The drums, the bells
The wind, rain and hail
The birds and oh…..those frogs
The silence and the chanting
The river

The flowers, the food, the incense, the bodies, the offerings

The road going in, the shadows left behind by the practitioners before me …here
The abundance of stars on a clear night, the view from the ridge
The lights ….. and the absence of lights after fire watch
The robes flowing in the dark…beautiful bodhisattvas….sages in the mountains

Waves of emotion
Fears of uncertainty giving way to unlimited joy, unlimited space, unlimited love, unlimited freedom within restriction, unlimited acceptance, unlimited beauty
Cold crisp mountain air, silky hot springs water

The gate upon entering
Morning wake up bell, work circle, meal chant and offering, the shoe racks,  the flashlights, back door to the kitchen, the springs, the mountains, awakening the spirits, ceremonies, the hugs goodbye
The gate upon leaving
My last bow

— Lysa Allen

You Already Knew

You Already Knew

Something ancient in you already knew
how to love the unbeautiful gasp of dying,
how to bury your own bones with your beloved’s,
how to walk yourself, lonely, home.

Even when your grief turned from sorrow
and rose frantic in sweat-drenched dreams
of regret and self-loathing,
of what you might have done and didn’t—

Even when you stirred each morning,
your arms reaching into cool air for his warm body,
which you loved more than anything,
more than your own life—

Even then, your life did not abandon you.

You may have called loved ones by the wrong name for a while,
yelled at an old man selling roses at the corner,
wept in the supermarket and forgot what you love.
But this too, all of it, was your belonging—

Your grief took everything you didn't need to survive.
And you survived.

One day you found your fingers
dancing playfully in the air
in time to a song on the radio,
one that you both loved.

You felt the sun pouring through the sitting-room window
onto your face, onto the face
of the memory of your beloved, who
smiled alongside you, comforting you,

reminding you that the unbearable
tenderness of your love
for each other
made no sense and no demands—

And you became again you,
living in your broken open heart,
at times even befriending
the wild, inescapable ache of your longing.

— Emma Skogstad

On Seeing

Prompt:  "We must look a long time before we can see."  — Henry David Thoreau


We Must Look a Long Time

Louis Agassiz, the noted zoologist, gave his graduate student a fish to observe and record what he saw.  The student came back with notes a while later and Agassiz sent him to observe again. And then again. Days of observation.  I suspect that looking at that fish could have lasted a lifetime.  Fish change and stink, but that could be observed too.
We see more and more detail as we look—the spots on the back of the hand, the way the skin pulls, the veins bulge, the skin puffs around the knuckles.  But it isn't just that there is more to see when we take the time.  The way we see changes too.  When I go on my long summer trip across the country—no radio, no person to talk to—my mind clears.  I see the ants on the painted concrete of the bathroom floor—how they congregate around a crumb, discuss their find by moving antennae, by holding still or lurching away—a drama about abundance and caution.  I see the ants because there is less in the way of seeing.
      My teacher says that knowing is the ground we stand on, our self before we define it.  Before “I” see. Then the hissing in my ears like static, the sound of something adjusting on the floor, the creak of a notebook as a hand presses it, the rise and catch of my breath, the sense of sorrow in the throat, rattle of a page, clink, metal slide against metal, this listing, naming—it is all that ground.  Not the clink as a thing but the knowing that is recognition of that clink, the knowing that attaches a word to it.  When I look into that knowing it seems a fire, slow burning but light not smoke.  I hear the rain dove hoo hoo hoo, a sound almost a rooster's crow, a pattern of sound.  But it isn't the dove pattern that matters but the knowing of that sound and pattern.  If we never had a word to put to any of it, it would not matter.
     We count breaths when we sit, or we may be present to the thoughts that arise.  I believe the point is not how many breaths we can count before our minds wander or what the thoughts are, but to bring us closer to that experience of knowing, to have less complication of it.  Knowing simplified so we are in the midst of it, are present to it.  I sense there is a step further than that.  For now I am just present to knowing.  When I write, for me it is much the same process—being present to what is arising, seeing it arise, seeing my mind turn it into words.

