This Spring, some weeks after the voice of Easter told me to write more and post daily, a friend gave me a book–written by another friend– that had inspired her. In the book, Revelations of the Heart: A 49 Day Journey of Poems and Prompts to Write your Way to Revelation, Randi Ya’el Chaikind explains the bare basics of the annual Hebrew ritual of “Counting the Omer.” It is a systematic practice of immersing “in the spiritual qualities of lovingkindness, boundaries, harmony, endurance, awe, foundation and dignity for 49 days,” and, as presented here, of contemplating the relationship, the mutual influence, between pairs of these energies. (These qualities are represented in the Sephirot from the Tree of Life.) In her prompts and poems, Chaikind invokes these qualities as lived experience, expressions and circumstances in our personal world. She presents it as a writing practice, documenting the poem each day had inspired for her in 2013.
This practice originally commenced on the 2nd day of Passover. I received the book, however, only days before Ramadan 2018; so, ever the ecumenical maverick, I began it the 49 Day of Counting Omer on the first day of Ramadan (and the second day after the 7th anniversary of my mother’s passing). Not able to engage in a month of full fasting, I was very glad to, at least, postpone breakfast for the observance.
What follows are most of unpolished “poems” that have emerged as I proceed through the the 49 days. I add a week’s worth at a time, with no exposition to fill in contextual gaps; it is a personal practice. Yet, so often the personal reflects the universal. I set them forth here, annotated (usually) only with the prompt offered in the book. If the practice intrigues you, I encourage you to pick up a copy for yourself.
Day 1 (May 15):
Funnel web of gauzy fog
Love is everywhere,
sticky and honey sweet
It burns where I adhere
Burns, yet loves, and almost itches
It would draw me down where eyes have no purchase
Colors run into the brown coffee aftertaste of my mother.
I am so sleepy;
My self refracted in a mosaic of sea-blue-green,
Shards that twinkle and ripple, like the surface of the depth that carries me, fills me with the truth that the frothy surf of somnolence would obscure from my recognition, like a no-trespassing sign encountered at the gate of one’s own old family home.
But this foam is the flotsam and jetsam of illusion, being churned and purged and offered to the sky, though it sticks yet to the water, for now. Best to let it be, like Tar-Baby. It cannot sully the sapphire soul unless I choose to drink it. Just sing from the current beneath, and the peace below that.
Watch the little bubbles burst, watch the beer of the unbearable, the ale of what ails you, go flat.
Ride the waves. Be larger than Lager. Be the Lago.
Day 5 (May 19):
I keep waiting for the miracle.
I’ve seen how awe, its glad incomprehension, gathers the flock of innocents back from the cliff, into a grateful fleecy huddle of humility,
potentizes the alchemy,
dissolves the veil,
puts me back into the womb,
So, as the little world inside shakes some sin with vigorous condemnation,
I bleat and plead to be spared sacrifice:
Death? Not so much.
More disownment by God.
(The God of my SELF)
Not because what I did was so bad,
But because I knew “better,”
Knew the rules and chose rebel’s exemption;
And I ‘ve done it before;
This is the last straw.
I must suffer to be taught a lesson.
It looked like confusion, yes;
But it was a show of weakness, and laziness,
Disrespect for the gift of wisdom.
Though I have asked for guidance in all things,
I am yet uncertain if, in some greater design, my choice was necessary.
That rationalization hardly loosens the jaws of fear.
But I cannot bear the push and full,
The violence of this crucifixion,
The cognitive dissonance between love and hate, life and constraint.
So I pray for a miracle.
I let go my gripped heart,
…and the whole world with it.
I accept the Atonement for myself
and wait for the drop of Awe
that dilates the spasm of self
in the bath of Absolution.
Let everyone be better for this.
Let the dawn carry the colors of loving kindness
deep into the vision of this aching, waking world.
Foundation within Loving Kindness
ACIM Only salvation can be said to cure.
My mind is a prism
My world is a refraction
My thoughts cast shadows,
Cast nets, and lines
Cast the whole production
Broadcast a faint and steady SOS to my Self.
In today’s rainbow beam:
At first the Light fogged my sleepy lens.
The body moved to disperse the fog; mind went along for the ride,
Keeping its farsighted eye trained,
beyond the twists and turns of these waking wanderings,
On the column of stillness, which coalesced as I sat among the trees to meditate.
Drawing the fountain of breath from earth to air, from mine to Mind,
breath fills me from bottom to top, in the rising swell of mourning dove song:
–and sinks like falling leaf —
…releasing with each pulse a deeper layer of body, a subtler ray of the beam.
I will be human until I’m not.
