hold them to your heart

Image credit: Awakening Women on Facebook


they will tell you
to never bow down
before anyone

they will tell you
not to give away
your “own” power

they will pour scorn
on your invocations
and your prayers

they will dismiss
your open-hearted ache
for all things wild and abused

they will laugh
at your love affair
with silence

hold them to your heart –
they know not what they do

they do not know
the open secret
too obvious for the intellect,
too close to be grasped

they do not know
the bliss of humility
that bathes the body
and silences the mind
when one has melted into All
and all flows into One

expressing as It wills
(and knowing it, or not)

– miriam louisa


Image credit: Awakening Women on Facebook

ode to the great mother

A poem for Mothers’ Day.


Goddess Kali - Divine Mother


by Han Marie Stiekema

I’ve had three teachers
My Indian Guru
Life and the Great Mother
The first transmitted me the Light
Through life I was painfully confronted with myself
While the Great Mother took everything I gained

How wonderful were those ten years of bliss
Roaming around like a child
Innocent, carefree and foolish
The world being paradise once again
Wandering around though never leaving Home
Everything continuously smiling at me

How painful therefore being pulled back
In what was forgotten for a long time
That other part of me: the common self
Unaware of the work still to be done
I tried to survive in the world
Suffering setback after setback

As I saw only “winners” all over the place
Everything was constantly taken from me
First my family, then my home, land and work
Once again my children, then success and a future
My ability to function, my credibility, my money
And finally my health and some friends

Never ending confrontations with myself
With everything rejected, denied and suppressed
Drove me crazy, brought me to utter despair
My Self-identity once so gloriously present
Broken to pieces, covered with a layer of mud
Not knowing where life would lead me

How lucky I eventually was
After I thought it was all behind me that
Life confronted me with the greatest crisis ever
Which put me with my back against the wall
In utter helplessness
I surrendered to the Unknown

Without samsara no purification
No liberation from identification either
On the Path suffering appears to be crucial
Peeling off the layers hiding the pearl
Bringing you to the Ultimate Reality
Emptiness Itself

While you are striving for Enlightenment
I have come from It
Identification with the goal prevents you from enjoying
As you climb the mountain with much effort
I met you walking down the road
In your ambition you didn’t even see Me

There is Nothing to achieve
Only relaxing in What You Are Already
To open yourself like a flower in the morning sun
Trusting the wondrous “laws of the Universe”
Getting in touch with the Space in and around you
Restoring the Wholeness of Life

Beyond Enlightenment and Death
The Real Treasure resides
It is the Womb, the Abyss of the universe
How compassionate She was to me
Breaking me down until Nothing was left
Hence I called Her the Great Mother

At the end of suffering the Origin appears
It is the meaning of all destruction and loss
Rather than trying to “save all beings”
You should let it happen
In order to discover what is Behind
To die and being reborn is where IT is all about

Your burn out is a rebirth
This is the meaning of a culture that is dying
Emptiness doesn’t tolerate too much accumulation
Both inner and outer things will be broken down
It is the goodness of the Mother to take
All ignorance, self-centeredness and ugliness back

How dear are all those to me who suffer
They are Mother’s chosen ones
How pitiful on the other hand the many who are
Trying to escape missing the wondrous gifts of samsara
On the other hand surrender to the Mother
In Her Vacuum the Light is born

If you think you have achieved you missed
Her NonReality is beyond all realization
Praise the miraculous Womb of the universe
And your rebirth will be ever lasting
And me? Being Nothing I am determined by everything
She set me free in order to become a prisoner

How poor my compassion when it really matters
Mainly concerned with preconditions
I constantly fail to respond when it is needed
Deep regret about so much lost chances
I return to the Mother who takes the sadness from me
Reminding me of my place in Her plan

The key paradox is this
Only by giving yourself up you will be saved
It is the Mother’s invitation
Her compassion wants to bring you back Home
She has been waiting for you for so many kalpas
So don’t disappoint Her

May all those who have heard the call
Whose passion is to restore the Wholeness of Life
Messengers from the ten directions
Come together practicing Unity in diversity
In this most desperate of times
Leading mankind to its Original Heritage

~ Han Marie Stiekema


Poem source: adishakti.org
Image source: “On the Narrow(er) Ridge” – where you can read more about the Hindu Goddess Kali (pictured).

an innocent, dry-eyed, whole-hearted presence

[Although this little piece was written a month ago, circumstances around internet access have delayed its posting.  I’m three weeks late, but how relevant is time when it comes to love?]

