Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds will
never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.
Gratitude and love for Mary Oliver, on the 5th anniversary of this Alena Grace blog! Great teachers help us find beauty and truth even in the darkest of times. Her words have strengthened me to know I am here to learn and to love.
As Margaret Renkl so poignantly states in her recent NY times op-Ed 4/5/21: “…as the poets remind us, too, suffering is not our only birthright. Life is also our birthright. Life and love and beauty. ‘When despair for the world’ is all we can feel, as Wendell Berry puts it in The Peace of Wild Things, the world itself —with its wood drakes and its blue herons ‘who do not tax their lives with forethought/of grief’ — may be our greatest solace.’
Keep a fire burning in your eye Pay attention to the open sky You never know what will be coming down
I don’t remember losing track of you You were always dancing in and out of view I must have thought you’d always be around
Always keeping things real by playing the clown Now you’re nowhere to be found
I don’t know what happens when people die I can’t seem to grasp it as hard as I try It’s like a song I can hear playing right in my ear That I can’t sing I can’t help listening
And I can’t help feeling stupid standing ’round Crying as they ease you down ‘Cause I know that you’d rather we were dancing
Dancing our sorrow away Right on dancing No matter what fate chooses to play (There’s nothing you can do about it anyway) Just do the steps that you’ve been shown By everyone you’ve ever known
Until the dance becomes your very own No matter how close to yours Another’s steps have grown In the end, there is one dance you’ll do alone
Keep a fire for the human race Let your prayers go drifting into space You never know what will be coming down
Perhaps a better world is drawing near Just as easily, it could all disappear Along with whatever meaning you might have found
Don’t let the uncertainty turn you around (The world keeps turning around and around) Go on and make a joyful sound
Into a dancer you have grown From a seed somebody else has thrown Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own And somewhere between the time you arrive and the time you go May lie a reason you were alive, but you’ll never know
Through the lense of Love, we experience the richness of life-pulsing, welcoming, uniting, transcending; and only then do we understand that we belong to each other. And perhaps we begin to realize we’re all walking each other home. Namaste
Only mouths are we. Who sings the distant heart
which safely exists in the center of all things?
His giant heartbeat is diverted in us
into little pulses. And his giant grief
is, like his giant jubilation, far too
great for us. And so we tear ourselves away
from him time after time, remaining only
mouths. But unexepectedly and secretly
the giant heartbeat enters our being,
so that we scream —-,
and are transformed in being and in countenance.
Ken loved John of the Cross and often contemplated his poetry, using inspiration drawn to write prose and prayers, both during his time in the monastery and throughout our 33 years together. I could sense the depth of Love written in text and yet myself, struggled to find its meaning in my life. Everyone who knew Ken, loved him because he was humble and embraced the way of unknowing. It translated into our feeling the warmth of his heart and love.
Without thinking too much, I saved many books from Ken’s collection and am invited over and over to come closer to John of the Cross’s hidden secrets imbedded within his works. Some of these paths, calm me with exquisite resonance. Pema Chodron, writes plainly and to the heart of the practical, about the “glorious” and “wretched” and how one cannot exist without the other. The “dark night” is like this. Ripe with mystery, paradox and uncertainty, within the solitude of the darkness is a return to the infinite…ever watching, welcoming and so patiently waiting for our homecoming.
I have gratitude for the free, daily meditations from the Center for Action and Contemplation, that arrive daily in my email. Fr. Richard Rohr brings many spiritual people from diverse backgrounds and anchors the sharings with a rich, non-dual spiritual depth. It is best I think to reprint the text in its totality from today’s daily meditation. There’s a lot to ponder.
“…the “dark night” as a gift can be misleading because such times of unknowing are almost always endured more than enjoyed. However, the experience of mystery, paradox, and not-knowing brings to our lives a rich and unexpected grounding.” Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM
The following text is reprinted from The Center for Action and Contemplation:
Descriptions of the “dark night of the soul” from the Spanish mystic John of the Cross (1542–1591) have become the marker by which many Christians measure their own experience of unknowing. He fits an entire life spent exploring God’s mystery into memorable poetry, and even dares to call unknowing “an ecstasy”! Here are several stanzas from his poem “Stanzas Concerning an Ecstasy Experienced in High Contemplation”:
1. I entered into unknowing
Yet when I saw myself there
Without knowing where I was
I understood great things;
I shall not say what I felt
For I remained in unknowing
Transcending all knowledge.
