Words of Reflection

Poems of Presence – Summer 2024

“Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it — every, every minute?” “…The saints and poets, maybe they do some…”
Thornton Wilder, Our Town

Each week I’m grateful to find and share a poem to highlight our weekly class themes. What a joy to practice being present together, season by season, moment by moment. 

Interconnectedness

Wage Peace (Judyth Hill)

Wage peace with your breath.
 
Breathe in firemen and rubble,
breathe out whole buildings and flocks of red wing blackbirds.
 
Breathe in terrorists 
and breathe out sleeping children and freshly mown fields.
 
Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.
 
Breathe in the fallen and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.
 
Wage peace with your listening: hearing sirens, pray loud.
 
Remember your tools: flower seeds, clothespins, clean rivers.
 
Make soup.

Play music, memorize the words for thank you in three languages.

Learn to knit, and make a hat.

Think of chaos as dancing raspberries,

imagine grief 
as the outbreath of beauty 
or the gesture of fish

Swim for the other side.

Wage peace.

Never has the world seemed so fresh and precious:

Have a cup of tea …and rejoice.

Act as if armistice has already arrived.
Celebrate today.

 

Presence

“The mind is like tofu. It tastes like whatever you marinate it in.”

Sylvia Boorstein

 

Zazen on Ching-t’ing Mountain (Li Bai)

The birds have vanished down the sky.
Now the last cloud drains away.
 
We sit together, the mountain and I,
until only the mountain remains.

 

Appreciation

There is This Moment (Rosemary Wahtola Trommer)
 
with the full moon rising
and a large bird of prey
gliding spirals in the sky
and my husband on my right
my sweet friend on my left
and the two-person band
transforming sorrow into joy
just by singing it in harmony
and giving the song their everything,
and maybe that’s what is ours to do—
to give ourselves wholly to a moment
as if we are the singers and life the song,
so I give myself to the low summer sun
and the dust on my feet,
to the pucker of lime
and the tears of my friend,
give myself to the ache that never leaves
and the relentless beauty that ever arrives,
and the more I give myself to the world,
the more the world rushes in
and says home, home, home,
you are home.
 
From Blossoms (Li-Young Lee)
 
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.
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Poems of Presence – Spring 2024

Blessed are the flowers — they have no wrist watches, they just know it’s time and they are here. Perhaps the pace of nature can remind us to take a “mindful gap” and just BE for one conscious breath. Each week I enjoy finding and sharing a poem to highlight our weekly class themes:

 

Ordinary Moments

Threading the Needle (Larry Schug)

To find (or lose) yourself
seek the place
you go where you go
when you thread a needle;
to the timeless, seamless place
where there exists only
the fingers on your one hand
holding the thread,
wetted in your mouth,
twisted to a point;
the fingers on your other hand
holding a needle
eye to eye,
breathless.
Only when the thread
passes through the needle’s eye
do you return
to your turbulent, breathing life.

 

Tea Tasting – excerpt (Adyashanti)

…People go looking far and wide
for the Buddha’s enlightenment
but I just sip my tea
and my tea swallows me…

 

In Early Evening(Kirsten Dierking)

Everything 

around the lake

assents to silence.

All birds

agree to hush.

All feathers, all fur, 

are felted thick

with fading light.

The boat comes to a gentle rest

on the blue cusp 

of still water.

Take it with you,

this interlude,

the sweet middle eye

of the storm.

 

Resilience

On Pain (Kahlil Gibran)

And a woman spoke, saying, Tell us of Pain.
     And he said:
     Your pain is the breaking of the shell 
that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break,
that its heart may stand in the sun,
so must you know pain. And could you keep your heart in wonder
at the daily miracles of your life
your pain would not seem less wondrous
than your joy; And you would accept the seasons of your heart,
even as you have always accepted the seasons
that pass over your fields. And you would watch with serenity
through the winters of your grief.

The Facts of Life (Pádraig Ó Tuama)

That you were born and you will die.

That you will sometimes love enough and sometimes not.

That you will lie
if only to yourself.

That you will get tired.

That you will learn most from the situations you did not choose.

That there will be some things that move you more than you can say.

That you will live
that you must be loved.

That you will avoid questions most urgently in need of your attention.

That you began as the fusion of a sperm and an egg of two people who once were strangers
and may well still be.

