yù yī - 玉衣
n. the desire to see with fresh eyes, and feel things just as intensely as you did when you were younger—before expectations, before memory, before words.
Transmutation is what transfiguration and relinquishment make possible. In it, your orientation to life is entirely selfless. It's not that you want to be selfless or you're practicing being selfless: rather you're selfless in the sense of no self.
For this transition to happen, one has to go through the death of the ego. Certain aspects of the transmutation may occur earlier in our own journey, but the crucifixion or relinquishment must be complete for it to happen in full. At that point, really, the only thing left to do is to be a selfless, benevolent presence in the world—there's really nothing else to do, nothing else that makes sense. Whatever that may look like—and it looks different for different people—that's where the whole process ends up.
In the Jesus story, this stage is termed the resurrection. Out of death is resurrected a new life, which really means a new orientation. That movement, that long turning from self-orientation to selfless orientation now comes to fruition. This is where the journey culminates for Jesus, and this is where it ultimately culminates for anyone who's taken the journey of awakening.
The story of Jesus mirrors back the journey of spiritual awakening for anyone who has the eyes to see it or the experience to notice it. I believe this is among the most powerful lenses through which to view the story, because from this perspective the story begins to live and breathe as a metaphor.
Jesus doesn't live anything out in a small fashion; everything in his story is writ large. This makes it easier for us to see that he's depicting a journey of awakening. We shouldn't expect to live out our own journey in the same fashion and, fortunately, we don't have to, though our journey will certainly have its own challenges and intensity.
The mystery of the story of Jesus is the same as the mystery of you and me and everyone: we are all God appearing as man and as woman, divine being manifesting as human being. They're actually two sides of the same coin. They're one and the same thing; it's only our minds that separate divinity and humanity. We separate them in our mind and in our experience, but the whole spiritual journey is finally to see that they aren't separate, that they never were separate...
And when you reorient your life toward this realization, then you understand: you so loved the world, you had so much compassion, you had so much love that you poured yourself forth into life, and that pouring forth was your birth. You are here to redeem whatever you encounter in this life, to wake up within everything the deep reality of its divine existence.
The kingdom of heaven is spread upon earth and men do not see it. When you see this, you shift from being a victim of your life and assigning blame for the tragedy you encounter. The truth, I would suggest, is that you poured yourself willingly into form of infinite love in order to redeem the entirety of this life. When seen from that perspective, all of a sudden life looks different. You stop holding back from life, your inner life or the life around you, because the kingdom of heaven is within and all around you. That's the message of the Jesus story.
There must be purpose here,
cuz most of us keep waking up
(Don't you think it's pretty here)
It's so unexpectedly predictable,
So sloppily intentional,
Does anyone know the punchline yet?
There must be rhythm here,
cuz all of us have a heartbeat
(Don't you see the music here?)
Inside our ribs we tick
an average of 60 beats a minute
There must be forgiveness here
cuz most of us have our weaknesses
(Tell me what are your weaknesses)
I don't know myself and I'm afraid of you
I'm happiest on chemicals
The goings come and the comings go
Forgive me I'm just an animal
There must be healing here,
cuz everybody here has been damaged
And we'll wear it like a tattoo
Every scar is a smile
To hell with the going down
There must be afterlife here,
cuz we all pray for resurrection
You see the end comes quick as a bullet,
end comes quick as a bullet
"Often, change doesn't come trumpeting itself in. It comes in quiet, barely noticed ways. No bolts of lightning and grand entrances here. Just a subtle relaxation into the body. A tiny shift towards where you are. An old belief, an outdated story, seen for what it is. A new path emerging in the darkness. A vague, unspeakable hope dawning in the first light of the day you imagined would never come. Everything the same, everything different, everything always resting in motion, and the mysteries of change forever unresolved."
“The physical reinvention of the world is endless, relentless, fascinating, exhaustive; nothing that seems solid is. If you could stand at just a little distance in time, how fluid and shape-shifting physical reality would be, everything hurrying into some other form, even concrete, even stone."
"Filmed at the Carnegie Natural History Museum in Pittsburgh, The Wake explores issues of life and death, imprisonment and freedom, and sleep and dynamic reawakening. For this video, Dana Levy released one hundred monarch butterflies and filmed them among the museum’s specimen drawers, cases, and cabinets, creating a haunting tension between the living and the dead."
stands for all things,
even those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as St. Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking
and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.
