Sunday, February 28, 2021

from an untitled poem


To sing is to begin a sentence
like “I want to get well." 
I am not born for nothing
and neither are you:
Heaven never wept
over nothing.

—Thomas Merton


shanti, shanti, shanti


When you see your own essence, when you have that direct experience, you will see that every plant and animal is your own Self. They will all start to speak to you. This is the formless Self in the Heart of all beings. 


. . .

Rest in peace.
You are the unchangeable Awareness in which all activity takes place.
Always rest in peace. 

You are eternal Being, unbounded and undivided. 
Just keep Quiet. All is well. Keep Quiet Here and Now. 

You are Happiness, you are Peace, you are Freedom. 
Do not entertain any notions that you are in trouble. 

Be kind to yourself. Open to your Heart and simply Be. 
Those who know This know Everything. 

If not, even the most learned know nothing at all.




in truth



You wear coarse wool, but you're a king,
as the soul's energy hides, as love
remembers. You enter this room in a human
shape and as the atmosphere we breathe.

You are the central pole through the nine
levels connecting them and us to absolute
absence. So that we can have what we want,
you give failure and frustration. You want

only the company of the lion and the lion
cub, no wobbly legs. That man there, you
suggest, might remove his head before
entering the temple. Then he could listen

without ears to a voice that says, My
creature. A month of walking the road, you
make that distance in one day. Never mind
gold and silver payments. When you feel

generous, give your head. My beauty,
you have no need for a guide. The one
who follows and the one who leads are
inseparable, as the moon and the circle

around it. An Arab drags his camel town
to town. You go through your troubles
and changing beliefs, both no different from
the moon moving across or basil growing

and getting cut for a bouquet. It doesn't
matter you've been lost. The hoopoe is
still looking for you. It is another
beginning, my friend, this waking in a

morning with no haze, and help coming
without your asking! A glass submerged
is turning inside the wine. With grief
waved away, sweet gratefulness arrives.

Ghazal (Ode) 2935
Coleman Barks, Nevit Ergin version

. . .

Oh soul,
you worry too much. 
You have seen your own strength.
You have seen your own beauty.
You have seen your golden wings.

Of anything less,
why do you worry?

You are in truth
the soul, of the soul, 
of the soul.



Saturday, February 27, 2021

My blood is alive with many voices telling me I am made of longing. —Rilke

I know that nothing has ever been real
without my beholding it.

All becoming has needed me.

My looking ripens things and they come
toward me, to meet and be met.

—Rainer Maria Rilke
Book of Hours, I-I


Need, then, is the net for all things. —Rumi


You need not do anything.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
You need not even listen, just wait.

You need not even wait, 
just learn to be quiet, still and solitary,
and the world will freely offer itself to you unmasked.

It has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

—Franz Kafka

. . .

We never see the world as our retina sees it. In fact, it would be a pretty horrible sight: a highly distorted set of light and dark pixels, blown up toward the center of the retina, masked by blood vessels, with a  massive hole at the location of the “blind spot” where cables leave for the brain; the image would constantly blur and change as our gaze moved around. 
What we see, instead, is a three-dimensional scene, corrected for retinal defects, mended at the blind spot, stabilized for our eye and head movements, and massively reinterpreted based on our previous experience of similar visual scenes. 
All these operations unfold unconsciously—although many of them are so complicated that they resist computer modeling. For instance, our visual system detects the presence of shadows in the image and removes them. At a glance, our brain unconsciously infers the sources of lights and deduces the shape, opacity, reflectance, and luminance of the objects.

—Stanislas Dehaene
Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts

. . .

Give up to grace.
The ocean takes care of each wave ‘til
it gets to shore.
You need more help than you know.



when i was

When I was the stream, when I was the
forest, when I was still the field,
when I was every hoof, foot,
fin and wing, when I
was the sky
no one ever asked me did I have a purpose, no one ever
wondered was there anything I might need,
for there was nothing
I could not

It was when I left all we once were that
the agony began, the fear and questions came,
and I wept, I wept. And tears
I had never known

So I returned to the river, I returned to
the mountains. I asked for their hand in marriage again,
I begged—I begged to wed every object and creature,
and when they accepted,
God was ever present in my arms.
And He did not say,
“Where have you been?”
For then I knew my soul—every soul—
has always held Him.

