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Posts tagged ‘poetry’

Super Moon, Season Change, and Silent Vows

Super moon: St Michael's Tower on Glastonbury Tor, Somerset (This photo from England conveys similiar shadow & moon contrast visible in Alaska.)

Visiting friends on Friday night, the nearly full moon hovered in a pink tinged sky, rising over iced, frozen chunks of the Kenai River, Alaska. In contrast, Saturday night was already shadowless dark as  I waited for the Super moon to shine. I gasped when the entire horizon of Kenai Mountain peaks became a silhouette, and Super moon hugged the landscape luminous.

There are a hundred things I could write about–wanted to write about–on the eve of the Vernal Equinox. Alaska gains five to six minutes of light, every day. My mind was like a gumball machine. However, tears had blanketed my face earlier, as had laughter when I saw my true reflection in the mirror. I had no more words, and simply desired to lean into the liquid silence of the night, beauty unfolding peace in a time of fierce change, for me personally, and throughout our planet.

Super moon rose so gracefully as earth orbited in dance. The rhythm of David Whyte’s poetry from earlier that day breathed in me. Gazing through tall windows into the wintry landscape, I spontaneously slipped out of my sheepskin slippers, moving into flowing Qigong practice, facing darkness, within and without, illuminated by moonlight. My silence became a prayer of sorts.

Thank you Super moon, and thank you David Whyte–your poems evoke a fierce conversation within me. I welcome the season of Lent–Vernal Equinox–spring, and all the true vows. Amen.


All the true vows
are secret vows.
the ones we speak out loud
are the ones we break.

There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.

Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don’t turn your face away.

Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.

Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made,
nor the work they have chosen,

nor the one life that waits
beyond all the others.

By the lake in the wood,
in the shadows,
you can
whisper that truth
to the quiet reflection
you see in the water.

Whatever you hear from
the water, remember,

it wants to carry
the sound of its truth on your lips.

in this place
no one can hear you

and out of the silence
you can make a promise
it will kill you to break,

that way you’ll find
what is real and what is not.

I know what I am saying.
Time almost forsook me
and I looked again.

Seeing my reflection
I broke a promise
and spoke
for the first time
after all these years

in my own voice,

before it was too late
to turn my face again.

— David Whyte, River Flow: New and Selected PoemsHouse of Belonging, and the CD of poems and music, Return

Have you experienced poetry or nature teaching and guiding you … communicating that for which you may have no words, yet?
Do you have a favorite poem or poet? A place in nature where you come home to yourself in your own skin?


Stand Still. Appreciate a Tree.

Wilderness is a powerful teacher. In Alaska, the landscape is sturdy. Rugged. Every day a thousand trees remind me to stand still. Trees teach me tenacity. Trees teach me to grow roots, offer support, move without snapping, let go, and to hold onto myself. I live in a log home built of tree trunks. Burning branches provide wood stove heat, protecting me from bitter cold.

A Jewish friend told me that today is  Tu B’shvat–a holiday called New Year For Trees. I recalled a favorite poem, and want to share it with you. Lost reminds me to pause, be present and embodied in the here and now of time–where ever that may be. Perhaps it will speak to you, too.

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
— David Wagoner

Please make time to appreciate your outer landscape. Look closely at a tree, go to a park,  take a walk. Then, stand still. Where are you? Really, where are you? Give thanks for life–however it lives in you today.

Please offer your thoughts and comments. What do you discover?

Speaking of Faith: Holding Life Consciously

“Is it possible to be alive, active in the world, and yet have such calm, such kind of inner openness and presence that one can lead a life, at least in part, that is an expression of that quality of meditative quiescence that’s on the one hand quite alert and on the other hand, completely at ease, completely at rest.” –Arthur Zajonc

Krista Tippett, author, producer, and host of the Public Radio show, “Speaking of Faith” writes, “Focused Attention, Open Awareness” – I’m not sure I’d seen the words “physicist” and “contemplative” in the same sentence many times, much less found them together as descriptors of the same person, before I met Arthur Zajonc.”

