Holistic Divorce Counseling

Holistic Divorce Counseling Nicole S. Urdang, M.S., NCC, DHM, LMHC. Free support, resources, and comfort for all life's issues and transitions.

The Gift of Disillusion June 30, 2009

 

I want to talk to you about the gift of disillusion and its ultimate reward: accepting life on life’s terms.

 

Clinging to illusions starts early. We all want to believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and magic.  They soothe and bolster our spirits. Of course, we are loath to relinquish them. Even as adults, choosing fantasy, or what we want to think is true, is far more alluring than reality. Unless something is hitting us upside the head, it’s unlikely we will jump at the chance to add extra upheaval, stress, and angst to an already full life by rushing out to embrace it.

 

Facing how things are often means riding an emotional roller coaster, but that’s because we aren’t prepared for it.  We are fed a romanticized diet and when reality rears its head we want to escape.  The escape might be into addiction, another person, depression, anger, or anxiety.

 

I have an old New Yorker cartoon on my waiting room bulletin board that shows a woman sitting on the couch with her husband hanging from a noose. The balloon above her head says: “Happy darling?”  The title of the cartoon is: “We see what we want to see.”  The problem is, sooner or later, our illusions get pulverized by reality.  Most of us respond with disbelief, anger, depression, and anxiety in the face of these revelations, but there’s goodness hidden in all that pain.

 

How could disillusion be so great when it feels so earth-shattering?  If you believe the truth will set you free (assuming it doesn’t kill you first), you will prefer embracing reality, because illusion ultimately leads to false expectations and misery.  With practice and experience, recognizing illusions becomes easier, and choosing to face things head-on less daunting.  You can even welcome challenges as opportunities to develop tolerance, patience, and self-acceptance.  That doesn’t mean you will gracefully navigate every boulder in your path.  You may kick it, scream at its blocking your way, or try to walk in the opposite direction.  The only thing that matters is using everything as a catalyst for self-compassion. Paradoxically, that’s the way towards greater resilience.  Avoidance, or its opposite: being strong, which often involves denying your true feelings, lead to feeling overwhelmed and self-downing.

 

Of course, clinging to illusions is addictive.  It’s fantasy land, but like drug addiction, short-term gain ends up causing long-term pain. Unlike addiction, however, I don’t think people consciously choose illusion. We are wired to want what we want when we want it, and when we think we’ve found it why search for evidence that it is a mirage?

 

There probably isn’t much you can do to prevent some illusions, especially in new situations and with new people; but, you can face disillusionment when it first appears rather than pushing it under the rug and having it come back to take a bigger bite out of you later on. That’s easy to say and hard to do, as facing reality is daunting. However, it can become a practice, like yoga, prayer, or eating breakfast.  You can seek out opportunities to love reality.  Start small.  The bus is late, but you decide it’s OK. Your boss is in a bad mood and you let it roll off your back. The puppy pees on your new rug, you calmly clean it up.  Busses will be late, bosses have their own issues, and puppies aren’t 100% well trained. Don’t you think you would enjoy life more if you could embrace what is rather than rail against it?

 

It’s one thing with a puppy, and quite another if you find out your spouse has been lying to you, hiding money, or having an affair.  Those are far bigger issues.  Just for a minute, try to imagine you are over the betrayal.  You accept that someone you trusted deeply disappointed you. Doesn’t that require a certain amount of newfound comfort with disillusion?  Isn’t it accepting reality?  Don’t you feel some measure of peace?

 

Loving what is affords you the benefit of fewer unrealistic expectations, as well as the ability to see with greater clarity.  That doesn’t mean you can never fall in love, but you will understand the lack of perspective is temporary.  The ability to ignore things you don’t like about someone, even a mate, is time limited.  Knowing reality will rear its head and intrude on your fantasy enables you to take disillusion in stride when it appears, rather than be rocked to your core.

 

How is this all so wonderful?  For one thing, it might decrease the divorce rate.  We are fed a steady diet of romance and “happily ever after” from the time we read Beauty and The Beast, through adulthood.  This sets us up for a slew of unrealistic expectations. While there are plenty of reality based books and movies that could engender more realistic expectations, most of us like to think we’re the exception to the rule.  Our marriage will be better, more loving, more honest, faithful, etc.  What a crock.  We may achieve a more loving liaison, but humans, being the fallible blobs of protoplasm we are, make mistakes.  Some make more, some fewer.  The trick is to know yourself (what you can live with, what you want to avoid), and expect imperfection.

 

Paradoxically, people who grow up in toxic or dysfunctional families are at greater risk for creating unrealistic expectations because the perennial six year old inside wants to believe in fairy tale endings.  Not to mention the desire to have a perfect life where people treat each other with kindness, patience, and understanding.  I am all for that, but to expect it 100% of the time only sets one up for disillusionment.

 

The best thing we could do for our relationships is to tell someone, early on, all about our foibles, worst traits, quirks, idiosyncrasies, and weaknesses.  That way, there would be far less room for disappointment and disillusion.   It’s a paradigm shift worth imagining.  Try it on a first date, you’ll be surprised how much more believable your good qualities suddenly become.

 

In the meantime, welcoming, embracing, and even loving reality strengthens our ability to roll with life’s punches.  At the end of the day, we may not like what is true for us now, but we can handle it without illusions, delusions, and unrealistic expectations.  How empowering is that?

 

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

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Embracing Failure June 9, 2009

Filed under: embracing failure — chocophile @ 2:36 pm

 

A few weeks ago, our minister was welcoming a new baby into the congregation.  He asked us all to help this child fail safely.  What a great concept.

 

This fit so perfectly with one of my pet issues: the importance of nurturing compassion for oneself.  It reminded me of a sermon I heard about a dozen years ago on how we should all take a couple of weeks off from self-improvement.  How healing and kind; so different from the usual self-flagellation we humans practice.

 

I began to wonder what would happen if we were re-wired to think that failure was healthy, useful, and a welcome part of life?  What if we actually thought there’s no such thing as failure?  Of course, we can fail to stop at a red light, fail to remember someone’s birthday, or fail an exam; but, I am referring to all those other experiences we deem failures that are opportunities to learn and grow.

 

How could there be no real failure?  If we decide to view every mistake as contributing to our highest good.  If we embrace each as an opportunity to expand our consciousness, and our awareness of our impact on the world.

 

I can’t tell you how many times people in the throes of a break-up tell me they failed at keeping their marriage afloat.  First of all, it’s not a one-person deal.  Whatever the issues, it takes two to have them.  Of course, there are certain situations: lying, addictions, and criminal behavior, to name a few, that tip the scales; but, I can’t think of relationship in which there isn’t some measure of shared responsibility.  It may be 90-10 and not 50-50, but each of us contributes to the demise of a partnership. Second, maybe ending a marriage whose time has come is really a success? (How one ends it is a different story, as most marriages bite the dust amid ugly sparring matches between people who once claimed to love each other.

 

In our culture, where the notion of failure is tantamount to worthlessness, welcoming our mistakes is a radical concept.  But, if we see our failures as gifts we can move into greater self-awareness, self-acceptance, and behavioral change. Here’s a thought: if it’s generally believed that we grow through our failures and not our successes; perhaps, our failures should more aptly be called our successes, and vice-versa?  Aren’t what we now call failures the building blocks of wisdom and perspective?

 

Our language powerfully shapes our sense of who we are and how we fit into the grand scheme of things.  The word failure is so fraught with negative connotations.  I propose we shun it altogether. While we’re at it, let’s get rid of the word mistake. How many failures are secret chances to see the world, especially our own little corner of it, differently? And, how many mistakes are times we were less thoughtful or considerate of others?  Of course, we may mistakenly forget to turn off the oven, but those aren’t the mistakes to which I am referring. What would it be like if we limited our use of the word to times when we erroneously added two and two and came up with five? That’s a mistake.

 

As we deepen our compassion for ourselves we accept our human fallibility as a present from the universe. It helps us develop more patience and compassion for others, as well as some humility. Never a bad thing.

 

We are faced with a choice: do we want to conceptualize life in negative terms, like failures and mistakes, or positively, by thinking everything is an opportunity for personal development?  I am pretty confident the world would be a very different place if we re-framed our failures and mistakes as little bits of grace.

