So, let us reflect on what is truly of value in life, what gives meaning to our lives, and set our priorities on the basis of that. The purpose of our life needs to be positive. We weren’t born with the purpose of causing trouble, harming others. For our life to be of value, I think we must develop basic good human qualities—warmth, kindness, compassion. Then our life becomes meaningful and more peaceful—happier.
~Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama XIV
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Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still knows bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way — an honorable way — in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.”
Man’s Search for Meaning
Darkness deserves gratitude. It is the alleluia point at which we learn
to understand that all growth does not take place in the sunlight.
When you doubt the world
look at the undivided darkness
look at Wheeler Peak
cliffs like suspended prayers
contemplate the cerulean
the gleaming limestone
the frozen shades
look at the bristlecone pine
a labyrinth to winding wonders
listen to the caves
remember the smell of sagebrush
after a thunderstorm
that Lexington Arch
is a bridge of questions
in the solitude of dreams
distances disturb desire
to deliver a collision of breaths
the desert echoes
in this dark night sky
stars reveal the way
a heart can light a world.
About This Poem
“I’m an urbanite but when I started teaching at the low-residency MFA program at Sierra Nevada College and discovered the numinous openness of Nevada, something unnamed untangled me. Standing under the crisp golden-red light then the infinite dark at Great Basin for the first time felt like being in the middle of my heart and asking, where do I go from here? Where does one go after they’ve lived wars, been too close to death’s shadows, and then sees a version of heaven? Can we give ourselves permission to inhale its glory without betraying those who couldn’t flee, or didn’t survive? Perhaps we are meant to see such wonder to inform us of how beauty resists.”
It’s dark because you are trying too hard.
Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly.
Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply.
Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.
I was so preposterously serious in those days, such a humorless little prig.
Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me.
When it comes to dying even. Nothing ponderous, or portentous, or emphatic.
No rhetoric, no tremolos,
no self conscious persona putting on its celebrated imitation of Christ or Little Nell.
And of course, no theology, no metaphysics.
Just the fact of dying and the fact of the clear light.
So throw away your baggage and go forward.
There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet,
trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair.
That’s why you must walk so lightly.
Lightly my darling,
on tiptoes and no luggage,
not even a sponge bag,
Via my beautiful friend, Ellen
This Moment Is All There Is.
Image and quote courtesy of
Stop pathologizing your negativity, stop assigning it a lower status, stop keeping it in the dark. Go to it, open its doors and windows, take it by the hand. Meet its gaze. Feel its woundedness, feel into it, feel for it, feel it without any buffers.
Soon you will start to sense that its gaze is none other than your own, perhaps from an earlier time, but yours nonetheless, containing so much of you. Humanize it fully. Keep something …in the dark long enough and it will very likely behave badly.
Turn on the lights, slowly but steadily. Your simple presence is enough. Let your heart soften more. Breathe more fully, bringing what you call your negativity closer to you, opening at a fitting pace. No rush. Let it shift, however slowly, from a distant foreign object to a reclaimed part of your being. Let its blinders and pain and longing break your heart, break it open.
Your ambition to transcend your negativity is now all but gone, as you realize right to your core that your real work is to reclaim and reembody it, bringing it into the circle of your being without robbing it of its energy and without taking on its viewpoint. You are now with yourself even more deeply, your initial aversion all but gone, now holding what you previously termed your negativity in the way that loving parents hold their distressed child, bringing it into your heart, feeling a rising desire and power to protect that little one. No negativity now.
No turning away. Just love, ease, recognition, presence, effortless wholeness. This is life in the raw, too real to be reduced to positive and negative, too alive to be shut down.
~ Robert Augustus Masters