Face Off

Dropping pretensions is a bit
presumptuous. Prying parts 
that have grown into the matter
with us, gotten under our skin
is beyond the cosmetic surgical
scalpel’s perimeters.

What about that gut feeling which
roils at reminders why so&so made 
a miff in one’s middle organs and along
the long intestinal road – that fortitude
has forgone, forgotten, leaving its host
forlorn, not knowing how to return to 
the lungs for a needed grief session. 

Yet, in that despair is undoubtedly where
with a glimmer of care, awareness can
emerge, the dirge of self & projected 
retributions can flow out and float into 
the cloud of unknowing, dissipated into
no where, the face off. 
 

—Martha Ward

White Velvet


White velvet petals, modestly 
moist, rest on dark jade leaves 
giving their magnolia fragrance to the 
warm summer morning. 

Browned bodies of jade, servants to earlier
blooms, lie aground in surrender 
& supplication to reigning beauties. 

These seasonless leaves live in anticipation,
await the appearance of the buds they ache to serve,
enhancing the display of each bloom as it swells
to its peak, only to fall at the feet of their successors,
browning among the leaves.

This ritual, redolent, languid yet attentive. 
Faithful love undone limb by limb, 
leaf & bloom. 


—Martha Ward

—Photo by Dennis Fagan

Being Lazy


We could be lazy, throwing to the wind any aspiration or ambition. We could lie on the beach, close our eyes, and listen to the surf. We could smile at the cactus sprouting new growth and a single blossom. We could watch our disabled squirrel land on the ground so awkwardly. We could watch the sun play hide and go seek with the clouds. We could hold our loved ones, steadily, lazily, without moving, where our breathing becomes one with theirs. We could just sit on a cushion like Buddha and do nothing. We could be lazy and who would notice? Others might be so busy that they wouldn't even see one doing nothing-one simply enjoying the fruits of their simple presence on the Earth. 

++++++++++
Q: I wonder if the Buddha would say he was doing nothing when he sat on the cushion. 


A: I think busy and lazy are states of mind. Maybe there is something like “simply present” that would be a middle way. You wouldn't be laid back, but you also wouldn't be up tight. Where are we on that continuum? The cactus exemplifies that, waiting so patiently through winter and bursting forth in the spring when no one is looking.


I’m Home

 


Like an old friend,
I welcomed myself home today…
as I drove at top speed on the toll road,
with music blasting,
windows down.

Suddenly,
out of nowhere,
I heard myself chortle with glee.

I barely recognized the sound.

Too long you’ve been in exile, child.
Too long you’ve been at the mercy
of your bottomless need.
Too long you chased acceptance
  from misers and thieves.

I've stayed in my lane;
Handed over my power;
Sat in rooms behind curtains,
hidden away from their delicate egos,
leaving their entitlement unchallenged.

They said:
Not your place.
Not your time.
Not your people.

They asked me to shut up.
And as usual,
I obliged.
(Accommodation is my middle name, after all.)

So, for a while,
I wandered alone in the wilderness of my frustration.

Who,
What can I become
That will make them understand
I am here to be loved?

Finally,
at 90 miles per hour,
on a hot and sunny Friday afternoon,
I woke from that awful dream.

I checked the review mirror just to make sure.

Later that evening, I showed up at my own doorstep,
with a crooked grin
and a terrible attitude.
“Where ya been?” I asked.
“I’ve been around. Just waiting,” I replied.
“Waiting for what?”

“For you. To love me.”


— Amanda Quraishi


My Shadow Meets Buddha


— Kim Mosley

++++++++++

Glimpse

There is a man

Whose shadow asks a question.
 


There is a shadow

Whose song is the echo of a bloom.
 


Water pools in a stone bowl,

Unperturbed, without aspiration.
 


A black, three-legged palm of white powder

Has a story to tell.
 


Before it,

Sits a luminous being, his robes
 


Rivulets of light, flowing

In consoling arcs
 


Across his form, and

Down, into river,
 


Cloud,
 


Ocean…
 


Singing what is
 


And will always, never
 


Be again.


— Geneve Gil

++++++++++

Shadows…  

Shadows just impose their view.
They don’t explain themselves.
I am left to figure out who what
where why each crosses my field
of vision.

These transient tracings may be read
literally, often. Object receiving light 
projects shadow. That’s quite straight
forward. But like walking into an ongoing 
conversation, the source and meaning
may appear oblique, when the light
shifts, the shadow must too.

Or it shifts when someone steps into 
the light, and cast a shadow of their
former self, without needing to be seen, 
except for their shape shifting shadow. 

What I know about shadows is there is nothing
there to know. Anyone who is curious can
flip on a light, and out the shadow goes. 
Goes where? It retreats into figures &
fabrics waiting for its next opportunity to 
impose. 


—Martha Ward

++++++++++

Buddha’s Shrine

I see you sitting there,
peaceful, serene, knowing,
not knowing.
The flowers, symbols of your faith sitting around your feet.
The candle at your side is silent,
it sheds no light, yet it shines
from the memory of you.
It speaks on your behalf
and stands as a beacon for others to see
the path you are no longer able to walk.

There is a presence around you.
A shadow standing over you,
dark and insubstantial,
but not inconsequential.
It too is silent.
I think I prefer the candle
with its potential to shed light
upon the world
than the shadow who stands in darkness,
devoid of its own potential, its own light.
Perhaps when the candle is lit,
it will dispel all doubt
casting the shadow aside to melt away into the lite,
to become the light
as I’m sure it was meant to be.

