moving toward

Hokusai Says by Robert Keyes
Hokusai says look carefully.

He says pay attention, notice.

He says keep looking, stay curious.

He says there is no end to seeing


He says look forward to getting old.

He says keep changing, you just get more who you really are.

He says get stuck, accept it, repeat yourself as long as it’s interesting.

He says keep doing what you love.

He says keep praying.


He says every one of us is a child,

every one of us is ancient, every one of us has a body.

He says every one of us is frightened.

He says every one of us has to find a way to live with fear.


He says everything is alive –

shells, buildings, people, fish, mountains, trees.

Wood is alive.

Water is alive


Everything has its own life.

Everything lives inside us.

He says live with the world inside you.


He says it doesn’t matter if you draw, or write books.

It doesn’t matter if you saw wood, or catch fish.

It doesn’t matter if you sit at home and stare at the ants on your verandah

or the shadows of the trees and grasses in your garden.


It matters that you care.

It matters that you feel.

It matters that you notice.

It matters that life lives through you.


Contentment is life living through you.

Joy is life living through you.

Satisfaction and strength is life living through you.

Peace is life living through you.


He says don’t be afraid.

Don’t be afraid.


Look, feel, let life take you by the hand.

Let life live through you.

vulnerability 2

I feel vulnerable when my well-being is in jeopardy:

my physical body is precious and I am exposed:

turbulence in flight, choppy water, traffic blips,

nights home alone, dark empty streets.

In my nebulous girlhood primeval

my physical welfare was not guaranteed;

my emotional safety was non-existent.

Rigidity and tension are my twin saviors.

Steep though their cost may be,

I learn how to erect walls.


I feel vulnerable when I am not busy,

time is of the essence and I am exposed

as unimportant if I rest, gaze, sit.

Productivity, efficiency, fruits of labor!

Though I can fall into numbness

in more ways than one.

My father said the lazy man works twice as hard

and my mom was always impatient.

They were born first generation:

driven struggle, diligent producing,

I got straight A’s.


I feel vulnerable when I try to speak what I feel,

someone is listening and I am exposed,

the only person alive who does not know.

I must be stupid, close-hearted, hard-hearted.

Put on the spot generates internal confusion

that dives elusive feelings ever deeper.

Well who didn’t have an insecure childhood?

Never OK to reveal the frightening truth

or threats that remain nameless.

In the face of upheaval and shambles,

I learned how to slip out the back jack.

I perfect my invisibility cloak.


I feel vulnerable when I lose stuff,

I’m devastated, rejected, exposed.

I lose keys, friends, vital bits of information.

Phones, water bottles and students abandon me.

I lose my sister, my brother, my mother.

Getting a grip, clinging for all I’m worth

morphs into an elusive full time stranglehold.

Things have been slipping away as long

as I can remember.

I fine-tune how to hold on.


I feel vulnerable when I ask for help,

someone is judging and I am exposed

as less than competent,

less than all together,

so clearly less than perfect.

Taking charge becomes the ideal antidote,

creates that early safe haven I still long for.

Instead there was relentless uncertainty

where the caress of a soft supporting hand

was simply out of the question.

I pretend to be OK a lot.


I know what it means to be out there defensive…

life force consumed by hiding, blame, deception.

I know what it means to be out there free…

patient, transparent, graceful, humble.

I surrender to showing up unbuttoned.

My awkward clumsy lack of poise self,

my stories of a life gone awry…

my own outing, I offer as my gift to the world

because it is true and universal and

funny and pathetic and mortal.

Time is a wasting on make-believe and pretense.

I feel vulnerable when I am being human.


Hardcore Vulnerability: Sacramento March 2-4, 2018

Bella 3-7-18


_how can you be the ancestor of your future happiness__ David Whyte (1)

Start Close In


Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.


Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.


Start with your own
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something


To find
another’s voice,
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
to another.


Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.


Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.


