Monday, July 21, 2014

What I Learned from 40 Days of Poetry

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. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Wild Raspberries

When the news of the world is dismal and frightening,
and you're powerless
to change it. 

When it seems that whatever you are and all that you do,
are so very inferior to your peers,
or so the world would have you believe. 

When childhood memories of speeches from parents
on what to avoid, what to study, who not to be like
and what was expected of you for your gender
in spite of your belief that you have healed.

When all you can seem to do is consume reading material,
books, articles, essays,
facts, references and photographs, 
trying to come nearer to some sort of knowledge
or understanding 
of precisely why and how you,
and the world,
are failing. 

When in spite of your peaceful and contented moments,
guilt creeps in,
for the happiness you have, 
because it's not hard earned enough,
because others are not as fortunate,
because so many people are telling you 
all of the other things you need to have already done
or should do now
to escape the pit of dismal mediocrity,
which is, in truth, the only place you want to be
today, or any day, and with gratitude. 

When you look around you and all that you see is delightful,
and you feel the need to chastise yourself for your luck,
over and over again, all day long. 

Then, on that day, in that moment,
is a perfect time to walk the River Trail,
with sand and pine needles underfoot,
and your imperfectly behaved dog and six year old
at your side, gleefully experiencing a perfect summer day,
with gentle breezes and paintbrush clouds,
and miles of ripe wild raspberries on either side of you. 

Losing track of time and winding along,
skipping here and running there and finding
the brightest and deepest red berries 
for a contrast of tart and sweet,
gently removing bugs and noticing the different plants,
vines, and stems,
colors and textures. 

Cotton tailed bunnies cross your path,
and you turn and climb the hill 
to watch the water fall over the dam,
and sit on a stone bench to look up and see
ducks flying overhead,
and at the very least you know,
the child and the dog are happy,
and so are you, in that moment.

You realize now,
this is not a poem,
and you are not a writer, or a teacher, 
or a lawyer, or a professional of any kind,
or a really great spouse, or a really great community member,
or a successful business person, or a selfless servant,
or a good Democrat, or a good Republican,
or a good environmentalist, or a model citizen, or a pillar of the church,
or a soldier, or a veteran, or a nurse, or a fireman, or a policeman,
or anyone other than a human being who consumes oxygen and resources,
and, but,
you are a mother,
and your child wants you to cuddle and sleep with him,
and you will do it right now, 
because for you,
that is your poetry, and your success story,
and today, the wild raspberries were enough. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sky Walking

Above my head,
the Earth,
fields and grass,
out of reach and the stuff of daydreams,
luminous shades of green and soft browns,
varying shapes of mountains in hues of gray,
some dotted with white caps.

In other places,
when I look up I see
the Seas,
the Oceans,
vast expanses of deep blue.

Beneath my feet,
the Sky,
winds and clouds,
tickling my bare feet and sweeping them along
to another coordinate, 
where I can gaze down at a new constellation. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Reckoning

Do people change?
Past a certain age,
do they change their long held beliefs,
almost like altering a genome,
and erasing part of a family tree
from an heirloom Bible? 

What causes a person
to hang on for dear life
to a religious belief,
or a philosophical one? 

Does it hurt to let go?

In the places we are most vulnerable,
we hang on for dear life.
Don't chop off my gangrenous limb.
God, please don't take my sick and suffering child
from this Earth.
God, I know you're there. 
She died, but I know she's with You. 

Is He? Is She?
Do you know in your heart, 
in your head,
or both? 
You can't know this in your logical mind.
Apologetics are a millennial waste
of everyone's time.  

A little girl, alone,
misses her father,
sees her mother cry,
and plays by herself. 
God must be there,
and Jesus is a reason to be happy,
after all. 
Nighttime prayers are above all
and creative. 
When everyone else is gone,
even Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny,
at least I'll still have you,

That's a deep, deep imprint
in the mind.

