Next Lifetime

My name!
she pointed proudly 
to the end of the row at the parking lot. 
I blinked.
Yes, that could be an A of sorts,
the lines painted to end the slanted spaces,
an upside down A with five crossbars.
And an A could be Amanda. 

My daughter let go of my hand and knelt
to trace the outline.
I returned her smile.
Your name. How nice to see it here! 

There was always something to see
on the way to her preschool across the campus:
striped shadows from a railing,
a dog that turned to smell us,
a tulip with a golden center.
She pulled me to her favorite every morning,
a bas-relief propped above the Hare Krishna table.
It showed a crawling baby, followed by a little boy,
a youth, a man in his prime, then a haggard elder with a cane,
a small light bulb in each chest.
The light glowed a moment in the baby,
traveled on through each—youth, man, ancient—
to disappear, then reappear in the baby.

So the old man is the baby next? she'd ask,
watching the light progress. 
Yes, I'd say, reincarnation too big a word.
But she understood in her own way.
At the store she touched the dress she wanted,
accepted my no to buying it.
That's all right, she said. 
You can buy it later, the next time 
I'm a little girl and you're my Mommy again.



—Sarah Webb

Murmuration

A calligraphy brush,
Dipped in water,
Travels over stone,
In gestures vanishing—
Into molecules, into air—
Every moment an act 
Of creation and erasure.

Starlings luff and billow 
Across the dusky blue, 
Inking arcs and spirals, 
Swellings and dips,
Every act a moment
Of erasure and creation, 
A choreography of meanings
We may only intuit 
From within. 


—Geneve Gil

Hatched

 


—Melanie Alberts

Happiness Needs You

“Happiness doesn’t need you to hold it down. It doesn’t need anything.” Naomi Shabab Nye

But at the days end, 
        when the sun is winding down around the earth
                and the bright reds, yellows, and blues 
                        reach out to touch you, 
        happiness needs you to reach back
                to touch it, 
                        to accept it, 
                to laugh with it in joy.  

Happiness doesn’t need anything, 
        but when the child cries itself into existence, 
                when it receives its first breath 
                        and sees itself in your eyes 
                for the first time, 
        happiness needs you to reach out 
                to touch it, 
                        to accept it, 
                to love it with all your heart.  

Happiness doesn’t need anything, 
        but when the sun is obscured by clouds, 
                when doubt haunts your every thought, 
                        your dreams, 
        happiness needs you to choose, to decide 
                whether happiness is real 
                        or make believe.

Happiness is a choice. Only you can decide.


—Paul Causey

Dharma-Doors


Kim Mosley

Mirrors

Mirrors, in every room, reflect my movements about my home.
Public and private activities noted, one’s fleeting or lingering,
leisurely.

There are blind corners around which I have surprised
a mirror or two. More often I have surprised myself—
alerted to my posture, my attire, a frowning or serious face.

My full gamut of emotions surfaces, unintentionally,
shared in my house of mirrors.
Unlike Walcott’s suggestion to “peel your own image
from the mirror,” I find myself inhabiting this body
costume, with its maintenance requirements.

When something about the lips, the chin, the eyes
combs my attention & appropriately parts it down
through the generations of those who came before me,
I wonder who is showing up through me.

In one mirror or another, perhaps I’ll find that
small space where I am me, a me no one else
can see. 


—Martha Ward

Gathering Pieces…

Hen huddles on her nest, 
egg begins to rock to the 
thumping heart, till beak
pierces a way out, the lights
come on, and scratching out 
a life begins. 

You are a world away, gone
while you had skin in a 
game you would not accept. 
Why would you? It wasn’t you. 
You chose not to be who you were, 
and forfeited the game. 

Nonetheless, the dice rolled forward.
There’s the piece you left on the board.
Lost. Its intelligent capacity for love
lives loose and restless on this field—
a thumping heart, scratching out a life.


—Martha Ward

My Purpose


 This week I had the most authentically spiritual community experience I’ve ever had… and on Zoom no less.

I’m going to try to explain it here, but I feel compelled to mention that words are clumsy, silly things that can’t even begin to express experiences such as these.

— — —

On Wednesday nights I attend a small zen group that rotates through certain themes each week. This week’s them was Gaia meditation — that is, meditation that centers us on the natural world and our place in it.

One of the things that we talk about in zen (and in lots of other traditions) is the ‘interconnectedness of all things’. It’s a truly spiritual concept that requires us to decenter ourselves and our story and see ourselves as we truly are — a small, unique part of the fabric of the ever-expanding universe. In this view of the universe, power is not ‘top down’ and distributed by a version of The Divine that mirrors the ego.

Instead, power doesn’t ‘belong’ to anyone. It moves, it flows. If we attempt to hold on to it for too long we either burn up quickly, or worse, become corrupted before we burn up.

And by ‘power’, I mean Love. The animating, universal creative force with no beginning or end.

