“I can lean the flame in my heart into your life and turn all that frightens you

into holy incense ash.”

—Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky


The poem

is a prayer—

tendril, wind machine,

shimmer, plough—

how we cling


to the words, little

paupers, poor saviors.

It sputters

and burns,

touching us here,


singeing the tips

of our fingers, our


and yet

what houses us


(most deeply)

is what we don’t


what we refuse

to enclose


with our little word-


what flies out

every time.

We are most


set free

by what we can’t

catch. And where

i try to reach

and miss, where i



fall short

fall flat


You are

most radiant


there You meet

and touch



and again



my body

to ash,

to holy


– Maxima Kahn

First published in the journal Poem.

Time to Forgive

Time to Forgive

(This is one of my journal musings followed by a valuable life practice added to the end. Hence, the intimate, personal style of the beginning.)

Time to forgive the horrors of the past, the wounds I carry:  CalArts, my parents, an  unforgiving world, our sick culture. Time to love all our inadequacies, frailties, slights, wounds, mistakes, the human drama. Time to say, You were wounded, I am wounded, we are all wounded, we are blind and deaf and confused and hurt, and we don’t know what we’re doing. We make mistakes. We long for love, peace, forgiveness.

I long to forgive it all, release the past, be deeply free, be love now, be peace-not namby pamby, but truly – to truly forgive – to say to all of it, my life, the people, places, things: I love you. I am sorry for my part in it. Please forgive me. Thank you for your gifts. To start unconditionally embracing this world of horror and woe, beauty and wonder-unconditional friendliness, kindness to it all. A kind heart is at peace, and I long for peace-to be kind to the whole mess, my mess, our mess-what a mess!


In this musing above, I talk about the Hawaiian practice of Ho’oponopono (which I am NOT an expert in). My understanding of this practice is that you say to anything or anyone in your life where there is suffering, “I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.” And you keep doing this, so that you can be released of suffering, they can be released of suffering, healing and wholeness can be restored. You keep doing it so you can feel it and mean it deeply and be a part of the healing of our world.

How does it work? I’m no authority on this, but my understanding is this. You think of somewhere where there is suffering, maybe it’s something in yourself that you don’t like or struggle with, maybe it’s another person you know who is suffering that you are concerned about, maybe it’s our economic system or the ecological conditions of the world. And first you say, “I love you.” This step is about embracing of all of it, the full catastrophe, as Jon Kabat-Zinn called it, really embracing it with love. Not just accepting it, but embracing and loving it as it is and sending it love.

I believe if you can truly do this step, that is all you would ever need to do, and you would create profound healing within yourself and rippling out from you to countless other beings in your world.

But since, as humans, most of us struggle to truly love the suffering, the ugliness, the brutality, the lies and so forth, we have three more steps in this practice to help us and to deepen the healing and blessing.

The next steps are “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” They go together, as any sincere apology, needs to include a request for forgiveness, not a demand but a sincere request. “I’m sorry. Please forgive me” is about taking the radical step of acknowledging our part in the suffering, no matter how unrelated to us or distant from us it may seem, no matter how much it appears to be someone else’s fault and not our own. We take radical responsibility for our part in it, our contribution to the situation, the suffering, the lack of well-being.

For instance, if someone we love is ill, we simply say “I’m sorry. Please forgive me,” opening to the fact that we are all one, and I am somehow a part of your illness. Nothing is separate. I’m sorry for how I have consciously or unconsciously contributed to this. I’m truly sorry for my part in this. Please forgive me for anything I may have done, said, thought, however I may have contributed to this. And at the same time, we need to forgive ourselves.

And the last step is “Thank you.” What a beautiful, important step. In this step, we give thanks for any blessings, seen or unseen, any learning, any gifts whether they are hidden or obvious to us now, that have come or will come from this situation, for however it is helping us to grow or heal or shine or who knows? Thank you. Thank you for the gift of being alive, of being part of the whole mess.

Try it with something small first and then expand. Try it with someone you want to help. Try it with something in yourself you want to heal. Try it on aspects of your body you reject. Try it on world conditions you don’t like or accept, that you wish were different. Try it on everything. Also, I find it can be helpful with practices like this to decide in advance, I’m going to do this for 5 minutes or 10 minutes and then let it go, or another way I like to do this is while on a walk. See what happens and let me know.

To your inner freedom, maxima

Stopping Efforting, Finding Ease

Stopping Efforting, Finding Ease

Stopping Efforting, Finding Ease

I am exploring stopping without stopping, letting things move in me that have no name, watching the mind’s hunger for fear and control, tuning again and again to the body’s language, the quiet of the heart.

