This is part of an inspirational-motivational poem collection used in a mindfulness based stress reduction training I attended at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. (circa 1995) that Dr. Jon Kabat Zinn headed up.
I find them “food for thought” and comforting in times of uncertainty. Rereading them and typing for this blog was a wonderful thing for me to do while Hurricane Irene is barreling up the eastern seaboard, headed for NYC and Long Island, where I live. Uncertainty about evacuation and potential damage is difficult. I’ve been in “Hurricane Bootcamp” with Mom in Florida during the severe/tornado before Katrina . Now the nursing home that she resides in in Long Beach, NY may be evacuated.
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around tou 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 meloncholy 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
-Mary Oliver, from Dreamwork
Stand Still. The trees ahead and the 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 fprest 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 bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
Arrangement by David Wagner
Cited in The Heart Aroused, by David Whyte
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 visiator.
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 whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond
-Say I Am You poems of Rumi
Translated by John Moyne and Coleman Barks
Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet ypurself 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 yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you have ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desparate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Fest on your life.
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 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’ve been doing all day.
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
From: The House of Light – by 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 mione.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebblesof 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 you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place in the family of things.
From: Collected Poems -by Mary Oliver
Until one is committed there is always hesitancy,
the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.
concerning all acts of initiative and creation,
there is one elementary truth,
the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans; the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence
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 do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.