Words of Reflection

Poems of Presence – Autumn 2022

Each week I settle into my favorite chair to gather poems that might resonate with our class theme. I always find my body-mind-heart uplifted, soothed, somehow renewed. And then, together in class, we share in the poem’s invitation. (Photo Credit: Mindful Eating, Louise Taylor, Sept 2022)

Breathe into Presence

One conscious breathe in and out is a meditation. (Eckhart Tolle)

Ancient Language (Hannah Stephenson)

If you stand at the edge of the forest
and stare into it
every tree at the edge will blow a little extra
oxygen toward you

It has been proven
Leaves have admitted it (entire poem here)

 

Take Love For Granted (Jack Ride)

Assume it’s in the kitchen,
under the couch, high
in the pine tree out back,
behind the paint cans
In the garage… (entire poem here)

Grace

Heirlooms (Jim Keller, Camus’ Camel)

This watch reads a half hour slow

It’s too damn complicated to change it

Easier to change the time in my head

It was my father’s watch

The wrist band is much too long

I got my small bones from my mother

my brain from my father I hope

She got Alzheimer’s

along with her three sisters

This is a Seiko watch

self-winding

wound by my movement

It’ll keep going for a few hours

after my heart stops ticking

My heart is from my father I think

 

Connection and Acceptance

Sometimes I am Startled Out of Myself (Barbara Crooker)

like this morning, when the wild geese came squawking,
flapping their rusty hinges, and something about their trek
across the sky made me think about my life, the places
of brokenness, the places of sorrow, the places where grief
has strung me out to dry.  And then the geese come calling…. (entire poem here)

The Poet Compares Human Nature To The Ocean from Which We Came (Mary Oliver)

The sea can do craziness, it can do smooth,

it can lie down like silk breathing

or toss havoc shoreward; it can give…(entire poem here)

 

“Every thought we think, every feeling we have, every word we speak goes out into the atmosphere to either heal or harm. Let us be healers. Let us be harmless.” (John R. Price – Contributed by Ann Berry)

 

Resilience

Adrift (Mark Nepo)

Everything is beautiful and I am so sad.
This is how the heart makes a duet of
wonder and grief. The light spraying
through the lace of the fern is as delicate
as the fibers of memory forming their web
around the knot in my throat. The breeze… (entire poem here)

Become a Lake

Once an unhappy young apprentice came to an old master and told the master that he was deeply sad and asked for a solution. The old master instructed the unhappy young apprentice to put a handful of salt in a glass of water and then to drink it. Then he asked “How does it taste?” “Terrible!” spat the young apprentice. The master nodded and asked the young apprentice to take another handful of salt and put it in the lake. The two walked in silence to a nearby lake and the apprentice swirled his handful of salt into the lake. The older master said, “now drink the lake.” The apprentice cupped his hands and drank. Again, the old master asked, “How does it taste?” “Good!” said the apprentice. The master then asked, “Do you taste the salt?” and the apprentice smiled and said, “No.” The master sat beside the trouble young apprentice and took his hands. “The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less. The amount of pain in life remains the same. But the amount we taste depends on the container we put it into. So when you are in pain, the wisest thing to do is to enlarge your sense of things. Stop being a glass. Become a lake.

Remembering Love is Essential as Oxygen

(Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love)

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking, so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

 

If Prayer Would Do It (Stephen Levine)

If prayer would do it
I’d pray.
If reading esteemed thinkers would do it
I’d be halfway through the Patriarchs.

If discourse would do it
I’d be sitting with His Holiness
every moment he has free.

If contemplation would do it
I’d have translated the Periodic Table
to hermit poems, converting
matter to spirit.

If even fighting would do it
I’d already be a blackbelt.

If anything other than love could do it
I’ve done it already
and left the hardest for last.

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Healing Journey

Updates about Wendy’s health:

May 25: Thank you for your supportive thoughts as I prepare for surgery June 2. The ovarian mass is localized, I have excellent doctors, and am hopeful for a successful outcome. While I pause for healing, I hope you will enjoy connecting with each other in loving presence through self-guided Mindful Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation via the usual Weekly Schedule Zoom links. I will post updates when I can. Love to all!

June 3: Success! Surgery went well, and I was able to come home same-day due to laparoscopic wonders. So grateful to be cleared out and healing in comfort. The mass was malignant, but contained. We’ll find out more details in the coming weeks including any further treatment recommendations. Thank you for all the healing wishes, prayers, and other support, my dear family, friends and beloved mindfulness community! It helps tremendously! 🙏❤️

June 6, al fresco with the steady support of my spouse Karen and my parents Nancy and Steve.

