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Roots of Compassion: Brahma Viharas - Poetry


Poetry Read During the 2018 Roots of Compassion Retreat

William Stafford - The Way It Is

There's a thread you follow. It goes among

  things that change. But it doesn't change.

People wonder about what you are pursuing.

      You have to explain about the thread.

But it is hard for others to see.

While you hold it you can't get lost.

Tragedies happen; people get hurt

or die; and you suffer and get old.

Nothing you do can stop time's unfolding.

You don't ever let go of the thread.

Mary Oliver - Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

Derek Walcott - Love After Love

The time will come

when, with elation,

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror,

and each will smile at the other’s welcome

and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self. 

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you have ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes, 

peel your own image from the mirror. 

Sit. Feast on your life.

David Whyte - Enough

Enough. These few words are enough.

If not these words, this breath.

If not this breath, this sitting here.

This opening to the life

we have refused

again and again

until now.

Until now. 

Mary Oliver - The Summer Day

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-- the one who has flung herself out of the grass, 

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-‐

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should l have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Wendell Berry - The Real Work

It may be that when we no longer know what to do

we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go

we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Marge Piercy - To be of use

The people I love the best

jump into work head first

without dallying in the shallows

and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.

They seem to become natives of that element,

the black sleek heads of seals

bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,

who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,

who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,

who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge

in the task, who go into the fields to harvest

and work in a row and pass the bags along,

who are not parlor generals and field deserters

but move in a common rhythm

when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.

Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.

But the thing worth doing well done

has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.

Greek amphoras for wine or oil,

Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums

but you know they were made to be used.

The pitcher cries for water to carry

and a person for work that is real.

Martha Postlewaite - Clearing

Do not try to save

the whole world

or do anything grandiose.

Instead, create

a clearing

in the dense forest

of your life

and wait there

patiently,

until the song

that is your life

falls into your own cupped hands

and you recognize and greet it.

Only then will you know

how to give yourself

to this world

so worth of rescue.


David Whyte - Silence

SILENCE is frightening, an intimation of the end, the graveyard of fixed identities. Real silence puts any present understanding to shame; orphans us from certainty; leads us beyond the well known and accepted reality and confronts us with the unknown and previously unacceptable conversation about to break in upon our lives. Silence does not end skepticism but makes it irrelevant. Belief or unbelief or any previously rehearsed story meets the wind in the trees, the distant horn in the busy harbor, or the watching eye and listening ear of a puzzled loved one.

 

In silence, essence speaks to us of essence itself and asks for a kind of unilateral disarmament, our own essential nature slowly emerging as the defended periphery atomizes and falls apart. As the busy edge dissolves we begin to join the conversation through the portal of a present unknowing, robust vulnerability, revealing in the way we listen, a different ear, a more perceptive eye, an imagination refusing to come too early to a conclusion, and belonging to a different person than the one who first entered the quiet.

 

Out of the quiet emerges the sheer incarnational presence of the world, a presence that seems to demand a moving internal symmetry in the one breathing and listening equal to its own breathing listening elemental powers.

 

To become deeply silent is not to become still, but to become tidal and seasonal, a coming and going that has its own inimitable, essential character, a story not fully told, like the background of the sea, or the rain falling or the river going on, out of sight, out of our lives. Reality met on its own terms demands absolute presence, and absolute giving away, an ability to live on equal terms with the fleeting and the eternal, the hardly touchable and the fully possible, a full bodily appearance and disappearance, a rested giving in and giving up; another identity braver more generous; more silent and more here than the one looking hungrily for an easy, unearned answer.

 

‘SILENCE’ From CONSOLATIONS:

The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.

© David Whyte and Many Rivers Press 2015

Free and Easy       A Spontaneous Vajra Song -By Venerable Lama Gendun Rinpoche

Happiness can not be found through great effort and willpower, 
but is already present,                                                                                                                          in open relaxation and letting go.

Don't strain yourself, 
there is nothing to do or undo. 
Whatever momentarily arises in the body-mind  has no real importance at all, 
has little reality whatsoever.
Why identify with, and become attached to it, 
passing judgment upon it and ourselves?

Far better to simply  let the entire game happen on its own, 
springing up and falling back like waves
without changing or manipulating anything
and notice how everything vanishes and reappears, magically, 
again and again, time without end.

Only our searching for happiness  prevents us from seeing it. 
It's like a vivid rainbow which you pursue without ever catching, 
or a dog chasing its own tail.

Although peace and happiness  do not exist as an actual thing or place, 
it is always available

and accompanies you every instant.

Don't believe in the reality of good and bad experiences;
they are like today's ephemeral weather, 
like rainbows in the sky.

Wanting to grasp the ungraspable, 
you exhaust yourself in vain.
As soon as you open and relax  this tight fist of grasping, 
infinite space is there - 
open, inviting and comfortable.

Make use of this spaciousness, 
this freedom and natural ease. 
Don't search any further
looking for the great awakened elephant, who is already resting quietly at home
in front of your own hearth.

Nothing to do or undo, 
nothing to force,
nothing to want, 
and nothing missing -

Emaho! Marvelous!
Everything happens by itself.

Rumi - Today like every other day

Today like every other day

We wake up empty and scared

Don't open the door of your study

And begin reading.

Take down a musical instrument

let the beauty we love be what we do

There are hundreds of way to kneel

And kiss the earth.

Portia Nelson - Autobiography in Five Chapters

Chapter I

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in.

I am lost... I am hopeless.

It isn't my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

 

Chapter II

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don't see it.

I fall in again.

I can't believe I am in this same place.

But it isn't my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

 

 Chapter III

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it there.

I still fall in... it's a habit... but,

my eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

 

 Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

 

Chapter V

I walk down another street.

Leonard Cohen - Ring The Bells

Ring the bells that can still ring.

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack in everything.

That’s how the light gets in.


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