The Heart Goes Rogue

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I long to tell you this morning that God is speaking everywhere, that we need only look and listen and feel the sacred presence that we are and that everything is. God (this radiance, this infinite possibility, this all-inclusive wholeness) is speaking in the light shimmering and rippling on the green leaves, in the beloved dog rolling and rolling ecstatically in the grass, in the deer running in a circle in the moonlight—and the man watching who says, “It isn’t just play, it’s exaltation.”

God is speaking in the wet, gurgling, splashing sounds of water running over rocks, in the fragrances of the dawn and the night, in this cool glass of water I am blessed to drink. God is speaking in the doctors tirelessly tending to the wounded in all the world’s war zones, in the hearts that long for peace and reconciliation on every side, and in all the dancers in wheelchairs dancing anyway.

If memory serves me (which it might not), it was the Sufi teacher Bawa Muhaiyaddeen who said to Coleman Barks, referring to the poems of Rumi, “These poems need to be let out of their cages.” (Or it might have been Meher Baba speaking to Daniel Ladinsky about the poems of Hafiz. I’m not sure. But I think it was Bawa Muhaiyaddeen.)

In any case, sometimes that’s how I feel, like all this sober talk of nonduality and spirituality needs to be let out of its cage. Sometimes I long to write wild love poems like the Sufis do, or elegantly simple ones like those of Billy Doyle, or maybe a marvelously imaginative book like Bring Me the Rhinoceros by Zen teacher John Tarrant.

I’m reminded of a dream I had that I wrote about in my book Awake in the Heartland:

“I dreamed once that the Guru instructed me to bring sweets to the satsang dinner. Dessert was my assignment. Dessert is the useless course, the ecstatic course that nourishes the heart but not the body. It is like the extravagant feast in that wonderful Danish movie, Babette’s Feast. Dessert is the course I spurn, like Babette’s puritans, in my pursuit of holiness and perfection. It is the delicious course my mother delights in so completely, the favorite of children. It is the metaphoric antidote to my fixation of doing everything right: that which is wanted, but which one should not have. I was not happy when the Guru told me that my assignment was dessert. Every righteous fiber recoiled. I wanted to bring broccoli or salad. But beneath the recoil, there was some sweet desire to completely lose control, to be engulfed in dessert. One of my fears has always been that if I lost my grip, I’d turn into some mindless bhakti type swooning in devotion. Utterly useless, foolish, without shame. Fully in love, completely mad.

Is it possible to be a mindless swooning bhakti devoted to the rain, the traffic, the wind in the leaves, the utter simplicity of bare awareness?”
—from Awake in the Heartland: the Ecstasy of What Is

Many years ago, I was briefly with a wild guru from Hawaii, and in that same book of mine, Awake in the Heartland, I wrote about being on a retreat with her:

“At one point, I was wearing a bindi on my forehead (one of those little dots) and ecstatically singing Hare Krishna. It used to be my worst fear that I’d end up in a group like this, wearing a bindi on my forehead, singing bhajans, sitting in ecstasy at the feet of some guru surrounded by a bunch of obsequious devotees. The very thought of such a scene would have made me shudder with revulsion. But oh, to be perfectly honest, I would also have been secretly fascinated, wishing in some dark and forbidden part of me that I could allow myself such a wild indulgence as this. And now, my worst fear had been realized, and I was so happy!

Finally, none of it makes sense. There’s just sensation. Just what is. Just the absolutely beautiful, crazy, unknowable, ungraspable mystery that produces the giraffe, the camel, the zebra, the elephant, the orchid, the neon colored tropical fish, the dolphin, the shark, Toni Packer, Da Free John, Ngeton, Mother Teresa, Rajneesh, Gangaji, Billy Graham, Ramana Maharshi, Oral Roberts, Joko Beck, Papaji, and the Pope—all in the same Universe. One can only laugh. Sing bhajans. And be amazed.”
—from Awake in the Heartland: the Ecstasy of What Is

I often enjoy dipping into a little book of prayer-poems written by the contemporary Sufi teacher Pir Elias Amidon, whose work I love. The book is called Munajat: Forty Prayers, and Elias describes it as a collection of short “whispered prayers” or “intimate conversations with God,” written over a period of forty dawns. This is from one of these prayers:

I call you darling because you’re so shy,
hiding in everything the way you do,
and because of the wild nights we’ve had.
That kind of thing isn’t easily forgotten,
is it my darling?

Come, show me again
how you turn into this pen. Ah!
And now this breath. Ah!
How do you do that?
What about this thought? This body?
Ah! That tickles!

and from another prayer:

You ask for nothing, yet I know
I must change my life…

Beloved, I know you don’t exist,
I know I have invented you
just like you’ve invented me,
but does it matter? We’re here
waiting for each other, smiling.
Now let’s see what this day brings.

Pir Elias Amidon

Yes, indeed, let’s see what this day brings. It has never been here before and it will never be here again. The clothes dryer has just buzzed, so this morning is about to bring me warm laundry needing to be put away, and then after that, the water has already boiled for a delicious cup of coffee. Summer is upon us here, the days are growing hotter, the dawn comes early and the sun sets late, and soon I will be turning seventy-six. So many other lifetimes in this lifetime have passed away like dreams. And although my outer life is more limited since acquiring an ostomy, my heart-mind has never been more open and full of wonder and delight. So I’ll end with a few lines from Hafiz, as rendered by Daniel Ladinsky, from three different poems:

I wish I could show you,
When you are lonely or in darkness,
The Astonishing Light
Of your own Being.


Now is the time to know
That all that you do is sacred…

Now is the time for the world to know
That every thought and action is sacred.

This is the time
For you to deeply compute the impossibility
That there is anything
But Grace.


If God

Invited you to a party
And said,

In the ballroom tonight
Will be my special

How would you then treat them
When you

Indeed, indeed!

And Hafiz knows
There is no one in this world

Is not standing upon
His Jeweled Dance


May you find the beauty everywhere and the perfection in the apparent imperfection.

Love to all,


From Joan Tolifaon’s Substack


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