Words of Reflection

Poems of Presence – Jan 2021

In these first breaths of the New Year, we know we are here. These poems help enliven our weekly class explorations of being fully awake for all our life moments.

Living (Senali Perera)

When you feel storms brewing inside you
you breathe.
When your heart turns to stone inside your chest
you breathe.
When unknowing souls cut you open
you breathe.
When they look away from the love you bleed out
you breathe.
When you find yourself choking on daydreams
you breathe.
When your insides burn from their absence
you breathe.
When they tear you apart just for fun
you breathe.
When you feel poems sprout inside your veins from the teardrops you cry
you breathe.
When it all goes silent and you're lost in your own company
you breathe.

You breathe,

you breathe,

and you breathe.

You breathe till your heart lightens
You breathe till your bruises fade
You breathe till you're awake from the reverie
You breathe till the hurricane is tame
You breathe till you find a friend in yourself
You breathe till the aches are all washed away
You breathe for the night to be gentle
You breathe till the golden dawn breaks.


Enough
(David Whyte)

Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.

This opening to the life
we have refused
again and again
until now.

Until now.


Saint Francis and the Sow
(Galway Kinnell)
The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;   
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;   
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch   
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow   
began remembering all down her thick length,   
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,   
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine   
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering   
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.
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Poems of Presence – Dec 2020

Mindfulness is an act of love we give ourselves and the world. These verses punctuate our weekly class explorations of embodying our highest intentions, inside and out.

 

Love, (Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer)

Though I am undeniably broken,
I come to you with no need to be fixed.
I come to you the way one river
meets another river--not joining
out of thirst, but because
there is so much power
and beauty in giving oneself
to another, in moving
through the world together.
I come to you the way the half moon
comes into the yard--I could be more
whole, but in the meantime,
I will bring you everything
I have.


Kindness,
(Naomi Shihab Nye)

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 gaze at 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 everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.


Encouragement
(Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer)

Some mornings, when the sun
has just begun to slip
into my room, I swear

that it encourages me
as I try to hide beneath the sheets.
You can do it, the light seems to say.

It does not mention, not even once,
all the darkness it has traveled through
just to arrive at this window

so that it might warm my face
and suggest there is so much
more light to be found.


A Cushion for your Head
(Hafiz)

Just sit there right now
Don't do a thing
Just rest.

For your separation from God,
From love,

is the hardest work
In this
World.

Let me bring you trays of food
And something
That you like to
Drink.

You can use my soft words
As a cushion
For your
Head.
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Gratitude Practice

Gratitude is a current of goodness through all the challenges. When I began my daily gratitude practice in May 2019 (writing and feeling ten things I actually appreciate in this moment) I had no idea how fortifying it would be, and how essential for 2020, the wildest year we have known. 
On this Thanksgiving week my heart is full and flowing with appreciation for all of you who dove into online classes since we began sheltering in place in March. Together we have brought healing and hope to each other while riding the waves of grief, uncertainty and new beginnings. Your affirming notes and generous donations have buoyed me and sustained these classes. You gave me a reason to keep showing up, trusting in the spirit of community more than ever and the loving awareness that connects us all. I thank you dearly.
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Poems of Presence – Nov 2020

What happens when we pause to feel what’s within and around us? Can we appreciate the small details that make up the whole of our lives and hold our experience with love and care? These verses punctuate our weekly class explorations of mindfulness, gratitude and compassion.

You Reading This, Be Ready (William Stafford)

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this 
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life –

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?


Daydream (A.S.J. Tessimond)

One day people will touch and talk perhaps easily,
And loving be natural as breathing and warm as sunlight,
And people will untie themselves, as string is unknotted,
Unfold and yawn and stretch and spread their fingers,
Unfurl, uncurl like seaweed returned to the sea,
And work will be simple and swift as a seagull flying,
And play will be casual and quiet as a seagull settling,
And the clocks will stop, and no one will wonder or care or notice,
And people will smile without reason, even in winter, even in the rain.