David Whyte


Praise What Comes


surprising as unplanned kisses, all you haven’t deserved

of days and solitude, your body’s immoderate good health

that lets you work in many kinds of weather.  Praise


talk with just about anyone.  And quiet intervals, books

that are your food and your hunger; nightfall and walks

before sleep.  Praising these for practice, perhaps


you will come at last to praise grief and the wrongs

you never intended.  At the end there may be no answers

and only a few very simple questions: did I love,


finish my task in the world?  Learn at least one

of the many names of God?  At the intersections,

the boundaries where one life began and another


ended, the jumping-off places between fear and

possibility, at the ragged edges of pain,

did I catch the smallest glimpse of the holy?


~ Jeanne Lohmann ~




i am a little church(no great cathedral)
far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
-i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april


my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are prayers of earth’s own clumsily striving
(finding and losing and laughing and crying)children
whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness


around me surges a miracle of unceasing
birth and glory and death and resurrection:
over my sleeping self float flaming symbols
of hope, and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains


i am a little church(far from the frantic
world with its rapture and anguish)at peace with nature
-i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;
i am not sorry when silence becomes singing


winter by spring,i lift my diminutive spire to
merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence
(welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)

~ e.e.cummings ~

Buddah snow
The Healing Time

Finally on my way to yes

I bump into

all the places

where I said no

to my life

all the untended wounds

the red and purple scars

those heiroglyphs of pain

carved into my skin, my bones

those coded messages

that send me down

the wrong street

again and again

where I find them

the old wounds

the old misdirections

and I lift them

one by one

close to my heart

and I say   holy



Pesha Gertler


Business competition

Housing Shortage

I tried to live small.
I took a narrow bed.
I held my elbows to my sides.
I tried to step carefully
and to think softly
and to breathe shallowly
in my portion of air
and to disturb no one.

Yet see how I spread out and I cannot help it.
I take to myself more and more, and I take nothing
that I do not need, but my needs grow like weeds,
all over and invading; I clutter this place.
with all the apparatus of living.
You stumble over it daily.

And then my lungs take their fill.
And then you gasp for air.
Excuse me for living,
but, since I am living,
given inches, I take yards,
taking yards, dream of miles,
and a landscape, unbounded
and vast in abandon.

You too dreaming the same.
Naomi Replansky

I am and I know

Golden marguerites sit me tall,

faces yearning toward

the last seasonal sun drops

even as a menacing dim looms real.


The water moves relentless

under Half Dome’s sheer mass,

anchors me to these buff cool pebbles

that grind my feet into presence.


I am a recovering do-er…

I am an exhausted thinker…


Among the random things I know

is that I am, although that is

just another thought, holding zero value,

as is the fate of all thinking.


Here in the shadow of granite silence,

witnessed by simplicity,

the doing and the thinking haunt me:

looping whines and circular demands,


scraping away at my dwindling time,

the whole charade hysterical

whenever I cease to despair

and wake up to remember


I stand alive with forest pine

knowing that I am and that is plenty.


bella 10-19-17




A Necessary Autumn

You and I have spoken all these words, but as for the way

we have to go, words

are no preparation. There is no getting ready, other than
grace. My faults

have stayed hidden. One might call that a preparation!
I have one small drop

of knowing in my soul. Let it dissolve in your ocean.
There are so many threats to it.

Inside each of us, there’s continual autumn. Our leaves
fall and are blown out

over the water. A raven sits in the blackened limbs and talks
about what’s gone. Then

your generosity returns: spring, moisture, intelligence, the
scent of hyacinth and rose

and cypress. Joseph is back! And if you don’t feel in
yourself the freshness of

Joseph, be Jacob! Weep and then smile. Don’t pretend to know
something you haven’t experienced.

There’s a necessary dying, and then Jesus is breathing again.
Very little grows on jagged

rock. Be ground. Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up
where you are. You’ve been

stony for too many years. Try something different. Surrender.



soul 2

Self Portrait

It doesn’t interest me if there is one God or many gods.


