Poetry & Other Readings We Use in the MBSR Classes

Select a Poem

Lion’s Tooth

Born of seed and sun and water,
Gardener’s unwanted squatter.
Standing tall in turf unwanted,
Spreading mane in wind, undaunted.

Proud, defiant, lion’s tooth,
Silver sphere obscures the truth.
Transient form made most of space,
Delicate as spider’s lace.

Gold rosette to last salute,
Ultimate heavenward pursuit.
Held within its radiant form,
The seeds of birth called to perform.

The earth pulls body to its rest,
But not before it sheds its best.
Letting wind pull what it wants,
It won’t let go just yet, it taunts.

Eternal bond of host and guest,
Ends with a tug for what seems best.
The parent yearns for lost offspring,
As each pod lofts and takes to wing.

Freedom felt on strength of breeze,
Mighty gust or strangled wheeze.
Traveler flies in full retreat,
Or falls forthwith at father’s feet.

Soil wraps in moist embrace,
Transforming with a nuanced grace.
The end of one is now beginning,
Losing life is also winning.

Hold this fierce lion in your hands,
For all the world it still commands.
Death and birth are held in one.
Starting melds with being done.

Embrace the uninvited greenery,
For all it brings to living scenery.
Be careful what you call the weeds,
When cursing where you’ve sown your seeds.

By Steven Hickman

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

By Rumi, Translation by Coleman Barks

Love After Love

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.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

By Derek Walcott

Kindness

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 mail letters and purchase 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 every where
like a shadow or a friend.

By Naomi Shihab Nye

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

By Mary Oliver from New and Selected Poems, 1992
Beacon Press, Boston, MA

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

By Mary Oliver from Dream Work

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice-
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

By Mary Oliver

The Swan

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music - like the rain pelting the trees - like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

By Mary Oliver from The Paris Review #124, Fall, 1992

The Hippo

The hippo floats in swamp serene,
some emerged, but most unseen.

Seeing all and only blinking,
Who knows what this beast is thinking.

Gliding, and of judgment clear,
Letting go and being here.

Seeing all, both guilt and glory,
Only noting. But that's MY story.

I sit here hippo-like and breathe,
While inside I storm and seethe.

Would that I were half equanimous
As that placid hippopotamus.

By Steven Hickman

If I Had My Life to Live Over

I'd dare to make more mistakes next time.
I'd relax. I would limber up.
I would be sillier than I have been this trip.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances.
I would take more trips.
I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.

I would perhaps have more actual troubles but I'd
have fewer imaginary ones.

You see, I'm one of those people who live sensibly
and sanely hour after hour, day after day.

Oh, I've had my moments and if I had it to do over
again, I'd have more of them. In fact,
I'd try to have nothing else. Just moments.

One after another, instead of living so many
years ahead of each day.

I've been one of those people who never go anywhere
without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat
and a parachute.

If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot
earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall.

If I had it to do again, I would travel lighter next time.
I would go to more dances.
I would ride more merry-go-rounds.
I would pick more daisies.

By Nadine Stair (age 85)
from Condensed Chicken Soup for the Soul
Copyright 1996 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen & Patty Hansen

Still Water

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.

By W.B. Yeats

On Commitment

Until one is committed there is always hesitancy,
the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness,
there is one elementary truth,
the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:
the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help that would never otherwise have occurred.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision,
Raising to one’s favor all manner of unforeseen accidents and meetings
And material assistance which no man could have dreamed
Would come his way.
Whatever you can do or dream you can begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

By Goethe

The Five Hindrances

  • The desire for sense pleasure: pleasant sights, sounds, smells, tastes, bodily sensations, and mind states. Typically identified as an “If only . . .” seductive mentality. “When a pickpocket meets a saint, the pickpocket sees only the saint’s pockets.”
  • Aversion, hatred, anger and ill will. Has a burning, tight quality to it that we can’t escape. Fear, judgment and boredom can all be forms of aversion, because they are based upon our dislike of some aspect of experience.
  • Sloth and torpor. Includes laziness, dullness, lack of vitality, fogginess and sleepiness.
  • Restlessness can be the opposite of sloth and torpor. Agitation, nervousness, anxiety and worry. The mind spins in circles or flops around like a fish out of water.
  • Doubt. Can be the most difficult because when we believe it and get caught by it, our practice stops cold and we become paralyzed. Could be doubts about ourselves, our capacities, doubt about our teachers, doubts about the practice (“Does this really work?”)

