Sensitivity to Words

One of the major symptoms of the general crisis existent in our world today is our lack of sensitivity to words. We use words as tools. We forget that words are a repository of the spirit. The tragedy of our times is that the vessels of the spirit are broken. We cannot approach the spirit unless we repair the vessels. Reverence for words - an awareness of the wonder of words, of the mystery of words - is an essential prerequisite for prayer. By the word of God the world was created.

—Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel


In a class on Buddhism, one of the teachers was a Jōdo Shinshū pastor. He explained that when teaching the children the First Noble Truth, they expressed it as "Life is a bumpy road." Several years later I read that the literal translation of the Pali word dukkha, usually translated as suffering or dissatisfaction is "bad hole," referring to a poorly made cart wheel. What a fascinating metaphor.

Compassion is Latin for "to suffer with," or as Bill Clinton said it, “I feel your pain.”

Coleman Barks, in a recorded reading of his translations of Rumi, told about an English teacher who, on the first day of class, jumped up on his desk and said, "Young men, I love words." I also love words, sometimes for their roots or
original meaning, or sometimes just for their sounds. The German word for auto exhaust tailpipe is auspuff.

In English, a windfall is a tree blown over by the wind, bringing the fruit (and wood) within easy reach. The Japanese equivalent is a duck that walks in the door, a meal that does not have to be hunted down. A great windfall is a duck that walks in the door with a green onion over its shoulder. The most popular way in Japan to cook duck is with green onions.

Spirit in Greek and Hebrew is the same word as breath or wind, and it's feminine. In English, the feminine has been lost from the Divinity.

In India, the Bodhisattva of Compassion is male. In China, it was initially male but soon an existing Chinese female deity (Kwan Yin) was co-opted. Is this a transgendered deity?

Rumi says God's first language is silence; all else is poor translation.

Zen claims to be a teaching beyond scripture and words and has the largest body of written works of any religion.

Words are wonderful, powerful, and at the same time, limited. They must be respected for all three.


Sounds of Trees

Can you tell
the species from
the sighs of
the pines, the
rustle of hardwoods?

Does it matter to anyone,
except a botanist,
an academic, the arrogant

The poet struggles
to find the words
for what
is wordless.

—Jeff Taylor


Reverberate the
Non-Judgement with
Compassion is
Equity exhuberantly expressed.
Responding to the
Divine with devotion
Simply & sanely


In The Beginning

In the beginning was the Word
and I am told the Word was
God/is God.
How is this verifiable? I can observe
that I recover from wounds inflicted
by sticks and stones.
But words can be used to pierce
my very soul, can lead me to the
loss of meaning. And, well there
you are, plowshares bent into
swords, crushing my vessel asunder.

Viktor Frankl wrote words, "Man's
Search for Meaning,"I can use to
guide my return.
To the root of Word which is Love,
As it was in the beginning and
It always will be....
Once the carnage is ended, and
I caringly lift away weighted thoughts
of hate, cease it in all its forms within
myself. My recovery, rediscovery
of the Word may be the revival of a
Loving World without End. Amen.

—Martha Ward

How Does Life Live?

by Kelly O’Brien (For full experience:

How does life live?
Can girls be robots?
Why is fire called fire?
What is winter?
Why do we have to sleep?
How many dogs are in this world?
Where do ants come from?
Why are some things special?
Why do (don’t?) worms have faces?
Why is (the) sun in my eyes?
Why does everybody not like pink, just black?
What do princesses do?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Do girls have vaginas?
Why do boys cut their hair?
How do you make water?
Why do you like beautiful things so much?
Why do you pick flowers, and then they die?
Are you old, Mom?
Why are the leaves falling down?
Will I have another birthday?
Why doesn’t everybody know me?
What are you talking about?
What’s a conversation?
Why do people laugh at me?
Why is she mean?
Why are you on your phone?!
What happens when I don’t like you, Mom?
What is mean and nice?
What is kind?
Do you love me?
Why are kids small?
Where did you find me when I was a baby?
Why does the heart beat?
Why do my feet sparkle?
What’s bacteria? Does it hurt you?
How does food turn into poo?
How do you be a mermaid, Mom?
Why can’t we see angels?
Can you turn me into a fairy?
Do blue butterflies…eat parts of the sky?
Do worms cry?
Do bugs die?
Why do the birds fly away?
Why are we humans?
Why do we eat animals?
Why do trees just stand there?
Why is it night time when trees when people are awake?
Why does the earth move?
What is atmosphere?
Do (did) God make the ocean?
Where does the sun go?
Why is the world so messy?
Why do we all have cars?
What is a molecule?
What does extinct mean?
What is power?
What is history?
Why are we gonna die?
How do people get killed?
What is fragile?
When did the world even start?
Mom, why are we starting again?
What is history?
How does life live?


