"We rarely converse about it really, 

but it's a topic we all have in common."

--Kuma-sensei, reflecting on the importance of shadow-work 


We don’t need the prickling cautious skin of deep ancestors to inform us.


We don't need the tilting ears of brother fox

or the sudden shiver of frightened birds

to relay the same signal to the center of our brain:

Something has gone awry in the world.


The Bright Essence Mind is closer at hand

under the surface


and reminds us each day

from the Reservoir of Quiet-Seeing-and-Knowing.


It may arrive as a faint sensation, or a full-throated roar.

It may be a subtle uneasiness, or shouts heard through a wall.

Unseen threads being clipped.

Fragile filaments of life being snipped.


rather than

The Holy Mother's Ritual of Soul-Restoration.


We maneuver through the trembling world

look at faces

hear them as voices:

Is this the time of feast or famine?

Are we in the time of flood or fire?

Have we landed in a hellish corner of the Bardo

or are we "right on time" in this churning gyre?


Some days I am convinced we’re all misfired souls

whose parachutes failed to open.

Our destination

was the lush green pleasure palaces of Sukhavati;

having shot-short, we landed in the Boneyard of Innocence.


Then my own shallow breathing

calls heart-mind back to Heart-Mind,

reminds me of the bodhisattva's intent,

and a luminous compass

pointing toward the western mountains

suddenly 'rights itself' inside my chest.


It makes me think of a roadside shrine I once saw,

rain-drenched and gentle in the soft blue night,

and the spirit of homage that fell over me

for a saint they say was good

at "burning through his shadows"


and I think he'd say

that's what's happening here

and what we are

and are not doing,



When we don't do the work

of burning through our own shadows,

we project them outward

and force everyone else to shoulder the burden.


If the holy work

of lightening-up the world

by lightening-up ourselves

is left undone at the very end,

the pallbearers

will find on that day

that the hole is too small

to receive our coffin.


Only by unbinding our hidden joy

from the prison of ribs

and chains of memory

are we granted free passage

to and through

the paradise promised us.

(c) 2017 / Frank LaRue Owen (Wandering Stone Lantern) / purelandpoetry.com

To learn more about the music of Steve Roach, and to listen more to the collaborative album Second Nature with Steve Roach and Robert Logan, visit the Second Nature Bandcamp Page.