Monday, February 24, 2014

Paul Laurence Dunbar - Invitation to Love


Come when the nights are bright with
Or when the moon is mellow;
Come when the sun his golden bars
Drops on the hay-field yellow.
Come in the twilight soft and gray,
Come in the night or come in the day,
Come, O Love, whene'er you may,
And you are welcome, welcome.

You are sweet, O Love, dear Love,
You are soft as the nesting dove.
Come to my heart and bring it rest
As the bird flies home to its welcome nest.

Come when my heart is full of grief
Or when my heart is merry;
Come with the falling of the leaf
Or with the redd'ning cherry.

Come when the year's first blossom blows,
Come when the summer gleams and glows,
Come with the winter's drifting snows.
And you are welcome, welcome.

- Paul Laurence Dunbar

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Just One Breath: The Practice of Poetry and Meditation

IN THIS WORLD of onrushing events the act of meditation—even just a "one-breath" meditation—straightening the back, clearing the mind for a moment—is a refreshing island in the stream. Although the term meditation has mystical and religious connotations for many people, it is a simple and plain activity. Attention: deliberate stillness and silence. As anyone who has practiced sitting knows, the quieted mind has many paths, most of them tedious and ordinary. Then, right in the midst of meditation, totally unexpected images or feelings may sometimes erupt, and there is a way into a vivid transparency. But whatever comes up, sitting is always instructive. There is ample testimony that a practice of meditation pursued over months and years brings some degree of self-understanding, serenity, focus, and self-confidence to the person who stays with it. There is also a deep gratitude that one comes to feel for this world of beings, teachers, and teachings.
No one—guru or roshi or priest—can program for long what a person might think or feel in private reflection. We learn that we cannot in any literal sense control our mind. Meditation cannot serve an ideology. A meditation teacher can only help a student understand the phenomena that rise from his or her own inner world—after the fact—and give tips on directions to go. A meditation teacher can be a check or guide for the wayfarer to measure herself against, and like any experienced guide can give good warning of brushy paths and dead-end canyons from personal experience. The teacher provides questions, not answers. Within a traditional Buddhist framework of ethical values and psychological insight, the mind essentially reveals itself.
Meditation is not just a rest or retreat from the turmoil of the stream or the impurity of the world. It is a way of being the stream, so that one can be at home in both the white water and the eddies. Meditation may take one out of the world, but it also puts one totally into it. Poems are a bit like this too. The experience of a poem gives both distance and involvement: one is closer and farther at the same time.
TRADITIONS OF DELIBERATE ATTENTION to consciousness, and of making poems, are as old as humankind. Meditation looks inward, poetry holds forth. One is private, the other is out in the world. One enters the moment, the other shares it. But in practice it is never entirely clear which is doing which. In any case, we do know that in spite of the contemporary public perception of meditation and poetry as special, exotic, and difficult, they are both as old and as common as grass. The one goes back to essential moments of stillness and deep inwardness, and the other to the fundamental impulse of expression and presentation.
People often confuse meditation with prayer, devotion, or vision. They are not the same. Meditation as a practice does not address itself to a deity or present itself as an opportunity for revelation. This is not to say that people who are meditating do not occasionally think they have received a revelation or experienced visions. They do. But to those for whom meditation is their central practice, a vision or a revelation is seen as just another phenomenon of consciousness and as such is not to be taken as exceptional. The meditator would simply experience the ground of consciousness, and in doing so avoid excluding or excessively elevating any thought or feeling. To do this one must release all sense of the "I" as experiencer, even the "I" that might think it is privileged to communicate with the divine. It is in sensitive areas such as these that a teacher can be a great help. This is mostly a description of the Buddhist meditation tradition, which has hewed consistently to a nontheistic practice over the centuries.
Poetry has also been part of Buddhism from early on. From the 2,500-year-old songs of forest-dwelling monks and nuns of India to the vivid colloquial poems of Kenji Miyazawa in 1930s Japan, there is a continuous thread. Poetry has had a primary place of respect in Chinese literary culture, and many of the best-known poems of the Chinese canon are touched with Ch'an and Taoist insight. Some of the finest poets of China were even acknowledged Ch'an adepts—Bai Juyi and Su Dungpo, to name just two.
Although the Chinese Ch'an masters liked to say "The lowest class of monk is the one who indulges in literature," we have to remember that blame is often praise in the Ch'an world. The Ch'an training halls, with their unconventional dharma discourses and vivid mimed exchanges, and the tradition of the Chinese lyric poems, shih, with their lucid and allusive brevity, were clearly shaping each other by the early Tang dynasty.
Mayumi Oda
Ch'an teachers and students have always written their own sort of in-house poems as well. In formalgung-an (koan) study, a student is often called upon to present a few lines of poetry from the Chinese canon as a proof of the completeness of his or her understanding—an exercise called zho-yu, "capping verses" (jakugo in Japanese). Such exchanges have been described in the book A Zen Forest by Soiku Shigematsu, a Japanese Rinzai Zen priest. Shigematsu Osho has handily translated hundreds of the couplets as borrowed from Chinese poetry and proverb. They are intense:

To read the rest of this article, click here.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Saul Williams Reading From S/HE

Saul Williams reads from his book S/HE. 2 parts. Take a look at this book on Amazon by clicking here.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Seeing L.A. Through a Poet's Eyes -- An Interview With Mike the Poet recently spoke to Mike Sonksen aka Mike the Poet about his work, city tours, Los Angeles and other things. I was first introduced to Mike's work back in the myspace days when I randomly stumbled upon his page. I read his work, Mike Davis co-signed him, an author who I enjoyed reading (City of Quartz, etc.). I told him I was an aspiring poet, and he was warm and supportive. After a few months, this dude sent me his debut CD "I Am Alive in Los Angeles!" and a bunch of stickers/artwork from Mear One. I still listen to that CD, it is a glimpse beyond the image mainstream media presents of Los Angeles into what it really is. To read the full interview, follow this link.

To view the "I Am Alive in Los Angeles" amazon page, click here.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Deepak Chopra - A Better Answer to "Who Am I?"

It’s strange that we use the word “I” more often in a day than any other word except “a” and “the” without really knowing who “I” is. Ancient thinkers, both East and West, considered the self to be the highest mystery. The ultimate question, then, is “Who am I?”

For most people, however, the question isn’t something they dwell on. But think of the bedtime prayer that every child learns, the one that begins “Now I lay me down to sleep.”
When you get to the phrase “if I should die before I wake,” you’ve hit upon something incredibly urgent. Your “I” arrived on the scene when you were born, but will “I” disappear when you die? In the Indian tradition nothing is more urgent than to reverse the wording. “If I wake before I die” is all-important. It expresses the state of enlightenment, and with it the assurance that “I” is more permanent than death.

The issue isn’t just Indian but universal. Let’s see if we can get the experience of intellectual enlightenment right this minute, simply by redefining “I.”

The casual belief that “I” is very easy to define comes from everyday life. Everyone uses the word all the time, which gives a false sense of security. “I” is the first person, the experiencer. We hang all kinds of labels on it: I am Indian, a doctor, a male, a father, husband, and brother. But in times of personal crisis, such as severe grief or depression, these labels become hollow. “I” feels desolate and alone, owning nothing but a handful of ashes.

Is there another “I” who isn’t so fragile, whose sense of self can’t be stripped away by loss? There’s a feeling of “I” that doesn’t depend on what is happening right now, whether the experience is good or bad. It simply exists. In the Upanishads there’s a lovely image of two birds sitting in a tree. One eats the fruit of the tree while the other looks on silently. The two birds, mated for life, are the self, and the one who looks on silently, sometimes called the witness, is the aspect of “I” that doesn’t depend on acting in the world.

