Poetry

The Guest House – Jalaluddin Rumi (translation by Coleman Barks)

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 are 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 whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

On Hospitality: A Reply to Rumi – Amy Newell

Welcome all the visitors you say.
Do not put bars on the windows
Or locks on the doors. Do not close up the
Chimney flue. Duct tape and plastic
sheeting will not keep the visitors at bay.
They’ll pound on the doors, they’ll break
your windows, they’ll create the barricades
they’ll storm the beach, swarm in like ants
through cracks. They’ll lead like water through
the walls, and creep like mice, and curl like smoke
and crack like ice against the window glass.
Keep them out? It can’t be done, don’t try.

Welcome all the visitors.
Fine. There’s all kinds
Of welcoming, however.
I do not have to throw a house party.
I will not post flyers.
There will be no open bar.
No one will get drunk
and lock themselves in the bathroom.
No one will break the furniture, grind chips
into the rug, throw anyone else in the pool,
or lose an earring in the couch.
I do not have to run a guest house, either
There will be no crackling fire
And no easy chairs. I will not serve
tea to the visitors. I will not dispense
ginger snaps and ask my guests
about themselves:
“Did my mother send you?”
“Why must you plague me?”
“Why not stay a while longer?”
“Who are you really?”
If I must welcome-and I am convinced I must-
Let me build a great hall to receive my guests.
Like a Greek temple, let it be open on all sides.
Let it be wide, and bright, and empty.
Let it have a marble floor.
Beautiful and cold and hard.
Let there be no sofas, no benches, no dark corners
no ante-rooms and no coat closets
No walls and not even a ledge to lean against.
I’ll welcome anyone who comes
I’ll show them my enormous empty hall.
Come in, come in, I’ll say. I’ll even smile
perhaps make conversation for a while.
And if someone settles on the floor, as if to stay,
or circles round and round, as if they have lost their way,
I’ll be kind, extend my hand,
and gently show them out again.

Mindful – Mary Oliver

Every day
I see or hear
Something
That more or less kills me
With delight,
That leaves me
Like a needle
in the haystack
Of light
It is what I was born for – to look,
to listen, to lose myself
Inside this soft world –
To instruct myself
Over and over
In joy
And acclamation
Nor am I talking
About the exceptional,
The fearful, the dreadful
The very extravagant –
but of the ordinary.
The common, the very drab,
The daily presentations.
Oh good scholar,
I say to myself, how can you help
But grow wise
With such teachings
As these –
The untrimmable light
Of the world

A Blessing For The One Who Is Exhausted – John O’Donohue

When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight,

The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.

Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.

The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.

You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken for the race of days.

At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.

You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.

Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.

Two Kinds of Intelligence – Jalaluddin Rumi (translation by Coleman Barks)

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 doesn’t move from outside to inside
through conduits of plumbing-learning.

This second knowing is a fountainhead
from within you, moving out.
From the translations of Rumi by Coleman Barks

Don’t Meditate to Fix Yourself – Bob Sharples

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 peoples lives in a knot. Instead there is now meditation as an act of love. How endlessly delightful and encouraging.

Autobiography in Five Chapters – Portia Nelson

1) I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am hopeless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

2) 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’m in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

3) 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.

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

5) I walk down another street.

Lost – a Native American elder story rendered into modern English by David Wagoner

Stand still. The trees ahead and the bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you go 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.

Allow – Danna Faulds

There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightening 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.

Fearing Paris – Marsha Truman Cooper

Suppose that what you fear
could be trapped,
and held in Paris.
Then you would have the courage
to go everywhere in the world.
All the directions of the compass
open to you,
except the degrees east or west
of true north
that lead to Paris.
Still, you wouldn’t dare
put your toes
smack dab on the city limit line.
You’re not really willing
to stand on a mountainside
miles away,
and watch the Paris lights
come up at night.
Just to be on the safe side
you decide to stay completely
out of France.
But then danger
seems too close
even to those boundaries,
and you feel
the timid part of you
covering the whole globe again.
You need the kind of friend
who learns your secret and says,
“See Paris first”.

