Spiritual practice is personal. We choose what and why and where and how we practice. Having tried chanting, meditation, prayer and structured breathing in the past, I ventured into a writing sadhana this time,
and boy am I glad I did!
Poetry as a spiritual discipline took me deep into my yoga practice and my spiritual core. I feel like I emerged with a better knowledge of myself and greater compassion for myself and others.
When I sit down to journal or write prose or an essay, it is not necessarily a spiritual pursuit. Poetry, on the other hand, asks that we suspend normal language and thought patterns and channel a part of ourselves that is freer, less rational, less linear, more musical and mysterious. Poetry is creative play. Sometimes we forget how to play as adults, but play is something that poetry demands. We don't order in restaurants or complete transactions at the bank or close sales with clients using poetry. Poetry is associated with arts and leisure, like so many of the pursuits we leave behind us in childhood when we enter the real world of the Bourgeousie! Poetry demands that we momentarily step out of that world long enough to connect to a different energy.
The most powerful aspect of a daily poetry practice is the demand it puts on you to carefully observe your thoughts, feelings and impressions, accepting them and allowing them to flow through the filter of your higher consciousness. When we write a poem, we go to a different place within the mind and heart, a place that is closer to the inner self. When we write a poem every day, we necessarily bring a lot of different raw material into the chamber of the inner self: routine sensations, daily activities, varying moods, memories, dreams, longings, restlessness, fatigue, unanswered questions--it all comes in to be held up to the light, examined, received, transmuted and transmitted. The poet within is much like the God within; it accepts us as we are and loves us anyway, giving us something we can use to know and love ourselves and others.
Like any spiritual discipline, poetry isn't about making ourselves feel the same way all of the time, forcing calm or happiness or beauty. Instead, much like meditation, poetry makes us stop whatever we are doing and open up to our experience, seeing it for what it is and bringing consciousness to it. It's not about trying to be good, or better--it's about seeing and being yourself.
Here is what I discovered: there is so much more to me than I thought there was, and all of it is worthy and useful. My five senses are useful, my sleep and dreaming are useful, my challenges and setbacks are useful, my deepest longings are useful, my doubt is useful. The God I believe in, transcendent yet immanent, sees all of these aspects of me all of the time, receives them all, and uses them all. When I wrote a poem each day, in the time it took to write, I received and used every part of myself and turned it into a gift.
I believe that we all have a God self and a poet self. The more we observe, know, accept, love and then offer up every part of ourselves, the closer we will come to manifesting Paradise.