Notes on a Buddhist path

Time to move

March 5, 2012 By | 8 Comments

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument. Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. ~ Rumi

Each morning I step into my day with a cup of tea and reading contemplative verses. I started the practice several years ago after hearing a friend talk of reading poetry when she first got up and how it set her intentions for the hours ahead of her. Where once I picked up a book or two, now I log-on to my computer and open the daily emails waiting for me. One will be a quote from a Buddhist teacher, another an inspiring proverb, still another will be a poem from a wide ranging tapestry of poets. Where once I found a balance in the teachings and the verse, I’ve noticed lately that my Buddhist readings leave me wanting while the sayings and poems bring me alive.

Maybe it’s spring’s waking stretches that have shifted my attention although I felt it’s gnawing tug begin to stir in the cold of winter. Perhaps it’s boredom, one of the five hindrances of Buddhism along with desire, anger, restlessness and doubt that can derail one’s meditation practice. Yet I find my mindfulness to be keener than before, joining me in most of my steps as I head to work, while I go about my day of conversations and duties, when I eat my meals and sink into my bath at night. I’ve been more aware of my body and in giving it rest and my practice feels more body based now as well. Poems speak to the body. Buddhist teachings speak to the mind.

When I read about impermanence and suffering all I can hear in my head is “Yes, yes, I know. Now where’s the juicy stuff?” When I read a poem by Mary Oliver or Jane Hirshfield or John O’Donohue my soul does a jig and shouts to the heavens “Yes, yes, I know. Somehow I’ve always known.” Poems speak to my cells and sinew. There’s an enlivened charge for me these days around words. It could be my heightened sense of their proximity and my renewed vows towards my writing. Or maybe it’s the quaking of something that has wanted to emerge for a dozen lifetimes.

Not too long ago I had a tarot reading by a dear, dear friend. She told me that these next few months are a time for me to be fully in my body. I’ve awakened to the beauty of this living, breathing vessel, this home of flesh and fluids in rich I reside. I’m finding my way in movement to let the beauty I love within my body and the words of poetry be in everything I do. I feel the stirring of spring in my blood and in my muscles and the pull to move in dance, in walking, in exploring the labyrinth of my life.

Tomorrow I’m off for a week long silent meditation retreat at Birken Forest Monastery. It’s a chance for me to be fully in my body and in my practice, in sitting and in walking, in eating and in doing chores. I hunger for the space to follow my breath into my marrow and see what arises, the new, the old and unexplored. That is why we call it practice.

Joseph Campbell said “The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with nature.” My mind has been the pilot of my life for more than five decades. It’s time to let the beat of my heart lead the way.

Into Your Heart

You must descend from

your head into your heart.

At present your thoughts of God

are in your head.  And God Himself is,

as it were, outside you, and

so your prayer and other spiritual


remain exterior.  Whilst you are still

in your head,

thoughts will not easily be subdued but

will always be whirling about, like snow

in winter or

clouds of mosquitoes in summer.

~ Saint Theophan the Recluse, an orthodox monk from 19th century Russia, from the blog The Beauty We Love.

Excerpt from The Essential Rumi, translations by Coleman Barks with John Moyne, 1995.

Joseph Campbell quote from

Image credit: Walking path at Birken by Tess Wixted.


  1. Julie Cameron says

    Lovely T. I hope you have a wonderful experience. xox

  2. Thank you, Tess, for your thoughts and images. May your time at Birken Forest fill you and empty you.

    p.s. There’s a St. Theophan facebook:

    • Thank you, Peter. Who knew that St. Theophan would have an FB page! I suppose all the saints are doing it these days. 😉

  3. Isn’t it amazing that if we are open to it, the universe provides just what we need at the time that we need it: a “crisp” Buddhist sutra here, a heartfelt Sufi poem there, a chickadee singing from that nearby branch.

    Writer Stephen Batchelor once edited a collection of spiritual poetry. When someone noted that there were no Theravadin Buddhist poems in the collection, he said “Yeah, the Buddhists don’t do a lot of singing and dancing.” So Rumi jumps in with a poem, Nasrudin throws in a funny story, and everyone gets what what they need.

    May your upcoming retreat be filled with what you need. At the end, you will find your greatest challenge: how to answer the question “So, how was your retreat?”.

    “The chickadees were wonderful.”


  1. […] too long ago, I was on the move. The considerations of Kamma and Dhamma had taken a back seat to reading poetry and my weekly dance […]

  2. […] too long ago, I was on the move. The considerations of Kamma and Dhamma had taken a back seat to reading poetry and my weekly dance […]

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