Kindness – Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
Feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved.
All this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
The passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where The Indian in a white poncho
lies dead on 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 that cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
Only kindness that ties your shoes
And sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
Only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
‘It is I you have been looking for’,
And then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

I’d Pick More Daisies – by Nadine Stair, age 85

If I had my life to live over,
I’d try to make more mistakes next time.
I would relax. I would limber up.
I would be sillier than I have on this trip.
I would be crazier. I would be less hygienic.
I would take more chances, I would take more trips.
I would climb more mountains, swim more rivers,
and watch more sunsets.
I would burn more gasoline. I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would have more actual troubles and fewer imaginary ones.
You see, I am one of those people who lives
prophylactically and sensibly and sanely,
hour after hour, day after day.

Oh, I have 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 each day.
I have been one of those people who never go anywhere
without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a gargle, a
raincoat, and a parachute.

If I had to do it over again, I would go places and do things.
I’d travel lighter than I have.
If I had my life to live over, I would start barefooted
earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall.
I would play hooky more. I wouldn’t make such good grades
except by accident.
I would ride on merry-go-rounds.

I’d pick more daisies!

Everything Changes – Bertholt Brecht

Everything changes. You can make
A fresh start with your final breath.
But what has happened has happened. And the water
You once poured into the wine cannot be
Drained off again.

What has happened has happened. The water
You once poured into the wine cannot be
Drained off again, but
Everything changes. You can make
A fresh start with your final breath.

The Family Dog – Unknown

If you can start the day without caffeine or pep pills,
If you can be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,
If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,
If you can eat the same food everyday and be grateful for it,
If you can understand when loved ones are too busy to give you time,
If you can overlook when people take things out on you when,
through no fault of yours, something goes wrong,
If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,
If you can face the world without lies and deceit,
If you can conquer tension without medical help,
If you can relax without liquor,
If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,
If you can do all these things,
Then you, my friend, are the family dog.

I Said to the Waiting Creature Inside Me – Kabir

I said to the wanting creature inside me;
What is this river you want to cross?
There are no travellers on the river, and no road
Do you see anyone moving about on that bank or resting?
There is no river at all, no boat and no boatman.
There is no towrope either, and no-one to pull it.
There is no ground, no sky, no time, no bank, no fjord!

And there is no body, 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.

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 youall 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.

It Was Like This: You Were Happy – Jane Hirshfield

It was like this:
you were happy, then you were sad,
then happy again, then not.

It went on.
You were innocent or you were guilty.
Actions were taken, or not.

At times you spoke, at other times you were silent.
Mostly, it seems you were silent—what could you say?

Now it is almost over.

Like a lover, your life bends down and kisses your life.

It does this not in forgiveness—
between you, there is nothing to forgive—
but with the simple nod of a baker at the moment
he sees the bread is finished with transformation.

Eating, too, is a thing now only for others.

It doesn’t matter what they will make of you
or your days: they will be wrong,
they will miss the wrong woman, miss the wrong man,
all the stories they tell will be tales of their own invention.

Your story was this: you were happy, then you were sad,
you slept, you awakened.
Sometimes you ate roasted chestnuts, sometimes persimmons.

Wild Geese – Mary Oliver

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.

Unconditional – Jeniffer 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.
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 honour its form – true devotion.

My Balm – Jane O’Shea (Pujii)

I close my eyes and sigh, and here I am
Lying in the hammock of my heart
moving gently, with the soft air of my breath
When I fall from my head past my words
I’m caught lovingly by the hammock of my heart
and rocked to its rhythmic beat
It is my peace, my rest, my quiet
cradled in the hammock of my heart
It is constant, it is safe
to be held in the hammock of my heart
No place to go
Nothing to do
Nobody to please
It is my altar, my blessing, my balm
here in the hammock of my heart.