From: Seeking the Heart of Wisdom, The Path of Insight Meditation
By Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield, Shambhala Publications, 1987

Between Going and Staying

Between going and staying the day wavers,
in love with its own transparency.
The circular afternoon is now a bay
where the world in stillness rocks.
All is visible and all elusive,
all is near and can't be touched.
Paper, book, pencil, glass,
rest in the shade of their names.
Time throbbing in my temples repeats
the same unchanging syllable of blood.
The light turns the indifferent wall
into a ghostly theater of reflections.
I find myself in the middle of an eye,
watching myself in its blank stare.
The moment scatters. Motionless,
I stay and go: I am a pause

By Octavio Paz

The Well of Grief

Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface of the well of grief
turning downward through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe
will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water, cold and clear, nor find in the darkness glimmering
the small round coins
thrown away by those who wished for something else.

By David Whyte from Close to Home

Go Among Trees and Sit Still

I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
Around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
Where I left them, asleep like cattle…

Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
And the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.

By Wendell Berry from Sabbaths, 1987, North Point Press

"Important"

"We hurry through the so-called boring things
in order to attend to that which we deem
more important, interesting.
Perhaps the final freedom will be a recognition that
everything in every moment is "essential"
and that nothing at all is "important."

By Helen M. Luke

Admit Something

Everyone you see, you say to them,
Love me.
Of course you do not do this out loud;
Otherwise,
Someone would call the cops.
Still though, think about this,
This great pull in us
To connect.
Why not become the one
Who lives with a full moon in each eye
That is always saying,
With that sweet moon language,
What every other eye in this world
Is dying to Hear.

By: Hafiz

All the True Vows

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 you to carry
the sound of its truth on your lips.

Remember,
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.

By: David Whyte

Allow

There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado. Dam a
stream and it will create a new
channel. Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground. The only
safety lies in letting it all in –
the wild and the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes

By: Danna Faulds

A Timbered Choir (excerpt)

I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet around me
like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places where I left them
asleep like cattle.
Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings and I hear its song.
Than what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings and I hear its song.

By: Wendell Berry

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

I.
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost ... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

II.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place
but, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

III.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in ... it's a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

IV.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

V.
I walk down another street.

By: Portia Nelson

Awareness

Awareness-
her gaze is so constant,
our every move
watched
with such affection,
a ceaseless vigil
without condition
or agenda,
silent,
patient,
unrelenting in her
embrace.

There is endless room in
the heart of this lover,
infinite space for whatever
foolishness we may
toss her way.

But she is also
crafty, this one-
a thieft who will steal away
everything we ever cherished,
all our beliefs,
all our ideas,

all our philosophies,
until nothing is left
but her shimmering
wakefulness,

this simple love
for what is.

By: John Austin

The Clear Days (Excerpt)

The dogs of indecision
Cross and cross the field of vision.
A cloud, a buzzing fly
Distract the lover's eye.
Until the heart has found
Its native piece of ground
The day withholds its light,
The eye must stray unlit.
The ground's the body's bride,
Who will not be denied.
Not until all is given
Comes the thought of heaven.
When the mind's an empty room
The clear days come.

By: Wendell Berry

Cookie Thief

A woman was waiting at the airport one night,
With several long hours before her flight.
She hunted for a book in the airport shop,
Bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop.

She was engrossed in her book, but happened to see,
That the man beside her, as bold as could be,
Grabbed a cookie or two from the bag between,
Which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene

She read, munched cookies, and watched the clock,
As the gustly "cookie thief" diminished her stock
She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by,
Thinking, "If I wasn't so nice, I'd blacken his eye!"

With each cookie she took, he took one too.
When only one was left, she wondered what he'd do.
with a smile on his face and a nervous laugh,
He took the last cookie and broke it in half.

He offered her half, and he ate the other.
She snatched it from him and thought, "Oh brother,
This guy has some nerve, and he's also so rude,
Why, he didn't even show any gratitude!"

