The Healing Art: Doctors Prescribing Poems

healingartMy hematologist, who has monitored my leukemia for the past ten years, copied me into an email he sent to his colleagues. It was the poem “Beannacht” by Irish poet John O’Donohue, which begins:

On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.

And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The gray window
And the ghost of loss
Gets in to you,
May a flock of colors,
Indigo, red, green
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.

What a grace to have a doctor who would send this around to his colleagues. This is what I want in all my doctors: human beings in touch with the full range of human emotions. People who respond to poetry. [Read more...]

Receiving “What Is”

15518572787_47930a88ff_zWith gratitude and apologies to Peter Cole

I would like to share this poem with you.

I would like you to receive it as an honored guest. Receive it as one would receive grace.

To receive the poem, we need to release our unrelenting need to understand. We need to allow partial understanding to flourish. We need to allow the poem to not be undone by understanding. [Read more...]

My God Is Better Than Yours

512px-The_Crossing_fo_The_Red_SeaWhat a miracle! They had been freed, the Israelites, from Egypt, but moments after they set out on their way “home,” Pharaoh changed his mind, whipped his chariots and troops into a fury of pursuit and were fast closing in on the Israelites trapped by an impassable body of water before them.

And then…and then…and then, safe on the far shore, their enemies drowned when the walls of water collapsed over them. They sang, they beat on frame drums, they danced: a victory song and dance, the song of the sea!

[Read more...]

Kissing Sideways

kiss“I want to write,” people often tell me, eager to talk about the myriad ways that this happens in our mysterious, internet-driven world.

Writing means different things to different folks: “I want to get published,” or “I want to be seen,” or “I want to be heard,” or “I want to change the world.” This last one, so full of hubris and hope, is especially dear to me, and the trap I fall into the easiest.

I try and encourage others the best I can, mindful of the journey I have been on, and how I am only at the beginning. But the best thing I can say to anyone who wants to write is this: you have to be a reader, and you have to be a generous one.

[Read more...]

Girl Meets God in the Classroom, Part 2

Rembrandt-The_return_of_the_prodigal_sonContinued from yesterday.

On the first day of my class “Spiritual Autobiographies: Theirs and Ours,” a few students shared that they weren’t “spiritual people.” Why, I wondered, did they sign up for this elective class?

Some of them, I would learn later in the semester, had been deeply wounded by religion. A few said that religion had been forced on them by their parents.

At this moment of emerging adulthood, it was time to turn away, to turn another way. Neither the students nor I realized, as class began in mid-August, that some of their wounds, whether exposed in speech, writing, or—to anyone paying attention—in silence, would become sites of inquiry and that inquiry itself might begin a process of healing.

[Read more...]


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