Nothing can be done but to love it;
as I sit on a Holo-deck,
at once blissful tourist and orphan
haunted by unbelonging.
Today, as I gaze out from my Buddha body,
I become a still-point between a pair of turning deer.
Long did I sit, only eyes and heart moving,
Nerves and sinews whining for a change of position,
Gazing into the eyes of a young doe’s fascination,
Her insistent instinct, her hardworking nostrils,
Her eyes intensifying and softening;
The invisible communication between our bodies:
The twitch in her flank felt before seen by my own taut drum of perception;
Her snap to attention when a notion fires in my brain to move a pinched hip.
The slow bobble of her neck, left…then right…, to see me around a narrow post between us;
And the ineffable difference between portraits drawn by my left and right eyes
as I wink one then the other for the same purpose.
Her examination is thorough; times turning to go and turning to stay, peering anew, lost in number;
Until, resigned that life will never be wholly safe, she kneels and lays down;
my heart melts with relief;
I am still; not a threat.
Yet my smell (a chronicle of all acrid history) persists,
unsettling the cool air, insisting caution.
This uneasy idyll could not last,
Betrayed by the movement of her comrade
Whom I could hear and feel grazing up slope behind me, demanding her vigilance.
My harmlessness sullied;
She could not stay down.
Never will she not be a prey animal.
And though I am but a pray animal,
I dwell in the body of a predator.
We each must bear the tension.
Yet, still longer did we gaze, naturally loving and curious,
From the space within the strain,
Until, both before me and behind, she disappeared.
Day 7: Majesty/Dignity within LvngKndness
As I bleed and sleep, I am orphan to myself, held by One who tenderly holds and loves the bleeding as a drawing on a parent’s fridge and the sleeping as a “a phase,” an all-consuming crush, a refusal to see the use of algebra.
These are the retaining walls the child of the world needs to grow and know the supports of finitude. The One who is both Earth and Sky, who is the Heart within and between, knows the mountain beneath the molehill in me, in you, in I, in we.
Blood reveals the contours of transparent dignity, cleanses and collects it from the ancestors, and bathes it in the heart-shaped spring of compassion.
Day 9 (Strength within Strength)
A cool blue monolith of calm,
the core of my being,
Around which swim the skittish fish of thoughts and the half-digested bait of old fears…
It looms, stands without base or roof,
deep in an ocean of all-ness, of saturated intelligence,
The vast sapphire space of radiant and rhythm-less Heart,
Humming the silent song of Knowing,
Always heard, mostly ignored,
Until all faith in mind and mastery dissolves,
And its viper of light strikes me between the eyes,
from behind my own head,
softens the tree-top grip of monkey vision
So I can see under the water of the universe.
Day 10 (Harmony within Strength/Boundaries)
I need nothing from you.
Doesn’t that feel better?
We can either grip like telephone wires,
Strong only where we cling,
Or we can levitate side by side,
Minding our own gravity:
The magnetism of Love between our molecules,
Gandharva particles singing us each into the shape of her own soul.
Sideless side by sideless side,
Perfect and unique peals of laughter,
blossoming fractals throbbing from one jubilant and infinite seed.
Day 11: Endurance within Strength
I believe in muscles still,
Though mine are not powerful,
And brawn is not what is needed here.
Patience, Willingness, Faith, Abstention, Forbearance
Call from beneath the false floor of loneliness,
and the dust of Doubt,
From the very Ground of Being, of Home, of Unity beneath…
Beyond the crawlspace we mistake for completion,
The cobwebs we mistake for walls.
Call for help;
Yet know the Strength is in the one who calls,
At least as much as in the firmamental mirror she addresses.
DAY 12 (Awe/humility/glory within Strength)
I wake each morning into a state somewhat the same as and somewhat different from the day before:
A different floor over the ground of Being.
And I seem to compare it to some standard, a state less remembered now than rumored;
And today, again, falls short,
is something to defend against,
pushed aside to leave a seat free for Elijah;
If I catch myself in my poor manners, and I meet the day’s state face on,
Fully inhabit its vapors with friendly attention,
I find it so rare, vast and complex as to be never fully knowable, but to be always fully admirable.
I happen there upon more of myself, the Presence enough to love this,to love everything, self included; to Love this Life.
Let me knock out that wall and set another table.
Elijah is here.
Day 13: Foundation in Strength
The bones are strong and mostly in the right place.
The plumbing still works: supple, flexible, if a little sensitive.
Yet the memory of brokenness, the rumor of original sin
clouds the Holy Water in the chalice of my chasse.
Like gingko seeds fermenting in the birdbath, it makes a fetid smell,
causing visitors to the garden to give the magnificent shade tree here a wide berth
and choose the benches in the clear air and sun over by the dahlias and roses,
the trellises of intellect and the topiary of fantasy.