She had never known when she had been so galled,
And sighed with relief when her flight was called.
She gathered her belongings and headed for the gate,
Refusing to look at the "thieving ingrate".

She boarded the plane and sank in her seat,
Then sought her book, which was almost complete.
As she reached in her baggage, she gasped with surprise.
There were her bag of cookies in front of her eyes!

"If mine are here," she moaned with despair.
"Then the others were his and he tried to share!"
Too late to apologize, she realized with grief,
That she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief!!!!

By: Valerie Cox

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story. jAvoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

By: Max Ehrmann

Embracing Formal Practice: Tasting Mindfulness

Have you ever had the experience of stopping so completely?
of being in your body so completely,
of being in your life so completely
that you knew and what you didn’t know
that what had been and what was yet to come,
and the way things are right now
no longer held even the slightest hint of anxiety or discord?
It would be a moment of complete presence, beyond striving,
beyond mere acceptance,
beyond the desire to escape or fix anything or plunge ahead,
a moment of pure seeing, pure feeling,
a moment in which life simply is,
and that “isness” grabs you by all your senses,
all your memories, by all your very genes,
by your loves, and
welcomes you home

By: Jon Kabat-Zinn

Enough

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.

By: David Whyte

The Five Remembrances

I am of the nature to grow old. I cannot escape growing old.
I am of the nature to have ill health. I cannot escape having ill health.
I am of the nature to die. I cannot escape death.
All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature of change. I cannot escape being separated from them.
My deeds are my closest companions. I am the beneficiary of my deeds. My deeds are the ground on which I stand.

Forget about enlightenment

Sit down wherever you are
And listen to the wind singing in your veins.
Feel the love, the longing, the fear in your bones.
Open your heart to who you are, right now,
Not who you would like to be,
Not the saint you are striving to become,
But the being right here before you, inside you, around you.
All of you is holy.
You are already more and less
Than whatever you can know.
Breathe out,
Touch in,
Let go.

By: John Welwood

Framework for Longevity

What is the secret of Longevity
Invest in bonds

Bond with love
Parental marital filial people spiritual
Love thy neighbor as thyself
No greater love hath man
Than he give up his life for another

Bond with nature
With its broad range of animal plant and mineral life
With its sun moon stars land sea and air
And all the creatures thereon and therein
With its solitude music challenge reverence

Bond with a positive mindset
Aim high and you won’t hit low
If things go your way don’t get too high
If things go against you don’t get too low

Bond with an upbeat lifestyle
Engage in spiritual intellectual social recreational pursuits
That guarantee health strength and daily bread
Woo the positive spurn the negative

Bond with existence
An existence that you deem worthy of your worship
Daily lift up some thought word and deed
To Him to Her to It

On each future birthday
Check your investments
If you can look at each bond and say
“Been there Done that”
You will end up dancing on the top rung
Of Longevity’s ladder

By: Michael J. Castori

The God who only knows Four Words

Every Child
Has known God,
Not the God of names,
Not the God of Don'ts
Not the God who ever does anything weird
But the God who only knows four words
And keeps repeating them, saying:
"Come dance with Me"
Come Dance

By: Hafiz

I Am Not I

I am not I.
I am this one
Walking beside me whom I do not see,
Whom at times I manage to visit,
And at other times I forget.
The one who remains silent when I talk,
The one who forgives, sweet, when I hate,
The one who takes a walk when I am indoors,
The one who will remain standing when I die.

By: Juana Ramon Jimenez

I Am That

There is only one mistake you are making:
you take the inner for the outer and outer for the inner.
What is in you, you take to be outside you
and what is outside, you take to be in you.
The mind and feelings are external,
but you take them to be intimate.
You believe the world to be objective,
while it is entirely a projection of your psyche.
That is the basic confusion . . .

By: Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

If You Would Grow - Shine the Light Of Loving Self-Care On Yourself

If you would grow to your best self
Be patient, not demanding
Accepting, not condemning
Nurturing, not withholding
Self-marveling, not belittling
Gently guiding, not pushing and punishing
For you are more sensitive than you know
Mankind is as tough as war yet delicate as flowers
We can endure agonies but we open fully only to warmth and light
And our need to grow Is as fragile as a fragrance dispersed by storms of will
To return only when those storm are still
So, accept, respect, and attend your sensitivity
A flower cannot be opened with a hammer.