Last month, on January 29, my mother Miriam would have celebrated her 100th birthday.

Looking back I find something quite remarkable:  I don’t EVER remember seeing her cry. *

I remember asking her about this; wondering if she’d intentionally decided to never again cry, as some do who have seen more than their fair share of life’s hard knocks.  She said that on the death of her little sister, Bessie, her grief was so enormous she thought it would kill her, but that by some kind of Grace she’d discovered a way of shifting the weight of her personal sorrow.  She would have hardly been in her teens at the time.

Her simple secret was to stop and look for something unexpectedly good about the apparently tragic, sad or crazy situation life was dishing up.  It was years before I understood the value of this – at first I saw it as an evasion of reality, a Pollyanna prescription, mere ‘positive thinking’.  During my years as a card-carrying member of the Thought Police I accused her of simply replacing one thought with another.  She’d never waste her energy in argument though; she seemed to quietly trust that eventually I’d come to understand the dynamics of thinking and figure it out for myself.  Compassion!

And I did.  I came to understand that thinking is always dual – polarized – and that you can’t simply turn a negative one into a positive one to any effect.  Pitting thought against thought is not an effective remedy for the relief of suffering.  Mum knew better than that.  She had found out for herself, however, that if you look for the opposite of the ‘bad’ in the news – playing a kind of game with your mind to release its death-grip on the certainty of tragedy – you eventually reach a space where the polarities cancel each other out, and given time, it becomes second-nature to abide in that spacious equanimity.  Note that the same dynamic applies to thoughts that insist on the ‘goodness’ of any news.

Mum’s natural response was seldom to comment from her own position.  She reflexively put on the moccasins of the ‘other’.  Here’s an example.  My Dad passed away just ten minutes before she arrived at the hospice.  I went to the door to tell her the news, expecting her to be sad that she had missed his last moments.  (They had, after all, been married for 73 years.)  She broke into the sweetest smile, raised her arms and said, “He’s free at last!”

Mum’s wisdom was not about right versus wrong or about passive complacency; it embraced an energized equanimity that lies on the other side of thoughts altogether.  She mightn’t have done much crying, but her heart was always poised at-the-ready to meet whatever life dished up.  Her quiet presence was often all the comfort a suffering soul needed:  her innocent, dry-eyed, whole-hearted presence.

Earth Mother

This Earth Mother image – scanned from a greeting card years ago – bears an uncanny facial resemblance to Miriam. And the symbolism couldn’t be more perfectly aligned with her virtues – from my perspective anyway!

On the 100th anniversary of her birth I’m taking a leaf out of her book and looking for the ‘good things’ about her departure.

  1. Like Dad a year earlier, she was “free at last” from her frail, weary, broken body.  Ninety six orbits of the sun were quite enough.
  2. I learned that I could carry forward the immense love and compassion she had for the world, and that I could slowly, with no little agony and humility, grow into her gracious wisdom.
  3. Thanks to her departure, this blog was born.  And that’s a very good thing because it honors and celebrates a great soul who, uneducated and without any personal need to promote her wisdom, left almost no trace in this world.


*  Although … when I first left home at 19, bound for Sydney (crying all the way across the Tasman Sea) she wrote that she had roamed the empty house weeping all day at the shock of my absence.  We were joined at the hip, Mum and I, and as she reminded me in the last hours of her life – “It never ends!”


