Not Afraid

Beyond mind and words
there is a pasture.
 
Spirit takes aim there,
lets an arrow loose.
 
Pierced through the heart
I stagger, then fall down.
 
After a season, all that remains
in the tall swaying grasses:
 
a bleached skull leaking dark light,
a brief assortment of immaculate bones.
 
Scoured smooth by the same force
which once adorned them in supple flesh,
they’ve achieved an elegant simplicity –
 
no longer pining to satisfy desire,
nor regretful of what remains undone.
 
Stacked in a heap at the doorway of dusk,
the sole remains of a beautiful corpse, in the play
of time their destined role — a choreography of dust.
 
Relaxing now in the bliss of all rendered things,
they quietly blend with these words in the same way
starlight sifts through the shell of this infinite night:
 
not afraid, not afraid,
in their own way, brightly shining.
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Impermanence

I love the long shadows cast by trees
in the early morning sunlight.

I love that life is brief,
and that nothing here will last.

I love that even the strongest memories
will fade, leaving only this immaculate presence.

What destiny could be more merciful,
but to shine a while and then to disappear?

The poignant beauty of existence is revealed
in its evanescence — that perfect kiss, that blessing.

Everything we know and cherish will pass.
When resistance to this collapses, we become
blissful — beyond all hope or fear, beyond regret.

Letting go of even the slightest clinging, we become
that gash of brilliant light at sunset, gracefully dissolving
into the starry splendor of the vast oncoming night.

 

CascadeMorning 2

Nothing More

“Even if you succeed in being the owner of a trillion worlds,
unless you can curtail your plans from within with the feeling
that nothing more is needed, you will never know contentment.”

~Longchen Rabjam

Here is a true miracle of the natural world:
a bare stick protruding from the quiet earth
suddenly blossoms with fresh green leaves!

Mostly, we pass right by without even noticing.
Our incessant wanting has narrowed our vision,
cast a hard shell of blindness around our heart.

This is the paradox: the perfect seeks perfection,
yet can never become what it already is, regardless
of how long it searches, or how much it accumulates.

A life force animates every creature in the universe,
it’s the vital energy of pure desire which illuminates
the galaxies with untold billions of fire-fed stars.

Call it Love or call it God, but this divine life force
wants to do something with us, to magnify itself
through us to the point of full self-awareness.

But stop for a moment, stand still and feel
with all of your senses — already all around us,
nature without reserve reveals the great perfection!

There is nothing we can do to make it more perfect
than it already is, nor is there any way to manipulate
life to achieve what we imagine will satisfy us at last.

All we need do is step out of the way, allow that force
of life, of love, to live us without fear or limitation,
and let our soul blossom with fresh green leaves.

Autumn

The afternoon leans in closer,
pushes up softly against my senses,
pauses, and then whispers “Autumn”.
 
Standing still, rake in my hands,
I sniff the season’s wafting aromas
like an eagerly curious canine.
 
Last month they were dropping tentatively,
as if they weren’t sure whether to stay or go,
but it’s October now, and the leaves here
are finally beginning to fall in earnest.
 
They know that there’s no going back —
this is their time to mount the forest pulpit
and sermonize about impermanence.
 
Any little breeze, and another tears off
and goes sailing through the air, bearing
crinkled-up news about old age and death.
 
We assume this leafy mail isn’t addressed
to us, even though the evidence is convincing —
everything changes, takes birth, thrives for a while,
and eventually fades away, as if it never happened.
 
How much of the humble dust beneath our feet
is composed of our ancestors’ remains?
 
Arising and vanishing is the way of things,
yet there is that, motionless even in the midst
of the drama, which is never implicated by change.
 
I was here before the long parade of ancestors.
Births came upon me, lives came upon me,
deaths came upon me, so many times
that I eventually lost track.
 
Truly, every life is its own story —
charming, poignant, mysterious, or sad —
yet whether we finally appreciate it or not,
it still utterly fascinates us, which is why
we typically keep coming back for more.
 
