Above the Fog



Short Poems by Michael P. Garofalo

Selections from


Short poems reflecting my study and practice of aspects of 
Zen, Taoism, Buddhism, Druidry, Gardening, Neo-Paganism,
Taijiquan, Tantra, Yoga and Nature Mysticism.

© Green Way Research, Valley Spirit Grove, Red Bluff, California, 2011


Shifu Miao Zhang Points the Way

Encounters with Master Chang San Feng






                            warm valley —
                            countless geese
                                      seeking refuge




                                                     moonrise —
                                                     the dark night of a soul




            Biting off
            more than I can chew
                              a broken wisdom tooth.




                                             Only the idea of self remains
                                             Floating on a sea of cells;
                                             Only heartbeats short of eternity
                                             In breath after breath we dwell.




           Daily rain —
                     from the deep well
                     this glass of water.




                                Time is one apricot blossom.
                                Space, a bee.
                                The Universe, honey.
                                And, the Goddess of Spring?





                                            chanting canyon streams


                                  Opening bell
                                           echoes from the canyon walls
                                                       raindrops on the river.

                                                       The sounds of rocks bouncing off rocks;
                                                       the shadows of trees traced on trees.

                                            I sit, still.
                                            The canyon river chants,
                                            moving mountains.

                                                       The sermon spun on the still point:
                                                       dropping off eternity, picking up time;
                                                       letting go of self, awakened to Mind.




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Falling and rising - spheres of blackbirds.
           Coming and going - lines of geese.





                  Carrying home
                  her baby sister
                  a sermon walking.





                                              Pointing at the moon,
                                              making a point
                                              her lovely fingers.




                                                                  Thousands of leaves
                                                                  shake in the breeze
                                                                  empty sky.




                     Bad karma bleeding
                     over centuries of hate;
                     a heartless eye for a blind eye,
                     a toothless scream for another.




                                  One not two,
                                  two not one
                                  legs on a snake.




ticking my life away
indifferent clocks




                                                              a new born calf




                    Coming in
                    let me nourish
                    like rain on a garden.
                    Going out
                    let me disappear
                    like geese going south.




                                                      Setting potted figs
                                                                                   along the warm southern wall
                                                                                   a goose flaps by.




          To dance at the still point of the Time beyond time,
          Beyond pasts, within futures, this Moment
          Now and forever, beyond minds.
          Not knowing of Who or why
          We stroll in rose gardens, and Love.
          Precious flowers in the sky. 




                                                I hear the truth
                                                gray rain on clay.




                         Wide mind, deep feelings ...




                             Buddha is dead.
                             But, if you meet the Buddha,
                             don't invent another god
                             or behead another demon; just
                             sip some tea under a tree.

                              "If you meet the Buddha, kill him."
                                                   -  Linji Yizuan (Rinzai Gigen, Jap.), c 866 CE




                             The Mind is a vast Bodhi forest,
                             The body a Bodhi tree.
                             Dirt is in every cranny,
                             Flowers blossom, leaves fall.

                             The Bodhi Trees have been cut down,
                             The Bright Mirrors shattered.
                             Beginning with nothing,
                             Replant the trees, remake the mirrors.

                             Make one's mind like a mirror,
                             One's body like the Giving tree.
                             Reflect accurately and impartially;
                             Give fruit and shade.  




                  olive branches droop,
                  ground fogs rise




               Crape myrtle, brilliant red, bursting forth;
               Hiding the garden.
               Some days, only the Garden, entire, serene;
               Yet, hiding from sight, shy, single plants.  
               Seeing Both, seldom, but as One: 
               Sweat poured from my startled brow,
               Dripping on the dry earth,
               And all became Sunshine
               And shadows of surprise unraveling.    




                                                       Lost on Mt. Sumeru
                                                       coming down
                                                       the taste of snowflakes.




                                 Bold zero
                                 inked on the scroll
                                 fancies of one hand clapping.




              cold midnight
              pounding rain
                      only ghosts about




                                                   The truth beyond words
                                                   beyond silence
                                                   her big grin.  




       I was thinking about "the Absolute"
       (whatever that is)
       yesterday.  (Philosophers enjoy
       the rush of mental masochism:
       bondage to leathery ideas,
       painful flagellation with cutting words,
       the humiliation of utter confusion.)

