Callings Books

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    My Name is Asher Lev
    —Chaim Potok

    Being Called: Scientific, Secular and Sacred Perspectives
    –Eds: David Yaden, Theo McCall, J. Harold Ellens
    (I have a chapter in this book)

    Let Your Life Speak
    –Parker Palmer

    The Courage to Teach
    –Parker Palmer

    Oh, the Places You’ll Go
    –Dr. Suess

    The Song of the Lark
    –Willa Cather

    –William Bridges

    The Stirring of Soul in the Workplace
    –Alan Briskin

    The Hungering Dark
    –Frederick Buechner

    Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation
    –Frederick Buechner

    The Sacred Journey
    –Frederick Buechner

    The Hero With a Thousand Faces
    –Joseph Campbell

    The Power of Myth
    –Joseph Campbell

    Beyond the Hero: Classic Stories of Men in Search of Soul
    –Allen Chinen

    Once Upon a Midlife
    –Allen Chinen

    The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream
    –Paulo Coelho

    Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
    –Annie Dillard

    The Way of Transformation
    –Karlfried Graf Durkheim

    The Immense Journey
    –Loren Eiseley

    Coming Into Our Own: Understanding the Adult Metamorphosis
    –Mark Gerzon

    The Soul’s Code
    –James Hillman

    –Robert Johnson

    Report to Greco
    –Nikos Kazantzakis

    The Power of Purpose
    –Richard Leider

    A Year to Live
    –Stephen Levine

    This Business of Writing
    –Gregg Levoy

    Dark Wood to White Rose: Journey and Transformation in Dante Divine Comedy
    –Helen Luke

    Dreambody: The Body’s Role in Revealing the Self
    –Arnold Mindell

    Working on Yourself Alone
    –Arnold Mindell

    Care of the Soul
    –Thomas Moore

    Art and Fear
    –Orland & Bayles

    The Road Less Travelled
    –M. Scott Peck

    The Odyssey
    –Translated by W.H.D. Rouse

    Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow
    –Marsha Sinetar

    Boundaries of the Soul
    –June Singer

    The Trilogy: Lord of the Rings
    –J.R.R. Tolkien

    What the Bee Knows: Reflections on Myth, Symbol and Story
    –P.L. Travers

    Leadership and the New Science
    –Margaret Wheatley

    Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity
    –David Whyte

Callings Poetry

     Stephen Dunn
    “Tiger Face”

    Because you can be what you're not
    for only so long,
    one day the tiger cub raised by goats

    wandered to the lake and saw himself.
    It was astounding
    to have a face like that, cat-handsome,

    hornless, and we can imagine he stared
    a long time, then sipped
    and pivoted, bemused yet burdened now

    with choice. The mother goat had nursed him.
    The others had tolerated
    his silly quickness and claws.

    And because once you know who you are
    you need not rush,
    and good parents are a blessing

    whoever they are, he went back to them,
    rubbing up against
    their bony shins, keeping his secret to himself.

    but after a while the tiger who'd found
    his true face
    felt the disturbing hungers, those desires

    to get low in the reeds, swish his tail
    Because he was a cat he disappeared

    without goodbyes, his goat-parents relieved
    such a thing was gone.
    And we can imagine how, alone and beyond

    choice, he wholly became who he was---
    that zebra or gazelle
    stirring the great blood rush and odd calm

    as he discovered, while moving, what needed
    to be done.

     Stephen Dunn
    “The Last Hours”

    There's some innocence left,
    and these are the last hours of an empty afternoon
    at the office, and there's the clock
    on the wall, and my friend Frank
    in the adjacent cubicle selling himself
    on the phone.
    I'm twenty-five, on the shaky
    ladder up, my father's son, corporate,
    clean-shaven, and I know only what I don't want,
    which is almost everything I have.
    A meeting ends.
    Men in serious suits, intelligent men
    who've been thinking hard about marketing snacks,
    move back now to their window offices, worried
    or proud. The big boss, Horace,
    had called them in to approve this, reject that---
    the big boss, a first-name, how's-your-family
    kind of assassin, who likes me.
    It's 1964.
    The sixties haven't begun yet. Cuba is a larger name
    than Vietnam. The Soviets are behind
    everything that could be wrong. Where I sit
    it's exactly nineteen minutes to five. My phone rings.
    Horace would like me to stop in
    before I leave. Stop in. Code words,
    leisurely words, that mean now.
    Would I be willing
    to take on this? Would X's office, who by the way
    is no longer with us, be satisfactory?
    About money, will this be enough?
    I smile, I say yes and yes and yes,
    but---I don't know from what calm place
    this comes---I'm translating
    his beneficence into a lifetime, a life
    of selling snacks, talking snack strategy,
    thinking snack thoughts.
    On the elevator down
    it's a small knot, I'd like to say, of joy.
    That's how I tell it now, here in the future,
    the fear long gone.
    By the time I reach the subway it's grown,
    it's outsized, an attitude finally come round,
    and I say it quietly to myself, I quit,
    and keep saying it, knowing I will say it, sure
    of nothing else but.