PARTS of the SKY

Do Blue Butterflies eat parts of the sky?
One of many endless questions from a
Child, with its still forming neuroplasty....

For me the question conjures up Escher,
The artist/printmaker.
As a child, he was curious how a shape
is both a space and a whole, one fitting
with the other.

Finding this puzzle meant, he refined a
Solution, that is a puzzle. The unlimited
defined on an endless horizon
of blue butterflies eating parts of the sky.

What is Fragile?

A breath in, a pause, breath out, pause.
Like a sonata of sensemaking of the
Surrounding small moments, each,
Last for an eternity.

Promises pushing against
one another, like seedhead.
Which will be the first to fall to the earth, slip into a
small crevice, there die a seed, birth a flower,
A flower with its seedhead, pushing against
One another. Which will be the first to fall
to the earth?

—Martha Koock Ward



What is the secret river?
Do rocks direct us?
Is there ever a stopping?
Do we all travel?
If I follow, is there a place I am going?
The last way, steps lost into canyon, can it be found?
When the mist swirls on the side of the cliff, is that it?
Is there any way to go on?

Sarah Webb


What is kind? What is fragile?

Kind, separate from nice, recognizes our common fragility.

Kind wraps us in a soft understanding, a willingness to listen.

A desire to quiet our own minds to hear what's on someone else's

A sharing of a load, a burden, time

A slowing down until you can feel what it's like to be that other person

Heart beating, breath breathing

What it's like to be yourself




I can't figure out why it has taken me 70 years to figure out how insufficient our answers and explanations really are. Kids ask why and they are curious. And then they go to school and are given answers. I read the other day that the only facts are in our minds. But they don't tell us that in school, did they? We are fed answers sufficient to quell our curiosity.

An exception to this was when I had a color theory class where the teacher wouldn't tell us stuff. He'd grunt or shrug his shoulders when we'd ask him a question. He’d ask us to look harder and to find out on our own. He opened us up to the exploration of color, reminding me what Matisse once said, “I’ve spent all my life playing with color.”

What is a kid asking for when they ask why? Do they want to know the answer, or are they just saying, “Look at this…isn’t it awesome?”?

There a joke in my family that I ask a lot of questions, and worse, I expect answers. And not grey answers like my color theory teacher would say or not say, but black and white answers. When my aunt Reggie was a beginning psychotherapist, she'd give me answers…just the kind I thought I wanted. So when I’d ask something of my sister, a psychoanalyst, she would always answer, “Ask Reggie.” Unfortunately, when Reggie became old and wise, her answers became less binary and much more confusing…and rich.

So what should we do with kids questions? What can we do to encourage their curiosity even more?

William Blake wrote "never seek to tell thy love... Love that never told can be. For the gentle wind does move. Silently Invisibly" That seems about another form of answers. Think of when someone asked you if you love them. Isn't it always when the relationship is dissolving? So they need to clarify. They need to make an experience into a fact. And from there it goes downhill. Silently. Invisibly.

My grandson asked me the other day, holding up a piece of parsley at his school’s Seder lunch, “Who made this?” Unfortunately, I gave him an answer. I could kick myself. There are so many questions I could have asked him, like who does he think made it, or why was he asking the question, or what else in the world is he curious about who made it, or how might he find out who made it. I was not curious about his curiosity and for that I failed him. Maybe next time I can do better.

