Words of Reflection

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
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)

It is time
To give yourself up.
Abandon all struggle,
Thoughts, worries and hopes.
It is time
To be Silent.
Be as heavy and still
As the highest mountain.
Be as light and serene
As the delicate flower.
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.

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

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.

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.
(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."


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

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


Poems of Presence: June 2020

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

(Photo credit: Nancy Beckerman, 2020)


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.

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


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 
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.

Poems of Presence: April 2020

Each week in class I share a relevant poem or quote to support our practice theme. As shelter-in-place continues, we practice riding the waves of difficult and beautiful moments.

i thank You God for most this amazing day (ee cummings) Feeling so grateful for the nourishment of nature in presence; nature is both healing and the healer.

Being a Person (William Stafford) With walks and hikes and garden meanderings a life-affirming part of these slower, quieter days, many are feeling more connected–or reconnected–with nature.

Something About the Wind (Sidney Hall, Jr.) It occurred to me that sadness and grief come in waves, like everything. I began to notice all the waves and stopped trying to make sense of them but just to ride them–thoughts, body sensations, sounds, circumstances, energy. This poem brought a smile as the breath is always here as the ocean.


Poems of Presence: March 2020

Inspiring, life-affirming words of reflection.

Each week in class I share a relevant poem or quote to support our practice theme. The following readings reflect positive aspects of the first few weeks of sheltering-in-place to stay safe and minimize the spread of the coronavirus.

Lockdown (Brother Richard Hendrick, March 13, 2020, Ireland) Beautiful, uplifting and poignant.

Love Sorrow (Mary Oliver) What happens if we hold all emotions this way?

The Beauty of Balance (Laura Purdie Salas) Remembering the strength and power of just being present and finding balance from the doing doing doing.

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