June 13: I’m doing really well, stronger each day and appreciating all the mindfulness tools during this healing time. Your good thoughts and wishes are helping too! How wonderful to know that some of you are meeting at class time for community-supported practice. Breathing in what’s here; breathing out love and gratitude for this precious life.

 

June 23: Making great progress, walking strong, holding each moment with reverence and plenty of joy. I will receive a short course of chemotherapy July 11 to Aug 22 Aug 29. I hope to resume teaching [a little at a time] by mid-Sept. This week’s epiphany: I can live a great life while going through this. And I am doing just that–feeling the full spectrum, including continued gratitude for all your well wishes! 

Point Pinole, one step at a time.

June 30, a warmhearted visit with my brother Joel.

 

July 9: Fun moment! Pre-chemo haircut allows me to donate my locks before losing them. Receiving all the good vibes and sending love and light to all.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 31: Tomorrow is my 2nd of 3 chemo treatments. I’ve been doing quite well, thanks to so many supportive beings and practices.  The hair loss has been an adventure, symbolic of this time as a rebirth. Resting, nourishing, reflecting, reading, singing, hiking, laughing, being playful, just being. Relaxing around discomfort of body sensations, emotions and thoughts, shedding old hurts and anything that is not essential. Envisioning (and experiencing) joy, inner radiance, creative spark and loving life all the way through. Sending blessings of gratitude for your continued good energy and healing wishes. 

July 26 with my brother Ken on his sweet brief visit, holding our breath without masks for a moment.

 

Aug 1: Change of plans–My white blood cell count is a little low, so we’re delaying my 2nd chemo a week to Aug 8. This is common. Adding some more high-quality meat and more rest. Should be good to go next week. 

Morning walk on the neighborhood trail.

Miraculous August rainbow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 6: Good news! My white blood cells are up in the normal range again, so I’m ready for the second chemo on Monday, 8/8. Appreciating every success, every step. 

Aug 19: Whew! After making it through last week’s tumultuous side effects (the chemo doing its job), I’m enjoying some gentle days and simple pleasures: Luxuriating in a spoonful of peanut butter. Singing a new tune (not at the same time as the peanut butter). Sensing the loving presence that is always here. 

Aug 28: Tomorrow is the third and final chemo infusion. I’m ready. Feeling the power of your loving wishes; each one a breath of light. 

My partner Karen’s resonator guitar collaborated with the sun to bloom something magical above our hearth of healing cards.

Aug 30:  The chemotherapy is complete! Healing forward from here. CT scan in a few weeks for the all-clear and a new baseline, plus continued integrative medicine support. And loving life.

In quiet, joyful celebration.

Sept 18: The side effects of the final round of chemo were challenging, and all the great support is carrying me through. After tomorrow’s CT scan, I’m preparing to resume teaching classes a little at a time. (Schedule coming soon.) Feeling tremendously grateful.

Sept 21: Dancing with joy and relief!  Monday’s CT scan report says no residual, recurrent or metastatic disease. With a lightness in my step I enter the next phase of close monitoring for five years, easing progressively. And continuing healthy practices and complementary care always. 

Please check the Class Schedule for updates as I get back in the saddle, slow and steady. 

I wish I had just the right words of appreciation for all the incredibly generous support — beautifully written emails, uplifting photos, sweet texts, a glorious mountain of cards, warm voice messages, donations big and small, creative gift cards, abundant fresh food, healthy and artistic desserts, cashmere leggings (really!) and other lovely and sassy adornments, inspiring books, flowers galore, and most of all your true prayers, good thoughts and constant love. I have received every offering with an open, grateful heart. And I’ve discovered that receiving is part of the healing. Thank you.

Nov 30: After particularly poignant and celebratory birthday/Thanksgiving with my family (warm hugs with Mom and Dad’s flourless chocolate cake), I’ll be resuming some yoga classes next week! 

 

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Poems of Presence – May 2022

Each week I settle into my favorite chair to gather poems that might resonate with our class theme. I always find my body-mind-heart uplifted, soothed, somehow renewed. And then, together in class, we share in the poem’s invitation. 

The Space Between

Silence (Langston Hughes)

I catch the pattern Of your silence Before you speak I do not need To hear a word. In your silence Every tone I seek Is heard.

 

The Awakened Heart

One More Chapter in Letting Go (Rosemary Wahtola Trimmer)

Today it slipped into my daughter,

the seed that all is not right in the world.

 

In a matter of hours, already

the tap roots had grown beyond

 

my ability to pull them out.

