Saturday, August 7, 2010

33 at sea

"my home is in my heart
it migrates with me."

-nils-aslak valkeapaa

the baltic sea...standing on the island of hiddensee...bathed in a soft july sunset...

Friday, June 25, 2010

breath is life

how the novice should practice solar-lunar (alternate nostril) breathing, from the shiva samhita (sanskrit text on yoga):

"the wise beginner should keep the body firm and upright...close the right nostril with the right thumb, inhale air through the left nostril and retain the air as long as possible without discomfort. afterward breathe out slowly, not forcibly, through the right nostril. again, draw in the breath through the right nostril and retain it as long as comfortable, then release the air carefully through the left nostril. according to this method, try to practice twenty retentions of breath at each session, while keeping the mind free of all anxieties, doubts, and dualities. this exercise should be practiced four times daily, early in the morning (preferably at sunrise), at midday, at sunset, and at midnight. when it has been practiced daily for three months, all the subtle channels of the body will be fully purified and karmas will be destroyed."

you don't have to believe it, just try it...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

what should we do about that moon?

A wine bottle fell from a wagon and
broke open in a field.

That night one hundred beetles and all their cousins

and did some serious binge drinking.

They even found some seed husks nearby
and began to play them like drums and whirl.
This made God very happy.

Then the "night candle" rose into the sky
and one drunk creature, laying down his instrument,
said to his friend ~ for no apparent

"What should we do about that moon?"

Seems to Hafiz
Most everyone has laid aside the music

Tackling such profoundly useless

By: Hafiz

From: The Gift -- versions of Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

a song with no end

drumming/music student damith, dear friend taeok, and group leader yatren

a couple who came all the way from pohang (2 hours away) to take part in the evening
wren and prem...
playing such a sweet little bird instrument

teddy on guitar and his friend who played stunningly on the violin
my student, "song"

when Whitman wrote, "I sing the body electric"

I know what he
I know what he

to be completely alive every moment
in spite of the inevitable.

we can't cheat death but we can make it
work so hard
that when it does take

it will have known a victory just as
perfect as

~ Charles Bukowski ~
From: The Night Torn With Mad Footsteps

drumming has come to daegu! as we gather every other saturday night in a circle at a friend's cafe downtown, the group is different each time...last saturday, two of my students and a dear friend joined me...we started out for an hour with only drums and later other instruments joined in...about 15 of us spent the evening drumming on djembes and congas and bowls turned upside down! a couple of folks brought guitars, one woman played the violin, yatren played his was a wild magic.

singing...dancing....chanting..."om tara tuttare ture soha," which built up into an ecstatic, joyous rhythm.

"om namo bhagavate vasudevaya" (a chant for liberation)

teddy led us in a beautiful native american chant:

"the earth is our mother, we must take care of her,
the earth is our mother, we must take care of her,
hey yana, ho yana, hey yan yan,
hey yana, ho yana, hey yan yan."

when the clock struck midnight, no one wanted to go home...

creating spontaneous music egos...only heart...experiencing the feeling of inhabiting the body, the present moment so fully. each person so brightly shining. bringing the essence of true being out to play...the collective energy pulsing with passion and joy. truly ecstatic!
the name that yatren has chosen for this drumming/music jam phenomenon is "sho ju ah tu," which has two meanings: "to be brave" and "when something comes, let it come...when something goes, let it go."

Friday, June 4, 2010


"it's like so many other things in life
to which you must say no or yes.
so you take your car to the new mechanic.
sometimes the best thing to do is trust.

the package left with the disreputable-looking
clerk, the check gulped by the night deposit,
the envelope passed by dozens of strangers—
all show up at their intended destinations.

the theft that could have happened doesn't.
wind finally gets where it was going
through the snowy trees, and the river, even
when frozen, arrives at the right place.

and sometimes you sense how faithfully your life
is delivered, even though you can't read the address."

