how many invisible people are present when i sip my cup of
dark roasted coffee & nibble at a slice of frosted chocolate cake?
i know that i am not alone as i sit here at the kitchen table.
who grows the coffee beans & how many thousands of people are involved
to plant, cultivate, harvest & transport them to market where i buy them?
they have come to me by truck, train & ship: how many people does that take?
they have to package the coffee beans, load & unload them several times.
official documents have to be provided, money has to change hands,
hence governments & corporations are actively participating.
who provides ingredients for the chocolate cake? how many people
are concerned with planting & harvesting the wheat, taking it to the mill?
where are the cacao beans grown & how do they make it to the market?
where does the sugar cane originate? who cultivates & harvests it
& how many are needed to transform it to granulated sugar?
where do the eggs, milk & butter originate for the chocolate cake?
endlessly it continues: an extensive network of countless tens of
thousands of people are invisibly surrounding me in the kitchen.
each ingredient in the chocolate cake, every bean of the coffee,
requires an immense cooperative network to manifest, market
& transport it. i am not alone, never even for a brief moment!
legions of people in global synergy are required in order to
bring about that cup of hot coffee & slice of frosted chocolate cake
sitting in front of me on the table as if i myself had made them!
how many people made the table, my coffee cup, the clothes that i wear?
i am up to my eyeballs in miracles of global cooperative
endeavor & enterprise! (yet it is the wars that are counted on the
fingertips & in the headlines in a strange collective delirium!)
just as we are blind to the numberless myriads of people involved
in manifesting coffee & chocolate cake, thus also are we blind
to the underlying human solidarity allowing us to
exist together on this planet at all. let us now open our eyes!
Shiva, You have put it all vivid & clear in front of my face: how
much we need one another, that we are bound together in a flow of
mutual creativity & beneficial energy exchange.
so just how many invisible people are surrounding me today
as i drink dark roasted coffee & peacefully eat my chocolate cake?
may a burst of gratitude radiate to bless the thousands, the millions,
of people upon whose backs i am humbly drinking this coffee, Shiva!
a rowdy pack of dogs goads a herd of cows through the rugged woods,
where the cows take asylum in the fallow corn field by our house.
during the weeks they are here they graze the field clear & they open
a pathway down to shelter valley by the creek. here the cows rest
safely beneath the great hemlock tree whom i call mother because
of her broad, thick & wide-stretched open arms that guard & secure
the cool protected cave-like chamber beneath this sentinel tree.
it is a sanctuary for the cows & later, for me, my
haven where i meditate, self-review & become absorbed in
the ancient energies of the mountain, valley & free-flowing
streams of water bordering toward the east & the west of this
secluded nature preserve & branch-cloistered nurturing retreat.
i call the auspicious spacious chamber beneath mother hemlock
the temple of the green sun. sunlight filters through the green hemlock
needles, casting an undersea glow because the branches sweep the
earth around the tree & the feeling is of a sanctified place.
my chair leans against her trunk as sunlight streams in long shifting bands
of swirling dusty light all around & arching high overhead.
for years we commune daily, the mother hemlock & i, in all
kinds of weather, both inside my head & touching on the outer.
then it happens: the plague of wooly adelgids arrives at the
blue ridge mountains & the mother hemlock falls a victim to it.
the invasive insects slowly vampirize the tree, drinking her
juices. her needles fall, branches becoming bare in a few years,
her power & glory sucked away, her dark bones starkly showing.
i am watching a loved one slowly die during these years, for there's
no cure or help for the mother hemlock. we are all powerless
in the face of this fierce invading pestilence that ravages.
the temple of the green sun is gone. it's now a somber graveyard,
a tomb marking the death of a local goddess, & i am but
memorializing her & the peaceful shelter she furnished.
now she is a skeleton, bare & dark against the empty sky.
goodbye, mother hemlock, farewell & my gratitude goes with you.