That life isn’t fair.
That life is sometimes good
and sometimes better than good.

That life is often not so good.

That life is real
and if you can survive it, well, survive it well
with love
and art
and meaning given
where meaning’s scarce.

That you will learn to live with regret. That you will learn to live with respect.

That the structures that constrict you may not be permanently constricting.

That you will probably be okay.

That you must accept change before you die
but you will die anyway.

So you might as well live and you might as well love. You might as well love.
You might as well love.

 

Awakened Heart

There is an Old Woman Inside Me (Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer)

There is an old woman inside me
with long gray hair and fuzzy green eyes.
She is soft in the way stones are soft
when tumbled by waves for a hundred years.
She is still as I run from room to room
content to listen to my bluster,
to watch the day unfold.
Her smile is gentle as dawn light
as she hums a wordless tune.
And as I make calls and check schedules,
she curls in the lap of my busyness
like an ash-colored cat,
her body warm and relaxed.
I love the old woman inside me,
gnarled as the branches of an old peach tree.
She is no stranger to how the world changes.
Every day I practice to be more like her,
slow as honey, quiet as moonlight,
familiar as the woman in the mirror.

 

Today’s Meditation (Danna Faulds)

I choose not to say the 

usual prayers as I sit 

for meditation. I skip

all techniques and simply

open to what’s here.

There is no clap of thunder,

no bolt from the blue,

but I do have a sense

of groundedness and listening.

My inner world doesn’t

grow still, but neither is it

overwhelming or chaotic.

I sit as if I belong,

as if there is no right

or wrong way to be

present with what is.

Minutes pass, sometimes

slowly, sometimes fast.

Nothing much happens,

yet I feel whole.

Just as I am, no addition

or subtraction needed,

I am content to rest

inside the mystery.

 

This Ordinary Spring Day (Danna Faulds)

How quickly I gain energy

from the trees, from all the

green and growing beings

in the woods. The fern fronds

have unfurled their fetal curls

and every leafing thing is

bursting with chlorophylled

vitality. I sneeze, then sneeze

again, pollen clearly visible

on the bench where I rest.

The heartbeat of the earth is

strong beneath my feet and

the morning birdsong loud

and lusty. I wouldn’t trade

this ordinary spring day

for any future promise.

 

The Moment (Marie Howe)

Oh, the coming-out-of-nowhere moment

when, nothing

happens

no what-have-I-to-do-today-list

 

maybe half a moment

the rush of traffic stops.

The whir of I should be, I should be, I should be

slows to silence,

the white cotton curtains hanging still.

 

Meeting the Light Completely (Jane Hirshfield)

Even the long-beloved
was once
an unrecognized stranger.
 
Just so,
the chipped lip
of a blue-glazed cup,
blown field
of a yellow curtain,
might also,
flooding and falling,
ruin your heart.
 
A table painted with roses.
An empty clothesline.
 
Each time,
the found world surprises—
that is its nature.
 
And then
what is said by all lovers:
“What fools we were, not to have seen.”

 

Inner Listening

Feather at Midday (Sister Dang Nghiem)

If I had not stopped to watch a feather flying by,
I would not have seen its landing–
a tiny pure white feather.

Gently, I blew a soft breath
to send it back to the spring.

If I had not looked up to watch
the feather gliding over the roof,
I would not have seen
the crescent moon
hanging at midday.

 

What’s In the Temple (Tom Barrett)

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

[I only read an excerpt; See entire poem HERE]

 

Equanimity

The Love Field (Danna Faulds)

Inside the love field

it’s not that problems

disappear, but dealing

with difficulties happens

in an embrace of love.

And since there is no

place or situation that

isn’t pervaded, imbued,

and shot through by love,

it becomes a simple matter

of opening to receive it.

Just as I am, with all

my strengths and

weaknesses writ large,

love is always with me.

I pray not to forget this

when the going gets tough

or the day doesn’t go as

I planned. The love field

is everywhere I am.