The opening words in Tippett’s e-mail announcement for the June 24, 2010 show, “Holding Life Consciously” grabbed me. I had not yet listened to the show or podcast on my iPod, but immediately threads of subtle language began to weave in me: Focus. Attention. Open Awareness. Alert. Alive. Stillness.

Gift yourself. Take a minute to read the quotes in this blog post. Or, read the full description I read in the e-mail announcement, and listen to the June 24, 2010 Speaking of Faith show, “Holding Life Consciously”

As you read, notice and ask yourself:
What opens in me as I listen to this conversation?
Is my inner knowing affirmed with any insight?
Does a phrase or turn of words evoke an inner smile and affirmation within me?

From June 24, 2010 Speaking of Faith show, “Holding Life Consciously:
“Zajonc’s own life experience has been recently reshaped by a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. He has seen the progression of this illness in other members of his family, and so has some understanding of what is ahead. This is at one and the same time a source of grief and a continuation of the adventure Arthur Zajonc has long been on — to explore what holding life consciously means, now with a progressively debilitating condition. He tells me: “There are two main types of meditation and both of them are part of my life, which one is a concentration and the other is what I call open awareness. It’s a very open presence.” In the concentration phase, tremors actually worsened.

You have a line of poetry or from scripture or an image and you bring your full undivided single-pointed attention to that content. But as we’re straining mentally to do that, the hand begins to tremor more. And then when you release the image and become very still and quiet and open yourself wide, the hand slowly calms to the point where indeed your whole body feels at ease and the tremor disappears. Interesting…

I can see that the mind and the body are so delicately attuned to one another that these practices affect the Parkinson’s state itself. … So here’s the question I pose to myself.

“Is it possible to be alive, active in the world, and yet have such calm, such kind of inner openness and presence that one can lead a life, at least in part, that is an expression of that quality of meditative quiescence that’s on the one hand quite alert and on the other hand, completely at ease, completely at rest.”

June 24, 2010 Speaking of Faith show, “Holding Life Consciously.

This post first appeared June 28, 2010, in my Spiritual Directors International blog post.

What do you think? Is it possible to hold life consciously? What spiritual practices help you cultivate an alive, active, calm?

Poetry Inspires Life Dance

Crystal Cove, Laguna Beach, California

Are you passionate about being alive?

Words and rhythm grab me. I realize I’ve always enveloped this perspective, even as a pigtailed girl on the lookout for ladybugs. I never want to become jaded and bitter, sightless. I want to wake up with fresh eyes every day, orientate toward appreciation, and know that the world conspires with us and for us, not against us. I seek meaning and significance in the ordinary.
Maybe you think and feel the same way I do.

Poetry opens portals to appreciation, to seeing. The shape of words in my mouth, together with images and sensation in my body guide and provoke aliveness. Some poets have a particular gift of vision. Mary Oliver is tops in my world. I discovered her when I attended the University of California, Irvine, and enrolled in a poetry class with professor and poet Michael Ryan. That was eighteen years ago. I relish every one of her books, period.

Oliver’s book, Evidence: Poems arrived to me in Alaska this week. I am slowly inhaling the pages. I’ve belly-laughed—startling my dogs. I’ve wept. With very few words, Oliver paints reality. Her artistry accompanies me in my workshop preparation for “Learning to Trust Love” that will be offered at WOMENSPEAK 2010, an international gathering of women in Mobile, Alabama, March 12-14, 2010 .

I share this poem, and encourage you to discover poets that inspire a life dance in you.

May I never not be frisky,
May I never not be risqué.

May my ashes, when you have them, friend,
and give them to the ocean,

leap in the froth of the waves,
still loving movement,

still ready, beyond all else,
to dance for the world.

–Mary Oliver, Evidence: Poems, 2010

This is my prayer, too. I want to “dance for the world.”
What prays alive in you?
Who are the poets that accompany you?

Where Are You From?

Where are you from? Who are the people, places and experiences that shape and form the amazing critter of you? My son, Justin, wrote these words two months before he died.

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The Next Best Step

Whenever I encounter times like this I try to remember to stop and breathe deeply, noticing where my attention is focused.

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