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Deep Sleep's Quiet Love-Song

Wednesday April 23, 2014

Water Table

It is on dry sunny days like this one that I find myself
thinking about the enormous body of water
that lies under this house,
cool, unseen reservoir,
silent except for the sounds of dripping
and the incalculable shifting
of all the heavy darkness that it holds.

This is the water that our well was dug to sip
and lift to where we live,
water drawn up and falling on our bare shoulders,
water filling the inlets of our mouths,
water in a pot on the stove.

The house is nothing now but a blueprint of pipes,
a network of faucets, nozzles, and spigots,
and even outdoors where light pierces the air
and clouds fly over the canopies of trees,
my thoughts flow underground
trying to imagine the cavernous scene.

Surely it is no pool with a colored ball
floating on the blue surface.
No grotto where a king would have
his guests rowed around in swan-shaped boats.
Between the dark lakes where the dark rivers flow
there is no ferry waiting on the shore of rock
and no man holding a long oar,
ready to take your last coin.
This is the real earth and the real water it contains.

But some nights, I must tell you,
I go down there after everyone has fallen asleep.
I swim back and forth in the echoing blackness.
I sing a love song as well as I can,
lost for a while in the home of the rain.

~ Billy Collins


For more on "the enormous body of water / that lies under this house" -- here's Kalu Rinpoche answering a question about bardos: those mysterious junctures between the disappearance of one "thing" and the arising of the next. Whether this "thing" happens to be a human life, or the daytime waking-state, or our night-dreams, or a single thought, the cyclic "process" is more-or-less the same: there is a period during which the "thing" is appearing -- and then a gap, into which the "thing" seems to disappear -- and then the arising, out of the gap, of another "thing." Notice, in particular, Rinpoche suggesting a resemblance between the so-called "bardo of Nature in itself" (i.e. the experience of the Nature of Mind or Pure Awareness) and deep-sleep.

An instruction common to a number of nondual spiritual traditions -- a helpful hint offered in the manner of a finger pointing to the moon -- is to become quite curious, in a relaxed and open way, about these gaps .....


Afternoon Snack

Tuesday April 22, 2014

I'm continuing to savor Original Perfection -- the English translation of five early Dzogchen texts, which I wrote about earlier in the month. I tend to devour very quickly books with which I resonate -- spending every available moment with them: late into the night, early in the morning, etc. -- often finishing extremely long texts within a matter of days.  So I've been surprised to find myself taking this one very slowly: reading just a page or two, and then putting it down; re-reading sections; and toggling leisurely between the main text and the footnotes and glossary.

Partly this is because the pithy instructions are quite dense, oftentimes requiring slow reading to allow them fully to penetrate. Partly it's because the verses point so clearly to such deep and expansive "places" -- that I find myself drawn into non-conceptual realms which are quite pleasant to just hang out it in.  But mostly it's because the book is only one hundred pages or so long -- and I love it so much that I don't ever want it to end .... and so am going as slowly as possible, to prolong the pleasure of it.



Sunday April 20, 2014

Yesterday, as I was walking along the edge of the little marsh-pond, just beyond the swatch of woods, in the late afternoon, suddenly there was a rather dramatic splashing-sound. Immediately I turned my head, to see what it might be. As my eyes scanned the surface of the pond, in the general direction from which the sound seemed to come, what I saw first were the first couple of smoothly-expanding circles, rippling out from where the creature (whatever it was) must have entered the water.

Just a fraction of a second later, there was another suction-splash up onto the surface, ten feet or so from the first one -- and then a third, another ten-to-fifteen feet away from the second. And then: silence .... Read More...

For A Friend

Friday April 18, 2014


The top
grain on the peak
weighs next
to nothing and,
by a mountain,
has no burden,
but nearly
ready to float,
to summit wind,
it endures
the rigors of having
no further
figure to complete
and a
blank sky
to guide its dreaming

~ A.R. Ammons


Chocolate Pudding

Thursday April 17, 2014

Life Before Google

1886 is considered the birth-year of the modern automobile; and the first commercial airline flight happened sometime around 1920.