Let the leaves fall, let the rain fall, and the snow,
and the cleansing Spring winds, let them blow,
and the bounty of Summer — all is good.
 
Take your Darling by the hand or go alone,
wade out into it, this majestic emptiness,
and be astonished, again and again,
just holding a leaf in your hand.
 

Original Face

Hey Old Man, look at you — sitting and daydreaming,
gazing out into empty space as if something new
might appear, something not seen before.
 
Your tea has grown cold in its cup
while you just stare and stare.
 
Did you imagine that you’re here to be entertained?
If so, have you been enjoying the show?
 
How much of it have you already forgotten,
and how much more is destined to evaporate,
as if it never really happened at all?
 
You babble on about “love beyond conception”,
but what good has that ever done anyone —
a loose tongue flapping in the void?
 
Empty of any solidity, you still stumble about
as if there was an objective world that you could
juggle to achieve some measure of control,
although by now you might just wonder:
“to what end?”
 
Maybe you are a little mad, or even more than a little.
Anything can happen in a dream, but what will be
when you’ve finally had enough of dreaming?
 
Perhaps at last you will be done with every fascination.
You will be done with all absorbing self-meditation.
You will finally be done with obsessively
exploiting the menu of experience.
 
You will relax and leave your body alone.
You will let go and leave your mind alone.
 
You will leave things just as they are,
because there is no other option
that makes any sense.
 
Nothing to claim, to grasp, to own.
Nothing to fear, avoid, or resist.
 
There will be nowhere to fixate an identity
because no identity will adhere to empty space.
 
That empty space is full of grace.
Here is your original face:
 
Aware
 
Silent
 
Smiling

 

Daydreaming

Afternoon amid the ancient Sequoias, in reverie
beneath an arc of translucent green leaf canopy,
a young child daydreams at the edge of a brook,
entranced by the play of water-skimming spiders.
 
From the deeper pools, little multi-colored carp
rise languidly to feed on the crumbs of time . . .
How many seasons come and go, unnoticed?
 
Memories, soft ripples spreading over stillness,
lapping at the banks – nothing really changes,
though nothing ever stays the same.
 
Nearby, ripe and fragrant with summer’s nectar,
blackberries swell flamboyantly over an old deer path
winding its way down to the cool inviting stream.
 
Purple skins luxuriate in the sun’s generous warmth,
each bulging berry bursting in its own perfect time,
one after the other spilling their syrupy essence
in the same way everything eventually pours out
of its own skin, an offered gift from life to life.
 
Form and emptiness, emptiness and form —
two twining smoke vapors – spiral higher,
higher into a darker blue, while somewhere,
lovers embrace again after lifetimes apart;
a teacup spills from an old woman’s grasp;
a shocked thief in the midst of his crime
suddenly catches himself in a mirror;
and a young child sleepily looks up,
then slowly closes his eyes again,
lounging near a murmuring stream,
dreaming, dreaming, dreaming . . .

What They Are

1.
 
Is it not the ruthlessness of light that strips us,
one by one, of light’s beguiling illusions?
 
What remains, once the fictions of illumination
we have cherished are revealed for what they are?
 
At dawn, light spreads evenly over sage and fool.
 
At noon, lazy carp graze silently in willow’s shade.
 
At dusk, bonfires along the shore blaze up against
the dark immensity that reduces them at last to ash.
 
At midnight, no word.
 
 
2.
 
An intermittent freezing drizzle shrouds
a light-torn sky; from vaporous snowfields
a diamond sutra forms, white narcissus opens.
 
Dreaming of the spirit world, etched stones
slumber while this old good-for-nothing
smokes the pipe of evanescence.
 
Tonight the gods are silent, yet in the dark
a lone wolf’s cry expresses wondrous power.
 
In reply, the restless wind, whirling around
some random flakes of drifting snow, agrees.

Waking Up Is Hard To Do

My favorite miracle:
 
just appearing here, awake and aware,
with nothing up my sleeve but air,
and nothing before or after!
 
