Poems for SoulClarity 3

November 27, 2017

This is the third in the poems I have learned series. I notice the gap between poems seems to be expanding so only right more.

Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem

and hold it up to the light

like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem

and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room

and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski

across the surface of a poem

waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do

is tie the poem to a chair with rope

and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose

to find out what it really means.

I immediately loved this poem by Billy Collins. It gave me a tremendous sense of freedom from trying to find meaning. It reminded me of why as a child I hated poetry class.

Caged Bird by Maya Angelou

A free bird leaps

on the back of the wind

and floats downstream

till the current ends

and dips his wing

in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks

down his narrow cage

can seldom see through

his bars of rage

his wings are clipped and

his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings

with a fearful trill

of things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze

and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn

and he names the sky his own

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams

his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings

with a fearful trill

of things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom.

This poem by the late Maya Angelou has so many exquisite phrases. I always begin a Spiritual Coaching Session with a guided meditation and a poem. This one will often result in a projection or transference that leads to meaningful dialogue. One client particularly was drawn to phrase “of things unknown but longed for still”. It caused a deep reflection on his longings.

 Journey by Linda Hogan

The mouth of the river may be beautiful.
It doesn’t remember the womb of its beginning.
It doesn’t look back to where it’s been
or wonder who ahead of it polished the rough stones.
It is following the way
in its fullness,
now like satin,
now cresting,
waters meeting, kindred
to travel gathered together,
all knowing it flows
one way, shining or in shadows.
And me, the animal
I ride wants to drive forward,
its longing not always my own,
overrunning its banks and bounds,
edgeless, spilling along the way
because, as I forget,
it knows everything
is before it.

This is a personal favourite of mine with its remarkable metaphor for the Soul Journey and the sense that dissonance sometimes exist between the inner and outer reality as wel as the sensate and intuitive.

Breath by Kabir (translated by Robert Bly)

Are you looking for me? I am in the next seat.
My shoulder is against yours.
You will not find me in stupas, not in Indian shrine rooms,
nor in synagogues, nor in cathedrals:
not in masses, nor in kirtans, not in legs winding around your
own neck, nor in eating nothing but vegetables.
When you really look for me, you will see me instantly—
you will find me in the tiniest house of time.
Kabir says: Student, tell me what is God?
He is the breath inside the breath.

Be still, wake up, I say to myself, Stop running around all over the placeAnd look at the eyes gazing at you from the next seat.Today, notice the loving gaze upon you from the next seat.

The wisdom in this poem strikes me deeply every time I recite it. How often am I running around not seeing that which is right in front of me. The depth and richness of the lines “When you really look for me, you will see me instantly—you will find me in the tiniest house of time.” Thanks to Robert Bly for his exquisite rendering particularly the words, “Student, tell me what is God? He is the breath inside the breath.”

The next three poems are represent so clearly where my heart is at the moment. I love to recite them; they resonate at the deepest level of my being. There is so much joy. They all contain a similar message about the full appreciation for these amazing lives we have been gifted. Thank you God for the Persian poets!

 On A Day by Rumi

On a day

when the wind is perfect,
the sail just needs to open and the world is full of beauty.
Today is such a day.

My eyes are like the sun that makes promises:
the promise of life
that it always
keeps
each morning.

The living heart gives to us as does that luminous sphere,
both caress the earth with great
tenderness.

There is a breeze that can enter the soul.
This love I know plays a drum. Arms move around me;
who can contain their self before my beauty?

On a day when the wind is perfect,
the sail just needs to open
and the love starts.

Today is such
a day.

This is Now by Rumi

This is now.
Now is, all there is.

Don’t wait for Then.
Strike the spark, light the fire.

Sit at the Beloved’s table.
Feast with gusto, drink your fill.

Then dance
The way branches of jasmine and
cypress dance in a spring wind.

The green earth is your cloth.
Tailor your robe with dignity and grace.

We Have Not Come Here to Take Prisoners by Hafiz

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!

Yes by William Stafford

It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.

It could you know. That’s why we wake
and look out–no guarantees
in this life.

But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
like evening.

This last poem became particularly meaningful because it was read in a circle of people many of whom were living with the uncertainty of a cancer diagnosis.

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The Soul’s Journey – Zen Biking

November 3, 2017

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It is a beautiful Vancouver Fall day. After five days of relentless rain we’re having a gorgeous end to October. I wondered about a bike ride but my last experience had been painful. My bike seemed sluggish and even heavier than usual more like a lumbering rhino than a spirited charger. I had put it down to the colder temperatures and my own lack of practice. Finally I decided a lethargic bike and reluctant rider were better than going to the gym so I dressed warmly and unlocked the restraining padlock. It occurred to me that the tires could have lost some air since summer and when I checked the front it definitely felt soft. To my surprise each tire required sixty strokes of my floor pump. These tires were seriously under inflated.

Flying Like a Gazelle

Finally I was ready to go. I felt the difference immediately. It was dramatic – my lumbering rhino had become a gazelle. What a difference! My ride was relaxing and enjoyable, I could stay in a lower gear range and had time and desire to fully appreciate the beauty of a Fall day.

Rolling Resistance

It was only when I got home and did some research that I found that low tire pressure creates what is termed rolling resistance. This meant that each pedal stroke created less forward motion than usual so my ride was longer and much harder work. Tires naturally lose air over a season and in addition cooler temperatures result in lower tire pressure. During my ride I noticed myself begin to explore the symbolic nature of my experience. In order to eliminate this resistance I first had to check the tires, then I needed to pump and that resulted in air filling the tires. I began to reflect on the applications of this metaphor on the Soul Journey.

Breathe The Free Air My Friend

Air is of course a perfect synonym for breath. Frequently taking time to inhale a breath can change how we respond to any given situation. The parallel to my bike incident revealed itself. First I need check in. Then I have to respond by focusing attention to the breath and then I have do it.

Finding Balance

It is a great practice to see how balanced you feel in the moment. First bring attention to the body, then take a few deep breaths and see what emerges. Occasionally I find my energy id too frenetic and I use the breath to ground myself. (As you breathe imagine you are a tree rooted to the ground.) Then do the same with how you are feeling. I find this particularly helpful when I am feeling inertia and lack of energy. As I bring attention to the breath I often hear the voice, “go for a walk” acting on this invariably enlivens me no matter how bad the weather. Next apply the same focus to your thoughts. Notice as you breathe what is distracting you – is there any negative self talk engaged? Then release it and let it go. Times like this I try and recall Don Miguel Ruiz’s four agreements: Don’t make assumptions, Don’t take it personally, Do your best, Be impeccable to your word.

One More Check-In

Finally my last check in is with the Soul, deeper self, the Force or whatever works for you. Checking in with the breath will often help me see how to connect with what I sometimes think of as “the ground of being”. It helps me remember to feed the Soul perhaps with poetry, a walk, beauty, music, a sacred text or sometimes just to browse through my Soul Journal the repository for mystical and meaningful moments in my life.

Rolling resistance does not just apply to bikes; it’s the force that prevents us from doing that which serves our best. So check-in, take some breaths and fly.