Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart—to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again. . . . In creative work—creative work of all kinds—those who are the world’s working artists are not trying to help the world go around, but forward. . . . The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.
—Mary Oliver, Upstream
For hours I wandered
over the fields
and the only thing that kept me company
was a song,
it glided along
with my delicious dark happiness,
bristling and aching delight
at the world
which has been like this
forever and ever–
the birds, the ponds,
from a lifetime ago
and another country
such a willing and lilting companion—
made so obviously for me.
At what unknowable cost.
And by a stranger.
—Mary Oliver, from “Ich Bin Der Welt Abhanden Gekommen,” House of Light
The whole essence of Zen consists in walking along the razor’s edge of Now—to be so utterly, so completely present that no problem, no suffering, nothing that is not who you are in your essence, can survive in you. In the Now, in the absence of time, all your problems dissolve. Suffering needs time; it cannot survive in the Now.
The great Zen Master Rinzai, in order to take his students’ attention away from time, would often raise his finger and slowly ask: “What, at this moment, is lacking?” A powerful question that does not require an answer on the level of the mind. It is designed to take your attention deeply into the Now. A similar question in the Zen tradition is this: “If not now, when?”
—Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now
—Mary Oliver, 2005. Photo by Rachel Giese Brown.
The impermanent has no reality; reality lies in the eternal. Those who have seen the boundary between these two have attained the end of all knowledge. Realize that* which pervades the universe and is indestructible; no power can affect this unchanging, imperishable reality. The body is mortal, but that* which dwells in the body is immortal and immeasurable.
—The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2, translation and notes by Eknath Easwaran
*Tat, “that,” is an ancient name for Brahman, the supreme reality. Brahman is neither masculine nor feminine; in fact, it has no attributes at all. It is impossible to describe Brahman in words, so it simply pointed to: tat.
—Thomas Merton, Kentucky, USA, 1966. Photo by Ralph Eugene Meatyard.
—Blue Lovers, 1914, by Marc Chagall