Kim Mosley


The severity that can be present in Zen is so opposite of my temperament, but since it
was the first meditation experience offered to me (by my friend Flying Clouds when I
was 18) and since I never forgot it (though it was one of the most wretched 30 minute
periods I ever spent), I knew I would return, and thus came back again 20 years ago.
Maybe I knew it might give me something I might not gain otherwise. I love the utter
simplicity of Zen, its essential nature, the invitation to “just sit”, and go deep inside.
Often the best scientific theories are the ones which explain the facts with the greatest
economy and simplicity. Zen is like that: no frills, no labyrinths of explanation, only bare
experience and the ability to watch it quietly. For someone like me, so ruled by moods
and emotions, it is such a gift to deep below the ocean, or into the limitless Big Sky,
where emotions just float away, and everything changes except the light, or the water,
the fundamental mediums of existence.

As a child, I knew that light spoke of the Absolute for me. And all of my life, I have
dreamed of water- springs, brooks, turquoise seas, hot pools carved in the stone. I
remember Flying Clouds telling me a dream about the time she taught me to do Zazen.
She was in a stone church, very simple, and she went to the side of one of the
foundations. There was a trickle of water there, and she started to dig in the sandy
ground with her hands. As she dug, beautiful clear springs began to come into the
church, and she was filled with joy. It was her dream, but she gifted me its image, which
has stayed with me always.

I remember my childhood in the Hill Country, the dark cold house so full of anger and
sadness, where mice got eaten by snakes coming up through the jagged floorboards,
where hope could die if left there long enough.

But I also remember the outdoors, the massive live oak trees with gnarled roots, the
pungent tang of the juniper and its red bark strips which birds used to weave little nests.
I remember the scent of chinaberry, honeysuckle, old roses, and lilacs, left behind by
the old settlers who came before us. I remember the brilliant light that lit up the fields
and turned the grasses to shades of gold and copper. I remember the circular swimming
hold down by the old bridge, shaded but with rays of sunlight hitting green water, the
schools of minnows and little mud catfish, the golden enclosure of the limestone. I
remember how the water in the brook was clear and babbled over the flat limestone and
sparkled in the sun. I vaguely remember bog plants, sedges and little white flowers, wild
onions with their pungent scent, tiny pokey little rain frogs that could be caught in the
boggy areas. And sometimes fat velvety little tadpoles in the water.

I remember playing with my brothers, not really together, just in quiet company- rather
like in the Zendo. We were deeply connected, but also deeply solitary, few words
spoken, but together in our immersion in this beautiful sylvan world.

Nature always had its dark side, however. The black snakes in the limestone crevices,
the carcasses, the half eaten frogs left by a predator, the crushing droughts that killed
the flowers and dried up the creeks to isolated, sad, scum-filled little waterholes and
trapped minnows. It was all there, but if one could float and accept, the world held us
and brought a sense of life going on. Not necessarily a single life, but life in the all of it.
We might not continue, individual frogs and fish might not continue, but life itself in
some way would continue.

—Elayne Lansford

The Prize

“I have a tape of a Tibetan nun singing a mantra of compassion over and over for an hour, eight words over and over, and every line feels different, feels cared about, and experienced as she is singing. You never once have the sense that she is glancing down at her watch, thinking, “Jesus Christ, it’s only been 15 minutes.” Forty-five minutes later she is still singing each line distinctly, word by word, until the last word is sung.

Mostly things are not that way, that simple and pure, with so much focus given to each syllable of life as life sings itself. But that kind of attention is the prize.”

-Anne Lamott
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life


The Prize

“That kind of attention is the prize.”
What is the competition?
How many prizes are given out?
What if the struggle is not
against another, against nature,
against scarcity, real or imagined.

If the struggle is against ourself,
there is enough
for everyone.

Michelangelo or some other sculptor claimed
not to create anything but merely
to remove the stone surrounding, revealing
what was already there all along.
The nun has removed, discarded,
chipped away all distraction
until all that remains is
pure, simple attention.

There is time enough to do
what needs to be done.
Do not hurry, but
there is no time to waste.


“Mostly things are not that way,
that simple and pure, with
so much focus given to
each syllable of life as life sings itself.”