       Absolute Zero - Death!
       Clearly, a deep shivering Super-Conducting
       Absolute No.  

       The Past: a second ago, a century ago...
       Dead Time - absolutely kaputt!




    worries —
                        in and out
of mind





                                                             Pulling up
                                                             body and mind
                                                             weeding new cuttings.






                      Gathering dust,
                      an iron Buddha
                      just sits.






                                            Meanings lost
                                            in the saying
                                                the mystic's dilemma.








                       Koan 46


                                     And before the Wise Ones appeared,
                                     Forty million years of ducks in the mud.

                                     Blowing out a candle
                                                       ten thousand miles away
                                     Cutting up a duck for dinner.

                                     A dog barks at nothing,
                                     a thousand ducks twitch
                                     winds of winter.

                                     Has a duck the Buddha-Nature?
                                     Stop quacking like a duck."

One Short of a Baker's Dozen]








Not a leafbud
            in a blue oak grove
                                                 shadowless winter noon.





                   A frog floats
                   belly up
                   dead silence.





                                                no chanting
                                                no Temple bells
                                                wind-chimes swaying




                          December fog —
                          among the leaves
                          a dead frog.  




              sunlight breaks
                          cold silence
                                 a meadowlark trills




                                              One week later
                                              Six Directions of Green
                                              Billions of leaf-buds.





     Red-winged blackbirds
         pecking in the feeder
         I lost myself there.   





                            Leaping from the Ledge of Infinite Regress,
                            The Unmoved Mover fell into Formlessness:
                            Pure silence echoed between the galaxies,
                            Eons of eons vanished in a second,
                            Withered trees bloomed in fires,
                            Polar mountains melted, rivers went dry,
                            Thusness scattered in sixty directions,
                            Space became Time, time became things,
                            Black Holes filled with Nirvana,
                            A billion samadhi mirrors shattered,              
                            Galaxies snuggled within a single skull,
                            Many became One, One only, only One.     
                            Then, the Divine Illuminatrix in All Beings
                            Opened Her clouded Eye, to see:
                                      Flowers in the Sky.

                                                                                         [Emptiness in Full Bloom]







1   -   1   =   0   =   1   -   1    By Michael P. Garofalo.








                                                                gagging on their Truths
                                                  infants vomiting formula.





           Samsara winks
           Spring smiles
           Nirvana trickles underground.





                              The dark pines edge the deepest shade,
                              While cherry blossoms set and fade.





Winter weeks we huddled by the hot stove,  
Spring days we shivered in the sun,
Summer hours we sat in the shade,
Autumn minutes we stared at moon.  
We had idle thoughts, we had no thoughts.
Life made our hearts cry, and it lifted our spirits high.
The ordinary, the exceptional, 
The chosen, the accepted,
The very good, the very bad,
Fresh figs, rotten peaches,
The beautiful, the deformed.
They appeared and disappeared.
Samsara and Nirvana ....
Here and Gone.  




                                                     Sunyata is form...
                                                     A blank journal; nine months to live.
                                                     Egg in the womb, waiting.








Shifu Miao Zhang Points the Way



                    Michael P. Garofalo                              


    "Mayoku walked around his old Daoist friend, Shifu Miao Zhang (师傅妙杖), three times and then thumped his staff on the ground.  Maio Zhang stood up, walked around Mayoku once, tapped his cane three times on the wall, and said "The power of the wind can topple trees and is gone by morning.  My cane can cut through the wind."  

    Zen Master Hakuin Ekaku asked his Daoist friend, Shifu Miao Zhang, "Two hands clap and there is a sound; what is the sound of one hand?" Miao Zhang picked up his beautiful cane in one hand, and then quickly tapped it three times on the floor.  Hakuin Ekaku smiled and said, "Indeed, Miao Zhang's cane is louder than the sound of one hand, but it must be polished more." 

Zhaozhou, who had been in poor health, asked his friend Miao Zhang, "Do the bees have Buddha nature?"  Miao Zhang smiled and said, "The roses are so fragrant today, and the cherries so sweet.  Let's walk in the garden and leave our crutches behind." 