I wonder if I have been wrong…(entire poem here)

 

Awe and Appreciation 

Theme inspired by awe-inspiring article Be Here Wow! (Wes “Scoop” Nisker) Audio version read by Wendy Beckerman (15 mins)

 

What Issa Heard (David Budbill)

Two hundred years ago Issa heard the morning birds singing sutras to this suffering world… (entire poem here)

 

Everything That Was Broken (Mary Oliver)

Everything that was broken has

forgotten its brokenness. I live

now in a sky-house, through every window the sun… (entire poem here)

 

“There are two ways to live your life; One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ~ Albert Einstein

“One cannot help but be in awe when one contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, or of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.” ~ Albert Einstein

 

“Tension is who you think you should be; Relaxation is who you are.” ~ Chinese Proverb

 

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (from The Little Prince)

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Poems of Presence – April 2022

While these poems support each week’s class theme, reading and listening to them also draws us together in the present moment. 

The Pulsation of Life

To Know The Dark (Wendell Berry)

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

 

Everyday Sacred

Hold Out Your Hand (Julia Fehrenbacher)
Let’s forget the world for a while
fall back and back
into the hush and holy
of now

are you listening? This breath
invites you
to write the first word
of your new story

your new story begins with this:
You matter (entire poem here)

 

Curiosity and Listening

When Beginning the Poem (Andrea Potos)

may there be a listening
rather than a making

curiosity over expectation,

lightness and ease,
no straining
toward some glut of air.

May you step aside
like a watcher at the meadow’s edge
as the doe
finds her way to the center... (entire poem here)

 

Right Here (Dane Anthony)

Stop moving. Stand in
one place – this place.
Breathe slowly; in, then out. Repeat.

Repeat again. Let your
shoulders sink and relax. Unclench
your jaw; slowly close your eyes.

Listen for your heartbeat; really
listen. Feel it pulse in
your fingertips… (entire poem here)

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Poems of Presence – March 2022

While these poems support each week’s class theme, reading and listening to them also draws us together in the present moment. 

Awareness Connects Us

On a Clear Day (Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer)

The way the field holds
   the shadow of the cottonwood,
      this is how life holds me.
 
Holds me, no matter my shape.
   Holds me with no effort.
      Holds my darkness and knows it
 
as weightless, as transient,
   as something that will shift,
      disappear, return, and shift again. (entire poem here)

 

Allowing Space

Storage (Mary Oliver)
When I moved from one house to another

there were many things I had no room for.

What does one do? I rented a storage

space. And filled it. Years passed.

Occasionally I went there and looked in,

but nothing happened, not a single

twinge of the heart. (entire poem here)

 

Loving Awareness Holds it All

For When People Ask (Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer)

I want a word that means
   okay and not okay,
     a word that means
devastated and stunned with joy.
   I want the word that says
     I feel it all all at once.
The heart is not like a songbird
   singing only one note at a time… (entire poem here)

 

Beginner’s Mind

I Have this Way of Being (Jamaal May)

I have this, and this isn’t a mouth
           full of the names of odd flowers

I’ve grown in secret.
           I know none of these by name

but have this garden now,
           and pastel somethings bloom

near the others and others… (entire poem here)

 

Resilience

Birdwings (Rumi)

Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror
up to where you’re bravely working.
 
Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,
here’s the joyful face you’ve been wanting to see.
 
Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed.
 
Your deepest presence
is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as birdwings.
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Poems of Presence – Feb 2022

Awareness has no speed limit. Always now. These writings poetically support each week’s class theme. 

Try Slow

Ocean Love (Carolyn Chilton Casas)

Let me not forget to notice
all the seasons of the ocean
with an awe-filled soul—
equally winter’s pounding surf
and summer’s gentle swells. (entire poem here)

 

Cultivating Heart Qualities

Small Kindnesses (Danusha Laméris)

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying. (
entire poem here)

 

Self Love

The Gift to Sing (James Weldon Johnson)

Sometimes the mist overhangs my path,
And blackening clouds about me cling;
But, oh, I have a magic way
To turn the gloom to cheerful day—
      I softly sing.

And if the way grows darker still,
Shadowed by Sorrow’s somber wing,
With glad defiance in my throat,
I pierce the darkness with a note,
       And sing, and sing.

I brood not over the broken past,
Nor dread whatever time may bring;
No nights are dark, no days are long,
While in my heart there swells a song,
       And I can sing.

 

Appreciating the Ordinary

Pigeons (Danusha Laméris)

Because they crowd the corner
of every city street,
because they are the color
of sullied steel,
because they scavenge,
eating every last crust,
we do not favor them… (entire poem here)

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Poems of Presence – Jan 2022

How stunningly beautiful to begin a new year slowly, listening, just being. These writings poetically support each week’s class theme. 