By: Daniel F. Mead

I’ll Meet You There

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing
there is a field. I will 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.

By: Rumi

The Ink Dark Moon

Although the wind
blows terribly here,
the moonlight also leaks
between the roof planks
of this ruined house

By: Izumi Shikibu

It Felt Love

How did the rose
Ever open its heart
And give to this world
All its beauty?
It felt the encouragement of light
Against its being,
Otherwise,
We all remain
Too frightened

By: Hafiz

I Said To The Wanting-Creature Inside Me

I said to the wanting-creature inside me:
What is this river you want to cross?
There are no travelers on the river-road, and no road.
Do you see anyone moving about on that bank, or nesting?

There is no river at all, and no boat, and no boatman.
There is no tow rope either, and no one to pull it.
There is no ground, no sky, no time, no bank, no ford!

And there is no body, and no mind!
Do you believe there is some place that will make the
soul less thirsty?
In that great absence you will find nothing.

Be strong then, and enter into your own body;
there you have a solid place for your feet.
Think about it carefully!
Don't go off somewhere else!

Kabir says this: just throw away all thoughts of
imaginary things,
and stand firm in that which you are.

By: Kabir

Keeping Quiet

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the earth,
let's not speak in any language,
let's stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves
with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead in winter
and later proves to be alive.
Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

By: Pablo Neruda

Let Your Light Shine

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 is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It is not just in some of us, it is in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

By: Marianne Williamson

Lingering in Happiness

After rain after many days without rain,
it stays cool, private and cleansed, under the trees,
and the dampness there, married now to gravity,
falls branch to branch, leaf to leaf, down to the ground
where it will disappear - but not, of course, vanish
except to our eyes. The roots of the oaks will have their share,
and the white threads of the grasses, and the cushion of moss;
a few drops, round as pearls, will enter the mole's tunnel;
and soon so many small stones, buried for a thousand years,
will feel themselves being touched.

By: Mary Oliver

Little Gidding V

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half heard, in the stillness
Between the two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always--
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of things shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

By: T.S. Eliot

Lost

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.

By: David Wagoner

Myself and My Person

There are moments
when I feel more clearly than ever
that I am in the company
of my own person.
This comforts and reassures me,
this heartens me,
just as my tridimensional body
is heartened by my own authentic shadow.

There are moments
when I really feel more clearly than ever
that I am in the company
of my own person.

I stop
at a street corner to turn left
and I wonder what would happen
if my own person walked to the right.

Until now that has not happened
but it does not settle the question.

By: Anna Swir

Now is the time to know

Now is the time to know
That all that you do is sacred.
Now, why not consider
A lasting truce with yourself and God?
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.
That this is the time
For you to compute the impossibility
That there is anything
But Grace.
Now is the season to know
That everything you do
Is Sacred

By: Hafiz

Now is the time to know

I have a feeling that my boat
Has struck, down there in the depths,
Against a great thing.
And nothing happens!
Nothing.Silence.Waves.
--Nothing happens?
Or has everything Happened,
And are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?

By: Juan Ramon Jimenez

Oh, The Palaces You'll Go

I'm afraid that sometimes you'll play lonely games too. Games you can't win, cause you'll play against you.

All Alone! Whether you like it or not,
Alone you will be something quite a lot.

And when you're alone. There' a very good chance
You'll meet some things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
That can scare you so much you won't want to go on.

But on you will go, though the weather be foul,
On you will go, though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many a frightening creek,
Though your arms may get sore
And your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike.
And I know you'll hike far
And face up to your problems
Whatever they are.

You'll get mixed up, of course,
As you already know.
You'll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure where you step.
Step with care and great tact
And remember that life's a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

By: Dr. Seuss

The Peace of Wild Things (excerpt)

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 the time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

By: Wendell Berry

The Pickaxe

Tear down this house. A hundred thousand new houses can be built from the transparent yellow carnelian.

buried beneath it, and the only way to get to that is to do the work of demolishing and then

digging under the foundations. With that value in hand all the new construction will be done

without effort. And anyway, sooner or later this house will fall on its own. The jewel treasure will be

uncovered, but it won't be yours then. The buried wealth is your pay for doing the demolition,

the pick and shovel work. If you wait and just let it happen, you'd bite your hand and say,

"I didn't do as I knew I should have." This is a rented house. You don't own the deed.

