At 93, my father is failing. He's in between worlds, close to both life and death. We've slipped into a time of presence more than conversation. At times, he surfaces like an old whale, offering bits of this world and the next. This poem comes from that precious time.
Beyond family or the culture and religion of our birth, life will lead us to discover the lineage we are a part of, the circle of kindred spirits that nourish our soul.
Sitting on a bench in Central Park in New York City, I was watching an ancient oak whose roots were woven into massive stones. It wasn't long till I began to reflect on how those stones let the roots in and how the roots found their way into all that stone.
This week's poem explores the cloudlike veils that come between us and our direct living of life. Sometimes, we have to part the veil with our mind. Sometimes, we have to let the wind of our heart blow it open. Sometimes, we need the love of others to part the veil for us.
Over a lifetime, we are humbly changed by things we often don't notice along the way. We're often connected to other life we're not aware of. This piece bears witness to such connections.
My children used to tease me, on my fear of climbing Yosemite's daunting Half Dome: "I bet if John Muir were up there you would go." I told them Muir would never give me a second look even if I scaled Half Dome's sheer face: "to get his attention, you'd have to wear bark."
Sometimes, in the midst of working through frustrations, it's possible to glimpse the truth that, though I'm frustrated, not everything is frustrating. Sometimes, in the midst of sadness, it's possible to glimpse that, though I'm sad, not everything is sad.
For all the dreams we dream and things we work toward, we sometimes stumble into a moment when what waits inside our dream somehow comes true. This poem speaks to such a moment.
We fell into a deep conversation about the part of us that is constantly changed by meeting the world and the depth of who we are that never changes. The Rocky Mountains were nearby and as I began to explore all this, the wisdom of the mountains was suddenly in reach.
I'm always surprised to rediscover that life waits behind a door that can only be opened when we give our all, when we hold nothing back.
Since life can be abrupt and harsh, it's a constant challenge to meet experience without shutting down. If we're too guarded, we're never touched by what matters. On the contrary, it seems that to be touched by what matters, we need to develop our gentleness.
This is a profound example of quiet integrity -- staying true to one's own nature and staying whole. Steadfastness, in its deepest regard, inhabits the resolve not to be persuaded or worn down to be something we are not.
We live in an age where information, demands, and choices are more plentiful than ever. This rush of possibility gives us the illusion that we can do anything without limit. With this rush of possibility and the illusion of no limits comes a relentless urgency to do it all.
Experience opens us to humility and humility opens us to compassion, which means to suffer with, to keep company with, to be with. Nothing can as strong and soft at the same time as compassion.
I was on retreat, in deep silence and solitude, when I felt a moment of great aliveness and a sudden want to share that sense. It led to this poem, which I thought was a song for company. It was only upon reading it later that I realized that the voice of the poem was a call from my soul.
When in Brazil, my friend David encountered the phrase E daí (ay-die-ee), which is Portuguese for "and then?" Regardless of the story told or hardship conveyed, the custom is for the listener to ask after a while, "E daí?" with a tone that implies: "And so? What now?"