation is old and honorable, so why should I not sit, every morning of my life, on the hillside, looking into the shining world? Because, properly attended to, delight, as well as havoc, is suggestion. Can one be passionate about the just, the ideal, the sublime, and the holy, and yet commit to no labor in its cause?
I don't think so. All summations have a beginning, all effect has a story, all kindness begins with the sown seed. Thought buds toward radiance. The gospel of light is the crossroads - of indolence, or action. Once, in summer, In the blueberries, I fell asleep, and woke When a deer stumbled against me. I guess She was so busy with her own happiness She had grown careless And was just wandering along. Listening To the wind as she leaned down To lip up the sweetness. So, there we were. With nothing between us But a few leaves, and the wind's Glossy voice Shouting instructions.
The deer Backed away finally And flung up her white tail And went floating off toward the trees -. But the moment before she did that Was so wide and so deep It has lasted to this day; I have only to think of her -. The flower of her amazement And the stalled breath of her curiosity, And even the damp touch of her solicitude Before she took flight-.
To be absent again from this world And alive, again, in another, For thirty years sleepy and amazed,.
Rising out of the rough weeds Listening and looking. Beautiful girl, Where are you? When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light.
For the time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. The gods are less for their love of praise. Above and below them all is a spirit that needs nothing but its own wholeness, its health and ours. It has made all things by dividing itself.
It will be whole again. To its joy we come together -- the seer and the seen, the eater and the eaten, the lover and the loved. In our joining it knows itself. It is with us then, not as the gods whose names crest in unearthly fire, but as a little bird hidden in the leaves who sings quietly and waits, and sings.
I go among trees and sit still. All my stirring becomes quiet around me like circles on water. My tasks lie in their places where I left them asleep like cattle.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture. See deeply the beauty and interconnectedness of all life; then think, speak and act from what you see. This is said to be the sublime abiding. And don't believe for a moment that you're healing yourself. Finally, to take a step without feet. Let go of self-judgment, the old, learned ways of beating yourself up for each imagined inadequacy. What is art but a way of seeing.
Then what is afraid of me comes and lives a while in my sight. What it fears in me leaves me and the fear of me leaves it. It sings and I hear its song. Than what I am afraid of comes. I live for a while in its sight. What I fear in it leaves it and the fear of it leaves me. The Wood is shining this morning. Gold and green. The leaves Lie on the ground, or fall, Or hang full of light in the air still. Perfect in its rise and in its fall, it takes The place it has been coming to forever.
It has not hastened here, or lagged. See how surely it has sought itself, Its roots passing lordly through the earth. See how without confusion it is All that it is, and how flawless Its grace is. Running or walking, the way Is the same. Be still. It may be that when we no longer know what to do we have come our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings. The dogs of indecision Cross and cross the field of vision. A cloud, a buzzing fly Distract the lover's eye. Until the heart has found Its native piece of ground The day withholds its light, The eye must stray unlit. The ground's the body's bride, Who will not be denied. Not until all is given Comes the thought of heaven.
When the mind's an empty room The clear days come.
Geese appear high over us, pass, and the sky closes. Abandon, as in love or sleep, holds them to their way, clear in the ancient faith: what we need is here. And we pray, not for new earth or heaven, but to be quiet in heart, and in eye, clear. What we need is here. As soon as I felt a necessity to learn about the non-human world, I wished to learn about it in a hurry. And then I began to learn perhaps the most important lesson that nature had to reach me: that I could not learn about her in a hurry.
The most important learning, that of experience, can be neither summoned nor sought out. The most worthy knowledge cannot be acquired by what is known as study — though that is necessary, and has its use. It comes in its own good time and in its own way to the man who will go where it lives, and wait, and be ready, and watch. Hurry is beside the point, useless, an obstruction. The thing is to be attentively present.
To sit and wait is as important as to move. Patience is as valuable as industry. What is to be known is always there.
When it reveals itself to you, or when you come upon it, it is by chance. The only condition is your being there and being watchful. The time will come When with elation, you will greet yourself arriving at your own door in your own mirror, and each will smile at the other's welcome, and say, sit here. You will love again the stranger who was your self. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you. Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,. Feast on your life. Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor? What scent of old wood hovers, what softened sound from outside fills the air? Will you ever bring a better gift for the world than the breathing respect that you carry wherever you go right now? Are you waiting for time to show you some better thoughts? When you turn around, starting here, lift this new glimpse that you found; carry into evening all that you want from this day.
