Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Blessing Chant on a Full Moon Night

Here's something I'd like to share with my bloggy friends. It's one of the texts we're going to discuss at our next Society of Friends meeting on Tuesday night. It seems especially apt because in my part of the world tonight is the full moon.

Just as water flowing in the streams and rivers fills the ocean, thus may all your moments of goodness touch and benefit all beings, those here now and those gone before.

May all your wishes be soon fulfilled as completely as the moon on a full-moon night, as successfully as from the Wish-Fulfilling Gem. May all dangers be averted; may all disease leave you.

May no obstacles  come across your way and may you enjoy happiness and long life.

May those who are always respectful, honoring the way of the elders prosper in the four blessings of old age, beauty, happiness, and strength.

---adapted from the Pattamunodana, an ancient Buddhist text

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Luminous Consciousness

My ordinary mind is so quick to run down the path of liking and disliking.

On good days (and, yes, I do have a lot of good days) I am able to catch my liking/disliking mind and interrupt it. I've learned not to believe the stories I tell to myself, because so many of these stories only make me miserable.

But in the past few days I haven't been interrupting my stories with the quickness that I usually do. Luminosity has escaped me in the past half week or so.

I even yelled at my kindergarten class this week for the first time this year (we're two thirds through the academic year now), not that they didn't need some boundaries set.

Since Wednesday, only in deep meditation practice—meditation aimed at strengthening concentration—does my mind settle down enough to become clear and still and peaceful. Thinking itself falls away and a tranquil luminous consciousness glows. These have been the best moments of the day of late. When my days are full of strife and afflicted thinking, I relish and appreciate those islands of peace.

I'm hoping tomorrow's full moon will signal the flow of more tranquility in the week ahead.

"The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent everything becomes clear and undisguised. Make the smallest distinction, however, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart."


Friday, February 26, 2010

5-7-5 Haiku: A Question for America

Do vacation homes
Outnumber homeless people
In this great country?

Monday, February 22, 2010

2 Verse Haiku

Saturday I posted a 5-7-5 Haiku, but I've come to feel it leaves out too much of the story, so I'm reposting it with a follow-up 5-7-5 Haiku to tell the rest of the story.

The Saturday Haiku was about staying in the NOW. Staying grounded in the actual reality here, now can help us stop telling the miserable stories that we tell  (and retell) ourselves. It can also free us from our anxieties about the future.

By keeping centered in the NOW we can respond to the moment with just the appropriate response.

That said, however, I think it's important to keep in mind that what we do now shapes our future and our future lives.

I'm among those who recognize the fact that the vast majority of people throughout history have believed in some form of reincarnation. I'm not prepared to dismiss the majority of human experience simply because there's no scientific basis for it. Or is there? Physicists say that 90% of the universe is dark matter about which we know very little. Perhaps this dark matter hides heavenly realms?

Getting free of stories of the past and anxieties about the future can help us live fully in the present moment where all life has always happened. And, living fully, hopefully, too, we can live with compassion and wisdom. In fact, I'm not at all sure we can act with compassion and wisdom unless we are fully present.

So, on to the two-verse Haiku:

Something I should know.
Forever is always now.
No past. No future.

Something I should know.
The Law of Karma applies
All thoughts, words, deeds, weigh.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fault-finding Finger, A Cinquain

When I
Point out your faults
I don't see three fingers
Middle, ring, pinky pointing back
At me.

—Dan Gurney

I invite you to join the fun. Try it, you may like it.

A Cinquain is a 5-line poetic form inspired by Haiku and Tanka but adapted to English by the American poet Adelaide Crapsey. Cinquain poetry has achieved a following over the years. In its basic form, a Cinquain's five lines display a syllabic count of 2-4-6-8-2.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Something I should know—
Forever is always now.
No past. No Future.

—Dan Gurney

Friday, February 19, 2010

Calligraphy of Clouds

Jim Wilson over at Shaping Words reviewed this book, and, on his recommendation I ambled over to my local bookstore and bought a copy. I'm glad I did. I really like the wide range of topics he addresses in his Haiku and Tanka. Some are erotic. I also appreciate the fact that he usually observes the syllabic count that some Haiku writers do. It shows extra effort and care, craftsmanship. I like it. I am also pleased by his display of a gift that mostly eludes me: he manages to slip in rhymes from time to time. 

