Poetry

  • Earth Day

    Take a moment to look around you. The furniture you are resting on, the paper on your desk, the tea in your cup, the food on your plate -- all of this and most everything that sustains us, is thanks to nature and its resources.

     

    The earth is our home, but these days the majority of us live deeply disconnected from it, forgetful of the profound continuity between nature and our self.

    Today, on Earth Day, it is nice to connect with a sense of gratitude for the gifts of nature that surround and sustain us, which day-to-day we take for granted -- water to drink, sunlight to brighten and warm our days, trees to clean the air, earth rich in nutrients to grow our food. When we look with awareness, we see that we are a part of nature and not apart from it.

    Today is also a time to remember that our earth is as risk and we are edging towards an environmental disaster of epic proportions. The time is also now for us each to consider how we can play our part individually in caring for its future.

    As we do, it becomes clear that something deeper must change within us all -- at the level of our mind and our consciousness. In the words of Albert Einstein:

     

    “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

     

    Without an urgent shift in the state of our awareness, the repercussions of this crisis will begin to play out in all areas of life.

    At this critical point, mindfulness has an important role to play. The simple act of cultivating awareness is one of the first steps we can take to help us to begin to rebuild the relationship with have with the earth.

    When we become awake to the interconnection of life on earth, and aware of our dependence on it as a source of physical and psychic nourishment, we naturally deepen our respect and intention to care for it.

    These small shifts in attention and intention allow us to begin to make choices that are better for the planet and have a common humanity at their heart -- and although they may not feel much on an individual level, when they gain pace collectively, we may begin to see seismic shifts taking place.

    To honour both the hope and despair these reflections can evoke, here is one of our favourite Wendell Berry poems:

     

    The Peace of Wild Things

     

    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.

     

    The Mindfulness Project runs a range of courses, workshops and retreats to help us to cultivate awareness.

     

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  • The Poetry of Mindfulness

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    Mindfulness can have such a profound impact on our lives, so it makes sense that we would want to express those experiences in the form of art, writing, music or poetry. When we become more present and connected to life it makes us notice things more, and this active noticing enriches our creativity.

     

    In poetry we can capture moments or feelings, condensing them into words so that we can share them with others, and often also clarifying them for ourselves in the process. To be able to do this, we must first really pay attention. In order to describe something as formless as an inner experience, one must first fully feel into that experience, exploring its edges and depths with mindful awareness. This makes writing poetry a great mindfulness practice!

    Not only is creating our own poetry useful, but also reading the poetry of others.  Comfort can be found in the words of poets when they reflect back to us a feeling that we recognise, or when those words act as a prompt for us to reconnect with something deeper within ourselves.

    The poem below is a great example of how poetry can describe the feeling of ‘returning home’ to ourselves that many mindfulness practitioners experience:

     

     ‘Love After Love’  -- DEREK WALCOTT

     

    The time will come

    when, with elation

    you will greet yourself arriving

    at your own door, in your own mirror

    and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

     

    and say, sit here. Eat.

    You will love again the stranger who was your self.

    Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

    to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

     

    all your life, whom you ignored

    for another, who knows you by heart.

    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.

     

    In poetry we can find descriptions of universal human experiences. Although our personal circumstances may vary from person to person, and we all go through unique challenges, there are some feelings we all recognise, and that can be reassuring.

    Here’s another great poem, which seems to describe the bittersweet feeling of accepting life as it is, and finding our place in the world:

     

    ‘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.

     

    If you’ve never written creatively before, the thought of writing poetry may seem a bit daunting! Yet we might be surprised by what we come up with when we allow ourselves the time and space to experiment with words.

    We could start out by noting down some key words or imagery, things that speak to us and of our experiences in the world. Then we can try sewing them together, creating sentences, and eventually telling our own stories. We don’t have to show anyone else if we don’t want to, but it might be fun or useful to add poetry to our set of private mindfulness practices. Why not have a go and see what comes to you!

     

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