Now we will all count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.
Wholeheartedness is a precious gift, but no one can actually give it to you.
You have to find the path that has heart and then walk it impeccably….
It’s like someone laughing in your ear, challenging you to figure
out what to do when you don’t know what to do.
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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We too should make ourselves empty, that the great soul
of the universe may fill us with its breath.
We live our long, worn days in the shadows, in what often feels like barren, cold winter, so unaware of the miracles that are being created in our spirits. It takes the sudden daylight, some unexpected surprise of life, to cause our gaze to look upon a simple, stunning growth that has happened quietly inside us. Like frost designs on a winter window, they bring us beyond life’s fragmentation and remind us that we are not nearly as lost as we thought we were, that all the time we thought we were dead inside, beautiful things were being born in us.
Praying Our Goodbyes
For all the hardships that life throws at us, I have always felt that life keeps living. Perhaps not in the same form or in a way that is recognizable. But life keeps pulsing under everything. And no matter the pain or confusion I face, something in me keeps reaching for that irrepressible pulse. This poem comes from my reaching.
A FEW TURNS OF THE MOON
From the balcony of this restaurant, I watch
a hundred lives below: burrowing and laughing
and finding their way. And perhaps because
I’ve lost my father and our beloved dog in the
last year, perhaps because at sixty-three, I see
over the final hill more clearly, I also see the
hundreds on the other side, still burrowing
and laughing and finding their way. I don’t
know if this is alarming or a comfort: that
we go on the same, that the gleam pressed
out of every hardship is the jewel of existence,
here and on the other side. So I spoon my
soup and sip my wine, knowing the balcony
is the gutter and the gutter is the balcony,
that the dark waits all curled up in the light,
and the light, thank God, waits all curled up
in the dark.
Darkness deserves gratitude. It is the alleluia point at which we learn
to understand that all growth does not take place in the sunlight.