If all this weren't enough, Mr. Rotbard  teaches elementary school in addition to composing his fine poetry. Teaching, may I say from some personal experience, can be an enormously challenging and draining (but also psychologically rewarding) occupation these days. Finding the gumption to compose and self publish poetry after teaching....


I don't have time to write a formal review. I've got a classroom to get ready for Monday. Jim's review serves that purpose well. To find it, just click on this link: JIM'S REVIEW.

But I would like to share one of his Tanka poems to give you a taste of Mr. Rotbard's work. I suspect that anyone around my age might enjoy it.

Old Age

It creeps up on you
slowly, taps your shoulder, asks—
May I sit down here?
No, but sits down anyway,
and then keeps moving closer.

—Yeshaya Rotbard

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Cinquain for Barry

Chemo over.
Bells struck around the world.
Gently stirred meditation bowl
Sings here.

A Cinquain is a 5 line poetic form inspired by Haiku and Tanka but adapted to English by the American poet Adelaide Crapsey. Cinquain poetry has achieved a following over the years. In its basic form, a Cinquain's five lines display a syllabic count of 2-4-6-8-2.

Try it, you'll like it!

Pleasant Walk, Pleasant Dinner

It had been an afternoon of desk work and book keeping for my little business.

By 4:00 I wanted to refresh my spirits. I laced up my walking shoes and ambled into town. I had a package and letters to mail, checks to deposit at the bank, and I wanted to visit my favorite book store and tea shop and say hi to Jim. After, I walked the library to borrow some books of Chinese poetry.

All these errands, yet I still hadn't walked even a mile, so I decided to loop home, out to the edge of town, a saunter, for exercise.

At the southern edge of town, I caught my first glimpse of the crescent February Moon higher in the western sky than I thought it would be. Native people of the east would call this the Snow Moon (appropriately enough this year) but here in California, it would be the Robin Moon. Robins are busy around here now.

The moon was a big goofy grin, high in the sky.

Fit friends jogged past saying, 'Hello." Other friends waved as they drove by. One rolled his window down and we exchanged a friendly greeting. I fell in step with a retired couple walking their Tibetan Terrier who looked very much like our family dog, Champ, my dear dog friend, now gone. Another friend walking her new dog stopped for a chat.

I walked and talked for an hour.

I was looking forward to going out to dinner with my wife, the Mayor, in the company of two dozen town officials and community leaders at our local sea food restaurant. It would be a warm early spring evening full of conviviality and animated conversation over local fish and local wine.

When I got home, I opened one of the treasures I had brought home from the library. In an anthology titled A Drifting Boat, Chinese Zen Poetry,  I found this poem written by Kuan Hsiu 1,100 years ago.

Spending the Night in a Little Village

Hard traveling, and then
a little village, for the night:
a year of plenty, chickens, dogs,
it's raucous as a market town.
Come out to meet a stranger in the dusk:
whole families laughing happy:
beneath the moon,
seining up fish from the pool.

—Kuan Hsiu

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Quite often the day's
Most blissful moments arise
In meditation.


The birds have vanished into the sky,
and now the last cloud drains away.

We sit together, the mountain and me,
until only the mountain remains.

Li Po 
(aka Li Bai and Li Bo, the Taoist poet)

How Quickly Does MindfulHeart Load on Your Computer?

I have the privilege, honor, and pleasure of meeting face to face a lot of A Mindful Heart readers.

Yesterday one of my readers told me that Mindful Heart loads so slowly he sometimes gives up on it and clicks away. Only Mindful Heart, not other blogs, apparently.

So, I would like to know....

How quickly does A Mindful Heart load on your computer?

Please leave a comment.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Waterfall

The Waterfall
(Six Tanka, Five Haiku)

Before birth, we were
In the river, just upstream
You and I, unborn.
Flowing, floating in primal
Blissful unselfconsciousness

And we suddenly
Plunge over the precipice
The riverbed’s gone.

We’re all droplets now
Rain, vapor, snowflakes, mist, dew.
Made of the same stuff
And, falling, too scared to know
Can a drop recall the tide?

We’re water droplets,
Afraid, we distract ourselves
With imaginings.

We imagine that
We are individuals.
Who will long endure.
Forever? Maybe our souls,
Maybe our love—something sure.

Some of us fancy
That we’re flying, dancing, free,
More of us quiver.

