In the previous dream, I needed to get home which was upstairs but there weren’t any stairs, so, oh well.

This time, a friend had cut open a door in my ceiling above the bed so I could get out. Then he left. At first there was the space between me and the door that I couldn’t bridge. But then dimensions shifted and the door and bed were on the same plane, so I just opened the door and went out.

A mourning dove visited me this morning for the first time since I’ve had the feeder up.

The sitting house finch is still coming to sit with me periodically.



When you are desolate.
When you are grief stricken beyond consolation
When you are in hell with no relief
the only thing left is this opening to grace.
In your suffering you know this opening
Where the hell becomes grace.
It doesn’t rescue you from hell.

You feel the depths of the longing, the grief, the need.
And there, in the depths of longing, you find that only love can go there.
For a second, you think,
Wait a minute, is this hell or love?
Then the question dissolves
As you begin to feel
that they are actually the same.

Only love can know such a catastrophic suffering.
Only love can go that far.
I’ve been beaten down and smashed to smithereens.
only love can answer
when you embrace the full catastrophe
only love can find you there

This is the holy ground of love
that answers with no answer
And comforts you
without an ounce of comfort that you have known.
There is nothing left but bowing.


Ee showed up in my dream early Saturday morning. He was at the door of some shop, to replace a sign on the door that was somehow objectionable. I suggested keeping the sign and just improving the quality of the writing of whatever it said. I had to get back home which was upstairs but there weren’t stairs or any way to physically get up there.

Then a woodpecker showed up at my feeder that morning, who I’ve never seen before. A big Northern Flicker. Flickering is the on-off rhythm of life, and I’ve been having glimmers or flickers of that reality of forms that permeates everything.

(And I had an ocular migraine aura on Friday that looked like a shimmering, flickering image of a C, moving out to the periphery and disappearing. It’s actually beautiful to see.)

Then Ee’s talk proceeded to illuminate the dream.. I realized that the paper on the door of the shop was the finite face of the sign, and maybe what was objectionable was to take that as the reality of the sign. So we had to render a translation into the concrete reality of it which is an infinite conversation.

This also reminds me of my dream a few months ago where he rearranged (edited) my notebook. Now it’s rewriting the sign.

Then I couldn’t go straight home like my idealized image of a bird escaping upward, but there had to be a conversation that embodies the rhythm of life. The bird drinks then puts its beak in the air.

Most of the time I experience being excruciatingly exhausted but agitated at the same time and not able to sleep or rest. I can’t seem to go one way or the other, like time is collapsed in the wrong way and things are happening simultaneously that shouldn’t be! When reality is reduced down to finite things, they contradict and clash with each other. The sign has to be rewritten to let the concrete reality of things speak, and then everything can speak from a native voice in time, and it’s harmonious. Then things happen in proper rhythm, sleeping and waking, the flickering of life.

I’ve started to keep a record of the names of birds that I see at the feeder every morning. Not that the names matter, but for me it’s a way of bearing witness to the concrete reality of it, entering into bodily participation with that rhythm. I feel the value in that gesture alone. Maybe that’s the value of ritual. I’m just exploring that. 

I guess I might just as well keep a record of which clothes I wear every day or which color towel I use, if that was all that showed up, but the birds give me a special entrance into other worlds. With the gesture, I’m being accepted into the day, without having to interpret any meaning or purpose. Just the bird saying “Here I am” is enough, and I reciprocate. It’s beautiful.

Maybe I’m not so important.. or maybe it’s just the tendency to drown out the other voices with my own and see the other through my personal filter. But who I really am comes into being as inclusive, as I become transparent, empty, open, present. Then there is nothing left but honoring of things as they are. That intimacy is love, so maybe I can love a line. By engaging with the living reality of a thing as it is, I become as I am.

This morning I awoke to the sound of birds pecking at the feeder, which I couldn’t see with the curtain still closed, but I knew they were there. I got up smiling for a change. The curtain both concealed and revealed – there is joy behind the density of suffering. That can be a direct experience, and already is. I wake up in pain to such beauty. The world keeps giving me these experiences of “hidden” realities in plain sight.


if I were a bird

I would fly

I would fly

out over the sea.

I would pick up Bob Lax

who’s waiting for me in the space between

where the light meets the shadow

there is no line

just opening on opening

moving through and through

touching and touching and touching


I can’t carry this weight.

The bird comes to pick it up and fly away with it.