What does it mean to stop without stopping, to continue engaging with life, taking actions, doing what is needed, but from an inner place of stopping the efforting, the anxious drive, the grasping, from an inner place of resting, of pausing, of listening?

I am exploring the possibility of moving from a different place; rather than from fear, control, efforting, I am exploring leaning back in myself, listening, waiting, releasing, being moved, being danced by Life.

I am exploring the body’s wisdom, the heart’s knowing. Mostly, the mind is very loud, full of chatter, endlessly proposing new strategies, calculating numbers, marketing fear to me.

So, in this transitional place, where the despair and panic I was feeling have drained out of me and i endeavor to see through the mind’s chatter with heart, i find myself very tired, depleted by the fear-mongering and its abuses of body and soul.

I use the mind to question the mind, to find more openness, spaciousness, peace.

Meanwhile, the architecture of our contemporary way of life and my own habits within it crumbles a bit. I wait for collapse eagerly. Something crumbles and erodes inside that has been trying to hold me up too long, with damaging results, despite also the apparent accomplishments.

Today on my walk as the mind proposed one solution after another, i kept stopping each train of thought and asking, What if i simply listen and let life show me the way?

Now i take time to walk, write, pause, stop, but also to see how i can act without efforting, taking the next action that presents itself. I do my best to listen to what i can actually do with love and ease.

Can i stop efforting now? That’s my inquiry. And really staying in the now as the only moment there is.

– Maxima

The World as Art

This morning dried flowers scattered on the porch.

One yellow dandelion pokes through a hole

in the side of a metal can ­– humor irony beauty

reclaiming the world once again – so simply.


The day is cooler but has the warm dry

smell of summer. The wind an audible

exhale in the trees. And me trying

to order it all into lines –


the uncontainable. I never win.

But at times i inch a step closer

to what’s true inside of things – the crazy

disarrangement of wild grasses


a pattern so delicate and right

it could be a Japanese ink drawing

only better – the continuous

art-making of the world. I bow to it.

—© Maxima Kahn, published in The Jewish Women’s Literary Annual

The Grieving and the Dying

The grieving and the dying

just go on and on. It’s amazing

what a life they have,

this life of loss.


Neither right nor wrong,

this fucking heart.

Who knew the story

would be all about pain?


Who knew

you’d be asked

to give everything, then

give more?


How is it that the birds

singing and chirping this morning

are so unconcerned by this,

do not even know


loss’s name? How could humans

ever think they are better

than the animals, a life

of suffering superior to a life of song?


You’d do me a great kindness,

you gods, to let me come back

with flight and music as my only goals.

They are my only real goals now—


but i don’t reach them

with the ease the birds do—

and then there’s love—

that’s the one, the hook


where i am caught and the flesh

around my mouth tears,

and i bite down harder,

unwilling to let go.

—© Maxima Kahn, published in Tule Review


All night the ravens


a black crying.

They seem to hold worlds

we can never touch.

Something akin to wisdom.

Not perfection.

That doesn’t have any life in it.


It’s the woods where the breathing


where Night

well, you know.


At some point you have to come back

to your own house.

All the spells of the others

you have to leave them

even the apple

the old witch gave you.

You’re not going to wake up

to salvation.

You know that by now.


But inside

where the cupboards are filled with the familiar

where loneliness languishes in narrow beds


there is something

you can build with.


There isn’t any choice about where you start.

It’s always the beginning

small and limited as it seems.

One rose in a cup,

the mouse that’s been eating the cereal,

laundry muttering in a basket.



After that i can’t say.

The woods are dark,

here is the gate

i have not gone beyond.


Yet here too

i have whispered

i am not afraid

and it is my own amazement

crying me to sleep.

Sestina of a Dancer

for Susan


painful mirror

your body

is my departure

i watch you dance

as light

pours into a glass


flawless as glass

terrible mirror

woman of light

this body


our departure


that even now departs

as brightness from the glass

a shadow dance

across the mirror

of your body

fractile as light


and turning in the light

that already departs

your body

a thin glass


the dance


of shadows dancing

with light

falling in mirrors

of arrival and departure

on the glass

wall of our bodies


this body


fractures as glass

filled with too much light

i watch your departure

in the mirror


a body of light

in this departing dance

as the mirror turns clear glass


—Maxima Kahn, first published in Rattlesnake Review

The Heart

Impossible organ,

beating and pumping our blood river

to some unknown sea.