. . . .
4. He who truly arrives there
Cuts free from himself;
All that he knew before
Now seems worthless,
And his knowledge so soars
That he is left in unknowing
Transcending all knowledge.
. . . .
6. The knowledge in unknowing
Is so overwhelming
That wise men disputing
Can never overthrow it,
For their knowledge does not reach
To the understanding of not-
Transcending all knowledge. 
John’s poetry is exquisite in its humility—knowing that he does not know, can never know, and doesn’t even need to know! He goes so far as to call this dark night “a work of His mercy, / To leave one without understanding.”  John’s teaching contains paradoxes that are difficult to absorb, but modern readers have the good fortune of many good translations, including that of Mirabai Starr. Like the other friends whose work I have shared this week, Mirabai knows the via negativa, the way of unknowing, personally and intimately, and describes what happens between the soul and God in the “dark night:”
The soul in the dark night cannot, by definition, understand what is happening to her. Accustomed to feeling and conceiving of the Beloved in her own way, she does not realize that the darkness is a blessing. She perceives God’s gentle touch as an unbearable burden. She feels miserable and unworthy, convinced that God has abandoned her, afraid she may herself be turning against him. In her despair, the soul does not recognize that God is teaching her in a secret way now, a way with which the faculties of sense and reason cannot interfere.
At the same time that the soul in the night of spirit becomes paralyzed in spiritual practice, her love-longing for God begins to intensify. In the stillness left behind by its broken-open senses and intellect, a quality of abundance starts to grow inside the emptied soul. It turns out that the Beloved is longing for union with the lover as fervently as she has been yearning for him. . . . God will whisper to the soul in the depth of darkness and guide it through the wilderness of the Unknown until it is annihilated in the flames of perfect love. 
References:  John of the Cross, “Stanzas Concerning an Ecstasy Experienced in High Contemplation,” The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, trans. Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez (Institute of Carmelite Studies: 1979), 718–719.
 John of the Cross, Collected Works, 719.
 Mirabai Starr, introduction to Dark Night of the Soul, by John of the Cross, trans. Mirabai Starr (Riverhead Books: 2002), 20. [Richard Rohr: The best translation in my opinion.]
Rainer Maria Rilke – from the Sonnets of Orpheus (Translated by Stephen Mitchell)
“Plump apple, smooth banana, melon, peach, gooseberry… how all this affluence speaks life and death into the mouth. I sense, observe it from a child’s transparent features while he tastes. What miracle is happening in my mouth. Instead of words, discoveries flow out from the ripe fruit, astonished to be free. Dare to say what “apple” truly is, this sweetness, at first thick, dark, dense then, exquisitely lifted in your taste, grows clarified, awake, luminous, double-meaninged, sunny, earthy, real. Oh knowledge… pleasure, inexhaustible!”
Greetings – It’s been awhile since my last blog entry, but life is about beginnings and endings and beginnings….and today felt inspired by this poem to post again. Here, Rilke, one of my favorite poets, invites us to imagine the unencumbered, child-like delight and intimate experience of being One with our senses. On one level, we find an ordinary, relatable vignette that can transport most of us to a time and place of our own sensual pleasures. Found myself reminiscing about a recent Autumn experience apple picking out on Long Island; such a treat. Spiritual connection with our body- sensual pleasures, sexuality, yoga and breath, kundalini to name a few- is a theme that I plan to include in more of my upcoming blogs.
There is beauty in meeting ourselves in the moment; sometimes this feels vulnerable, lonely, and filled with uncertainty. Though, I have learned that dropping out of the mind fixating on some thought or trying to create a way through, making decisions, trying to understand this or that – we are simply left with sinking into whatever arises in the moment. I’ve warmed to being alone with myself and trusting in all that is here right now. There is an exquisiteness to Being – and being One with the mystery of life unfolding. And as my blog, sub-title reminds…never not now.
Wishing anyone and everyone who is reading this much peace and happiness wherever you are in the world.