Someone says,
humans only invent Gods and religion
to handle the universal fear of death,
to underpin societal structure
and authority.
God was never real. 
The fear of death is so great,
it motivates most everything we do,
whether we know it or not,
until we face it.
Divine revelation,
to fill a primal need,
is easily invented
and portrayed. 
The little girl listens with great attentiveness. 
She knows this is the truth. 
The imprint is still so deep. 

So much of life is beautiful, mystical, glorious.
Amidst the pain and agony,
there is so much joy and sweetness,
it can't be missed. 
Why not try to capture and define it all,
fit it into a box, a replicable system?

Once the structure is there,
many upstanding, educated and powerful people,
along with the oppressed,
give their lives to support it. 
Many talented, delicate and sensitive souls,
find a home within the edifice erected
with so much care, so much precision,
and dedication,
over so many years. 

Where would they otherwise go?

And yet, for others,
no matter how deep the imprint,
or the scars,
or the glorious, mystical beauty and sweetness,
there is 
a Reckoning. 

It takes incalculable energy 
to delay the moment,
when a new kind of light springs forth,
revealing to the naked eye
a true lack of any real edifice.

Nothing is there, after all. 
Yet, everything is still there,
just not the background imprint
of the edifice
we thought held us up. 

What of all those spine chilling synchronicities,
serendipity, grace, gifts we received,
and the many, many times we didn't die,
our loved ones didn't die, or if they did,
somehow we made it through,
and we ate, 
and there was still the joy, the beauty,
the glory and the mystical sweetness?
Who can we praise and thank?

And what do we do, now?
What of those imprints,
those habits,
still so useful,
so precious?

If this one life, in this one body,
is all there is, 
how much more will we want to 
give a drink to anyone who thirsts,
to save even the smallest insect
from suffering or early death?
How much more alive will we be,
knowing how very much this day matters,
because once it's gone,
it's really gone.

No former lifetime or lifetime to come,
no reunion in Heaven, no eternal suffering in Hell,
no future hope for the spider, rat or beetle
to achieve a better incarnation,
no ascension,
no life
after life.

This life.


no more vitriol,
no more bloody wars,
or open carrying of guns as a show,
no more useless sarcasm
and wasted speech
and blind eyes turned to the suffering
their lot
is our lot
and it won't make sense to justify it all
within the imprinted structure.

Who will feel the pain 
of the crumbling walls,
the burning beams,
glass and marble scattered,
blown apart,
melting symbols and statues
in the realm of ideas,
in the minds of grown children?  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


If you want to talk about
the fifth dimension,
the planetary shift,
ascension symptoms,
past life regression,
planets stationing, retrograding or aligning,
numerology, Chinese astrology, or spiritology,
don't call my husband.
Call a shrink.
Or, call me, but I may tell you
to call a shrink.

If you want to talk about
current events,
good books to read,
international affairs,
spectator sports,
or recipes,
my husband is a great person to call.

If one day we flip a switch,
and he starts talking to me about
the former things,
instead of the latter,
and we become a couple
focused on the new diet
to revolutionize our lives,
the harmful chemicals lurking
all over our house,
plans to get us off the grid
or cryogenic sleep,
I will die a little inside,
and tell him
to call a shrink,
and hope for the best.

My hope is this,
that the person we marry
is a good indicator of what we truly value,
and that a good marriage outlasts any need
to call a shrink.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Trail

Breathing in the scent of damp earth,
sheltered by gray clouds and tall trees,
tense in distinct places,
then relaxed.

The sound of a rhythmic soft thud,
and the breath, interspersed with bird song.

Glimmers of sun through the tree tops,
and the soupy feeling of the air,
enveloping my body,
flushing my skin.

Gentle upward slopes, 
and muddy depressions,
leading to a downhill gravel trail.

Thirty minutes of this precious human life,
speeding ever forward,
always gaining momentum,
and then a plateau,
a decline,
the final sprint of a barn sour horse,
and it's over.