Walk Don’t Run – Rob Bell

Walk, don’t run.
That’s it.
Walk, don’t run.
Slow down, breathe deeply,
and open your eyes because there’s
a whole world right here within this one. The bush doesn’t suddenly catch on fire, it’s been burning the whole time.
Moses is simply moving
slowly enough to see it. And when he does,
he takes off his sandals.
Not because
the ground has suddenly become holy,
but because he’s just now becoming aware that
the ground has been holy the whole time.
Efficiency is not God’s highest goal for your life,
neither is busyness,
or how many things you can get done in one day,
or speed, or even success.
But walking,
which leads to seeing,
now that’s something.
That’s the invitation for every one of us today,
and everyday, in every conversation, interaction,
event, and moment: to walk, not run. And in doing so,
to see a whole world right here within this one.

Found – Frederick Buechner

Maybe it’s all utterly meaningless.
Maybe it’s all unutterably meaningful.
If you want to know which,
pay attention to
what it means to be truly human
in a world that half the time
we’re in love with
and half the time
scares the hell out of us…
The unexpected sound of your name on somebody’s lips.
The good dream.
The strange coincidence.
The moment that brings tears to your eyes.
The person who brings life to your life.
Even the smallest events hold the greatest clues.

Dear You – Kaveri Patel

Dear you,
You who always have
so many things to do
so many places to be
your mind spinning like
fan blades at high speed
each moment always a blur
because you’re never still.

I know you’re tired.
I also know it’s not your fault.
The constant brain-buzz is like
a swarm of bees threatening
to sting if you close your eyes.
You’ve forgotten something again.
You need to prepare for that or else.
You should have done that differently.

What if you closed your eyes?
Would the world fall
apart without you?
Or would your mind
become the open sky
flock of thoughts
flying across the sunrise
as you just watched and smiled.

Hokusai Says – Roger Keyes

Hokusai says look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing.
He says look forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,
you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat
yourself as long as it is interesting.
He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.
He says everyone of us is a child,
everyone of us is ancient,
everyone of us has a body.
He says everyone of us is frightened.
He says everyone of us has to find
a way to live with fear.
He says everything is alive–
shells, buildings, people, fish,
mountains, trees, wood is alive.
Water is alive.
Everything has its own life.
Everything lives inside us.
He says live with the world inside you.
He says it doesn’t matter if you draw,
or write books. It doesn’t matter
if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your veranda
or the shadows of the trees
and grasses in your garden.
It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.
Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength
is life living through you.
He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.
Love, feel, let life take you by the hand.
Let life live through you.

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.

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.

Chinese Proverb

If there is light in the soul,
there will be beauty in the person.
If there is beauty in the person,
there will be harmony in the house.
If there is harmony in the house,
there will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation,
there will be peace in the world.

Love and Fear – Michael Leunig

There are only two feelings.
Love and fear.
There are only two languages.
Love and fear.
There are only two activities.
Love and fear.
There are only two motives,
two procedures, two frameworks,
two results.
Love and fear.
Love and fear.

Keeping Quiet – Pablo Neruda

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.
Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whale’s”
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.
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 to be dead in winter
and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Break Your Heart No Longer – Swami Kripalvanandaji (Bapuji)

My beloved child, break your heart no longer.
Each time you judge yourself, you break your own heart.
You stop feeding on the love which is the wellspring of your vitality.
The time has come.
Your time.
To celebrate.
And to see the goodness that you are.
You, my child, are divine.
You are pure.
You are sublimely free.
Let no one, no thing, no idea or ideal obstruct you.
If one comes, even in the name of ‘Truth’, forgive it for its unknowing.
Do not fight.
Let go.
You are God in disguise and you are always perfectly safe.
Do not fight the dark. Just turn on the light.
Let go and breathe into the goodness that you are.

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