    Zen Master Baqiao told his old friend, "If you have a staff, I will give you a staff; if you have no staff, I will take your staff away."
His friend, Shifu Miao Zhang, replied "I have a cane and you don't. Would you like to borrow yours?"  Baqiao replied, "Miao Zhang, you will have to walk into Hell!"  Miao Zhang raised his eyebrows and said, "Well, Baqiao, then I will need to borrow my cane for the long hot walk.  Sorry, but I can't lend yours to you." 

    Gathering together in an orchard of blooming sweet lime trees, the students waited for their esteemed teacher, Kasyapa.  Slowly walking down the dirt path, relying on his danda walking staff for balance, Kasyapa joined his students.  He sat quietly for a long time, enjoying the fragrance of the lime blossoms.  Finally, he raised his danda staff.  Everyone stared at Kasyapa - serious, intent, focused, and silent.  Only Shifu Miao Zhang smiled, and then lifted his cane and pointed at a lime blossom.  Kasyapa pointed his danda at Shifu Zhang.  Another transmission was completed.  The sacred thread remained unbroken.    

    Nan-ch'uan asked Miao Zhang, "Is Ordinary Mind the Dao?"  Miao Zhang said, "No.  My mind is not ordinary, so the Dao is a dream within a dream.  My cane is ordinary, so it walks with me along the Watercourse Way, pointing to the Abode of the Dao in the new forest."  

    Zen Master Seung Sahn held up his staff in front of old Shifu Miao Zhang, and said "Then, Miao Zhang, what are this staff, this sound and your mind?  Are they the same or different?  If you say "same," I will hit you thirty times.  If you say "different," I will also hit you thirty times. Why?"  Miao Zhang lifted his cane slowly, grounded himself, prepared to block a strike and then said, "Don't know! Same or different, nobody can hit the sound of our minds." 

    Zen Master Shuzan held out his short staff in front of his Daoist friend, Shifu Miao Zhang, and said "If you call this a short staff, you oppose its reality and are clinging. If you do not call it a short staff, then you ignore the fact. Now what do you wish to call this?"
Miao Zhang smiled, dropped and pointed to his cane, and said "Yesterday it was a wooden walking stick that helped without speaking.  Tomorrow it may become firewood, crackling in the flames." 

    Shifu Miao Zhang was waiting by a riverbank with a group of very poor women and children for a small ferry boat.  Suddenly, a naked Digambar Sadhu appeared.  The Sadhu, holding a sword in his hand, proceeded to walk across the rushing water of the river, and then walk back across the water towards Miao Zhang.  Everyone was stunned and in awe, but fearful of the powers of the Sadhu.  The Sadhu asked Miao Zhang, "Foreigner, my gleaming sword has great magical powers, what can your crooked staff do?"  Miao Zhang said, "It enabled my wobbly legs to walk to work each day, and to earn enough money to pay for all of us here to ride the ferry boat safely across these dangerous waters.  When we get to the other shore, can I buy you some food and clothes, holy man?"      

    Zen Master Yunmen Wenyan and Shifu Miao Zhang were walking together in the hills behind the monastery one cloudy autumn afternoon.  It began to rain steadily on the two old friends.  Yunmen said, “My staff has changed into a dragon and is swallowing up the heaven and earth.  So, my friend, where do mountains, rainfall, rivers and the great earth come from?”  Miao Zhang was quiet for awhile, stopped on the trail, and then held his cane in his hand with the tip pointing to the sky.  He said, “Yunmen, as for the source of their coming, the tip of my cane points to the fecund depths of vast emptiness, the crook end to the endless inter-marriages of ten thousand realities, and my hand grasps the heartwood of the ordinary mind.  So, my friend, Yunmen, where are they all going?”

    Master Tung Kwo asked Sifu Miao Zhang, "Show me where the Tao is to be found."  Miao Zhang replied, "There is no place my cane or my mind goes or rests where the Tao cannot be found."  

   Xita asked Shifu Miao Zhang,
"What is sudden enlightenment?"  Shifu Zhang threw his staff on the muddy ground.  Xita asked Miao Zhang, "What is gradual enlightenment?"  Shifu Zhang stomped on his staff three times. 

   Chao-chou asked Miao Zhang, "The ten thousand dharmas return to the One.  Where does the One Retun?"  Miao Zhang said, "Last week my cane fell off a precipice on Wudang mountain, and was never seen again.  Yesterday, my cane was burned to nothing, leaving no ashes.  Today is a new day, and my cane is just an ordinary wood cane." 