A life within a life. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

You Love

A certain kind of love
creates the feeling
that all you have desired
is within you
and around you.
When that love is summoned,
you can touch it
with your hands tied.

A certain person
who enchants you
and unlocks you
may point you in the direction
of this love,
but the experience of it
is not with that person.

This love requires no object.

When you find it,
you may feel at times
like you have lost it,
then you find your way back.

When it happens to you,
it feels monumental,
it feels like upheaval,
it feels raw,
until it settles in.

In time you discover,
different people
and different experiences
become wood for the fire
of this love.

After the first talisman
inducts you to this magic,
there will be others
to progress you.
Loss and change won't harm you,
and all of life is this great adventure
in which,
you are the subject.

You love.

 Artist: Zindy Nielsen

Friday, July 11, 2014


A coming together of people,
a temporary group formation
of individuals,
from different homes and different cultures,
of varying ages, sizes and proclivities,
joining in one accord.

This can be serious.
This can be powerful,
a statement,
a game changer.

This can also be lighthearted,
playfully aimless,
intentionally frivolous,
a kind of undoing of the usual doing. 

A celebration,
in honor of nothing, 
or everything.

An exchange
of food, drink, words, ideas, energy,
personal space,
and collective space.
A giving forth and a taking in,
of what is already shared 
among a group. 

When a space is only personal,
only familial,
only private,
there is one kind of energy,
like a thin line,
like a slow and steady stream of water,
like a hummed tune.

When a personal, familial space
is thrown open,
doors and windows and gates
are opened,
and its elements are shared and consumed
by many,
the energy is enriched and amplified,
like a wide rainbow swath of color and light,
like a rushing river,
like an orchestral symphony. 

What was stale before
becomes raw again.
What was old before
turns over to the new. 

Banquet, by Alexandre Franc

Thursday, July 10, 2014


It is in the moments
of guilt,
and sorrow,
that turning to a personal God
could perhaps
feel most natural.

When we would tell someone close to us
all that weighs on our hearts,
if only that person were near,
or could listen, really hear us,
and see us, and embrace us.

But how many times is someone
that close to you,
really close to you?

Have you ever thought of God as personal?
Imagining at night before sleep,
what you hope will be sleep,
that you can lie down at the feet of someone
so much greater than you,
in size, in weight, in strength, in presence, in intelligence,
in power,
that you can only approach a tiny corner of that being?
You are allowed to approach,
and you are known,
you know not how.

Never mind God.

Simply knowing that all is connected,
that we are all a part of each other,
and this planet,
in moments of doubt, shame, fear and sorrow,
dive deeply into yourself and find someone there,
someone who is really that close to you,
nearer than your thoughts,
and who sees you,
and hears you,
and knows you,
can feel into what you feel,
and wherever you are,
just be there,
in that closeness.
Receive that love that erases
doubt, and shame, and fear.

The alchemy of that Love,
turns your sorrow into bliss.

This is God,
for the skeptic, the doubter,
the worried and fearful,
pensive and sad.

Come into Me,
and receive your consolation.

Painting by Lora Shelley

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


At 10:10, or 11:11, or 12:12,
when I see the clock,
I make a wish. 
I know the wish is only good
before the minute changes,
and so the wish is simple.

Usually my wishes are for people,
for me, too, but not just for me. 

Sometimes my wish is just for you,
yes, You, singular, and plural. 
It's 9:37 right now, 
but for you, I wish deep inner peace,
a reliable sense that all is well,
to which you can always return. 

I wish for you a warm, welcoming place
in your own heart,
where you can bring each troubling thought
or circumstance, and wrap them up
in an impenetrable embrace. 

I wish for you an unshakable sense of belonging,
wherever you go in the wide world,
or in your neighborhood. 

I wish for you the granting of 
your heart's true desires,
and also freedom from your desires,
a feeling of always being satiated,
in the Now. 

I wish for you to know your own uniqueness,
and to wholly love it. 

