Saturday, May 14, 2016

After all, a heron (Hexagram 3, COMING TO BIRTH)

Under your hands
the soil moves
and is moved.
Creatures of the soft,
dense dark
stir and are stirred
and they wonder -- 
can they wonder? -- 
if light exists.
It does. One layer,
just one layer
above their earth-blinded
eyes. One layer, one small
labour from the floor
of one tiny soul. One
push, one intention
from beneath the soil,
beneath the tail, beneath
the seed. Break up
from the core. Break up,
break open, break 
through the shell and be
blinded anew by the resolute
wash of light that now is
inescapably everywhere.
We, too, must push. 
Must break through
the old grit.
Break open, break apart
the husk, the mind
and its concrete spoils.
Break away. Break up
with the night that we
have let go on too long. 
Furl the blinds.
Aspire through
the suffocation of our own
blindings. Break down
the membrane of fear 
and be blinded again
by the light until we
can see. Here is Spring, 
again. Here is
a poem. 

© 2016

From Hellmut Wilhelm's translation of the I Ching:

Times of growth are beset with difficulties. They resemble a first birth. But these difficulties arise from the very profusion of all that is struggling to attain form. Everything is in motion: therefore if one perseveres there is a prospect of great success in spite of the existing danger. When it is [our] fate to undertake such new beginnings, everything is still unformed, dark. ... In order to find one's place in the infinity of being, one must be able both to separate and to unite. 

From Hilary Barrett's lovely translation: 

'Clouds, thunder: Sprouting. 
A noble one weaves warp and weft.'

At the beginning, clouds and thunder swirl together in a creative ferment. The creative impulse rises like thunder and flows out into the world's confusion. 

The word for warp threads also means a canonical text and a channel where energy flows. These are the first principles: you can weave all the colours of experience into the structure they provide, translating creative chaos into a creative order. 

Chaos coheres into a heron
who streams past my window
as I compose ... 


(Photo of seedburst found at Spoken' in Portland. Photographer unknown; my thanks to you.)

(Photo of heron by warhead_71)
(Source: Thank you!) 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

One Love (Principle / Hexagram 1 -- THE CREATIVE)


The first hexagram, the first principle, of the I Ching is THE CREATIVE. The Something from Nothing ... the bursting of Life from the Void ... Pure Light, Pure Being ... the God Principle, the Creator ... First Cause ... Generative Power ... The Source of Life ... Pure Yang ... Father Sky ... The Sun. 

I would also call this Principle ... LOVE. 

 W.H. Auden, one of our world's great poets, wrote,

"We must love one another or die." 

He was speaking, I think, of the death we do ourselves in with if we choose not to love. I write these thoughts the day after another widely-publicized terrorist attack in Brussels. How many other attacks were there yesterday, the day before, and the day before that? Today?

What is the opposite of attack? My mind says Embrace. 

The opposite of terrorism? Compassionism.  

Let's commit compassionist embraces. 

We will die, someday. Auden's urgent thought drives the human heart to love ... and yesterday, as happens in the wake of every terrorist attack, people reached out and embraced one another. I read of a woman who helped 11 other people cram into her little car to escape the carnage. She loved her passengers away from danger. 

We love one another to life.  

One Love

One love, one beam of steady light
can hitch and hold a heart
to the world. One love
can nourish a starving soul
enough to keep it on its feet,
to keep it taking one step
at a time. One step. One step.
One love can be the voice
entering the ear that flows
straight to the core of the brain,
the core of the soul, the well
of the heart that thirsts for rain
that has not fallen for what seems
a lifetime. One drop. One drop.
One hand, extended. One gaze
of mercy. One tear given permission
to course down a cheek. One ear held
next to a heart. One gentle
dare to loosen the mask.
One touch. One touch. One memory
of a singular touch, a touch that
awakens a soul, that insists
on love. One touch that startles
a being to breathe, that strikes
a chord, a memory, of music,
which is a river of joy. One love
that aches to touch and be touched,
however the touch arrives and melts
the ice of late winter, whatever the season
outside. Spring is always bursting into bloom
somewhere. Spring is invincible, inevitable.
The seasons always turn. One turn. One turn.
Spring will come. Flowers will detonate
colour into the slate of winter's end.
Perfume will mend exhausted air
and souls gone grey. One scent. One scent.
We wait for the flowers, the music, the love,
the step. We are the step into Spring;
we are the shifters of seasons;
we are the sun. The sun is within.
Come, dear season, dear soul.
Circle the earth of your being.

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)

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