 

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

Your Highest Good June 8, 2009

 

With each passing day, I believe more deeply that everything is happening for our highest good.  The problem is we can feel mighty low in the moments, days, and months before that becomes apparent.

 

It’s quite a challenge to remember this optimistic aphorism when feeling lower than a snake’s wiggle, but you can do it.  One way is to enlist the help of a friend or relative as a coach. By sharing a positive world view (see other helpful ways of conceptualizing life from “ASK AND IT IS GIVEN” by Esther and Jerry Hicks, along with similar books promoting cognitive behavior therapy and positive psychology) he or she can help you climb out of the despair you may feel as you wend your way through the many faces of grief, or other negative emotions.  At first, you may get annoyed when someone even gently suggests that you have felt better and will feel better again, but bear with them. Let them point out how lousy you felt before, maybe even worse than you feel now, and you came out of it.  

 

Everything moves in cycles, including your moods.  One day you feel buoyant and the next you’re down in the dumps. It may take hours, days, or weeks for your spirits to lift, but they will. Having someone remind you can hasten the return to peace.

 

This may sound contradictory, but allowing yourself to feel what you are feeling accelerates its passing.  Acknowledging what triggers unwanted feelings enables you to home in on what you do want. The Hicks’ call negative states of mind and rotten experiences “contrast.”  They contend bad feelings help you become aware of what you don’t want. If you pay attention to what doesn’t work you can focus on what does.  

 

This isn’t new. Thousands of years ago yogis were practicing setting their intention on something. By zeroing in on what they wanted they were more likely to attain it.  In 1969, Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon-turned-psychiatrist, wrote a best seller called PSYCHO-CYBERNETICS. Essentially, it pointed out how people who were single-minded  in their dedication to a particular goal usually got it. Dr. Maltz’ positive psychology and focus on different ways to cultivate images of success are just as valid today as the yogi’s were millennia ago. (See Affirmations and Litany of Love)

 

As daunting and unbelievable as it sounds when you are feeling depressed, grief-stricken, furious, or any other negative emotion: You get to choose what you want to feel. Perhaps, in the throes of a crankocidal mood you won’t be able to access or own the thought that all this is happening for your highest good; but, with practice, you’ll come to believe it.  You may have to wait until your mood lifts, but each time you acknowledge how resilient you are you reinforce it. By reinforcing your adaptability you come to appreciate your own personal evolution. Eventually, this becomes second nature; so, when faced with a crisis or bad mood, you almost unconsciously turn yourself around.

 

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

Reflections on Your Relationship

 

 

There may be times after your break-up or divorce when you question why you are not with your ex.  Perhaps, you hear that s/he is with someone else, you have a lonely moment, or, suddenly, you remember a happy time.  It’s normal to wonder whether you made the right decision.  Very often, life-changing choices seem to come from nowhere, so you second guess them.  The truth is they are a heart-gut alliance that is based on years of decoding information and unconsciously amalgamating it. Yes, those decisions appear rash, but they aren’t. When you have moments of self-doubt, try re-balancing that inner emotional gyroscope by asking yourself some simple questions.

 

A little caveat before I share these with you.  You may not be ready do do this exploratory work.  It might be too soon, or too intense.  If it feels uncomfortable, or accesses overwhelming feelings, wait. You will be ready at some point.

 

Did your partner share your values? Does s/he now?

Did you really like him/her? Do you now?

Did you respect him/her? Do you now?

Was s/he trustworthy?

Do you truly want this person in your life today?

Do you remember the things that you didn’t like, love, or respect about him/her?

Can you recall times during the relationship when you had a bad gut feeling about something?

Was s/he truthful, dependable, kind?

Did you feel cherished?

Did you feel respected?

If there were children did you agree on how to raise them?

If your children are adults do you agree on how to relate to them now?

Did you fight fair or dirty?

Did your ex keep you from friends and/or family?

Did s/he encourage and support your interests, work, and leisure choices?

Were you sexually compatible?

Was there physical abuse?

Was there emotional battering?

Did you enjoy the same things? Would you now?

 

I didn’t ask if you loved your mate because I believe what Deepak Chopra, M.D. said many years ago about people living together for a long time. His idea was we share so many physically close moments our subatomic particles become intertwined.  It’s an extreme case of how you could be breathing a molecule that Mozart breathed centuries ago, but ramped up exponentially.  According to Deepak, we are connected more deeply every day we spend together.  So, a 20 year relationship is cellularly glued more strongly than one that lasted five years. This subatomic super glue is what feels physically painful when we separate.  It’s practically impossible to distinguish what’s the glue, what’s the love, and what’s the ego.  I believe your ability to love is not in question.  Your compatibility with your ex is.  The ego suffers loss when you divorce and that can be very difficult to separate from love and habit, whatever we may think.

 

What makes this process so confounding is that no one is all bad.  As I’ve said before, even Hitler was nice to his dog.  You will remember good times. If there weren’t any you would never have been with this soul in the first place.  

 

This process requires you to open your head and heart and to entertain some measure of inner contradiction.  It’s that cognitive dissonance that really twists us up inside.  As children we saw the world as black or white; now, in adulthood, we understand almost everything is on a continuum of gray.  But, when faced with our own emotional pain we want a simpler template.  Unfortunately, there isn’t one.  Perhaps, the hardest part of healing from a break-up or divorce is allowing all your truths.  There were good times and bad ones.  There was love, respect, and affection.  Why be so surprised, when you know that everything dies, to have your primary relationship change in ways that make it no longer tenable?  Yet, who isn’t rocked with shock when a relationship seems to suddenly bite the dust?  

 

You may be unable to parse out every detail that led to your break-up, but, gradually, things will come into focus and your decision will make sense.  The good and bad memories, the agreements and disagreements, truths and lies will coalesce into one multi-faceted experience.  It’s yours; own it, with all the raw edges and unknowns.  It has brought you to this point on your journey towards wholeness, your true self, and unconditional self-acceptance.

 

 

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

From “We” To “I” June 6, 2009

 

A subtle, but pervasive, aspect of divorce is the way your pronouns change: “we” becomes “I,” “our” becomes “mine,” and “us” becomes “me.” This may sound like a small grammatical dot on the horizon of your life, but it infiltrates many perceptions, like ownership, identity, and, the glaringly obvious state of singlehood.

 

Every time you switch from “we” to “I” you are working towards accepting your new single status, whatever is yours alone, and the emotional possessiveness of your children and/or pets. Our house is now my house, our kids are now my kids, we like that restaurant is now I like that place.  It’s an adjustment and will probably sound awkward at first.  Persevere, in time, you will come to see I, me, and my as empowering.

 

Like many aspects of divorce, this is part of the grief journey home to yourself. It’s an opportunity to appreciate your own resourcefulness, strength, and creativity in the face of deep disappointment, pain, and loss.  By reorienting yourself linguistically, you are practicing cognitive therapy.  Each time you say my house, for example, you are restructuring your world view.  Your pronoun no longer identifies you as part of a couple, but recasts you as a free soul with myriad choices and possibilities.

 

Naturally, the change doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a gradual process of noticing your automatic tendency to use words like, we, our, and us and correcting yourself.  As you build your awareness, and the pronouns that correctly reflect your new status become second nature, you surrender what was for what is.

 

We  are semantic creatures and language is inextricably woven into who we are.  Change the way you think and you change the way you feel. Of course, this doesn’t happen in the early stages of separation or divorce, but once the dust has settled.

 

The more ways you can lovingly embrace what is for you now, rather than clinging to what was, the more space you can give yourself to grow and flourish in your new life.

 

As with all new endeavors, allow yourself time to adjust.  Plenty of time.  There’s a natural process to becoming an “I.”  Healing has many components, not the least of which is our way of conceptualizing ourself.  Watch how you take more ownership of your happiness as your pronouns change to reflect your new life.

 

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

Poems To Help You Cope With Life, Loss & Divorce June 4, 2009



Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

~Derek Walcott~

 

Blessing The Boats

(at St. Mary’s)
may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

~Lucille Clifton~


THAT LIVES IN US

If you put your hands on this oar with me,
they will never harm another, and they will come to find
they hold everything you want.

If you put your hands on this oar with me, they would no longer
lift anything to your
mouth that might wound your precious land –
that sacred earth that is your body.

If you put your soul against this oar with me,
the power that made the universe will enter your sinew
from a source not outside your limbs, but from a holy realm
that lives in us.