Instructions for the Journey (Pat Schneider)

The self you leave behind
is only a skin you have outgrown.
Don't grieve for it.
Look to the wet, raw, unfinished
self, the one you are becoming.
The world, too, sheds its skin:
politicians, cataclysms, ordinary days.
It's easy to lose this tenderly
unfolding moment. Look for it
as if it were the first green blade
after a long winter. Listen for it
as if it were the first clear tone
in a place where dawn is heralded by bells.

And if all that fails,
wash your own dishes.
Rinse them.
Stand in your kitchen at your sink.
Let cold water run between your fingers.
Feel it.

 

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Poems of Presence – Oct 2020

We live, we love, and we let go. Again and again. These verses reflect our recent weekly class explorations of mindfulness, equanimity and compassion. [Photo: Nancy Beckerman]

Wind On A Hill (A.A. Milne)

No one can tell me,
Nobody knows,
Where the wind comes from,
Where the wind goes.
 
It’s flying from somewhere
As fast as it can,
I couldn’t keep up with it,
Not if I ran.
 
But if I stopped holding
The string of my kite,
It would blow with the wind
For a day and a night.
 
And then when I found it,
Wherever it blew,
I should know that the wind
Had been going there too.
 
So then I could tell them
Where the wind goes . . .
But where the wind comes from
Nobody knows.

At Blackwater Pond (Mary Oliver)

At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have
settled
after a night of rain. 
I dip my cupped hands. I drink
a long time. It tastes
like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold
into my body, waking the bones. I hear them
deep inside me, whispering
oh what is that beautiful thing
that just happened?

Timeless (Nalini)

Now
It is time
To give yourself up.
 
Surrender,
Abandon all struggle,
Thoughts, worries and hopes.
 
Now
It is time
To be Silent.
 
Be as heavy and still
As the highest mountain.
 
Be as light and serene
As the delicate flower.
 
Now
It is time
To listen.
 
Listen in pure silence
As if trying to hear the voice of the sun
Rising at dawn.
 
Listen to the one who hears
And rest in this
Timeless equanimity.

The One-Inch Journey (Wendell Berry)

Always in big woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place, there will be–along with the feeling of curiosity and excitement–a little nagging dread. It is the ancient fear of the unknown and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into.

You are undertaking the first experience, not of the place, but of yourself in that place. It is an experience of our essential loneliness, for nobody can discover the world for anybody else. It is only after we have discovered it for ourselves that it becomes a common ground and a common bond, and we cease to be alone.

And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our feet, and learn to be at home.

 

The Word (Tony Hoagland)

Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,
 
between "green thread"
and "broccoli," you find
that you have penciled "sunlight."
 
Resting on the page, the word
is beautiful. It touches you
as if you had a friend
 
and sunlight were a present
he had sent from someplace distant
as this morning—to cheer you up,
 
and to remind you that,
among your duties, pleasure
is a thing
 
that also needs accomplishing.
Do you remember?
that time and light are kinds
 
of love, and love
is no less practical
than a coffee grinder
 
or a safe spare tire?
Tomorrow you may be utterly
without a clue,
 
but today you get a telegram
from the heart in exile,
proclaiming that the kingdom
 
still exists,
the king and queen alive, 
still speaking to their children,
 
—to any one among them
who can find the time
to sit out in the sun and listen.
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Poems of Presence – Sept 2020

We can open to life — just as it is, in this moment — through the loving presence of mindful awareness. These lines reflect our weekly class explorations in body/mind, heart and spirit.

Everything You Do Is Sacred
(Hafiz)

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

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.

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

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

Birthright (Danna Faulds)

Despite illness of body or mind,
in spite of blinding despair or habitual belief,
who you are is whole.
Let nothing keep you separate from the truth.
The soul, illumined from within,
longs to be known for what it is.
Undying, untouched by fire or the storms of life,
there is a place inside
where stillness and abiding peace reside.
You can ride the breath to go there.
Despite doubt or hopeless turns of mind,
you are not broken.
Spirit surrounds, embraces, fills you from the inside out.
Release everything that isn’t your true nature.
What’s left, the fullness, light and shadow,
claim all that as your birthright.


Praying (Mary Oliver)
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.

