Tag Archives: wisdom

Nothing softer than water


Much water imagery lately, in journeying as well as meditation; in dreams as well as in synchronicities of everyday life. What does it all mean? In the wise words of an old man by the fire, “It doesn’t mean anything.” Reading the Teachings from the Huainanzi today, this was the message:

“Of all the things in the world, nothing is softer than water. Water is accommodating and yielding, but its depth cannot be plumbed and its boundaries cannot be measured. Rising to the sky, it becomes rain and mist. Falling to the earth, it becomes springs and underground lakes. Life cannot exist without water, and crops cannot be cultivated without it. Water benefits all and has no favorites. It nourishes the smallest insect and the largest mammal and does not expect gratitude. It enriches the world and does not begrudge those who use it.

“Water is soft yet strong. Strike it, and it cannot be injured. Pierce it, and it cannot be punctured. Grasp it, and it cannot be held. Its strength can wear down stone and metal. Its sustenance can nourish the whole world. It can float in the sky as clouds, squeeze through narrow valleys as streams, and spread across wide-open plains as lakes. It takes from the earth and gives back to the earth. Unbiased and nonjudgmental, it does not have notions of first and last and does not distinguish between us and them. Everything is equal in its eyes. Separating and merging, it blends with its surroundings and is at one with the sky and the earth. Not conforming to the left or the right, it can be straight or meandering. Not restrained by space and time, it can be present at the beginning and the end of all things.”

-teachings from the Huainanzi, The Natural Way, translated by Eva Wong

It means nothing. It means everything. Such is the Dao.

–Cheolshim Prajna


The Master

Truth. Intimacy. Love.  Even the Master breaks sometimes, and it is beautiful.


Poem: Endless Ages

Endless Ages

Through endless ages, the mind has never changed

It has not lived or died, come or gone, gained or lost.

It isn’t pure or tainted, good or bad, past or future. true or false, male or female. It isn’t reserved for monks or lay people, elders to youths, masters or idiots, the enlightened or unenlightened.

It isn’t bound by cause and effect and doesn’t struggle for liberation. Like space, it has no form.

You can’t own it and you can’t lose it. Mountains. rivers or walls can’t impede it. But this mind is ineffable and difficult to experience. It is not the mind of the senses. So many are looking for thismind, yet it already animates their bodies.

It is theirs, yet they don’t realize it.


– Bodhidharma

From: The Wisdom of the Zen Masters

True Vocation

Cheers to those who have found their “true” vocation and cheers to those who are determined not to stop until they find it.

bridge woman

“A man knows he has found his vocation when he stops thinking about how to live and begins to live. Thus, if one is called to be solitary, he will stop wondering how he is to live and start living peacefully only when he is in solitude. But if one is not called to be solitary, the more he is alone the more will he worry about living and forget to live. When we are not living up to our true vocation, thought deadens our life, or substitutes itself for life, or gives in to life so that our life drowns out our thinking and stifles the voice of conscience. When we find our vocation – thought and life are one.”

–Thomas Merton, from Thoughts in Solitude

Mere quotations are merely quotations

Appreciate the irony in this: a quotation on a blog filled with quotations by mystics and yet some of us appreciate a finger pointing us toward the moon.  True, no?  As a wise chant teacher teacher told me once, “Only do not mistake that finger for the moon.”

Bruce Lee


“Though one may have read many philosophical and sacred books and be able to quote them, mere quotations, which are the accumulated words and experiences of others, do not free the mind from ignorance.”

–J. Krishnamurti, from On Self-Knowledge

It waits

A  chilly Spring, chilly enough for mulled wine in the afternoon.  An acquaintance left her lover and now lives in a Winnebago where she spends her days writing and birdwatching. Lovely.  Another friend, oceans apart, shares my sense of distance and disconnection.  It feels meaningless, we say.  But, say the Great Masters, in no meaning there is BIG MEANING.  We shall see what the Outer Banks whisper to me this week. . .we shall see.