Non-Doing

The Cure for it All (Julia Fehrenbacher)

Go gently today, don’t hurry
or think about the next thing. Walk
with the quiet trees, can you believe
how brave they are—how kind? Model your life
after theirs. Blow kisses
at yourself in the mirror
especially when
you think you’ve messed up. (entire poem here)

 

Questions to Consider when Waking (Bernadette Miller)

What would you do if you really knew
that life was wanting to sing through you?

What would you say if your words could convey
prayers that the world was waiting to pray?

What would you be if your being could free
some piece of the world’s un-whispered beauty? (entire poem here)

 

Balance

The Marriage of Gold and Silver (Flur-Raven)

Do not refuse me because I’m dark and shadowed

Love me through all your doubts

Remember: there is light in every darkness

Remind me: without dark, there is no light

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Poems of Presence – Dec 2021

As we bring awareness to the chakras (energy centers), these poems beautifully resonate each week’s theme. 

Roots, Creativity, Personal Power, Self-Expression, and Deep Listening

Limitless (Danna Faulds)

Sun says, “Be your own
illumination.” Wren says,
“Sing your heart out,
all day long.” (entire poem here)

 

Inner Wisdom

Slowly, Slowly Wisdom Gathers (Mark Van Doren)

Slowly, slowly wisdom gathers:

Golden dust in the afternoon,

Somewhere between the sun and me,

Sometimes so near that I can see,

Yet never settling, late or soon. (entire poem here)

 

Surrender

Savasana: Corpse Pose (Marianne Muirphy Zarzana)

On the bonsai-green carpet, you stretch
your frame out flat upon a blue yoga mat

and parallel, I lie down upon a purple one,
both of us becoming still, our bodies sinking

further into the floor with each slow, steady
breath. It’s night, and together we’re letting go.  (entire poem here)

 

When Living on a Tiny Island (Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer)

It was a dream, but I tell you
everything was on fire in the house—
I knew the whole island would burn,
and I had to choose what to take… (entire poem here)

 

What Connects us All

Sacred Ground (Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer)

And if, as I now know, the closet
is sacred and the bare room
is sacred and the sidewalk
and classroom and the ER
are sacred, then I trip
into the teaching
that everywhere is sacred—
not only the church, but
the alley. Not only the mosque,
but the bench. (entire poem here)

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Poems of Presence – Nov 2021

It’s a labor of love to curate weekly poems that highlight our class theme. 

 

Wild Geese (Mary Oliver)

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. (entire poem here)

 

On Self-Esteem and Personal Empowerment

There Are Miracles (Rupi Kaur)

there are miracles in me

waiting to happen

i am never giving up on myself

 

On Giving and Receiving Love

Gonna Rise Up Singing (Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer)

If what we do now echoes into eternity,
then let there be more mornings such as this one
in which my mother wakes me by singing
a thin thread of melody
that praises the beauty of the day. (entire poem here)

 

A Good Day (David Steindl-Rast)

…And so I wish for you that you would open your heart to all these blessings
and let them flow through you,
that everyone whom you will meet on this day will be blessed by you;
just by your eyes,
by your smile,
by your touch — just by your presence… (entire poem and video here)

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Poems of Presence – Oct 2021

Each week I share a poem or quote to highlight our mindfulness theme. Most weeks there’s a perfect fit, and sometimes the search brings an unexpected delight. So grateful for life-affirming poems and the writers that birth them!

On Sympathetic Joy (Mudita, the third face of love) I searched high and low for a poem reflecting the spontaneous joy in another’s joy, to no avail. Finally, when I searched “mudita,” auto-correct changed it to “nudist.” Ahah! Sympathetic joy right there! 

Proverb (various origins)

Shared pain is half the pain;

Shared joy is twice the joy.

 

On Equanimity

New Mantra (Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer)

To this day with its deepening whirlpools of grief,
I say okay. Okay to the way I am swirled
and pulled down. Okay to the thick muscled sorrow.
Okay to the throat with its clenching, its tightness.
Okay to the ambush of tears. (entire poem here)

 

The Paradoxical Commandments (Kent M. Keith)

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway. (entire passage here)

NOTE: I included the following lines in class, and then learned the author did not write nor endorse them. However, I appreciate how they point us back toward intention:

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God; It was never between you and them anyway. 

 

On Grounding, Foundation, Feeling Held and Supported

There is a Light in Me (Anna Swir)

Whether in daytime or in nighttime

I always carry inside

a light.

In the middle of noise and turmoil

I carry silence.

Always

I carry light and silence.

 

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