John Steele

Light Watch your breath, gaze at a candle,pray to a god or ávatar,visualize a buddha or bodhisáttva,dance or whirl, or practice ásanas. Finger beads, voice names of God, chant mantras,sing kírtan, recite the Torah, Qurán, or sutras.Prostrate yourself, pilgrimage to Mecca.Contemplate a koan, or just sit. When your mind is clear,forms rise and pass unhindered,when roiled, dams burst, cities flood. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.Coming and going, nothing comes or goes.Those who know pass calmly through the storm. Lotus Floating on the surface of the pond,roots descending deep into the mud,you sit cross-legged, feet on thighs, gaze down,a thousand-petalled flower on your crown.You dwell in meditation, hour after hour,as spiders weave silk trails through your fine hair.Each night your petals fade, disappear.The morning star brings forth a fresh white flower. Do you think you sit there all alonefor the sake of no-one but yourself? Don’t you know your seat becomes a thronefor the likes of Lakshmi, Sáraswati? When you rise up from your lotus seat,goddesses grace everyone you meet. Zazenkai We sat all day, staring at a wall,focused intently on nothing at all... We sat and walked, sat and walked, again.Then Sensei gave a talk about zazen. Reflecting on the koan:Polishing a brick to make a mirror... he demolished any notions we might entertainof doing zazen in order to attain a not already present, luminous mind. Steeped in silence... all thoughts undermined,we sat and walked, sat and walked, all day. What happened there, is not for me to say.It culminated in a thunderstorm,resounding emptiness... flashing form. John W. Steele is a psychologist, yoga teacher, assistant editor of Think: A Journal of Poetry, Fiction and Essays, and graduate of the MFA Poetry Program at Western Colorado University, where he studied with Julie Kane, Ernest Hilbert and David Rothman. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Amethyst Review, Boulder Weekly, Blue Unicorn, Colorado Sun, Copperfield Review, Heron Clan Anthology, IthacaLit, The Lyric, Mountains Talking, New Verse News, The Orchards, Peacock Journal, Society of Classical Poets, Urthona Journal of Buddhism and the Arts, and Verse-Virtual. He was nominated for a Pushcart prize, won The Lyric’s 2017 Fall Quarterly Award, won an award in the 2020 Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition, and was awarded Special Recognition in the 2019 Helen Schaible International Sonnet Contest. His book reviews have appeared in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, and Raintown Review. John lives in Boulder, Colorado and enjoys hiking in the mountains.