This interval you spent reading or hearing this, keep it for life-- What can anyone give you greater than now, starting here, right in this room, when you turn around? These few words are enough. If not these words, this breath. If not this breath, this sitting here. This opening to the life we have refused again and again until now. Until now. Those who will not slip beneath the still surface on the well of grief turning downward through its black water to the place we cannot breathe will never know the source from which we drink the secret water, cold and clear, nor find in the darkness glimmering the small round coins thrown by those who wished for something else.
When your eyes are tired the world is tired also. When your vision has gone no part of the world can find you. Time to go into the dark where the night has eyes to recognize its own. There you can be sure you are not beyond love. The dark will be your womb tonight. Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn. Stand still. The trees before you and the bushes beside you are not lost. Wherever you are is a place called Here, And you must treat it as a powerful stranger, Must ask permission to know it and be known. The forest breathes. It answers, I have made this place around you, If you leave it you may come back again saying Here. No two trees are the same to Raven. No two branches the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you, You are surely lost. The forest knows Where you are. You must let it find you. Stay together, Friends. Don't scatter and sleep. Our Friendship is made of being awake. The waterwheel accepts water and turns and gives it away, weeping. That way it stays in the garden, whereas another roundness rolls through a dry riverbed looking for what it thinks it wants. Stay here, quivering with each moment like a drop of mercury. People are distracted by objects of desire, and afterwards repent of the lust they've indulged, because they have indulged with a phantom and are left even farther from Reality than before.
Your desire for the illusory is a wing, by means of which a seeker might ascend to Reality. When you have indulged a lust, your wing drops off; you become lame and that fantasy flees. Preserve the wing and don't indulge such lust, so that the wing of desire may bear you to Paradise. People fancy they are enjoying themselves, but they are really tearing out their wings for the sake of an illusion.
There are two kinds of intelligence: One acquired, as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts from books and from what the teacher says, collecting information from the traditional sciences as well as from the new sciences. With such intelligence you rise in the world. You get ranked ahead or behind others in regard to your competence in retaining information. You stroll with this intelligence in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always more marks on your preserving tablets.
There is another kind of tablet, one already completed and preserved inside you. A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness in the center of the chest. This other intelligence does not turn yellow or stagnate. It's fluid, and it doesn't move from outside to inside through the conduits of plumbing-learning. This second knowing is a fountainhead from within you, moving out. Something opens our wings. Something makes boredom and hurt disappear.
Someone fills the cup in front of us: We taste only sacredness. Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. The sky will bow to your beauty, if you do. Learn to light the candle. Rise with the sun. Turn away from the cave of your sleeping.
That way a thorn expands to a rose. A particular glows with the universal. Be empty of worrying Think of who created thought Why do you stay in prison When the door is so wide open Move outside the tangle of fear thinking Live in silence Flow down and down Into always widening Rings of being.
The agony of lovers burns with the fire of passion. Lovers leave traces of where they've been. The wailing of broken hearts is the doorway to God. Your grief for what you've lost lifts a mirror up to where you're bravely working. Expecting the worst, you look, and instead here's the joyful face you've been wanting to see. Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you'd be paralyzed.
Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as bird wings. Today like every other day We wake up empty and scared. Don't open the door of your study And begin reading. Take down a musical instrument. Let the beauty we love be what we do There are hundreds of way to kneel And kiss the earth.
Everyone is overridden by thoughts; that's why they have so much heartache and sorrow. At times I give myself up to thought purposefully; but when I choose, I spring up from those under its sway. I am like a high-flying bird, and thought is a gnat: how should a gnat overpower me? The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don't go back to sleep. You must ask for what you really want. People are going back and forth across the door sill Where the two worlds touch. The door is round and open. Sometimes I forget completely what companionship is. Unconscious and insane, I spill sad energy everywhere. My story gets told in various ways: a romance, a dirty joke, a war, a vacancy.
Divide up my forgetfulness to any number, it will go around. These dark suggestions that I follow, are they part of some plan? Friends, be careful. Don't come near me out of curiosity, or sympathy. This being human is a guest-house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they're a crowd of sorrows, Who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond. When I'm with you we stay up all night When you're not here I can't get to sleep Thank god for these two insomnias and the difference between them. Trust your wound to a teacher's surgery.
