Desk Hours


Poems by Joseph Lipari

Preparing to Go 

Retreat's over, now onward . . .

into what, hard to tell.

It's plain that there are bags to pack, 

goodbyes to say, then a void.

Also clear that I won't be the same

person - as if I ever was,

as if I were the only one 

who never changed, who stayed right here.


Meditation in Winter

I find no suffering in this naked tree
shaken by the wind.
I find no suffering in this blank wall.


The Things of This World

                                (for Ella)

We are all travelers in a strange country.

The landscapes present their familiar faces

and we catch only furtive glimpses

that they are not our thoughts of them.

And what are we to make of our brave friends

who give us a smile and a warm hand,

emerging for a moment from the shadow

and wrack of their lives?


And I think of you, of course, Ella,

of your eyes and your neck

but mostly of what I want to say to you,

and how my lips and tongue

can’t seem to shape the right words.


But we will sit and wait

and this planet will turn as our sun

revolves around the Milky Way

and, having travelled, we may see

for the first time the truth of our lives.


All our thoughts and impulses will settle down

with each arriving and departing breath.

And we will notice, at last, the tiny voices

of the things of this world:

“We were waiting for you:  welcome home.”


In Retreat

Basking in a vision of loving kindness,

I dream of my long absent daughter

as a butterfly flitting in and out of sight

while I, bereft, shout and shout my thwarted love.


The heart can be enchained by old hopes and hurts,

by flowing blood into familiar troughs.

Daily whims harden into fate

and break our will. The night lies in wait

to wrack our dreams with images we make.


Oh may each flower bloom in its appointed place

and each butterfly find its own delight,

may I forego the urge to crush beauty to my breast,

and may my heart take flight on wings of tenderness:

may I love and let go with selfsame breath.


The Singing Bowl

A note is struck

and the sound spreads

sending ripples to the edges of space.

I undulate with the ripples,

a process in myself,

changing, churning, relaxing into stillness

after a brief hum.


Quotation from Dorothy Hunt: 

"Whatever is here, whatever is arising is coming up to be met, to be seen, to be loved.  We may have spent years or lifetimes refusing what is here, but when we begin to want the truth of our experience more than we want life to look a certain way, the truth begins to reveal itself in ever-deepening ways."


First Retreat Experience by Sue N.

I attended my first retreat over New Years weekend at the Oakwood Retreat Center.  It lasted from Friday evening until Tuesday lunch and was led by Joan Staubach and sponsored by TriState Dharma. Near the end of the retreat, Mary Ellen  gave a short talk on dana.  She asked two questions--"Why did you come here?" and "What do you take away from here?"

Why did I come?  Mostly because it was suggested by people who have practiced much longer than I.  So far their suggestions had been good, so I trusted their advice to go on a retreat.

I was also just curious.  What would it be like to be silent for four days?  What would happen if I meditated for hours every day?

I was full of anticipation and fear.  Talk with the same friends who encouraged me to go helped me face the fears, find the trust, and move on with an open mind, body, and spirit.

 And what did I take away?  When she asked that question, tears literally began streaming down my face.  I had no idea the spaciousness that could be found given time and support. My meditation and spiritual growth went to a depth that I don't think would have been possible without the intensity of prolonged devoted time.  My daily practice has not led me to experience so profoundly the exquisiteness of the breath and the delight of stillness. Though there were only glimpses, I had a taste of the deeper fruits of insight meditation.  I had never truly understood the connection between insight and meditation.  But given the time, space, and support of the retreat sangha , I had  the  experience of insight that just arises unbidden by my brain, body, or self. A true gift.

One difference I have noticed in my practice since the retreat is that I approach the time with much greater ease.  I don't seem to worry as much about what I'm "supposed" to be doing.  I am much more willing to just do nothing.  

I hope to do the retreat again next year and to do other, longer retreats.  As Joan said repeatedly, "We're not done doing nothing yet."



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