    Zen Master Ummon held up his staff in front of his Daoist friend, Shifu Miao Zhang, and said "This staff leapt up to the Eighth Heaven into the hands of the lame Zhong Kui who used it to awaken the Green Dragon in the Eastern Sea."
Miao Zhang said, "Ummon your poetry is lovely, but my gnarled cane cannot hear you."

   The powerful tribal chief, Aaron, once told Shifu Miao Zhang that "Our tribe's god is very powerful and helps us defeat others.  I once threw my staff on the ground and it turned into venomous snakes.  Another time, I shook my staff in anger and made all the water in the wells and creeks turn into blood."  Miao Zhang looked at Aaron and softly said, "I've used my cane to dig up roots to feed some hungry children.  Fortunately, chief, our gentle gods mostly leave us alone." 

    Toju Zenchu brandished his staff before Daoist Shifu Miao Zhang and challenged him "Miao Zhang, speak and you get whacked with Nanten's staff.  Do not speak and you still get whacked with Nanten's staff."  Shifu Zhang stood up quickly, lifted his cane strongly in defense, and quietly said, "Yunmen's shit stick stinks and Nanten's staff is cracked!  I am leaving now to take my evening walk. Goodbye." 

-  Michael P. Garofalo, Way of the Short Staff  
   Shifu Miao Zhang,  Teacher with the Magical (Wondorous) Staff,



Hakuin's Dragon Staff Inka Scroll

Zen Master Hakuin (1686-1768) painted a Dragon Staff with horsehair whisk attached.  
He would give this painting to his lay students who passed the Zen koan,
"What is the sound of one hand clapping."





             Sunday rest
             on shaded grass
                  Sermons by Cherry Blossoms.





                                                   Beneath the pond scum
                                                   deeper down
                                                   the pebble drops away.





                Crazy Cloud Ikkyu —
                           skin on a skeleton
                           listening to the dead.





                            The True Gardener of No Title deadheads
                            Persona after persona, shears the hedge
                            Of endless desires, digs up the dank
                            Roots of illusions, prunes out the rank
                            Suckers of sectarian ire, and weeds away
                            Attachments that choke out the Way.





                    Ordinary time:
                               If you have a hoe, we will work together.
                                  If you don't have a hoe, water.
                    Sermon time:
                                  If you have a hoe, She will give you another.
                                  If you don't have a hoe, She will take it away.






 Last day of Spring,
            ripe purple plums drop
 form is emptiness.

    First day of Summer,
        ditch completely dry
 emptiness is form.





                                     many suffer
                                     even as peaches ripen.

                                     Exactly at noon —
                                     the branch cracks,
                                     loaded with peaches.






       Beyond barbed wire
         Beyond, beyond, far beyond
         Cows marching Over.





                                    Exuberant young dog:
                                    wants in, wants out,
                                    wants everything.




                                             eyes horizontal
                                             nose vertical,
                                             a mind stood up




                         evening breeze —
                              yellow poplar leaves
                                                        letting go





                       Up in an old oak
                       a woodpecker knocks
                       the sky opens.






                                              Behind the iron Buddha's
                                              straight back
                                              a cricket chirping.







       good North, good South
         good East, good West,
         good here, bad wherever





           moonlight calms
           the frozen night
           long silence




                                                   Don't know mind
                                                   as wide as the empty sky;
                                                   above the dogma fogs
                                                   blinding the brilliant eyes
                                                   with sugared religious lies.





                  the scarecrow's reach
                  the Milky Way.










                 Wide-eyed staring into the Rich silence
                 Of mirrored space devoid of mind;
                 Not projecting or connecting, but reflecting
                 Supreme non-fictions, Things
                 Naked as they are, as they are ...





                             covering my coffin
                             in a black hole,
                             the weight of eternity





     Meteor shower —
     warmed by whiskey
     we pass the night.




                                                        Stone Lagoon and sky
                                                        become one
                                                        deepening fog.




                     our heartbeats
                     lips part




        Faces in the rolling clouds;
          Thinking out loud, nothing strange,
          Always Mind at its Game.