We see so much our
Separations. We admire
Our dense uniqueness.
Sometimes glare at reflections,
Our projections, on others.

Gravity beckons,
Winds caress and jostle us,
The breath of karma.

Some dive quite quickly
Some soar. We're all falling though,
Flying, tumbling, down
To the worn brown rocks below.
We shall splash down soon, alone.

And as we do die
As we pool back, join the stream,
The river, the tide.

Will we miss our lives?
Will we remember our ride?
The tide fills the cove.
Will we know love? Or be love?
Does a drop know of the tide?

by Dan Gurney

Monday, February 15, 2010

Inner Space

My friend and poet Jim Wilson over at Shaping Words offers this poem today:

Inner Space

Planets in the sky
And numberless stars
The space of the heart
Goes at least that far

If I may be so bold as to add a comentary....

In the travel-obsessed culture I live in, Jim's poem serves as a helpful reminder that the space within is equally vast, and maybe more vast. To become more fully realized human beings, a mediation practice may be more efficient, more effective and more ecologically sustainable than checking another continent off of our Bucket List.

Besides, no matter how many frequent flyer miles you manage to use, you're only going to see a very small part of what's out there.

Click this link to see the known outer universe from large to small: A Tour of The Universe. As you watch the slide show, think about Jim's suggestion about the vastness of inner space awaiting the meditation practitioner.

Enjoy the ride!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Our Hearth, A Valentine for the Bloggosphere

Friday, January 29 people from all over Sonoma County came to the Main Library to honor our new 2010-2011 Poet Laureate, Gwynn O'Gara. She—and the previous poets laureate who read before her—gave plenty of evidence that we produce more than great wine in this gorgeous, fertile land north of San Francisco.

Gwynn's poetry reading included this gem, a poem fitting for Valentine's Day, at least for people like me, an older person who has been married for many years.

Here's hoping that you enjoy Our Hearth as much as I have....

Our Hearth

I was so sad before you came
and though you filled me with sadness
it was another sadness
and it made mine disappear
perhaps mine vanished into yours

together we fought them off
making a place for them in our home
they nestle together by the fire
and who knows which belongs to you
and which belongs to me

the black and white coats
of youth are gone
their fur now is golden
the honey of wild bees
the sweetness of one field joined with another

—Gwynn O’Gara

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Leaving Work, Late Friday Afternoon

A week of clouds, gray mist and rain;
We haven't shaken winter's chill.
Then, by my car, a yellow thrill—
A single, cheerful, daffodil.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Paired Rictameter

A rictameter is a form of a nine-line syllabic poetry.

 The syllable count in a rictameter adheres strictly to the following count: 2-4-6-8-10-8-6-4-2. Ideally, the first and the final two-syllable lines mirror each other. But their meaning and their feeling can (should?) be altered by what lies between them. Rictameter poems are more spacious than Tankas, but they're still pretty brief.

I have enjoyed experimenting with this form of poetry.

Today, I offer you a pair:

Just before dying, playing war

"You die!"
Boomer kids' games
Enacting untold tales,
Our fathers’ Pacific war hells.
So fun to be the evil Japanese.
When I played a doomed Jap soldier,
I yelled the only words
a Jap could say,
“You die!”

Just Before Dying, studying Zen

"You die."
Kobun Chino
with infinite patience
tried to awaken my numbed soul,
my mind, poisoned by capitalism
and deluded democracy.
Kobun woke me, sweetly.
He said, so kind,
“You die.”

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tanka, Tanka, Very Much!

Delwyn over at Hazy Moon wrote two lovely Tanka poems today. The comments section drew interesting conversation. She is, perhaps, more than generous to give me so much credit for inspiring her; she inspires me. Her post resonated pleasantly in my heart all day long.

This happy resonance was helpful today.

Teaching 31 often needy kindergarten kids can be really draining. I am grateful for what love and attention I am given to give, and I pour out as much loving attention as I can, but I don't always have enough.

But by lunch today I felt an acute need to take refuge in nature.

Fortunately there is a natural area just behind my school with a seasonal brook running through it. I walked back there.

I needed to lie down and simply listen to the brook, the birds. A downed tree invite me to recline. It was so comfortable. I melted into a mantra. Then listened. I thought a Tanka might appear, but  a Cinquain came instead.