—Meister Eckhart
Daniel Ladinsky version


Friday, February 26, 2021

to the present tense


By the time you are
by the time you come to be
by the time you read this
by the time you are written
by the time you forget
by the time you are water through fingers
by the time you are taken for granted
by the time it hurts
by the time it goes on hurting
by the time there are no words for you
by the time you remember
but without names
by the time you are in the papers
and on the telephone
passing unnoticed there too

who is it
to whom you come
before whose very eyes
you are disappearing
without making yourself known

—W. S. Merwin


the nonlinearity of how we become who we are



The events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order, a timetable not necessarily — perhaps not possibly — chronological. The time as we know it subjectively is often the chronology that stories and novels follow: it is the continuous thread of revelation.

—Eudora Welty

. . .

A person is a fluid process, not a fixed and static entity; a flowing river of change, not a block of solid material; a continually changing constellation of potentialities, not a fixed quantity of traits.

—Carl Rogers


this mystery


My soul itself may be straight and good;
ah, but my heart, my bent-over blood,
all the distortions that hurt me inside it buckles under these things.

. . .

And yet, though we strain
against the deadening grip
of daily necessity,
I sense there is this mystery:
All life is being lived.

Who is living it then?
Is it the things themselves,
or something waiting inside them,
like an unplayed melody in a flute?

Is it the winds blowing over the waters?
Is it the branches that signal to each other?

Is it flowers
interweaving their fragrances
or streets, as they wind through time?

—Rainer Maria Rilke
Book of Hours, excerpt


Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Three Oddest Words


In this world, time has three dimensions, like space. Just as an object may move in three perpendicular directions, corresponding to horizontal, vertical, and longitudinal, so an object may participate in three perpendicular futures. Each future moves in a different direction of time. Each future is real. At every point of decision, the world splits into three worlds, each with the same people, but different fates for those people. In time, there are an infinity of worlds.

—Alan Lightman
Einstein's Dreams

. . .

The Garden of Forking Paths is an incomplete, but not false, image of the universe as Ts’ui Pen conceived it.

In contrast to Newton and Schopenhauer, your ancestor did not believe in a uniform, absolute time. He believed in an infinite series of times, in a growing, dizzying net of divergent, convergent and parallel times. This network of times, which approached one another, forked, broke off, or were unaware of one another for centuries, embraces all possibilities of time.

We do not exist in the majority of these times; in some you exist, and not I; in others I, not you; in others, both of us.

Through our daily rambles on the web, where each array of links is a bifurcation of alternatives, labyrinthine time has become a familiar part of our lives.

—Paul Halpern
The Quantum Labyrinth: How Richard Feynman and John Wheeler Revolutionized Time and Reality

. . .

When I pronounce the word Future,
the first syllable already belongs to the past.

When I pronounce the word Silence,
I destroy it.

When I pronounce the word Nothing,
I make something no non-being can hold.

—Wislawa Szymborska
The Three Oddest Words


Let come what comes, let go what goes. See what remains. —Sri Ramana Maharshi


Reality is a very subjective affair. I can only define it as a kind of gradual accumulation of information; and as specialization. If we take a lily, for instance, or any other kind of natural object, a lily is more real to a naturalist than it is to an ordinary person. But it is still more real to a botanist. And yet another stage of reality is reached with that botanist who is a specialist in lilies. 
You can get nearer and nearer, so to speak, to reality; but you never get near enough because reality is an infinite succession of steps, levels of perception, false bottoms, and hence unquenchable, unattainable. You can know more and more about one thing but you can never know everything about one thing: it’s hopeless. So that we live surrounded by more or less ghostly objects.

—Vladimir Nabokov

. . .

We all start from “naive realism,” i.e., the doctrine that things are what they seem. We think that grass is green, that stones are hard, and that snow is cold. But physics assures us that the greenness of grass, the hardness of stones, and the coldness of snow are not the greenness of grass, the hardness of stones, and the coldness of snow that we know in our own experience, but something very different.