The Gardener sifted out the seed long ago.
It is only habitual neglect that taints the water now….
But not to the birds.
They coo and twitter and await the return of the gardener’s apprentice, forgetful in his grief.
The mourning dove beckons with her sighing call:
“Come, Sit here, We would bathe in your tears!
Let our tiny talons scratch new sacraments;
Our wings sweep your Holy Basin with Joy.
Let our ablutions be your absolution.
Strength never left you.
Stagnation is a stage in Alchemy.
Day 14 Majesty/Nobility within Strength
(May 28thMemorial day)
I tremble at the threat of Eviction, and yet I know my soul wants to be uncaged, permitted, paid even to wander. Mine is a traveling ministry, but I fear that this is not a traveling body. That is an excuse. The body does not thrive in prison, this cell of fears, specters built in childhood with bricks of my parent’s ambivalences; yet I honor these like monuments. Why can’t I break free?
Why do I look to the walls to free me? Why do I seek to see through walls made of Kryptonite? It is why I try to exit through the back door of my mind or dissolve and seep between the lateritious particles. It is all a projections. Where have I put the key to the theater door?
Day 15 (Loving Kindness within Balance/Harmony/Beauty)
Balance, Harmony and Beauty:
They are the structures–
The artful and obedient daughters—
of Loving Kindness.
They are pure elements of alchemy,
walking the gardens of Eden ,
and sitting to embroider their sacred geometry,
always constellated in the Golden Mean.
They exclude no one, love everyone;
they see only assonance, even in dissonance.
Weaned on entropy,
I learned to distrust them, envy them,
Andto protect them,
Ached with admiration, afraid that my worship—
the dust in the impurity of my attention—
might sully them, corrupt them,
suck them through the looking glass;
and that if I dilate the muscles of this fear,
I will disappear, never again able to behold their beauty,
And tremble with the hidden apprehension that
in my witness of them,
I am partner in the dance,
Am an equal agent, after all,
in the perpetual ejaculation of Infinite Creation.
DAY 17 Harmony within Harmony
All is well.
The galaxy spins
And every star sings
Of the light that turns
On a fulcrum of darkness
And I AM a Mobius strip.
Inside is outside, out is in.
Yet in the twist where end begins:
A bottle neck,
Where dross collects,
And doubt eddies,
Forms a phantom jetty,
In a river otherwise sure and steady.
This is the nature of the self,
And the paradox in which it swims.
Little harmony within
Big Harmony, with the single
Thought between so thin,
Yet gives infinity a rim,
And exiles me to limbo.
DAY 18: structure (endurance) within Harmony, Beauty and Balance
Being accustomed to gravity and finitude
and noble life as a resistance bearing exercise,
I want to see the shape of the path before me,
want to see the plan, so my brain and brawn
can work together, in harmony and synergy.
But I have out grown even this great sandbox.
I must now walk blind upon a catwalk of light and feathers,
which bridges an eternal instant, and dazzles me
with all that space knows and I’ve forgotten,
closes my blind eyes in a sleep
that allows my wakefulness to humbly steward the trolley car,
only appearing to drive.
Day 19: Awe/humility within Harmony/Balance/Beauty
Every wayward thought is hubris, teenage rebellion.
Every discontentment a distraction, a denial of Perfection.
But how do we help it, what seems to be the Nature of the Human?
Watch the earth writhe as glowing worms of intelligence and imagination sculpt it inside out,
And watch the earth twitch, run through as it is with the electric miracle of Shakti!
How could it not? Ever galvanizing the question:
Am I the clay puppet or the hand of Light inside it?
I am both.
That is what it is to be Human: HumusAnimated;
Not miracle or curse, but the ever-roiling confluence of both.
I pray to make this a happy marriage.
DAY 20: Foundation within Harmony
In Zen it is called ShokkoKyakka, the Ground of Being,
the place beneath our feet
which we know is there yet can never see,
which is our Source,
a portal where hang together substance-less membranes
of separation and absolution,
where Big I becomes little I,
and curls like smoke into “me.”
It is my Holy Grail,
the only true home I remember,
I am a copy;
my original lives there.
In meditation from exile
I savor these calls home.
