Black Oak

Black oak stands stark in
the gray dawn after
a night of rain.

Soggy leaves, losing
their grip in
the buffeting wind, cover
the ground beneath
the tree like
a brown blanket.

Do you, too, cling this way when the wind blows?
Do you, too, tumble and twist against your life, weakening
the only tie you have ever known?

And when you release at last,
when you float and fall into that leafy mat,
is it the grief of loss you feel?

Or will you find your way content into the dark dirt,
that grand microbial feast, nourishing with
your precious body
the deep mother root?


In Washington

Suited banksters talk of debt default, crowd control, and martial law.

Grave politicians promise yet again to follow them through hell itself and a few local pet projects if necessary.

Concerned journalists soberly agree that something drastic must be done to restore confidence.

Meanwhile at my house,

Confident oak leaves deposit free sunshine into rash acorns.

Unruly kinglets comb leaves for small spiders.

Friends gather in circles, taking comfort in proximity.

Impenetrable blackberry tangles open onto riotous gopher burrows.

Outlaw scrub jays hide acorns under secret mattresses.

Undocumented stones crash unpredictably down the hillside.

I sit still on this buckwheat cushion, high grasses waving freedom all around me.

We are in this together

and we are ready


Barton Stone – 2008

Here is a youtube video of me reading these following two poems:



Sit still with yourself and let it all go.

Breathe in deep then let it go.

Let go dramas of grief and regret.

Let go love, let go lust.

Let go tunes you sing to yourself.

Let go boring blues, let go hard-won wisdom.

Let go hunger, let go sleep,

Let go pain, let go hope.

Plans and projects,

Ideas and arguments,

Set them all aside for now.

They’ll be back before you even want them.

Meanwhile, sit down like a rock on the riverbed.

Sit like a fox at a gopher hole.

Sit like a shorebird rafting

On the lagoon between tides.

And when you have finally failed,

As you surely will,

Just sit


Barton Stone – 2009

A video from my ordination party:


Who Sits Here?

Every few years I fall in love with zazen all over again.

Maybe it’s the adventure of it.  Who knows what may happen?

There is a multitude that regularly visit my cushion.

They include:

An observer who watches the breath go in and out, and takes notes as these other characters come and go,

One whose knees are too big and stiff to reach the floor, whose back thinks it wants to curve and sag, then aches when allowed to do so, and still is sometimes content to just sit and let the sweet blood flow.

There is a perpetual puppy that adopted me, followed me home and wants to chew on every thought or feeling that arises,

A gratitude addict who loves the endorphins released by reflecting on the blessings of health, love, and abundance, on the work of the many beings throughout time and space who made this quiet moment possible,

There’s a pride hound who imagines that this astounding good fortune may somehow be deserved,

A dirty old man who can happily sexualize any innocent image that may float to the surface.

A caffeinated monkey with a very limited attention span,

An aging man who realizes his body is about as good now as it’s ever going to be, and he may as well forget ever making the NBA or reading without glasses,

The artiste, always trying to improve on the arrangement of plants, sticks and stones around him.

The partisan, still plotting power to the people,

The hermit, dreaming high mountains, rocks and rivers,

A way-seeking mind perpetually caught in the paradox of striving to surrender striving, unable to drop the whole project, yet also unable to generate sufficient energy to try so hard that the circuit shorts, the fuse blows, and thereby to arrive finally and completely at the end of desire, so sitting here still in this middle way where process and realization are one, not by design, but by default, as if there were somewhere else he might have wanted to be anyway,

One who occasionally realizes he has just been sitting zazen like a frog, a snake, a duck, rafting patiently till the tide turns, and immediately regrets that the experience fades as the realization comes,

One who perversely falls asleep and misses the best part,

One who thrills to impermanence knowing that every prison gate will open, every dam will fail, and we’re all in this birth and death thing together forever.

Barton Stone  – 2009

It Happened Again!

All of northern California swung around so that it was facing toward the bright sun.

We were so excited.

We stood in its warm light and felt its flooding energy even through our clothes.

Out the kitchen door the tall trees stood still and let themselves bathe in its brightness.

Below their high branches silver green huckleberry bushes pumped so much oxygen you could almost see it rise around them.

Colors everywhere intensified and changed as surface wetness evaporated.

In the valley below us, the upper layers of fog became so illuminated that they shone as if the light were inside them.

And indeed, it may have been.

It seemed that the land itself, and we too, dropped all our busy intentions for a time,

Grateful to be in on this luminous event.

Raptly we could sense the movement of blood, water, and sap carrying brightness to dark and remote parts of ourselves.

Bones began to warm.

Shoulders relaxed.

It could have been an ordinary day.

If we wanted.

Barton Stone – 2008

I Was There

back in the day, when everything was still in one single point,

all time, all space, absolutely everything.

I don’t have to tell you it was intense.  Never a dull moment.

At the time, that big whoosh, as our one became many,

did not surprise me at all, it just seemed like the natural thing to do.

Looking back now, I wonder what led us to leave?

What were we thinking?

Could it have been  great-aunt May’s generosity,  needing a lot of space to make Sunday dinner for such a large family?

Was it cousin Jason’s desperation to get away from home and be a street musician?

Did the tall trees long to be even taller?

Did the moon always want to measure time and tides?

I don’t remember hearing anyone then say “Wait, there’s no going back.”

I still wonder why, but now we are here and it is so what it is.

Sometimes I forget that place we came from,  but I do know you from then.

I recognize your voice, your pleasures and pains.

