Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Petals and Blood, Stories, Dharma & Poems of Ecstasy, Awakening & Annihilation by Gavin Harrison

Gavin Harrison’s collection Petals and Blood is published by Pau Press and contains beautiful photographs that accompany and make up the background of stories and poems about spiritual enlightenment and growth through the writer’s pain of abuse, the discovery of being diagnosed with HIV AIDS, and the joy of living. Gavin Harrison is also the recipient of the Unsung Heroes of Compassion Award presented by the Dalai Lama for “kindness and quiet dedication to others.” I will say that you must find some quiet space in yourself in order to fully absorb his words, he is inspired by Rumi and Hafiz and his poems require quiet contemplation and in an age of technology and constant balancing acts it is worth it to take a moment for yourself and read these poems. I read them at night before bed and found them very refreshing, his stories also are inspiring. I will say his collection has arrived at a time in my own life where I feel that every moment is spoken for and that I have struggled to find balance of work, family, friends, and finding that precious and nurturing quiet time that most of us forget that we need more often than we realize. Harrison not only learns to heal himself but reaches out to those who are often abandoned by society, such as prisoners, and discovers the beauty of humanity inside of each individual he encounters. Below I am happy to share some samples, which will be difficult since I have book-marked so many poems and stories to share, so I do urge you to pick up a copy for yourself because I cannot possibly do Harrison justice:


Is your life a frantic dash
from what has been
to the to-do list
of what may yet be in store for you?

Spinning in circles?



Have you joined
the carnival of insanity
sweeping the land?

Time available, never enough?

Are you moving at the speed of light?

And is this the light you long for?

There is nothing courageous
or valiant about such frenzy.

Rushing from fire to fire is no fun,
and not without consequence.

Stop before you are stopped
by the reverberations
of speeding and acceleration.

Move more slowly,
without apology or justification.

You may wish to also disdain the
exhausting spiritual merry-go-round
of cultivation,
self-improvement and purification.

Stop seeking!

You are already all that you yearn for,
and so much more.

Decry the voices of poverty and lack.

If there’s a problem
it’s one of momentum, not deficit.

Freefall from small-time
into the depths of time.

Rest within The Web
from which you cannot fall, ever.

Encounter all who have been,
and will be,
within the Timeless Immediate.

Future and past are present here.

Nothing to flee, nowhere to go.

Fall to your knees.

Drink the sacrament of Deep Time.

Recognize yourself within
The Great Interconnectedness
as every jewel,

Be dazzled by the realm of reflection
and refraction.

Move from stillness, like The Tao.

Upon the Great Way
you will find balance,
and infinite evolution,
without rushing.

Live with deep eyes.

The Tao is not hurtling
towards its own conclusions or agenda.

Neither need you.

Stop as the Buddha did,
under the Bhodi tree.

Set the sails of your weary heart
to the eye of the storm
where the weather is calm.

Sense the Still Ground
of Limitless Silence
that is always there,
into which all weather conditions
come and go.

Be The Stillness
which you are.

Move as Love moves,
dancing all the way Home,
for Home
is the only real happiness
true rest there is.

While this poem speaks to me I am also sure that it speaks to you, readers. Is there one person out there in the world these days that does not have difficulty keeping up with the frantic pace of today’s society and technology? This poem lays it out in black and white the importance of recognizing that pace, knowing that this pace is not mandatory and reminds us to s-l-o-w down and enjoy peace and silence and to seek it in order to revive ourselves. I honestly urge you to do your best to shut out the outside world and read this poem again slowly and take those slow deep breaths that help remind us that the pace of the outside world does not dictate our own. Whenever I feel frazzled at night, I return to this poem.

There is a wonderful personal story titled “Love,” and Harrison speaks of growing up in Africa and returning to Africa only to learn that there was a vast difference in the schools he went to and the village schools. Harrison offered to teach which outraged his father who was convinced that these villages were dangerous. Harrison reached out to the “white schools, churches and municipalities,” and made them aware of the village’s shortages and conditions and received a flood of support and supplies. Harrison’s father eventually came around, in a secretive way, and donated books of his own, built shelves in the school library and eventually became friends with the headmaster and eventually invited the headmaster and his wife to dinner—“the first time my parents had shared a meal with a black person.” When Harrison’s father died, the village school’s students came to honor him and Harrison’s mother asked for donations to the school in lieu of flowers. As Harrison says, “In the end, Love prevailed.” I think we take for granted the racial divide lessening in America but then we are reminded of divisions in other countries and continents as well through this story. While we strive to erase those divides it is a great reminder to recognize that biases are still there in our own community and in the greater world and that these biases can continually be overcome through Love and understanding.

It’s Just As Well

It’s just as well I did not know
how much You wanted me,
My Beloved.

For I would have fled,
panic stricken,
before the prospect of that intimacy.

It is just as well I did not know
how unforgiving Your demand
for self-honesty would be.

For the fire of that injunction
would have been way too hot
for me to handle.

It is just as well I did not know
how many lines
You would have me cross.

For I would have gripped
my prison bars more tightly
in terror
than ever before.

It is just as well I did not know
how absolute Your need
for all my humanity would be.

For the thought of inhabiting
every part of my humanness
would have catapulted me
deeper than ever
into contraction and hiding.

It is just as well I did not know
how seamless
my fidelity to You
would turn out to be.

For I would have exited,
howling and screaming,
before the magnitude
of that commitment.

It is just as well I did not know
how much Love
You would pour into this life.

For I would have drowned
within the intimations
of all that Glory and Vulnerability.

And it is just as well I did not know
how simple and ordinary
this that I Am
would turn out to be.

the specialness and grandiosity
that once lived here
would have had nothing to do
with The Quietude and Emptiness
that is here now.

And so,
My Beloved,
it is just as well.

This poem brings me comfort in that we often wish we knew what the future would bring but then when we look into the past we realize that had we known what was coming we would often go into hiding. Harrison refers to “My Beloved” in the way that Hafiz and Rumi do, the idea of a higher spiritual being who is there demanding our full attention and love. Whether you are religious or not I believe many of us can relate to this poem, we have encountered someone or something in our life that had we known was coming we would have been kicking and screaming to avoid but once we have gone through the experience are eternally grateful for the encounter and the enlightenment that comes from it. Another beautiful poem to be savored.

If you enjoyed this review (and as I’ve said I cannot do it justice, the photography that accompanies these poems are just stunning and the words help the reader center themselves in the present) then you may purchase a hardcover copy of Petals and Blood by Gavin Harrison for $49.95 at here:

Thanks always for reading, please drop in again soon…