i also no longer flourish & thrive, though it's better for me
than for you, yet you are always in my memory: teacher, friend
& dear companion for long, wonderful country-time years down the
curvy backroads of the blue ridge mountains of north carolina.
ah Shiva! growing as a tree, You show me blessings & teach me
patience, acceptance & detachment. I thank You for giving this
insight, for showing me You can change form yet ever reappear
as the consummate teacher & companion. You are woven like
a heartening red thread patterned throughout my whole life, revealing
Yourself to be the heart & soul of every blessing & every
challenge, connecting the varied myriad parts as one, having
a single intent. You make of me a better person so that
my personality may serve the world. You show me that i also,
in essence, extend far beyond form, merging myself into You
at deepest core & fundament, eluding words altogether.
You are the dogs, the cows, the hemlock tree, wooly adelgids too.
just because i cannot comprehend the whole pattern does not mean
a thing & i know that fact well! i have taken refuge in You,
Shiva, so let the drama play out; it's beyond my concern now.
all i need is You, my Beloved, & You know that very well:
You have been lighting the way ceaselessly since time & space burst forth.
OM NAMAH SHIVAYAH!
some blessings are so amazing that i don't recognize them
as blessings for years, sometimes even decades. they are like the
mystic eggs of a strange bird, bound to hatch in their own time, placed
in the nest of me, knowing not what may come from them or when.
i have seen blessings change into challenges overnight &
challenges throw off their concealment to emerge as blessings.
therefore i will rejoice in the gifts of the moment, holding
them lightly that they may fly when they are called by destiny.
You teach me to regard blessing & challenge with equal eyes,
Shiva: as opportunity in disguise, to be esteemed.
i cannot court one without bowing to the other also.
we are all golden beneath the dust, deeply imprinted with
the urge to evolve into wholeness. there is no turning back,
no refusal to be what i yearn to be & am at heart.
i will protect these strange eggs, Shiva, & will accept what may
come from them with gentle respect for their divine origin.
i welcome You, Beloved, to the open door of my waiting heart.
all has been cleaned & blessed, Shiva. the air is scented with sandalwood
& flowers are heaped in woven baskets: gardenias & hyacinths,
roses & violets, honeysuckle & wisteria. i am
drunk with the celebration of flowers, their laughter like tiny bells,
their presence honoring You, Beloved who lives deep within. You are
the raw living fire of consciousness, burning me sweetly, lifting me
gently. i am Yours to consume utterly, to imbibe & savor.
in this way i return to You, origin & source, who give me life
even before time begins, bringing gifts of flowers & love that has
no beginning or end but swallows us all fully into itself.
here i am again, Beloved! let's dance this dance where two become one
without a second & all melts into love scented with sandalwood.
i welcome You, Beloved, to the open door of my waiting heart.
it happens once that a river bids me to come & lie on its
long water-smoothed swathes of stone beach & touch its fossil runes &
time-sculpted stone poetry. the wisdom of the heart informs my
fingertips & i am enraptured by the river: its limestone
bluffs, meandering expanses of tactile river-refined stones.
they tell aeonic-long tales of the survival & ascension
of creatures from another geological age than this one.
they move me to my deepest heart & core. here at the core i find
my sincere root connection to this life, this realm wherein i now
find this body. it is embedded in the moment just as the
fossil beings are embedded in stone. i am not separate
from all that surrounds & supports me. i too am an expression
of Shiva here. what a grand dance this truly is: the minerals
in these bones & the dust on the moon, all one big cosmic event!
i tell this to the river as we lie on the stones in the sun,
blessed by the touch of warmth right down to our boulders, pebbles & bones.
i share my last dream, in which the river blesses me with a stone
imprinted with the stylized shape of an eye. this is the potent
dream--my invitation--that brings me here today, down the long rough
country road to the hidden winding path toward the swift river.
this Shiva-blessed river is kin to the great Ganges springing
from snow-melt in the far Himalayan heights half a world away.
i tell this to the river as we lie side by side in the sun.
once again i feel time & space shift & blend inexplicably,
a fresh fossil moment showing its story to be seen & known,
not hidden any more. we have no secrets, stripped down to essence,
to the wholeness of all existence. the river & i, under
the sun & sky: we lie together on the bedrock of it all
& Shiva holds us in the fullness of His pure eternal love.