This is pretty easy to understand on an intellectual level, but the ideal (at least in zen) is to actually experience it.

So on Wednesday night, our teacher asked us to reflect on a couple quotes about our connection to all other things and beings, and then we sat. It was nice. Afterward there was a short discussion and we talked about the importance of remembering our connectedness to the planet and understanding our consumption of goods that deplete our natural resources. A kind and ethical teaching.

Then we sat again in silence, and by this time it was almost 8pm. I was relaxed and comfortable, still and present. I felt safe and secure with the tiny group of people on my screen — we are regulars on Wednesday nights and I’ve grown to look forward to seeing their faces each week, and hearing their reflections.

Zen meditation encourages us to sit in reality, without actively attaching ourselves to thoughts or ideas. It is the simplest thing in the world, and also, the most challenging. I can usually achieve this state for only a couple moments at a time without judging thoughts barging back in.

During this second sitting period, however, I achieved a stillness of mind for several minutes.

And then something amazing happened.

I suddenly understood.

And by this, I don’t mean I thought about it. I just suddenly KNEW it. It wasn’t an idea. It just was true and I recognized it immediately on a physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual level.

— — —

Three weeks ago today I lost my job. My new job. The one I started last June. The one I was deeply in love with.

If you know me with any degree of intimacy you know what this has done to me. You know how long I’ve been searching for an occupation that I could throw my full self into. That I’ve wanted nothing more in the whole world than to find a place that I could belong and build. That the deepest desire of my heart is to MATTER somewhere. To make a contribution. To do something important and useful.

The past few weeks I have been in a state of deep despair that I shall not describe here for fear of alarming the people that love me. But yes. Absolutely devastated.

My desire for belonging is complicated by familial and religious trauma, making it all the more difficult to understand where I fit in the world. I feel like that baby bird in the book “Are You My Mother?” running around the planet looking for “my people”.

But you know how, in those teenage RomComs, at the end when the boy or girl looks at their loyal friend and realizes they were actually the love of their life and it’s a big ‘AH HA!’ moment?

Well. It was kind of like that.

— — —

During the second meditation period on Wednesday night, I had a knowing. I hesitate to use the word ‘vision’ because I’m not trying to be all mystical here — but let’s be honest. This was legitimately a mystical experience.

Spontaneously, and without thinking, I saw billions of tall cone-like pillars topped with round lights covering the globe. And sprinkled throughout were a few extra tall pillars, that were glowing very bright and pulsing — and when they pulsed, everything around them glowed a little brighter.

And I knew I was one of them — one of the extra tall pillars. For whatever reason, I have been gifted with an extraordinarily large capacity for love. And this is my value in the world. And I am most valuable to the pillars of light around me. Off in the distance I see other extra tall beacons also pulsing and doing the same thing I do. None of us could light up everything — just a limited sphere around us. But all of us together were keeping the world bright.

And I realized that that I don’t generate power, but I do have capacity to receive it and pass it along in great quantities. And that is my goddamn JOB in this world. That is what I am supposed to do.

Because the shorter beacons of light are doing the hard work. They’re in the trenches fighting for justice, truth and goodness — and they need all the power they can get. If the only thing I accomplish in this world is to help the people around me keep fighting with the power of love? Then I will have fulfilled my entire purpose.

I’ve been told many times that I’m a naive fool for believing in the power of love. That my ability to see the best in people, regardless of what they’ve done — and to give generously of myself without asking for anything back is a liability. That my ability to sit with differences and not feel threatened by them, and my belief in the incomprehensible value of every person on this planet is hippie-dippy-bullshit.

I let this feedback define me and I felt silly for splashing around in. such idealistic stuff. But you know what? This isn’t idealistic. It’s the most real and true thing in the world, and it is what I MUST be.

— — — -

But that’s not the end of my experience.

Following the second sitting, whilst in a state of awe at this revelation, I listened to the elder in our group — an 80-something woman — describe the joy of this feeling of interconnection that she’s cultivated over her lifetime of practice. She and our teacher exchanged their truths about this with such humility and brilliance it took my breath away. I soaked in the wisdom and joy of these two people who had been down the path before me, relishing the sheer generosity of spirit that was on display. It was simple. It was pure. It was beautiful.

It was true.

— — —

The next morning I had a call scheduled with a friend I’ve known online for years. She and I had never had an extended 1:1 conversation, and she’s 15 years older than I am — and a very wise woman to boot.

She spoke to me with kindness and love, and she told me without any solicitation (and before I had a chance to even get a word in) that I matter and that I help people online and offline with my honesty and ability to love. She said I make a difference in the world and that I’ve made a difference in her life.

It was the clearest confirmation of my experience there could be.

And then, I felt at peace.

I felt unafraid of death and dying.

I felt like I understood on a cellular level what I must do.

And I understood Maya Angelou’s words:

“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great…”

I have paid the price with my self. I thought for a while it was too much. That I couldn’t afford it.