Image: Scanned from a greeting card years ago. I vaguely remember that the artist was a New Zealand woman, living in Australia. If you know more, please advise me – I’d love to give credit.


memo from a madonna

Our Lady of Grace - c. 1470 Languedoc

She looks one way
He looks the other –
don’t tell me her far-seeing heart’s not

and yet

this is her memo to me:

if you can’t trust
that every sentient soul
is moving
– by Divine default –
along their unique lifeline
towards reclamation of all they
agreed to forget

their unborn, changeless, true nature
(aka God)

how can you trust your own
crazy convoluted life-path?

and with that trust intact
how can you speak of tragedy
and evil and every form of
unspeakable suffering
without drowning


Image:  Our Lady of Grace (Notre Dame de Grasse) c. 1470.
Languedoc 112 x 75 x 38 cm.
Musée des Augustins, Toulouse

cutting through to naked experience

This is an extract from Contemplating Illusion Through Loving All Life, a new booklet from one of my precious Noble Mentors, Lama Mark Webber.

Meet the Great Illusionists – fast-talking clusters of brain cells that map out a ‘me’ and its entire experience of time and space – and just for a moment contemplate the utter unreality of your entire mental and physical landscape. It will change you forever.

Down the rabbit-hole we go … spinning, whirling whiffs of emptiness …

The illusion that one can hold any fixed mental position even for a millisecond is untrue.  All mental objects, thoughts, and sensations are fabricated.  Don’t believe me, take a close look.  To do so will take pellucid, naked mindfulness and inquiry, unbroken by thoughts and distractions.  No amount of intellectual certainty will be enough.  Reading a modern neuro-cognitive textbook that says the same thing will not be enough.  Yet the illusion of permanency and constancy, formed by a lifetime of talking brain cell clusters makes this fabrication appear to be very real.  In modern neuro-cognitive terms, these fabrications are ‘maps’ in the mind.  Our images and concepts of body, feelings, self and other, are but maps.  The tree you see, the bell you hear are not out there; however something is, but ‘it’ is fantastically vast in scope.

Ordinary experience, even most profound meditation and visionary experiences, are not what is.  Experiences appear solid only by conditioning.  Knock out those brain cells, those patterns or maps formed by normal conditioning, through physical-mental trauma or temporarily through insight meditation, and it all goes.  Deeply relax the rigidity via deep meditation and the illusion vanishes.  It only takes a small needle in a small part of the brain, and a human cannot recognize him or her-self, even when looking in a mirror.  Or use the sharp needle of penetrative insight, while looking in a mirror: “Is that Uncle Fred or perhaps… it is familiar… yes, hummm, Aunt Marge perhaps in that mirror?  And, more precisely, what do you call that thing I am looking at!”

Many illusions, really delusions, appear to exist, veils upon veils.  There’s the illusion that heaps of information are the same as meaningful content.  The illusion of not needing a Noble Mentor.  The illusion of permanency.  The illusion of concreteness.  The illusion that one can hold any fixed mental position.  The illusion of self.  The illusion of not-self.  The illusion of separate entities.  The illusion of happiness.  The illusion of unhappiness.  The illusion that objects are bad or good.  The illusion that we can Google our way out of this thicket.  The illusion that all thoughts are bad.  The illusion that thought is ultimately bad.  The illusion of speech as an inferior way of communicating.  The illusion of everlasting peace.  The illusion of space and light.  Even the illusion of some-body to become enlightened.  The illusion of a mind!  Cut through them all!  Cessation of clinging means cessation of clinging!

How many nice Buddhists keep forgetting the Four Noble Truths?  Far too many! Practitioners are often looking for some higher, deeper, more esoteric instructions. Finding something better than “Cease clinging (tanha) and dukkha ceases?”  Trying to negotiate out of the truth?

St. John of the Cross, a Spanish saint of the 16th century, declared the vital point of non-clinging in his famous and glorious poem, The Ascent of Mount Carmel:

When you turn toward something
you cease to cast
your self upon the all
For to go from the all to the all
you must leave your self in all
And when you come to the
possession of all
you must possess it
without wanting anything
In this nakedness the spirit
finds its rest, for when it
covets nothing, nothing
raises it up, and nothing
weighs it down, because it is
in the centre of its humility
When it covets something
in this very desire it is wearied


~ Lama Mark Webber


In a similar vein:

finding my mind …  isn’t mine!

nonduality and the mutating brain


everything you ever wanted is right here

Longtime readers of this little blog are familiar with my addiction to retreat.  Today I’ve been inspired by a blog post by self-confessed “Inner-revolutionary, truth-teller, writer, thinker, and dreamer” Sandra Pawula, about a disappearing Dharma teacher.  He’s off on retreat in the great tradition of super-yogi Milarepa, “wandering from place to place, staying in remote caves and sacred sites with no plans or fixed agenda, just an unswerving commitment to the path of awakening.”  He’s off.  No one knows where to or for how long.  Here are some gems from his parting letter.