    from Different Hours

     William Stafford
    “The Way It Is”

    There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
    things that change. But it doesn’t change.
    People wonder about what you are pursuing.
    You have to explain about the thread.
    But it is hard for others to see.
    While you hold it you can’t get lost.
    Tragedies happen; people get hurt
    or die; and you suffer and get old.
    Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
    You don’t ever let go of the thread.

     D. H. Lawrence

    When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego,
    And we escape like squirrels turning in the cages of our personality
    and get into the forests again,
    we shall shiver with cold and fright
    but things will happen to us
    so that we don't know ourselves.

    Cool, unlying life will rush in,
    and passion will make our bodies taught with power,
    we shall stamp our feet with new power
    and old things will fall down,
    we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like burnt paper.

     Mary Oliver
    “The Journey”

    One day you finally knew
    what you had to do, and began,
    though the voices around you
    kept shouting
    their bad advice----
    though the whole house
    began to tremble
    and you felt the old tug
    at your ankles.
    "Mend my life!"
    each voice cried.
    But you didn’t stop.
    You knew what you had to do,
    though the wind pried
    with its stiff fingers
    at the very foundations,
    though their melancholy
    was terrible.
    It was already late
    enough, and a wild night,
    and the road full of fallen
    branches and stones.
    But little by little,
    as you left their voices behind,
    the stars began to burn
    through the sheets of clouds,
    and there was a new voice
    which you slowly
    recognized as your own,
    that kept you company
    as you strode deeper and deeper
    into the world
    determined to do
    the only thing you could do----
    determined to save
    the only life you could save.

     Mary Oliver
    “The Turtles”

    breaks from the blue-black
    skin of the water, dragging her shell
    with its mossy scutes
    across the shallows and through the rushes
    and over the mudflats, to the uprise,
    to the yellow sand,
    to dig with her ungainly feet
    a nest, and hunker there spewing
    her white eggs down
    into the darkness, and you think
    of her patience, her fortitude,
    her determination to complete
    what she was born to do----
    and then you realize a greater thing----
    she doesn’t consider
    what she was born to do.
    She’s only filled
    with an old blind wish.
    It isn’t even hers but came to her
    in the rain or the soft wind
    which is a gate through which her life keeps walking.
    She can’t see
    herself apart from the rest of the world
    or the world from what she must do
    every spring.
    Crawling up the high hill,
    luminous under the sand that has packed against her skin,
    she doesn’t dream
    she knows
    she is a part of the pond she lives in,
    the tall trees are her children,
    the birds that swim above her
    are tied to her by an unbreakable string.

     Mary Oliver
    “The Kookaburras”

    In every heart there is a coward and a procrastinator.
    In every heart there is a god of flowers, just waiting
    to come out of its cloud and lift its wings.
    The kookaburras, kingfishers, pressed against the edge of
    their cage, they asked me to open the door.
    Years later I wake in the night and remember how I said to them,
    no, and walked away.
    They had the brown eyes of soft-hearted dogs.
    They didn’t want to do anything so extraordinary, only to fly
    home to their river.
    By now I suppose the great darkness has covered them.
    As for myself, I am not yet a god of even the palest flowers.
    Nothing else has changed either.
    Someone tosses their white bones to the dung-heap.
    The sun shines on the latch of their cage.
    I lie in the dark, my heart pounding.

     Mary Oliver
    “Wild Geese”

    You do not have to be good.
    You do not have to walk on your knees
    for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
    You only have to let the soft animal of your body
    love what it loves.
    Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
    Meanwhile the world goes on.
    Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
    are moving across the landscapes,
    over the prairies and the deep trees,
    the mountains and the rivers.
    Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air
    are heading home again.
    Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
    the world offers itself to your imagination,
    calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting----
    over and over announcing your place
    in the family of things.

    “Love Dogs”

    One night a man was crying,
    Allah! Allah!
    His lips grew sweet with the praising,
    until a cynic said
    "So! I have heard you
    calling out, but have you ever
    gotten any response?

    The man had no answer to that.
    He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep.