Exuberant is existence, time a husk.
When the moment cracks open, ecstasy leaps out and devours space;
love goes mad with the blessings, like my words give.

Why lay yourself on the torturer’s rack of the past and the future?
The mind that tries to shape tomorrow beyond its capacities
will find no rest.

Be kind to yourself, dear – to our innocent follies.
Forget any sounds or touch you knew that did not help you dance.
You will come to see that all evolves us.

~ Rumi ~


For a New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

~ John O’Donohue ~


Rapture

Who knows the mysteries of the poppies
when you look across the red fields,
or hear the sound of long thunder,
then the saving rain.
Everything beautiful,
the solitude of the single body
or sometimes, too, when the body is kissed
on the lips or hands or eyelids tender.
Oh for the pleasure of living in a body.
It may be, it may one day be
this is a world haunted by happiness,
where people finally are loved
in the light of leaves,
the feel of bird wings passing by.
Here it might be that no one wants power.
They don’t want more.
And so they are in the forest,
old trees,
or those small but grand.
And when you sleep, rapture, beauty,
may seek you out.
Listen. There is
secret joy,
sweet dreams you may never forget.
How worthy the being
in the human body. If,
when you are there, you see women
wading on the water
and clouds in the valley,
the smell of rain,
or a lotus blossom rises out of round green leaves,
remember there is always something
besides our own misery.

~ Linda Hogan ~


What’s Left
(for Peter Hennessy)

I used to wait for the flowers,
my pleasure reposed on them.
Now I like plants before they get to the blossom.
Leafy ones – foxgloves, comfrey, delphiniums –
fleshy tiers of strong leaves pushing up
into air grown daily lighter and more sheened
with bright dust like the eyeshadow
that tall young woman in the bookshop wears,
its shimmer and crumble on her white lids.

The washing sways on the line, the sparrows pull
at the heaps of drying weeds that I’ve left around.
Perhaps this is middle age.  Untidy, unfinished,
knowing there’ll never be time now to finish,
liking the plants – their strong lives –
not caring about flowers, sitting in weeds
to write things down, look at things,
watching the sway of shirts on the line,
the cloth filtering light.

I know more or less
how to live through my life now.
But I want to know how to live what’s left
with my eyes open and my hands open;
I want to stand at the door in the rain
listening, sniffing, gaping.
Fearful and joyous,
like an idiot before God.


~ Kerrie Hardie ~


WHEN DEATH COMES

 

When death comes like the hungry bear in autumn; when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse to buy me, and snaps the purse shut; when death comes like the measle-pox when death comes like an iceberg between the shoulder blades, I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering: what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness? And therefore I look upon everything as a brotherhood and a sisterhood, and I look upon time as no more than an idea, and I consider eternity as another possibility, and I think of each life as a flower, as common as a field daisy, and as singular, and each name a comfortable music in the mouth, tending, as all music does, toward silence, and each body a lion of courage, and something precious to the earth. When it's over, I want to say all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms. When it's over, I don't want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular, and real. I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument. I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.


~ Mary Oliver ~


OF BEING

I know this happiness is provisional:

the looming presences-

great suffering, great fear-

withdraw only into peripheral vision:

but ineluctable this shimmering

of wind in the blue leaves:

this flood of stillness

widening the lake of sky:

this need to dance,

this need to kneel:

this mystery.


PRAISE WHAT COMES

surprising as unplanned kisses, all you haven’t deserved

of days and solitude, your body’s immoderate good health

that lets you work in many kinds of weather. Praise

talk with just about anyone. And quiet intervals, books

that are your food and your hunger; nightfall and walks

before sleep. Praising these for practice, perhaps

you will come at last to praise grief and the wrongs

you never intended. At the end there may be no answers

and only a few very simple questions: did I love,

finish my task in the world? Learn at least one

of the many names of God? At the intersections,

the boundaries where one life began and another

ended, the jumping-off places between fear and

possibility, at the ragged edges of pain,

did I catch the smallest glimpse of the holy?

~ Jeanne Lohmann ~


What the Day Gives

Suddenly, sun. Over my shoulder

in the middle of gray November

what I hoped to do comes back,

asking.

Across the street the fiery trees

hold onto their leaves,

red and gold in the final months

of this unfinished year,

they offer blazing riddles.

In the frozen fields of my life

there are no shortcuts to spring,

but stories of great birds in migration

carrying small ones on their backs,

predators flying next to warblers

they would, in a different season, eat.

Stunned by the astonishing mix in this uneasy world

that plunges in a single day from despair

to hope and back again, I commend my life

to Ruskin’s difficult duty of delight,

and to that most beautiful form of courage,

to be happy.

~ Jeanne Lohmann ~


THE GUEST HOUSE

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

Some momentary awareness comes

As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

Who violently sweep your house

Empty of its furniture.

Still treat each guest honorably.

They may be clearing you out

For some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

Meet them at the door laughing,

And invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

For each has been sent

As a guide from beyond.

~Rumi~


Now is the Time


Now is the time to know
That all that you do is sacred.

Now, why not consider
A lasting truce with yourself and God.

Now is the time to understand
That all your ideas of right and wrong
Were just a child’s training wheels
To be laid aside
When you finally live
With veracity
And love.

Hafiz is a divine envoy
Whom the Beloved
Has written a holy message upon.

My dear, please tell me,
Why do you still
Throw sticks at your heart
And God?

What is it in that sweet voice inside
That incites you to fear?

Now is the time for the world to know
That every thought and action is sacred.

This is the time
For you to compute the impossibility
That there is anything
But Grace.

Now is the season to know
That everything you do
Is sacred.

~Hafiz~


Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

~Mary Oliver~


IN THE DESERT

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter–bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart.”

~Stephen Crane~


Buddha’s Dogs

I’m at a day-long meditation retreat, eight hours of watching
my mind with my mind,
and I already fell asleep twice and nearly fell out of my chair,
and it’s not even noon yet.

In the morning session, I learned to count my thoughts, ten in
on minute, and the longest
was to leave and go to San Anselmo and shop, then find an outdoor cafe and order a glass

of Sancerre, smoked trout with roasted potatoes and baby
carrots and a bowl of gazpacho.
But I stayed and learned to name my thoughts, so far they are:
wanting, wanting, wanting,

wanting, wanting, wanting, wanting, wanting, judgment,
sadness. Don’t identify with your
thoughts, the teacher says, you are not your personality, not your
ego-identification,

then he bangs the gong for lunch. Whoever, whatever I am is
given instruction
in the walking meditation and the eating meditation and walks
outside with the other

meditators, and we wobble across the lake like The Night of the
Living Dead.
I meditate slowly, falling over a few times because I kept my
foot in the air too long,

towards a bench, sit slowly down, and slowly eat my sandwich,
noticing the bread,
(sourdough), noticing the taste, (tuna, sourdough), noticing
the smell, (sourdough, tuna),

thanking the sourdough, the tuna, the ocean, the boat, the
fisherman, the field, the grain,
the farmer, the Saran Wrap that kept this food fresh for this
body made of food and desire

and the hope of getting through the rest of this day without
dying of boredom.
Sun then cloud then sun. I notice a maple leaf on my sandwich.
It seems awfully large.

Slowly brushing it away, I feel so sad I can hardly stand it, so I
name my thoughts; they are:
sadness about my mother, judgment about my father, wanting
the child I never had.

I notice I’ve been chasing the same thoughts like dogs around
the same park most of my life,
notice the leaf tumbling gold to the grass. The gong sounds,
and back in the hall.

I decide to try lying down meditation, and let myself sleep. The
Buddha in my dream is me,
surrounded by dogs wagging their tails, licking my hands.
I wake up

for the forgiveness meditation, the teacher saying, never put
anyone out of your heart,
and the heart opens and knows it won’t last and will have to
open again and again,

chasing those dogs around and around in the sun then cloud
then sun.


~ Susan Browne ~


CERTAINTY

Certainty undermines one’s power, and turns happiness
into a long shot. Certainty confines.

Dears, there is nothing in your life that will
not change – especially your ideas of God.

Look what the insanity of righteous knowledge can do:
crusade and maim thousands
in wanting to convert that which
is already gold
into gold.

Certainty can become an illness
that creates hate and
greed.

God once said to Tuka,

“Even I am ever changing –
I am ever beyond
Myself,

what I may have once put my seal upon,
may no longer be
the greatest
Truth.”