                               the particulars,
                               minute particulars
                               revealing nothing





                                                                   preaching the Dharma
                                                                   the suchness of things

                                                                                                 [In memory of R.H. Blyth.]





                    a death poem





                           pilgrimage over —
                                         their home is sacred





                    The Other-Fulfilling Prophesy comes true:
                    What you never thought you'd become, you do.











Soul Mates Extraordinaire

I never
grasped emptiness
or hiked around
Mt. Sumeru,
patted Chao-chou's
or teased Nansen's
blocked the
Bodhidharma's uppercut
or slept in
Han Shan's dirty hut,
Wendy Johnson's garden rake
or rode the
Ox through the Gateless Gate.

I never, ever
suffered the Great
or solved any of
Rinzai's riddles,
looked for
sticks in Yun-men's crapper
or broke
Tassajara bread with Shunryu Suzuki,
minded the flapping flag for
Hui-neng the sage
or heard
Jiyu-Kennett move her whisk in Mt. Shasta's shade,
chanted on
Mt. Tamalpais with Whalen, Ginsberg and Snyder
or saw
Dogen's True Eye open just a little bit wider.


I never did.
Nope, never!
Not in 55 lifetimes.   
Yet, it seems like I did.
Yep, dayinanddayout,
appearances notwithstanding,
Reality appeared just So.

This I know:
their heritage is in my heart,
their myths mine,
these dear Friends of the Buddha Mind.






                    Interview with the Teacher, over before it began;
                    He rings the bell; next dokusan.





                                                        Taking aim —
                                                        the First Precept

                                                                                [The Five Precepts]






               In the blink of Time's eye
                    we lived, we died;
                    while stone faced Shasta was silent.





                             Speechless, Dogen stared,
                             Shivering in a turning white world
                             Raising cold dawn moons.
                             Bright white millions on millions
                             Of drifting flowery flakes
                             Fell fast from the Echizen sky.
                             Ice pure, elemental, quintessential
                             Wet, imperfect, flowing time
                             Packed by the hour, deeper
                             Deeper down to Winter's core.
                             The Temple of Eternal Peace creaked,
                             Snowflakes gathered on Dogen's robe,
                             One icy crystal streaked the True Eye
                             Glimpsing into Itself;
                             Another transmission:
                                   Frozen flowers in the sky.  

                                                              [Emptiness in Full Bloom]








Karmic Tree in Winter.   A concrete poem by Michael P. Garofalo.






                                            I turn and stare into the foggy mist;
                              Wondering, wondering, about what I missed.






                   Black birds
                   swarm on
                   by ...


                   I watch--





                                    wide-eyed cows
                                    taken in a trailer
                                    fruit in a basket

                                                           The cows have vanished down the road,
                                                           and the last clouds have floated away.
                                                           We sit together, the valley and me,
                                                           until only the valley remains. 

                                                                 (Thanks to the Taoist poet Li Po.)






Green Way Blog by Michael P. Garofalo






                      Loosing ground from unconscious rounds
                              Of the "This is Not It" mantra sounds;
                              Burning holes in my soul
                              Over and over, no loophole
                              For escape.  None!  Replay Mind - Spellbound.





                                                         Six steps forward and
                                                         Seven steps back
                                                         The Earth remains.




Dry wind —
the sweetness
of the last cherry.




Railing against Do-Nothing Zen
Ekaku Haikuin presses that one hand, hard,
stamps his staff
clap, clap, clap, Clap!
Shouting, spittle flying,
he prods, and pokes, and preaches
till the fawning monks scatter.

Haikuin sits alone the long cold night
gazing into the fires of hell.

Ivy crawls
the walls of Shoin-ji;
night boats pass in silence.  





                     An acorn falls —
                     six generations
                     cooled in the shade.

                     Leaf after leaf
                     turns yellow;
                     the fall of summer.






"You are That."
i am not That,
but part of That am i
and i a bit of That,
for the time-being,
for awhile, for a lifetime, 
while That changes.

"That Thou Art."
Thou are not That,
except "That" as understood,
as idea, as assumed, as imagined;
as i
think i am, believe i am, wish i was;
while That changes what i am,
or will be.  

"That" is elusive, expanding to
the edge of the Big Everything,
at either end of the inside of infinity...
that is the way that That is.
Not like this piece of popcorn
on the tip of my tongue.  