    He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls,
    in a thick, green foliage.
    "Why did you stop praising?"
    "Because I’ve never heard anything back."
    "This longing
    you express is the return message."

    The grief you cry out from
    draws you toward union.
    Your pure sadness
    that wants help
    is the secret cup.

    Listen to the moan of a dog for its master.
    That whining is the connection

    There are love dogs
    no one knows the names of.

    Give your life
    to be one of them.

    “Today, Like Every Other Day”

    Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
    and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
    and begin reading. Take down the dulcimer.

    Let the beauty we love be what we do.
    There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.


    Inside this new love, die.
    Your way begins on the other side.
    Become the sky.
    Take an axe to the prison wall.
    Walk out like someone suddenly born into color.
    Do it now.
    You’re covered with thick cloud.
    Slide out the side. Die,
    and be quiet. Quietness is the surest sign
    that you’ve died.
    Your old life was a frantic running
    from silence.
    The speechless full moon
    comes out now.

    “The Breeze at Dawn”

    The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
    Don’t go back to sleep.
    You must ask for what you really want.
    Don’t go back to sleep.
    People are going back and forth across the doorsill.
    where the two world touch.
    The door is round and open.
    Don’t go back to sleep.

    “Dance With the Bandage Torn Off”

    Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off.
    Dance in the middle of the fighting.
    Dance in your blood.
    Dance, when you’re perfectly free.

    Struck, the dancers hear a tambourine inside them,
    as a wave turns to foam on its very top, begin.

    Maybe you don’t hear that tambourine,
    or the tree leaves clapping time.

    Close the ears on your head
    that listen mostly to lies and cynical jokes.
    There are other things to hear and see:
    dance-music and a brilliant city
    inside the Soul.
    God said of Muhammed,
    He is an ear.
    He was wholly ear and eye,
    and we are refreshed and fed by that,
    as an infant boy is at his mother’s breast.

    “The Music”

    For sixty years I have been forgetful,
    every minute, but not for a second
    has this flowing toward me stopped or slowed.
    I deserve nothing. Today I recognize
    that I am the guest the mystics talk about.
    I play this living music for my Host.
    Everything today is for the Host.

     Rainer Maria Rilke
    “I Live My Life”

    I live my life in growing orbits
    which move out over the things of the world.
    Perhaps I can never achieve the last,
    but that will be my attempt.

    I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,
    and I have been circling for a thousand years,
    and I still don’t know if I am a falcon, or a storm,
    or a great song.

     Rainer Maria Rilke
    “Sometimes A Man Stands Up”

    Sometimes a man stands up during supper
    and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking,
    because of a church that stands somewhere in the East.

    And his children say blessings on him as if he were dead.

    And another man, who remains inside his own house,
    stays there, inside the dishes and in the glasses,
    so that his children have to go far out into the world
    toward that same church, which he forgot.

     Rainer Maria Rilke
    “The Panther”

    From seeing the bars, his seeing is so exhausted
    that it no longer holds anything anymore.
    To him the world is bars, a hundred thousand
    bars, and behind the bars, nothing.

    The lithe swinging of that rhythmical easy stride
    which circles down to the tiniest hub
    is like a dance of energy around a point
    in which a great will stands stunned and numb.

    Only at times the curtains of the pupil rise
    without a sound.......then a shape enters,
    slips through the tightened silence of the shoulders,
    reaches the heart, and dies.

     Rainer Maria Rilke
    “A Walk”

    My eyes already touch the sunny hill,
    going far ahead of the road I have begun.
    So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
    it has its inner light, even from a distance----

    and changes us, even if we do not reach it,
    into something else, which, hardly sensing it, we already are;
    a gesture waves us on, answering our own wave...
    but what we feel is the wind in our faces.

     David Whyte
    “The Truelove”

    There is a faith in loving fiercely
    the one who is rightfully yours,
    especially if you have
    waited years and especially
    if part of you never believed
    you could deserve this
    loved and beckoning hand
    held out to you this way.

    I am thinking of faith now
    and the testaments of loneliness
    and what we feel we are
    worthy of in this world.

    Years ago in the Hebrides
    I remember an old man
    who walked every morning
    on the grey stones
    to the shore of the baying seals,

    who would press his hat
    to his chest in the blustering
    salt wind and say his prayer
    to the turbulent Jesus
    hidden in the water,

    and I think of the story
    of the storm and everyone
    waking and seeing
    the distant
    yet familiar figure
    far across the water
    calling to them,

    and how we are all
    preparing for that
    abrupt waking,
    and that calling,
    and that moment
    we have to say yes,
    except it will
    not come so grandly,
    so Biblically,
    but more subtly
    and intimately in the face
    of the one you know
    you have to love,

    so that when we finally step out of the boat
    toward them, we find
    everything holds
    us, and confirms
    our courage, and if you wanted
    to drown you could,

    because finally
    after all the struggle
    and all the years,
    you don’t want to any more,
    you’ve simply had enough
    of drowning
    and you want to live and you
    want to love and you will
    walk across any territory
    and any darkness,
    however fluid and however
    dangerous, to take the
    one hand you know
    belongs in yours.

