Wednesday, September 30, 2009


today marks eight hundred and one years since the birth of the great sufi poet and mystic jalalu'ddin rumi, also known as mevlana. he lived in thirteenth century konya in central turkey, where the mevlevi order of dervishes (commonly known as whirling dervishes) have their origin.

his work was to share a message:

why should i seek?
i am the same as he.
his essence speaks through me.
i have been looking for myself!

much of rumi's writing uses the metaphor of the passion of lovers to describe the relationship between man and God.

the inner pilgrim wraps himself in the light of the holy spirit, transforming his material shape into the inner essence, and circumambulating the shrine of the heart, inwardly reciting the name of God. he moves in circles because the path of the essence is not straight but circular. its end is its beginning. abdul qadir jelani (about ad 1077)

rumi saw inside the metaphor of love and passion and in that seeing he sank deep into the connection between all things in all ways.

it is entirely about love. it is entirely about passion. the terms of those two states become richer and more beautiful as the knowing of them becomes less connected to this earthly existence (needs and wants and expectations) and more about becoming aware of and connected to the wholeness of everything.

if you could get rid of yourself just once, the secret of secrets would open to you. the face of the unknown, hidden beyond the universe would appear on the mirror of your perception.

search, no matter what situation you are in. o thirsty one, search for water constantly. finally, the time will come when you will reach the spring.

the minute i heard my first love story i started looking for you not knowing how blind i was. lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. they’re in each other all along.

and if he closes before you all the ways and passes, he will show you a hidden way which nobody knows.

keep strenuously toiling along this path, do not rest until the last breath; for that last breath may yet bring the blessings from the knower of all things.

like the hunter, the sufi chases game; he sees the tracks left by the musk deer and follows them. for a while it is the tracks which are his clues, but later it is the musk itself which guides him.

choose a master, for without him this journey is full of tribulations, fears, and dangers. with no escort, you would be lost on a road you would have already taken. do not travel alone on the path.

whoever travels without a guide needs two hundred years for a two-days’ journey.

last night my teacher taught me the lesson of poverty: having nothing and wanting nothing.

and a poem

not only the thirsty seek the water, the water as well seeks the thirsty.
the garden of
is green without
and yields many
other than sorrow
and joy.
love is beyond either
without spring,
without autumn,
it is always fresh.

-- jelaluddin rumi

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

i have been here before

"i have been here before.
but when or how i cannot tell:
i know the grass beyond the door,
the sweet keen smell,
the sighing sound, the lights around the shore."

dante gabriel rossetti sudden light (1854)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

the elevation

it sometimes helps to rise above as much of what we know as "it all" as is possible. the rewards are often short and just as often quickly forgotten. but the feeling of release from the tangled webs of daily life is palpable and healing.

the elevation

above the valleys, over rills and meres,
above the mountains, woods, the oceans, clouds,
beyond the sun, past all ethereal bounds,
beyond the borders of the starry spheres,

my agile spirit, how you take your flight!
like a strong swimmer swooning on the sea
you gaily plough the vast immensity
with manly, inexpressible delight.

fly far above this morbid, vaporous place;
go cleanse yourself in higher, finer air,
and drink up, like a pure, divine liqueur,
bright fire, out of clear and limpid space.

beyond ennui, past troubles and ordeals
tthat load our dim existence with their weight,
happy the strong-winged man, who makes the great
leap upward to the bright and peaceful fields!

the man whose thoughts, like larks, take to their wings
each morning, freely speeding through the air,
- who soars above this life, interpreter
of flowers' speech, the voice of silent things!

charles baudelaire
translated by james mcgowan

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


welcoming chance as my friend.

to be open to possibilities that come in the door
unbidden and yet welcome,
while immersed in features of the world that are predicated on predictability.

to have the personal and professional skillset
that not only allows the possibility of chance events
but also to embrace and apply the learning
that arrives inside those events.

to be in this world but not of it.