—Bertrand Russell





Just live your life as it comes. 
Keep quietly alert, inquiring into the real nature of yourself. 
Perception is based on memory and is only imagination. 
The world can be said to appear but not to be. 
Only that which makes perception possible is real.

You agree to be guided from within and life becomes a journey into the unknown. 
Give up all names and forms, and the Real is with you. 
Know yourself as you are. Distrust your mind and go beyond. 
Do not think of the Real in terms of consciousness and unconsciousness. 
It is utterly beyond both. 
It gives birth to consciousness. 
All else is in consciousness.

Nothing you can see, feel or think is so. 
Go beyond the personal and see. 
Stop imagining that you were born. 
You are utterly beyond all existence and non-existence, 
utterly beyond all that the mind conceives. 
Question yourself: Who am I? 
What is behind and beyond all this? 
Soon you will see that thinking yourself to be a person is mere habit built on memory. 
Inquire ceaselessly.

Just be aware of your being here and now. 
There is nothing more to it. 
In reality you are not a thing nor separate.

You are the infinite potentiality, the inexhaustible possibility. 
Because you are, all can be. 
The universe is but a partial manifestation of your limitless capacity to become. 
You are neither consciousness nor its content. 
You are the timeless Source. 
Disassociate yourself from mind and consciousness. 
Find a foothold beyond and all will be clear and easy.


—Nisargadatta Maharaj
from I am That

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

what ancient civilizations teach us about reality


A forest is what exists between its trees, between its dense undergrowth and its clearings, between all its life cycles and their different timescales
... A forest is also a meeting place between those who enter it and something unnameable and attendant, waiting behind a tree or in the undergrowth. Something intangible and within touching distance. Neither silent nor audible.

—John Berger
Into the Woods

. . .

After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn’t it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? 

This is how I answer when I am asked – as I am surprisingly often – why I bother to get up in the mornings. To put it the other way round, isn’t it sad to go to your grave without ever wondering why you were born? Who, with such a thought, would not spring from bed, eager to resume discovering the world and rejoicing to be a part of it?

—Richard Dawkins

. . .

In a solitary space in which the soul can breathe
And where the heart can stay - not by discovering it,
But by creating it, by giving it a self-sustaining
Atmosphere of depth, both in the architecture,
And in the unconstructed life that it contains.
In a late and very brief remark, Freud speculates
That space is the projection of a "psychic apparatus"
Which remains almost entirely oblivious to itself;
And Wright extols "that primitive sense of shelter"
Which can turn a house into a refuge from despair.
I wish that time could bring the future back again
And let me see things as they used to seem to me
Before I found myself alone, in an emancipated state -
Alone and free and filled with cares about tomorrow.
There used to be a logic in the way time passed
That made it flow directly towards an underlying space
Where all the minor, individual lives converged.

—John Koethe
Falling Water
North Point North

. . .

It seems to have had an order, to have been composed by someone, and those events that were merely accidental when they happened turn out to be the main elements in a consistent plot. Who composed this plot? 
Just as your dreams are composed, so your whole life has been composed by the will within you. Just as the people who you met by chance became effective agents in the structuring of your life, so you have been the agent in the structuring of other lives. And the whole thing gears together like one big symphony, everything influencing and structuring everything else. 
It's as though our lives were the dream of a single dreamer in which all of the dream characters are dreaming too. And so everything links to everything else moved out of the will in nature ... It is as though there were an intention behind it yet it is all by chance. None of us lives the life that he had intended.

—Joseph Campbell



Other big questions tackled by ancient cultures are at least as radical. What is real? Is there more to reality than meets the eye? Yes! was Plato's answer over two millennia ago. In his famous cave analogy, he likened us to people who'd lived their entire lives shacked in a a cave, facing a blank wall, watching the shadows cast by things passing behind them, and eventually coming to mistakenly believe that these shadows were the full reality.

Plato argued that what we humans call our everyday reality is similarly just a limited and distorted representation of the true reality, and that we must free ourselves from our mental shackles to comprehending it.

—Max Tegmark (1967 - )
Our Mathematical Universe

. . .

Physical concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not, however they may seem, uniquely determined by the external world. 