Whatever happens otherwise
is not unlike the made-up stuff
mind fashions while we dream.
 
Some say life is but a dream —
we teach our children to sing along
while they row their boats downstream.
 
Whether we sing as we row or not,
we still fail to recognize our original face
though we all imagine we’re on the case.
 
Even those who claim some secret
special knowledge rarely have a clue.
 
After all, it’s easy enough to close our eyes
and drift along in dreams, but when it gets
right down to it, waking up is hard to do!

Waiting

 
 
From out of the haze of the red dust towns
I crawled towards this mountain in a stupor,
an amnesia, urged on by some faint impulse
sprung from nowhere, pushing ever forward
in a dream of motion, as if these words
themselves were my forgotten feet.
 
Every direction is an experiment,
as is living, loving, or even
appearing here at all.
 
Whatever is known, felt, seen,
or remembered isn’t going to last,
so why count on any of it?
 
Knowing
merely obscures,
feeling mostly complicates,
seeing is deceiving, memory
just gives fantasy a place
to park and reminisce.
 
I put no faith in the conscious.
 
Today my mouth is in ruins;
my will, a delicate floating feather.
 
Persisting in a personal catastrophe,
confounded yet by beliefs and expectations
 
(even those that tend to rule me
without my knowledge or consent),
 
I stagger, dazed, heart vibration pulsing,
waiting here beyond hope and fear
for whatever else this emptiness
can materialize to show me.
 
Just one touch shy of coming to life,
everyone is waiting like verdigris statues
in crumbling mossy temples of mind, frozen
in hopeful poses, once gleaming marble, now
corroded with the flaking particles of inevitable
compromises made to achieve what never mattered.
 
And yet, neither time nor frailty can ever eliminate
the heart’s deepest desire, an impossible yearning
identical with my own soul’s breathing song –
the relentless motive to fully lose oneself
in the pure mystery of all that manifests,
thrives, and ultimately disappears
in this conspiring transience
of form and emptiness.
 
With tender regard
for each small murmur rising
from innocent green garden shoots –
 
how could I not be enamored of this dream
of life, and its every poignant weakness?
 
Regardless,
as long as I try to grasp
or futilely cling to any of it,
it will all continue to evade me.
 
Alternately,
if I let it take me,
it will naturally become me —
my heart’s deepest yearning fulfilled.
 
I’ve come to care for the things of this world
by submitting to the very same touch
that impersonally animates them –
 
the same touch that grants the universe
the miraculous power of life itself.
 
My birth did not increase nature,
my death will not diminish it.
 
That’s merely the ineffable display
of a dream flashing within a larger dream.
 
Truly, I could die right now, vanish
as if I was never born, yet everything
will still be waiting, waiting for that touch.

To Understand

Sometimes I stare, still disbelieving,
at the charred ruins of my burnt ambition,
and the futility of all my former knowledge.
 
How swiftly the fire of recognition, once ignited,
showed me there is nothing we can cling to,
not a thing which we can claim or own.
 
You ask from whence I come.
I answer, “Here”.
 
These ashes made a fertile womb,
and somehow a living sprout of light
has pushed up through the silt.
 
Deep gratitude for that light!
 
Whichever way that I turn in the mirror
of this ebony vastness, my own light reflects
back at me. What’s awake is awake in dark
of night, as well as in the light of day.
 
It’s the light within both, the light
in which all appears and vanishes.
 
To the mind, this all-pervading radiance
may appear as darkness, yet even within
the darkness, there still awaits a hidden joy.
 
Now this is difficult, not many will comprehend:
 
within that secret joy itself, there stands a desolate,
crumbling ruin of a palace, stripped of any treasure,
rain freely entering, gently soaking the remnant ashes
from which I’ve come, quietly washing them down
my cheeks like tears — not of sorrow, not of joy,
not of anything within the country of the known.
 
It’s only by letting go and resting in this nowhere
place, ashes smeared across my head, bereft of any
will or hope, that I begin at last to understand.