I enter the mystery.

Now I’m looser and things don’t stick together inside me anymore.

Maybe my parts will find new connecting points.

But that’s none of my business anymore.

A sea bird glides and then flaps its wings once to say: Safe and Sound.

Gliding in the silence until I need reminding.


Brian Eno said, “Stop thinking about art works as objects, and start thinking about them as triggers for experiences.”

I rather like objects. Objects themselves aren’t lasting, but when things speak, as they seem to do a lot more than I realized, they belie their discrete appearances and reveal intermingling worlds. Then I have a new appreciation for the appearance and am no longer inclined to discard it like wrapping paper that’s finished serving a purpose and has no use otherwise. I think more highly of wrapping paper than that.


It was sometime around 1984 in Boston, I was walking a few blocks home from the grocery store when a severe agoraphobia attack hit. Usually I would speed up and get home as quickly as possible, shaking. This time I felt tired of that, and instead I just stood still.

With a slight turn of my body, a tree branch was right in front of my face, and I could see the details of a leaf. I looked at the pattern of the veins of the leaf.

After a few moments, I began walking again, slowly and calmly.

In that moment outside of time, everything stopped and I was empty. There was no idea of overcoming the panic in any way, no agenda. I remembered that beautiful moment the past 40 years. I’ve also remembered horrific moments for even longer than that. But I did remember that one.

“The deprivation is actually the awakening, because if you listen very closely, you can start to feel in the poverty of your awakened heart, the awakening you couldn’t see coming because it was infinite.”

-James Finley


I always assumed that this fervor of mine was to penetrate the mystery. Don’t we want that? Maybe not as we might expect a sign to show up, as an answer to a burning question or a great need. So these assumptions shatter in the grace of mystery.

The real desire isn’t for a better outcome, but to hear the bird’s voice. To know mystery purely as it gives itself to me, as this hurting, as this burning neediness, in all the rawness of my experience, the mystery gives itself to me as this unexplainable constancy.

I tried to fix the hurting, tried to fix the neediness and the shamed and blamed places, tried to fix the sufferings. But I found there is no protection, no fixing. I found there is a delicate abiding in the exquisite intimacy of mystery. A bright clarity begins to shine through. It holds me in the dark night, in the hours of complete and utter abandonment.

There is no rescue from despair, while great mystery is loving me through it. And when everything is gone, what is never absent is this kind of faithfulness to something so delicate, this unspeakable presence, and there is a tender sincerity that is holiness, and I am steeping in it.

1.28.23 later evening

Most of the time it’s an experience of abiding. Abiding in this practice of patience, often impatiently. “I can’t stand it” is the honest voice of impatience.

The sustaining patience can hear all the voices of can’t stand it and too much to bear. The patience isn’t some heroic thing achieved, but it’s what quietly tends to the hurting places when I impatiently can’t stand it. It shows up as a simple presence of simply turning over on my side,

I’m really tired of the habit of explaining. Maybe how I honor my own voice is in allowing this vulnerability of pure expression without explanation. I don’t even have an interest in promoting a voice to call my own, because it isn’t that.

When something beautiful has taken hold of me, I just can’t resist. Right now I seem to be in a dance of unexplainable agonizing beauty.

1.28.23 evening

Now my devotion, my faithfulness, is to the beauty of these moments, in all the terrible unbearableness. To know the experience of penetrating that. What is it that penetrates? Only the sustaining love.

I used to think that I wasn’t a devotional mystic because I didn’t go around singing the longing for God the beloved. But it’s really the same for me, just that the voice is more subtle. It’s more a quiet patience, a steadfast faithfulness, to knowing what is sustaining me, in the midst of my suffering.

You know something is beautiful because it’s true.

You know something is true because it’s beautiful.

This feeling of agony holds the seed of something beautiful.

I can feel the delicacy of that, and it makes me weep from a place deeper than sadness.

How can such a terrible thing be so beautiful?

I take this to contemplation, and the contemplation takes me.

In the unbearable pain that takes me sometimes for continuous hours, I give myself to it. I’m fighting it, I’m surrendering to it, all of that, I’m with it and it’s with me in this intimate dance that only we can know. No prescriptive strategies can honor that experience to unravel it. No consolations can soothe it.

Sometimes it’s pure torture. I say this unapologetically. There used to be reasons to couch this in palatable terms, or deny my experience in deference to “spiritually correct” beliefs, but none of that has come through the narrow passage with me now.