In our endeavor to understand reality we are somewhat like a man trying to understand the mechanism of a closed watch. He sees the face and the moving hands, even hears its ticking, but he has no way to open the case. If he is ingenious he may form some picture of a mechanism which could be responsible for all of the things he observes, but he may never be quite sure his picture is the only one which could explain his observations. 

He will never be able to compare his picture with the real mechanism and he cannot even imagine the possibility or the meaning of such a comparison. But he certainly believes that, as his knowledge increases, his picture of reality will become simpler and simpler and will explain a wider and wider range of his sensuous impressions. 

He may also believe in the existence of the ideal limit of knowledge and that it is approached by the human mind. He may call this ideal limit the objective truth.

—Albert Einstein and Leopold Infeld
The Evolution of Physics

The universe is a machine for the making of gods. —Bergson


[Philosopher] Whitehead’s panpsychism posits that all actualities – “actual entities” – transition from potentiality to actuality by perceiving the universe around them, choosing what perceptions to internalize, and then becoming objective/actual based on those perceptions. This is an iterative process, moment to moment to moment …

This process takes place in literally every part of the universe in perpetuity, from subatomic particles to humans to perhaps even more complex structures beyond our current understanding.

It is a perpetual oscillation between potentiality and actuality that produces the universe in each moment.

—Tam Hunt and Christof Koch
Eco, Ego, Eros

. . . 

Whatever happens. Whatever
what is is is what
I want. Only that. But that.

—Galway Kinnell

. . .

What we perceive as space is the end result of visual information processing.

It is an approximation of space that is no different than the space you would see if you would wear a Virtual Reality headset. Slap on a VR and look at how it simulates space. The space you see in a VR is no different than the space you see in objective reality. Both are rendered approximations of space simulated by virtualization in the brain. All of that space doesn’t exist inside the brain so why does it overlay and seem to encompass such great distances if it’s all in your head?

This is part of the interface and how the mind has evolved the ability to process information. The mind produces a virtualization of space and projects an overlay to approximate the space as perceived by sensory constraints.

We never see true space as we have only ever observed the approximation of space through virtualization. And this is true for everything that you perceive. It is all an approximation and interpretation of information gathered by limited senses.

—Ian Wilson
Immersion Into the Human Experience

. . .

This place is a dream. Only a sleeper considers it real. 

Then death comes like dawn, and you wake up laughing at 
what you thought was your grief.



Tuesday, February 23, 2021

only verbs


Buddhism is negative. It will tell you what it is not. When you insist that it must be something it merely allows for an open space, which you can fill in as you like.

It is only specific about its method. It tells you to meditate, to be conscious of what you are doing, to do your best. It tells you to earn your daily food in a decent manner. It prescribes kind speech and thought. It suggests that you should create your own situations, rather than being pushed around by yourself and others. It warns that you should not avoid your own doubts. It recommends trying things out for yourself. It abhors all dogma. It doesn’t like you to impose your opinions on others. And it stresses that you should know yourself, your own laziness, pride and greed which, together, constitute the power which turns the wheel of life.

—Janwillem van de Wetering
A Glimpse of Nothingness

. . .

... the Buddha said that once you do manage to get rid of your sense of self, the truth of the universe is yours. You are no longer living from a single vantage point. Since you are not a separate self, your compassion is limitless; you are all compassion, all empathy, because not being you entails being everything else: since we are not at all separate, we must be all.

A related and equally important concept is that everything in the world we know is constantly coming into being or disappearing, and it is all basically made of the same stuff. There are no true nouns, then, only verbs.

As a billion various ocean waves are all in fact water, wave-ing, so the water is just the universe ocean-ing—holding in the form of water. The part of the universe that is you, is really just “you-ing” right now. There is no reason to fear anything, or to take pride only in those things particular to you, because there is no you, there is just a momentarily you-ing universe from which you could not be separated any more than an ocean wave can be separated from the water.

The terrible separation of death and the alienation of individuals within communities and within the vast universe—these ruptures don’t exist in reality. We are tricked by the default time frame of our minds, so we do not see the flow of a oneness. With a lot of work, we can reconfigure our default settings so that we see things as they really are: flowing, timeless, interconnected. It leaves one bemused, gentle, and unflappable.