I wish for you an invigorating embrace,
a forehead kiss,
from the Goddess,
as you awake each morning,
the kind, strong hand of Father God,
to cradle your head as you place it upon your pillow,
each night,
an angelic presence to bless you, guide you, 
watch and protect you as you sleep,
and always.

I wish for you to know and feel and be,

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tasting Notes

Feelings can have actual flavors,
when we sit down to taste them.

Surprise tastes like lemonade,
limeade and sweet tarts.

Contentment tastes like beets.

Happiness tastes like velvety,
red chile chocolate cake.

Longing tastes like black olives.

Impatience tastes like sour milk.

Jealousy tastes like endives.

Affection tastes like vanilla pudding.

Relaxation tastes like pear and cucumber.

Desire tastes like kiwi.

You taste cool, fermented, dry and crisp,
with a touch of anise.

Monday, July 7, 2014


Deep reds, into chocolate forests
of hunter, chartreuse,
violet and magenta, 
extending to endless seas of
aquamarine, teal, xanadu, 
opalesque aubergine plants of
fuchsia, falu, burgundy noir,
translucent golden glimmers of
eburnean silver sheen,
indigo purplish denim hues
of blues you've never ever seen,
downy feathers of tawny taupe
drifting down to a fulvous 
billowy bed of sarcoline
and sleep,
deep, deep sleep, 
the darkest shade of white. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Certain Knowledge

Names of films and actors,
facts I learned for the bar exam,
the plots of my favorite novels,
words in French and Spanish,
both Japanese phonetic alphabets,
measurements for things I've baked
three hundred times,
I just can't remember. 

How many times per day
my heart beats,
how many miles I drive in a week,
how many calories are in a sandwich,
how many people can fit in my living room,
how many dreams I have in a night,
I just don't know.

What you said to me yesterday,
how you looked at me a year ago,
how your complexion shifts with the seasons,
or with your moods,
the cadence of your speech,
the way you cross your ankles,
and fold your hands,
I just can't forget. 

I could fill volumes with every detail of the time I spend with you. 

The mind forgets easily but the heart always remembers,
and I am confidently certain,
I love you. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014


I am whole,
from head to toe,
from without and within,
from my breath to my skin,
from my bones to my soul.

Formed with the elements
of the very first stars,
I am empowered.

Connected to the mind of
the Universe,
I am informed.

Dancing in vibration with
a cosmic choreography,
I have my place
among everyone else,
and I shine.

Friday, July 4, 2014


People matter more than plans,
feelings dominate circumstance,
no matter the number or the weather,
how can you keep your soul together?

Not what you do, 
or who's with you,
or what you desired,
but being inspired!

To be fulfilled,
you must be skilled,
to find the Divine,
in your own mind.

The people around you,
sometimes you choose them,
sometimes they astound you,
you'll always lose them.
You can't control most events,
you can't force things to make any sense.

You hear people say, "be like me!"
"Follow my path and you'll be free!"
You'll see them fall, you'll see them scatter,
their image and their acclaim won't matter.

No one escapes suffering and pain,
every one of us, sane or insane,
will follow this path to our death,
each of us have to breathe a last breath. 

How will you fly before you die?
What is the limit of your sky?
What are you hoarding inside your account?
Experience or money, and in what amount? 

Is it your body, your car or your house?
Is it your knowledge or is it your spouse?
What is it that makes you truly stand out?
When you go to your grave, can you boast of your clout?

Do you care about now, or just how it looks?
Is it what's in your heart, or what's on your books?
Why do you think that you need to sell me?
What is that secret you just can't tell me? 

You think you seem strong, but I see you, honey,
You bleed through your eyes and you fix it with money.
Your soul is in prison, your mind is the guard,
Life isn't like this, but you make it hard.

I see how you suffer, behind your mask,
Your blood's on the sidewalk but I don't dare ask,

Can I give you a hand? 