Day 21 Majesty and Dignity within Beauty/Balance/Harmony
In a Holy game of dress-up, when heart puts on mind’s mantle of majesty and dignity, and gives mind to wear its robes of harmony, its sash of beauty and its crown of balance, when they switch garments even just in the mirror, each sees passed the garment to her self. Seeing this, they both know it doesn’t matter what they wear; it is all the same costume. Peeling away these vestments, they find themselves both naked, yet with each possessed still of the qualities both costumes impart, and something else: sameness, kinship. They discover they are twins, conjoined by a single Golden thread. No other threads are needed. They walk out in to the Garden to find this thread woven through the trees, the flowers, bees and birds, the earth and sky, and reaching over the hill to the sea. And just before the sun melts it all into one, they glimpse a golden glint on the sails of the enemy’s armada. And then there is nothing that is not, nor ever has been, Gold.
Day 22 (Loving Kindness within Structure/Endurance/Victory)
Even Will, Strength and Endurance are Fluid. Structure is but the manifestation of ordered Intelligence. It can still be fluid. It needn’t be solid… unless one resists.
I suspect I have feared solidity all my life, from the first few jarring collisions, when I learned that belief in solidity, and the frustration follows, begets all violence, and all defeat.
But what if solidity is just a trick of the Light, catching the strength of ordered love just so, for only a fanciful instant, just the magnetic and ephemeral glue of thought? What if I meet solidity with a Love equally strong, so that nothing cracks when Love clouds collide except the lightning of the cosmic joke and the thunder of laughter,…and all corners soften like an acquired taste, like the bitterness of coffee with the cream of fellowship and the honey of forgiveness?
Day 23 (Strength/Boundaries within Structure/Victory)
Strength, Boundaries, Structure, Victory…
These are just words, concepts I cannot wrap my mind around as it turns to jelly.
Eden is in Full Bloom,
And I am a blind man with allergies.
Still, I am in Eden.
Still, I AM.
Let every sneeze come, with no backstory,
Just a phantasm exploding through my sensory field,
Which mewls at me from every grotto,
Like a hungry cat I was duped to think I had adopted
because it adopted me.
Let every Tomcat, dick and hairy, brawl it out.
I’ll sit here, useless,
In the center of a cyclone of flying fur,
Waiting not for the dogcatcher, but for God,
Who is here already.
I am the God-catcher.
I am Caught.
Day 24 ( Harmony/Balance/Beauty within Endurance/Victory/Structure)
I am in rebellion now against words that aren’t mine.
All words are translation: ill-fitting off-the-rack garments.
It doesn’t matter whether this essence, this virtue,
was poured, pure as chocolate, into the shape of
a bunny, a soldier or the holy Grail.
What matters is that it melts into you, shapes you, and how you shape it!
Vessel shapes meaning shapes vessel.
All sons and daughters of one conception,
The One, blooming as daisy, rose, snowflake, Big Bang…(even your intractable Granthis)
Irrepressible, unique, ephemeral,
Harmony, Beauty, Balance/Endurance, Structure, Victory
Meaning leaps between the words like renegade electrons,
Strange leaky containers,
Clothing of identical sextuplets who swap their garments to fool the Governess of the Mind.
Once unclothed, no difference between them.
Life cannot be governed,
Only its abstractions.
Day 25 Enduring Victory within Enduring Victory
Victory cannot endure unless all parties win.
It is home big enough for all to know welcome.
We are quarantined in this asylum for our own good,
Projecting shadows on the bright, white walls:
Delusions and spasms of afflicted memory,
PTSD from the Big Bang.
We cannot remember before our nightmare.
And the ruts of our thinking crease our pajamas with stripes.
And the light we can’t see behind our eyes
shines through the weave to cast bars on the doors and windows.
Yet this is still our Father’s House.
Sometimes I am relieved that Heaven must surround us,
Providing for our needs,
Until we decide to refuse the red pill of our forebearers
And take the blue one– the one I took last week–
The one the squirrel was depositing on my bench each morning,
amid his dance of dash and dig.
I thought he was preparing for winter, for the barren apocalypse of Godless lack.
But he was simply planting Trees
Preparing for Eden.
(Victory endures because it never ends,
Extends forward and backward in time
Below these idle idylls of idols,
Beneath these rippling forest lawns,
In the very ground of being)
Day 26: Awe/Humility within Endurance/Victory/Structure
Once I knew God, was God; and in the simultaneity of all time, I still and always know God and AM God. There is no problem here.
I must have faith that I have Faith; have faith that faith is power; trust that in my blindness I see.
I pray to vanquish the smothering cloud of lies that make me doubt the existence of my own Cavalry.
I don’t know how to do what I want; I must trust that my only duty is the desiring.
Day 28: Awe and Majesty in Structure/Endurance, Victory
To protect myself from the world, I built a suit of scales, each scale a “but.”
They shimmer in the light, reflecting and deflecting it.
I came to believe my blood was cold and needed the warmth of a hospitable environment, else I would fall into torpor, corruption, and be eaten by vultures.
This morning I feel a chill.