—Jennifer Hecht


the river is not an object


For (Heraclitus), reality is not a constellation of things at all, but one of processes. The fundamental ‘stuff’ of the world is not material substance but volatile flux, namely 'fire,’ and all things are versions thereof (puros tropai).

Process is fundamental: the river is not an object, but a continuing flow; the sun is not a thing, but an enduring fire. Everything is a matter of process, of activity, of change (panta rhei). Not stable things but fundamental forces and the varied and fluctuating activities they manifest constitute the world. We must at all costs avoid the fallacy of materializing nature.

—Nicholas Rescher


o beloved, where is the beloved?

The moment you start talking you create a verbal universe, a universe of words, ideas, concepts and abstractions, interwoven and inter-dependent, most wonderfully generating, supporting and explaining each other and yet all without essence or substance, mere creations of the mind.

Words create words, reality is silent.


. . .

In truth, everything and everyone
is a shadow of the Beloved.

And our seeking is His seeking,
and our words are His words.

We search for Him here and there.

While looking right at Him,
sitting by His side, we ask:
'O Beloved, where is the Beloved?'

Enough with such questions!

Let silence take you to the core of life.

All your talk is worthless when compared
with one whisper of the Beloved.



Monday, February 22, 2021

all things

All things are little, changeable, perishable. All things come from thence, from that universal ruling power either directly proceeding or by way of sequence. And accordingly the lion’s gaping jaws, and that which is poisonous, and every harmful thing, as a thorn, as mud, are after-products of the grand and beautiful. Do not then imagine that they are of another kind from that which thou dost venerate, but form a just opinion of the source of all.

—Marcus Aurelius

. . . 

Think always of the universe as one living creature, made of one substance and one soul: how all is absorbed into this one consciousness; how a single impulse governs all its actions; how all things collaborate in all that happens; the very web and mesh of it all.

—Marcus Aurelius
April 26, 121 — March 17, 180, Rome
Meditations 4:40




All we know is experience but there is no independent ‘we’ or ‘I’ that knows experience. There is just experience or experiencing. 

And experiencing is not inherently divided into one part that experiences and another part that is experienced.

... The idea that there is a mind independent of thinking, a body independent of sensing or a world independent of perceiving, is a belief. 

The mind itself is limited so it can never know whether or not such a belief is true. 

The mind, body and world are never experienced as they are normally conceived to be. Our only experience of them is thinking, sensing and perceiving. Thinking, sensing and perceiving are modes of knowing or experiencing and the only substance present in knowing or experiencing is our self, awareness.

... In other words, the witness cannot stand alone. 

If we truly take our stand as witnessing presence of awareness and look at the objects of the mind, body and world, we do not find any distance or separation between our self, this witnessing presence, and the objects of the mind, body or world that it witnesses. In fact, we do not find two entities there, a witnessing awareness and a body, mind or world. 

We find only the seamlessness of experiencing utterly one with or pervaded by the intimacy of our own being. That is, it only finds itself.

... In other words, we do not cease to be a separate self and become the witness and likewise we do not cease to be the witness and become pure awareness. 

It is only thinking which seemingly reduces pure awareness to these apparently successive stages of limitation and localisation. And it is only for thinking that these layers of ignorance, or the ignoring of the true nature of experience, are removed. For our self, awareness, no such thing ever happens.

... So, as we proceed back along this projected path, in the opposite direction from which it arose, it is understood that our only knowledge of the mind, body and world is thinking, sensing and perceiving. 
And if we look more closely at the nature of thinking, sensing and perceiving, we find that there is no substance present there other than our self, awareness.

—Rupert Spira 
Presence: The Intimacy of All Experience


Description Without Place


In a description hollowed out of hollow-bright,
The artificer of subjects still half night. 

It matters, because everything we say
Of the past is description without place, a cast 

Of the imagination, made in sounds;
And because what we say of the future must portend, 

Be alive with its own seemings, seeming to be
Like rubies reddened by rubies reddening.

—Wallace Stevens
closing lines to section V


Sunday, February 21, 2021

the price you pay


I heard a man say a poem once, he said, 
All that lives is holy.’

