We are initiated.
We are apprenticed by pain.
Our beauty… Our purpose… Our expansion
Is forged in the fire of our difficulties.
Like a blacksmith, our suffering relieves us of our rough and tattered edges
Painfully at first
Until we are broken open.
And our soul pours like water through our every thought and word and action.
It extinguishes the fire of our pain.
It weathers our curses to such a degree that they become blessings.
And so, we are free.
I knelt down at the edge of the world,
As the gravity issued warning,
And counted through the sieve of the flat light…
A dozen of them scraping past me,
Crushing the white before them into gray wrinkles in the snow.
My ski tips danced upon the hemispherical curve of the mountain,
And I watched the clouds, watch me.
I tasted of the forefinger of winter,
In the frozen speed I claimed.
And if the blood red color of life would have left me…. I’d not have cared.
I’ve made a life of shaking open the snowy pleats of fear and
Learning how to use… instead of merely own it.
For fear is like a fire.
It keeps you warm.
But it can also burn the house down.
And as I raced, I felt the world, as if for a second time.
On a snow covered mountain,
At the top of the world,
Your hands can hold transcendence in their gallery of reachable things.
And if you reach out far enough…
You can feel the season ripen past you.
I meet with you again,
different names and faces but the same desperate spaces,
yearning to be filled.
Your pain has convinced you that you are alone here…
That there is no way out of the well of the wound that has swallowed you.
Again, I hear the words…
“You just don’t understand how hard it is”.
After all, I am a teacher.
I sit on a throne of certainty and ease, as if it were never tested.
Or so it now appears…
Now that I am showing others how to live a life of ease.
But this throne has not been mine forever.
And my place upon it is tested every single day.
There are many gates that one can pass through to reach awakening.
The gate of oneness,
The gate of nothingness,
The gate of the present
Or, the gate that I came through…
The gate of suffering.
I do understand you see.
The smile you see on my lips has been pieced together from the crumbs
of a shattered life I once led.
I have left myself behind so many times.
Left myself to drown in the acrid blood I spilt –myself-
I have died again and again.
In fact, I often say when I am alone with myself,
that I have made a hobby of dying in this life.
As if I were an onion, whose layers have been peeled off one by one…
In the beginning, like you, I crawled on the ground with only my hands,
groping and gasping in the agony of attachment.
Attachment to everything…
Most especially to myself.
But then, I decided to let go.
It is a decision we get to make and re-make every day.
To stop resisting the way that life strips you clean…
Let it take Bone and blood and sinew.
Let it take all that you think you are.
The moment you can’t fight back anymore and you let go,
That very current you were turned against, stops stripping you clean.
And instead, it dresses you.
It dresses you in the image of transcendence.
It cradles you in the support that was there all along.
It carries you to the very thing you desire…
And it sits you on a throne in other’s eyes…
As a teacher.
I do understand how hard it is.
And I also understand how much harder it is than letting go.
I do understand how hard it is.
And I also understand how much harder it is to stay where you are,
doing what you’ve been doing all your life.
I understand because I have been there...
In the well of the wound that has swallowed any of us who are inspired to pursue freedom.
When you discover that there are worse things than dying,
You let yourself die…
Only to find yourself born again in that instant.
I understand how hard it is because I was there.
And because I was there,
I understand that those desperate places inside you,
will never be filled the way you’re trying to fill them now.
I understand that to love you is to show you a way of certainty and ease,
while wishing you the freedom that is inherent in being stripped clean of yourself like an onion…
Layer by layer.
One by one.
Even if like me, the gate you choose,
Is the gate of suffering.
When change comes,
I want to step through to possibility
And think of each skin I’ve shed
As a birth into curiosity
Find the strength enough to love this world,
Amidst the awkward grip of it.
When you come,
I want to reach you in immortality
And think of each tear I’ve spilt
As a birth into risibility
Find the want enough to see this world,
Amidst the discoloration of it.
When life comes,
I want to watch it with curiosity
And think of each day I’ve spent
As a birth into possibility
Find the purity enough to help this world,
Amidst the cracking structure of it.
When Death comes,
I want to back track to risibility
And think of each time I’ve smiled
As a birth into immortality
Find the way enough to hold this world
Amidst the disunited-ness of it.