~ Tukaram ~



I AM COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

I am completely different.
Though I am wearing the same tie as yesterday,
am as poor as yesterday,
as good for nothing as yesterday,
today
I am completely different.
Though I am wearing the same clothes,
am as drunk as yesterday,
living as clumsily as yesterday, nevertheless
today
I am completely different.

Ah …
I patiently close my eyes
on all the grins and smirks
on all the twisted smiles and horse laughs—
and glimpse then, inside me
one beautiful white butterfly
fluttering towards tomorrow.


~ Kuroda Saburo ~

WHAT’S IN THE TEMPLE?

In the quiet spaces of my mind a thought lies still, but ready to spring.
It begs me to open the door so it can walk about.
The poets speak in obscure terms pointing madly at the unsayable.
The sages say nothing, but walk ahead patting their thigh calling for us to follow.
The monk sits pen in hand poised to explain the cloud of unknowing.
The seeker seeks, just around the corner from the truth.
If she stands still it will catch up with her.
Pause with us here a while.
Put your ear to the wall of your heart.
Listen for the whisper of knowing there.
Love will touch you if you are very still.

If I say the word God, people run away.
They’ve been frightened–sat on ’till the spirit cried “uncle.”
Now they play hide and seek with somebody they can’t name.
They know he’s out there looking for them, and they want to be found,
But there is all this stuff in the way.

I can’t talk about God and make any sense,
And I can’t not talk about God and make any sense.
So we talk about the weather, and we are talking about God.

I miss the old temples where you could hang out with God.
Still, we have pet pounds where you can feel love draped in warm fur,
And sense the whole tragedy of life and death.
You see there the consequences of carelessness,
And you feel there the yapping urgency of life that wants to be lived.
The only things lacking are the frankincense and myrrh.

We don’t build many temples anymore.
Maybe we learned that the sacred can’t be contained.
Or maybe it can’t be sustained inside a building.
Buildings crumble.
It’s the spirit that lives on.

If you had a temple in the secret spaces of your heart,
What would you worship there?
What would you bring to sacrifice?
What would be behind the curtain in the holy of holies?

Go there now.


~ Tom Barrett ~


TERNS

Don’t think just now of the trudging forward of thought,

but of the wing-drive of unquestioning affirmation.

It’s summer, you never saw such a blue sky,

and here they are, those white birds with quick wings,

sweeping over the waves,

chattering and plunging,

their thin beaks snapping, their hard eyes

happy as little nails.

The years to come — this is a promise —

will grant you ample time

to try the difficult steps in the empire of thought

where you seek for the shining proofs you think you must have.

But nothing you ever understand will be sweeter, or more binding,

than this deep affinity between your eyes and the world.

The flock thickens

over the roiling, salt brightness. Listen,

maybe such devotion, in which one holds the world

in the clasp of attention, isn’t the perfect prayer,

but it must be close, for the sorrow, whose name is doubt,

is thus subdued, and not through the weaponry of reason,

but of pure submission. Tell me, what else

could beauty be for? And now the tide

is at its very crown,

the white birds sprinkle down,

gathering up the loose silver, rising

as if weightless. It isn’t instruction, or a parable.

It isn’t for any vanity or ambition

except for the one allowed, to stay alive.

It’s only a nimble frolic

over the waves. And you find, for hours,

you cannot even remember the questions

that weigh so in your mind.


~ Mary Oliver ~

let it go 

let it go – the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise – let it go it
was sworn to
go

let them go – the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers – you must let them go they
were born
to go

let all go – the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things – let all go
dear

so comes love


~ e. e. cummings ~


The Real Work

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

~ Wendell Berry ~

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

~ Wendell Berry ~


Written on Christmas Eve, 1513

I salute you. I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep.
There is nothing I can give you which you have not. But there is much,
very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take. No heaven can
come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take heaven!
No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant.
Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within
our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in darkness, could we but see.
And to see, we have only to look. I beseech you to look!

Life is so generous a giver. But we, judging its gifts by their covering,
cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard. Remove the covering, and you
will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love by wisdom, with power.
Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel’s hand that brings it to you.
Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty, believe me, that angel’s hand is there.
The gift is there and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Your joys, too,
be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts.

Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath its covering,
that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven. Courage then to claim it; that is all!
But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together,
wending through unknown country home.

And so, at this time, I greet you, not quite as the world sends greetings,
but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, now and
forever, the day breaks and shadows flee away.

~ Fra Giovanni ~

KINDNESS

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the
Indian in a white poncho lies dead
by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you, how he too was someone who journeyed through the night
with plans and the simple breath
that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness
as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow
as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness
that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day
to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

~Naomi Shihab Nye~


The Journey
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.

~ Mary Oliver ~


The Kingdom
At times
the heart
stands back
and looks at the body,
looks at the mind,
as a lion
quietly looks
at the not-quite-itself,
not-quite-another,
moving of shadows and grass.

Wary, but with interest,
considers its kingdom.

Then seeing
all that will be,
heart once again enters —
enters hunger, enters sorrow,
enters finally losing it all.
To know, if nothing else,
what it once owned.


~ Jane Hirshfield ~


Messenger

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird –
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.
~ Mary Oliver ~


The Inner History of a Day

No one knew the name of this day;
Born quietly from deepest night,
It hid its face in light,
Demanded nothing for itself,
Opened out to offer each of us
A field of brightness that traveled ahead,
Providing in time, ground to hold our footsteps
And the light of thought to show the way.

The mind of the day draws no attention;
It dwells within the silence with elegance
To create a space for all our words,
Drawing us to listen inward and outward.

We seldom notice how each day is a holy place
Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens,
Transforming our broken fragments
Into an eternal continuity that keeps us.

Somewhere in us a dignity presides
That is more gracious than the smallness
That fuels us with fear and force,
A dignity that trusts the form a day takes.

So at the end of this day, we give thanks
For being betrothed to the unknown
And for the secret work
Through which the mind of the day
And wisdom of the soul become one.

~ John O’Donohue ~

 

i am a little church (no great cathedral)

i am a little church(no great cathedral)
far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
-i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april

my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are prayers of earth’s own clumsily striving
(finding and losing and laughing and crying)children
whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness

around me surges a miracle of unceasing
birth and glory and death and resurrection:
over my sleeping self float flaming symbols
of hope,and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains

i am a little church(far from the frantic
world with its rapture and anguish)at peace with nature
-i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;
i am not sorry when silence becomes singing

winter by spring,i lift my diminutive spire to
merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence
(welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)

~ ee cummings ~


we are running

running and
time is clocking us
from the edge like an only
daughter.
our mothers stream before us,
cradling their breasts in their
hands.
oh pray that what we want
is worth this running,
pray that what we’re running
toward
is what we want.

~ Lucille Clifton ~


THE GREAT AFFAIR

The great affair, the love affair with life,
is to live as variously as possible,
to groom one’s curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred,
climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun-struck hills every day.

Where there is no risk, the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding,
and, despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles, and detours,
life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length.

It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery,
but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.

~ Diane Ackerman ~


Getting There

You take a final step and, look, suddenly
You’re there. You’ve arrived
At the one place all your drudgery was aimed for:
This common ground
Where you stretch out, pressing your cheek to sandstone.

What did you want
To be? You’ll remember soon. You feel like tinder
Under a burning glass,
A luminous point of change. The sky is pulsing
Against the cracked horizon,
Holding it firm till the arrival of stars
In time with your heartbeats.
Like wind etching rock, you’ve made a lasting impression
On the self you were
By having come all this way through all this welter
Under your own power,
Though your traces on a map would make an unpromising
Meandering lifeline.

What have you learned so far? You’ll find out later,
Telling it haltingly
Like a dream, that lost traveler’s dream
Under the last hill
Where through the night you’ll take your time out of mind
To unburden yourself
Of elements along elementary paths
By the break of morning.

You’ve earned this worn-down, hard, incredible sight
Called Here and Now.
Now, what you make of it means everything,
Means starting over:
The life in your hands is neither here nor there
But getting there,
So you’re standing again and breathing, beginning another
Journey without regret
Forever, being your own unpeaceable kingdom,
The end of endings.

