Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I had no one to help me, but the T. S. Eliot helped me

"I had no one to help me, but the T. S. Eliot helped me. So when people say that poetry is a luxury, or an option, or for the educated middle classes, or that it shouldn’t be read at school because it is irrelevant, or any of the strange stupid things that are said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy.

A tough life needs a tough language – and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers – a language powerful enough to say how it is. It isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place.”

Jeanette Winterson


Friday, April 11, 2014

The Still Point

Burnt Norton, II (excerpt)

...At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

T. S. Eliot,  The Four Quartets

Waking Up

From 'A Tale for the Time Being' by Ruth Ozeki:

"Home-leaving is a Buddhist euphemism for leaving the secular world and entering the monastic path, which was pretty much the opposite of what Ruth was contemplating when she pondered her return to the city. Zen Master Dogen uses the phrase in "The Merits of Home-Leaving", which is the title of Chapter 86 of his Shobogenzo.

This is the chapter in which he praises his young monks for their commitment to a path of awakening and explains the granular nature of time: the 6,400, 099,980 moments* that constitute a single day. His point is that every single one of those moments provides an opportunity to re-establish our will. Even the snap of a finger, he says, provides us with sixty-five opportunities to wake up and to choose actions that produce beneficial karma and turn our lives around."

*Setsuna in Japanese, from the Sanskrit kshana

Page 62

Shobogenzo: http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma12/shobo.html

The Gratitude Tense

From 'A Tale for the Time Being' by Ruth Ozeki - another serendipitous find at my favourite second-hand book store, 'The Book Worm'.

"My old Jiko really likes it when I tell her lots of details about modern life. She doesn't get out much anymore because she lives in a temple in the mountains in the middle of nowhere and has renounced the world, and also there's the fact of her being a hundred and four years old. We don't really know for sure how old she is, and she claims she doesn't remember, either. When you ask her, she says, "Zuibun nagaku ikasarete itdaite orimasu ne."

Zuibun nagaku ikasarete itadaite orimasu ne - "I have been alive for a very long time, haven't I?" Totally impossible to translate, but the nuance is something like: "I have been caused to live by the deep conditions of the universe to which I am humbly and deeply grateful."

P. Arai calls it the "gratitude tense" and says the beauty of this grammatical construction is that "there is no finger pointing to a source". She also says, "It is impossible to feel angry when using this tense."

Page 17

And may a slow wind work these words of love around you

Beannacht (Blessing)

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue


When we get out of the glass bottles of our own ego,
and when we escape like squirrels from turning in the cages of our personality
and get into the forest again,
we shall shiver with cold and fright
but things will happen to us
so that we don't know ourselves.

Cool, unlying life will rush in,
and passion will make our bodies taut with power,
we shall stamp our feet with new power
and old things will fall down,
we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like burnt paper.


Their meaning is the same

Searching for the Dharma

You've traveled up ten thousand steps in search of the Dharma.
So many long days in the archives, copying, copying.

The gravity of the Tang and the profundity of the Sung
make heavy baggage.

Here! I've picked you a bunch of wildflowers.
Their meaning is the same
but they're much easier to carry.

Xu Yun, Empty Cloud: The Autobiography of the Chinese Zen Master
Trans. Charles Luck, ed. by Richard Hunn


And what is more generous than a window?

The Patience of Ordinary Things

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they're supposed to be.

I've been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?

Pat Schneider

The best season of your life

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.

from The Englightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry, edited by Stephen Mitchell

Turning to the poem

"I believe in fiction and the power of stories because that way we speak in tongues. We are not silenced. All of us, when in deep trauma, find we hesitate, we stammer; there are long pauses in our speech. The thing is stuck. We get our language back through the language of others. We can turn to the poem. We can open the book. Somebody has been there for us and deep-dived the words. …

I needed words because unhappy families are conspiracies of silence."

Jeanette Winterson

Friday, March 28, 2014

I dream of a quiet man

I dream of a quiet man
who explains nothing and defends
nothing, but only knows
where the rarest wild flowers
are blooming, and who goes,
and finds that he is smiling
not by his own will.

Wendell Berry, from 'Given'

I have to tell you

I have to tell you,
there are times when
the sun strikes me
like a gong,
and I remember everything,
even your ears.

Dorothea Grossman

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

You lost, Bobby!

"In today's America, no child ever loses. There are no losers anymore. Everyone's a winner. No matter what the game or sport or competition, everybody wins. Everybody wins, everybody gets a trophy, no one is a loser. No child these days ever gets to hear those all-important, character building words: "You lost, Bobby!"

"You lost, you're a loser, Bobby!" They miss out on that. You know what they tell a kid who lost these days? "You were the last winner." A lot of these kids never get to hear the truth about themselves until they're in their twenties. When their boss calls them in and says "Bobby, clean the shit out of your desk and get the fuck out of here, you're a loser."

George Carlin

We were all hungry, we were all fed


In the minute it took
to fetch the blue bowl

from the kitchen
to pick the just-ripe

cherries, the blackbirds
had come. They picked

the branches clean, ascending
into their own blue bowl.

Lacking wings, I
look for meaning.

We were all hungry.
We were all fed.

Andrea Cohen

Live from Space

Almost a kind of meditation, as you move from country to country, see ocean depths, continents emerging. Check out the options on the right and left - you can even listen to the music trending in the country the Space Station is flying over, or watch a live video from the Space Station, even listen to the crew speaking to Mission Control, if you happen to be there at the right time. A great way to keep children occupied while they learn amazing facts about the earth and various countries.

Live from Space: The International Space Station

"The International Space Station (ISS) orbits the earth at over 17,000 mph. See the world from the perspective of its astronauts and discover what's happening on the ground right now."

Click on the Explore Earth button in here -  http://livefromspace.com/