Zen Master Shitou Xiqian is famous for two poems that are classic Zen texts. I recently started reading “Inside the Grass Hut” by Ben Connelly which analyzes each line of “Song of the Grass Roof Hermitage” and discusses the significance in our world today. The author mixes his own experiences and applies the teachings to his daily life, showing how it is possible for everyone to life more compassionately within a community with less suffering and less attachment.

1. Harmony of Difference and Sameness
2. Song of the Grass Roof Hermitage

Fields 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

(1)

Shining brilliantly through
grey fog hugging the soaked ground

the light I cannot see is there
in my mind, there in my eyes.

Fading snow cover reveals the field
I have been searching for

the field anchored by one lantern
surrounded by ten-thousand trees.

“Pick up the lantern and in the light
turn yourself around, inside out.

The true brilliance of the light
shows who you are, who you can be.”

Those words fill my mind as I walk
around the lantern from a distance.

(2)

Sporadic snowflakes fall as I make slow
passes in circles, ellipticals

as I pass closer and further
a game played out for years.

I do not know what I fear
I do not know what I fear.

The sky opens and the snow thickens
as the lantern glows brighter

a halo becomes the only beacon
in the darkened sky.

(3)

In order to see the lantern more clearly
I have to cut off the mind dust
collecting interfering thoughts and with
nothing, see everything.

Easy to say and nod in understanding
yet the mind fights fluctuations in the path,
chooses to resist and sends more fear
from the depths, from the past.

(4)

The moon mimics the lantern’s light
and for moments I lose the cardinal directions
blindly following false lights and
paths that lead nowhere.

Over the next hill the light
disappears into the shrinking forest.

(5)

I am clouded by doubt
as I continue to search.

What have we brought down
upon the earth.

The air is thick and heavy.
The empty sky is gone.

Shining brilliantly through
grey fog hugging the soaked ground

the light I cannot see is there
in my mind, there in my eyes.

Fading snow cover reveals the field
I have been searching for

the field anchored by one lantern
surrounded by ten-thousand trees.

“Pick up the lantern and in the light
turn yourself around, inside out.

The true brilliance of the light
shows who you are, who you can be.”

Those words fill my mind as I walk
around the lantern from a distance.

Sporadic snowflakes fall as I make slow
passes in circles, ellipitcals

as I pass closer and further
a game played out for years.

I do not know what I fear
I do not know what I fear.

The sky opens and the snow thickens
as the lantern glows brighter

a halo becomes the only beacon
in the darkened sky.

Shining brilliantly through
grey fog hugging the soaked ground

the light I cannot see is there
in my mind, there in my eyes.

Fading snow cover reveals the field
I have been searching for

the field anchored by one lantern
surrounded by ten-thousand trees.

Pick up the lantern and in the light
turn yourself around, inside out.

The true brilliance of the light
shows who you are, who you can be.

Fields
Fields

“Do not dwell in the past,
Do not dream of the future,
Concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

Mountain of snow against the darkening sky drifts from vision and becomes the lost peak of legend.

Mountain shadow swallows the valley, consuming trees and river, the last drops of light.

What secrets does the mountain take from the day into the night?

When the ravens fall silent, when the wind scatters, returning to its mysterious beginning, the mountain voice emerges from cracks and fissures, from the very earth that turns raw molten materials into the giants reaching to the heavens.

An ancient voice calls across time in the space we cannot hear, in the dreams we see when we reach beyond the death zone and what we think becomes irrelevant and what we desire spiritually, the things that have no name, become tangible, become the vision floating across the horizon.

Grey infused frozen water consumes the last light before the fields darken.

Distant planets follow me from dawn until dusk and a new world emerges where I have become one with beings and energy I do not understand yet make sense at levels I did not know existed.

I left my field years before I arrived here, in search of a new beginning, a chance to erase the past, the stories I have written.

Days traversing empty fields become lost in the mountain shadow where the sky became the ground as we became blind from snow and ice.

With no vision or guidance I was forced to remember ancient words from mountain tops.

It was difficult to separate the truth from lies, the cloaked wolves from the bodhisattva sent from beyond the shadows.

I stumbled upon a rock and fell into a creek feed from glaciers. I feel deep to the bottom of the creek and then I stopped.

The cold become the darkness of my being. The shadows thickened and became a vision of nothing, an island of another existence.

In that moment of eternity I stood on the shoreline of swirling black light and stared at the island. On that island a life played out like a movie and after some time, I realized it was my life, it was my movie.

I watched the choices and decisions I made, the people I loved, and the people I hurt. I watched the distance I kept and the selfishness I exuded. At times, I thought those on the island, in that temporal dream state, looked over at me across the distance as I watched them, as if they know I was there apart from the person they were interacting with.

When darkness becomes all that we know, a choice is presented to grow beyond the person whose own words and actions put them there.