— Sarah Webb


See…You Are No Longer Here

I see…you are no longer here
I sense you or a memory of you
Maybe an expectation of a text
Or other communication, but…

I see…you are no longer here
Your image is clear in my mind
As is the sound of your voice
Your laughter, too, but…

I see…you are no longer here
When my sister calls or texts
You pop into my mind
For you were of her, but…

I see…you are no longer here
When I see something about primates
I think about that place
I wanted to visit with you, but…

I see…you are no longer here
A thought comes into my head
A thread of time during a visit
I remember something I forgot to say but…

I see…you are no longer here
But my thoughts are still here
My feelings and memories, too
And I don’t want to see that…
You are no longer here.

I want to see…you…here
Alive, laughing, living, loving,
Curious as always,
Interested in what others
Think and feel and know

So I look longer, harder, deeper into myself
So that I can see you once again
So that I can see more of you
So that I can see what you were
Thinking and feeling
Or perhaps what you weren’t…
So that I can understand why…
You are no longer here.

— Elena Rivera


Death Does Not Part Us

Death does not part us…
nor does it make us separate
There lay your body
I knew it was you
I wanted you to open your eyes
As if waking from a deep sleep
Or a deep meditation
But then, as the hours went by,
you seemed more like an oil painting
A 3D oil painting.

Death does not part us…
Nor separate us
I can still see you
Laughing or quietly listening
I can still feel the love
In your voice, in your hugs.

Death does not part us…
Yes, it was you laying there
But it wasn’t you any longer
For you were no longer there.
And yet I couldn’t
Stop looking at you wanting
Waiting to hear you breathe again.

Death does not part us…
It doesn’t separate us
You are a part of me
and all of us
Who loved you so.

Death does not part us…
You are gone
Yet here you remain
In my mind, I see you
In my heart, I feel you.

Death does not part us…
Like a mighty oak tree
Branches reaching up and out
Roots reaching down deep
We are in every branch, root and leaf
A leaf that falls doesn’t cease to exist
It simply changes form
Giving of its essence
For life to continue.

Death does not part us…
You have fallen from our tree

But your essence
lives on in all of us
Your love, your gentle loving soul
Goes on nourishing us.

Death does not part us…
It is but a new beginning
When a loved one dies
We awaken to a different sense of time
Of being, of what matters
and what doesn’t.

Death does not part us…
Because it is only of the flesh
You live on in the surge of love that rises
When I catch a glimpse in my mind
Of your smile
your laughter
your inquisitive nature.

Death does not part us…
It interrupts a familiar pattern
Seemingly unfinished.

— Elena Rivera


My Dungeon

I sit in my little dungeon
nice and pretty,
Decorated with my favorite things
I enjoy my little place,
The strong bars
keep out the hurt and rejection.
But along with that they stop me from feeling love, care and affection.
I do get lonely sometimes,
But it's safe.

How much longer will I treasure my safety and security,
over creativity and expansion,
joyous sharing and brotherhood.
Am I willing to step out into the open
Am I strong enough to take the negative along with the positive?
Am I willing to risk the very thing I treasure the most.....Myself???

I wanted freedom from others
Not realizing that I was actually fighting for freedom from myself.
The self that keeps me captive to its whims and desires,
The self that has imprisoned me in the walls of this dungeon
The dungeon i so willingly stepped into.

Now I see life from inside my little cell
I wonder how it might be to be out there.
The thought of stepping out makes me shudder,
What is it that I want to share?
Is it even worth sharing?
Who is to say???

Will I step out only to run back in, in terror and fright.
What will it take to finally make that transition into the unknown
To finally put myself out there to be crucified or glorified.

Do I fear glorification more then ridicule??
Until I am fully ready to face myself in truth and honesty,
I sit here in my dungeon...
I, me and myself.

— Rayna Saddler

Compassion Retreat Haiku

Kannon Bosatsu
Hear the cries of our planet
Mercy, love and peace

To sit together
Dissolving into ether
Morning sunrise bell

Incense the witness
In silent meditation
Spark of creation

Together always
We are nowhere and it's now
Radiating love

— Cass Naumann