Flies collect on a wound. They cover it, those flies of your self-protecting feelings, your love for what you think is yours. Let a teacher wave away the flies and put a plaster on the wound. Don't turn your head. Keep looking at the bandaged wound. That's where the light enters you. And don't believe for a moment that you're healing yourself. Wonderer, worshipper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vow a thousand times Come, yet again, come, come. The way of love is not a subtle argument.
The door there is devastation. Birds make great sky-circles of their freedom. How do they learn it? They fall, and falling, they're given wings. There is some kiss we want With our whole life, The spirit touching the body. At night, I open the window and ask the moon to come and press its face against mine. Close the language-door and open the love window. The moon won't use the door, only the window. Are you looking for me? I am in the next seat. My shoulder is against yours. When you really look for me, you will see me instantly -- you will find me in the tiniest house of time.
Kabir says: Student, tell me, what is God? He is the breath inside the breath. I said to the wanting-creature inside me: What is this river you want to cross? There are no travelers on the river-road, and no road. Do you see anyone moving about on that bank, or resting? There is no river at all, and no boat, and no boatman. There is no towrope either, and no one to pull it. There is no ground, no sky, no time no bank, no ford! And there is no body, and no mind! Do you believe there is some place that will make the soul less thirsty? In that great absence you will find nothing.
Be strong then, and enter into your own body; There you have a solid place for your feet. Think about it carefully! Don't go off somewhere else! Kabir says this: just throw away all thoughts of imaginary things, And stand firm in that which you are. My friend, don't bother with that excursion. Inside your body there are flowers. One flower has a thousand petals. That will do for a place to sit. Sitting there you will have a glimpse of beauty inside the void and out of it, before the gardens and after gardens.
I went searching for the shop Where the merchant would say "There's nothing of value here". I found it and stayed. These poems arise out of The richness of not wanting. Oh mind you carry on your back Your actions like a heavy sack. No wonder that your shoulders ache Another strain's enough to break Your neck So drop this stupid load.
This is the last stop on the road where you can find rest Stay, be Loves guest. There is nothing but water in the holy pools. I know, I have been swimming in them. All the gods sculpted of wood or ivory can't say a word. I know, I have been crying out to them. The Sacred Books of the East are nothing but words. I looked through their covers one day sideways.
What Kabir talks about is only what he has lived through. If you have not lived through something, it is not true. Why should we two ever want to part? Just as the leaf of the water rhubarb lives floating on the water, we live as the great one and little one. As the owl opens his eyes all night to the moon, we live as the great one and little one. This love between us goes back to the first humans; it cannot be annihilated. Here is Kabir's idea: as the river gives itself into the ocean, what is inside me moves inside you.
Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive. Jump into experience while you are alive! What you call "salvation" belongs to the time before death. If you don't break your ropes while you're alive, do you think ghosts will do it after? The idea that the will join with the ecstatic just because the body is rotten -- that is all fantasy.
What is found now is found then. If you find nothing now, you will simply end up with an apartment in the City of Death. If you make love with the divine now, in the next life you will have the face of satisfied desire. So plunge into the truth, find out who the Teacher is, Believe in the Great Sound!
Kabir says this: When the Guest is being searched for, it is the intensity of the longing for the Guest that does all the work. Look at me, and you will see a slave of that intensity. You know the sprout is hidden inside the seed. We are all struggling; none of us has gone far. Let your arrogance go, and look around inside. The blue sky opens farther and farther, The daily sense of failure goes away, The damage I have done to myself fades, A million suns come forward with light, When I sit firmly in that world.
Even after all these years the sun doesn't say "You owe me". Look what happens! The whole world lights up. The darkness of night is coming along fast, and the shadows of love close in the body and the mind. Open the window to the west, and disappear into the air inside you. Near your breastbone there is an open flower. Drink the honey that is all around that flower. Waves are coming in: there is so much magnificence near the ocean! Listen: Sound of big seashells!
Sounds of bells! Kabir says: Friend, listen, this is what I have to say: the Guest I love is inside me! Study David, the ironsmith, and dancer, and musician. Move into the sun. When spirit enters, a man begins to wander freely, escaped and overrunning through the garden plants, spontaneous and soaking in.
