As we turn inward during these coming days of Autumn, I am struck by this stunning poem that I discovered while looking through some papers today. From Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. The photo was taken at Machu Picchu during my 2006 pilgrimage to that holy land. I love these llamas. Such beauty. Peace.
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
This one time upon the earth,
let’s not speak any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be a delicious moment,
without hurry, without locomotives,
all of us would be together
in a sudden uneasiness.
The fishermen in the cold sea
would do no harm to the whales
and the peasant gathering salt
would look at his torn hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars of gas, wars of fire,
victories without survivors,
would put on clean clothing
and would walk alongside their brothers
in the shade, without doing a thing.
What I want shouldn’t be confused
with final inactivity:
life alone is what matters,
I want nothing to do with death.
If we weren’t unanimous
about keeping our lives so much in motion,
if we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would
interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death,
perhaps the earth is teaching us
when everything seems to be dead
and then everything is alive.
Now I will count to twelve
and you keep quiet and I’ll go.
Translated by Stephen Mitchell
In honor of the stunning harvest moon last night on the Equinox! The harvest moon is the full moon at and about the period of fullness that is nearest to the Autumnal Equinox. Here the two leaf goddesses, representative of the Sacred Feminine, embrace the moon while the bears symbolize hibernation or the inwardness of the spirit as they march toward the west which is the cardinal direction associated with Fall. The dream catcher in the center adds to this theme where the jeweled net of Indra (from the Buddhist tradition) invites us to remember that we are all interconnected in the web of life. Prints are available. Please contact me through my web site for more information.
This quote is from one of my favorite movies. Dead Poets Society. “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race and the human race is full of passion. Medicine, law, business…all noble professions but poetry, beauty, romance, love…this is what we stay alive for.” – John Keating (played by Robin Williams)
I remember being very inspired by this film twenty years ago when it came out. In the midst of my grief and searching for answers to the meaning of life I found poetry. Poetry speaks to my soul and continues to inspire me daily as any reader of this blog will discern as I share many poems here. Here’s one from one of my favorite contemporary poets. Feel free to share one of yours!
by David Whyte
It doesn’t interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong or feel
If you know despair or can see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes
saying this where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequence of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.
I have heard, in that fierce embrace, even
the gods speak of God.
From my September Newsletter:
On the eve of 9/11, I feel called to share again this painting inspired by a mystical vision that I experienced following the “Day of Remembrance” ceremony that took place in the wake of the terrorist attacks. It feels relevant in light of the controversy surrounding the current threat to burn the Qur’an and the building of a mosque near ground zero. Both of which fuel more divisiveness at a time when we need to come together as a people in order to best serve the healing of our world–this beloved Earth and her creatures (human and non-human) which are in peril during this evolutionary time.
There is a long history of mystics from all our religious traditions and many books written on mysticism, with an equal number of definitions unique to each individual. For me, the few moments of mystical awareness that I have been blessed to experience have included a feeling of non-duality and oneness with all creation: opening the heart to love and compassion for all beings. In The Mystic Heart, Wayne Teasdale writes:
“Mystical spirituality is also unitive; it seeks integration with the infinite. All theistic types of mysticism are interested in this integration, for the goal is to be invited into a permanent, divine union with God. This unity is the heart of all mysticism. It is awareness of non-duality and non-separation, of no distance between ourselves, the ultimate mystery, and all other beings.”
The last sentence, especially, speaks to my experience. Such was the case during the “Day of Remembrance” ceremony facilitated by leaders from our local Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and Native American communities. There was such love present in the days and weeks following the tragedy of 9/11 and people of all faiths (and no faith) came together as One. That was the world I wanted to live in. A world with heart and compassion for all our fellow citizens. I had a vision of this painting, of holding the love, while riding the MAX home that night. It is a reminder for me of the love that we all felt during those dark days–and a vision of hope for the future.
My heart has become capable of every form: it is a pasture for gazelles and a convent for Christian monks, a temple for idols, and a Ka’ba for the pilgrims; it is a tablet of the Torah, and the book of the Koran. I profess the religion of Love, and whatever direction its steed may take, Love is my religion and my faith.
-Ibn Arabi, 12th c. Sufi
As always, I welcome your comments.
On the importance of carving out time to simply be. “More and more I find that is the issue: how to create time, how to create buffers around us so that we are doing nothing. I think that may be our biggest disease right now–the disease of busyness. With all these modern conveniences that are supposed to be time-savers, I think we’ve never had less time. So I think creating open space, time to do nothing, time to love, time to be, time to dream, to think, to walk, is its own act of civil disobedience.” -Terry Tempest Williams (In an interview with Michael Toms, New Dimensions Radio.)
I haven’t posted here in weeks. Carving out time in the fading days of summer to “be” without stress nor the desire to do more than that while attending to the necessities of everyday living. Some activity in the studio–new sculpture and painting in progress–but allowing time to dream them into being. Spaciousness. Silence. Even though fire is the element of summer what I have been most alive to has been the element of air. The wind. The feel of it on my skin, watching the movement of the leaves in the trees, the birds playing at the feeder, and the breath. Spirit. In Hebrew, Ruah is the word for breath but also for spirit. Air, breath, spirit are one. Air is the one element (out of the four including earth, fire, water) that we can not see but is most essential to life itself and perhaps most taken for granted. In The Spell of the Sensuous, David Abram writes, “The air, we might say, is the soul of the visible landscape, the secret realms from whence all beings draw their nourishment. As the very mystery of the living present, it is that most intimate absence from whence the present presences, and thus a key to the forgotten presence of the earth.” By being present to the air we breathe, we remember the sacredness of life, in this present moment. I have often felt that the most radical thing we can do is slow down and the quote above by Williams reinforces that for me. It is an on-going practice. And not always easy as it can open up emotional wounds that have been suppressed by the busyness of life. (A therapist or spiritual director can be of support during this time as it has been on my own journey.) Slowing down doesn’t mean we are lazy or that we don’t do our work in the world. We tend to our lives but we become mindful of the places where we create more stress than is necessary? In the desire for more stuff, more money, or the search for fame or the perfect partner? All the striving, which the Buddha recognized as the source of our suffering (along with our aversions). Simplifying our wants and our desires in order to live a more balanced, peaceful life. We only get one twirl around the dance floor of life so, for me, I want to be as present to life as possible. To beauty. Love. Art. That’s what’s been on my mind these last few weeks. How about you?