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Poems of Presence – Winter 2023/2024

In every season, our mindfulness practices support our inner journey and outer expression. Each week, a poem reflects and enlivens our weekly class themes:

Ways of Being

That Thing You Do (Donna Ashworth)

That thing you do, that thing you’re just good at. The thing that has always drawn you in, from childhood. That thing that has brought you something the rest of the world can’t see. You should do that, much more often. It doesn’t matter if it makes you money, or if anyone else thinks it’s worthwhile. It’s your thing. And every time another adult does their thing again, something in the universe shifts. It’s like pieces of a puzzle that was never supposed to make sense, but was always supposed to just be. You must do your thing again my friend. It matters.

 

 

Flowering (Linda Buckmaster)

At the ruins of the Seven Churches Inishmore

Pick a crevice,
a homey gap
between stones
and make it
your own.

Grow a life here
from wind
rain
and the memories of ancients
embedded in limestone.

The bees will use you
for their sweet honey.
The rock will soften under
your touch.
You will draw moisture from fog
and hold it.
Your presence
will build soil.

This is all we have
in this life
all we own:
a flowering
an opening
a gap between stones
for tiny tender roots.

 

No Measuring Up (Ed Brown)

Now I take the time to peel potatoes,
wash lettuce and boil beets,
to scrub floors, clean sinks, and empty trash.

Absorbed in the everyday,
I find time to unbind, unwind,
to invite the whole body, mind,
breath, thought, and wild impulse to join,
to bask in the task.

No time lost thinking that somewhere else is better.
No time lost imagining getting more elsewhere.
No way to tell this moment does not measure up.
Hand me the spatula: now is the time to taste what is.

 

Ten Thousand Flowers (We-men)

Ten thousand flowers in spring,

the moon in autumn,

a cool breeze in summer,

snow in winter.

If your mind isn’t clouded

by unnecessary things,

this is the best season of your life.

 

Winter Poem (Nikki Giovanni)

once a snowflake fell
on my brow and i loved
it so much and i kissed
it and it was happy and called its cousins
and brothers and a web
of snow engulfed me then
i reached to love them all
and i squeezed them and they became
a spring rain and i stood perfectly 
still and was a flower

 

Metta Mornings (Daniella Sforza)

We begin again each day

May I be well

May you be well

As the sun rises and sets smiling

In its arc above our earth

Draw it all into your breath

Inspire

We begin again each day

May I be well

May you be well

 

Into the New Year (Danna Faulds)

 

Two gifts will travel with me

into the new year –

divine light and divine love.

Everything else is speculative,

but these two are certainties.

In a world built on chance

and circumstance, divine

light and love occur to me

as beacons. I am grateful

for their company in a life

where questions outnumber

answers by at least three

to one. My intention for

the new year is to notice,

nurture, and share love

and light in as many ways

as I can in my life. I pray

to relax, trust, and breathe

enough to shine.

 

Essential Goodness

Our Fuller Selves (Rupi Kaur)

“we think we are lost while our fuller found and complete selves are somewhere in the future

we get on our hands and knees thinking self-improvement will help us reach them but this finding ourselves [BS] is never going to end

i’m tired of putting off living until i have more information on who i am

i’m a new person every month

always becoming and unbecoming only to become again

our fuller selves are not off in the future

they’re right here in the only moment that exists

 

Sacred Pause

Love after Love (Derek Walcott)

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… (entire poem here)

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.

 

The Interconnected Whole (Danna Faulds)

I pray to rest awhile

in that inner space

where Self and soul and

source all radiate their light.

May I know, if only for a

fleeting moment, that the

interconnected whole leaves

nothing outside its warm

embrace. It’s love that joins,

love that strengthens bonds,

love that illuminates and

takes me on a sacred journey.

May I open to the mystery and

silence from which this love

arises and know it as my home.

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Poems of Presence – Autumn 2023

Autumn in the San Francisco Bay Area brings cactus blooms and the last of the summer harvest, as we ready a winter garden. Our mindfulness practices support all the savoring and the letting go into quieter spaces. As always, a new crop of poems to reflect and enliven our weekly class themes:

 

Feeding Your Soul

In a Circle of Trust (Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer)

I love these fierce and gentle hours 
when the silence between us
blooms between voices
as deeply, as profusely
as the pale pink blossoms
that flourish in pavement cracks.
I did not know how much
I longed for this silence,
Did not know how the silence would honor
each voice the way a frame holds a portrait,
bringing value and beauty to the art inside,
didn’t know how shining it could be
with its infrangible truth,
how silence invites a deepening of self
the way a river deepens and changes the  canyon,
even as the river itself is changed.