You know better.
You're a special kind of addict,
responsible for your own intervention. 
Look out for your own heart,
before it stops. 
Please beware of misguiding the less fortunate,
who look up to you. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dead Roots

In another dream,
I was
wandering down a country road,
but barely.
I stumbled upon a dead tree,
large, with two trunks.
One had fallen, and the other
was left standing.
Dead leaves still clung to 
several branches,
brown and withered,
crunchy and thin. 
I stopped, and squatted 
next to the roots,
and looked beyond 
the fallen trunk. 
Dark mud and a pond. 
A familiar car approached
and slowed. 
A man from my church 
stopped the car, rolling down the window.

"You look a little lost?"
"Just out for a walk and I stopped here,
but I will get going soon."
"I will be in church Sunday.
Maybe I'll see you."
"Yes, I think so."

Every tree that does not bear good fruit,
is cut down and thrown into the fire.

I am the vine; you are the branches.
If you remain in me, and I in you,
you will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing.

Set your mind on things above,
not on earthly things. 

As I awoke, these verses came to mind.
The body dies. 
Many trees live longer than people.
Trees that fail to bear fruit demonstrate
that they are sick. 
How do we know if a tree is dead or alive?
We study the leaves and the branches.
Tapping into the dead roots, and the trunk,
we find no sap. 
Nothing is green. 
The tree is ready for the fire. 

Where is the root that is everlasting? 
What can stay alive? Where is resurrection possible?

Close your eyes. Sit up tall. Send roots down into the earth. 

Will the roots take hold? 
What of this tree? 
Are these dead roots? 

Look and you will see!
Ask, and it will be given to you.
Seek, and you will find.
Knock, and it will be opened to you. 

If we look at the branches,
really look at them,
we know if the tree lives. 
If the tree is dead, keep going. 


Only the body,
and the senses,
inwardly perceived,
Mental activity ceases,
and the hands are inert. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


Walking in the grass,
a few minutes after twilight,
a crescent moon glows in the sky
just above the top of the pines. 

A pint of beer, three quarters full,
in one hand,
pajama clad boy beside me,
bare feet. 
"I saw one. I think I heard a coyote!"

"We saw some on my way home. 
I mean I did. Me, myself and I."
"What about Wonder Woman?"
"I haven't talked to her since I was a kid.
They're back there. Let's go."
"Here they are! There are more of them."
"I am getting mosquito bites."
"The bat, oooh, little bat!"
"Batman, da na na na na na na na!"

At the top of the steps,
the moon's in a different spot.
"I can see it's mouth."

Something big is flying around
the flowers,
and it's not a bat. 
The dog is fearlessly chasing it.
All the creatures disappear 
from the water's approach. 
The sound of the water running
through the hose,
and then the squeak
of the spigot. 

Inside again,
reading two pages,
and off to bed with them.
And silence. 
Delicious silence,
as he reads,
and I write,
for him,
and for me,
and we can hear
air gently flowing through a vent,
and a canine sighing. 

DC Haikus

Russian Yeti are
interesting to my two
children in their bed.

Zoo animals have
a hobby that suits them well,
in people watching.

Even one person
being added to a group
can change everything.

Love letter to me
for as I get up today,
I need reminded.

I don't want to hear
your poems in the morning.
Later in the day.

Family dinner with friend
on a terrace. Violin
is played by a boy.

Swimming boys at dusk,
fireflies with milk and cookies,
having drinks with John.

Magnolia trees
and holly shrubs are plants we
don't see in our town.

Magnolia trees
and holly shrubs are plants I
saw in my home town.

Art museums are not
favorited by our young boys,
but they like sculptures.

Understanding war,
looking at the names and planes,
they feel fear and pain.

Contemplative their
gaze, as they sit on the edge
of a clear fountain.

Love letter to me
he put it into my hand
when I needed it.

Washington invites
memories of Parisian
architects and art.

One Pierre Charles L'Enfant
disliked John Jay so much that
there is no J Street.

Naked and Afraid.
Reality TV is
one choice before bed.

When we expect more
from one moment or one person,
there is no present.

Beyond our routines
and habitual actions
renewal awaits.