-"Trust" by Thomas R. Smith, from Waking Before Dawn's friday night and i'm sipping a mug of warm rooibos tea...fresh brownies are cooling on the stovetop...i can hear the laughter of the neighborhood kids outside...i'm home from the last day of this semester's classes...feeling richly full.

one student, who goes by "song," said to me this afternoon, "i will never forget the time we all sat together in a circle in the dark, looking at the candle burning in the middle, listening to the music. i felt like it was something spiritual, like all of our spirits were connecting...and that you were like the mother, holding us all in your heart."

as i walked home this evening under the setting sun, i thought about how much loss there can be in this life...and how much beauty. that no matter how much loss there is, there is always beauty. and the invitation to open the heart is always there.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"Peace requires us to surrender our illusions of control. We can love and care for others but we cannot possess our children, lovers, family, or friends. We can assist them, pray for them, and wish them well, yet in the end their happiness and suffering depend on their thoughts and actions, not on our wishes."
— Jack Kornfield

Friday, May 28, 2010

a forest full of poets...a room full of holy

in the words of my students...

long time no see, nature
it passed long time to feel you
but you're always same
- hanna

day like this fine one
i wish i could have guitar
then i sing for you
- song

at silent forest
breeze blowing, trees whispering
small flower seems shy
- yae jin

nature give many
humans snatch things from nature
soon end relationship
-ye young

greatness of nature
it makes my mind flow freely
hugging my sorrow
-bo wae

no one knows my heart
the sun burning with my love
only breeze knows that
- ga young

go back to the woods
where many birds are singing
without shoes, with me
- ji young

the fickle weather
please find your own character
in every season
-sae rok

flowers are shaking
butterflies flying around
my heart is throbbing
- ga young

a few days ago, my students and i set out into the woods for the footsteps of the great nature mystics. we found a secluded grove on campus and in silence each settled into a place of our own. i sat on a bench under a big shade tree guarding a mountain of the gals' handbags. they looked so much lighter and carefree without those giant purses strapped over their shoulders. i spent most of the hour studying my students who were sitting nearby...finding great delight in how peaceful and relaxed they seemed...their eyes gazing quietly off into the canopy of green...heads turning at the echoing cry of a magpie...soft smiles on their faces...hands reaching out to graze the dandelion fuzz floating by on the breeze...pens occasionally jotting the language of poetry in their spiral bound notebooks.

students so peaceful
their faces glowing sunshine
heart door flung open

we have shared very intimate time together this semester. the kind where sometimes i am left breathless with amazement at what is organically unfolding in a moment. recently, we began class by sitting in a circle in the darkened lecture hall with a burning candle at the center. i played lisa gerrard's haunting piece, "i asked for love." as they gently set their eyes upon the flickering firelight and the music filled the space, i walked around the inside of the circle and dabbed a bit of frankincense essential oil on each of their wrists, as a way to create a wider sensory ground them and clear their create a deeper sense of sacred space. when the music ended, we remained in candlelit darkness and each person spoke one word to express his or her feeling in that moment:















the students then moved directly into "free writing" (stream of consciousness) for five minutes. one of my students wanted to share her writing with me after class that day. usually i do not read the students' free writing work because i don't want them to write with an audience in mind; i want them to write solely for allow uncensored material to surface. however, she insisted i read, as the experience in the circle had moved her deeply:

I feel I sit in church. Actually, I don't believe in the God. But at that moment, if I pray to the God, the God listens to my prayer. It's so comfortable, so relaxed...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Even in Kyoto --
hearing the cuckoo's cry --
I long for Kyoto.


for c. always in all ways.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


"in the proximity of death, the whole concept of ownership stands revealed as ultimately meaningless."

-eckhart tolle, from his book "a new earth"

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

belly as drum

"today, like every other day,
we wake up empty and frightened.
don't open the door to the study and begin reading.
take down the musical instrument.

let the beauty we love be what we do.
there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground."

these 12th century words reverberated through my classroom at the university this afternoon.
all students' eyes closed as i recited this rumi poem several times.

then, we all gathered into a large circle around the lecture hall.
curtains drawn and lights out, room dark and mysterious, vibrating with anticipation.
students have become accustomed to not knowing exactly what to expect in english composition class. their teacher recently resolving that life is too short and precious not to come fully alive and open the channels of creativity, infusing inspiration into every possible teaching moment. since said epiphany, the classroom experience has not been the same. music fills the halls...embodiment is key...and comfort zones are expanded each and every meeting. not a moment is wasted.

in our circle, we breathed deeply in and out together, sighing loudly on the out breath, letting go of stress and tension, as we have been doing since the first day of the semester. a new addition, however, the waking of our bodies by stamping our feet, shaking our arms, sounding "aaaahhh" with our voices, and playing our bellies like drums!
after the laughter died down and the timing felt right, i instructed the students to turn their backs to the center of the circle so they could drum against the wall or continue to use their own bodies as percussion instruments with no anxiety of others watching them. the room was a mix of nervous excitement and childlike giddiness.