A Cinquain is a 5 line poetic form inspired by Haiku and Tanka but adapted to English by the American poet Adelaide Crapsey. Cinquain poetry has achieved a following over the years. In its basic form, a Cinquain's five lines display a syllabic count of 2-4-6-8-2.


Blitzed man.
By noon, so spent.
Needs a refuge—tree lounge!
Brook's voice suggests, "Look up, Look up!"
Blissed man.


excerpt from
The Brook

I chatter over stony ways,
In little sharps and trebles,
I bubble into eddying bays,
I babble on the pebbles.

I chatter, chatter, as I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

I wind about, and in and out,
With here a blossom sailing,
And here and there a lusty trout,
And here and there a grayling,

I steal by lawns and grassy plots,
I slide by hazel covers;
I move the sweet forget-me-nots
That grow for happy lovers.

I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance,
Among my skimming swallows;
I make the netted sunbeam dance
Against my sandy shallows.

And out again I curve and flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Food Rules

Food Rules!

It's the sort of thing you might hear a twelve year old kid who really likes food might say, "Food really Rules, man!"

Food Rules, the book by Michael Pollan (author of Omnivore's Dilemma and The Botany of Desire, both of which I highly recommend) unpacks simple down-to-earth advice for people who eat.

His basic philosophy about eating can be summed up in seven words:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.

This book offers 64 common-sense rules that, if followed, will make you and the world we share a much healthier organism.

Here is Rule # 19, part of the explanation of what he means when he says, "Eat food":

If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't.

Much of what you can buy in a grocery store these days is a food-like substance. One more (then I'll quit, I promise), this one's Rule #2:

Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.

Vineyard Walk in Early Spring

DW and I took a nice walk along the Santa Rosa Creek trail today. Spring is happening. Mustard flowers are beginning to appear between the rows of the sleeping vines.

Another grape grower has gotten around to mowing between the rows.

I find it scandalous that I can find grapes for sale in grocery stores in February right here in California wine country when the plant world is shouting, "Look!! No grapes!!"

The grapes for sale here, now, traveled from somewhere very far away, like Chile. If I had to walk to the vineyard those grapes grew in, why, it might take me eight or ten years to get there!

Cesar Chavez became famous for leading boycotts of grapes grown by poorly paid farm workers. I certainly shall continue to boycott businesses that make grapes go to such lengths.

Remembering My Wife's Birthday (Yesterday)

A Happy Birthday Party

Gourmet cooking—porcini, shallots, wine,
Savor all the flavors till almost nine.
Presents by the fire as the candles burned down low
Into our birthday suits, and off to bed we go!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snow Crystals

Photo Courtesy of A great place to visit, too!

I live in Northern California wine country about 50 meters above sea level, and not far from eastern shore of the Pacific Ocean. Snow here is rare.

Maybe because I see so very little snow, the splendor of frozen water crystals floating out of the sky is, well, pure mystical magic.

Katherine, from New Zealand (where it is summer now) recently posted about snow crystals. See Katherine's post here: Snow Crystals. You will be rewarded with amazing images of snow crystals photographed up very close. Or visit via the link in the caption under the photo.

The intricacies of snow crystals astonish me deeply.

Thank you, Katherine!

P.S. On the Snow Crystals website they have an up-close photograph of an artificial, man-made snow crystal made with motors and blowers. Seems the water can tell the difference!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bodhisattva Daphne, a Haiku

Bodhisattva Daphne

I cut off her hand—
Still, she blesses my bathroom
With her sweet perfume.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Variegated Daphne

Variegated Daphne in my backyard. When I smell it, I swoon with delight.

It seems I have plenty of company in my corner of bloggoland who feel the first day of spring out to be marked on the calendar right about now, halfway between the darkest night of winter and the equinox of spring.* In any event plants all over my yard are yelling in their quiet plant voices, "SPRING IS HERE!!! SPRING IS HERE!!!"

Here's what my Daphne told me to tell you:

Daphne's Verse

"Plants are smart, I know they've heard
When humans talk, we talk in words.

English, Spanish, French and Dutch
Russian, Finnish—we talk too much.

Words that cross the oceans wide,
Words that anger and divide.

So when plants have something they just must tell us,
They won't say much, just "Look, you—Smell us!"

—Dan Gurney

*With apologies to my Austral readers, asking their forgiveness of this Northern Hemispheric audacity.