You have a lease, and you've set up a little shop, where you barely make a living sewing patches

on torn clothing. Yet only a few feet underneath are two veins, pure red and bright gold carnelian.

Quick! Take the pickaxe and pry the foundation. You've got to quit this seamstress work.

What does the patch-sewing mean, you ask. Eating and drinking. The heavy cloak of the body

is always getting torn. You patch it with food, and other restless ego-satisfactions. Rip up

one board from the shop floor and look into the basement. You'll see two glints in the dirt.

By: Rumi

The Pith Instruction

The pith instruction is, Stay...stay...just stay.
Learning to stay with ourselves in meditation is like training a dog.
If we train a dog by beating it, we'll end up with an obedient but very inflexible and rather terrified dog. The dog may obey when we say "Stay!" "Come!" "Roll over!" and "Sit up!" but he will also be neurotic and confused.
By contrast, training with kindness results in someone who is flexible and confident, who doesn't become upset when situations are unpredictable and insecure.
So whenever we wander off, we gently encourage ourselves to "stay" and settle down.
Are we experiencing restlessness? Stay!
Discursive mind? Stay!
Are fear and loathing out of control? Stay!
Aching knees and throbbing back? Stay!
What's for lunch? Stay!
What am I doing here? Stay!
I can't stand this another minute! Stay!
That is how to cultivate steadfastness.

By: Pema Chodron

Please Call Me by my True Name

Do not say that I will depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive
Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch
to be a tiny bird, with wings still so fragile
learning to sing in my new nest
to be a caterpillar in the heart of flower
to be a jewel hiding itself in stone
I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope,
the rhythm of my heart is the birth and death of all that are alive.
I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time to eat the mayfly.
I am the frog swimming happily in the clear water of the pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who,
approaching in silence, feeds itself on the frog.
I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant selling deadly weapons to Uganda.
I am the 12 year old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving
I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his "debt of blood" to my people,
dying slowly in a forced labour camp.
My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.
My pain is like a river of tears, so full it fills up the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and my laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

By: Thich Nhat Hanh

Saint Francis And The Snow

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 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.

By: Galway Kinnell

Singapore

In Singapore, in the airport,
A darkness was ripped from my eyes.
In the women’s restroom, one compartment stood open.
A woman knelt there, washing something
in the white bowl.
Disgust argued in my stomach
and I felt, in my pocket, for my ticket.
A poem should always have birds in it.
Kingfishers, say, with their bold eyes and gaudy wings.
Rivers are pleasant, and of course trees.
A waterfall, or if that’s not possible, a fountain
rising and falling.
A person wants to stand in a happy place, in a poem.
When the woman turned I could not answer her face.
Her beauty and her embarrassment struggled together, and
neither could win.
She smiled and I smiled. What kind of nonsense is this?
Everybody needs a job.
Yes, a person wants to stand in a happy place, in a poem.
But first we must watch her as she stares down at her labor,
which is dull enough.
She is washing the tops of the airport ashtrays, as big as
hubcaps, with a blue rag.
Her small hands turn the metal, scrubbing and rinsing.
She does not work slowly, nor quickly, like a river.
Her dark hair is like the wing of a bird.
I don’t doubt for a moment that she loves her life.
And I want to rise up from the crust and the slop
and fly down to the river.
This probably won’t happen.
But maybe it will.
If the world were only pain and logic, who would want it?
Of course, it isn’t.
Neither do I mean anything miraculous, but only
the light that can shine out of a life. I mean
the way she unfolded and refolded the blue cloth,
The way her smile was only for my sake; I mean
the way this poem is filled with trees, and birds.

By: Mary Oliver

Sleeping in the Forest

I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

By: Mary Oliver

Sweet Darkness

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.
Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.
There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your womb tonight.
The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness to learn
anything or anyone that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.

