Poetry Is Made for the Open, Available Heart

Don’t even think about it. 

Poetry isn’t made for the controlling mind. 

Poetry is made for the open, available heart – 

Empty but full, 

Ready but not waiting. 

Like a slow rolling thunder storm, 

the words come when ready. 

Sometimes slow, large drops. 

Others: torrents and a splash. 

Don’t even think about it. 

Be a conspirer instead – 

Communing with the loveliness of a deer 

or the bony curve of an ankle. 

Who knows where this or that goes? 

Follow to enter the sublime wonder of uncertain creation. 

Who knows where this line goes? 

Follow. 

Trust. 

Make your availability to inspiration known!

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Ordinary Life as Modern Art

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Pablo Picasso

I hear myself sighing at the ongoing ‘messes’ cropping up day to day: the dishes in the sink, the used pots and pans, the new flow of toys washing up everywhere like debris from a river of ceaseless play coursing through our home. There was an evening recently when I looked around and had to laugh out loud. First there was overwhelm. Then there was humor. Then there were fresh eyes: This mess is my precious daily life!

There are days when I notice myself cleaning up my home space in a frantic, panicked sort of way. I usually catch myself and imagine a practice bell ringing, marking the moment to tend to a temple. My husband joins me in the gesture and we go about our business with a sense of the sacred art of tending, the slower pace of mindful movements, the fresh eyes on bowls and plates and half-eaten pasta. Today though, the mess was comical. A literal whirlwind could have turned my home inside out. Everywhere I looked my eyes landed on something to clean or fix or pick up. Today, tending mindfully wasn’t going to be enough. Today required a complete shift in perspective. Today’s invitation was to see the messes implicit in ordinary day to day life with a baby and 3-year-old as a gesture of modern art, just as good as anything I’d see at a museum. I looked at the mundane trimmings from a day fully lived as what they really are: imprints of Life. Imprints of young boys cavorting. Imprints of shared meals. Imprints of what it means to be a human being mothering children and home-making. And, really: this is beautiful, too. This too is artful, even poetic – but only if you have eyes fine-tuned to finding beauty in what is absolutely ordinary in a day’s simple mess.

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Protecting Inner Resources, Remembering Beauty

Another sleepless spell overtakes me and I churn around in a strange fog of lopsided semi-clarity, trying to hold the pieces of sanity and joy in life together.  Sometimes, the truth is brutal.  This time, the truth absolutely stings.  When I squarely consider my condition, I am akin to a fish out of water or a dying ant on a sidewalk.  (Clearly, I need something to snap me out of this!)

“How far can I stretch myself before dissolving?”  It’s a recurring question for those of us who are tending from pre-dawn to pre-dawn again and again with no reprieve of sleep lasting longer than 2-4 hours at a time.  I often consider what keeps me going: a determination rooted deep in my heart and gut to do what feels unabashedly right for my particular child.  A profound love impulse to not turn away.  A muddling through confusion – but coming out with certainty that yes, this indeed is the right response for my child.  Up again, down again.  Sleep on the floor.  Sleep on the couch.  Midnight. 2am. 5am. 5:30am.  A day never ends.  A day simply blurs into the next day.

Given my parenting choices aren’t lending themselves to the perfect sleeping toddler (and I am not complaining, actually!), it is entirely up to me to delineate the markers of rest and recovery for myself – because they are certainly not a given.  Herein is a great lesson: We as caregivers with multiple responsibilities in life must take heed to delineate the markers of rest and recovery for ourselves.  With this in mind I work to combat the inner fogginess of busy exhaustion and find the following gems feed the spirit of sanity and joy.

Protect your resources.  All that patience and grace and good will and love impulse: those are precious resources to be guarded with one’s life, lest we let them turn into more run-off for an even larger dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.  It’s high time to start treating ourselves as the precious resources we are. The dire nature of hitting a wall peels me out of my habitual tendencies to leech my most loving, energetic life energy.  I have no choice but to regroup or dissolve. Without compassionate maintenance of our deepest intentions and inner resources rooted in spiritual practice and self-care, we begin to leech (albeit slowly, sometimes invisibly) our most precious gifts. It does one well to clarify (again and again) what it is we most want to cultivate in our lives – and then, do just that:  cultivate and protect what you’ve grown with intentional care.  

Remember Abundance.  An experience of abundance has a difficult time taking root from a place of depletion.  It feels I’ll never get enough rest, no matter what I do.  I get trapped in a cycle of ‘not enough this,’ ‘not enough that.’  Rather than dwelling from this place, cut back where trimming is in order. Trust the re-growth. Just like a houseplant needing to be trimmed, we can pare down and do less – remembering new growth often emerges only after we’ve cut away what needs lightening.  Abundance doesn’t mean more, it often means recognizing more in less.  An experience of abundance often means simply doing less. It often means shifting how we ‘get things done.’ Even in a simple breath we can experience abundance:  a slow, full breath accompanied by drinking in experience with delight (rather than snatching that sigh as if you can hardly manage to get that in!).

Be aware of beauty.  As Krishnamurti reminds me, “For most of us, beauty is in something, in a building, in a cloud, in the shape of a tree, in a beautiful face.  Is beauty “out there,” or is it a quality of mind that has no self-centered activity? Because, like joy, the understanding of beauty is essential…”

The experience of beauty is a sensitivity born from gratitude, curiosity and awe.  It is a quality of one’s entire experience that can transcend the so-called ‘mundane.’ Find the inner lens that recognizes beauty and practice seeing through it, regardless of external circumstances.  More importantly practice feeling through the lens of beauty.  “Whatever you encounter, join it with meditation,” the Buddhist Lojong cards say.  For me, the meditation is to simply remember to see and feel beauty.  The beauty of this life cuts through my fog like a gentle knife cutting back overgrowth.  It brings me back onto my knees, remembering my place in the divine order of life.  This too shall pass – and how poignant a truth!  So waste not a moment drinking in the contours of color, the sweet little hands eating juicy beets, the foggy wakeful moments in darkened rooms – a blessed chance to feel the hush of silent night and cool breeze bringing the smell of sage… What is the problem, really?  Nothing!  A tired fog is drenched in a beauty beyond comprehension simply waiting to be recognized.