"A purely mental life may be destructive if it leads us to substitute thought for life and ideas for actions. The activity proper to man is not purely mental because man is not just a disembodied mind. Our destiny is to live out what we think, because unless we live what we know, we do not even know it. It is only by making our knowledge part of ourselves, through action, that we enter into the reality that is signified by our concepts.
To live as a rational animal does not mean to think as a man and to live as an animal. We must both think and live as men. Illusion to try to live as if the two abstract parts of our being (rationality and animality) existed separately in fact as two different concrete realities. We are one, body and soul, and unless we live as a unity we must die.
Living is not thinking. Thought is formed and guided by objective reality outside us. Living is the constant adjustment of thought to life and life to thought in such a way that we are always growing, always experiencing new things in the old and old things in the new. Thus life is always new."
~ Thomas Merton, from Thougts in Solitude
And what if the passage out of this life
is like a flight from Seattle to St. Louis—
the long taxi out of the body, the brief
and terrible acceleration, the improbable
buoyancy, and then the moment when,
godlike, you see the way things fit
together: the grave and earnest roads
with their little cars, stitching their desires
with invisible thread; the tiny pushpin houses
and backyard swimming pools, dreaming
the same blue dream. And who but the dead
may look down with impunity on these white
birds, strewn like dice above the river whose name
you have forgotten, though you know,
having crossed the Divide, that it flows
east now, toward the vast, still heartland,
its pinstriped remnants of wheat and corn
laid out like burial clothes. And how
you would like to close your eyes, if only
you could stop thinking about that small scratch
on the window, more of a pinprick, really,
and about yourself sucked out! anatomized!—
part of you now (the best part) a molecule
of pure oxygen, breathed in by the farmer
on his tractor; by the frightened rabbit
in the ditch; by a child riding a bike
in Topeka; by the sad wife of a Mexican
diplomat; by a dog, digging up a bone
a hundred years in the future, that foreign city
where you don't know a soul, but where you think
you could start over, could make a whole
new life for yourself, and will.
In that first
in which you wake,
to this life
from the other
there is a small opening
into the new day
What you can plan
is too small
for you to live.
What you can live
will make plans
for the vitality
hidden in your sleep.
To be human
is to become visible
what is hidden
as a gift to others.
the other world
in this world
is to live in your
You are not
a troubled guest
on this earth,
you are not
amidst other accidents
you were invited
from another and greater
than the one
you have just emerged.
Now, looking through
the slanting light
of the morning
that can be,
calls you to your
one love? What shape
waits in the seed
of you to grow
against a future sky?
Is it waiting
in the fertile sea?
In the trees
beyond the house?
In the life
you can imagine
In the open
on the waiting desk?
See also: David Whyte's conversations on the disciplines of everyday life
One, One, Eleven
by Daron Larson
Midnight is inherently unstable,
so it breaks apart into a new year.
Fireworks explode and set the trees ablaze
with the echoing choir of peafowl wails.
The lights of the grid pulse
like ancient campfire embers in the breeze.
On the first day,
a man squats in prayer
by the side of the road,
his car idles beside him,
music spilling out through an open door.
Eyes closed, he directs his pleas
or his grief or his gratitude
toward the ocean, the source of all life.
In the beginning there was nothing,
as you may have heard,
but it keeps breaking apart and coming back together,
grinding down every skeleton and exoskeleton
into smooth sand
for future generations to walk upon
as they gaze outward and inward with wonder.
My skin is ice.
My heart is molten.
My body rings with the joy of all joys
and aches with the ache of all aches.
Every tear has the taste of all tears.
Every smile has the taste of all smiles.
There is no escape, nor any need to keep trying.
May we all give up the fight against
the coils and recoils
along our journey back home.
"Under the earth there is a ray of light, my path, and faith is the last thing that is lost...I have been born again."
~ Víctor Zamora Bugueño, carrier pigeon handler, poet, and the fourteenth minor rescued from the Copiapo mine today.
* * * * *
From “Trapped Miners Celebrate Independence,” by Karl Penhaul, CNN, September 20, 2010:
Zamora, who has a 4-year-old son Arturo, has emerged as the poet among the 33 trapped miners. He has composed rhymes praising the rescue workers and the valor of his fellow miners.