So now, imagine .... living 200 or even just 150 years ago, before the advent of these modern modes of physical transport; and well before the advent of all the various information and communication technologies which a majority of humans now have at our fingertips (e.g. telephones, Skype, and the internet with its various high-powered search-engines).  What a different world! And yet, has the core of human suffering, and our desire for lasting happiness, changed all that much? ... Read more

Just Because

Sunday April 13, 2014


alone on a rock
crimson and alive with song:
spring robin in snow



Saturday April 12, 2014

A couple days ago, I was riding my bicycle on a city path which runs along a shallow aqueduct:  a narrow creek-like channel, through which mountain-water flows. It's not uncommon to see ducks and geese hanging out near or in this little creek. What caught my eye, however, on this particular day -- and registered as a bit odd, if not downright silly -- was a single duck, traveling down the creek not by floating or by swimming, but rather by walking: step-by-step wading through the water.

This brought a quizzical smile to my face, as I thought, "how strange! ... that a creature well-equipped to both swim and fly, would choose instead to walk like that through the water." Was it part of the duck's exercise regimen, I wondered -- a new water-aerobics routine, perhaps? Did the duck have a little bit too much champagne, temporarily clouding his judgment? Or maybe the duck was going through some kind of adolescent rebellion against more conventionally duck-ish modes of transport? Or engaged in a new form of walking meditation?

What, upon further reflection, seemed more likely,

The Flower's Deepest Heart

Thursday April 10, 2014


How pliant the body
When the sun
Suddenly appears --
Each cell turning as one

Like the gleaming shoal
Or swift-spiralling cloud
Of birds and fish
Moving in unison.

How every leaf and stem
Lifts upward,
Drawn to the the light,
And every petal opens --

The flower's deepest heart
Thirsty for radiance,
And beating now
With the same slow pulse as the sun.

How, once suffused with heat
And luminous, each cell
At dusk yearns for noon --
In the darkness, remembers you.

~ Heather Allen


Beads Of Liquid Life

Monday April 7, 2014


Imagine being common, crow-common,
Lupine-common, an oak surrounded by dry
Wild grasses common.

One day, I cross a high school parking lot,
Common asphalt, meeting my common soles.
Before me, an explosion of gulls,
White as a bride's dress, shoot as one
Up, then spill over, a fountain pouring perfectly
Each bird, a bead of liquid life. Again,
They explode, shoot skyward and spill over
Again and again, threaded through by trails
Of blue-black crows, woven into the flying
Fabric by necessity, desire and instinct.

I comment to a man pushing a compost can,
Remark at the remarkable. He says, "Oh,
They do that every day. At lunch the students,
Leave behind bits of bread," treasures
From barely-noticed food, common fare eaten daily.

I want to be that common,
Common as the gulls, rising and descending,
And the crows, weaving their way
To the feast, that bread,
That common manna.

~ Rebecca del Rio


Pure & Simple

Saturday April 5, 2014

Several days ago, when browsing in a bookstore, I happened upon Original Perfection: Vairotsana's Five Early Transmissions -- Keith Dowman's recent (2013) translation of and commentary on five pithy Dzogchen texts attributed to the Tibetan master Vairotsana (via the latter's own guru, the Indian sage Shri Singha). Included among the five translated texts is the so-called Six Vajra Verses, which, a year and a half or so ago, I had posted here in a more expanded English version. Mr. Dowman's more concise translation is as follows:

Hey, Mahasattva, Magnificent Being, listen!

The nature of multiplicity is nondual
and things in themselves are pure and simple;
being here and now is construct-free
and it shines out in all forms, always all good;
it is already perfect, so exertion is redundant
and spontaneity is ever immanent.

In Taoist lingo, what this short text is addressing is the relationship between Tao and the ten-thousand-things, i.e. between the apparent multiplicity of phenomenal appearances, and their common Source.

What I love about the verse is how it points to the "construct-free" nature of "things" -- how the Truth of phenomena perpetually (and blessedly!) escapes our attempts to capture them conceptually -- while at the same time hinting at the infinite effulgence of That which spontaneously "shines out" from each and every phenomena. Their simplicity is their richness. Their infinite purity is their spontaneously-arising functional precision. Their emptiness of a conceptually-imputed "separated self" is the radiance of their Unborn Nature.

When I opened the book, glanced at its table of contents, and then began to read the introduction, what I became most aware of was a kind of energetic transmission: the text felt "alive" in the sense of catalyzing a feeling of flowing energy and buzzing charge within my bodymind. What a strange and mysterious thing! I've noticed this response to reading a book perhaps a dozen times previously (most recently via the Ribhu Gita) -- and always it brings up the question: what's happening here? Some kind of melting of conceptual, perceptual and/or physical rigidity, which renders the appearance of Elizabeth's body in the mode of vibration or spaciousness, much more than in the mode of (apparent) solidity. Fascinating .....


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