That’s the day that I come.
Let the wanderer and the questioner arrive at a crossroads,
That offers both rising and descending.
Both opening and closing.
Like a lotus, these crossroads represent the present moment.
Like a lotus, they represent the truth
That in your very hand is found the power
To open or to close in every moment.
Let the sweet perfume of the answer tempt you forward
All the days of your life.
Not for the answer’s sake, but for the road it takes you down.
Let the lotus tell you that the sound of your footsteps
Is not that of movement forward
But rather of opening outwards,
To envelop the world.
There is no destination.
There never was.
Not in this world or any world that you could ever hope to come across
Will you ever find a being… enlightened.
Only a moment to moment expression of enlightened thoughts and actions,
That if strung together by time, form a life time of enlightened activity.
And it is this, that we call… enlightenment.
The state that is not an “end state” at all.
Enlightenment is just a different view of the very same crossroads
That we will meet with every moment of our lives…
On this eternal, unfolding road we have been taken down
By our own questioning.
There is only a vow to awaken each moment.
A vow to keep the seed of awakening alive in the present,
And with each present moment as it passes,
a vow to open ourselves like the lotus and envelop the world.
Little by little, their voices fade; As she opens herself to you.
Her sandstone is the heart of the world.
The flow of blood within it is her noisy silence, filling up the empty spaces between the stars.
I walk forward, so that I may forget the human race and instead become a child of the desert…
So that I may become sandstone, wind and burning sky.
Beneath the fabric of that sky, I walk the path of this living gallery
With only the spirit of the earth beneath my feet as my minister.
In the book of the earth, it is written that nothing ever dies.
Because there can be no separation between the earth and those that walk upon her varied scapes.
Every drop of blood has once been rain.
Our bodies continue to be made and un made and re made in and of the earth
As our spirits flow to and from their varied forms forever.
And so I arrive beneath her, Calf Creek Falls.
All day and all night the water runs down the spine of her sandstone.
Her lace legs falling over rocks like ribbons made of snow…
Ribbons of tumbling water without a break or seam, forever.
I lose myself in her silky currents and the darkness gives way to light.
I see that I too am becoming seamless, like the spaces between the stars.
Like a mother, the desert remembers her children.
She takes you back tenderly.
She reminds you that one day; maybe tomorrow… you will be re born as one of her many datura flowers
Which, as they open, offer the blooming laughter of ineffability.
We are all children of this earth, so we are all children of the desert,
Walking forward with her beneath our feet.
She opens her heart to us one by one so that we may remember, we are not just human.
We are also sandstone and wind and burning sky.
What did we possess yesterday?
What will we lose today?
When the world is shattered like a window,
No glass remains between you and the sunflower which was always there.
No illusions, no barriers.
Just the opportunity to turn towards it.
For in the smallest of things, therein lies the greatest of things.
There is a grace to be found in those moments.
A grace that is lost to us when we are in the midst of grief
Instead of outside looking in.
When the shock and denial and groundlessness that is grief,
Makes the world around us stand still.
The stopping point before life flows down a completely different road.
If we resist the current of where life is now taking us,
If we try to change what we can not change because it has already been written in time,
We are drowning.
We are shutting life out.
Just as we shut out the sunflower with the glass of our lives.
It is only when we let go and surrender to the current,
That we have a chance of taking in air.
Today, in these astringent halls above the city,
These windows keep grief in and hold life out.
With a kind of cold devotion, the machines that keep lungs breathing in and out,
Tell of our inability to see death clear enough to not fear it or resist it.
Despair is in the minds and movements of people, holding each others grief tightly…
Trying to survive the unknown together.
Every trivial thing erased by the emptiness of loss…
By the earthquake of a moment of change.
A moment ago, someone was here.
Now it is an empty room.
The bed re-made a new.
The machines no longer pushing air in and out are rolled away.
The silence of death lasts only hours before another story of grief comes to fill its place…
For another family nearby.
But not for those the silence leaves behind. For them, the silence lasts forever.
And life does not go on.
Instead, what is lost to them, is their own lives as well.
They go along with the ones we love you see.