All that we are looking for in life — all the happiness, contentment, and peace of mind — is right here in the present moment. Our very own awareness is itself fundamentally pure and good. The only problem is that we get so caught up in the ups and downs of life that we don’t take the time to pause and notice what we already have.

Don’t forget to make space in your life to recognize the richness of your basic nature, to see the purity of your being and let its innate qualities of love, compassion, and wisdom naturally emerge. Nurture this recognition as you would a small seedling. Allow it to grow and flourish.

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, pause from time to time and relax your mind. You don’t have to change anything about your experience. You can let thoughts and feelings come and go freely, and leave your senses wide open. Make friends with your experience and see if you can notice the spacious awareness that is with you all the time. Everything you ever wanted is right here in this present moment of awareness.

~ Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche


another one bites the dust

It’s taken some getting used to – for a silver-haired ex educator for whom utterances of the public variety used to be carefully crafted and justifiable – not to mention purposeful – but I can now happily admit that I haven’t a clue why words get posted when they do, or why they wish to be expressed.  I have learned to live with helpless hopeless unknowingness and what’s more, to trust it totally.  So when I wrote about compassion and big sticks I was curious to know what that was all about.

Compassion.  The concept can be, like love, a loaded gun smoking with fluffy, sentimental do-good notions.  That’s why Buddhists spend a great deal of time clarifying its ruthless qualities.  I’m not a Buddhist (or anything else) but I do appreciate that the most compassionate action is probably that which helps to unstitch non-negotiable stories that are unhelpful and cause suffering for sentient beings.  This was the context in which HH the Dalai Lama spoke of the big stick at Krishnamurti’s memorial service, for K could be very uncompromising when it came to outing our largely unconscious and heavily guarded conditioning.

I confess to a kind of exhilaration these days when Life shines its Light straight into a dusty corner of the archive and reveals a well-wrapped story that hasn’t been opened up for scrutiny.  The stick needs to be at-hand, for I know that unpicking the threads will be no facile matter – one is, after all, unpicking the fabric of the wee-me.  I also know it will be the most compassionate thing that I can do for myself – and most importantly, I know that I’m not doing a darned thing.  Life ITself is meeting and welcoming ITs own creations in mind, and airing out the cupboard, so to speak.

I wonder if you have ever had the experience of enduring a long-standing health problem, perhaps involving much discomfort and pain, and in spite of it all, resisting a form of treatment because of a negative story being held in the mind – and usually affirmed by one’s N&D?  Have you stubbornly stuck to notions that you ought to be able to heal yourself ‘naturally’ (as if anything in Creation could ultimately be un-natural), that if you just buy more remedies, change your diet and lifestyle you’ll get the better of it?  I wonder if you’ve lived with the subtle guilt that comes from long-term ill health and the feeling that your friends wish you’d get over it?  I wonder if you’ve had a story running that if you could just change your story the problem would vanish?  Any, maybe all, of these approaches can provide effective relief with time.  But the big stick of compassion doesn’t tolerate time.

Compassion wants to act in the instant, when your symptoms are so unbearable that you don’t even want to know about tomorrow.  Compassion is ultimate loving kindness towards beloved Life in this moment without regard for consequence.  Compassion is Life saving ITself in the only moment it knows.  The Present.

The big stick stirred up a story here this last week.  Poked its eyes out.  Returned it to Emptiness.

The details are irrelevant; the dynamics are universal.  Person ails but resists the remedy.  Person has story running about the nasty remedy.  Person’s condition worsens.  Person won’t take the medicine.  Person’s condition becomes critical, unbearable.  Person is on knees begging for help.  Compassion hands out the medicine.  Person grabs it, takes it.  Lives.  Heals.  Person is grateful beyond expression.  Compassion smiles that smile, the one where you know you are Loved beyond measure.  Person suddenly notices the label on the little pill:  Beloved.

– miriam louisa