Just the Beginning

As a pure gift, a dream descended
from the heavens one night—
transporting me to a realm
more real than ‘real life.’

At the beginning of this dream, I died.
As my spirit was being born
out of my motionless body
it awakened to the fact that it is,
at the core, One with Everything.
It can’t really be spoken of,
but the rest of life paled by comparison
to that Beauty and Majesty
beyond words.

At one point, flying like Superman,
I look down at the trees and, at the same time,
astonished, I am the trees looking back up at me.

Then I lived my life all over again.
But this time, bathed in light,
watching from slightly above,
as well as inside myself,
I knew, full of compassion,
why each thing had to happen. . .

Being One with Everything,
of necessity, I was the dog
I petted and the dog I scolded,
as well as myself.
I felt, from the inside,
what everyone felt because of me,
good and bad, every step of the way.
Payment made in full,
down to the last penny.

Supported by an invisible hand
—and voluntarily embarked upon—
this journey through
Heaven and Hell is real, all right,
but much more fair
and to the point
than we’ve been led
to believe. . .

And only the beginning.

Visitation

A rotten day.
Reaching high for the cookies,
they all fall to the floor,
of course.
Furious. . .

Then, out of nowhere,
a Presence inside,
watching Chuck fume,
radiating deep unconcerned care.
More “me” than me, in a way that can’t be described.
But it’s clear as day
that he’s never gone, merely hidden
—these luminous moments excepted.

Taken under his wing,
basking in his presence,
fury evaporates.

Who was that “masked man”?
And how do I get him to come back?. . .

                *

And come back he did one evening,
this time staying longer,
showing me more directly
what was possible.
As he took unquestioned control
of my inner world,
all defenses, all worry, all pretenses, all fears
simply vanished
into his complete equanimity—
the boundaries of ‘who I am’
stretched beyond recognition. . .

Finally, he departed as he had come,
but leaving me with a model
and an inestimable gift,
the reflection of which lives
in these poems of inquiry and hope.

A Perfect Time

How will I die? Not the cause—no need
to know how it will occur, or when, or where.
But will it be with eyes open, all avoidance
evaporated, a stillness at the core in those
final moments—seeing how they reflect back,
illuminating a whole life, the whole world?

Or will I die like a dog, cringing from the lash,
making feeble, futile gestures of resistance?
Or a monkey, yakking to itself, caught
in its cage of words, its second-hand life?
Better to depart with my humanity intact,
bowing to my fate, at peace.

And since the end could come at any moment,
perhaps now is a perfect time to face life
as if I was facing death unafraid.

Perhaps now is a perfect time to resign
from the ranks of the walking wounded,
to stand up straight, resolute, grateful—
to kiss the world that gave birth to me,
and will, just as fairly,
take that life back again one day—
in its own perfect time.

The Invisible Cage

Looking around a group of trusted compatriots,
suddenly seeing how finite and circumscribed
their personalities are, like everyone.
How exquisitely limited their options at any point,
how those limitations
have etched themselves into their faces,
as in stone.

Then looking inward,
to my own etched-in-stone face,
bound like Prometheus to the rock
of ‘a decent supply of self-worth
and the reasonable esteem of others,’
an invisible cage around
the spark inside me
sent down from the stars.

Like any other junkie, these monkeys
howl, demanding to be fed,
and regularly.
But do I have to obey?
Is it possible to stand back a bit
from that ingrained impulse,
and just watch it try to work
its seedy magic?
Was I sent down from the heavens
specifically to toughen up
enough to resist that siren’s call?
Can this seeing
be used to
slowly unlatch
the invisible cage
around me?

The Necessity of Opposition

At a gallery, stunned by
“The Buddha at the Moment of
Supreme Enlightenment.”
The most beatific smile
as all around him fierce demons attack,
throwing spears and knives.
Entering his aura, the weapons
transform into flowers,
petals drifting slowly to his side—
the impression embedded for a lifetime:
no attack, no flowers.

Day in, day out,
my system reacts,
attracted or repelled,
stung or comforted
by each next thing.
Finding a moment of
intimate distance
from both flowers and thorns,
each are seen as being
absolutely essential
to me, down to the smallest detail. . .
Knowing that,
even when the thorns
blossom into a crown,
can it be worn gracefully
with eyes wide open?

Buried Questions

Where does the beauty of music come from?
Where do startling thoughts come from?
Where do feelings of love and compassion come from?
All experience these, yet we seldom ask,
What is their source? Who do we thank?
Such an immense potential,
sometimes realized,
in the human spirit.
Where does this potential come from?
And where do we go to tap into it?

Our daily lives, our normal frame of mind
create layers on top of these buried questions,
so that it is hard to even remember
that we need to know.