When the world is shattered by grief they leave us.
And we only learn to live again when we let go of their life and our life along with it.
And instead, go towards the sunflower…
That was always, always there.
Freedom… is in the reclaiming of self.
The turning of life’s cyanide into honey.
And liberty, the pinnacle of color
Sketched to a world full of petals,
All of which grow from soil.
Perchance the squalid circumstances
Of our given lives,
Were none but a call to ripen.
For the life within a life is transcendental.
Forever searching out the ways the world has bisected us…
In order to unite us again,
With a kind of soundness so brave,
It drowns out the throe.
So you can see that beauty
In its most absolute forms,
Is not virgin to rancor.
It becomes from it.
Welcome the measureless
that I always was.
You fathom me not,
Nor my eternity which is permanent within me.
Great and small, all parts of this world are comprised of the soul.
I should not have remained here so many a time…
Given over my temporary, thankless body to death.
Yet I remain.
These things do not happen by accident, coincidence or happenstance.
I diverged instead from myself and was born again,
less guarded than ever.
I expand until I am seamless.
Spiritual growth is a thing that never ends.
It is either accepted or resisted
as it advances upon you… an inevitability of physical life.
Offering unparalleled calm
but only after a storm which rips you limb from limb
The only way out is through.
Let you know your freedom first by oppression it says.
Let you know bliss by suffering.
Let you know infinity by the confines of your own perishable, temporary, human nature.
And know me, by first knowing yourself.
It is only by being broken down
that you can be re- built again.
Did you love this world,
The beauty and the beast in it,
Or the flowers spilling fragrance in the air,
Not deformed or perfect?
Do you love this world
For its heaviness or the freedom it entails,
Not admonition or blame?
Would you love this world
Were it deserted by worth,
Or the option to walk barefoot,
Knee deep in mud,
Not despondency or doom?
Will you love this world
For any other sake but yours,
Or any favor turned upon you,
Not penniless or lone?
You strive for power,
By stealing power from the powerless.
Until you are left with nothing
Traveling a dark and reckless path to a place that feels like protection from all the things you do not want.
But it only leads to pain.
You have forgotten this.
Your desperate quest to make this life controllable, when it is not yours to control is futile,
Just like it always was, as rules which are made, are just as quickly broken.
It defies the basic rule of universal freedom.
You have forgotten this.
You have lost the power of knowing that anything you push against,
You just get all the more of.
You can not fight away pain with pain.
May you come to remember this.
I remember your hands,
The cracked and calloused expanse of them across my face,
As you took my childhood from me ten and fifty and a hundred times.
My tear blind eyes turned up to heaven.
It was never quite enough until the flesh you crushed and blood you let had pulled me to my knees.
As a child I ran as you hunted me with your pocket knife and mule across the noisy hem line of so many a field back home, thinking I deserved it.
I was no longer a child; you were no longer a man. The blood and bone and sinew you took from everything, is what you made the landscape of your life from.
Indeed it was even your covenant.
A pledge I witnessed seven children die by, and I was almost one of them.
The lies you told, like scriptures I lived my life by.
You said you were my father.
You said it was my home.
That dark, forgotten hole in the ground, under a lattice of weathered and rotted planks that shut out the sky.
For years, you followed my path of bleeding pain, in the attempt to flush out my spirit...
With electric shocks,
Trying to make the life you suffered as a child, my life too,
Dispatching little pieces of those who could love you and those who still do.
Deaf to “I love you” and Blind to “I care”.
You needed those words, but you couldn’t hear them, and I couldn’t yell.
I wanted so much to tell you that day that I left home…
Remember my hands.
Their scars are no longer fresh now.
Let them bring back the simple truth to you
That the universe suffers as you suffer.
That the universe smiles with your joy.
When all you are left with is grief and pain, you can hold these hands and witness what beauty is born of bent and broken lives such as ours.
We need not search for salvation. It is in us always, waiting to be seen.
An internal benevolence is burning just beyond the reach of anything that can happen to you in this life, though faint, it is not fragile.
The message of love can come from anywhere without warning.
I am not angry anymore.
It is now instead my greatest wish that you may know the ineffable solace of love and the freedom it brings with it…
As I do.