Posts Tagged ‘poem’

I very nearly forgot to have a thought again today! It’s been headache level of busy, and times like that I often don’t think to take a moment and think. Then just now I came across a line from a poem, which says it all:


What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

– William Henry Davies

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Shall Good

Shall, should, shouldn’t and shan’t.
We’d choose well where we wouldn’t,
yet it seems that we can’t,
for we shall where we shouldn’t,
and shan’t where we should
– still –
fail to try,
and the good will be even more scant.

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I’ve been thinking a bit about opportunity and how it’ll sneak up on us, sometimes in disguise. And how much easier life might be if we could more clearly recognize truly marvellous opportunities for what they are, and see right through the ones that are more trouble than they’re worth.

I was hoping to have some trick or insight on how to do that, but I’m still working on it. I can, however, share this poem that I think illustrates how I’ve felt:

It is too clear and so it is hard to see.
A dunce once searched for a fire with a
lighted lantern.
Had he known what fire was,
He could have cooked his rice much sooner.

– Joshu Washes the Bowl, The Gateless Gate #7
Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, p. 176
Translated by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki

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Looking ahead to Sunday’s quote on my Zen Calendar, I saw a quote from Diogenes:

“We are more curious about the meaning of dreams than about things we see when we awake.”
– Diogenes

It struck me with the idea on how easy it can be to get caught up in, well, the “idea of ideas”, epsecially when trying to lead a meaningful life. It helps to be aware of what’s going on inside our heads and the deeper meanings of it all, but that’s all only practical when it is in context of the life we’re actually in.

Same goes for self-denial, needless restrictions, etc. etc. — cutting back and sitting still is an important way to let yourself process what you’ve taken in, but not when it gets to the point that you’re denying yourself the valuable experiences of life. The true meaning of life can only be experienced through truly living.

Our old friend Ikkyu the irreverent Zen monk agrees with me. Here’s his poem reflecting his take on the strict path of self-denial:

Exhausted with gay pleasures, I embrace my wife.
The narrow path of asceticism is not for me:
My mind runs in the opposite direction.
It is easy to be glib about Zen — I’ll just keep my mouth shut
And rely on love play all the day long.

– Ikkyu

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Today’s thought is just a bit of “Zen Poetry” that speaks to me today (and that’s why I wrote it down):

When Relaxing is the Hardest Task

Our hearts all know the words –
If you love something, set it free.
Grasp a thing too tightly, and you’ll crush it.
How do you keep the wave upon the sand?

Our mind hears the words and rejects them,
Our clinging, grasping mind.
Dizzy from the spinning chaos of a world it can’t control,
It tries to grab hold of the rails to force the spinning to stop

Have you ever spun around and around and around
Until even when your body stops, it stumbles
And your mind still sees the spinning?
The dizzy, wobbly, senseless spinning?

Then you know the only way to stop the spinning
Is to sit down and rest and wait.

The only way to stop the clinging
Is to allow yourself to release and relax.

Sit down and rest and wait.

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Today’s poem by Baisao on my calendar is just so lovely, it’s what I want to share today.

The iris pond has flowered
Before the old temple;
I sell tea this evening
By the water’s edge.
It is steeped in the cups
With the moon and stars;
Drink and wake forever
From your worldly sleep.

– Baisao

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I’ve had so much on my mind today, but couldn’t quite get any of the thoughts together for just a quick five-to-ten-minute typing flurry. So I’m looking again at the Zen Calendar page for the day, and decided I’d send it along for a bit of playful imagery to close the day.

It’s a short poem by Kobayashi Issa, one of the four haiku masters. Like most his poems, it’s just a simple thing conveying a simple country pleasure, and it goes:

Spring rain —
the girl is teaching the cat to dance.

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