WENDELL BERRY

How to Be a Poet (to remind myself)

I make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet. You must depend upon affection, reading, knowledge, skill—more of each than you have—inspiration, work,
growing older, patience, for patience joins time to eternity.
Any readers who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.
Breathe with unconditional breath the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly.
Live a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places and desecrated places.
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come out of the silence, like prayers prayed back to the one who prays, make a poem that does not disturb the silence from which it came.

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When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

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EMILY DICKINSON
Nature” is what we see—
The Hill—the Afternoon
Squirrel—Eclipse— the Bumble bee
Nay—Nature is Heaven—
Nature is what we hear—

The Bobolink—the Sea—

Thunder—the Cricket—
Nay—Nature is Harmony—
Nature is what we know—
Yet have no art to say—
So impotent
Our Wisdom is To her Simplicity.

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LINDA FRANCE
DREAMING THE REAL
I’m lying down looking at the colour of sky falling through trees,
dreaming the real, tasting what it feels like to love it.
Why did it take me so long to let go, simply exhale,
so the day could breathe itself in and open without me standing in the way?
How could I forget the grace of my own body  strong as this blue, tender as the white of the wild blossom, warm as midday light?
Let me practice a patience bold enough to hold every weather,
trusting the elements, the beauty of rain, all it shades of grey.
I want whatever’s real to be enough.
At least it’s a place to begin.
And to master the art of loving it;
feel it love me back under my skin.

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THICH NHAT HANH 
Your mind is like a piece of land planted with many different kinds of seeds: seeds of joy, peace, mindfulness, understanding, and love; seeds of craving, anger, fear, hate, and forgetfulness. These wholesome and unwholesome seeds are always there, sleeping in the soil of your mind. The quality of your life depends on the seeds you water. If you plant tomato seeds in your gardens, tomatoes will grow. Just so, if you water a seed of peace in your mind, peace will grow. When the seeds of happiness in you are watered, you will become happy. When the seed of anger in you is watered, you will become angry. The seeds that are watered frequently are those that will grow strong.”

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VASANT LAD
MEDITATION
Just as there is a space between the clouds in the sky,
There is a space between your thoughts.
This space is the doorway to the divine.
Breathe consciously with total awareness.
Slow down your breathing until you can see a little space – a gap.
That gap is most important. Remain in the gap.
It will get wider. Dive into the space. Dive into the inner abyss.
You are so vast. In that silence there is no mind.
The gap enhances and you become empty.
Let that inner space expand in all directions equally.
Do not pre-meditate meditation.
Meditation should be alive,
flowing like a river at every moment of your life.
Meditation creates discipline which allows you
To find your inner Self at every moment.
To reach the innermost core,
No system or method is needed.
You cannot invite meditation, it simply comes.
You JUST HAVE TO BE OPEN.
Like a breeze meditation comes to you.
The sunlight is always there, you only need to open the door.

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METTA MEDITATION

Say first to yourself:
May I feel protected and safe.
May my heart remain open.
May I awaken to the light of my true nature.
May I be healed, and be a source of healing for the world.

Think of someone who is easy to love. Draw this person (or pet) close to your heart and mind…send them metta;
May you feel protected and safe.
May your heart remain open.
May you awaken to the light of your true nature.
May you be healed, and be a source of healing in the world.

Think of someone who needs a little more love….draw this person close to your heart and mind…send them metta;
May you feel protected and safe.
May your heart remain open.
May you awaken to the light of your true nature.
May you be healed, and be a source of healing in the world.

All beings everywhere:
May we feel protected and safe.
May our hearts remain open.
May we awaken to the light of our true nature.
May we be healed, and be a source of healing for the world.

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MARK NEPO

MADE FROM BONE – REDUCED TO JOY
When I can be the truth, It grows more and more clear.
When it is necessary to tell the truth.
That is, when I have access to the place within me that is lighted, I don’t have to speak heatedly.
I can just give away warmth.
When I am still enough to brush quietly with eternity, I don’t have to speak of God. I can just offer peace to those around me.
A tree grows so it can convey wind. it is not the wind. And a person grows in order to convey spirit.
They say that animals recharge their innocence each time they hoof the earth. And we are reborn each time we touch what matter.