—John Steinbeck
The Grapes of Wrath


. . .

A cat, when it walks—did you ever see a cat making an aesthetic mistake? 
Did you ever see a badly formed cloud?
Were the stars ever mis-arranged? 

When you watch the foam breaking on the seashore, did it ever make a bad pattern? 

And yet we think in what we do, we make mistakes. And we’re worried about that. 
So there came this point in human evolution when we lost our innocence. 

When we lost this thing that the cats and the flowers have, and had to think about it, 
and had to purposely arrange and discipline and push our lives around in accordance
with foresight and words and systems of symbols, accountancy, calculation and so on,
and then we worry. 

And this, though, also, is the price you pay for knowing that you know. For being able to think about thinking, being able to feel about feeling. And so you’re in this funny position. 

—Alan Watts 
The Nature of Consciousness


Live to the point of tears. —Albert Camus


At this moment, in this place, the shifting action potential in my neurons cascade into certain arrangements, patterns, thoughts; they flow down my spine, branch into my arms, my fingers, until muscles twitch and thought is translated into motion; mechanical levers are pressed; electrons are rearranged; marks are made on paper. 

At another time, in another place, light strikes the marks, reflects into a pair of high-precision optical instruments sculpted by nature after billions of years of random mutations; upside-down images are formed against two screens made up of millions of light-sensitive cells, which translate light into electrical pulses that go up the optic nerves, cross the chiasm, down the optic tracts, and into the visual cortex, where the pulses are reassembled into letters, punctuation marks, words, sentences, vehicles, tenors, thoughts. 

The entire system seems fragile, preposterous, science fictional.

—Ken Liu
The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

. . .

Technologies of the soul tend to be simple, bodily, slow and related to the heart as much as the mind. Everything around us tells us we should be mechanically sophisticated, electronic, quick, and informational in our expressiveness - an exact antipodes to the virtues of the soul. It is no wonder, then, that in an age of telecommunications - which, by the way, literally means “distant connections” - we suffer symptoms of the loss of soul. We are being urged from every side to become efficient rather than intimate.

—Thomas Moore (1779 - 1852)

. . . 

We find ourselves in a world structured by matter and energy in space and time, and in that world each of us inhabits a body, one among many. At least, that is how we interpret our experiences. 
But when we analyze our conviction of the reality of the material world, we find that it is all based on experiences, nothing else, nothing more real than that.

—Piet Hut
The Nature of Reality: Matter, Experience, Appearance, Presence 


that which abides


Current-borne, wave-flung, tugged hugely by the whole might of ocean, the jellyfish drifts in the tidal abyss. The light shines through it, and the dark enters it. Borne, flung, tugged from anywhere to anywhere, for in the deep sea there is no compass but nearer and farther, higher and lower, the jellyfish hangs and sways; pulses move slight and quick within it, as the vast diurnal pulses beat in the moondriven sea. Hanging, swaying, pulsing, the most vulnerable and insubstantial creature, it has for its defense the violence and power of the whole ocean, to which it has entrusted its being, its going, and its will.

But here rise the stubborn continents. The shelves of gravel and the cliffs of rock break from water baldly into air, that dry, terrible outerspace of radiance and instability, where there is no support for life. And now, now the currents mislead and the waves betray, breaking their endless circle, to leap up in loud foam against rock and air, breaking….
What will the creature made all of seadrift do on the dry sand of daylight; what will the mind do, each morning, waking?

—Ursula LeGuin
The Lathe of Heaven

. . .

With their round dance the electrons spin
chrysalises of that which abides,
the inmost cocoons
which do not open of their own accord
but are of that which abides.

There it is not a matter of hatching out.

There it is a matter of tending and protecting
the metamorphoses of the inmost
deeper-down swaying,
the innermost playing of women in dance.

—Harry Martinson



Saturday, February 20, 2021

Spacetime tells matter how to move; matter tells spacetime how to curve. —Wheeler


It is believed by most that time passes;
in actual fact,
it stays where it is.

This idea of passing may be called time,
but it is an incorrect idea,
for since one sees it only as passing,
one cannot understand that it stays just where it is.

—Dogen Zenji