Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wise Heart

image from

[A writing prompt at Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads asks us to take a poem and write a matching poem, replacing each word with a synonym or word that sounds or is spelled similarly. I am posting it on this same page, to make it easier for those commenting. Feel free to skip the prose introduction. I know time is in short supply:)]

Yesterday my copy of the Shambala Sun arrived, so last night, in bed before I fell asleep, I eagerly browsed through its pages. I am not a Buddhist, I am not really anything, but there is a lot that I love and admire in Buddhism, and the Dalai Lama is one of my favorite human beings. (I saw him, in Vancouver, a year ago at the Peace Summit. Being in the same building with him, seeing him walk out onto the stage, was one of the highlights of my life, a gift I gave my soul, which needed it badly at the time.)

Perhaps I believe in everything, in spirituality rather than any one religion. There is truth in every religion, but the discords and differences that create such distress in the world, when what we need to focus on is our samenesses - our humanity - bother me, as does any one belief system that says "this is the only way." There are as many paths as can be dreamed or imagined, and each of us makes our own way along the one that feels most true, hopefully remaining respectful of others' rights to do the same.

I was happy to see Jack Kornfield's face on the cover of the magazine. The article inside features his  new book, The Wise Heart. I've been reading Jack's books for years. He has made an amazing journey. When Viet Nam was raging, he volunteered for the Peace Corps, asking to be shipped to a Buddhist country. Sent to Thailand, he made his way to a remote and impoverished region of the jungle near the Laotian border, where he heard about an American monk living in the ruins of a temple. Finding  the young American named Sudhao, he also found his teacher, Ajahn Chah, and began to study. Later,  he took a year-long retreat with a Burmese master named Mahasi Sayadaw, who offered a method for attaining states of meditative absorption, called Jhanas.

Meditating for eighteen hours a day, Jack broke through to subtle realms of awareness that he describes as "the particle physics of consciousness".

"My mind became so still," Jack said. "I could see thoughts not only when they arose, but before they arose, like that feeling when you're about to burp. My body would dissolve into twenty kinds of light - light like the full moon, light like your body dispersing into fireflies.

"Then I went through stages where there were ten thousand grains of sensation in every instant of consciousness, where the smallest movement of your arm was like the shifting of a sand dune - all those little particles arising and passing out of emptyness." Through this process, Jack attained what the elders call "high equanimity".

When Jack returned to America in 1972, he tried to maintain the life of a Thai monk. But doing alms rounds in the city in his robes and refusing to handle money made life difficult. At last, with sadness, he found a temple to conduct his disrobing ceremony in. He wept as he divested himself of his robes. "I was leaving behind a simplicity, a commitment to dharma with every fibre of my being, that was truly beautiful. It was the right thing to do, but it was a loss."

Kornfield, along with several  others, eventually opened a dharma center in Massachussetts and, ten years later, built Spirit Rock, a residential retreat center, in the San Geronimo Valley on the West Coast.

Anyway, (long prologue), I went to sleep with these words swirling in my brain, and dreamed I lost my purse, with some cash saved for my dog's operation and  my credit card and identification. (Perhaps a message to me to let go of all the financial worry my dog's operation has brought.)  I looked for my purse all night long,  waking up grateful it was only a dream, and with these words in my head

The wise heart
to be
grateful for
little thing:
eyes that open
in the morning
and still see,
legs that go
over the side
of the bed
and still walk,
a cup of tea,
all the familiar
little moments
of the day,
a warm bed........

So many things
are gifts
to the
wise heart.

Blessings on your day!

The synonym poem was an interesting exercise,
but I prefer the original.

A discerning sage
thankful for
small occurrence:
eyesight on waking
at dawn,
that still
hold us up,
one's mug of Earl Gray,
the accustomed
small pleasures
of dailiness......
a comfortable nest,
small pleasures
of the
discerning sage.