Some sleeping seed stirs in the cold, blue blood inside me.
I do not yet know how to shed this scaly skin;
But I will not stare into the reflected glare and try to see myself.
I will meditate on this little seed, now a hissing flame of my Divine Voice,
Which, knowing how thin this skin is, sings through it to the condor.
And if she comes for this little body, I will get to soar closer to the sun.
If not, I will finally warm the land.
Day 29 Loving Kindness within Awe Humility and Glory
Only Love is real and boundless.
Words are abstractions;
the edges of their limits can scar our intelligence;
so we must wield them with tender humility.
Last evening I watched Death dance until I could see only Beauty.
Try it; look into the eyes of a Death
and see the blameless magnificence of Life.
Do not flinch with survivor’s guilt.
It is all the same Life; each of us holds our part.
Carry the torch a while, singing is praise in your unique voice.
Walk grateful and proud, immune to greed and arrogance.
We are here but to witness, to wonder and to Love;
never to fear and never to judge.
Do your best; it’s plenty.
Day 30: Strength within Awe/humility/Glory
I’m not supposed to hold it all myself,
nor even to hold myself up alone.
In fact, I only stand tall to give my heart the altitude for a higher perspective and a deeper bow.
In my mind I might be Atlas, yet in body I am but one Caryatid.
And in the rubble-strewn gap between them labors Sisyphus.
What if we all laid down our burden and let the strong loft of relief,
the updraft of gratitude,
carry us to Heaven?
My strength is in the power to tack and keep my sail full with fellowship,
Not in resisting the headwind, but in the thrill of the wind at my back,
plunging me forward heart-first,
mind surfing the wake, dizzy with wonder.
It’s a greater gale that charts my course.
Sure, plant your feet, Soul, but bend your knees;
Lean in, but enjoy the ride.
Feel how your swaying is the alternating current between Earth and Heaven.
Day 31: Harmony and Beauty within Awe, humility and glory
“The Perfection of Love, Harmony, and Beauty,” says the Sufi Invocation.
Yet, it’s an abstraction,
oblivious to the wobbling of the unbalanced top in my heart,
which hum an identity of need
as it spins to throw off the knot of urgency, the swollen “but,”
that weights and sags its native, light percussion.
Can I see that in the chaos of a busy kitchen is the harmony of its intention, of the feast to come?
Can I bow not to what I see, but to what I know…what I am…
and what you are beneath the flour-caked brow, jam smudged cheeks,
the egg yoke on the trousers next to the unzipped fly,
the wasp in the batter, and the beads on your brow
reflecting my own faithless consternation?
This heartburn is just a heart yearning for the perfection to come.
We know the what; we just don’t know the how;
So we squeeze shut our eyes and spin around –“La lala la la!”—
To drown out the excitement we mistake for fear.
They say every stage of evolution is honorable.
And before we can even finish licking this beater,
With one chord change, this whole cacophony will resolve,
And you, and I, and this whole teeming scene,
the very music of the spheres,
will disappear into Om.
Bow down, taste the earth while you can.
Day 32 Endurance within Awe/humility/Glory
I was raised in a gated community that calls itself mankind.
But some time—
perhaps as I opened my mouth to decry some petty injustice,
or to ask an impertinent question,
or even to gape in awe at the glorious blossom of some weed that had intruded on the manicured lawn—
a seed from beyond the walls blew in,
and I swallowed.
Or maybe it was there all along.
Now, years on, as something grows inside me,
and the walls of the enclave press in upon me, oppressing my mind,
I’ve been bailing the ballast of personality, of rules and assumptions,
right down to the tenacious, ivy-bound replica of those walls inside me.
Even these are crumbling, as the roots of that seed displace the blocks.
And I wonder what will be left when it finally topples,
even as I cheer on the fiercely wise tendrils of this rebel creeper,
and I bow down to kiss one of its thousand ready buds,
perchance to fall—like Alice—head first,
body and soul,
into the bright black eye of her center
and become the secret she reveals.
Day 33: Awe/humility/glory within Awe/humility/glory
How does the infinite fit inside the infinite?
If “God” is infinite, who created the finite? …why? …and what is it made of?
And who conceived of Time… and Space… and air and earth,
so that a skull appeared around the mind of God, like scum on custard, crust on bread,
and made boundary look like safety.
If there is only awe to inhabit awe, there is all river and no shore;
all creatures can swim; no one drowns in the flood!
I would go on, but words are containers, bubbles in the water,
memories of the membrane that birthed the first false humility.
Bow down now; wrap your lips round your tail and draw as on a straw.
Just try to drink to the bottom of your Chalice. The glass might disappear, you won’t.