Perhaps, when the candle is lit
and illuminates the shadow,
I’ll discover that the face in the darkness
was only mine.


— Paul Causey

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

What does a Mirror do?

The sun has set, the sky turned black.
The view through the window is now looking back. 
I see you. Can you see me?   
You have eyes, but can they see?

They say the eyes are windows to the soul.
But when I look into your eyes, looking back into mine, 
my mind sees you, in time 
sees me, the person that you stole.

Are you thinking what I am thinking? Or thinking what you will?
Or are you thinking much at all? Alas,
has your mind become so clear, so empty and so still?
Empty mind. No mind, smooth as glass?

I wish that I could have this buddha’s mind I see. 
Within this glass, you look like me,
perfection in duplicity.
But sorely lacking in humanity.  

You mock me while I am looking out, while you are looking in.
What truths do you hold, that in this glass call home?
The life you claim you take within,
save only what I give you from my own.

When I gaze at my reflection,
I see your silence. I hear myself put words into your mouth.
So soft, almost beneath detection.
A northern whisper heading south.

Do you even have a choice?
Of whom or what appears?
For that alone would free your voice
from beneath your cold veneer. 

Speak to me, my face, with words with great inflection.
Speak to me with words, words of your selection.
Talk to me, enlighten me, give me words of direction.
Let me know that I am real and not a mere reflection.

I see me.  I see you.
But which of us am I talking to?
Do not answer that, but when you do,
are you asking me? Or am I asking you?

Reflections cannot lie,
they do not live; they do not die.
Forever is their nature to reveal what they are shown
but their eyes are blind to what we all have known.

If you look into the eyes, one may well see a spark
but you will never know what truly holds the heart.
Unlike you, unlike me, it can never mourn
or shed its tears with empathy torn.

A mirror is often held aloft,
for qualities it holds true.
But behind those eyes is reverence scoffed.
While silent, it emboldens you.

Is there a soul behind those eyes?
In essence we do realize
in humanity, a soul resides
and who determines truth or lies.

I see you. I see me in the mirror of our lives.
I see the heart, the soul and all that that implies.
I see me. I see you.
And that is all that mirrors do.


—Paul Causey

The Light

Hope, is in the dark corner, behind
the doctor’s head, who has just told
you that your cancer is inoperable. 

Let your eyes, your thoughts hold onto 
that infinity point where all that is possible
is awaiting the birth of its potential to
make a difference, for you. 

It is the gift that gives us life and death
- each being its own gift, when you look 
at it in a certain light, right? Light 
perceived as an infinite wave length in 
which our particles have our time, our song, 
our dance.

What will you wear to your last dance on
earth? What poem or what song will be on 
your lips when you cease to breathe? Where
do you want dance through infinity?

You say you don’t want to be free, you want
to stay and see, another dawn, high noon,
sunset. Do, please do, and know, too, that
in each of these you are the Light.


—Martha Ward

To Robert Bly

 "A four-year old speaks some ancient language"
"Ravens Hiding in a Shoe"

We gasp to hear the boy.
What is he speaking? Old Norse? Hittite?
But don't we all speak an old tongue?
We cry the stroke of galleys in our dreams
sweat on our oars across a wine dark sea.

The broom by my hearth
straw sewn brushy around the handle
speaks to my hand in an ancient's voice
Grandmother Broom.

The baby who looks across the room at me
from silent eyes, sees with the eye of the raven,
with the stillness of the deer.

When the pines close round us and the path is lost 
something in us knows the way.
Trees have sprung up and boulders tumbled
but under the silt and the needles
a way we've walked.

Die and rise up, die and rise up
we and the deer and the child.




—Sarah Webb

The Winter Night

I went out into the winter night
to place the trash at the yard's edge. 
Just as I completed my task, I stole a glance 
upward to see the waxing quarter moon 
shining brightly far out into the sky,
far enough to reach my eye.
I was captured too by a reddish planet 
hovering below the moon, a bit off to the west.
My eyes shifted a little to the left to catch the
regularly flashing green lights of an airplane
crossing the blackened sky.
Bit by bit, more stars began popping into my awareness
as I slowly turned my head from side to side.
Just then, I became aware of the silence of the night.
I wrapped the stillness around me and
for the first time that day, I felt at ease.
My eyes drifted downward onto the spidery
arms of the Arizona Ash trees. I imagined 
some as witches' fingers pointing off into the distance,
while others seemed to encourage me closer.
These darkened silhouettes drew me in
as they appeared to have a story to tell.
As I leaned in, I heard the few remaining leaves on the branches
rustle as they scraped against each other in the evening breeze.
Standing alone in the darkened street, I found myself
savoring this moment of beauty, peace and imagination.

It seems curious that something so simple as a night scene
can remove all the stress of the day; or is it simply the act 
of being with the night that soothes.

—L. Winnette

Life

We stand at the threshold only twice.
Once when we enter,
And once when we leave.
What happens in between is just this.


—Paul Causey

Here

 Here,

Sitting at this desk, and yet,
Not here at all…

I find my home in the waters
Of the deep blue sea,
The sanctuary of a holy sky,
Lit by the embers of time.
The candle burns brightly
As I imagine a life beyond this desk.
Am I really


here.


—Ivory Smith