~ David Wagoner ~


Beannacht
(“Blessing”)

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

~ John O’Donohue ~


The Thing Is

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

~Ellen Bass~


God Says To Me

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I’m telling you is
Yes Yes Yes.

~ Kaylin Haught ~


CLARITY IS FREEDOM

I had tea yesterday with a great theologian,
and he asked me,

“What is your experience of God’s will?”

I liked that question –
for the distillation of thought hones thought in others.
Clarity, I know, is freedom.

What is my experience of God’s will?

Everyone is a traveler. Most all need lodging, food,
and clothes.

I let enter my mouth what will enrich me. I wear what
will make my eye content,
I sleep where I will
wake with the
strength to
deeply
love

all my mind can
hold.

What is God’s will for a wing?
Every bird knows
that.

~ St. Teresa of Avila ~


When I Am Among the Trees

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

~ Mary Oliver ~


I Love You

After all the years of running and climbing mountains,
I finally longed for my home-
weary of being alone-
Tired of living by myself
Sated with strangers who only share the stories
shared with anyone who will listen-
For years triumphs were enough, but they did not
consider my heart
Which needed to give and receive
that which was reserved solely for you.
It was only when I wanted to die,
When the path I chose seemed already too familiar.
There is another mountain to climb,
quiet nights by the fire, courage to face the fears
that I avoided all my life,
And I want you at my side when my psuedo-strength
deserts me, and to be there for you as well.
I cannot forever promise you more than I am,
But I will be here with all I have to give,
Weary of illusions
Tired of fantasies
Sated with vain imaginings that ask nothing
and give little as well.
Each day I will try to confront what I avoided,
To face life as it is and not as I want it to be
You have loved me so long and the pain in my
heart longs to let go and love you in return.
Somehow your courage and endurance taught me
more of life than all the rest and
I wish I could remain to learn what all the
wandering never taught me.

~ James Kavanaugh ~


A Morning Offering

I bless the night that nourished my heart
To set the ghosts of longing free
Into the flow and figure of dream
That went to harvest from the dark
Bread for the hunger no one sees.

All that is eternal in me
Welcome the wonder of this day,
The field of brightness it creates
Offering time for each thing
To arise and illuminate.

I place on the altar of dawn:
The quiet loyalty of breath,
The tent of thought where I shelter,
Wave of desire I am shore to
And all beauty drawn to the eye.

May my mind come alive today
To the invisible geography
That invites me to new frontiers,
To break the dead shell of yesterdays,
To risk being disturbed and changed.

May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.

~ John O’Donohue ~


TIRED OF SPEAKING SWEETLY

Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,
Break all our teacup talk of God.

If you had the courage and
Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights,
He would just drag you around the room
By your hair,
Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world
That bring you no joy.

Love sometimes gets tired of speaking sweetly
And wants to rip to shreds
All your erroneous notions of truth

That make you fight within yourself, dear one,
And with others,

Causing the world to weep
On too many fine days.

God wants to manhandle us,
Lock us inside of a tiny room with Himself
And practice His dropkick.

The Beloved sometimes wants
To do us a great favor:

Hold us upside down
And shake all the nonsense out.

But when we hear
He is in such a “playful drunken mood”
Most everyone I know
Quickly packs their bags and hightails it
Out of town.

~ Hafiz ~


The Love of Morning

It is hard sometimes to drag ourselves
back to the love of morning
after we’ve lain in the dark crying out
O God, save us from the horror . . . .

God has saved the world one more day
even with its leaden burden of human evil;
we wake to birdsong.
And if sunlight’s gossamer lifts in its net
the weight of all that is solid,
our hearts, too, are lifted,
swung like laughing infants;

but on gray mornings,
all incident – our own hunger,
the dear tasks of continuance,
the footsteps before us in the earth’s
beloved dust, leading the way – all,
is hard to love again
for we resent a summons
that disregards our sloth, and this
calls us, calls us.

~ Denise Levertov ~


Things to Think

Think in ways you’ve never thought before.
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
Larger than anything you’ve ever heard,
Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats.

Think that someone may bring a bear to your door,
Maybe wounded and deranged; or think that a moose
Has risen out of the lake, and he’s carrying on his antlers
A child of your own whom you’ve never seen.

When someone knocks on the door,
Think that he’s about
To give you something large: tell you you’re forgiven,
Or that it’s not necessary to work all the time,
Or that it’s been decided that if you lie down no one will die.

~ Robert Bly ~


The Hawk

Maybe in a million years
a better form of human
being will come, happier
and more intelligent. A few already
have infiltrated this world and lived
to very much regret it,
I suppose.
Me,
I’d prefer to have come
in the form of that hawk, floating over
the mirroring fire
of Clearlake’s
hill, my gold
skull filled with nothing
but God’s will
the whole day through, instead
of these glinting voices incessantly
unerringly guiding me
to pursue
what makes me sick, and not to
what makes me glad. And yet
I am changing: this three-pound lump
of sentient meat electrified
by hope and terror has learned to hear
His silence like the sun,
and sought to change!
And friends
on earth at the same time
as me, listen: from the sound of those crickets
last night, Rene Char said
prenatal life
must have been sweet –
each voice perhaps also a star
in that night
from which
this time
we won’t be
interrupted anymore – but
fellow monsters while we are still here, for one minute, think
about this: there is someone right now who is looking
to you, not Him, for whatever
love still exists.

~ Franz Wright ~


Everything Is Going to Be All Right

How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.
The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.

~ Derek Mahon ~


I Hold My Face

I hold my face in my two hands.
No, I am not crying.
I hold my face in my two hands
to keep the loneliness warm-
two hands protecting,
two hands nourishing,
two hands preventing
my soul from leaving me
in anger.

~Thich Nhat Hanh~


What Can I Say

What can I say that I have not said before?
So I’ll say it again.
The leaf has a song in it.
Stone is the face of patience.
Inside the river there is an unfinishable story
and you are somewhere in it
and it will never end until all ends.

Take your busy heart to the art museum and the
chamber of commerce
but take it also to the forest.
The song you heard singing in the leaf when you
were a child
is singing still.
I am of years lived, so far, seventy-four,
and the leaf is singing still.

~ Mary Oliver ~


My Heart Is So Small

My heart is so small
it’s almost invisible.
How can You place
such big sorrows in it?

“Look,” He answered,
“your eyes are even smaller,
yet they behold the world.”

~ Rumi ~


Book of Hours, II, 16

How surely gravity’s law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of even the strongest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.

Each thing –
each stone, blossom, child –
is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we belong to
for some empty freedom.

If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.

Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.

So, like children, we begin again
to learn from the things,
because they are in God’s heart;
they have never left him.

This is what the things can teach us:
to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~


The Layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

~ Stanley Kunitz ~


Flare

When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider
the orderliness of the world. Notice
something you have never noticed before,

like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket
whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.

Stare hard at the hummingbird, in the summer rain,
shaking the water-sparks from its wings.

Let grief be your sister, she will whether or no.
Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also,
like the diligent leaves.

A lifetime isn’t long enough for the beauty of this world
and the responsibilities of your life.

Scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away.
Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.

In the glare of your mind, be modest.
And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.

~ Mary Oliver ~


I love the dark hours

I love the dark hours of my being.
My mind deepens into them.
There I can find, as in old letters,
the days of my life, already lived,
and held like a legend, and understood.

Then the knowing comes: I can open
to another life that’s wide and timeless.

So I am sometimes like a tree
rustling over a gravesite
and making real the dream
of the one its living roots
embrace:

a dream once lost
among sorrows and songs.

~ Ranier Maria Rilke ~


Above Everything

I wished for death often
but now that I am at its door
I have changed my mind about the world.
It should go on; it is beautiful,
even as a dream, filled with water and seed,
plants and animals, others like myself,
ships and buildings and messages
filling the air — a beauty,
if ever I have seen one.
In the next world, should I remember
this one, I will praise it
above everything.

~ David Ignatow ~


From Four Quartets

You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstacy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.

~T.S. Eliot~


Lore

Job Davies, eighty-five
Winters old, and still alive
After the slow poison
And treachery of the seasons.

Miserable? Kick my arse!
It needs more than the rain’s hearse,
Wind-drawn to pull me off
The great perch of my laugh.