This is a repost from Jeff Foster (www.lifewithoutacentre.com)
November 17 at 2:54 PM ·
WHY YOUR LIFE CANNOT GO WRONG
In reality, your world is set up so that nothing happens to you, but everything happens for you – for your awakening, for your growth, for your inspiration, for your exploration – even if you forget that, or sometimes cannot see it, or sometimes fall into distraction and despair.
When there is no fixed destination, you cannot ever lose your destination, so you cannot ever lose your path, so nothing that happens in your life can take you off your path. Your path IS what happens, and what happens IS your path. There is no other.
Everything is a gift on this unbreakable path that you call your life – the laughter, the tears, the times of great sorrow, the experiences of profound loss, the pain, the confusion, the times you believe you’ll never make it, even the overwhelming heartbreak of love – even if you forget that sometimes, or cannot see that sometimes, or lose faith absolutely in the entire show sometimes.
But even the loss of faith in the show is part of the show, and even the scene where ‘something goes wrong’ is not indicative of the show going wrong, and so you are always exactly where you need to be, believe it or not, even if you are not.
Life can be trusted absolutely, even when trust seems a million light-years away, and life cannot go wrong, for all is life, and life is all.
Understand this, know it in your heart, and spirituality is profoundly simple, as simple as breathing, as natural as gazing up at the stars at night and falling into silent wonder.
The universe is more beautiful than you could ever imagine.
– Jeff Foster
A few thoughts: Jeff Foster helps me name experiences and feelings that are hard to identify on my own. And when i read his poetry, something is stirred deep within that is beyond thought. His poetry warms me into deep acceptance of the complicated, sometimes messy path of life. I see his poems as pointers to Love.
Two homecomings sustained my life
and the daily sea, ebbing and rising:
at once I faced the light, the earth,
a certain provisional peace. The moon
was an onion, nourishing
globe of the night, the orange sun
submerged in the sea:
an arrival that
I endured and kept buried until now,
it was my will and here I shall remain:
now my homecoming is the truth. –
I felt it as a blow,
like a crystal nut
shattering on a boulder
and in that way, in a thunderclap, the
the light of the littoral, of the lost sea,
of the sea captured now and forever. –
I am a man of so many homecomings
that form a cluster of betrayals,
and again, I leave on a frightening
in which I travel and never arrive
my single journey is a homecoming. –
And this time among seductions
I was afraid to touch the sand, the
of this wounded and scattered sea,
but accepting of my unjust acts
my decision fell with the sound
of a glass fruit that shatters
and in this resounding blow
I glimpsed life,
the earth wrapped in shadows and sparks
and the cup of the sea below my lips. –
In Mahayan Buddhism, Bodhicitta is sometimes referred to as “intelligent heart” in that both wisdom and compassion are equally necessary for spiritual growth to occur. That sounds really enlightened. And it is an aspiration. But what if we don’t feel Buddha like at all? Our poet here has a way of keeping it real- this experience of being human is complex. And it isn’t all warm gratitude and sunny bliss. Am I brave enough to meet the feelings that come from being cracked open? Here is where light meets shadow. As daylight falls, can I trust that the night sky will hold me? Can I be with the fire burning deep within my belly and an intensity of longing and unmet desire. Is there a choice? What would it mean to lean in deeper? What do I need to know here? “Now my homecoming is the truth”. Perhaps I am a “woman of so many homecomings”. We are made of stars. This is true. I may “never arrive anywhere” and that’s quite ok.
Absence, hear thou my protestation
Against thy strength,
Distance, and length;
Do what thou canst for alteration:
For hearts of truest mettle
Absence doth join, and Time doth settle.
Who loves a mistress of such quality,
His mind hath found
Beyond time, place, and all mortality.
To hearts that cannot vary
Absence is present, Time doth tarry.
My senses want their outward motion
Which now within
Reason doth win,
Redoubled by her secret notion:
Like rich men that take pleasure
In hiding more than handling treasure.
By absence this good means I gain,
That I can catch her,
Where none can watch her,
In some close corner of my brain:
There I embrace and kiss her;
And so enjoy her and none miss her.
(Thoughts on this selection.)
There is a tender power and pain in the absence of being with a beloved. Though our poet wonders as do I, if we ever really separate from authentic Love. For being seen, truly seen, awakens Consciousness and Consciousness recognizes Itself. Feelings of connection that evoke one’s deepest essence remain. I am not alone.