Only the truth, and it’s terrible and torturous, and it’s beautiful and so deeply loving that I almost can’t bear that either, in my complete and utter powerlessness to do a thing about it.


This begins a series. I decided to write every day in a form I’ve resisted for a long time. The gory blow by blow details of the popular genre, “How I survived a devastating (yet usually commonly understood) illness” subtitled “And you can too,” seemed useless and deadly boring. I can only write what comes alive in me. There may be gory details there, I can’t promise anything.

The past few years I’ve been listening to Enrique’s brilliant birdsong, and also recently Jim Finley’s beautiful reflections on contemplative teachings. These are trainings in silence.

Sometimes the silence requires the absence of sound and words. Sometimes the silence is the experience of a great wellspring of quiet that expresses as voice. From there, I write.

On piano, it’s like the pause taken, just before the note. Outside of time, out of the silence of the pause, the note’s voice sings out. All the training that came before comes alive in the pause.

But trying to figure out how to play a note otherwise, how to write, how to get well, how to hear the song of the bird, deadens the experience, and I’m very short on energy or patience for it. I seem to somehow have an unfathomable patience for the emergence of beauty, though, whatever it requires.

Thomas Merton journaled prolifically in the monastery, and I used to wonder why so many words. I don’t wonder that way anymore. I just sit with what is beautiful, in richly nuanced thoughts and contemplative experiences beyond thought as they penetrate and warm something within me. It’s only natural that I write from the silence, and maybe it’s time now.


In the dark night, the birds departed and left my pine tree in a holy silence that remains reverberating with endless birdsong. Just like my weary heart this morning is comforted by this endless rhythm, and the articulations are the caresses of divine love.


The pine tree out my window is decorated with blinking Christmas tree lights

Or it’s the lights of a truck in the distance.

What grabs me is in between.

The tree branches gently bob up and down and touch the rhythm of my breath.


The key to the impossible situations I face is in the certainty of leaves falling.

It seems the inherent nature of things, and the basis of faith. It’s not necessary to look any further or deeper than that.

It’s just easier to notice in the silent beauty of leaves than in a distressing situation.

But there are a lot of opportunities for noisy arguments and dilemmas that invite me in to the essential silence. Life keeps showing me that, including the blasted leaf blowers.

what does a person do?

What does a person do?

I opened the refrigerator and saw two potatoes on the shelf.

I took them out and put them into the vegetable bin.

I closed the bin and closed the refrigerator.

Then I went back to the couch to lie down and recover from the exertion.

I have four doors in my apartment.

That’s a lot of doors.

Only one of them would take me outside the apartment.

I have four wastebaskets. Or garbage pails.

I make a lot of garbage for such a small person.

If the garbage doesn’t get taken out, the banana peels have to go in the freezer to stay until the garbage can go out.

There are things to do.

There are things that move between my apartment and the outside world.

People and things come and go.

I stay put.

I haven’t been out since Sonam took me to the dentist in the spring of 2021.

That was a year before he left this world.

It was six months before we thought I was going to leave this world.

I stayed and he left.

What does a person do about time?

yellow tea

I made myself a cup of yellow tea. I had a few sips and it was good. A hint of the rhythm of the morning coming back to me. Where it was before, or where it’s going, I’ll never know.

I saw a fluttering in the tree. Is it a bird or a leaf? Everywhere birds falling, leaves flying.

chariot cartwheels

Thomas Merton wrote a journal of his spiritual experiences in the monastery. It was published as several books, and he is fairly well known in certain circles and held in esteem.

I write notes sporadically on my iPad about my experiences in my meditation cave that can’t be seen. The cave can’t be seen nor the experiences.

Some leaves look like they’re walking down the street doing cartwheels, carried along by the breeze. Or is it the leaves that carry the breeze?

Do I want to write of my soul/spirit experiences as a shamanic journey? There is a lot to say in that language. The leaves have cartwheeled away and the street is clear for a few minutes. In a way, that’s all it is.


Fernando Pessoa said he always rejected being understood, which would be to prostitute oneself.

“I prefer to be taken seriously for what I’m not, remaining humanly unknown, with naturalness and all due respect.”

Seeking that kind of respect in all the wrong places, I forgot to look at the veins of the leaf. Now they show up in my hands.