By: David Whyte

Too Soon to Tell

As the story goes, there was once a farmer and his only son in the days just before the Civil War. Having only one horse, the farmer and son worked long hard days, sun up to sun down, just to get by, with nothing left to spare.
One day as the father and son plowed the fields, their horse got spooked and ran off. The son was devastated; "What bad luck, now what will we do?"
The father replied; "Good luck, bad luck, too soon to tell."
The father and son continued to work the farm. Then one day their horse comes running back over the hill with 6 other horses. The son exclaimed, "What great luck, now we have all the horses we'll ever need!"
To which the farmer replied; "Good luck, bad luck, too soon to tell."
The next day as the farmer and son were working with the horses, one particularly difficult horse threw the son off his back and broke his leg. The son cried: "Oh father, I am so sorry, now you have to work the farm all by yourself. What bad luck!"
Once again the father replied: "Good luck, bad luck, too soon to tell."
Several days later the Civil War broke out and all the able bodied young men were sent off to war. The farmer's son, having a broken leg, was forced to stay at home.
After the leg had healed, the father had the only farm around with a son to help and seven horses to boot. They worked the farm and prospered.
Good luck, bad luck. It's too soon to tell.

Two Kinds of Intelligence

There are two kinds of intelligence: one acquired,
as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts
from books and from what the teacher says,
collecting information from the traditional sciences
as well as from the new sciences.
With such intelligence you rise in the world.
You get ranked ahead or behind others
in regard to your competence in retaining
information. You stroll with this intelligence
in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always
more marks on your preserving tablets.
There is another kind of tablet, one
already completed and preserved inside you.
A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness
in the center of the chest. This other intelligence
does not turn yellow or stagnate. It's fluid,
and it does not move from outside to inside
through the conduits of plumbing-learning.
This second knowing is a fountainhead
from within you, moving out.

Two Wolves - A Cherokee Parable

An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life...

"A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.
"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.
"One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego.

"The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

"This same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather,
"Which wolf will win?"

The old chief simply replied,
"The one you feed."

Unconditional

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.
Each condition I flee from pursues me,
Each condition I welcome transforms me
And becomes itself transformed
Into its radiant jewel-like essence.
I bow to the one who has made it so,
Who has crafted this Master Game;
To play it is purest delight -
To honor its form, true devotion.

By: Jennifer Paine Welwood

Untitled

The range of what we think and do
is limited by what we fail to notice.
And because we fail to notice
there is little we can do
to change
until we notice
how failing to notice
shapes our thoughts and deeds.

By: RD Laing

Upstream Downstream a Contemporary Fable

It was many years ago that the villagers of Downstream recall spotting the first body in the river. Some old timers remember how spartan were the facilities and procedures for managing that sort of thing. Sometimes they say, it took hours to pull 10 people from the river, and even then only a few would survive.

Though the number of victims in the river has increased greatly in recent years, the good folk of Downstream have responded admirably to the challenge. Their rescue system is clearly second to none: most people discovered in the swirling waters are reached within 20 minutes-many less than 10. Only a small number drown each day before help arrives - a big improvement from the way it use to be.

Talk to the people of Downstream and they'll speak with pride about the new hospital by the edge of the waters, the flotilla of rescue boats ready for service at a moment's notice, the comprehensive plans for coordinating all the manpower involved, and the large numbers of highly trained and dedicated swimmers always ready to risk their lives to save victims from the raging currents. So it cost a lot, say to the Downstreamers, but what else can descent people do except to provide whatever is necessary when human lives are at stake.

Oh, a few people in Downstream have raised the question now and again, but most folks show little interest in what's happening Upstream. it seems there's so much to do to help those in the river that nobody's got time to check how all those bodies are getting in the river in the first place. That's the way things are sometimes.

By: Donald B. Ardell

The Velveteen Rabbit

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.
“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

By: Margery Williams

Wage Peace

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, clothes pins, 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.

By: Judyth Hill

The Way It Is

There's a thread you follow.
It goes among things that change. But it doesn't change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread. But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can't get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time's unfolding.
You don't ever let go of the thread.

