Tribute to Olive Colón

Our dear vajra sister Olive Colón passed away on June 13, 2016.


Our dear vajra sister Olive Colón passed away on June 13, 2016. Members of the Tucson Sangha, along with neighbors and friends, were by her side, assisting her through her decline and passing.

Poems & Visions: The Mind of a Retreatant
by Olive Colón

Olive had one last project that she worked on over the last few months: her poetry that she wrote over 21 years as retreat master at Karme Choling. She wanted this to be an offering to people who gave to the two groups she loved: Nalanda Translation Committee and Marpa Foundation. Please read her words below to learn

Here are Olive’s words and wishes regarding how to make a donation and receive Poems & Visions: The Mind of a Retreatant as an ebook:

Poems & Visions is a collection of 185 poems I wrote between 1977 and 1998, while I was retreat master at Karme Choling. Most were written while I was actually in solitary retreat, thus violating a principal retreat rule—I certainly do not recommend that any retreatant follow my example.

The e-book is available to anyone who makes a donation to either the Nalanda Translation Committee or the Marpa Foundation. No specific amount is required. Be as generous as possible, or as frugal as necessary—you’ll still receive the complete e-book. I have no money to leave to my two favorite dharma groups, so I offer my mind in this form, and hope that invoking the generosity principle raises enough money to help them continue and expand their dharma activities. In his autobiographical essay, “The Vomit of a Mad Tyger,” Allen Ginsberg wrote:
. . . if you can show your mind it reminds people that they have got a mind. If you can catch yourself thinking, it reminds people they can catch themselves thinking. If you have a vivid moment that’s more open and compassionate, it reminds people that they have those vivid moments.

By showing your mind as a mirror, you can make a mirror for other people to recognize their own minds and see familiarity and not feel that their minds are unworthy of affection or appreciation. Basically, poetics is appreciation of consciousness, appreciation of our own consciousness.

Allen’s courage inspired me to make this offering of my mind. I hope it inspires others to taste the delicate and pungent flavors of meditation practice in solitary retreat.

To make a donation to the Nalanda Translation Committee, please click the following link and specify that it is a donation in honor of Olive Colón: Nalanda Translation Committee

To make a donation to Marpa Foundation, please click on the following link and write in a “note about your donation” that it is in honor of Olive Colón: Marpa Foundation

You will receive the e-book from either Larry Mermelstein (Nalanda Translation Committee) or Elizabeth Callahan (Marpa Foundation) by e-mail.

I was just looking through the announcements and startled to see Jane Cohen’s beautiful picture of Olive. I felt I was in her presence and was enjoying it but then I wondered why is this here . . . Olive and I lived at Karme-Choling during teh 70’s, 80’s, and early 90’s at the same time. Always seeming to be somewhat distant and slightly scary to me at the beginning, we became occasional chattees on the porch respecting our appreciation of silence both. Olive offered me her wisdom without any sense of her or it being extraordinary — truly as if it was just a mere chat. Later after becoming a Vajrayogini practitioner, she was teacher by example for me. Her movements embodied the groundlessness of our tradition, seeming so fluid and elusive. Not great friends, more like compatriots, I think. We once were driving to her home way too early in the morning and we became lost. While lost, we came upon 2 opossums fucking in the road at which moment she exclaimed “not in the road you idiots.” Driving around, we were still lost and knew it for fact more so when we came back to the same animals in the road and this time, one of the opossums seemed to have died and the other was trying to drag its mate off of the road by grabbing it with its teeth. It was a magical, deeply sad, poignant episode. We both were transfixed by them. She said that she liked them and that she found them to be so primitive. And then we got found and I left her off. Thank you Olive for your generosity and your profound understanding and love of the dharma. -Jill Sarkady



Olive, La Básqua, has left her old body,
Olive Colón has gone west once again.
Khadroma of starlight, Khadroma of rain,
Khadroma all rainbowed in sky clouds or blue.
Sun and shade have assailed you,
Passions compelled you,
Winds of change lined your face, tugged your braid;
Pulled at the dark hair (changed white, but a few).
Her life:

She strove, she strove;
AH, she strove in the shrineroom;
She struggled, she worked, she aspired.
She relaxed and soon knew she was sleeping.
She awoke in a cabin,
By fire in a cabin,
She woke up in the cabin with a 5 on the door.
She danced in the meadow.
She drank in the moonlight.
She yelled and she fought with the gyalgongs within.
She slipped through the woods on a path just she knew of;
When sleep, it eluded that mind of no rest.
Smoke wreathed her head as she sat on the porch
At the end of the westwing,
Mahamudra, the view.
Chokyong Chenmo:

She looked to the land and she looked to her heart.
She dowsed rivers, deep, there, within and without;
Rivers profound, there, though
Mired in blackness, quite darker than night.
She looked to her visions, amrita was flowing,
A fount of insight, pearly and bright;
Found currents gone deep there,
Gone honey-milked calm there.
Heart and land, not separate,
There in the woods:
Heart-land, still and not separate,
Beyond the old lu rock where covens of fairies
Once reveled and cheered.

She caught then, their feeling, brief, but expanding, as
She watched there, the deer run; they stole thru the woods;
As they soared over Jan’s fences,
She laughed, patting her knees,
Amused at their cunning, adoring their grace.
She gave them a saltlick,
Sang them a song,
She wished them a blessing.
She left them alone.

“Peaches. Peaches.” she called, “Breakfast, come home!”
Her daughters were wild ones, as wayward as she.
All her daughters, adopted; her golden chain,
And sons, there are many, to people the earth.
What did she give them, but just what they needed?
What should she give them, but steps to the dance.

“I learned this, you’ll learn, too; it’s rhythm, you follow?” Crystal ball and a mala, provisions for life – what did she

Give them, but steps to the dance.

Taking plants and stone pieces, she placed them with care,
Taking the mosses she gathered for there
To lay on stone bareness, for
The path she was making, all karma and green.

“Zangmo,” he’d called her, when he spoke to her ear.
“Say this, times a million, say that, even more.”
“I know you can do this. Don’t doubt me. You can.”
In his eyes, as she saw them, serious as clay,
Steady as starlight;
Transcended from pain.

Her liquor-mind grasped at his English,
Her mouth gasped at his breath.

“I’ve tried to love,” she told him.
“You do,” was his answer, “It’s the gold at your core.”

“I have need,” she requested, emotions all bare.
“Come; do,” he requited. “My heart is your home.”

“Your truth is my shelter.”
“Understand!” he demanded, “Know even more!”

“When I’ve done?”
“No fears,” came his answer,
“Your voice is your fortune. Your joy is to share.”

-Deanna Dana