All the meditative traditions encourage us to be still and to drop our thoughts and feelings, so we can breathe our way below all trouble into the flow of life-force that carries us. This is wise counsel. It gives us perspective and sometimes peace. But being a poet, I enter that Universal space and just take notes. I lean into the stillness with an open heart and listen to everything, including my thoughts and feelings and the entanglements of life. For I believe the mutual goal of meditation and poetry is not to have us remove ourselves from our human journey, but to have us live our lives more completely in relationship to the flow of life-force that carries us.
The poems and all that I write are simply the trail and record of what I see and feel in the meditative space. All my writings arise from peering from the edge of our humanness into the bareness of being that permeates all life. I have intuitively worked this way, even as a boy, long before I knew about meditation or poetry. I believe that poetry itself resides at the holy juncture where our humanness touches the bareness of being that holds the Universe together. This is the only place I write from, whether I’m alone in the woods or being jostled on a crowded subway. It is the lens through which I meet life. It is the place I return to in order to renew this endless conversation. It is listening in this space that keeps me fresh and sane.
When I can be still and honor this deep meditative space, life shows up. My dear friend, the great visionary educator, Parker Palmer speaks of the soul as a force of life at home in the wild terrains of our heart. In this, the soul is so elemental that it is both indispensable and untamable. Parker says that we often stomp around like loud campers in the forest, harping for the soul and other forces of life to come out of hiding, while we scare them away. How stymied we are when they don’t show their faces. Yet when I can quiet my fear and want and be as still as nature, the living aspects of the Universe will come out of the brush and even nuzzle beside me. So, at once, stillness brings us in alignment with our true nature, while allowing all forms of life to touch us.
A Question to Walk With: Describe your greatest difficulty in being still and silent and describe your greatest reward for being still and silent.
This excerpt is from my book, Drinking from the River of Light: The Life of Expression, forthcoming from Sounds True (Sept 2019).
*photo credit: Alexander Dummer