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THE PROMISE OF THE INNER WORLD
If you take away all a person knows,
You are left with the mouth of a fish
Gulping water as fast as it can.
If you take away a person’s coverings, you are left with the naked freedom of a star.
If you take away all a person has done,
You are left with a soul eager to build.
And if you take away what a person has saved,
you are left with a life that has to live now.
Stripped of too many thoughts, we grow wise as a stone.
Stripped of too many accomplishments,
we grow possible like the sun.
And stripped of what we hoard, we grow immediate.
So taking away is not just about loss.
Like it or not, we are forced, again and again, to the nakedness of freedom,
To the eagerness that wants to build its way out of nothing, and to the poverty of time that has to live now.
If blessed, we wake, one more time, gulping our way into tomorrow.

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JOHN O’DONOHUE
Nearer to the earth’s heart,
Deeper within its silence:
Animals know this world In a way we never will.
We who are ever
Distanced and distracted
By the parade of bright
Windows thought opens: Their seamless presence Is not fractured thus.
Stranded between time
Gone and time emerging,
We manage seldom
To be where we are:
Whereas they are always
Looking out from
The here and now.
May we learn to return
And rest in the beauty
Of animal being,
Learn to lean low,
Leave our locked minds,
And with freed senses
Feel the earth Breathing with us.
May we enter Into lightness of spirit,
And slip frequently into
The feel of the wild.
Let the clear silence
Of our animal being
Cleanse our hearts
Of corrosive words.
May we learn to walk
Upon the earth
With all their confidence
And clear-eyed stillness
So that our minds
Might be baptized
In the name of the wind
And the light and the rain.

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MARY OLIVER

SUMMER STORY
When the hummingbird sinks its face into the trumpet vine and the funnels of the blossoms, and the tongue leaps out and throbs, I am scorched to realize once again how many small, available things are in the world that aren’t pieces of gold or power– that nobody owns or could buy even for a hillside of money– that just float about the world, or drift over the fields, or into the gardens, and into the tents of the vines and how here I am spending my time, as the saying goes, watching until the watching turns into feeling so that I feel I am myself a small bird with a terrible hunger with a thin beak probing and dipping and a heart that races so fast it is only a heartbeat ahead of breaking and I am the hunger and the assuagement and also I am the leaves and the blossoms, and, like them, I am full of delight and shaking.

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THE SWAN
Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river? Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air – An armful of white blossoms, A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies, Biting the air with its black beak? Did you hear it, fluting and whistling A shrill dark music – like the rain pelting the trees – like a waterfall Knifing down the black ledges? And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds – A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river? And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything? And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for? And have you changed your life?

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NANCY PADDOCK
LIE DOWN

Lie down with your belly to the ground,
like an old dog in the sun.
Smell the greenness of the cloverleaf,
feel the damp earth through your clothes,
let an ant wander the uncharted territory of your skin.
Lie down with your belly to the ground.
Melt into the earth’s contours like a harmless snake.
All else is mere bravado.
Let your mind resolve itself in a tangle of grass.
Lie down with your belly to the ground, flat out, on ground level.
Prostrate yourself before the soil you will someday enter.
Stop doing. Stop judging, fearing, trying.
This is not dying, but the way to live in a world of change and gravity.
Let go. Let your burdens drop. Let your grief-charge bleed off into the ground.
Lie down with your belly to the ground and then rise up with the earth still in you.

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CRAIG SANTOS
Perez Sonnet XVII

I don’t love you as if you were rare earth metals,
diamonds, or reserves of crude oil that propagate war:
I love you as one loves most vulnerable things, urgently,
between the habitat and its loss.
I love you as the seed that doesn’t sprout but carries the heritage of our roots,
secured, within a vault, and thanks to your love the organic taste that ripens from the fruit lives sweetly on my tongue.
I love you without knowing how, or when, the world will end— I love you naturally without pesticides or pills—
I love you like this because we won’t survive any other way,
except in this form in which humans and nature are kin,
so close that your emissions of carbon are mine, so close that your sea rises with my heat.