I saw an article today about John Irving, author of The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules. When I was in Harvard Square in the 1980’s, I lived next door to him.

Well, not exactly. His front door was around the corner from mine, but my side yard faced his back yard. Out my window, I would sometimes see him sitting outside in his back yard writing.

That house had a bathroom with a large wooden Japanese style tub. But no shower.

Having forgotten the multitude of other moments in that house, what’s memorable are the edges of things that form interesting angles.

Sometime after, I had a bout of agoraphobia. I was in the midst of an attack while walking home on a pretty tree lined street. Instead of rushing as usual, I stopped to gaze at a leaf right in front of me. Looking at the detail of the veins of the leaf closely, I began to calm down.

just this one

There were two Buddhist monks on a chair lift in the mountains to see the fall foliage. Their orange robes matched the landscape. It’s something you don’t see every day.

Every day on the street, unnoticed, someone is wearing a brown jacket the color of a tree or a dog. I imagine what it might be like for all these things to light up. Maybe too many Christmas lights.

For right now, just one lamp is enough to light up something that makes me smile. Like it’s enough to rest in the embrace of a friend, just this one.


The bird perches on the limb of the tree

And disappears as my sock is flung into the laundry basket

I wonder why it’s easier to love the birds and trees than laundry.

From a distance the appearances of things draw them in close to me as my sighs.

The faraway things end up inside.

as they are

An indigenous woman says the tree is her brother, and she means it. A tree is no symbol for something else.

We’re always wanting to make meaning out of things. Maybe it’s just an old habit. It’s enough to experience things as they are.

Feeling exhausted does have advantages. You appreciate economy of movements and don’t take unnecessary steps.

The most direct path is preferable, until the path disappears and you find that you don’t need to substitute it with another one.

gaestrum coronatum

I dreamed that I played a little piece for a large audience at Sonam’s gig. It was one by Andreas Vollenweider that I used to play around with. A half minute of searching found the name of the piece – Gaestrum Coronatum.

It means “crowned earthstar” and is an inedible mushroom. Sonam of course is still leading me to mushrooms.

This hypnotic corona word-spell dissolves, as the crown that becomes a crow and flies off.


A conversation about indifference. It allows for the most human experience, which we all really aspire to with all this compulsory empathy floating around. But for most, to become impersonal means losing themselves, and that conflicts with a powerful primal instinct, a conflict that has to constantly be appeased. That’s exhausting.

Trying to “know thyself,” while vilifying a thing called ego, the conflict heightens. I could tolerate that for like 40 years. Amazing what we can put up with!

Things are illusory just because things are not as they seem. A stone is not limited to stone, as I keep discovering more and more, thanks to Enrique’s work.

It’s such a narrowing and dishonoring of human experience when we believe there’s something else to attain, some special experience that has more capacity to make us happy than this one right here. That my sitting in bed with all my discomforts and looking out a single window can’t be enough. The not-enough is also a presence.

I get to explore that presence, maybe to know it more intimately. It’s not easy to embrace the dignity of it all. And that doesn’t mean to pretend to be heroic (oy, I tried that), but knowing that the dignity of it is the beauty that I desire most, in the midst of what appears so hideous and repulsive as suffering.

People don’t like suffering and find some safety in believing that it’s not real. Then it becomes virtuous to rise above it, and you write a best seller, “I overcame a terrible challenge and you can too.”That’s why I never wanted to write before, from that voice, which for me is tediously dull.

Now I can start to write from a freer voice, and that’s what I want to keep cultivating, and don’t have to wait to overcome the hideous mess first or dress it up in heroic language. What a relief. The mess will take care of itself. I don’t know how, but it’s not my job, and that’s a relief in itself.


Beyond the echoes of what has been said, and all my interpretive thinking, is a pure experience that is always malleable. A headache isn’t a headache but sensation that has no fixed boundary and I can’t pinpoint a location. I can’t even say for sure whether it’s inside or outside, because I can’t say where one ends and the other begins, like a cloud in the sky.

I can even expand a sensation out to the wall and beyond (to the back is a little harder) so it becomes less dense. Then what can I say that it actually is? The truth has no accuracy.

Going through hell with benzo withdrawal, which is said to be worse than heroin withdrawal. (Well, it takes a lot longer). Even when all I can do is cry my guts out, clever strategies all out the window, the birds are never far away. A moment can be explored in a way that returns me to something essential. I want to write from the true voice, not to be clever or original.