"He's discovered something beautiful down there," his mother said. "He writes letters like poems."
"I guess he's discovered that talent because he was was in pain being so far from his loved ones," wife Cortes said.
* * * * *
See also: “Why Poetry is as Essential as Air,” by Paul Vallely,The Independent, September 12, 2010
Happy as a Dog’s Tail
Happy as something unimportant
and free as a thing unimportant.
As something no one prizes
and which does not prize itself.
As something mocked by all
and which mocks at their mockery.
As laughter without serious reason.
As a yell able to outyell itself.
Happy as no matter what,
as any no matter what.
as a dog’s tail.
* * *
That Would Not Be Good
When I am alone
I am afraid to turn
What is behind my back
may not, after all, be ready
to take a shape suitable
for human eyes.
And that would not be good.
* * *
One must be brave to live through
a day. What remains
is nothing but the pleasure of longing—very precious.
purifies as does flying, strengthens as does an effort,
it fashions the soul
fashions the belly.
It is like an athlete, like a runner
who will never
stop running. And this
gives him endurance.
is nourishing for the strong.
It is like a window
on a high tower, through which
blows the wind of strength.
Virginity of happiness.
Once you arrive it is plain
that you do not remember
the last time
you are always
upon it all beginning
as though nothing had really happened
as though beginning
went on and on
as though it were everything
until it had begun
you never know who you are
the hands of the clock find you
and keep going
though what your light
reveals when it rises
wakes from another time
which you appear to have forgotten
travelling all that way
blank and nowhere
before you came to be
with the demands
that you bring with you
from the beginning
each time it is
as though you were the same
O unrepeatable one
needing nothing yourself
and not waiting
To the Gods
by W.S. Merwin, from Present Company
When did you stop
telling us what we could believe
when did you take that one step
as once you stepped
out of each of the stories
about you one after the other
and out of whatever we imagined we knew
who were the light
to begin with
and all of the darkness
at the same time
and the voice in them
and the enormous answer
neither coming nor going
but too fast to hear
you let us believe
the names for you
whenever we heard them
you let us believe the stories
how death came to be
how the light appeared
how the beginning began
you let us believe
then you let us believe
that we had invented you
and that we no longer
believed in you
and that you were only stories
that we did not believe
you with no
moment for beginning
no place to end
one step above
listen to us
believe in us
Religion was a part of my childhood and my youth. It was a very important thing. The rituals and rites were important. I can still do them in Latin. Of course, I knew the Latin before I knew what it meant. But I was involved, like many young people of my generation, in learning religion at an early age.
Later, I discovered that Christian mythology was less complex and less sophisticated than Jewish mythology because the Christians limited their story to make it simple so that they could engage more people and defend their ideas. They had to fight with the Jewish traditions, with the Gnostics. It was a war of the use of knowledge.
However, it wasn’t just a defense against outside ideas. It was aggressive. Like politics, they wanted to win. You know, the first church in Rome was not defensive and not aggressive. It was quiet. It was spiritual in the sense of seeking a true discussion about God. It was exploring a new idea about humanity. But then there was “iglesias triumphant,” the Triumph of the Church. And then the stones were stacked up and the buildings came, and the construction of the Scholastics, Augustine, and so on. They were very successful in limiting the meaning of the mythology. There were discussions about the Trinity and its meaning. Anyone who had ideas that complicated their specific picture was eliminated. This made Christianity very rigid and not very interesting. Whenever knowledge becomes rigid it stops living.
…Since childhood, I had studied the Old Testament, and sometime as a young man I began to read of Jewish mysticism. Then in the mid-1980s, I went to Jerusalem and began to read the books of Gershon Scholem. Beside the fact that kabbalistic stories and interpretations are very interesting, I think my attraction has something to do with the way that I work.
People say that I read a lot, but in some ways I don’t. I read enough to capture images. I read until the story becomes an image. Then I stop reading. I can’t recite a passage, but I can recite it as an image. For an artist it is important to have a strong, complex subject. Kabbala means “knowledge that has been received,” a secret knowledge; but I think of it as images that have been received.
As I said before, the Christian church hardened in its knowledge and its symbolism at a certain point. The kabbalistic tradition is not one but many, forming a sophisticated spiritual discipline. It is a paradox of logic and mystical belief. It’s part scholarship, part religion, part magic. For me, it is a spiritual journey anchored by images.