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DAVID SLUYTER, FETZER INSTITUTE

I awoke to the confusion of a new day.
The scraps of dreams, memories of yesterday, and new
Cravings creeping into awareness,
The sun spilling its light over all but the shadows and a Cacophony of sound
From outside and in.
What to make order of? What to let go?
And who makes the choice?
I think I will go down the river and just watch it flow,
It’s been a long time since I have done something really Important.

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LAO TZU
The Master sees things as they are,
Without trying to control them.
She lets them go their own way,
And resides at the center of the circle.

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Do you have patience to wait
Till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
Till the right action arises by itself?

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ALICE WALKER
We have a beautiful
 mother
Her hills
 are buffaloes
Her buffaloes
 hills
We have a beautiful
 mother
Her oceans
 are wombs
Her wombs
 oceans
We have a beautiful
 mother
Her teeth
 the white stones 
at the edge 
of the water
 the summer
 grasses
 her plentiful
 hair We have a beautiful
 mother
Her green lap
 immense
Her brown embrace
 eternal
Her blue body everything we know.

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When you see water in a stream you say:
oh, this is stream water;
When you see water in the river you say:
oh, this is water of the river;
When you see ocean water you say:
This is the ocean’s water!
But actually water is always only itself and does not belong to any of these containers though it creates them.
And so it is with you.

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WALT WHITMAN

LEAVES OF GRASS
I exist as I am, that is enough,
If not other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.
One world is aware, and by far the larges to me, and that is myself,
And whether I come to my own today or in ten thousand
Or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness,
I can wait.

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TERYY TEMPEST WILLIAMS

I pray to the birds. I pray to the birds because I believe they will carry the messages of my heart upward. I pray to them because I believe in their existence, the way their songs begin and end each day—the invocations and benedictions of Earth. I pray to the birds because they remind me of what I love rather than what I fear. And at the end of my prayers, they teach me how to listen.

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It is morning. I am mourning.
And the river is before me.
I am a writer without words who is struggling to find them.
I am holding the balm of beauty, this river, this desert, so vulnerable, all of us.
I am trying to shape my despair into some form of action,
but for now, I am standing on the cold edge of grief. We are staring at a belligerent rejection of change by our fellow Americans who believe they have voted for change.
The seismic shock of a new political landscape is settling.
For now, I do not feel like unity is what is called for.
Resistance is our courage.
Love will become us.
The land holds us still.
Let us pause and listen and gather our strength with grace and move forward like water in all its manifestation: flat water, white water, rapids and eddies, and flood this country with an integrity of purpose and patience and persistence capable of cracking stone.
I am a writer without words who continues to believe in the vitality of the struggle.
Let us hold each other close and be kind.
Let us gather together and break bread.
Let us trust that what is required of us next will become clear in time.
What has been hidden is now exposed.
This river, this mourning, this moment
— May we be brave enough to feel it deeply.

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UPASAMA – CALM FROM THE FIRST FREE WOMEN – POEMS OF THE EARLY BUDDHIST NUNS
How do you cross the flood?
You cross calmly – one step at a time,
feeling for stones.
How do you cross the flood, my heart?
You cross calmly – one step at a time, or not at all

 

CHITTA – HEART FROM THE FIRST FREE WOMEN – POEMS OF THE EARLY BUDDHIST NUNS
Somehow I kept climbing – though tired, hungry, and weak. Old, too.
At the top of the mountain, I spread my outer robe on a rock to dry,
set down my staff and bowl,
took a deep breath, and looked around.
It was windy up there. As I was leaning back against a large gray rock,
the darkness I had carried up and down a million mountains – slipped off my shoulders and swept itself away on the wind.

 

JENTA ~ CONQUEROR FROM THE FIRST FREE WOMEN – POEMS OF THE EARLY BUDDHIST NUNS
I was forever getting lost,
Until one day the Buddha told me:
To walk this Path, you will need seven friends – mindfulness, curiosity, courage, joy, calm, stillness, and perspective.
For many years, these friends and I have traveled together.
Sometimes wandering in circles.
Sometimes taking the long way around.
There were days when I thought I couldn’t go on.
There were days when I thought I was finally beaten.
It’s scary to give all of yourself to just one thing.
What if you don’t make it?
Oh, my heart.
You don’t have to go it alone.
Train yourself to train
Just a little more gently.