This cabbage, these carrots,
These potatoes, these onions
Will all soon become me.
Such a tasty fact.

Bless the farm!
Bless the market!
Bless the kitchen!




                     The raspy-voiced crow
                     perched on a pine pole
                     preached the Winged Dharma;
                     wayward birds trembled, fearing
                     rebirth as human beings.  





                                             Five Precepts






              Between the Sun
                         and the nearest Black Holes,
                         my home.





        Last day of Winter,
        leafless walnut trees
        form is emptiness.

        First day of Spring,
        clear sky to Mt. Shasta
        emptiness is form.

        Daybreak —
        forms are forms, 
        emptiness is speechless.






                       Be humble, for you
                       are made of 
                       beans and seeds.
                       Be noble, for you
                       are made of 
                       rivers and sunshine.
                       Be joyful, for you
                       have tasted one of 
                       Xiwangmu's peaches.





                                               No stars or orchards,
                                               Only ground fog
                                    Rising everywhere.




Virudhaka, Guardian of the South Gate, 
The Boundless Diamond King, Tseng-chang Tian, with shimmering sword in hand,
Blue as the Great Sky, spurring growth, increasing grandeur,
Subduing demons, frightening evil ones, cutting through ignorance,
Vowing to help everyone master limitless approaches to Dharma.  

Dhritarashtra, Guardian of the East Gate,
The Powerful Diamond King, Ch‘ο-kwo Tian, in tune with the Wise,
White as the Shining Sun, Protector, Energizer, Honoring the Three Treasures,
Keeping Treasured kingdoms whole, Saver of the Earth, 
Helping unravel the illusions of self, and freeing the slaves of Mara,
Vowing to aid all who strive to achieve the Supreme Awakening.

Vaishravana, Guardian of the North Gate,
The All Hearing Diamond King, To-wen Tian, listening to the endless sorrows,
Yellow as the Mystic Rose, Seated and Silent, Compassionate,
Silencing the falsehoods, Singing the Dharma, Preserving the Word,
Vowing the eradicate vexations without end.  

Virupaksha, Guardian of the West Gate,
The All Seeing Diamond King, Kwang-mu Tian, unblinking in the face of death,
Red Eyed and Ever Vigilant, Eyes of the Diamond Kings, Seeing the Unseen,
Subduing serpents of vice, keeping enemies in the dark, holding the Sacred Vajra,
Vowing to help Enlighten Sentient Beings without number.  

These Four Diamond Kings protecting the Sacred Worlds,
Active day and night on Mt. Sumeru and in the Ten Thousand Realms,
Rewarding the good and reforming the evil ones,
Overcoming all obstacles,
Fearless Defenders of the Middle Way,
Bodhisattvas ferrying followers to the Other Shore,
Sending Dragons into the deepest seas, riding Tigers to the Mountains,
Moving the Clouds with Their Hands;
Yet, the Diamond Kings all bow in deep respect,
To the Great Dharma Lord they serve forever."

The Buddha's Warrior Attendants Pound the Mortar






                         Sunday —
                                       quiet hours,
                                   no holiness.





                        Buddha's birthday —
                        2566 candles
                        burned to nothing.
                                                 [Siddhartha Gautama, circa: 4/8/563-483 BC]





Michael P. Garofalo's "The Spirit of Gardening"

Michael P. Garofalo
Garden Harvest 
September, 2004


A callused palm and dirty fingernails precede a Green Thumb.
Complexity is closer to the Truth. 
Sitting in a garden and doing nothing is high art everywhere.
Does a plum tree with no fruit have Buddha Nature?   Whack!!   
The only Zen you'll find flowering in the garden is the Zen you bring there each day. 
Dearly respect the lifestyle of worms.   
All enlightened beings are enchanted by water.
Becoming invisible to oneself is one pure act of gardening.
Priapus, lively and naughty, aroused and outlandish, is the Duende de el Jardin.
 Inside the gardener is the spirit of the garden outside.
Gardening is a kind of deadheading - keeping us from going to seed.   
The joyful gardener is evidence of an incarnation. 
One purpose of a garden is to stop time.
Time will tell, but we often fail to listen.
Leafing is the practice of seeds.   