There is no end to this miracle.
There is no end to this poem…
Day 34: Foundation in Awe/humility/glory
There is always something bigger than me; something too big to see.
In this game of hide and seek, in which the rule is not to be found,
and I pretend I am not lonely in my hiding place,
what a relief it is to be found, to FAIL,
and be, for a few moments
–glimpses of eternity and wholeness—
liberated from the game…
…To feel my sparrow self lifted
and cradled in a great, warm hand
that might crush me but does not,
as I feel my heart take on His/Her pulse,
and my tiny wings span the cosmos,
embracing all creation,
Day 35: Dignity/Nobility within Awe/Humility/Glory
“Today I Am, a Small, Blue thing,” sings Suzanne Vega.
This is a song of Self-knowing,
I am what I am.
(I knew myself in it instantly.)
And I rest, “like a marble or an eye,”
Among the baubles in this corner stall of the marketplace of the world,
Unseen by thousands of passersby, noticed by but a few, chosen by the Mystery,
Who slow and linger,
Whose fingers reach out hardly of their conscious volition,
To touch, to roll me in their palms, to hold me to the light,
To know comfort, inspiration,
To know themselves better in this moment’s meeting,
To share the sacred currency of a time before coins,
That reminds them they are rich– richer now.
Some will be tempted to put me in their pockets and carry me a while.
This is not by business.
I am a small blue thing,
True and Pure.
And I am that no matter where I am.
The Mystery is the bestower of sacred baubles,
And also the hole in every pocket
through which all sacred currency flows
… when it is time.
Day 36:Loving Kindness within Foundation
Breakfast in Eden today; no reason.
The sweetness of simple breath,
The dewy innocence of returning to kindergarten,
Of letting myself off the hook
And into a nest of pillows—
Soft thoughts of forgiveness, plush velvet amusement,
No chores; only entertainments
And tickling bubbles of a Shirley Temple
Waiting for me, with flowers,
on a tray in the garden of Grace,
As if it is my birthday,
As if I’m special,
As if I’m valuable,
Because I AM.
Day 37: Strength/Boundary/Discernment within Foundation
I never liked a puzzle I couldn’t solve
(which makes life itself uncomfortable).
There is no malice without fear; no fear without memory of malice.
In my cosmology there was no malice in the Big Bang, nor it its Source.
So, from what strange alchemy did it arise?
If I know my innocence,
and I know yours,
what strange catalyst in a moment’s membrane between us animates this chimera of distrust?
If I am absolved for all my illusions, why do I yet steel myself against the assault of your judgment? Why is my essential goodness not amulet enough for both of us?
Is the tangy, magnetic taste of one’s own wounds such an addictive substitute for the nectar of absolution?
Is the binding grip of the jaws on the teething ring of inherited grudges so much more satisfying than the sweet unfurling of the flower of freedom?
What is the cure for the habit of aloneness, which begat all other habits in this sad nunnery?
How does one shed this cassock and be a true bride of God?
DAY 38: harmony/Beauty/Balance within Foundation
In this carnival, all the games are rigged,
especially the game of how to escape without losing.
Once you know this,
once you accept that losing is not failure,
You gather all your tokens into the heart of a sportsman,
rather than hording them in the leaky pockets of a victim.
You laugh when your throw goes awry.
You know you did your best,
and you learned how the yellow rings are weighted on one side.
And when the throw of another knocks off your hat,
You notice your head is still on, and you both smile,
Knowing that his throw was sure, if not the direction, and
That it won’t be long before he himself gets beaned.
No one gets out alive; but you do get out.
And loving every player,
Every blade of grass on the field—
Even if you know it’s Astroturf—
Gets you home sooner than hating the game.
Day 39: Structure, Endurance, Victory within Foundation
The Will is associated with the kidney energy, the braid of Yan and Yin that roots soul, through sole, to the Earth, and draws up life force to animate body, mind, emotions and the wisdom of the ancestors.
By some mysterious spiritual conspiracy, I live with kidney deficiency. And rather than deriving strength and flexibility from trunk and roots, my tree grew to depend on higher branches and artificial forts around the heart to compensate. These structures are false identities– shields and scars–binding, obstructive, rigid.
Even thinking, even projecting my gaze outward, draws slurping and gurgling from a well near empty. When I am over-stimulated and tangled by engagement with externals, when my exertions have exceeded by reserves, the upper branches tighten their knots. I cannot find nor wield my will coherently. Communication seems to falter in the lines between Heaven and Earth.
The heat from the squeeze at center vaporizes Will into a cloud that hovers outside the body, diffuse and unfocused, waiting until the knots loosen, the waters settle and refill the well, and there is safety and space to again root in the body, to draw from the Earth and move my branches gracefully again, whispering my own song in the winds of the world.