i had cued up the song "zahrafat al sa'ld," which translates as "rejoicing in upper egypt," by the musicians of the nile. seven minutes of pure ecstatic drumming. i pressed "play" and away we went.
participation began tentatively at first with only a couple of kids diving in right away...most seemed unsure whether or not to let loose...since when do we drum against the wall, let alone our bodies, in a korean university classroom?!! gradually the energy of the doumbeks dissolved all inhibition. the students began to tap against the wall, some gently, others wildly...hands gravitated to drumming on their own bodies...hips began to sway...feet and legs started moving in time to the rhythm and the room was rockin'!

after the last drum beat sounded, we all turned back towards the center of the darkened room in silence. breathing together in unison once again for several minutes; there was a strong sense of aliveness, awakened bodies/minds, a sizzling experience of energy rising...and awe. when the students returned to their seats, they wrote stream-of-consciousness for five minutes, as we do at the beginning of every single class after listening to a piece of music. what they expressed on paper, i will never know, as that kind of writing is for their eyes only, but from the sparkling looks on their enlivened faces and the "wow, teacher!" from more than one, we shall be drumming again...and soon!

ah yes....may the beauty we love be what we do!

sufi dancers...whirling dervishes...

Monday, March 15, 2010

she had some horses

by: joy harjo

"She had some horses.

She had horses who were bodies of sand.
She had horses who were maps drawn of blood.
She had horses who were skins of ocean water.
She had horses who were the blue air of the sky.
She had horses who were fur and teeth.
She had horses who were clay and would break.
She had horses who were splintered red cliff.

She had some horses.

She had horses with eyes of trains.
She had horses with full, brown thighs.
She had horses who laughed too much.
She had horses who threw rocks at glass houses.
She had horses who licked razor blades.

She had some horses

She had horses who danced in their mothers’ arms.
She had horses who thought they were the sun and their
bodies shown and burned like stars.
She had horses who waltzed nightly on the moon.
She had horses who were much too shy, and kept quiet
in stalls of their own making.

She had some horses.

She had horses who liked Creek Stomp Dance songs.
She had horses who cried in their beer.
She had horses who spit at male queens who made
them afraid of themselves.
She had horses who said they weren’t afraid.
She had horses who lied.
She had horses who told the truth, who were stripped
bare of their tongues.

She had some horses.

She had horses who called themselves, “horse.”
She had horses who called themselves, “spirit,” and kept
their voices secret and to themselves.
She had horses who had no names.
She had horses who had books of names.

She had some horses.

She had horses who whispered in the dark, who were afraid to speak.
She had horses who screamed out of fear of the silence, who
carried knives to protect themselves from ghosts.
She had horses who waited for destruction.
She had horses who waited for resurrection.

She had some horses.

She had horses who got down on their knees for any saviour.
She had horses who thought their high price had saved them.
She had horses who tried to save her, who climbed in her
bed at night and prayed.

She had some horses

She had some horses she loved.
She had some horses she hated.

These were the same horses."

to listen to joy reading this poem click here.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

"unbeknownst to me, while i was waiting for sudden change, i was changing slowly."

- gil fronsdal

"the small man
builds cages
for everyone he knows
while the sage
who has to duck his head
when the moon is full
keeps dropping keys
all night long
for the beautiful
rowdy prisoners"


clear path

sunday...early afternoon...a pot of black beans simmering on the stove top...heavenly scent of cumin rising into the air...chilling winter winds once again whipping at the window pane....i settle comfortably into my seat, fleece blanket wrapped warmly around my shoulders, a steaming mug of earthy puerh tea in my hands...gently, i close my eyes.
allowing words of dharma to permeate...truth resonating...heart opening, mind relaxing, body softening...
coming back to center...anchoring here...again and again.