 

Wasting Time (Donna Ashworth, Wild Hope)

Perhaps we could redefine

our idea of time

I don’t believe you can waste time

by resting

talking to a friend

walking in nature

or reading a book

you can’t waste time by connecting

letting souls talk

allowing inner children out to play

or making stories to pass down

you can’t waste time by helping

or doing anything at all

that feeds your soul

and energises your weary bones

that’s exactly what time is for

in fact

everything else

is just a tick on a list

just a tick

on a never-ending list

 

 

Breath and Being

Joy Chose You (Donna Ashworth, Wild Hope)

Joy does not arrive with a fanfare
on a red carpet strewn with the flowers of a perfect life

joy sneaks in as you pour a cup of coffee
watching the sun hit your favourite tree, just right

and you usher joy away
because you are not ready for her
your house is not as it should be
for such a distinguished guest

but joy, you see, cares nothing for your messy home
or your bank-balance
or your waistline

joy is supposed to slither through the cracks of your imperfect life
that’s how joy works

you cannot truly invite her, you can only be ready when she appears
and hug her with meaning
because in this very moment
joy chose you.

 

 

Just this Breath (Danna Faulds)

Settle in the here and now.
Reach down into the center
where the world is not spinning
and drink this holy peace… (entire poem here)

 

Loving Presence

Presence (John Philip Newell)

In the gift of this new day,
in the gift of the present moment,
in the gift of time and eternity intertwined,
let us be grateful,
let us be attentive,
let us be open to what has never happened before… (entire poem here)

Shifting Purpose (Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer)

Yesterday, the thing to do
   was to rake the golden leaves
    from the grass and gather them
       into huge untidy piles
  for my husband to pull away.
   Today the invitation is
to not rake the leaves.
   To sit in the grass and feel myself
    folded into an unmanaged beauty.
  The invitation is to admire
     their infinite shades of yellow… (entire poem here)

Because (Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer)

So I can’t save the world—
can’t save even myself,
can’t wrap my arms around
every frightened child, can’t
foster peace among nations,
can’t bring love to all who
feel unlovable.
So I practice opening my heart
right here in this room and being gentle
with my insufficiency. I practice
walking down the street heart first. (entire poem here)

Autumn Walk (Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer)

Perhaps it is the autumn light
that makes the walk up
this familiar old dirt road feel
so lucky, so fortunate? This is how
 
I want to meet life—as if
there is no way to contain all
the beauty so it leaks out and floods
the world with gold… (entire poem here)

Connection

Excerpt from “A Great Wagon” (Rumi)

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
There is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
The world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
Doesn’t make any sense.

 

Remember (Joy Harjo)

… Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
Remember. (entire poem here)

 

 

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Poems of Presence – Summer 2023

Celebrating summertime here in the northern hemisphere. Loving awareness, like the sun, shines on everything. These poems reflect and enliven our weekly class themes. 

Grace

“We are stars wrapped in skin;

the light you are seeking

has always been within” ~ Rumi

 

What Do We Know (Mary Oliver)

The sky cleared

I was standing

under a tree.

and there were stars in the sky 

that were also themselves 

at the moment

at which moment

my right hand

was holding my left hand

which was holding the tree

which was filled with stars

and the soft rain —

imagine! Imagine!

the long and wondrous journeys

still to be ours.

 

Balance

Walking Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh

Take my hand.
We will walk.
We will only walk.
We will enjoy our walk
without thinking of arriving anywhere. (entire poem here)

 

Breath of Life (Danna Faulds)

I breathe in All That Is-
Awareness expanding
to take everything in,
as if my heart beats
the world into being.
From the unnamed vastness beneath the mind,
I breathe my way into wholeness and healing.
Inhalation. Exhalation.
Each Breath a “yes,”
and a letting go, a journey, and a coming home.

Quote by Phillip Moffitt: “Life dances. It dances with you and it dances with me however it’s going to. Good things are going to happen, unpleasant things, scary things, and that’s not a choice. So the willingness to show up in your own life moment to moment, to know the fire of your life, takes genuine courage. But it’s not a kind of invincible courage–it’s the courage to be with the up and down, to be with the movement, to be with the dance. That’s the opportunity of practice. 