Or maybe it is
giving each syllable of life
that much focus unwraps
a life simple and pure.

Taizé at Mercy Chapel

Taizé at Mercy Chapel—
there are instruments
to set the pitch, nothing more.
We sing four lines, maybe eight,
over and over. Time loses
its significance, the small orchestra
invisible beneath the press of voices, hundreds strong.

We sing, more than once,
less than many, no matter.
We sing until our voices warm,
are held, entranced
by songs, words repeating, forgotten,
still sung, it's the song that lifts,
not the words.

—Jeffery Taylor

Let It Go

Prompt: Let It Go by Danna Faulds


The sadness and grief have hardened me; 
the laughter and love soften me. 
The space between them is empty, 
ready to accept the next fleeting moment, 
to hold it briefly, 
and be forever changed.

—Lori H.


Riding the Wave's Crest

To ride the wave,
you must catch it,
paddle or swim hard,
match direction and speed
to arrive in style.

Or wash up on the beach.

—Jeffery Taylor



Bunches of small pink bunnies beat
Their drums, relentlessly, wrecking
The wall of my R.E.M, bringing me
Crashing into awake.

The search for the long sought lands
Of somnambulant Shangri-La foiled, again.
How am I to attract Delta & Theta into
The labyrinth of my greying matter
With all that racket being made?

The government has invaded me, too!
Launching drones of Daylight Savings Time
Obliterating legions of sleepy eyed Sandmen,
Who are armed only with buckets of dreams.
Each stumbling, defenseless, against
The glare of the blazing sun.

Wailing Smart Phones and iPad screens scream
“Wake Up! You are Missing SOME THING!”

—Martha Ward


It takes so much energy for me to not let it go, yet I hold on with dear life, as the expression goes. It has a life of its own. It could be the pristine surface of a new car. It could be my ability to climb walls when I was 20. It could be any number of things that went away on their own. The scroll in the zendo tells me that everything changes. Holding on tight doesn't really keep things from changing. It just prolongs that change a little.

I had to meet her dad to take her to the prom. He didn't want to let go. How I would love to meet him now, learning that 50 years ago he may have been the primary person responsible for splitting the atom at the University of Chicago. But then it was just a dad who couldn't let his daughter go. And now she may still be held tight by her dad, long ago deceased, who won't let her go.

I was thinking about letting go of my stories. Which one should I start with? How about the one that I can do anything by myself. That's a joke. So many tools were given to me that enabled my survival and my happiness. People for thousands of years worked their tails off so I could type on this ipad. And so many people went way beyond the call of duty to nudge me on. So I'll let go of my thought of being self-reliant. 

I could let go of my story that I'm any better than I am. When I goofed up today and forgot to give the chant card to the head student, I was embarrassed. Someone might have noticed that I wasn't as good as I wanted them to believe. I screwed up, as I do most days in one way or another. Major screw up ;). Yet if I let go of me being any better than I am, then I would just look at my major screw up as indicating I'm just a beginner.

I could let go of the fact that I know anything at all. In ancient China, if you said you've seen a painting, that would mean you could replicate it from memory. So what have I seen, even of my own work?

Let go of friendships too? Why do we think that friendships are forever? Maybe some are, but others change or die. Is that ok? It doesn't matter. Everything changes, right?

I read yesterday that both men and women speak an average of 16,000 words a day. I wonder if I should let go of the idea that I said anything other than to express a lot of confusion. How many of those words were needed? How much more would I have learned if I had shut my mouth and listened? I must let go of the idea that I have something to say. And maybe convert that energy into having something to hear...or even just to be.

When my father was dying he was very brave, yet he had a lot of trouble going to the other side. My sister was yelling at him over the phone, telling him he didn't need to hang on—that he could let go now. It was as if he was holding onto a rope holding himself hanging from a branch on a cliff. He couldn't let go, even knowing that he also could not hold on.

I realized last night that holding on is much harder than letting go. Maybe I think I'm a loser if I don't hold on tight, even if it does little good. What can I let go of next? How long can I hold the rope, anyway?

Kim Mosley