"knowing somehow that the heart knows its way from here on."

clear path

by john travis

(from his dharma talk given at spirit rock meditation center on march 6, 2010)

"the white heron
standing so still
dignity of posture
so like the yogis in our own hall
knowing somehow
to draw ourselves back
back into the center of safety
consumed solely
by the center of our own flames
burning of the old
the old stories wishes fears desires
your own voice calling to yourself
only heard by yourself
back back from the brink of the remembering
to this place where the white heron stands
breath breathing you
untouched by a shredded past
an incomprehensible future
resting like the white heron
only the dignity of the posture remains
blessed by the faculty of our senses
knowing somehow
there is no other world
than this
simply this
there is a small point
infinitesimal point
where the worlds divide
one road
leading back
back into the flames of becoming
this voice speaking too quickly
desperately searching
through the crowded years
where life's hopes and fears
can be played
in this game of winning
and probably losing
grasping tightly
keeping it all
of the time
and there's the other path
the old path
in the miracles of ordinariness
the price of the sand slipping through our fingers
knowing somehow that you have to surrender
leaving behind the hopes and fears in this grasping
resting nowhere
falling on your knees
knowing somehow that the heart knows its way from here on
knowing somehow that the heart knows its way from here on"

~you can find his dharma talk and many others at

Saturday, February 27, 2010


"we are running

running and
time is clocking us
from the edge like an only
our mothers stream before us,
cradling their breasts in their
oh pray that what we want
is worth this running,
pray that what we’re running
is what we want."

~ Lucille Clifton ~

(From: QUILTING: Poems 1987-1990)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

my anthem

By: Alanis Morissette

...As I cut the cord of home
I kiss my mother’s mother
and look to the horizon

Wide eyed, new ground
humbled by my new surroundings

I am a citizen of the planet
My president is Kuan Yin
My frontier is on an airplane
My prisons: homes for rehabilitating

Then I fly back to my nest,
I fly back with my nuclear
But everything is different

So I wait, my yearn for home is broadened,
Patriotism expanded
by callings from beyond

So I pack my things nothing precious all things sacred
I am a citizen of the planet
My laws are all of attraction
My punishiments are consequences
Separating from source the original sin

I am a citizen of the planet
Democracy’s kids are sovereign
Where the teachers are the sages
And pedestals fill with every parent

And so, the next few years are blurry,
the next decade’s a flurry of
smells and tastes unknown

Threads sewn straight through this fabric
through fields of every color
one culture to another

I come alive and I get giddy and I am taken and globally naturalized

I am a citizen of the planet
From simple roots through high vision
I am guarded by the angels
My body guides the direction I go in

I am a citizen of the planet
My favorite pastime edge stretching
Besotten with human condition
These ideals are borne from my deepest within

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

sudden unsought intimacy

here i find myself in the tropical warmth of bali reading a book about the cold snows of winter! the book is called "st. nadie in winter: zen encounters with loneliness." written by terrance keenan. nadie is pronounced nah-dee-ay, a spanish word meaning "nobody." in ganesha bookstore downtown ubud yesterday, i stumbled upon this book which i'd never seen before and immediately felt drawn. i leafed through and found a mix of poetry, memoir and stunning insight.
there is a part i'd like to share this morning...

"picture a small boy looking out his bedroom window at dawn. he sees below him a walled garden under very old trees, the brick walls heavy with ivy. there is the scent of green on the air, of apples, of earth and manure from the nearby farm. the grass in the garden is wet, and the small flowers are heavy with dew. in the garden he watches a woman with long white hair, the first time he has seen it long, let down. she is walking barefoot. her nightgown and robe are wet at the bottom. she is holding a cup of tea, walking very slowly, talking to her plants softly, words he cannot quite hear, until he realizes they are words she has never spoken to anyone, they are czech, her birth tongue. he senses without words of his own to articulate it, that this is a private moment, how she places herself into her day. the unexpected intimacy moves him deeply. ...what it is to be with another without judgment, to enter their vulnerability, a sudden unsought intimacy that eliminates "other." it is the intimation that the "light itself" has no boundaries."

in the above passage, the "light itself" is referring to the buddha's words, which are said to be the only actually recorded words directly from buddha, spoken on his deathbed. the words in pali language:

atta dipa
atta sarana
anana sarana

dhamma dipa
dhamma sarana
anana sarana

and a translation:

you are the light itself!
do not be afraid.
you are the refuge of the light.
there is no other refuge.

you are the truth itself.
light of the truth!
refuge of the truth!

Monday, February 8, 2010

a day lived in haiku

pink lotus beauty
muddy waters underneath
mirror reflecting

4 a.m lizards
spitting fire in the bathroom
i wake with poems

jungle symphony
rice field singing electric
sunrise in my chest

-ubud, bali