Transitions: Doing and Being

Rest (Nikita Gill)

Every day is not an opportunity

to improve yourself.

Some days are just there

for you to accept yourself

and look at the clouds… (entire poem here)

 

Hope (from Everwood TV series)

“If you’re feeling frightened about what comes next… don’t. Embrace the uncertainty. Allow it to lead you places. Be brave as it challenges you to exercise both your heart and your mind as you create your own path towards happiness. Don’t waste time with regret. Spin wildly into your next action. Enjoy the present – each moment as it comes – because you’ll never get another one quite like it. And if you should ever look up and find yourself lost, simply take a breath and start over. Retrace your steps and go back to the purest place in your heart, where your hope lives. You’ll find your way again…”

The Door (Miroslav Holub)

Go and open the door.
Maybe outside there’s
a tree, or a wood,
a garden,
or a magic city… (entire poem here)

 

The Road (Victoria Erickson)

It’s ok not to know.

It’s ok to rest 

through in between.

Until you don’t

need the breaks. 

Until the

view unfolds.

Until resistance 

gives way.Until the road

is clear.

 

The road will clear.

 

The Way of Truth

Grace (Alice Walker)

grace
gives me a day
too beautiful
I had thought
to stay indoors
& yet
washing my dishes
straightening
my shelves
finally
throwing out
the wilted
onions … (entire poem here)

I’m Not The River (Mary Oliver)

I’m not the river
that powerful presence.
And I’m not the black oak tree
which is patience personified.
And I’m not redbird
who is a brief life heartily enjoyed.
Nor am I mud nor rock nor sand
which is holding everything together.
No, I am none of these meaningful things. Not yet.

 

Grace (Frederic Buechner)

Listen to your life.

See it for the fathomless mystery that it is.

In the boredom and the pain of it

no less than in the excitement and gladness:

touch, taste, smell your way

to the holy and hidden heart of it

because in the last analysis

all moments are key moments,

and life itself is grace.

 

I Worried (Mary Oliver)

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
hopeless… (entire poem here)

 

 

The Jewel of the Lotus

Unconditional (Jennifer Welwood)

Willing to experience aloneness,

I discover connection everywhere;

Turning to face my fear,

I meet the warrior who lives within;

Opening to my loss,

I gain the embrace of the universe;

Surrendering into emptiness,

I find fullness without end… (entire poem here)

 

Mantra for insight and guidance: OM NAMO BHAGAVATE VASUDEVAYA (Jay Shetty, Think Like a Monk, with gratitude to Charles T fromFriday Meditation) “I offer praise unto the all-pervading divinity present within every heart; who is the embodiment of beauty, intelligence, strength, wealth, fame, and detachment.” 

 

Balancing Doing With Being

“We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.”

― William Butler Yeats, The Celtic Twilight: Faerie and Folklore

 

The God Who Only Knows Four Words (Hafiz)

Every
Child
Has known God,

Not the God of names,
Not the God of don’ts,
Not the God who ever does Anything weird…(entire poem here)

 

I’m There Now With You (Loren Wilber’s gift to our Friday Meditation Group)

I’m there now with you

When we all get together:

Meditation Time

 

Light

Be like the flower; turn your face to the sun. ~ Kahlil Gibran

Why I Wake Early (Mary Oliver)

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who made the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety –

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe… (entire poem here)

 

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Effortless Action

Effortless Action: relaxed, supported, playful — with easy presence.

It was a challenging hike, so my companion put her hand on my back to help me up the steepest part. She used no force, just a gentle, loving touch, and that’s all it took to make it easier. 

Since then, when I’m climbing alone–or facing another challenge–I imagine a strong, loving hand supporting me from behind or somehow all around. I surrender the tension of trying to control and ride the current of support that’s always here. 

When a tree grows it’s not doing the growing; It’s just growing. The same with a flower opening, so gracefully evident in time lapse photography. And with any action–a yoga pose, a deep breath–how does it feel to allow this body to open and these limbs and spinal column to grow? 

What about everyday tasks, like cleaning my glasses? When I invite myself to do it effortlessly, I notice I turn on the water in a relaxed way, I easily add some soap, I’m present, and feel as if someone or something is moving my hands. Easy, playful joy.