What’s living but courage?
Paunch full of hot porridge
Nerves strengthened with tea,
Peat-black, dawn found me

Mowing where the grass grew,
Bearded with golden dew.
Rhythm of the long scythe
Kept this tall frame lithe

What to do? Stay green.
Never mind the machine,
Whose fuel is human souls
Live large, man, and dream small.

~ R.S. Thomas ~


For a New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

~ John O’Donohue ~


Variation On A Theme By Rilke

A certain day became a presence to me;
there it was, confronting me — a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it leaned over
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me
honor and a task. The day’s blow
rang out, metallic — or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.

~ Denise Levertov ~


The Winter of Listening

No one but me by the fire,
my hands burning
red in the palms while
the night wind carries
everything away outside.

All this petty worry
while the great cloak
of the sky grows dark
and intense
round every living thing.

What is precious
inside us does not
care to be known
by the mind
in ways that diminish
its presence.

What we strive for
in perfection
is not what turns us
into the lit angel
we desire,

what disturbs
and then nourishes
has everything
we need.

What we hate
in ourselves
is what we cannot know
in ourselves but
what is true to the pattern
does not need
to be explained.

Inside everyone
is a great shout of joy
waiting to be born.

Even with the summer
so far off
I feel it grown in me
now and ready
to arrive in the world.

All those years
listening to those
who had
nothing to say.

All those years
forgetting
how everything
has its own voice
to make
itself heard.

All those years
forgetting
how easily
you can belong
to everything
simply by listening.

And the slow
difficulty
of remembering
how everything
is born from
an opposite
and miraculous
otherness.
Silence and winter
has led me to that
otherness.

So let this winter
of listening
be enough
for the new life
I must call my own.

~ David Whyte ~


let it go

let it go – the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise – let it go it
was sworn to
go

let them go – the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers – you must let them go they
were born
to go

let all go – the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things – let all go
dear

so comes love

~ e. e. cummings ~


Self Portrait

It doesn’t interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong or feel
abandoned.
If you know despair or can see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living
falling toward
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequence of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.

I have heard, in that fierce embrace, even
the gods speak of God.

~David Whyte~


FROM BLOSSOMS

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

~Li-Young Lee~


Testimony

(for my daughters)

I want to tell you that the world
is still beautiful.
I tell you that despite
children raped on city streets,
shot down in school rooms,
despite the slow poisons seeping
from old and hidden sins
into our air, soil, water,
despite the thinning film
that encloses our aching world.
Despite my own terror and despair.

I want you to know that spring
is no small thing, that
the tender grasses curling
like a baby’s fine hairs around
your fingers are a recurring
miracle. I want to tell you
that the river rocks shine
like God, that the crisp
voices of the orange and gold
October leaves are laughing at death,

I want to remind you to look
beneath the grass, to note
the fragile hieroglyphs
of ant, snail, beetle. I want
you to understand that you
are no more and no less necessary
than the brown recluse, the ruby-
throated hummingbird, the humpback
whale, the profligate mimosa.
I want to say, like Neruda,
that I am waiting for
“a great and common tenderness”,
that I still believe
we are capable of attention,
that anyone who notices the world
must want to save it.

~ Rebecca Baggett ~


WITNESS

Sometimes the mountain
is hidden from me in veils
of cloud, sometimes
I am hidden from the mountain
in veils of inattention, apathy, fatigue,
when I forget or refuse to go
down to the shore or a few yards
up the road, on a clear day,
to reconfirm
that witnessing presence.

~ Denise Levertov ~


Sonnets to Orpheus, Part Two, XII

Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
as the curve of the body as it turns away.

What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.

Pour yourself out like a fountain.
Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.

Every happiness is the child of a separation
it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, becoming
a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~

 

In Blackwater Woods

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars
of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,
the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
~ Mary Oliver ~

 

The Perfect Cup


it is time for me
to see the flaws
of myself
and stop
being alarmed

it is time for me
to halt my drive
for perfection
and to accept
my blemishes

it is time for me
to receive
slowly evolving growth
the kind that comes
in God’s own good time
and pays no heed
to my panicky pushing

it is time for me
to embrace
my humanness
to love
my incompleteness

it is time for me
to cherish
the unwanted
to welcome
the unknown
to treasure
the unfulfilled

if I wait to be
perfect
before I love myself
I will always be
unsatisfied
and ungrateful

if I wait until
all the flaws, chips,
and cracks disappear
I will be the cup
that stands on the shelf
and is never used

~ Joyce Rupp ~

 



For The Time Of Necessary Decision

The mind of time is hard to read.
We can never predict what it will bring,
Nor even from all that is already gone
Can we say what form it finally takes;
For time gathers its moments secretly.
Often we only know it’s time to change
When a force has built inside the heart
That leaves us uneasy as we are.

Perhaps the work we do has lost its soul
Or the love where we once belonged
Calls nothing alive in us anymore.

We drift through this gray, increasing nowhere
Until we stand before a threshold we know
We have to cross to come alive once more.

May we have the courage to take the step
Into the unknown that beckons us;
Trust that a richer life awaits us there,
That we will lose nothing
But what has already died;
Feel the deeper knowing in us sure
Of all that is about to be born beyond
The pale frames where we stayed confined,
Not realizing how such vacant endurance
Was bleaching our soul’s desire.

~ John O’Donohue ~


Of Being

I know this happiness
is provisional:

the looming presences-
great suffering, great fear-

withdraw only
into peripheral vision:

but ineluctable this shimmering
of wind in the blue leaves:

this flood of stillness
widening the lake of sky:

this need to dance,
this need to kneel:

this mystery:

~ Denise Levertov ~


Lines for Winter

Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon’s gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.

~Mark Strand~


You Are The Sun in Drag

You are the sun in drag.
You are God hiding from yourself.
Remove all the “mine” – that is the veil.
Why ever worry about
Anything?
Listen to what your friend Hafiz
Knows for certain:
The appearance of this world
Is a Magi’s brilliant trick, though its affairs are
Nothing into nothing.
You are a divine elephant with amnesia
Trying to live in an ant
Hole.
Sweetheart, O sweetheart
You are God in
Drag!

~Hafiz~

Halleluiah

Everyone should be born into this world happy
and loving everything.
But in truth it rarely works that way.
For myself, I have spent my life clamoring toward it.
Halleluiah, anyway I’m not where I started!

And have you too been trudging like that, sometimes
almost forgetting how wondrous the world is
and how miraculously kind some people can be?
And have you too decided that probably nothing important
is ever easy?
Not, say, for the first sixty years.

Halleluiah, I’m sixty now, and even a little more,
and some days I feel I have wings.

~ Mary Oliver ~

Easter Exultet

Shake out your qualms.
Shake up your dreams.
Deepen your roots.
Extend your branches.
Trust deep water
and head for the open,
even if your vision
shipwrecks you.
Quit your addiction
to sneer and complain.
Open a lookout.
Dance on a brink.
Run with your wildfire.
You are closer to glory
leaping an abyss
than upholstering a rut.
Not dawdling.
Not doubting.
Intrepid all the way
Walk toward clarity.
At every crossroad
Be prepared
to bump into wonder.
Only love prevails.
En route to disaster
insist on canticles.
Lift your ineffable
out of the mundane.
Nothing perishes;
nothing survives;
everything transforms!
Honeymoon with Big Joy!

~ James Broughton ~

 

SOMETIMES

Sometimes
if you move carefully
through the forest

breathing
like the ones
in the old stories

who could cross
a shimmering bed of dry leaves
without a sound,

you come
to a place
whose only task

is to trouble you
with tiny
but frightening requests

conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere.

Requests to stop what
you are doing right now,
and

to stop what you
are becoming
while you do it,

questions
that can make
or unmake
a life,

questions
that have patiently
waited for you,

questions
that have no right
to go away.

~ David Whyte ~


Can You Imagine?

For example, what the trees do
not only in lightening storms
or the watery dark of a summer’s night
or under the white nets of winter
but now, and now, and now – whenever
we’re not looking. Surely you can’t imagine
they don’t dance, from the root up, wishing
to travel a little, not cramped so much as wanting
a better view, or more sun, or just as avidly
more shade – surely you can’t imagine they just
stand there loving every
minute of it, the birds or the emptiness, the dark rings
of the years slowly and without a sound
thickening, and nothing different unless the wind,
and then only in its own mood, comes
to visit, surely you can’t imagine
patience, and happiness, like that.