He is another sun, hidden behind the one we see, concealed
within the mystery of the secret chamber within the heart.
the river knows this mystery too & is smiling in the way
that rivers can: with a thousand thousand bright shining glints of light.
now at my feet i see revealed the sacred stone of my deep dream,
emerging to be my talisman & companion wherever
Shiva sends us, graced with helpful dreams & miracles as we go.
this stone is known as "Shiva's eye," a guardian on my altar.
the river is the buffalo, the first national river park,
protected from development for all its wooded winding length.
Shiva holds us close to Him, me & the buffalo river stone.
we dream together of lessons learned & goodness to be revealed,
& the river flows clear & i rejoice: OM NAMAH SHIVAYA!
need is honed by the whetted knives of appetite & truly, Shiva,
i hunger for You. gone are home & husband: only You remain to
feel my need & only You, my panacea, can satisfy it.
after the hard fall from grace comes humility. after the blessing
of divine presence comes also humility, for what on earth can
long endure? i am like an autumn butterfly floating in the wind
as if a bright & tattered fallen leaf spiraling in circles not
of my own choosing. i am being carried home, Shiva, on this long
journey of return to You, yet another weary old butterfly
coasting on worn ragged wings & deeply rooted instinct
as the days grow shorter & cooler & the nights fall even colder.
the crisp clear nights are overseen by orion & the pleiades,
who make their promises & work their spell upon my stuttering heart.
i am promised to You, Shiva, carried & cloistered by messengers
who are following Your firm command. my life is not my own. even
my need & appetite do not originate with me but come as
endowments, strange puzzles concealing Your calling card & messages
written in subtle sensory glyphs which You have taught me how to read.
they say, "wear it out, burn it up, let it go & seek Me everywhere
as we play hide & seek in this burning ground of purification
called daily life on planet earth. I will carry you home at the end."
"are we home yet, Shiva?" i ask Him like a child, again & again,
& we giggle & play tag in body after body one more time.
after the festive gala celebration comes the thorough clean-up.
after the inmost insight comes steady determined application.
after the fall from grace & light comes the humility to struggle
from the shattered scattered rubble & resolutely rise up again:
what is learned from the darkness is to be gathered & shared in the light.
after the sincere sadhana comes the fading of maya's mirage
in Shiva's pervasive light. He is kneading the soul as if it is
bread being carefully prepared for baking. He is working His light
deep into the cells that i may also be a light unto the world.
wherever i am, Shiva declares it a temple & i bow humbly.
i pray for the trees & the birds & for the young of all who are born
to bless this sad besieged world with the nectar of their sweet purity.
this is the time when abundant blessings are needed everywhere, for
what is learned from the darkness is to be gathered & shared in the light.
some seeds must be watered thoroughly by our tears before they can sprout: the darkness & moisture are needed before the heat of the bright day. things soften & fall away in the salty wetness of flowing tears. it's too early for the light, too early for words to begin pulling things apart or holding them together by dogged force & grim grit.
first must come the quickening tears, the basic form of the fertilizer of the soul, for growth needs abundant moisture to support suppleness. let the tears well up & flow. something inside is moving towards birth, struggling slick & wet into the soft dark blanket of the deep night.