In meditation I invite this: “Be present with the sensations and movement of each breath the way you naturally would show up for someone or something you find easy to love; No agenda, no expectations, open-hearted, listening, present. Give yourself these qualities of attention now.” Easy to love. Easy to be.

What happens when you allow a deeper, slower breath to support every movement and action? Reaching, speaking, singing?

And when you notice efforting, what happens when you stop for a moment? How is it to remember the feeling of being supported by a friend’s hand and heart, by spirit, by higher power, nature, community, love, and begin again?

For me, easy grace. 

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Poems of Presence – Spring 2023

The joy of springtime! These poems reflect and enliven our weekly class themes. I’m grateful to find and share these expressions of Awareness and Presence.

Equanimity (Upekka)

Forget About Enlightenment (John Welwood)

Forget about enlightenment.
Sit down wherever you are
And listen to the wind singing in your veins.
Feel the love, the longing, and the fear in your bones.
Open your heart to who you are, right now,
Not who you would like to be… (entire poem here)

Perfect Equanimity (Hafiz)

Look how a mirror
will reflect with perfect equanimity
all actions
before
it.

There is no act in this world
that will ever cause the mirror to look away.

There is no act in this world that will
ever make the mirror
say ‘no.’

The mirror, like perfect love, will just keep giving
of itself to all
before
it. (entire poem here)

Sympathetic Joy (Mudita)

Joy (Hilda Conkling)

Joy is not a thing you can see.
It is what you feel when you watch waves breaking,
Or when you peer through a net of woven violet stems
In Spring grass… (entire poem here)

 

Kind, Loving Presence (Metta and Karuna)

Compassion (Miller Williams)

Have compassion for everyone you meet,
even if they don’t want it… (entire poem here)

Black Cherries (W.S. Merwin)

Late in May as the light lengthens
toward summer the young goldfinches
flutter down through the day for the first time
to find themselves among fallen petals
cradling their day’s colors in the day’s shadows … (entire poem here)

 

Effortless Action

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.

 

Daily Praise (Miranda July)

Do you have doubts about life? Are you unsure if it’s worth the trouble? Look at the sky: that is for you. Look at each person’s face as you pass on the street: those faces are for you. And the street itself, and the ground under the street and the ball of fire underneath the ground: all these things are for you. They are as much for you as they are for other people. Remember this when you wake up in the morning and think you have nothing. Stand up and face the east. Now praise the sky and praise the light within each person under the sky. It’s okay to be unsure. But praise, praise, praise.

 

Finding Neutral (Sherry Sheehan) The poet is a longtime participant in our Friday Mindfulness Meditation practice group, now online

Friday at four

in a room at the Pinole Library

 

Folding chairs form a circle

to hold our selves,

 

muscles and bones at rest,

minds attending to each breath,

 

vehicles un-revved,

finding neutral in slowed flesh

 

that moves

mere millimeters for many minutes

 

as we follow the pull

toward oblivious presence,

 

leaving the world outside

for interior residence.

 

Effortless (Clea McLemore)

You

Were like breaths breathed

I, Inhaling, exhaling

loving you

Without even trying

Effortless

 

Paradoxes of Being

(by Anais Nin, read by Charles in Friday’s meditation 5/5)

We do not grow absolutely, chronologically.

We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly

We grow partially.

We are relative.

We are mature in one realm, childish in another.

The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. 

We are made-up of layers, cells, constellations.

(Anais Nin)

[Angela Anais Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell (Feb 21, 1902-Jan 14, 1977; French-born American Diarist, essayist, novelist, and writer of short stories and erotica.]

 

Slowing Down (the breath & life)

All the Instructions Needed (Danna Faulds) 

posted by the poet’s permission

 

Open the back door

as well as the front.

Open the skylights and

side windows. Open your

heart and the door

to the basement. Let the 

divine pour in, presence

as palpable as breath —

and then sit in this

awareness. These are all

the instructions needed

for a full and joyous life.

 

Curiosity and Appreciation 

The Good News (Thich Nhat Hanh)

The good news

they do not print.

The good news

we do print.

We have a special edition every moment,

and we need you to read it.