"the kind of association that arises from meeting hazard is like making a move in a game and once that move is made, it is made, and a new situation arises. you do not think you would somehow improve the game by playing the same move over and over, yet people often think that somehow a society would be improved if it could be perpetuated or a relationship would somehow become more merely by its continuing. so long as the situation that makes the relationship right exists, it can be right; when it does not exist, it cannot be right." anthony blake

Saturday, September 12, 2009

the world like a passer-by

"newberry window" william conger 1990.

"i sit at my window this morning where the world like a passer-by stops for a moment, nods to me and goes." rabindranath tagore

there are days when the world passes by as i sit and listen to the sound of my own voice. the voice unpacks the days and nights - useless heaps of information and experience that shouldn't have happened, don't need to be there, have no value. somehow they fill an emptiness - it's the emptiness that i seek.

in that emptiness is all the fullness i've ever craved - the fullness that has occupied my every waking thought and which i have tried to fool myself into believing has been fulfilled through all the transitory distractions this world has to offer.

sometimes i just want to sit and look through the window of steven and hear nothing. nothing at all. and then allow the allness of everything to flood in.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

fear of the inexplicable

i was never comfortable with the social niceties of friendship. i knew the terms but didn't learn them.

by choice.

perhaps that's unhealthy, perhaps that's incomprehensible to most. perhaps that's wrong.

despite moments of self-recrimination and self-doubt - particularly questions related to self-worth i have held fast to this relational piece.

i see myself as connected to people with whose lives i was intended to intersect - for better or for worse (and i think that's why inpart, in the orthodoxy of christian marriage that phrase is so pointedly there!), adding the artifical architecture of friendship to these connections would trivialize their significance.

my deepest and most profound relationships are timeless - they are not judged by the terms of this world - they are enriched by the terms of this world and others. they enrich this world and others.

i have been blessed to know extraordinary and beautiful people spirits who have brought unconditional love and joy into my life and for whom i have felt unconditional love and shared my joy in their very presence. sometimes these people spirits leave or are left. our connection ends. in the terms of this world there is sadness, loss, anger, hurt.

rainer maria rilke unpacked this soulful experience in his prose work fear of the inexplicable.

but fear of the inexplicable has not alone impoverished the existence of the individual; the relationship between one human being and another has also been cramped by it, as though it had been lifted out of the riverbed of endless possibilities and set down in a fallow spot on the bank, to which nothing happens. for it is not inertia alone that is responsible for human relationships repeating themselves from case to case, indescribably monotonous and unrenewed: it is shyness before any sort of new, unforeseeable experience with which one does not think oneself able to cope.

but only someone who is ready for everything, who excludes nothing, not even the most enigmatical, will live the relation to another as something alive and will himself draw exhaustively from his own existence. for if we think of this existence of the individual as a larger or smaller room, it appears evident that most people learn to know only a corner of their room, a place by the window, a strip of floor on which they walk up and down. thus they have a certain security. and yet that dangerous insecurity is so much more human which drives the prisoners in poe's stories to feel out the shapes of their horrible dungeonsand not be strangers to the unspeakable terror of their abode.

we, however, are not prisoners. no traps or snares are set about us, and there is nothing which should intimidate or worry us. we are set down in life as in the element to which we best correspond, and over and above this we have through thousands of years of accommodation become so like this life, that when we hold still we are, through a happy mimicry, scarcely to be distinguished from all that surrounds us. we have no reason to mistrust our world, for it is not against us. has it terrors, they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abysses belong to us; are dangers at hand, we must try to love them. and if only we arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now still seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust and find most faithful. how should we be able to forget those ancient myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.

rainer maria rilke

Saturday, September 5, 2009

i am this one walking beside me

juan ramon jimenez was born into a banker's family but left much of that world behind when he took up writing.
(otto freundlich 1924)

a powerful sense of self and selflessness is revealed in his poem "i am not i" . . . .