“A disenchantment falsified and blunted my usual feelings and joys: the garden lacked fragrance, the woods held no attraction for me, the world stood around me like a clearance sale of last year’s secondhand goods, insipid, all its charm gone. Books were so much paper, music a grating noise. That is the way leaves fall around a tree in autumn, a tree unaware of the rain running down its sides, of the sun or the frost, and of life gradually retreating inward. The tree does not die. It waits.”

—Hermann Hesse, from Demian

Fog moving

Chien is dog in French, heaven in Chinese. It is all the same. This morning fog climbs toward sky, hiding crows and deer.  It is all the same.

fog moving

I am not I.

               I am this one

Walking beside me whom I do not see,

Whom at times I manage to visit,

And whom at other times I forget;

The one who remains silent when I talk,

The one who forgives, sweet, when I hate,

The one who takes a walk where I am not,

The one who will remain standing when I die.

                                    —Juan Ramon Jimenez

In search of hermit teachers

A seeker  crossed Chuanchen Cliff in search of hermit-teachers. On the steps of Hsienku Temple he posed with Master Hsieh who told him many things, among them:

Hsieh and porter

“Q [Porter]:  Aren’t they [the hermits] interested in teaching others?

“Hsieh:  Yes. But before you can teach others, you have to cultivate yourself.  You have to know something before you can teach something. You can’t explain inner cultivation just because you know words in books.  You have to discover what they mean first.”

—from Bill Porter’s Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits

Wisdom from a Dervish

No more with the sociopath on Tuesday’s  whose inga is in question. Instead I will walk the city streets and talk about sing-along’s, whiskey, and shamrocks.  But only in March, and only for a night. I hope you enjoy today’s poem, brought to you by Islamic mystic poet and founder of the Sufi order of the whirling dervishes. . .Rumi:


if anyone asks you

how the perfect satisfaction

of all our sexual wanting

will look, lift your face

and say,

like this.

when someone mentions the gracefulness

of the night sky, climb up on the roof

and dance and say,

 like this.

 if anyone wants to know what “spirit” is,

or what “God’s fragrance” means,

lean your head toward him or her.

keep your face there close.

like this.

when someone quotes the old poetic image

about clouds gradually uncovering the moon,

slowly loosen knot by knot the strings

of your robe.

 like this.

 if anyone wonders how Jesus raised the dead,

don’t try to explain the miracle.

kiss me on the lips.

 like this. Like this.

when someone asks what it means

to “die for love,” point


if someone asks how tall I am, frown

and measure with your fingers the space

between the creases on your forehead.

this tall.

the soul sometimes leaves the body, the returns.

when someone doesn’t believe that,

walk back into my house.

 like this.

when lovers moan,

they’re telling our story.

like this.

I am a sky where spirits live.

stare into this deepening blue,

while the breeze says a secret.

like this.

when someone asks what there is to do,

light the candle in his hand.

like this.

how did Joseph’s scent come to Jacob?


how did Jacob’s sight return?


a little wind cleans the eyes.

like this.

when Shams comes back from Tabriz,

he’ll put just his head around the edge

of the door to surprise us

like this.


from ‘The Essential Rumi’, Translations by Coleman Barks with John Moyne

Three selections

“How sad that people ignore the near

and search for truth afar:

like someone in the midst of water

crying out in thirst;

like a child of a wealthy home

wandering among the poor.”

–Hakuin Zenji, verse from “Song of Zazen”



Merton Shack Geth

“The trees indeed love You without knowing You. The tiger lilies and corn flowers are there, proclaiming that they love You, without being aware of Your presence. The beautiful dark clouds ride slowly across the sky musing on You like children who do not know what they are dreaming of, as they play.”

— Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, written at the the Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky (photo: Merton’s shack in the woods)



Desert Sunrise

“It was in the desert the womb was cut;

in the desert that Inipi woman healed it with

spirit breath and feathers.

The grey fox will not decompose,

there are no vultures to pick her clean.

And yet. . .

the sun rises in purple paint, a gift from burnt dust.


–K. M., Ahwatukee, AZ