I want to know if you belong or feel abandoned,

if you know despair or can see it in others.


I want to know if you are prepared to live in the world

with its harsh need to change you,

if you can look back with firm eyes saying this is where I stand.


I want to know if you know how to melt into that fierce heat of living,

falling toward the center of your longing.


I want to know if you are willing to live, day by day,

with the consequence of love

and the bitter unwanted passion of sure defeat.


I have been told, in that fierce embrace, even the gods speak of God.


David Whyte


Oriah Mountain Dreamer took a writing class from David Whyte and the instruction was to write her own personal version of this poem.  Here it is:

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.

I want to know what you ache for

and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.


It doesn’t interest me how old you are.

I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool

for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.


It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon…

I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow

if you have been opened by life’s betrayals

or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.


I want to know if you can sit with pain,

mine or your own,

without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.


I want to know if you can be with joy,

mine or your own

if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you

to the tips of your fingers and toes

without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic,

remember the limitations of being human.


It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true.

I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself.

If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.

If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.


I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day.

And if you can source your own life from its presence.


I want to know if you can live with failure,

yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake

and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes.”


It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.

I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair

weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.


It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here.

I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me

and not shrink back.


It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.

I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.


I want to know if you can be alone with yourself

and if you truly like the company you keep

in the empty moments.


Oriah Mountain Dreamer


begin again


Nothing sings in our bodies

like breath in a flute.

It dwells in the drum.

I hear it now

that slow beat

like when a voice said to the dark,

let there be light,

let there be ocean

and blue fish

born of nothing

and they were there.

I turn back to bed.

The man there is breathing.

I touch him

with hands already owned by another world

Look, they are desert,

they are rust. They have washed the dead.

They have washed the just born.

They are open.

They offer nothing.

Take it.

Take nothing from me.

There is still a little life

left inside this body,

a little wildness here

and mercy

and it is the emptiness

we love, touch, enter in one another

and try to fill.

~ Linda Hogan ~

Better Than Expected (1)

children dancing

When They Sleep


All people are children when they sleep.
there’s no war in them then.
They open their hands and breathe
in that quiet rhythm heaven has given them.
They pucker their lips like small children
and open their hands halfway,
soldiers and statesmen, servants and masters.
The stars stand guard
and a haze veils the sky,
a few hours when no one will do anybody harm.
If only we could speak to one another then
when our hearts are half-open flowers.
Words like golden bees
would drift in.
– God, teach me the language of sleep.

Rolf Jacobsen



Indigenous Grandmothers Surround Me
There are old women
who come to you at night
when you are sleeping,
when you are awake,
when you are relaxed
and have stopped “trying”
to make something happen.
When you have surrendered 
your grasping, clawing, survival 
and give yourself over
to rest 
to allow
to let go 
just be soft,
open fertile
And then,
when you are in that place of allowing,
they can reach you
they sit around you
always talking softly
around the fire of your light.
They chew on roots, leaves,
your words spoken
in brusque, harshness
They eat Fear that
oozes out your pores.
They laugh and pour tea
and always always they Listen
and chant into your ear,
soothing down the voices
that would make you small
and less than.
They are there,
always there
whittling away on the debris
that covers your soul,
tending you
holding you 
planting you...
though you try your best
to pull the roots
and block the shoots.
They wait,
silent, mindful, knowing.
In Pure Trust.
They sit 
inches from you,
offering you the true bread,
waiting my love, 
smelling your blossom 
before it has bloomed.


Deborah Gutierrez



dragon spume


By Ellen Bass

What if you knew you’d be the last
to touch someone?
If you were taking tickets, for example,
at the theater, tearing them,
giving back the ragged stubs,
you might take care to touch that palm,
brush your fingertips
along the life line’s crease.