Maybe if we just kept on asking,
kept looking for more illumination,
for a glimpse behind the veil,
kept wondering what lies hidden beneath the surface—
maybe those questions, by themselves,
would lead us closer to the source,
the something sacred
at the heart of things.

For Those of Us Who. . .

(For those of us who sometimes have trouble
being comfortable in our own skins. . .)

A personality can be as heavy
to lug around as an ailing body—
like an aging vaudeville performer,
taking his bag of tricks town to town,
hoping for one last round of applause
before he expires.

But is it possible, voluntarily,
to climb up on our own individual cross:
the cross of our finite, limited personality
cobbled together over the years, battered
and ragged as it might be?
Can we climb up and suffer the simple reality
of what is actually true for us,
true of us,
without flinching,
without hiding or
rationalizing,
without crying out at injustices done
or planning solutions?

If we pay in advance, pay voluntarily like this,
a certain magic can happen.
Our situation becomes not only bearable,
but transformed.
The burden becomes almost weightless,
a joy even, in its own tender, bittersweet way.
We see that we are all perfect examples
of humanity—flawed, tossed about
by life’s pummelling, reacting
without understanding what hit us. . .
And yet—still noble somehow, still carrying
the ancient torch that our life has meaning,
that our struggles are valuable, win or lose.

Let us then offer up our shortcomings
on the alter of Pure Seeing. There the fires
will turn them into courage,
the courage needed to carry out our sacred duty,
to climb our own personal Golgotha
with our head held high.

Two Ways to Get to Now

What if I am not responsible,
in some fundamental way,
for all the myriad versions of myself
that have come and gone,
(including the one a second ago)?
What if all that
was just to get me here?
What if I refuse to be dragged backwards
to justify, explain, pretty-up all that happened?
What if all of it—both the good and the bad—
were simply cut loose, inside?
What would remain? . . .

                        *

What if I knew, and accepted,
that I would disappear from this earth
60 seconds from now?
What would be left of me during that minute,
if there was no future to plan for?
No past to justify?

Just me, here, now,
with these perceptions, these feelings.
A human being—quietly pulsing with life,
filled with gratitude for just that.

Shhh!

Part One

What would a stopwatch show if it counted the minutes
spent talking inside our heads—
rehearsing future events, conversations,
or rehashing past ones?
Living largely in our imagination,
even as we function in the world. . .

Seemingly harmless, this talking, as normal as breathing.
But, like narcotics, a certain distance appears—
subtle, yet a steel trap, closing,
the distance inserting itself between us
and our own experiences.

Behind our conscious mind, these solo conversations
also give birth to distorted offspring.
Imagining we are just a wee bit nicer or smarter
(or dumber) than is really the case,
we come to believe it as truth—
an invisible cage of subtle lies.

Once seen, this trap needs to be sprung, but how?
There’s this: Simply stop all the words, mid-sentence even.
Stop believing in them, just for a minute at a time.
No harm done pulling the plug on things living only in our mind . . .

Part Two

And if we did, what would take its place?

In the moment, the real relief of life without commentary,
without judgment—stray voices just ignored
in favor of whatever appears next.

Over time, the possibility of cumulative effects, unfolding:

Seeing and accepting what is actually true,
minute by minute—a noble path, somehow bringing
new respect just for being human.

On a good day, seeing the world and everything in it,
including ourselves, as alive, vibrating,
deliciously three-dimensional.

Watching one tension dissolve, and then another,
tied-in as they are to past and future dramas,
leaving us in peace, finally.

On occasion, the gift of a feeling of real gratitude
for just our very existence, here, at this moment. . .

And, as if in response, an impulse akin to prayer
that asks to be shown how to be of service.

And then perhaps a question waiting years to be heard,
not framed in words,
but something like,
“What would it take to be completely free of worry?”
And the equally wordless response,
bigger than the sky,
something like “God”. . .

Shhh!

Enough Already

Like a little dog
yapping at random
sounds and passersby,
the mind believes
its endless chatter
is essential.
“Be quiet now, Sweetie,”
we say,
when we’ve had enough.

Meditation on the Night Sky

Nighttime, far from human lights,
looking deep into the Milky Way,
ecstatic at the sheer immensity of it,
eyes open wider than seems possible.
Stars everywhere,
splattered completely at random,
yet at the same time,
brimming over with meaning
and incomprehensible beauty. . .

And then an overwhelming perception:
everything is linked together, held together,
—beyond description, beyond understanding—
made whole somehow
by the force of the One
we are all infinitesimal parts of—
the impression seared inside, forever.