All my adventures since then are yours.

All your adventures are mine.

Barton – 2008


As we head over this precipice together,

please remember your original face.

I know they say

to talk about it with words

is to move farther from it,

But how far away could you ever be

from that gentleness you were

before your birth, or from that Great Dark Mother

Who fashioned you of mud and blood,

Who kissed and pinched your apple cheeks,

and sent you wide awake

into this world of ten thousand things?

Today your original face

is a soft cricket on the hardwood floor,

rain coming from the west,

the green fuse force of leaves and sun,

and yes, that fear of falling.

In other words, nothing.

More or less than all of it, exactly as it is,

alive and with you all the way


Barton – 2009

The dharma of thusness

has been passed down to you face to face from star-stuff Buddhas of old.

Now it roams the mountain like a hermit, like a shadow, like a breeze.

Now it is a crow on the hillside, with multitudes of verdant monks in attendance, ready to receive it.

This dharma comes from breathless lovers, transmitted belly to belly, mind to mind, behind all words.

It gushes from this birth canal, winged gateway of all the Buddhas, passing bone to bone, blood to blood.

This dharma wears black robes in candlelight and smells of sandalwood.

It comes clear in death, lingers when all else leaves.

It is not diminished by failure, grief or boredom.

Though it will not be described by words, “ma” is its mother and all others its children.

Keep quiet about it and you miss the point.  Speak and you have gone too far, for the words will trip you up.

Through words or through silence, whether mastered or not, it waits for no one.

Though it can’t be grasped, it is closer than the one who wants it.

This dharma is a dewdrop on a lupine leaf, a river in a dry, dry land.

It  calls to you, just right, guilt and all, nothing extra, nothing lacking.

Because some are proud, there are robes and lacquered bowls.

Because others are fresh-faced, there are gnarly pines and dreams of enlightenment.

It is the clear bell behind your preferences.

If you wish to have it, sit still now and pay attention to your inner body.

Know its relationships and treasure its pathways.  Greet it as it gathers, bless it as it fades.

Give thanks to silver bowls, moon, snow, white herons,

And to all beings who, making no distinction between inner and outer, continuously welcome us into their company.

Now you have it.  Preserve it well.

Myozen Barton Stone 2010

Meditation on Grasping and Clinging

Avalokiteshvara bodhisattva addressed the assembled beings with deep compassion: Birth and death are relentless and you are right to tremble as you behold them, for all things are void of self-nature and

Your alkaline diet will not save you.

Your workout routine will not save you.

The Beatles will not come back to save you

Organic produce will not save you

Your vows will not save you

Mutual funds will not save you

Poetry will not save you

Zazen will not save you

Tree-planting will not save you

Washboard abs will not save you

A clean car will not save you

Psychedelics will not save you

Your teacher will not save you

Big Mind will not save you

Your family will not save you

Neither wit nor charm will save you

Rare gold coins will not save you

Jesus will definitely not save you

Virtue will not save you

Solar panels will not save you

Fame and fortune will not save you

Your super-comfortable Sharper Image styrofoam pellet zafu will not save you

Not even Constance’s love will save you

Hearing aids will not save you

Expatriation will not save you,

Degrees and credentials will not save you

Hope will not save you,

Extended orgasms will not save you,

The Great Mother’s arms will not save you

No amount of vitamins and supplements will save you

Art will not save you

Meditations on grasping and clinging will not save you

Giddy episodes of gratitude will not save you

Anti-oxidants will not save you

Your grandchildren will not save you

Your reputation will not save you

The people’s eventual uprising will not save you

Extraterrestrial entities will not save you no matter how high their vibrational level

Beauty will not save you

Modesty will not save you

Invisibility will not save you

Hilarity will not save you

Clever turns of phrase will not save you

The esteem of your colleagues will not save you

Green tea and flax oil will not save you

Being debt-free will not save you.

Hope for one more sunrise will not save you.

Many of the assembled beings on that day, hearing those words and taking them to heart, immediately attained unsurpassed, complete, perfect life-as-it-is, trembling and all.

Barton Stone – 2004

Missing Mind

Missing Mind

Where were you this morning

when the dawn rose red

with promise for everyone

Except you?

Were you lost in missing mind,

Missing out and

certainly not on time?

The friends you most wish for

met without you?

Surely one of them must have tried to call and

Where were you?

Did you miss the deal, the mark, the hot stock tip?

Did you miss the party, Saturday’s trip?

Your flight?  Your luggage?

That sunrise,

It was really amazing, the chance of a life-time,

You had to have been there.

And when you make your way back,

As you always have done so far,

The blossoming day is ready for you,

Perfect and complete,

As it has always been.

Barton Stone – 2007

I want my place with the people of this planet.

I want to be overcome by whales, to be

scrutinized to the bone by yellow wolf eyes.

I want oak roots to touch my edges

with tales of field and forest.

And when this dry tide begins to turn,

when this pride sloughs off in

some wild breath,


I want to reach into your human

chest with my own, then

breach and dive deep

into our blue


Barton Stone – 2006


Shall I save them (as I have vowed?)

Or allow them to save me?

Shall I free them

Protect them?

Awaken with them?

All various translations of the bodhisattva vows.

Should I join organizations devoted to them?

Plant butterfly bushes?

Build bird houses?

Adopt orphans?

And if I and they are the same, what does it matter anyway?

Who is adopting whom?

And you, my beloved,

What shall I do with you: singular, solitary and unique,

After adoring you and the rampant beings

That blossom all around you?

Barton Stone 2005