Old Souls (Nikita Gill)
There is a beautiful thing inside you
That is thousands of years old.
Too old to be captured in poems.
Too old to be loved by everyone
But loved so very deeply
By a chosen few.
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Poems of Presence – Aug 2020

What a gift to find a poem or quote that perfectly reflects a class theme. These verses simultaneously send us deep into the world and invite us into the here and now, even for just a few moments.

The Peace of Wild Things 
(Wendell Berry)

When despair for the world grows in me 
and I wake in 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 with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Antidotes to Fear of Death 
(Rebecca Elson)

Sometimes as an antidote
To fear of death,
I eat the stars.

Those nights, lying on my back,
I suck them from the quenching dark
Til they are all, all inside me,
Pepper hot and sharp.

Sometimes, instead, I stir myself
Into a universe still young,
Still warm as blood:

No outer space, just space,
The light of all the not yet stars
Drifting like a bright mist,
And all of us, and everything
Already there
But unconstrained by form.

And sometime it’s enough
To lie down here on earth
Beside our long ancestral bones:

To walk across the cobble fields
Of our discarded skulls,
Each like a treasure, like a chrysalis,
Thinking: whatever left these husks
Flew off on bright wings.
Magic 
(Jennifer Nostrand)

We were talking about magic
as we drove along a crowded
Sunday highway

when the whirl of wings
made me turn
and a flock of geese
flew over our car
so low I could see
their feet tucked under them.

For a moment the rustle
of their presence over our heads
obscured everything

and as they disappeared
you said,
"I see what you mean."

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Poems of Presence – July 2020

When I recite an inspiring poem or quote in class, we practice being present together in shared experience. I hope you’ll enjoy re-reading them and sharing them with others in your own voice.

This is the real secret of life — To be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play. ~ Alan Watts

Apply Within (Suzy Kassem)
You once told me
You wanted to find
Yourself in the word --
And I told you to
First apply within,
To discover the world
within you.

You once told me
You wanted to save
The world from all its wars -- 
And I told you to
First save yourself
From the world,
And all the wars
You put yourself
Through.

And the People Stayed Home (Kitty O’Meara)

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal. And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”

From Bob Sharples, Meditation: Calming the Mind

“Don’t meditate to fix yourself, to heal yourself, to improve yourself, to redeem yourself;  rather, do it as an act of love, of deep warm friendship to yourself.  In this way there is no longer any need for the subtle aggression of self-improvement, for the endless guilt of not doing enough.  It offers the possibility of an end to the ceaseless round of trying so hard that wraps so many people’s lives in a knot.  Instead there is now meditation as an act of love.  How endlessly delightful and encouraging.”

It’s not about how much you do but how much love you put into what you do. ~ Mother Teresa

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Poems of Presence: June 2020

These insightful poems and quotes enlivened the themes of recent yoga and meditation classes.

(Photo credit: Nancy Beckerman, 2020)

Connection

If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded. ~ Maya Angelou

Breathing Into Discomfort

Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There’s a crack, a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in. ~ Leonard Cohen (Anthem)

When the Heart is Cut (Michael Leonig)

When the heart
Is cut or cracked or broken,
Do not clutch it;
Let the wound lie open.
Let the wind
From the good old sea blow in
To bathe the wound with salt,
And let it sting.
Let a stray dog lick it,
Let a bird lean in the hole and sing
A simple song like a tiny bell,
And let it ring.

For A New Beginning (John O’Donohue)

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.
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Poems of Presence: May 2020

Practicing daily gratitude and open presence allow the space for deepest connection. Similarly, these poems and quotes invite us to pause and remember what matters most. (Related to class themes)

Choosing Gratitude

Everything can be taken from a [person] but one thing: the last of the human freedoms–to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. ~ Viktor Frankl

Open, Listening Presence

I don’t ask for the sights in front of me to change, only for the depth of my seeing. ~ Mary Oliver

Attention without feeling, I began to learn, is only a report. An openness–an empathy–was necessary if the attention was to matter. ~ Mary Oliver

Connection

If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded. ~ Maya Angelou

Clearing (Martha Postlethwaite)

Do not try to serve 
the whole world 
or do anything grandiose. 
Instead, create 
a clearing 
in the dense forest
of your life 
and wait there 
patiently, 
until the song
that is yours alone to sing
falls into your open cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to the world 
so worthy of rescue.
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