Back on earth. . .
To see the heavens with that clarity,
the bustle of civilization must be left far behind.
For the same reason,
feeling the need for a deeper vision,
we sit in quiet.
Uncoupling from our daily affairs,
gradually three worlds take shape, one inside the other:
      The world everyone shares, sees, touches.
      Then closer in—sensations/emotions/thoughts,
      all the currents that make up “me” in each of us.
And, sometimes (even mundane moments, midday),
      residing at our core,
      simple, unalloyed consciousness
      —pristine, unshakable, watching everything. . .

We feel its awareness feeding our deepest selves,
connecting us somehow with realms
higher than anything we can know
down here on the ground.

Three worlds we live in,
each as real
as the Milky Way
on a crystal clear night,
stars blazing.

A Tale of Inner Separation

A scared little guy inside
runs much of my machinery,
I’ve noticed.
Compelled to defend himself
—in advance, no less—
against any possible hurts,
he worries and scurries through life
and takes me with him, hypnotized.

Seeing this as fact one day, I asked,
“Do you want to spend
a good chunk of your life like this?”
The response didn’t require
any pulling up of bootstraps,
no judgment, recrimination, angst—
just seeing the truth,
and making the obvious move:
I simply sat him down and told him:
      that everything was fine,
      that there was no need to be afraid,
      that he could just relax
      without that causing any harm.
“If some hassle comes our way,
we’ll deal with it then,” I said,
and he understood that we would, in fact,
be able to deal with most anything
in that fashion.

He hasn’t disappeared, of course,
but at least we’re on speaking terms,
and that’s a good thing.

Swinging with the Pendulum

The walls
of my inner room
are expandable.
They slowly breathe
in and out
over the course of a day.

As they contract,
the room gets heavier, denser—
moving around it a chore,
until sometimes all that is possible
is wallowing in the sludge.

But sooner or later they open—these walls,
        the ceiling—letting in light, air,
            a felt sense of the people around me,
                rivulets of real emotion,
            subtle vibrations of unknown origin,
        the ticker-tape of sensations as they
silently swirl through me.
        Now able to freely turn around inside myself, unstuck,
            slowly turning like a dervish, or a kaleidoscope,
                watching all the impressions coming in,
            and sending back out messages of beauty,
        curiosity, solidarity, hope.

Internal forces properly aligned,
I see this pendulum swinging back and forth,
see that little annoyances, big problems,
neither needs to be resisted—just dealt with,
knowing that they, too, will pass.

Like Count Basie’s band, a gentle
sense of forward motion takes over—
everything meshing smoothly.
The pendulum swings—mournful or buoyant,
each with its own kind of beauty—
like music, spreading out in all directions,
back toward its source.

Man At Work

It seems that anything can be a ‘reminding factor,’
—a reminder to come back to ourselves,
to shake loose from our ‘waking dream.’
Come with me for a minute, if you would,
to see what I mean.

“Starting from anywhere:
the feeling of the computer keys under my fingers
leads to sensing what it is to be a living being,
inside this body. . .

Which opens up into the feeling of being a whole person,
full of sensations, thoughts, emotions, perceptions—
      each worth attending to
      each some sort of message
      from the place where Meaning comes from. . .

Which awakens a sense of being part of
an Indescribable Whole,
only lasting a second,
but mine nonetheless. . .

Then the inevitable descent
to a more ordinary state,
with all the bittersweet feelings
of finitude and loss,
resolution and constraint
that is my daily fare.
But even those—the cause of moments of real seeing,
real experiencing of what actually is. . .

Then gratitude for the soft, flesh landing
of snuggling into your arms. . .”

If anything and everything
can be a reminding factor,
then that puts us in a pretty good position—
if we’re
looking
to be
reminded.

Silent Secret

What’s the point of living
in a body
if I ignore it,
except when it says, “Feed me,”
in one way or another?

Is there a silent secret here,
the answer to a riddle as yet unstated?

Could it be that I cannot really
appreciate being alive
if I don’t feel the blood lapping at my cells?

So I try, and fail,
try, and fail,
with some numinous exceptions,
to feel, down to my bones,
that I am actually incarnated
in this body.

Is just the attempt of any value
in finding clues as to why I was born?
Can I call to Heaven
to help me feel my feet
being rooted on the Earth?

Is there a silent secret here?

Reflections

A bumbler.
Brilliant.
A complete moron.
One of God’s miracles.
These, and a thousand other attributes.
All
  equally
    true.

Defending, berating, compensating,
tilting the scales my way,
currying favor in others’ eyes,
or my own.
These, and a thousand other machinations.
All
  equally
    useless.

Instead, searching for ways to actually Be,
To watch the moments carefully,
To let them soak all the way in,
To say ‘Thanks.’