I step quietly from my bed

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I have risen early. Far in the distance, a faint glow paints the horizon. Dawn is coming, gently and full of prayer. I step quietly from my bed, alive to the silences around me. This is the quiet time, the time of innocence and soft thoughts, the childhood of the day. Now is the moment when I must pause and life my heart – now, before the day fragments and my consciousness shatters into a thousand pieces. For this is the moment when the senses are most alive, when a thought, a touch, a piece of music can shape the spirit and color of the day. But if I am not careful – if I rise, frantic, from my bed, full of small concerns- the mystical flow of the imagination at rest will be broken, the past and the future will rush in to claim my mind, and I will be swept up into life’s petty details and myriad obligations. Gone will be the openness that comes only to the waking heart, and with it, the chance to focus the spirit and consecrate the day. What is needed is only a passing of the heart so the spirit can take wing and be lifted toward the infinite. I walk silently toward the window. The darkness is lifting. A thin shaft of lavender has creased the horizon, setting the edges of the trees on fire with morning light. I pause and bow my head…

~ Kent Nerburn, Small Grace: The Quiet Gifts of Everyday Life


Notes:

Saturday Morning: Flying Low

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Today I’m flying low and
I’m not saying a word.
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.
The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.
But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move
though really I’m traveling a terrific distance.
Stillness.
One of the doors into the temple.

~ Mary Oliver, Today from A Thousand Mornings


Photo: Robdownunder

The morning is the best time

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The dirt resists you.  It is very hard to make the earth your own.  I’ve done much less to try to make it mine.  All my association with it is a kind of freedom.  Yet it’s hard to live at the ranch.  When I first came here I had to go 70 miles on a dirt road for supplies.  Nobody would go by in two weeks.  I thought the ranch would be good for me because nothing can grow here and I wouldn’t be able to use up my time gardening.  But I got tired of canned vegetables so now I grow everything I need for the year at Abiquiu.  I like to get up when the dawn comes.  The dogs start talking to me and I like to make a fire and maybe some tea and then sit in bed and watch the sun come up.  The morning is the best time, there are no people around.  My pleasant disposition likes the world with nobody in it.

~ Georgia O’Keeffe


Credits: Quote – Thank you Rob Firchau @ The Hammock Papers. Image: Sky Above The Clouds IV by Georgia O’Keeffe from mbell

Saturday Morning: I don’t believe in aging. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun.

sunrise, morning, sunset

Odder still how possessed I am with the feeling that now, aged 50, I’m just poised to shoot forth quite free straight and undeflected my bolts whatever they are. Therefore all this flitter flutter of weekly newspapers interests me not at all. These are the soul’s changes. I don’t believe in aging. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun. Hence my optimism. And to alter now, cleanly and sanely, I want to shuffle off this loose living randomness: people; reviews; fame; all the glittering scales; and be withdrawn, and concentrated.

~ Virginia Woolf, A Writer’s Diary


Credits: Quote – Brainpickings: Virginia Woolf on the Paradox of the Soul and the Consolatios of Aging. Photograph: j’aime juste la photo

We are habituated to noise.

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“By embarking on the spiritual path, an aspirant is attempting to encounter silence firsthand. This is the quintessential journey in life–the inner sojourn. It is returning to a source long ago forgotten but often glimpsed at moment unawares. Recapturing that which flitters on the periphery of awareness is the goal of the mystic. …The mystic consciously dives into silence, at first unfelt. With repeated practice it becomes a living, palpable Presence filled with immeasurable vitality and boundless, nondual continuity. But what causes this gradual revelation?

First we need to discover why we do not experience silence. The simplest answer is that we are habituated to noise. We are addicted to novelty, sensation, to ourselves. Fuss and commotion, mental chattering, and outer stimulation occupy our minds from dawn to dusk. The twentieth-century Japanese Zen master Nan-in rightly noted that we are overflowing with our own ideas and opinions; to learn Zen we must first empty our minds. But there is no room for such emptiness. When one is clattering away on a keyboard sixteen hours every day, the capacious pockets of silence are kept well at bay. We thereby deafen ourselves to the underlying silence we would otherwise clearly hear.

By intentionally quieting our restless minds and calling a temporary halt to the random noise–inner and outer–to which we are subject, we create an environment conducive to the manifestations of silence. Welling up from within, this silence subtly engulfs us, drowning out all the noise of existence. The Jewish mystics refer to God as “ayin,” nothingness. When we quell the somethingness of our lives, this nothingness emerges. But as long as we dwell in the realm of substance, it remains elusive.”

–John Roger Barrie, in Parabola Magazine: “Silence.” 


Notes:

 

Running. On Christmas Day.

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5:30am. Christmas Day. 2014.

A Charcoal black morning with low hanging fog.  52° F and drizzling. Christmas Day or Halloween?

A graceful leaning pushes me out the door early. I haven’t run outside in over a month. Divinity? Metaphysics? Hang-belly?

Traffic in the distance is muffled by a rain-soaked I-95. Where is everyone going?

You are strangely at Peace running in the Dark. With the Rocks. With the Potholes. Don’t you see it forces you to slow down? To pay attention with each step? In Daylight, You Rush. You don’t See. You don’t Feel.

