Saturday, January 9, 2016

Mother, Son, Sister, Love (Hexagram/Principle 64, NOT YET)

Fog lights on for the drive home
from the hospital this winter's eve.

Spooky night -- temp is four degrees.
He might have been a pilot for how he sees.

Instead, he veers around
all eerie things arising 

from the murk. Sentinel son,
he's come from seeing

his mother, who's working hard
and harder at her job

of staying alive for one
more night. She's a Nana

two times over now, two more boys,
young enough not to know

yet the scent of death, its pall.
On they drive, the man and death.

His sister met him in the hall; 
she going in, he going out,

revolving loves to help sustain
the one who gave them life. 

He asked his younger sib,
"Double double for your trouble?"

A joke as old as they, a family line
passed down from Dad, no longer

here, but here, amid
the bustle and despair.

"Same as Mom," she said, and sighed,
then nearly laughed, and then she cried

a rapid tear, just one, before she
hiked her shoulders up and told him 

No ... I just want Mom to live.
He couldn't speak to that. No menu

for that fist within their guts
that every child will crave

when pinned beneath the antiseptic
light of dour relief by drugs

that quell the chains of pain.
No menu nor a drug

to set a plug into that drain.
He let his sister go.

She didn't see his eyes
skitter for a chair as soon

as she had gone around a bend.
His knees went soft. He couldn't

leave. He couldn't drive.
He wanted them to live:

Sister, mother, wife at home,
both his kids, and he himself

who backed into the wall,
sluggish with the grief

of thinking How, and When.
No coffee to appease

his need to be a god, to save
the lives he couldn't save.

He could only cup his palms
around the bones that shook

his legs to gel, to murmur Thank you,
thank you ... for in this moment, all is well. 

Photo credit: Jack Move Magazine

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The poems just keep on comin' ... (Hexagram / Principle 3, BURSTING AT THE BEGINNING)

Am I bursting with awe?
Is this what it means
to hull the seed
from the inside,
with the heart?

(Photographer: Anton Troetscher. Thank you, dear artist.
Photo found at 

Monday, September 28, 2015

The little things ... aren't so little (Hexagram/Principle 62)

The happiness of life . . . is made up of minute fractions — the little, soon-forgotten charities of a kiss, a smile, a kind look, a gentle word, a heartfelt compliment.
(Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
The "little things" ... saving, sometimes swifting graces. 
It's said that "God is in the details" ... and so is love.
"There are no little things. 'Little things' are the hinges of the universe." (Fanny Fern)
Little things. I recall a story of a young man who was close to ending his life. He'd had enough, and was standing on a bridge. A (supposed) stranger approached him -- a younger boy who sensed his distress. The boy simply asked him, "Are you OK?"
"Are you OK?" turned that man's life away from the abyss. He chose to live. The boy who'd asked the question walked on after pausing to ask the question; the man did not verbally respond, but stared into the boy's eyes, beseeching, searching, agog with the rush of feeling that swelled in him and streamed through him. The heat of care, the bulb lit in his heart. One small, ordinary question from a boy passing by. 
"Are you OK?"
"We do not do great things; we do only small things with great love." (Mother Theresa)
That boy did one small thing with great love. He may never know that he saved a life. 
Ask the question. You might save a life. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The end is nigh -- Yay! (Principle/Hexagram 63, COMPLETION)

The end of doomsaying
The end of misery
The end of another winter
the end of you:

the you of rusted
years spent to the

The end of flaming
pity for the self.

The end of believing
that you are a dead
tree in a naked

True, no birds
nest in your barren
branches. No crickets
sing at your feet.


Listen close. Lay your ear
against the frozen
trunk. Can you hear
the sap

When winter composes
its completion,
your ear will
sing. Your hands
will pulse
in time 
with sap's arousal,

and you will ring.


Art: "Sap Rising" by Elsbeth Poulk-McLeod

It is the secret of the world that all things subsist, 
and do not die,
but only retire a little from sight,
and afterward return again.

(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

DESIRE! (Hexagram 44)

Desire to be generous ... to generate. Sounds a bit paradoxical, doesn't it? We usually equate desire with taking -- I want! I want! -- rather than giving or bestowing. Desire can extend, though. Desire reaches out. Desire opens us towards something before we grasp it. In that instant of extension ... we are open.

Generous desire beckons as it bestows.

"Desire turns us into idiots," writes Scott Spencer. Yes, it does. It can also turn us into sages. Said another way by Imam Al Ghazali,

Desires make slaves out of kings
and patience makes kings out of slaves.