I didn’t realize how much I have, and that my self is actually the least valuable part of me.

— — — —

You may wonder why I feel compelled to share (or, as some call it, over-share) my experiences. You may wonder if I’ve lost my mind. You might think I’m dabbling in silliness and woo. I can assure you, this is exactly what I should be doing and that my experiences are real.

Finally, I want to say that I have been BLESSED by the community of people I’ve been able to cultivate over the years. And that includes YOU. I belong nowhere, and everywhere. I belong to you, and you belong to me.

I love you.

I love you.

I love you.

And I’m back, baby. 💙


—Amanda Quraishi

Leaves in Memoria

 The sun sets through broken clouds,
reflects off flickering leaves falling
to the ground before
the cold winter sets in.

In a passing moment, 
        their lives reflected 
                before they dissolve 
                away to nothing.  

They are not real. Not now.

Their flesh was only an illusion 
        of every other leaf,
                every other face 
                        that gazed upon them.  

They were the buzzing bee 
        that pollinated its flowers,
                the caterpillar that feasted 
                        on its tender shoots 
                                and laid its eggs among its branches.  

Each leaf was something else 
        experienced a hundred-fold.  

They too were not real. Not now.  

For what once was, 
        death takes away.  
                Becomes something else.  

We loved, we hated.  
        We were sad, joyous.  

Not now.  
        No longer real.  
                Simply were.


—Paul Causey

Tenderness

 




Swaha

A tribute to those affected by the Marshall Fire that occurred in Boulder County, Colorado in December.


When she first told us, she listed out the things most dear:

Two decades of soul collage.
Handmade mosaics in every window.
Process painting.
Gardening.
Children’s art and birth books.
Grandparent’s legacy.
Dad’s meditation shawl.
Her wedding ring.
Her son’s clay turtle.
Rainbow weaving and sunflower and self portrait.
Her other son’s family newsletters and battle scenes and mazes.
Decades of pictures saved on a laptop.
Hammock.
Trampoline.
The porch her son built.
Their cars.
Climbing, camping, skiing, and biking equipment.

All of this that made up not merely a home, but a self-proclaimed sacred space. A part of her, like bones.

Then she said:

Swaha. All is gone.

I have been holding this word – swaha – ever since.

Swaha.
So be it, by the fierce power of agni, the fire.

Swaha.
OK. I surrender. I surrender now. And now. And now.

Swaha.
It is easy to curl into a ball and let the inertia of grief envelop you. It is the greatest courage to let the inertia be alchemized into the gratitude that gets you up and open to all that is being revealed to you.

Swaha.
I am connected now to all of the griefs of the world, for all those who have lost everything.

Swaha.
I am not my possessions. I am something else entirely.

Swaha.
When all has dropped away, the steady gaze and comfort of compassion remains. It lives in our blood, behind our eyes. It helps us to remember the power of the invisible.

Swaha. 
To raise your hands to the sky and say thank you, thank you for all that remains, for all that is not lost, that has not gone.


—Liz Tucker-Rogers

winter booster

 


winter booster
the surprising depth 
of his eyes


—Melanie Alberts

No Resistance

"To offer no resistance to life is to be in a state of ease, grace, lightness. This state is
then no longer dependent upon things being in a certain way, good or bad."
— Ekhart Tolle

I experience a lot of resistance to life. 
I experience a lot of judgment.
Even now as I write, I notice the judgment, the anxious wondering 
whether readers will find my prose articulate, my words clear, 
whether the essence of my message will come through. 
I resist the urge to backspace, delete, as I desperately strive towards
A state where my worthiness isn't dependent 
On judgment, on good or bad.
Ease, grace, lightness. Life has felt anything but. 
Heavy, burdensome, stumbling.
Forgetting what's in the path is part of my path, 
   that the obstacle is the way. 
But I wish there weren't so many obstacles… 
I wish I wasn't in my own way. 
The obstacles of my mind, and my judgment, and my wishing things were different. 
The obstacles of seemingly insurmountable grief and pain and suffering. 
The obstacles of this quivering mountain, threatening to swallow me whole.
But maybe if a landslide is bound to happen, I can learn to ride the wave. 
Become a part of the mountain, be at one with the suffering, be submerged by the
insurmountable. 
Remember that things look steeper from a particular angle. 
Remember that we’re all made of stardust and I can one day be part of the journey others
traverse. 
Indeed, I already am.
Maybe one day my bones will shatter, and my corpse will turn to ash. 
To be scattered into soil, my death and my passing 
To nourish, give life to what’s next to come. 
Death and rebirth into different forms, until I learn that we are all empty and we are all one.
We are all empty, and we are all one, there is no perfect form, These constructs are
judgements; separation - illusion. Emptiness is where we all come, to where we will all return.
If are the universe experiencing itself, this part of the universe is suffering.
And that's okay... it's not good or bad, I need not resist. I need not persist. It just is. It just is. It
just is.


—Maggie Huang