A quasi-country tune by Five Way Friday pops up. Who is Five Way Friday? How did they get on my playlist?  Coincidence? Divinity? Metaphysics? Synchronicity?

A chill in the air…Outrunning the weather one more day…I cherish the feeling of my downtime…A moment to laugh my tears away…I like the rain but only sometimes…Living my life just a little too crazy…Could be wrong, but I don’t know…Taking the wonder out of maybe…Smelling the flowers as I go…

[Read more…]

Humility is scarce and mediocrity flows from every direction

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Q: Do you still not own a cellphone?

Herzog: I’m the only thinking person I know without one. I don’t want to be available at all times. Permanent connectivity isn’t my thing; I have always needed moments of quiet solitude for myself. There’s a Chinese poem from the Tang dynasty about someone describing a boat journey along the Yellow River and leaving his friend behind, a monk on a mountain, in the knowledge that they probably won’t see each other or have any contact for years. This man’s return, decades later, has an indescribable substance and depth. Compare this to standing in line at the airport, chatting on your cellphone to your loved one, who is waiting in the car park. There is too much shallow contact in our lives. I prefer to be face to face; I want the person I’m communicating with to be so close I can put my hand on their shoulder. Text messaging is the bastard child handed to us by the absence of reading.

Q: You use the Internet. [Read more…]

The Ultimate Prize

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After a thirty-year study of time diaries, two sociologists found that Americans were actually working fewer hours than we did in the 1960s, but we feel as if we’re working more. We have the sense, too often, of running at top speed and never being able to catch up. With machines coming to seem part of our nervous systems, while increasing their speed every season, we’ve lost our Sundays, our weekends, our nights off— our holy days, as some would have it; our bosses, junk mailers, our parents can find us wherever we are, at any time of day or night. More and more of us feel like emergency-room physicians, permanently on call, required to heal ourselves but unable to find the prescription for all the clutter on our desk. As I came down from the mountain, I recalled how, not many years ago, it was access to information and movement that seemed our greatest luxury; nowadays it’s often freedom from information, the chance to sit still, that feels like the ultimate prize.

~ Pico Iyer, “The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere.” (Simon & Schuster/ TED, November 4, 2014)


Image Source: Journalofanobody

Coffee

coffee

And coffee, for one who knows it as I do, means making it with your own hands and not having it come to you on a tray, because the bringer of the tray is also the bearer of talk, and the first coffee, the virgin of the silent morning, is spoiled by the first words. Dawn, my dawn, is antithetical to chatter. The aroma of coffee can absorb sounds and will go rancid, even if these sounds are nothing more than a gentle “Good morning!”

Coffee is the morning silence, early and unhurried, the only silence in which you can be at peace with self and things, creative, standing alone with some water that you reach for in lazy solitude and pour into a small copper pot with a mysterious shine—yellow turning to brown—that you place over a low fire. Oh, that it were a wood fire!

Stand back from the fire a little and observe a street that has been rising to search for its bread ever since the ape disentangled himself from the trees and walked on two feet. A street borne along on carts loaded with fruits and vegetables, and vendors’ cries notable for faint praise that turns produce into a mere attribute of price. Stand back a little and breathe air sent by the cool night. Then return to your low fire—If only it were a wood fire!—and watch with love and patience the contact between the two elements, fire colored green and blue and water roiling and breathing out tiny white granules that turn into a fine film and grow. Slowly they expand, then quickly swell into bubbles that grow bigger and bigger, and break. Swelling and breaking, they’re thirsty and ready to swallow two spoonfuls of coarse sugar, which no sooner penetrates than the bubbles calm down to a quiet hiss, only to sizzle again in a cry for a substance that is none other than the coffee itself—a flashy rooster of aroma and Eastern masculinity.

Remove the pot from the low fire to carry on the dialogue of a hand, free of the smell of tobacco and ink, with its first creation, which as of this moment will determine the flavor of your day and the arc of your fortune: whether you’re to work or avoid contact with anyone for the day. What emerges from this first motion and its rhythm, from what shakes it out of a world of sleep rising from the previous day, and from whatever mystery it will uncover in you, will form the identity of your new day.

Because coffee, the first cup of coffee, is the mirror of the hand. And the hand that makes the coffee reveals the person that stirs it. Therefore, coffee is the public reading of the open book of the soul. And it is the enchantress that reveals whatever secrets the day will bring.

 Mahmoud Darwish, from Memory for Forgetfulness (University of California Press, 1990)


Poem Source: The Journey Of Words. Image Source: Melanie Defazio via Coffee-Coffee


Being lost to time, alone

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I woke this morning thinking about a friend who died three years ago of cancer of the brain. She spent her last months reading books, packing her painfully swollen head with words that she would soon be taking into silence. From under her turban her blue eyes shone. I thought it peculiar that she would use up what little time she had left on learning, that she didn’t want to be outside in the last of her seasons, an autumn and a winter, the cheerful yellow leaves, the immaculate snow, but I had forgotten— how could I have forgotten?— how much pleasure there is in being lost to time, alone with a book.

~ Ted Kooser, November. The Wheeling Year: A Poet’s Field Book


Photograph Source: Danielle Nelson