-   Michael P. Garofalo, 
Pulling Onions





Encounters with Master Chang San-Feng


I first met Chang San-Feng above the forest, 
near the clear spring,
when gathering clouds darkened the day,
and Mt. Shasta was silent.

His long beard was black as emptiness,
ear lobes to his shoulders,
holding obsidian in his hand,
pointing to the sun,
eyes staring into infinity,
his long body clothed in silence.

We exchanged "hellos"
smiled and bowed,
a barbarian and an Immortal,
both panting from the climb,
ten-thousand echoes
between our rocky minds.

After billions upon billions of heartbeats past
(for he must have been 888 years old),
I was so bold
as to ask the ancient one
for the sacred mantra of yore.
He lifted his whisk,
and brushed my face;
I could not speak,
my lips were stone,
ideas stopped
I was alone. 

-  Michael P. Garofalo
Master Chang San Feng



Standing still in the circle of trees, in the sacred space,
one wet and chilly morn,
feet rooted, turtle toes clawing the earth, sunk deeply down;
twisted like a dragon, alert, poised, ready to fly;
settled like a bear, strong, full of power, gathering;
looking through the tiger's eye, mind-intent, penetrating;
embracing the World of Body, Mind, and Spirit,
as ancient as Now, the Three Realms, all still, all one.

From the edge, the cosmic circle opened,
Chang San-Feng slipped inside, smiling,
he stroked his long black beard and spoke softly,
"Ah, another old man standing so still in San Ti Shi.
Continue, my friend, stand in peace, touch the mind. 
Xuan Wu guards the Gate, the Turtle chants, the Snake rises, and
The subtle winds of understanding blow down the centuries.
When still, soar like the Black Dragon; when moving, walk like the Mountain.
Tame the Tiger within, ride the Tiger to the temple, and roar in silence.
Awaken like the Bear from the winter of the soul, and rise like a Man.
Feel the vital energies from bone to brain,
Sense the Great Tao before you Now,
Drop delusions, enter the Gate of Mystery,
Embrace the Center, Empty, unattached, ready to be filled
With boundless beauty, everything There, marvelous beyond words."

The cottonwood leaves spoke with the wind,
the sun rose over the shadows,
my legs shook a little;
the cosmic circle trembled,
Xuan Wu's sword flashed in the sun,
Master Chang disappeared in the trees.  



After reaching for the needle at the bottom of the sea,
I looked up, one summer's eve,
to see old Chang San-Feng open the garden gate,
and join me for Tai Chi.

We said not a word -
hands moving like clouds,
fingers grasping sparrow's tails,
faces smiling, feeling the sun drop,
glimpsing a half moon climbing the clear sky.

Time flowed without a ripple of memories,
Space embraced a crane cooling its wings,
Being began to sing
softly in tune with the moon.

My dusty black dog barked,
sensing something on the warm wind;
speaking her mind,
ears up.

Master Chang was gone.
Leaving one shoe on a beanpole, and
a page of poems -
mementos for mortals.  

Two black butterflies
danced wing to wing
in love.

-  Michael P. Garofalo
Master Chang San Feng




                                                             A fly on my finger
                                                                                                rubs his feet
                                                                                                every hair alive. 





                        Stalled imagination, repeating plot's old,
                        A dull shovel lifting wiser men's gold.
                        Thinking when reading, otherwise not;
                        Museless, unleavened, a nondescript pot.






                   This Halloween night, we cut and eat,
                   Fuyu persimmons, firm and sweet.

                   Plastic skeletons
                   scattered by pranksters,
                   resting in pieces.

                                 Nonlocal minds
                                 keeping out of touch,
                                 outside space and time,
                                 an eyeless bunch, not saying much.
                                 Mouthless, what can they say?
                                 They can't even pray.

                                                       -  Metaphysical Duets, #2





Standing at the Mysterious Pass
Centered in the Eternal Now,
Balanced in Body and Open in Mind,
Rooted into the Sacred Space,
Motionless as the Golden Mountain,
Fingers around the Primeval Sphere.

Dragons and Tigers are still dreaming -
Ready for Rebirth. 

I breathe in, the World Breathes Out.
The Gate of Space opens;
Heaven moves and Yang is born.
The hands move out, embracing the One.
The mind settles and is clear.
The Dragon Howls,
Ravens fill the Vast Cauldron,
Mind forms melt like mercury,
Spirit rises in the Clouds of Eternity.
Yin appears like the moon at dusk.