     David Whyte
    “The Winter of Listening”

    No one but me by the fire,
    my hands burning
    red in the palms while
    the night wind carries
    everything away outside.

    All this petty worry
    while the great cloak
    of the sky grows dark
    and intense
    round every living thing.

    What is precious
    inside us does not
    care to be known
    by the mind
    in ways that diminish
    its presence.

    What we strive for
    in perfection
    is not what turns us
    into the lit angel
    we desire,

    what disturbs
    and then nourishes
    has everything
    we need.

    What we hate
    in ourselves
    is what we cannot know
    in ourselves but
    what is true to the pattern
    does not need
    to be explained.

    Inside everyone
    is a great shout of joy
    waiting to be born.

    Even with the summer
    so far off
    I feel it grown in me
    now and ready
    to arrive in the world.

    All those years
    listening to those
    who had
    nothing to say.

    All those years
    how everything
    has its own voice
    to make
    itself heard.

    All those years
    how easily
    you can belong
    to everything
    simply by listening.

    And the slow
    of remembering
    how everything
    is born from
    an opposite
    and miraculous

    Silence and winter
    has led me to that

    So let this winter
    of listening
    be enough
    for the new life
    I must call my own.

     David Whyte
    “What to Remember When Waking”

    In that first
    hardly noticed
    in which you wake,
    coming back
    to this life
    from the other,
    more secret,
    and frighteningly
    where everything
    there is a small
    into the new day
    which closes
    the moment
    you begin
    your plans.

    What you can plan
    is too small
    for you to live.

    What you can live wholeheartedly
    will make plans
    for the vitality
    hidden in your sleep.

    To be human
    is to become visible
    while carrying
    what is hidden
    as a gift to others.

    To remember
    the other world
    in this world
    is to live in your
    true inheritance.

    You are not
    a trouble guest
    on this earth,
    you are not
    an accident
    amidst other accidents.
    You were invited
    from another and greater
    than the one
    from which
    you have just emerged.

    Now looking through
    the slanting light
    of the morning
    window toward
    the mountain
    of everything
    that can be,
    what urgency
    calls you to your
    one love? What shape
    waits in the seed
    of you to grow
    and spread
    its branches
    against a future sky?

    Is it waiting
    in the fertile sea?
    In the trees
    beyond the house?
    In the life
    you can imagine
    for yourself?
    In the open
    and lovely
    white page
    on the waiting desk?

     Antonio Machado
    “Is My Soul Asleep?”

    Is my soul asleep?
    Have those beehives that work
    in the night stopped? And the water-
    wheel of thought, is it
    going around now, cups
    empty, carrying only shadows?

    No, my soul is not asleep.
    It is awake, wide awake.
    It neither sleeps nor dreams, but watches,
    its eyes wide open
    far-off things, and listens
    at the shores of the great silence.

     Antonio Machado
    “The Wind, One Brilliant Day”

    The wind, one brilliant day, called
    to my soul with an odor of jasmine.

    "In return for the odor of my jasmine,
    I’d like all the odor of your roses."

    "I have no roses; all the flowers
    in my garden are dead."

    "Well then, I’ll take the withered petals
    and the yellow leaves and the waters of the fountain."

    The wind left. And I wept. And I said to myself:

    "What have you done with the garden that was entrusted
    to you?"

    “The Time Before Death”

    Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive.
    Jump into experience while you are alive!
    Think.......and think.......while you are alive.
    What you call "salvation" belongs to the time before death.

    If you don’t break your ropes while you’re alive,
    do you think
    ghosts will do it after?

    The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic
    just because the body is rotten----
    that is all fantasy.
    What is found now is found then.
    If you find nothing now,
    you will simply end up with an apartment in the City of
    If you make love with the divine now, in the next life you will
    have the face of satisfied desire.

    So plunge into the truth, find out who the Teacher is,
    Believe in the Great Sound!

    Kabir says this: When the Guest is being searched for, it is
    the intensity of the longing for the Guest that does all
    the work.
    Look at me, and you will see a slave of that intensity.

     Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
    “The Holy Longing”

    Tell a wise person, or else keep silent,
    Because the massman will mock it right away.
    I praise what is truly alive,
    What longs to be burned to death.

    In the calm water of the love-nights,
    Where you were begotten, where you have begotten,
    A strange feeling comes over you
    When you see the silent candle burning.

    Now you are no longer caught
    In the obsession with darkness,
    And a desire for higher love-making
    Sweeps you upward.

    Distance does not make you falter,
    Now, arriving in magic, flying,
    And, finally, insane for the light,
    You are the butterfly and you are gone.

    And so long as you haven’t experienced
    This: to die and so to grow,
    You are only a troubled guest
    On the dark earth.

     Jaun Ramon Jimenez

    I have a feeling that my boat
    has struck, down there in the depths,
    against a great thing.
    And nothing
    happens! Nothing.....silence.....Waves.....
    ----Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
    and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?

     Helder Camara
    “When Your Ship”

    When your ship, long moored in harbor
    gives you the illusion of being a house,
    put out to sea.

    Save your boat’s journeying soul,
    and your own pilgrim soul,
    cost what it may.

     Langston Hughes
    “A Raisin in the Sun”

    What happens to a dream deferred?
    Does it dry up
    Like a raisin in the sun?
    Or fester like a sore----
    And then run?
    Does it stink like rotten meat?
    Or crust and sugar over----
    Like a syrupy sweet?

    Maybe it just sags
    Like a heavy load.

    Or does it explode?

     Robert Frost
    from “Two Tramps in Mudtime”

    Yield who will to their separation
    my object in living
    is to unite my avocation and my vocation
    as my two eyes make one in sight.

    Only where love and need are one
    and work is play for mortal stakes
    is the deed ever really done
    for heaven and the future's sake.

     Robert Frost
    “On a Tree Fallen Across the Road”

    The tree the tempest with a crash of wood
    Throws down in front of us is not bar
    Our passage to our journey's end for good,
    But just to ask us who we think we are

    Insisting always on our own way so.
    She likes to halt us in our runner tracks,
    And make us get down in a foot of snow
    Debating what to do without an ax.

    And yet she knows obstruction is in vain:
    We will not be put off the final goal
    We have it hidden in us to attain,
    Not though we have to seize earth by the pole

    And, tired of aimless circling in one place,
    Steer straight off after something into space.

     Pablo Neruda
    “And Something Ignited In My Soul”

    and something ignited in my soul
    fever or forgotten wings
    and I went my own way
    deciphering that burning fire
    and I wrote the first bare line,
    pure foolishness
    pure wisdom,
    of one who knows nothing
    and suddenly I saw the heavens
    unfasten and open

     Derek Welcott
    “Love After Love”

    The day will come
    when with elation you will greet yourself
    arriving at your own door
    in your own mirror
    and each will smile at the other's welcome,
    saying, 'Sit here. Eat. You will love again
    the stranger who was yourself.'

    Give wine, give bread
    give back your heart to itself
    to the stranger who has loved you
    all your life
    whom you ignored for another
    who knows you by heart.

    Take down the love letters from the bookshelf
    the photographs
    the desperate notes
    peel your own image from the mirror.
    Sit. Feast on your life

     May Sarton
    “Now I Become Myself”

    Now I become myself. It’s taken
    Time, many years and places;
    I have been dissolved and shaken,
    Worn other people’s faces,
    Run madly, as if Time were there,
    Terribly old, crying a warning,
    “Hurry, you will be dead before--”
    (What? Before you reach the morning?
    Or the end of the poem is clear?
    Or love safe in the walled city?)
    Now so stand still to be here,
    Feel my own weight and density!
    The black shadow on the paper
    Is my hand; the shadow of a word
    As thought shapes the shaper
    Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
    All fuses now, falls into place

    From wish to action, word to silence,
    My work, my love, my time, my face
    Gathered into one intense
    Gesture of growing like a plant.
    As slowly as the ripening fruit
    Fertile, detached, and always spent,
    Falls but does not exhaust the root,
    So all the poem is, can give,
    Grows in me to become the song,
    Made so and rooted by love.
    Now there is time and Time is young.
    O, in this single hour I live
    All of myself and do not move.
    I, the pursued, who madly ran,
    Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!

     W.H. Auden

    You need not see what someone is doing
    to know if it is his vocation.

    You have only to watch his eyes;
    a cook mixing a sauce, a surgeon

    making a primary incision,
    a clerk completing a bill of lading,

    wear the same rapt expression, forgetting
    themselves in a function.

    How beautiful it is,
    that eye-on-the-object look.

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