A tree isn’t meant to walk about and hawk its shade far and wide. It is meant to be still, grow deep, high and wide, and let the sun move its shade– in daily strokes of cool praise upon the Earth– and draw Life– from below, above and abroad– to it its laughing leaves and beckoning arms.
Day 40: Awe/Humility/Glory within Foundation
I can find no Glory here, except for its memory,
…and my humble appreciation for Glory herself: sensitive, caring, lucid and strong, and generous.
And I am also awed by how the fear griping me with shame,
and the arrogance of pride and self-protection,
can so obscure all my goodness, beauty and worthiness,
and shake it right to the foundation,
to the original fault that I was distracted, duped to forget my Holy perfection and safety,
and, having lost sight of it, was no longer worthy of it…
Like when my parent took away my puppy because I did not care for it consistently.
Like when my father, jaw tight and dripping with derision, called me worthless.
How my mother, in her own hysterical anger and self-doubt,
sent me to my father with the message that he didn’t want me either.
Those compelling lies , which strafed and stripped the polish off the innocence that is my essence–
through and through, pure and permanent–
obscured for now by the scab that formed to protect and defend the broken remnants in a cloud of doubt.
Day 41: Foundation within Foundation (Sacrum)
Sacrum as Cosmic Egg
Space is infinite; there is no floor.
Yet here I stand.
What is the common fundament to space and mind and blood and bone,
that nest together in the foundation of my spine,
aching with solidity and eternity?
Is it strength or stubbornness that makes the sacrum, the densest bone of the body, dissolve last? Strength and Stubbornness are but tricks of the light dancing upon the liquid diamond of Will.
There are two “selves” here,
two wills, two worlds.
And they nest, like Quanta,
one inside the other,
and then vice versa.
Sometimes the little self,
the sandbar of sanskara,
the egoic scaffolding of perceptions, dis-permissions, false walls and ceiling,
looms inside the infinite Self,
like a galaxy hangs in the inky forever of space,
suspended like an embryo in a shell-less egg.
Other times, somehow, it seems that the Infinite “I” is caught,
tangled and chaffing inside the shrinking, sharp-cornered wreckage of personhood ,
no space to breathe, no memory of eternity.
How does this happen?
Is it just a fluke of gravitational gyration,
of the wriggling of consciousness ever birthing itself,
a Mobius strip turning itself inside out—whoops—and with it the universe?
Is it a choice? Does someone choose it? Who?
How can I know I’m both
(both wills, both worlds, both selves, both space and solidity)
and not know I can choose?
Is shadow God’s favorite trick of the light. Or just mine?
Bone makes blood; blood makes bone:
Life makes ache;
ache makes life.
Making makes the maker.
Day 42 Majesty/Dignity/Nobility within Foundation
If the body is a prism, then sensation is color.
Pain, then, is just a color, one of many,
with countless shades and intensities.
Is there such a thing as a bad color?
Even if I prefer purple,
and I avoid green,
even cast aspersions upon it,
I cannot make it bad,
Except in my own mind.
If we believe mistakes are permanent,
That they collect like sediment into stone
That walls us off from our Holiness,
It is opacity, not color, that weighs us down.
We stack pain, like old photos,
out of sight in our hips,
and we wonder why it becomes hard to walk our path.
We outlive our forebears,
To walk a few steps more beyond.
If we forgive them the humanity they could not bear in themselves,
They will be so grateful and light
And glad to take back the burden we carry for them.
And if we then forgive ourselves,
Our hips will swing free
As we cross the finish line of mortality,
Champions of Love.
Day 43; Loving Kindness within Majesty/Dignity/Nobility
may be an illusion,
but the ache is real enough.
The spectacle of the world may be but
a conjuring within the mind of Medusa,
and each of us a snake, rising from the scalp of her earthen fire skull.
And the King Snake of Doubt
may have mesmerized the citizens of Eden
with his gleaming eyes and fangs of fear,
But every bit of it is animated with the original electric intelligence
of a source-less Source.
So, to denigrate the place I stand
is to try to free the hand from a glove
with a choking tourniquet or an acid bath.
Every pixal of this spectacle,
every bit of this game
—the player and the puzzle—
is pure Life.
Knowing this, I choose Love
and become apprentice to the Master Charmer Himself….
Until he sheds his skin and reveals Herself to be I.
Fangs may smart me along the way,
But I only die into the anti-venom I AM.
Day 44, Boundary/Discernment within Majesty/ Foundation
We are taught to loathe the Impasse,
The still-point in a tug of war… or wills… or winds.