Thanks for reading:)


  1. Been waiting for such a post from you Sherry for a long time.

    To begin with, Jack Kerouac wrote a book called The Dharma Bums :) but then, its not relevant at all

    Then, I must say that there is actually no difference between religions or their precepts, its only in rituals and the myriads of things that flow out of it but then these things have a purpose, mainly to give them the masses a sense of belonging and a sense of togetherness and maybe to instill some of the precepts in the process at least ha ha!

    Finally, meditation is one of the Ways, Sherry, like one of the arterial highways that converge on the capital from different places, some of the other Ways being the Ways of absolute devotion and the Ways of absolute selfless service ... you would be delighted to know that the Hindu way of life has a place for all ..

    Meditation = Dhyana yoga
    Selfless Service = Karma yoga
    Devotion = Bhakti yoga et al

    we learn to meditate by thinking of the flame of a lamp in between your eyes, sitting cross legged in a certain way thats called Padma asana or the lotus posture, eyes closed and mind concentrated on the flame, thats the beginning.

    Never went beyond that, personally :)

    But the teachings say that the mind is like a pond in consternation, let the waters be still so that it becomes a mirror .. am glad you related the experiences of Jack Kornfield ( am sure there's another chap called Jack Canfield who writes the chicken soup for the soul series lol) because its exactly what we have been taught to expect and there's a certain kind of reason and a certain kind of methodical progress in it much like a ladder ...

    Many thanks for this post Sherry Blue

  2. Many thanks to YOU, my trans-Atlantic friend, for such an interesting and inspiring response - and for continuing to follow and read all my rambling thoughts:

  3. Beautiful, beautiful, Sherry.

    I actually came to your site two weeks ago and was so impressed. And heartened. Then I lost your addy and wondered who it was I was reading.

    Finding you a joy!

    You have an ideal life. At least it looks so from here. the landscape helps, neh?


    My best!

    Lady Nyo

  4. So happy you found me again, Lady Nyo! Yes, Vancouver Island is very beautiful. Where I live now pales in comparison to Tofino, where I lived for ten yerars before - land of wild beaches and old growth forest. I miss it terribly. But I am grateful I am still on the Island, lots of trees, lots of water, wildlife and green everywhere I look. I am fortunate.

  5. true,
    wise heart is thoughtful and full of grace.
    happy writing!

  6. a grateful heart is the key to real happiness.

    i was born and raised as a catholic but along the way, i quenched my thirst for more knowledge and found "truths" that i could relate to, most of which were considered heresy by the catholic church. now that i'm older, i have also learned to be more flexible. i am no longer confined to the teachings of one church. after all, it is not religion that truly matters but what is in one's heart or what his heart knows to be true.

    jack kornfield pursued his heart's desire. he knew what he wanted, he believed he could achieve it.

    as for your poem, dear friend, those simple pleasures that you are most thankful for are great blessings that many of us take for granted. we tend to forget what is/are most essential to our existence and relentlessly pursue temporal joys.

    have a happy thursday! :)

    blessings to you,

  7. I loved the poem in this post. Count me among the Dalai Lama's fans. A couple of months ago I wrote this little piece for a 55-word meme. In the comments, you'll find a story about my daughter-in-law's up-close-and-personal encounter with him.

  8. There are many gifts to the wise heart if we are only open to seeing... Lovely post, Sherry. Now i see why you liked that particular poem of mine. Thanks for visiting.

    Sweet photo of the pup by the way.

  9. Wow Sherry, I loved them both, but the sage and name of tea, made me love the second one, just as much as the first.
    You heart is wise to express the joys we take for granted. Life is a gift~xXx

  10. Both poems are beautiful = it is essential to be thankful, for "the accustomed small pleasures of dailiness". Your transformed poem expresses that better! But the freshness and sincerity shine more in the original.
    I can't share your love of Earl Gray - the bergamot makes it taste like scented bathwater!


I so appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.
Thank you so much. I will be over to see you soon!