i am not i.
i am this one
walking beside me whom i do not see,
whom at times i manage to visit,
and whom at other times i forget;
the one who remains silent while i talk,
the one who forgives, sweet, when i hate,
the one who takes a walk when i am indoors,
the one who will remain standing when i die.

that takes flight in his expansive poem "full consciousness" . . . (paul klee "ancient sound")

you are carrying me, full consciousness, god that has desires,
all through the world.
here, in the third sea,
i almost hear your voice: your voice, the wind,
filling entirely all movements;
eternal colors and eternal lights,
sea colors and sea lights.

your voice of white fire
in the universe of water, the ship, the sky,
marking out the roads with delight,
engraving for me with a blazing light my firm orbit:
a black body
with the glowing diamond in its center.

an excellent and insightful overview and critique of juan's thinking and work can be found here. a beautiful meditation on his writing can be found here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

finding equilibrium

all night long listening to the winds wandering through the streets.
all night long listening to this house creaking and cracking.
all night long listening to the sound of my own thinking.

thinking about the place of work in my life.

sleep is not an option.

how to waken on my own terms?

i came across this image years ago - it's familiar to many who love impressionist art. entitled "a bar at the folies bergere" it is the work of edouard manet alternately reviled and revered for his depictions of nineteenth-century parisian life.

"suzon stands alone in a crowded room. the look on her face is detached, melancholy, distracted from her job serving at the bar in the vast crowded room reflected in the glass behind her. there is a locket around her neck that is a token of another life, a love a long way from this job.

this is an unusual portrait because it is of someone at work, and someone who to our eyes is defined by her work and is profoundly unhappy with it. she is alienated from her surroundings, as if there is a glass pane between her and everyone else in the room - the drinkers, chatters-up, lovers, liars, thieves and businessmen.

she has both hands firmly on the bar as if she needs to touch something solid, in case she should be carried away by the vortex of light and shapes reflected in the mirror.

there is no attempt to make the image cohere: there is, as contemporary critics pointed out, an inconsistency to the relationship between the reflections in the mirror and the real things.

the dislocation of suzon's world is deliberate. paris is a hall of mirrors where suzon floats helplessly, clinging to her bar."
(excerpted from an article by jonathon jones in the guardian)

it is this dislocation and incoherence that reaches out from the painting to echo once again the question that revolved in my head throughout the night. how can i make sense of my daily work in my life? what place and purpose does it hold in allowing me to develop both my inner and outer life?

an answer . . . .

"one’s career in life"

"what is truly useful is to be able to accept that one’s limitations in outer life can act as a hindrance to engaging in the search. it’s very hard to accept this, but i can tell you that this acceptance can give an extraordinary impulse for development to both the inner and the outer life.

as to the question of what kind of work to choose, there is no ready-made answer. it depends. a person should examine the situation and consider why he might decide to do this or that. but on the whole it can be said that we need a relationship with the outer world. we need to find something to do that we care about. we need to be appreciated, we need to feel useful, to feel that what we do has a value.

it is not an easy challenge in a society which is not made for this inner work, which doesn’t understand anything about it, where people spend all their energy on their careers. so how to manage?

those who really accept the challenge will have to find a way to their own equilibrium. they will have to discover how to obtain what they want and to keep enough time and energy and emotional freedom for their inner search. they will become wiser, more apt. and they will develop abilities which have been lying dormant in them.

but an individual who seeks to develop his life capacities must be sure to keep in his mind and in his feelings the reason for which he is doing this. he must not allow himself to be devoured by his efforts to improve his outer life. in this, he will also be better able to understand his fellow human beings, because he himself will always be feeling tempted by life, tempted to go further and further in that direction. and if he goes too far, life will swallow him up, because life is like that. it’s always pressing us to give more to it.

in anything we do, we must never forget our aim, our central, essential value: to return again and again to this inner presence which opens us to a broader dimension.

we see from all we have said that this work has to do with living, an art of living with oneself, with opposite tendencies—those of our automatism and those which will open us to another dimension and create a harmony, a balance, and a better functioning of the whole of our nature".

pauline de dampierre