You know about tears, Shiva. You know what a cleansing release they bring. You know that they have healing properties & a holy origin. i will rest in You, Shiva, & the tears will serve Your purpose as i do japa of Your sacred mantra on my rudraksha seed mala.
she feels it first & deepest. it is undeniable: the call.
it reaches deep down inside & wraps around her heart pulling her
insistently to her feet, impelling forward, onward, upward!
her wings spread wide, she leaps into the air & the call lifts her up.
the call blends with the wind & she is airborne, soaring in the sky.
a great etheric trail follows in her wake, a sign for action.
it is the vitalizing scent of the call, invoking the flock.
the other members of the flock are mesmerized & magnetized,
enchanted by the alluring trail that invites them to follow.
as one, they beat their wings in a low thrumming thunder, lifting up
into the welcoming surges of wind in the high clear sky: what
a rush it is! what a perfect activity: balancing on
the currents of magnetic energy pulsating from the heart
of the earth to her winged children calling out gladly in flight.
moving in supportive harmony together, the living cloud
of birds dances in tandem with the magnetic heart of the earth,
shaping messages of encouragement on the dome of the sky.
the lead bird now melds into the greater flock in the natural
flow of the long group flight that the planet has set into motion.
a new lead bird moves seamlessly in place to guide the flock's journey.
they follow the call of the living earth to their new food & shelter.
i hear the call too. it sounds like OM & it feels like love, & it
comes from You, Shiva, plunging deeply within, irresistible.
my heart flies with the flock, held safe in the arms of heaven & earth,
each wingbeat a prayer, every utterance a sacred mantra.
the lead bird in the migrating flock follows an undeniable call
that urgently flows, spine through wingtip, surging further than sight. birds respond
naturally to this seasonal invocation of guiding power
& the lead bird feels the pull first, drawing the others to accompany.
day after day the steady relentless primal call surges through the flock.
the one who leads is not concerned with getting ahead & the ones trailing
after are not concerned that they are following. there is one thing only:
the numinous call to journey that maintains its compelling driving force.
all follow it throughout nature's vast realm, responding as they are able.
Shiva, You call irresistibly & i respond to the urgency,
offering myself to You. there is no lull for those who can hear Your call,
nor is it needed, for being near You fills all the emptiness within.
when i am meditating in my room or doing japa of Your name,
i am heartened by the subtle ways that You gently reveal Your presence.
here within these walls may drift the rich leafy-fresh scent of forest after rain.
there may be a slow warm touch upon the cheek as if You are here by me.
perhaps i suddenly feel Your heat melting the ancient chill in my heart,
or i look out the window & see the clouds spelling Your name in holy
script upon the sky. sometimes an almost-visible blessing wave may roll
through me & i open my heart as wide as i can for love to pour out.
i am nourished by You, Shiva, & i want to share Your kindness freely.
OM NAMAH SHIVAYA
the body is temporary. that which enlivens it is eternal. i am that enlivening spark, knowing the body as a beloved companion animal, responsibly attending to its basic needs.
here's the challenge: the mind interprets the body's needs very broadly, hence alertness is called for. the body's genuine needs are not so pressing as the mind's elaborations. discrimination is needed. mind & body dance in partnership &, as the detached observer of them both, a balance of discipline & care evolves. sometimes the body simply cannot have what it wants. the mind defends the body's desires, hence alert observation, detachment & firmness is necessary.
just as mind & body dance in partnership, Shiva, so You dance with me in this continuing sadhana, this fierce unfolding blessing from You.
Shiva, You are the purity of light that sweeps across the psyche.
You set forth that which i now need to know for dispelling the shadows
falling over the vision, darkening, distorting & deadening.
You encapsulate me, holding me in the purity of Your light
as if i am an infant clasped in the mother's arms & suckled at
her soft breast. Shiva, Your fragrance is so sweet that i am dissolving
in it, becoming sweetness, emitting light like a beacon for lost
travelers, or like a campfire kept burning through the night to hearten.
Shiva, You are the intimacy of night, smoothing all the wrinkles
& rough edges that tell of a long arduous journey, soothing the
hungering heart with Your calm touch. the very atoms of You & i
embrace & intermingle in communion that words cannot reveal.
ah, but words can point the way & they can comfort & strengthen also,
until the silence grows so deep that it muffles & floods all else but
the purity of light & the long slow intimacy of the night.