The reason this ‘I” is so difficult to experience isn’t hard to see. Everything anyone does in a day can be reduced to four possibilities: I think, I speak, I feel, I act. In other words, “I” always gets attached to something else, and all of us spend 99% of our lives valuing the other words – “think,” “speak,” “feel,” and “act” – while taking “I” for granted. The sensation of “I” is simply a given because existence is a given.

To read the rest of this article, click here.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Tupac Shakur - The Mutual Heartache?

The Mutual Heartache?

Introduced with innocence
who would have ever guessed
that you were the one I had
been so desperately searching 4
u talk as I do but yet u don't
understand when I mumble
u c as I do but your vision is
blurred by naivete
This is the barrier that separates us
I cannot cross yet
There is 2 much of me that
would frighten u so I live in
heartache because we cannot
fully explore this love and
what of your heartache
Does it feel as sharp as mine
No matter where I go or how long it takes
I will never recover from this mutual heartache.

- Tupac Shakur

As I Am

Chris Dean’s heart stopped when he was two. He died but he came back. When Chris was five, his father was murdered, riddled by more than 20 bullets in a gang shootout. At age 18, Chris gained national attention when he introduced President Barack Obama at his high school graduation. Chris is an observer and philosopher who has always had a few things to say about life from his vantage point in South Memphis. He and Emmy-Award winning filmmaker Alan Spearman walked the neighborhood for eight weeks observing and recording what became the script of As I Am. This film floats through this remarkable young man's landscape, revealing the lives that have shaped his world. Poetic and powerful imagery, captured by Spearman and cinematographer Mark Adams, combines with the young philosopher’s trenchant observations about life.

As I Am from Alan Spearman on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Outrider: A Documentary Film on Poet Anne Waldman & The Outrider Lineage

There's still 10 days left to support this great film and help them fund it. A lot of very cool rewards for your investment as well! For more information, or to help fund this project, visit this link.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Few Excerpts From Spirtual Notes

I've been reading this book by Hugh Prather off and on for the past few months. It is a great book to read slowly, and meditate and contemplate certain selections from it. Here are a few of my favorite quotes/excerpts from this book.

"We can be spiritual without anyone knowing it. We can heal without anyone knowing it. We can awaken to Oneness without anyone knowing it. But if we start talking about our holiness--painting a picture of how holy we are--we block our holiness." (Pg. 31) 

"To our ego, appearances are everything. Like flannel pajamas, the comfortable part is on the outside where it does no good. Likewise, our physical appearance and outward behavior are everything to the ego, while the thoughts behind our actions are of little concern. Yet in reality, we dwell in our mind, not in our actions. But the ego takes no real accounting of this. So we spend all this time in the morning trying to look prepared--getting the hair right, the clothes right--but we leave home with our minds in disarray.
On a spiritual path, the reverse is true. Form is secondary to content. So if I find myself preoccupied with the question of what to say or do, I am already caught up in the ego. Release the question and let God do the thinking. Now my actions can flow from oneness and peace, taking whatever form they take. There is no question about an action taken in peace. It cannot harm because peace accompanies it." (Pg. 33)

"If you've got someone who seems opposite to you in almost every respect, you've got the right person. In a sense, your partner is the repository of your rejected strengths. Forgive your partner and, together, you become whole....forgiveness gives marriage its center." (Pg. 43)

"Within the heart of God, giving and receiving occur simultaneously. But within a human relationship, giving comes first." (Pg. 63)

"Our function is not to describe God's love or to talk endlessly about it, but to reflect it so that it can be seen." (Pg. 71)

"Prayer doesn't bring reality to light or to life. It's a simple acknowledgment of who and where we already are." (Pg. 77)

"We tend to think of awakening as a single, dramatic event, but it is experienced most often during the small moments when we remember the present and return to our actual nature of kindness and joy. These moments increase and join together as we learn that our divine nature, which is loving, understanding, and happy, links us to everything." (Pg. 104)

You can currently purchase Spiritual Notes to Myself via Amazon for one cent.