~ Mary Oliver ~


God Speaks To Each of Us As He Makes Us

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousnes.

Give me your hand.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~


ONE

The mosquito is so small
it takes almost nothing to ruin it.
Each leaf, the same.
And the black ant, hurrying.
So many lives, so many fortunes!
Every morning, I walk softly and with forward glances
down to the ponds and through the pinewoods.
Mushrooms, even, have but a brief hour
before the slug creeps to the feast,
before the pine needles hustle down
under the bundles of harsh, beneficent rain.

How many, how many, how many
make up a world!
And then I think of that old idea: the singular
and the eternal.
One cup, in which everything is swirled
back to the color of the sea and sky.
Imagine it!

A shining cup, surely!
In the moment in which there is no wind
over your shoulder,
you stare down into it,
and there you are,
your own darling face, your own eyes.
And then the wind, not thinking of you, just passes by,
touching the ant, the mosquito, the leaf,
and you know what else!
How blue is the sea, how blue is the sky,
how blue and tiny and redeemable everything is, even you,
even your eyes, even your imagination.

~ Mary Oliver ~


REBUS

You work with what you are given,
the red clay of grief,
the black clay of stubbornness going on after.
Clay that tastes of care or carelessness,
clay that smells of the bottoms of rivers or dust.

Each thought is a life you have lived or failed to live,
each word is a dish you have eaten or left on the table.
There are honeys so bitter
no one would willingly choose to take them.
The clay takes them: honey of weariness, honey of vanity,
honey of cruelty, fear.

This rebus – slip and stubbornness,
bottom of river, my own consumed life –
when will I learn to read it
plainly, slowly, uncolored by hope or desire?
Not to understand it, only to see.

As water given sugar sweetens, given salt grows salty,
we become our choices.
Each yes, each no continues,
this one a ladder, that one an anvil or cup.

The ladder leans into its darkness.
The anvil leans into its silence.
The cup sits empty.

How can I enter this question the clay has asked?

~ Jane Hirshfield ~

 

OUT OF GOD’S HAT

The stars poured into the sky
Out of a Magician’s hat last night,
And all of them have fallen into my hair.
Some have even tangled my eyelashes
Into luminous, playful knots.

Wayfarer,
You are welcome to cut a radiant tress
That lays upon my shoulders.
Wrap it around your trembling heart and body
That craves divine comfort and warmth.
I am like a pitcher of milk
In the hands of a mother who loves you.

All of my contents now
Have been churned into dancing suns and moons.

Lean your sweet neck and mouth
Out of that dark nest where you hide,
I will pour effulgence into your mind.

Come spring
You can find me rolling in the fields
They are exploding in
Holy battles

Of scents, of sounds – everything is
A brilliant colored nova on a stem.

Forest animals hear me laughing
And surrender their deepest instincts and fears,

They come charging into meadows
To lick my hands and face,

This makes me so happy,
I become so happy

That my rising wink turns into a magic baton.
When my soft-eyed creatures see that wonderful signal
We all burst into singing

And make strange and primal beautiful sounds!

My only regret in this world then becomes:

That your shyness keeps you from placing
Your starving body against God

And seeing the Beloved become so pleased
With your courage

That his belly begins to rock and rock,
Then more planets get to leap
Onto the welcome mat of existence
All because
Of your previous love.

The Friend has turned my verse into sacred pollen.
When a breeze comes by

Falcons and butterflies
And playful gangs of young angels
Mounted on emerald spears

Take flight from me like a great sandstorm
That can blind you to all but the Truth!

Dear one
Even if you have no net to catch Venus
My music will circle this earth for hundreds of years
And fall like resplendent debris,
Holy seed, onto a fertile woman.

For Hafiz
Wants to help you laugh at your every
Desire.

Hafiz
Wants you to know

Your life within God’s arms,
Your dance within God’s
Arms

Is already

Perfect!

~ Hafiz ~


QUIETNESS

Inside this new love, die.
Your way begins on the other side.
Become the sky.
Take an axe to the prison wall.
Escape.
Walk out like someone suddenly born into color.
Do it now.
You’re covered with thick clouds.
Slide out the side. Die,
and be quiet. Quietness is the surest sign
that you’ve died.
Your old life was a frantic running
from silence.
The speechless full moon
comes out now.

~ Rumi ~


Mind Wanting More

Only a beige slat of sun
above the horizon, like a shade pulled
not quite down. Otherwise,
clouds. Sea rippled here and
there. Birds reluctant to fly.
The mind wants a shaft of sun to
stir the grey porridge of clouds,
an osprey to stitch sea to sky
with its barred wings, some dramatic
music: a symphony, perhaps
a Chinese gong.

But the mind always
wants more than it has —
one more bright day of sun,
one more clear night in bed
with the moon; one more hour
to get the words right; one
more chance for the heart in hiding
to emerge from its thicket
in dried grasses — as if this quiet day
with its tentative light weren’t enough,
as if joy weren’t strewn all around.

~ Holly Hughes ~

 

TIRED OF SPEAKING SWEETLY

Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,
Break all our teacup talk of God.

If you had the courage and
Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights,
He would just drag you around the room
By your hair,
Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world
That bring you no joy.

Love sometimes gets tired of speaking sweetly
And wants to rip to shreds
All your erroneous notions of truth

That make you fight within yourself, dear one,
And with others,

Causing the world to weep
On too many fine days.

God wants to manhandle us,
Lock us inside of a tiny room with Himself
And practice His dropkick.

The Beloved sometimes wants
To do us a great favor:

Hold us upside down
And shake all the nonsense out.

But when we hear
He is in such a “playful drunken mood”
Most everyone I know
Quickly packs their bags and hightails it
Out of town.

~ Hafiz ~


 

MINDFUL

Every day
I see or hear
something
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for –
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world –
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant –
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these –
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

~ Mary Oliver ~

 

THE HOUSE OF BELONGING

I awoke
this morning
in the gold light
turning this way
and that

thinking for
a moment
it was one
day
like any other.

But
the veil had gone
from my
darkened heart
and I thought

it must have been the quiet
candlelight
that filled my room,

it must have been
the first easy rhythm
with which I breathed
myself to sleep,

it must have been
the prayer I said
speaking to the otherness
of the night.

And
I thought
this is the good day
you could meet your love,

this is the black day
someone close
to you could die.

This is the day
you realize
how easily the thread
is broken
between this world
and the next

and I found myself
sitting up
in the quiet pathway
of light,

the tawny
close grained cedar
burning round
me like a fire
and all the angels of this housely
heaven ascending
through the first
roof of light
the sun has made.

This is the bright home
in which I live,
this is where
I ask
my friends
to come,
this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love.

This is the temple
of my adult aloneness
and I belong
to that aloneness
as I belong to my life.

There is no house
like the house of belonging.

~ David Whyte ~


The Sonnets to Orpheus, Part Two, XII

Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
as the curve of the body as it turns away.

What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.

Pour yourself out like a fountain.
Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.

Every happiness is the child of a separation
it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, becoming a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~

 

Praying

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

~ Mary Oliver ~


 

A Psalm of Life

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream! –
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, – act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ~


 

The Layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

~ Stanley Kunitz ~

 



WE HAVE NOT COME TO TAKE PRISONERS

We have not come here to take prisoners,
But to surrender ever more deeply
To freedom and joy.

We have not come into this exquisite world
To hold ourselves hostage from love.

Run my dear,
From anything
That may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings.

Run like hell my dear,
From anyone likely
To put a sharp knife
Into the sacred, tender vision
Of your beautiful heart.

We have a duty to befriend
Those aspects of obedience
That stand outside of our house
And shout to our reason
“O please, O please,
Come out and play.”

For we have not come here to take prisoners
Or to confine our wondrous spirits,

But to experience ever and ever more deeply
Our divine courage, freedom and
Light!

~ Hafiz ~


STRONG

If strong means taking care of everyone else to the detriment of yourself,
If strong means pretending everything is ok when clearly you’re hurting,
If strong means keeping it moving after you’ve suffered disappointment,
Then, strong becomes weak.

Strong is good, resilience is better.
But, resilience can sometimes look messy.
It may look as if you’re down for the count, but as long as you eventually get up you’re resilient.
You have permission then to be human.
To grieve, rest, cry, and feel what you feel.
Learning to face your fears by being vulnerable is the first step.