"What do you want?" ~ What's it like for you to ponder that question? How might it be different if instead of asking, "What do I want?", you were to look into a mirror and ask the face there, "What do you want?" What arises in you ... and from where does it arise? Where does desire emerge from in your body?

The feeling of desire runs the gamut from greed to longing ... and to
 divine discontent. 

We itch for something ... our soul itches, and we usually just scratch it, quickly, impulsively. Scratching extends the itch, and sometimes deepens the itch into a wound. We so easily wrap ourselves around our wounds ... Some would say that we become addicted to them. We need to balm an itch, salve it, ease its distress ...

I think of mosquito or horsefly bites. Whoa, do they itch! We want to scratch and scratch the welts that arise. ENCOUNTER is one of the keywords that describe this Principle of DESIRE ... and we can't mistake an encounter between a predatory insect and our skin. The encounter is brief -- a piercing sting -- and off the insect goes to attack another. We're left bitten ... and we start to scratch.

Desire's like that. We're left bitten, and we start to scratch. Trouble begins to brew under the skin -- whether it's the body or the psyche -- and something that was here and gone has left its mark. The traditional elemental image for ENCOUNTER is Wind blowing under Heaven, "never staying long but always moving from one place to another" (trans. Jack Balkin). An element of instability enters the larger picture, bending it out of shape with a subtle power that lasts. As Stephen Karcher writes, one encounters "an ambivalent new possibility for change released by a decisive shift in position."

Temptation enters the picture here. The itch is the chaotic force that spurs us. "Temptation," writes Jack Balkin, "advances on us because -- whether we realize it or not -- we meet it halfway." We are tempted to either corrupt: to keep itching until we've wounded ourselves more than we have been wounded -- or to complete: to tend the itch, to salve it, soften it, ease the sensation of pain. Perhaps a bandage as a cushion against further injury. Itch or ease -- which will it be?

An itch is a sign of irritation ... and it's an invitation to tend, to bring mindful and quieting awareness to whatever's gone antsy.

Ants in your pants? Get 'em out!

Clear the way for true direction -- for desire that's more than an itch. If the surface of you feels bitten and in chaos ... it's a sign that your depths are calling for expression. Often, what we want right now is a scratchy shroud over what our soul longs for. A quick fix -- here and gone -- only heightens the antsiness, and soon we're off on the hunt for another fix. 

How do we transform a fix into a focus? By quieting the itch ... with awareness, a few deep breaths, and an eye that sees into the itch. What is really calling out? What is the deeper desire? Danielle LaPorte

Desire is the foundation of our will to live.

Desire calls for deepening into authentic feeling ... into the longing that we all share for belonging, deep engagement, rest, home. The longing that we all share for our own souls, for our deepest light to burst from the heart, from the seat of authentic feeling. What we desire in a moment is a quivering needle in our existential compass ... and what we truly long for is a steady hum pointing straight to our North Star ... to our true home in the realms of Relation, Location, and Vocation. 

("Riverwind's North Star")

Sometimes these realms are difficult to locate. In my own life, I've struggled to know what I want. Even to want at all has been overlaid with a sign that bars the way -- a sign that says, "Access Forbidden!" Some of us are conditioned to forbid our own desires, our own will. We're unmoored in the universe of our own lives. 

Yet the buoy and its light are within us. They're the heart. The soul. 

What do you really, really want?
Gaze into the mirror of your true face.
Ask the question.
Ask it again and again
until the light
from your soul
pierces through;
until your eyes become
those of the eagle.
Honed with absolute
precision, and burning
toward one target.
Not to kill, but to
with wings
that draw
your desire
and your heart
into one
radiant nest. 
Groom the feathers
that will arc
into wings,
into flight,
into focus. 
Open those wings,
and dare the sky
to hold you
as you alight 
to meet
your destiny's

(Elspeth McLean, Sun Illuminating Eagle Spirit Medicine)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Loss into moss ... a poem (Hexagram 41 changing to 56)

Let go of a weight
a stone
a long-loved
that needs 
to die.

Chances are
(change being
what it is)
that the ache
will wither
like moss:
gently. Its velvet
return will arrive
like a soft tide
with Spring
as you circle
back home
to this lush
bed of loss
to feather it
with a ringless
hand, and your
freshening tears.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

What is the I Ching?

"I Ching, therefore I am!" 

