Monthly Archives: January 2009

to abide

…To abide is to love, is to remain, is to watch, is to bind, is to be in it for the long story, is to stay, is to witness, is to weather the storm, sit in the sun, drink in the rain and so grow to the sun and through the clouds. To abide is to be whole, to be steady, to be clear… One abides by the side of a river, one abides mistreatment, one abides sickness and health, one abides in the light of love. The abiding bridges all, and what it brooks, it brooks because there is something bigger, more important, and maybe, in the end, as Brother Meadows alluded, just something more interesting. What allows us to abide is that which is bigger than us all.

—Christine, in her blog entry on abiding in the Yoga Sutras

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far beyond our own imaginings

To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is to trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our own imaginings. So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear. The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present in the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy, or prediction. That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control.

—Henri Nouwen, 1932-1996


always full, intrinsically complete, perfect, and joyful

In Sanskrit, one of the words for perfection is purna, usually translated as fullness or wholeness. Indian yogic texts tell us that everything in this world arises from and is contained inside one single energy, or shakti. This energy is always full, intrinsically complete, perfect, and joyful. What’s more, it is present in all forms, thoughts, and states of being. That one energy is as much in the dirty dishes in your sink as in the notes of a Mozart violin concerto or the violet eyes of 19-year-old Elizabeth Taylor. When we are in touch with that energy, all dichotomies—light and dark, good and bad, male and female—are resolved, and all apparent imperfections are revealed as part of the whole. To celebrate this amazing fact, in India, a “fullness” mantra is frequently sung after auspicious events. Translated into English, it’s “That is perfect. This is perfect. From the perfect springs the perfect. If the perfect is taken from the perfect, the perfect remains.”

—Sally Kempton, from “Making Peace with Perfection”


the joyous gap

Only when I am quiet and do not speak

Only when I am quiet for a long time
and do not speak
do the objects of my life draw near.

Shy, the scissors and spoons, the blue mug.
Hesitant even the towels,
for all their intimate knowledge and scent of
fresh bleach.

How steady their regard as they ponder,
dreaming and waking,
the entrancement of my daily wanderings and tasks.
Drunk on the honey of feelings, the honey of purpose,
they seem to be thinking,
a quiet judgment that glistens between the
glass doorknobs.

Yet theirs is not the false reserve
of a scarcely concealed ill-will,
nor that other, active shying: of pelted rocks

No, not that. For I hear the sigh of happiness
each object gives off
if I glimpse for even an instant the actual
instant —

As if they believed it possible
I might join
their circle of simple, passionate thusness,
their hidden rituals of luck and solitude,
the joyous gap in them where appears in us
the pronoun I

—Jane Hirshfield, from Given Sugar, Given Salt


the generous pocket

Shoveling Snow with Buddha

In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over the mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm and slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside the generous pocket of his silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.

After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck,
and our boots stand dripping by the door.

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.

—Billy Collins


let go

Do everything with a mind that lets go.
Do not expect any praise or reward.
If you let go a little, you will have a little peace.
If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace.
If you let go completely, you will know complete peace and freedom.
Your struggles with the world will have come to an end.

—Achaan Chah, Thai forest monk