I breathe out, the World Breathes In.
The Doors of Emptiness close;
Earth quiets and Yin is born.
The hands move in, entering the One.
The body settles and becomes whole.
The Tiger Roars,
The Great Ox is nourished by the Valley Spirit, 
Substances spark from flaming furnaces,
Essence roots in the Watery Flesh.
Yang appears like the sun at dawn.

Dragons and Tigers
Transformed within the Mysterious Pass -
Chanting and Purring.

"Opening at the Mysterious Pass" 






While double
digging dry soil,
and pulling
weeds, my meditation began.
Suddenly, visions were unearthed,
from deep deep down,
my past lives bubbled up,
flooding memory:

Once, carried the immortal,
Zhang Guo Lao, for years and years and years,
as he rode, smiling, seated backwards,
on my white donkey back.

Once, slimed my snail's way
day by day
up the side of Mt. Meru.

Once, was a knarled old olive
in bloom
in the garden at Gesthemane.

Once, flopped on the deck of a fishing boat,
tossing back and forth,
gasping, gasping ...
eyes open, then died.

Once, awoke as a man
Shoveling in the sun,
smelling dung.
Meditation done.  

-  Easter Sunday, March 27, 2005



The crickets are silent,
And the night slipped away;
Sitting together, the garden and I,
Until only the garden remains. 



“If one sees me in forms,
If one seeks me in sounds,
He practices a misleading way.
He cannot see the essence of creeds:

All conditioned creeds
are like dreams, illusions, bubbles, shadows,
like dew drops and a lightning flash:
contemplate them thus.”

Creeds and doctrines are like a raft
to carry one to the other shore,
and then to relinquish.
Neither cling to the raft forever,
or reject it when drowning.
Even better,
become a strong swimmer.

-   Mike Garofalo, Green Way Blog: An Honest Doubt
    Paraphrase of the
Diamond Sutra






"Who am I?"

Such a strange question,
     uttered endlessly, 
     by weekend seekers of the Lost Psyche. 
Feigning amnesia,
they blather about their true selves, 
their Grand Soul lost somewhere outside their petty lives,
     hidden away and blocked by fleeting fleshy passions,
     stolen away by the finite soma and mundane mind. 

Their Real Self: pure, eternal, blissful, free, true, wonderful;
   right around the supernatural corner, 
   waiting for them like a blind date. 

You know who you are!

You are a unique body - interdependent with the watery world;
a boxcar of moving memories - a rich history;
known from the fruits of your work; 
meshed with some family, holding somebody dear; 
Somebody - unique as the fingerprint of your DNA;
named, spoken for, listening, and ...
Your search for "yourself", 
     your anxious questioning, 
    makes no sense. 

A stale mantra, 
a face before you were born koan:
"Who am I?", sterile, silly,
Yet, following an irrelevant spiritual advisor's advice, 
You try to figure it out, for hours and weeks,
     befuddled, awed by your confusion, thinking
It's your puny powers of meditation or belief or determination
    that keep you from discovering 
The Holy Grail of the Genuine Self. 

You know who you are!

You might want to change who you are,
or forget who you were, 
or tell others about who you are, 
or learn why you get tricked into asking yourself this foolish question ...
     but those are quite different issues. 

-   Mike Garofalo, "Who am I," he asked himself, June 11, 2006










Zen Poetry


Cloud Hands: Taijiquan and Qigong

Pulling Onions

Ripening Peaches

Quotes for Gardeners

Quotes, Sayings, Proverbs, Poetry, Maxims, Quips, Clichιs, Adages, Wisdom
A Collection of Over 3,500 Quotes Arranged by Over 135 Topics
Many of the Documents Include Recommended Readings and Internet Links.
Over 6 MB of Text.
Compiled by Michael P. Garofalo



Green Way Blog by Mike Garofalo








© Green Way Research, Valley Spirit Grove, 2001-2011

Red Bluff, California
All Rights Reserved


You are welcome to quote from this document.
Please credit as follows:  

Michael P. Garofalo,
Above the Fog


E-mail Mike Garofalo in Red Bluff, California

A Short Biography of Mike Garofalo




























































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