-- So reads the tagline to this blog. My longtime friend Yvonne coined the phrase, and it stuck with a giddy ring of truth. I've been studying the I Ching since 1981; its wisdom is woven into my bones.

The question, "What is the I Ching?" is one thread in the weave ... a question that I can't answer simply (I wonder if any of us can). Translated into English, I Ching -- or Yijing, a more modern transliteration of the Chinese -- means (The) Classic, Book of Change, The Book of Changes, The Changes of Chou (Chou being a tribal people of ancient China, c. 400 B.C.), Change Book, and (The) Classic of Changes. 

One word, one theme, keeps recurring ... Change. 

The fact of perpetual, unchanging Change is the unifier; it is the constancy of change that the Book addresses through 64 Principles most commonly known as Hexagrams, which are sequenced arrangements of lines, based in a basic binary understanding of existential laws that after 33 years of study, I still can't make much sense of.

However! ... One of the fundamental beauties of the I Ching is that its wisdom reveals itself through so many avenues of intelligence. Each reader, each student of the Book, will come to understand it in a completely unique way. My understanding leans to metaphor, psychology, intuition, poetry, and dialogue. Others' grasp of the oracle (an oracle being a source of wisdom) tend to the mathematical (Here's a site by digital/software artist Antonio Cortez -- Inspired by composer John Cage, he's created  a series of 3D hexagrams which, in his words, "capture the spirit, form, and meaning of the original hexagrams"), visually artistic (Cortez again ... and here I think of J.S. Bach, whose music reached a pinnacle of mathematical beauty and expression), historical, cultural, symbolic, and linguistic. There are as many understandings as there are people who delve into study. This is one of the gifts of the I Ching ... Its wisdom speaks through so many voices (as does the wisdom of the Bible and other holy books through their many translations).

(Art: a teaser-chart of Antonio Cortez's 3D I Ching creation)

With all this in mind, I'm going to jot some "first thoughts" that anchor me in meaning to this oracle that has been one of my constant companions through the changes of the last 33 years. Perhaps my thoughts will spark your own; I'd love to read your meanings and hunches about what the oracle is to you.

The I Ching is ... 

* a wise guide through the constant inevitability of change -- through every passage and possibility of human existence
* a conversation; a dialogue between a person and an oracle (oracle = source of wisdom)
* one of the voices of God ... of Existence, of Life, of our Source and Sustenance
* one of my primary modes of prayer
* a book that Carl Jung revered (he called it "both a supreme expression of spiritual authority and a philosopical enigma ... For lovers of self-knowledge, of wisdom -- if there be such -- it seems to be the right book.")
* a natural complement to the Tao te Ching of Lao Tzu and the works of Confucius
* a mirror of the moment
* an engagement between now ... and then
* one of China's most ancient and revered guides to ethical living, as sacred to people of the Orient as the Bible is to people of Judeo-Christian heritage
* the sanest book on my shelf
* a consistently benevolent, universal, sensical, and humane philosophy
* a practical and immediately applicable manual for living that addresses, with exquisite simplicity, the core questions we have always asked about existence and about the human condition
* an oasis in which to consider questions of relation (To whom do you belong?), location (Where do you belong?), and vocation (To what work/vocation do you belong?)
* sometimes, a scathing wit (and always a humane one) -- I've fallen over laughing several times. Once, in a fit of frustration, I asked the oracle, "What am I supposed to let go of!?" -- The response: Hexagram/Principle 59 -- Dispersion!  
* a soul-mirror of the present moment and of possibilities
* not a human voice, nor an inhuman one ... It is the voice of Wisdom
* not a predictor; not a "fortune teller." The Book offers a snapshot of a moment, its underlying dynamics, and possibilities for behavioural and existential movement; for engagement with what is into what might be ... a platform from which you can change your life in any moment
* a way to propel imagination and intuition into action
* a way to gather mindfulness and mercy into your situations and concerns; a way to hold, behold, and befriend what irks you ... into what might inspire you
* a way to understand how the natural Elements of existence interrelate and act upon all that is
* a distillation of witnessing, wondering, musing, grappling, testing, and apprehending
* a compendium of natural elements, processes, and laws (as Jack Balkin writes in his masterpiece, The Laws of Change, "What are the laws of change that govern human fortunes, and how can human beings understand these laws and learn to live in harmony with the changing world around them?") ... and a means whereby to understand them -- to the point that any person can!
* an engagement of human meaning and mastery with existential Mystery

What is the I Ching to you?

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