It doesn’t take much, a small glitch

in the inevitable rhythm,

weatherbreak, wind-howl

and we are set adrift.


We long for order,

but the heart

with its incessant

thump-thump  thump-thump

has its own music, its own reasons,

if you can call them that.


Today the sun rises gold as it always does,

washes the buildings across the way with autumnal light,

and as the squalling of birds mingles with the morning traffic,

the heart wakes too into its own song,

its own colors and weathers,


the way the wind

animates the leaves outside the window,

the way red catches the eye.

—© Maxima Kahn

Published in the Nevada County Poetry Series Anthology and in Sacred Fire Magazine


The Fifth Helpful Spirit: Play!

The Fifth Helpful Spirit: Play!

Oh my gosh, if you know me at all, you know that this spirit is the nearest and dearest to my heart. I’m on a life mission to get everyone playing again, rediscovering the immense value and gifts of play. It’s my dream to get the world leaders to take off their shoes and watches and roll around and play with finger paints and so on. And it’s my dream that we all have permission and time to truly play, be silly, have fun, take risks, experiment, collaborate, fall down, make messes.

So, last but not least, the spirit of Play reminds us not to take ourselves and our path of dreams so seriously, to hold it all lightly and with joy, curiosity and wonder, as the mystery of our Life unfolds and our Dreams reveal the secret gifts they hold for us.

We need to be able to fall down, make mistakes, look silly on the path to our Dreams, so the spirit of Play is a big help here, letting us also play dress up and try on new selves.

Bringing in Play helps us to use our Imaginations and Enthusiasm, keeps us open and available (Invitation) and makes space for Inspiration to strike, so Play is a powerful helper spirit on the path of Dreams, bringing in all the other spirits. And it certainly makes the journey more fun!

Think of a dream you have for your life or one you are working towards. How can you play towards it instead? How could you bring the spirit of Play in, more lightness, more openness, more wonder, more ridiculousness? How could you allow the child self, with its extraordinary wisdom and grace, to guide you toward your Dream? How could you let the path become fun, instead of heavy, hard work, serious, difficult?

Even if you don’t know the answers to those questions yet, just asking them with a spirit of wonder and openness will help invite Play to be present. Ask the spirit of Play as if it were an angel or guide these questions and listen for the answers or draw them with crayon or dance them. Then tell me what you got. I’d love to hear from you.

To your playful, joyful life, maxima

The The Fourth Helpful Spirit: Inspiration

The The Fourth Helpful Spirit: Inspiration

So far we have been introduced to the helpful spirits of Invitation, Imagination and Enthusiasm. I’d love to hear what opens up for you in playing with these towards your dreams. How do things shift? What do you discover? Email me and let me know.

With the spirit of Inspiration, you allow yourself to breathe in Spirit–that’s what inspiration literally means–you breathe in the Life Force, you breathe in guidance, and light your way to your Dream with inspired vision and feeling.

So, begin just by breathing more deeply, letting yourself connect to that wind, that spirit, that breath that wants to enliven you, breathe through you. Let go and get curious and open to what’s most alive in you now.

Inspiration is about connecting to the force and field of all life and tapping into that powerful feeling of being inspired about your Dream. This is where you let the dream come to you, the dream that’s already living inside of you wanting to be expressed through you, and you let the contours of that dream, the feeling of living it, the details come to you. You don’t try to force them or make them up. You breathe them in from the infinite field of all life to which you are intimately connected, so that you feel lit up from within, you feel excited and illuminated, you feel inspired.

To cultivate the helpful spirit of Inspiration, you need to relax. So, as I said, it helps to start by taking some deep breaths, let yourself find a comfortable position for your body, a comfortable place to be, and close your eyes. Let go of trying to control your reality for a few minutes, let go of needing to know the “how” of making your dream come true. Open yourself to the wind that blows, the spirit moving through you. Listen, feel, touch that spirit. What wants to born in you now? What lights you up when you think of it?

If nothing comes, try going out to a windy spot and sit in the wind and just open to it. Ask the wind for help connecting to your most inspired self and to what wants to come through you now. But you have to be willing to let go of the obsession with “how.” That will come later.

The continued feeling of Inspiration is important on the path to your dream, so you know that the Dream is one that lights you up and feels right and true and good and doesn’t become a “should” dream or a drudgery somewhere along the way. Keep tapping in to that open-minded, open-hearted place, willing to receive new inspiration, information, guidance, feeling, support. Let me know how it goes.

I’m standing for the fulfillment of your heartfelt dreams, maxima


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