By: William Stafford

We Have Not Come here To Take Prisoners

We have not come here to take prisoners
But to surrender ever more deeply
To freedom and joy.
We have not come into this exquisite world
to hold ourselves hostage from love.
Run my dear, From anything
That may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings,
Run like hell, my dear,
From anyone likely to put a sharp knife
Into the sacred, tender vision
Of your beautiful heart.
We have a duty to befriend
Those aspects of obedience of our house
And shout to our reason
"Oh please, oh please
come out and play."
For we have not come here to take prisoners,
Or to confine our wondrous spirits
But to experience ever and ever more deeply
our divine courage, freedom, and Light!

By: Hafiz

Well of Grief

Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief
turning downward through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe
will never know the source from which we drink
the secret water, cold and clear,
nor find in the darkness glimmering the small round coins
thrown by those who wished for something else

By: David Whyte

We Who Are Your Closest Friends

We who are
your closest friends
feel the time
has come to tell you
that every Thursday
we have been meeting
as a group
to devise ways
to keep you
in perpetual uncertainty
frustration
discontent and
torture
by neither loving you
as much as you want
nor cutting you adrift

your analyst is
in on it
plus your boyfriend
and your ex-husband
and we have pledged
to disappoint you
as long as you need us

in announcing our
association
we realize we have
placed in your hands
a possible antidote
against uncertainty
indeed against ourselves
but since our Thursday nights
have brought us
to a community of purpose
rare in itself
with you as
the natural center
we feel hopeful you
will continue to make
unreasonable
demands for affection
if not as a consequence
of your
disastrous personality

then for the good of the collective

By: Phillip Lopate

When Things Fall Apart (Excerpt)

Generally speaking, we regard discomfort in any form as bad news. But for practitioners or spiritual warriors, people who have a certain hunger to know what is true, feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we are holding back.
They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we'd rather collapse and back away. They're like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we're stuck. This very moment s the perfect teacher, and lucky for us, it's with us wherever we are.
Most of us do not take these situations as teachings. We automatically hate them. We run like crazy.
We are use to all kinds of escaping - all addictions stem from this moment when we meet our edge and we just can't stand it.
There are so many ways that have been dreamed up to entertain us away from the moment.

By: Pema Chodron

Who Turns

Who turns this into that? Sound into noise?
Aroma into odor? Taste into pleasure or disgust?
Who turns yes into no? Grace into unkindness?
Who turns the present into the past? Who turns the now into the not-now?
As-it-is into as-it-should-be?
Silence into boredom? Stillness into restlessness?
The ordinary into the menial?
Who turns pain into suffering? Change into loss?
Grief into woe? Woe into the story of your life?
Who turns stuff into sentiment? Desire into craving?
Acceptance into aversion?
Peace into war? Us into them?
Who turns life into labor? Time into toil?
Enough into not-enough?
Who turns why into why not?
Who turns delusion into enlightenment?
Who thinks? Who feels? Who senses?
Who turns?
All practice is the practice of making a turn in a different
Direction.

By: Karen Maezen Miller

Why Mira Can't Come Back to Her Old House

The colors of the Dark One have penetrated Mira's
body; all the other colors washed out.
Making love with the Dark One and eating little,
those are my pearls and my carnelians.
Meditation beads and the forehead streak,
these are my scarves and my rings.
That's enough feminine wiles for me.
My teacher taught me this.
Approve me or disapprove me: I praise
the Mountain Energy night and day.
I take the path that ecstatic human beings
have taken for centuries.
I don't steal money, I don't hit anyone.
What will you charge me with?
I have felt the swaying of the elephant's shoulders;
and now you want me to climb
on a jackass? Try to be serious.

The Wind, One Brilliant Day

The wind, one brilliant day, called
to my soul with an odor of jasmine.

'In return for the odor of my jasmine,
I'd like all the odor of your roses.'

'I have no roses; all the flowers
in my garden are dead.'

'Well then, I'll take the withered petals
and the yellow leaves and the waters of the fountain.'

the wind left. And I wept. And I said to myself:
'What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?'

By: Antonio Machado

You Reading This, Be Ready

The wind, one brilliant day, called
to my soul with an odor of jasmine.

'In return for the odor of my jasmine,
I'd like all the odor of your roses.'

'I have no roses; all the flowers
in my garden are dead.'

'Well then, I'll take the withered petals
and the yellow leaves and the waters of the fountain.'

the wind left. And I wept. And I said to myself:
'What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?'

By: William Stafford

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