When a man pulls his wheeled suitcase
too slowly through the airport, when
the car in front of me doesn’t signal,
when the clerk at the pharmacy
won’t say Thank you, I don’t remember
they’re going to die.

A friend told me she’d been with her aunt.
They’d just had lunch and the waiter,
a young gay man with plum black eyes,
joked as he served the coffee, kissed
her aunt’s powdered cheek when they left.
Then they walked half a block and her aunt
dropped dead on the sidewalk.

How close does the dragon’s spume
have to come? How wide does the crack
in heaven have to split?
What would people look like
if we could see them as they are,
soaked in honey, stung and swollen,
reckless, pinned against time?



gratitude 1









It was Rumi who said “If you only say one prayer in a day, make it thank you.”  I  love this poem by Elaine Sutton:

After a sleepless night, worrying about the world

I stand in the whispering grass,
watching the mountains crouch
under their burden of sky.

The morning sun glides above the peaks
and the field is suddenly flooded
with turquoise light. A flock of red wings rise,

they turn together like a page of poetry.
I read between the lines
realize I am lonely, and afraid.

I worry about the wars, the weather,
the end of our beautiful, broken world.
I see the way we can harden our hearts

when fear is what moves us.
Now a marsh hawk cruises the yellow reeds, she dives swiftly
and some soft-furred creature’s life is over.

For each of us, hauling our basket of dreams,
it is only one breath, one breath,
that divides this world, and the next.

What is there to do then but give thanks,
Offer praise and gratitude for the sweetness we’re allotted,
Fling open our burning hearts, and help each other.


pelvic bowl 3

Prescription for the Disillusioned

Come new to this day.

Remove the rigid overcoat of experience,

the notion of knowing,

the beliefs that cloud your vision.

Leave behind the stories of your life.

Spit out the sour taste of unmet expectation.

Let the stale scent of what-ifs waft back into the swamp

of your useless fears.

Arrive curious, without the armor of certainty,

the plans and planned results of the life you’ve imagined.

Live the life that chooses you,

new every breath, every blink of your astonished eyes.

– Rebecca del Rio



Everyone should be born into this world happy

and loving everything.
But in truth it rarely works that way.
For myself, I have spent my life clamoring toward it.
Halleluiah, anyway I’m not where I started!


And have you too been trudging like that, sometimes
almost forgetting how wondrous the world is
and how miraculously kind some people can be?
And have you too decided that probably nothing important
is ever easy?
Not, say, for the first sixty years.


Halleluiah, I’m sixty now, and even a little more,
and some days I feel I have wings.


~ Mary Oliver ~





~ Clearing ~

Do not try to save the whole world or do anything grandiose.

Instead, create a clearing in the dense forest of your life

and wait there patiently,

until the song that is your life

falls into your own cupped hands

and you recognize and greet it.

Only then will you know how to give yourself

to this world

so worthy of rescue.

Martha Postlewaite


prayer hnds


May I never not be frisky,

May I never not be risqué.

May my ashes, when you have them, friend,

and give them to the ocean,

leap in the froth of the waves,

still loving movement,

still ready, beyond all else,

to dance for the world.

~ Mary Oliver ~




There is a trough in waves,

A low spot

Where horizon disappears

And only sky

And water

Are our company.


And there we lose our way


We rest, knowing the wave will bring us

To its crest again.


There we may drown

If we let fear

Hold us within its grip and shake us

Side to side,

And leave us flailing, torn, disoriented.


But if we rest there

In the trough,

Are silent,

Being with

The low part of the wave,


Our energy and

Noticing the shape of things,

The flow,

Then time alone

Will bring us to another


Where we can see

Horizon, see the land again,

Regain our sense

Of where

We are,

And where we need to swim.

~ Judy Brown ~


In Blackwater Woods

Look, the trees

are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,

whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Mary Oliver



On the Ridge 

We can grow by simply listening,
the way the tree on
that ridge listens its branches
to the sky, the way blood
listens its flow to the site
of a wound, the way you
listen like a basin when
my head so full of grief
can’t look you in the eye.
We can listen our way out
of anger, if we let the heart
soften the wolf we keep inside.
We can last by listening
deeply, the way roots reach for
the next inch of earth, the way
an old turtle listens all he hears
into the pattern of his shell.