~Valorie Burton~


THE LEAF AND THE CLOUD (excerpt)

When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider
the orderliness of the world. Notice
something you have never noticed before,

like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket
whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.

Stare hard at the hummingbird, in the summer rain,
shaking the water-sparks from its wings.

Let grief be your sister, she will wither or not.
Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also,
like the diligent leaves.

A lifetime isn’t long enough for the beauty of this world
and the responsibilities of your life.

Scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away.
Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.

In the glare of your mind, be modest.
And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.

Live with the beetle, and the wind.

~ Mary Oliver ~


Morning Poem

Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches —
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead —
if it’s all you can do
to keep on trudging —

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted —

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
lavishly,
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.

~ Mary Oliver ~

 

The Perfect Cup
it is time for me
to see the flaws
of myself
and stop
being alarmed
it is time for me
to halt my drive
for perfection
and to accept
my blemishes

 

it is time for me
to receive
slowly evolving growth
the kind that comes
in God’s own good time
and pays no heed
to my panicky pushing

 

it is time for me
to embrace
my humanness
to love
my incompleteness
it is time for me
to cherish
the unwanted
to welcome
the unknown
to treasure
the unfulfilled
if I wait to be
perfect
before I love myself
I will always be
unsatisfied
and ungrateful
if I wait until
all the flaws, chips,
and cracks disappear
I will be the cup
that stands on the shelf
and is never used

~ Joyce Rupp ~


The Layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

~ Stanley Kunitz ~

 

The Answer

When I go back to earth
And all my joyous body
Puts off the red and white
That once had been so proud,
If men should pass above
With false and feeble pity,
My dust will find a voice
To answer them aloud:
“Be still, I am content,
Take back your poor compassion,
Joy was a flame in me
Too steady to destroy;
Lithe as a bending reed
Loving the storm that sways her—
I found more joy in sorrow
Than you could find in joy.”

~ Sara Teasdale ~

Banff, Alberta

The mother elk and 2 babies are sniffing
the metal handle of the bear-proof trash bin.
I remember the instructions for city people:
3 football fields of space between you &
the elk if their babies are with them.
I’m backing up slowly,
watching the calves run into each other
as they bend to eat grass/look up
at the mother at the same time.
The caramel color of their coat,
the sloping line of their small snouts &
I want to hold that beauty,
steal it for me,
but I’m only on football field # 2 & walking
into the woods past the lodge pole pines.
Their fragility, their awkward bumping
opens me to a long ago time—
a hand on the door,
I was walking in
to the psych hospital in Pittsburgh,
feeling broken and stripped down—
a hand on the door
from around my body
& I looked up to see the body
of a man, who said:
Let me get that for you—
a hand on the door
& the bottom of me
dropped/
I couldn’t breathe for the kindness.
I couldn’t say how deep that went
for me.
I had been backing up, awkward/
I had been blind to my own beauty.

~Jan Beatty~

 

Hokusai Says

Hokusai says look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing

He says look forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,
you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat
yourself as long as it is interesting.

He says keep doing what you love.

He says keep praying.

He says every one of us is a child,
every one of us is ancient
every one of us has a body.
He says every one of us is frightened.
He says every one of us has to find
a way to live with fear.

He says everything is alive —
shells, buildings, people, fish,
mountains, trees, wood is alive.
Water is alive.

Everything has its own life.

Everything lives inside us.

He says live with the world inside you.

He says it doesn’t matter if you draw,
or write books. It doesn’t matter
if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your veranda
or the shadows of the trees
and grasses in your garden.
It matters that you care.

It matters that you feel.

It matters that you notice.

It matters that life lives through you.

Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength
is life living through you.

He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.

Love, feel, let life take you by the hand.

Let life live through you.

 

~Roger Keyes~

 

 

Now Is The Time

Now is the time to know
That all that you do is sacred.
Now, why not consider
a lasting truce with yourself?
Now is the time to understand
that all your ideas of right and wrong
were just a child’s training wheels
to be laid aside,
When you can finally live
with veracity and love.
Now is the time for the world to know
that every thought and action is sacred.
That this is the time
for you to compute the impossibility
that there is anything
But Grace.
Now is the season to know
that everything you do
is Sacred.

~Hafiz~

 

 

LOVE AND FEAR
There are only two feelings, Love and fear:
There are only two languages, Love and fear:
There are only two activities, Love and fear:
There are only two motives, two procedures,
two frameworks, two results, Love and fear,
Love and fear.

~Michael Leunig~

 

 

Advice From  La Lloroma

Each grief has its unique side.
Choose the one that appeals to you.
Go gently.
Your body needs energy to repair the amputation.
Humor phantom pain.
Your brain cells are soaked with salt;
connections fail unexpectedly and often.
Ask for help.
Accept help.
Read your grief like the daily newspaper:
headlines may have information you need.
Scream. Drop-kick the garbage can across the street.
Don’t feel guilty if you have a good time.
Don’t act as if you haven’t been hit by a Mack Truck.
Do things a little differently
but don’t make a lot of changes.
Revel in contradiction.
Talk to the person who died.
Give her a piece of your mind.
Try to touch someone at least once a day.
Approach grief with determination.
Pretend the finish line doesn’t keep receding.
Lean into the pain.
You can’t outrun it.
~Deborah A. Miranda~
The Trough

There is a trough in waves,
a low spot
where horizon disappears
and only sky
and water
are our company.
And there we lose our way
unless
we rest, knowing the wave will bring us
to its crest again.
There we may drown
if we let fear
hold us in its grip and shake us
side to side,
and leave us flailing, torn, disoriented.
But if we rest there
in the trough,
in silence,
being in the low part of the wave,
keeping our energy and
noticing the shape of things,
the flow,
then time alone
will bring us to another
place
where we can see
horizon, see land again,
regain our sense
of where
we are,
and where we need to swim.

~Judy Brown~

 

 

Cutting Loose

Sometimes from sorrow, for no reason,
you sing. For no reason,
you accept
the way of being lost, cutting loose
from all else and electing
a world
where you go where you want to.
Arbitrary, a sound comes, a
reminder
that a steady center is holding
all else. If you listen, that
sound
will tell you where it is and you
can slide your way past
trouble.
Certain twisted monsters
always bar the path—but that’s
when
you get going best, glad to be lost,
learning how real it is
here
on earth, again and again.

~William Stafford~

 

 

Happiness

There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.
And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.
No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.
It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
                     It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.
~Jane Kenyon~
FORGIVENESS

for Dad
I’m writing you
10 years later
& 2,000 miles
Away from

Our silence

My mouth a cave
That had collapsed

I’m writing
While you
You wear the
Hospital gown &

count failures
Such as the body’s

Inability to rise
I see your fingers

Fumbling in the
Pillbox     as if
Earthquakes are in
Your hands
I think it’s time
For us to  abandon
Our cruelties
For us to speak
So     s    o    f    t

We’re barely
Human.

 

~Christopher Soto~

 

 

 

AMERICAN TUNE

Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken
And many times confused
Yes, and often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
But I’m all right, I’m all right
I’m just weary to my bones
Still, you don’t expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home
And I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
or driven to its knees
But it’s all right, it’s all right
We’ve lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road
we’re traveling on
I wonder what went wrong
I can’t help it, I wonder what went wrong
And I dreamed I was dying
And I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me
Smiled reassuringly
And I dreamed I was flying
And high up above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty
Sailing away to sea
And I dreamed I was flying
We come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age’s most uncertain hour
and sing an American tune
But it’s all right, it’s all right
You can’t be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day
And I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying to get some rest
~Paul Simon~
(Song lyrics…but poetry.)

IMAGINE MY SURPRISE

 

Imagine my surprise,
sitting a full hour
in silent and irremediable
fear of the world,

to find the body
forgetting
its own fear the instant
it opened and placed
its unassuming hands
on life’s enduring pain,

and the world for one
moment
closed its terrifying eyes
in gratitude,

Saying,
“This is my body, I am found.”

~David Whyte~

     After Great Pain, A Formal Feeling Comes (372)

     After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
     The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
     The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
     And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?
     The Feet, mechanical, go round –
     A Wooden way
     Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
     Regardless grown,
     A Quartz contentment, like a stone –
     This is the Hour of Lead –
     Remembered, if outlived,
     As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
     First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –
    ~Emily Dickinson~

 

 

 

 

 
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