It is one of my missions in life to turn more people onto poetry. For me, good poetry cuts through all of the noise
and gets to the essence of what matters. The words stick with me, lick me, and leave me changed.
In fact, there are a number of lines of poetry that constantly rumble around inside of me and bubble up when I need advice or reclaiming of purpose in my life. Thanks Rumi, Oliver, Harjo & Whyte for helping me when times are tough.
I hope that you will choose one to start your day with, read out loud before making art, begin work with a client, or even prepare for a big meeting...
Dear You by Kaveri Patel beautifully captures the strain of our monkey minds. Patel captures what it feels like to be occupied by thoughts, feelings, and reactions but offers us hope that any of us can find peace in letting go.
By: Kaveri Patel
Dear you, You who always have so many things to do so many places to be your mind spinning like fan blades at high speed each moment always a blur because you’re never still.
I know you’re tired. I also know it’s not your fault. The constant brain-buzz is like a swarm of bees threatening to sting if you close your eyes. You’ve forgotten something again. You need to prepare for that or else. You should have done that differently.
What if you closed your eyes? Would the world fall apart without you? Or would your mind become the open sky flock of thoughts flying across the sunrise as you just watched and smiled.
Portia Nelson’s Autobiography in Five Chapters is one of my favorites. She so cleverly depicts the patterns that we all fall into and the process of learning and observing our lives through time and intention. There is something hopeful about the process that she outlines, some grace and humility that this awareness takes time and practice.
AUTOBIOGRAPHY IN FIVE CHAPTERS
By Portia Nelson From Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
1. I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost… I am hopeless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.
2. I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I’m in the same place. But it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.
3. I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in… It’s a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.
4. I walk down the same street There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
5. I walk down another street.
One of the great teachers of how to be in this world is nature. Stand Still by David Wagoner is a lovely tribute to all the ways that nature can help us find our centre and place in the grand cosmic world. This poem is like a backbone reminding us that when things are hard, we can be still and find insight.
By David Wagoner
The trees before you and the bushes beside you are not lost.
Wherever you are is a place called Here, And you must treat it as a powerful stranger, Must ask permission to know it and be known. The forest breathes. Listen. It answers, I have made this place around you, If you leave it you may come back again saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven. No two branches the same to Wren. If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you, You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows Where you are. You must let it find you.
This poem captures in just a few lines so wonderfully what it feels like to observe yourself. In my own life and teaching, helping folks to experience what it is like to take a step back and observe your own experience has been a difficult shift to make. Somehow this poem just illustrates the experience of the great observer, the real us always lying-in wait in a few lines…. magic.
I Am Not I
By: Juan Ramon Jimenez
I am not I. I am this one Walking beside me whom I do not see, Whom at times I manage to visit, And at other times I forget. The one who remains silent when I talk, The one who forgives, sweet, when I hate, The one who takes a walk when I am indoors, The one who will remain standing when I die.
Holding the paradoxes of life together with reverence and awareness is the whole game. To see both this and that and then make space for both is a muscle that mindfulness helps us build. In this tiny poem by Izumi Shikibu the vastness of it all is so eloquently offered.
The Ink Dark Moon
By: Izumi Shikibu
Although the wind blows terribly here, the moonlight also leaks between the roof planks of this ruined house