Mark Nepo


black dance

I love the dark hours of my being.

My mind deepens into them.

There I can find, as in old letters,

the days of my life, already lived,

and held like a legend, and understood.


Then the knowing comes: I can open

to another life that’s wide and timeless.


So I am sometimes like a tree

rustling over a gravesite

and making real the dream

of the one its living roots



a dream once lost

among sorrows and songs.

~ Ranier Maria Rilke ~



I’m releasing:

my body as indispensable

the limits of my heart’s capacity

the notion I’m losing my mind


attachment to a guaranteed next breath

my ancestor’s fear and shame

the pull to distraction


belief my body cannot heal

my beloved from the need to change

my judgments about 1,000 things


the seduction of isolation

life in the fast lane

the jaws of perfection


the earth from fixing this mess

my children to live as they will

my need to know


bella 10-28-15



To be alive: not just the carcass

But the spark.

That’s crudely put, but …

If we’re not supposed to dance,

Why all this music?

~ Gregory Orr ~


rooted tree

 A Necessary Autumn

…I have one small drop

of knowing in my soul. Let it dissolve in your ocean.
There are so many threats to it.

Inside each of us, there’s continual autumn. Our leaves
fall and are blown out

over the water. A raven sits in the blackened limbs and talks
about what’s gone. Then

your generosity returns: spring, moisture, intelligence, the
scent of hyacinth and rose

and cypress…

There’s a necessary dying, and then Jesus is breathing again.
Very little grows on jagged

rock. Be ground. Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up
where you are. You’ve been

stony for too many years. Try something different. Surrender.



~~The Thing About Fear~~

We try to avoid it, distracting ourselves,
even put others in the way. Because it
makes what is necessary seem monumental.
It makes what is needed seem uncrossable.
Yet when we stumble over the line, or are
loved over the line, or, in our exhaustion,
fall beyond our pain, what we feared
was a fall to our death turns out
to have been the next step.

~Mark Nepo~


Quan Yin6f

Forget about enlightenment.

Sit down and listen to the wind singing in your veins.

Feel the love, the longing,

and the fear in your bones.

Open your heart to who you are, right now.

Not who you’d like to be,

but the being right here before you,

inside you, around you.

All of you is holy.

You’re already more than whatever you can know.

Breathe out, look in, let go.

John Welwood


Memorial Day

Grandpa was conscripted by the czar,

marched to the battle beat before

desperately herding his fledglings

to the dream shore of America.


My father was a bombardier

loyally perched in the womb of a P-38

gunning the faceless to kingdom come,

burning visions haunt his bedroom still.


Me? I sat silent in slick university halls,

paraded in hope-filled San Francisco streets

outraged at senseless carnage déjà vu,

my high school heart-throb stolen.


Now Memorial Day transpires once more

and I remember the sacrifice of youth and

the ancient lineage of wounded fathers passing

this mortal legacy through time immemorial.


In a world where drones fly and grandmothers cry

where collateral damage parades as logic

and home security trumps daily sanity,

we pray for peace, instead of fighting for it.

bella May 26, 2013


earth day

All My Body Calls

All my body calls
for something in this sleeping
we call the spirit.

But how
from lifted arms
where stars run through fingers
and the night is like sand
do I breathe a fragrance of its wisdom
do I call its name
or listen to the drops
that trickle down to earth
and hear
life being given
not only through the moving hands of the forest
but through the hand that reaches in
the dark unmoving regions of the chest
and uncovers slowly
the enormous
shape of the ocean.

~ David Whyte ~


little church80

i am a little church(no great cathedral)
far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
-i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april

my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are prayers of earth’s own clumsily striving

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