In my heart you rose like the moon but as I glanced at you, you disappeared. Having had a glimpse of Your garden, I have no more the patience to endure my existence…. Your light is brighter than the Moon… Step into the garden so all the flowers… Even the tall poplar can kneel before your beauty… Let your voice silence the lily famous for its hundred tongues,. When you want to be kind… You are softer than the soul… But when you withdraw… You can be so cold and harsh. Dear one, you can be wild and rebellious… But when you meet him face to face… His charm will make you docile like the earth,.
Throw away your shield and bare your chest… There is no stronger protection than him. In the ocean are many bright strands and many dark strands like veins that are seen when a wing is lifted up. Your hidden self is blood in those, those veins that are lute strings that make ocean music, not the sad edge of surf, but the sound of no shore. December and January, gone. Tulips coming up. Narcissus winks, wondering what will the lightheaded Willow say of such slow dancing by Cypress. The Rose speaks openly to the Nightingale.
Notice how the Green Lily has several tongues but still keeps her secret. Pour it in my mouth. You will only hear what you are ready to hear. There is a place where voices sing your beauty A place where every breath carves your image in my soul. This drunkenness began in some other tavern. There are wild beasts in every cave! If you live with mice, the cat claws will find you.
You were born with goodness and trust. You were born with ideals and dreams. You were born with greatness. You were born with wings. You have wings. Learn to use them and fly. Die in this love! If you die in this love,Your soul will be renewed. Jesus can transform a drunk into gold. If the drunk is already golden, he can be changed to pure diamond. If already that, he can become the circling planets, Jupiter, Venus, the moon. Never think that you are worthless.
God has paid an enormous amount for you, and the gifts keep arriving. When you hear dirty story wash your ears.
When you see ugly stuff wash your eyes. When you get bad thoughts wash your mind. In this gathering there is no high, no low, no smart, no ignorant, no special assembly, no grand discourse, no proper schooling required. There is no master, no disciple. Because I cannot sleep I make music at night.
I am troubled by the one whose face has the color of spring flowers. I have neither sleep nor patience, neither a good reputation nor disgrace. A thousand robes of wisdom are gone. All my good manners have moved a thousand miles away. The heart and the mind are left angry with each other. The stars and the moon are envious of each other. Because of this alienation the physical universe is getting tighter and tighter.
O Love, You who have been called by a thousand names, You who know how to pour the wine into the chalice of the body, You who give culture to a thousand cultures, You who are faceless but have a thousand faces, O Love, You who shape the faces of Turks, Europeans, and Zanzibaris, give me a glass from Your bottle, or a handful of being from Your Branch. Remove the cork once more.
Then the addict will be freed of craving. Sometimes I wonder, sweetest love, if you Were a mere dream in along winter night, A dream of spring-days, and of golden light Which sheds its rays upon a frozen heart; A dream of wine that fills the drunken eye. And so I wonder, sweetest love, if I Should drink this ruby wine, or rather weep; Each tear a bezel with your face engraved, A rosary to memorize your name….
You undid them all at once. Even the smallest hint chases love away like smoke that drowns the freshness of the morning breeze. We might be in pain, physically or emotionally -- we hurt. Often we feel betrayed by life itself, we feel it is unfair and question why we have to go through these struggles. What we don't realize is that these struggles are a gift from life itself. When we come face to face with a struggle, a low point in life, be it an illness, a relationship breakdown or financial ruin, at the time we are lost in darkness.
Having had two brain hemorrhages, I know what it is like to be lost in the abyss of darkness with no slither of hope of any light shining through. You can't see your way out of it, let alone focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. Some refer to this as the "dark night of the soul" -- I call it the emergence of the soul. It is in this place that your soul speaks to you and you begin to realize that you are not your circumstances, but something far greater.
Everything you are going through, every struggle, pain or hardship, is actually a gift. It is a gift because it is in the struggle that you are brought to your knees, where you question the purpose of your life. It is a gift because it asks you to go deeper into yourself and find the gold of who you are. The common saying "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" has a very profound truth to it.
What you overcome in life makes you richer in every way. When you are in that dark place looking for a way out of your hardship, you are faced with two choices: give up or tap into the inner resources that you didn't even know you had, and come through it stronger and more humble than you were before. Life never hands out things that you can't handle.
How you approach it will determine how you come through the other side.