These things are not solid,
Yet the walls of tension they suspend seem most intransigent of all.
Because, here at Camp Duality, there is more strength in Two than One.
Think of the power then
When the balance tips,
When a mind changes,
When a heart breaks open,
When a damn gives way.
God Roars, and everything rushes to feed a common hunger.
What power, then, when all of us are pushing in the same direction in this Earth,
With nothing to stop it, all flows in a circle: Nothing lost; nothing gained,
Only sharing, community, ease, and wholeness,
And then, eventually, the only thing we fear more than impasse:
“Boring!” I hear you say?
“And what’s this to do with Boundary/Discernment within Majesty/Nobility? “
Only that this is the Impasse we must Love, Campers,
Until we crack the Binary Code
On the Lock of our Gates.
And the door we’ve pulled on for so long
Swings open and we tumble backward into Heaven.
What power in illusions
That enables us to play tug of war with a mirror!
Day 45: harmony/Beauty/balance within Majesty/Dignity (Kingdom)
When my Goddess rests upon her throne
In the vaulted hall of her heart’s home,
She knows her belonging there,
And order sings from stair to stair.
No better she than mote or mouse,
And all are welcome in her house.
But she knows she was born to play
A certain role, her lines to say
Are written in her DNA.
But if, in mischief, she should stray
The clarion bells all turn to tin
And she grasps out beyond her skin
For what is still concealed within.
But Royal Blood is pure and strong,
Will not forget for very long,
The tune of its eternal song.
Perfection never twice the same,
lived with reverence, not shame.
Know thyself and Let it Be:
With thy nose and personality!
Day 46: Endurance/Victory within Majesty/Dignity/Kingdom
If only I could remember how to breathe under water.
NO need, then, to fear drowning,
–floating in reality, dissolving back into unity.
And the looming shadows of this body,
resting at the sea bottom, into the sands of time,
would no longer frighten me of abandonment by dry land:
a long but finite exile mistaken for Home
by one who is 70% water and native to the Stars.
Day 47: Glory/Awe/Humility within Majesty/Dignity/Kingdom
It is only because I have forgotten to Trust myself that I can’t trust you,
…that I fear that a NO to the past, cannot be a YES for all Time, free of shrapnel and barbed wire.
…that the YES of this radiant Heart needs no cover, no mustard gas,
as it rises, great as the Sun, from this plain I mistook for a battlefield
and reveals these trenches to be filled with unguent, molten gold kinship,
tears of Joy that this nightmare was only real if I share it.
Day 48: Yesod (Foundation) within Malkut (Kingdom/majesty/dignity)
Today, this Sacrum says it is the heart of body, bone and blood.
It the spade that cleaves the solid clay and carves out a Well:
a Home for emotional intelligence and earthly wisdom,
a salon of fluent intimation between Heaven and Earth.
I notice how the well freezes with fear and boils with agitation when I look upon our president.
It is the Terror of looking upon corruption and fearing myself corruptible,
…of looking on chaos and pain as contagion to which I am susceptible,
because I have a body, too.
To see he has forgotten the Truth is only frightening to the degree to which I have forgotten, too.
So, today, I stared it down.
I held his writhing visage in my unflinching gaze,
Felt my stomach seize and my heart wriggle, kick and try to wrench away…
Until my eyes stopped seeing monster,
and my vision saw in the blustering specter before me only the force of Life,
Primal intelligence, expressing through molecules of oily, ochre clay.
My heart dilated; its floor gave way,
And the earth we both stood on carried us, merging avalanches, into a bottomless space,
Blending our indistinguishable rubble in a rarified radiance.
It was only an instant; then my body was back,
and with it the moment-to-moment choice:
Two or One?
Fear or Freedom?
Final Day, 49:
Malkut within Malkut; Kingdom/Majesty/Dignity, inside and out.
Today’s ACIM Lesson: I call upon the name of God and on my own.
It is a relief to come to the end of words.
I call upon the name of God and on my own…
It is all here.
In the silent sound of YES humming here as letters vanish.
It is– I AM– the fabric of Joy on which dances the alphabet of the senses.
There is no name for God and none for me.
It is simply the impulse before the ThankYou,
Shared by all, invoked to create each next moment.
Have you noticed, with that poignant strain,
that no matter how many word magnets await you on a refrigerator,
It is never enough?
Whether you know what it is or not, some word is always missing
to say what you might, to express what you know,
to unlock this hidden treasure for the world.
We might be tempted
to shrink to fit within the vocabulary before us,
or to open the fridge and find some confection of distraction.
Today, say NO,
And feel it turn to YES on your tongue,
and in your belly,
to the nectar of boundless Knowing in your heart:
It is complete, but never finished.