May 16 2012

Stephen Levine – Millennium Blessing

Published by Ivan M. Granger at 8:53 am under Poetry

Millennium blessing
by Stephen Levine

There is a grace approaching
that we shun as much as death,
it is the completion of our birth.

It does not come in time,
      but in timelessness
when the mind sinks into the heart
and we remember.

It is an insistent grace that draws us
to the edge and beckons us to surrender
safe territory and enter our enormity.

We know we must pass
      beyond knowing
and fear the shedding.

But we are pulled upward
through forgotten ghosts
      and unexpected angels,

And there is nothing left to say
but we are That.

And that is what we sing about.

spacer — from Breaking the Drought: Visions of Grace, by Stephen Levine

/ Photo by DCist /

Oh, I like this poem, don’t you?

That opening statement is so true–

There is a grace approaching
that we shun as much as death,
it is the completion of our birth.

Most of us spend our entire lives avoiding that inner opening. Most of the time it is a quiet itch at the back of the awareness we squirm and turn away from. And when it really presses on us, it can inspire terror, as if we were facing death.

That’s the thing: That oh-so-sweet moment of awakening is only sweet on the other side of the threshold. But to approach it is to face death. It is the death of our old world view, the death of patterned awareness, the death of our limited notion of who we are. All we thought ourselves to be stops — and so it is a sort of death. To feel that grace approaching, to welcome it, requires a wild sort of courage.

It is an insistent grace that draws us
to the edge and beckons us to surrender
safe territory and enter our enormity.

It requires courage, and surrender. We have this idea that spiritual opening is a terrible effort — No. That unfolding wants to occur within us. The only effort is to let go of our endless strategies to halt the process. We all feel it, a gentle prodding to let the heart open, to know ourselves truly, to be present and radiate ourselves into the world.

It is insistent, trying to happen within us. Call it grace, if you like. The question presented to us: Do we courageously accept that invitation or not?

It does not come in time,
      but in timelessness
when the mind sinks into the heart
and we remember.

For those of us who live in contemporary society, how hard is it to stop the ticking of the clock? From such an early age we internalize the sense of time and progress and deadlines. Yet, in doing so, we forget that these are all just concepts, just one way to understand the unfolding of being and experience. That sense of time is a powerful tool for doing and accomplishment, but it isn’t inherently “real.” It doesn’t have much to do with who or what we are. There is a flow of days and months, but they are the surface current of a much deeper timelessness.

I remember in my 20s trying to figure out what timelessness was. I sought to live in remote places. I got rid of the television (to which, as a child raised on sitcoms in the 1970s, I had a serious addiction). I spent a lot of time in nature. I slowly learned to let go of the endless buzzing of my thoughts. This might sound like some brutal endurance sport, but that wasn’t it at all. I wanted to feel what life was without the filters of the 20th century mind set and 20th century time. I wanted to know who I was in the space of timelessness.

It’s fascinating how we use the hyperactivity of thought to define the world, to frame our perception of the world, and in some ways to limit our notion of the world. The other thing about thought: It creates time. When thought settles down, we discover timelessness. And as the poet says, the mind comes to rest, not in the head, but in the heart.

And we remember. It is not through intellection but through stillness that we remember. Look at the word “remember.” Re-member. To remember is to finally see how apparently separated reality actually fits together in a single body. Discursive thought can only ever examine pieces of the whole. To remember is to have the full vision of Wholeness, as things actually are. But this vision is found in timelessness and stillness, through the quiet mind unfiltered.

And there is nothing left to say
but we are That.

And that is what we sing about.

Have a beautiful day!

spacer Stephen Levine

US (1937 – )
Secular or Eclectic

Many of you may know Stephen Levine as the author of several classic books in the field of conscious living and dying — including A Gradual Awakening, Who Dies?, Healing into Life and Death, and A Year to Live. He is also the coauthor, with his wife Ondrea Levine, of the acclaimed Embracing the Beloved: Relationship as a Path of Awakening.

But I was surprised to discover that Stephen Levine is also a poet. As with the rest of his work, Stephen Levine’s poetry reflects a deep attention, a recognition of the immensity of the still moment and the still heart, and the opportunities given to us as we approach that unavoidable mystery, death. His collection of poetry, “Breaking the Drought: Visions of Grace” is wonderful meditation on life and death, the known and the unknown, being and becoming, and how awareness flows through them.

Stephen and Ondrea Levine live in the mountains of New Mexico.


I’ve been told that some of Stephen Levine’s earlier work can be found in the Oracle (eg. vol 1, no 9, 1967) and other underground San Francisco papers from the Sixties. A treasure hunt for collectors…

More poetry by Stephen Levine

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Stephen Levine – Millennium Blessing”

  1. # Diana bonyhadion 16 May 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Beautuful selection, love your exposition. It is all about strong into grace, opening ourselves to the worr if oir timeless divine nature. Thank you. Like you, I do know and love stephen, but did not know of his poetry.

    Shalom & namaste,

  2. # Billon 16 May 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Thank you, Ivan.

    This poem captures the essence of my inner life for the last two years. And for me, it look at long time to get there–a long time. At 60, I was called out of my 30-year marriage into a life where I dance with/dodge/embrace this way of being in the world. I’ve been connected with someone who has her own version of this. It makes for a powerful kind of love and learning. I feel very blessed to have this inner gate open during this life, and feel the suffering of those who have been unable to taste this water.

    I have pasted below a poem I wrote about this–it deliberately mirrors a Robert Bly piece called The Face in the Toyota. I wrote the mirror image to capture for myself what life and love are like on this side and then the other side of the ego-gate.



    The Face in the Honda

    Suppose you see a face in a Honda
    One day, and you fall in love with that face,
    And it is Her, and the world rushes by
    Like water down a Virginia creek.

    And you fall slowly to the softening ground
    And you can’t tell God from a blade of grass.
    And your life is changed, except that now you
    Are awake to more than ever before;

    And what your new eyes see fulfills your days,
    And you are buoyed up, and your family
    Expands and is more dear, and the woman in the Honda
    Becomes part of a new and radiant world.

    And now the grass becomes grass again,
    And the nature of each thing glows from within.

    -Bill Prindle

  3. # Carol Burnson 18 May 2012 at 4:12 am

    Thank you Ivan,

    This poem is beautiful. I did not know Levine was a poet. Poetry is beautiful.
    As always your commentary was helpful, full of insight, helps to expand the mind
    to take in the beautiful poem. God’s peace and healing. Carol

  4. # Mariaon 18 May 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Thanks so for putting this out and your commentary Ivan. So appropriate…

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