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Category Archives: love

sunday poem

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Feeling deeply appreciated and nourished by the comments to my previous post, I dip into The poetry of Zen* —

Whatever it is,
I cannot understand it,
although gratitude
stubbornly overcomes me
until I’m reduced to tears.

* by Saigyō Hōshi (西行 法師, 1118–1190) in Hamill, S., & Seaton, J. P. (2007). (trans.). Boston: Shambhala, p. 112. image: “Old Man Weeping” after Van Gogh by Gordon Christie when he was still a teenager.


there are days …

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… when nothing much happens, nothing spectacular anyway. just one thing after another, as on other days. It’s then that the little things grab me by the nose (or ear, as my stepmom used to) and say, “Listen!”

And so it is today. Someone wrote to say “thank you for all you do” and another asked for advice on “where should I go from here.” Then a note from the monastery about “scattering Alex’s ashes,” that lovely man, painter and dad to two sweet kids, who died from some degenerative brain thing. And a friend sending a picture of her love bird named Bean (“because he looked like a green bean when we first got him”) who fell off his perch, twitched a bit, and didn’t survive another seizure. “We wrapped him in tissue paper and buried him in the garden under a flower-pot — after the dog had given him one last sniff.”

Just another day, eh?! There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground, Rumi says. I’m grateful to be disturbed in my slumber.

be here now

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There were eight of us in last night’s mindfulness class, including five nurses: active, retired, students. We practiced following our in-breaths, then our out-breaths, noting the gap in between. We walked in the garden, bringing attention to the bottom of our feet. We did standing stretches, extending arms and hands to feel our full reach. We lay flat on the floor, sensing our weight and scanning our bodies from bottom to top, bringing oxygen and awareness to parts taken for granted.

Saki Santorelli, director of the stress reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School calls mindfulness “an act of hospitality.

A way of learning to treat ourselves with kindness and care that slowly begins to percolate into the deepest recess of our being while gradually offering us the possibility of relating to others in the same manner.”

No wonder that professional caregivers gather to learn in this way. They give and give to others everyday. Many get burned out, experience ‘compassion fatigue,’ become discouraged, even bitter. So they (we) return to the beginning: noting one in-breath at a time, all the way till it reaches the still point, then noting the exhale, just as attentively. 

“With every breath I take, I am at home,” Master Dogen (1200-1253) tells us. A healthy person breathes between 15 and 20 times per minute, 900 to 1200 per hour. How many of those have I spent away from “home,” distracted and unaware?

sources: Santorelli, S. (2011). Letting ourselves heal. Mindfulness (magazine). Boston: Shambhala, p. 19. The “be here now” in the heading comes from the bestselling book by Ram Dass (1971, Random House).

sunday poem

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still the body
still the mind
still the voice inside

in silence
feel the stillness move

this feeling
cannot be imagined

by Kabir (mystic poet from India, 1440-1518) in Sushil Rao. (1996). (trans). Beloved, may I enter; short poems. Hadir Press, p. 45. image: “stillness in motion” by Lynda Cole at

if my heart could do my thinking

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If my heart could do my thinking
And my head begin to feel
I would look upon the world anew
And know what’s truly real.

From: Van Morrison. (1987). “I forgot that love existed” on Poetic champions compose. Click for full lyrics and performance on youtube.

sunday poem #24

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

2nd stanza of “Last night as I was sleeping” by Antonio Machado (1875-1939) in Bly, R. (1983). (trans). Times alone: selected poems of Antonio Machado. Weslyan University Press, p. 43. image:

grief revisited

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Four years ago I suffered a devastating loss. Following a brief and intense experience which held the promise of family, home-coming, travel, art, Zen, and matters sensual, she elected to go her own way. There had, of course, been previous losses — my mom’s death when I was a toddler and my dad’s years later, an ill-fated marriage, a child I’ve never known, and various existential cessation — but none that rattled me so fundamentally.

That’s when this blog was born. I recall the myriad ways with which I stayed afloat amid much hopelessness. I joined a running group and completed a 10K race; I signed up for art classes and sat weeping over the drawing pad; I discovered The West Wing on DVD and sobbed my way through its 154 episodes

Why bring this up today, four years later? Someone at the video store mentioned that he was re-viewing that TV series and on a whim I took home the first season — I’ve been sobbing ever since. I’m amazed how the mere sound of the opening score and sights of familiar character bring back such strong memories. And not just visual memories, but felt sensations deep in my body. Considering the amount of grief work I’ve done over time, for myself and with others, I’m surprised by the intensity of this recurring agony.

A review of the literature shows that widely held assumptions about grieving are not supported by empirical evidence. They include: ♥ grief follows a relatively distinct pattern; ♥ grief is short-term and finite; ♥ grief is a linear process characterized by stages, phases, or tasks of shock, yearning, and recovery; ♥ the grief process needs to be “worked through”; and ♥ the continuation of grief is abnormal, even pathological. Breen, L.J., & O’Connor, M. (2007). The fundamental paradox in the grief literature: a critical reflection. Omega, 55 (3), 199-218.