Goodnight Moon

Beloved, tell me –

Why do you come
only when I
orphan my ambitions?

Why do you show
only when all hope
has fled?

Why, Honeyed Moon,
will you meet me
only on my funeral bed?

And, tell me –

Why won’t the dead
stay dead?

Ivan Granger

Contemporary Spiritual Poets

Commentary By Ivan Granger

 Early in 2002, I spent several weeks almost continuously in a blissful, egoless state. I had been dead; that is, Ivan had been dead – though I had been more alive than ever before. This radiant, silent state of no self is what is often referred to in mystic poetry as being dead. This is what Paul the Apostle meant when he wrote, “I die daily.”
     I don’t want to suggest that during that time I remained perfectly seated in that egoless state. Some days, Ivan flickered in and out. But, in general, it remained a consistent experience.
     After perhaps two months in that state, I recognized that I was no longer consistently in it. Ivan was back. He seemed real to me once again. He seemed to be me again. For various reasons, my identity had become stuck in the idea of Ivan again.
     The seat I had reclined in so comfortably now took effort to climb into. Some days I couldn’t even reach it.
     My normal non-dualistic perception of the shining Self became the dualistic perspective of devotee once again. My poetry took on the plaintive tone of a jilted and desperate lover.
It was during this time that poems like Goodnight Moon and Empty Dawn were composed.

Beloved, tell me –

     In many of my poems I refer to the Divine as a distinct, externalized Person or Presence. Often it is simply an artistic device that acknowledges the limitations of language in speaking of love and devotion. Language tends to conceive of love in terms of relationship, and relationship implies something outside of oneself.
     My experience is that the Divine is One, the Divine is Self. Even though there is no “other,” there is overwhelming love.
     In order to communicate this immense love, I often refer to the Divine as Mother or Beloved or some “other” relationship of profound love.
     In Goodnight Moon, however, the Beloved referred to is more properly perceived as separate, a distant, missed lover.

Why do you come
Only when I
Orphan my ambitions?

     I found during this time of struggle that the blissful state only embraced me when I let go of all plans, all goals, all aspirations. It is not that I couldn’t make some plan for the day, organize my daily work, that sort of thing. What I found was that I had slipped back into a reflexive pattern of consciously and unconsciously mapping out the activities of my life in ways that quietly reinforced the idea of who Ivan was.
     These ambitions were the things that slowly gave Ivan substance again, allowing that false sense of self to take root again and begin to grow.
     The more I let go, the more I stopped laying down plans, the more I refrained from anticipating every possible turn of life, the more Ivan would fade and the bliss would once more shine through.
     When Ivan completely, though temporarily winked out of existence, there was nothing for this gridwork of ideas to cling to. When the ambitions are orphaned, and the Beloved comes.

Why do you show
Only when all hope
Has fled?

     These ambitions are rooted in a self-deluding hope, the hope that the ego self, which is fundamentally unreal, a mental construct, will be able to prove itself to be real through some action.
     Once this false hope has fled, it is as if all of the muscles of the spiritual body can relax for the first time – and the natural bliss can finally flow unhindered throughout the awareness.

Why, Honeyed Moon,
Will you meet me
Only on my funeral bed?

     The Beloved is honeyed because the experience of bliss is sweet. When you relax deeply into bliss, it becomes almost physical; bliss takes on a taste that can be compared to honey, though it is much more sublime and expansive than any sensory experience.
     In this poem, the Beloved is the moon because my experience during this difficult time waxed and waned. My union with the Beloved was, at times full, but sometimes thin or hidden completely for a time. And all I wanted was to return to the blissful bed of spiritual marriage.
     Yet, I found when Ivan “died,” the Beloved rose in soft shining glory once more.

And, tell me –

Why won’t the dead
Stay dead?

     This is the real question. When the little self dies, the rush of joy is so complete that nothing else can compare to it. This “death” is the highest good, you only want to remain that way.
     Yet I had to admit that I hadn’t received the blessing of final formless freedom from the ego self. On a certain level I could say that Ivan had died. Yet the ego hadn’t remained dead. Ivan had returned.
     So, why won’t the dead stay dead?
     What I am now discovering is that there are typically two experiences of the liberating spiritual death.
     A few radiant ones step into the blissful state and, with great poise, completely let the ego fall away.
     More typically, though, one gradually becomes accustomed to the death of the ego through repeated dips into these selfless, blissful waters until the final attachments release of their own accord. The ghost of the little self returns until you have no more desire to call it back from its place of rest.
     This is where my practice currently resides, in the graveyard and the birthing room – letting go of Ivan more completely and learning more and more not to reflexively call him back. This way the Divine can shine through more and more clearly.

     On a certain level you can say that the ego does not cease to exist when it “dies.” There is still value in cultivating a social construct or personality to better interact with people and the world. But you no longer identify with it. You aren’t stuck within it. You constantly and intentionally create and recreate it to suit the needs of the moment.
     In other words, there is still an ego function, but no real ego.
     The ego switches from being a noun to a verb. It is no longer a thing, it is something you do.

Reproduced with Permission Ivan Granger