The good news is that you are alive,

that the linden tree is still there,

standing firm in the harsh winter. (entire poem here)

 

Invitation (Mary Oliver)

Oh do you have time
to linger
for just a little while
out of your busy

and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles

for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,

or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air… (entire poem here)

 

Walk Slowly (Danna Faulds)

It only takes a reminder to breathe,
a moment to be still and just like that,
something in me settles, softens,
makes space for imperfection… (entire poem here)
 

Allowing and Trust

“Don’t trust what you have been taught, what you think, what you believe, or what you hope.

Deeper than that, trust the silence of your being.” ~Gangaji

 

The Inner History of a Day (John O’Donohue)

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… (entire poem here)

 

Savoring Pleasure [contributed by Marybeth F.]

The Materialism of Angels (Jack Ridl) 

Of course the angels dance. If not
on the head of a pin, then maybe
on the boardwalk along the ocean of stars.
And they eat hot and spicy: salsa,
tabasco, red peppers. They love
mangoes. They can munch
for hours on cashews. Olives
sit in bronze bowls on the cherry
tables next to their canopy beds
where the solace of pillows swallows
their sweet heads and the quiet
of silk lies across their happy backs. (entire poem here)

 

Lila (Playfulness)

Warning (Jenny Joseph)

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter. (entire poem here)

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Poems of Presence – Winter 2022/2023

A new season — the last days of one year and the beginning of the next — moment by moment. These poems reflect and enliven our weekly class themes. It’s truly a joy to curate these expressions of Awareness and Presence.

Inner Light

Solstice (Robyn Sarah)

A sly gift it is, that on the year’s
shortest day, the sun
stays longest in this house– (entire poem here)

 

Kind Presence

Twenty-four Hours (Thich Nhat Hanh, from Peace is Every Step)

Every morning, when we wake up

we have twenty-four brand new hours to live.

What a precious gift!

We have the capacity to live in a way

that these twenty-four hours

will bring peace, joy and happiness

to ourselves and others. 

 

What Are You Practicing?

My Work is Loving the World (Mary Oliver)

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 half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished… (entire poem here)

 

From True Meditation (Adyashanti)

“Effortless doesn’t mean no effort; effortless means just enough effort to be vivid, to be present, to be here, to be now, to be bright…We each need to find out for ourselves what this means. Too much effort and we get too tight; too little effort and we get dreamy. Somewhere in the middle is a state of vividness and clarity and inner brightness.”

 

One Cleaning the Closet of the Mind (Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer)

how threadbare these thoughts

I’ve chosen to wear every day–

replacing them with nothing

 

For a New Year (Holly Wren Spaulding)

Let plain things please you again

and every ordinary Monday.

Bean soup in a white bowl,

firewood in your arms. 

The weight of longing. (entire poem here)

 

Being With Things As They Are

Smart Cookie (Richard Schiffman)

The fortune that you seek is in another cookie, 
was my fortune. So I’ll be equally frank—the wisdom 
that you covet is in another poem. The life that you desire  
is in a different universe. The cookie you are craving 
is in another jar. (entire poem here)

Fluent (John O’Donohue)

I would love to live

Like a river flows,

Carried by the surprise

Of its own unfolding.

 

Threads (Rainer Maria Rilke)

“She who reconciles the ill-matched threads of her life, and weaves them gratefully into a single cloth— it’s she who drives the loudmouths from the hall and clears it for a different celebration   where the one guest is you…” (entire poem here)

 

Radiating Love

Aimless Love (Billy Collins)

This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table. (entire poem here)

 

Because (Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer)

So I can’t save the world—
can’t save even myself,
can’t wrap my arms around
every frightened child, can’t
foster peace among nations,
can’t bring love to all who
feel unlovable.
So I practice opening my heart
right here in this room and being gentle
with my insufficiency. I practice
walking down the street heart first. (entire poem here)

 

Rest

“Tension is who you think you should be; relaxation is who you are.” (Chinese Proverb)

“The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green Earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)

 

Resting with the Breath

May there only be a Letting Go (Lissa Edmond)

May I be with this breath
resting my senses
against the way
the body breathes
rising and falling
in response to the breath’s
comings and goings. (entire poem here)

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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, 2022: 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, 2022: 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, 2022: 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, 2022: 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, 2022: 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, 2022: 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, 2022: 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, 2022: 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, 2022:  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, 2022: 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, 2022: 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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