Here at The Terrace we like to promote the practice of Mindfulness, either through our workshops and taster sessions or via the blog, where we have posted our favourite poetry – words that helps us stop for a moment and simply take a moment to ourselves. We know now that mindfulness has a really positive effect on physical and psychological health, and enhances focus, memory, creativity and compassion
The poet Muriel Rukeyser is quoted as saying “This moment is real, this moment is what we have, this moment in which we face each other, and if a poem is any damn good at all, it invites you to bring your whole life to that moment, and we are good poets inasmuch as we bring that invitation to you, and you are good readers inasmuch as you bring your whole life to the reading of the poem.”
Mindful poetry does not have to be written specially for meditation practice. There are certain lines of classic poetry that seem to calm the mind or take us into a realm of intense feeling – poetry is by its very nature the distillation of a feeling. Think of these lines by John Keats, as he writes ‘To Sleep’
….Save me from curious Conscience, that still lords
Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole;
Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards,
And seal the hushed Casket of my Soul.
Or from ‘To Autumn’
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, 25
And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn; 30
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
Simply sit and read these lines quietly to yourself, even as you sit in front of your computer screen. Better still, learn a few of the lines off by heart and take a walk in the autumn sunshine (when we get some) and hear the rhythm of the poem as you kick up the leaves.
But our poem for mindfulness today is by Mary Oliver, who has been called an ‘indefatigable guide to the natural world’ and the Poetry Foundation describe her main themes as ‘the intersection between the human and the natural world, as well as the limits of human consciousness and language in articulating such a meeting’. But you don’t have to study poetry to enjoy it. Just feel it.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Mary Oliver, (Dream Work, Grove Atlantic Inc., 1986 & New and Selected Poems, Beacon Press, 1992.)
Do tell us of your own favourite poetry for mindfulness. We would love to share your thoughts on this blog.
Miranda Bevis, our expert Mindfulness teacher is offering taster sessions at The Terrace tomorrow (14th) and Wednesday (15th) October 2014. See our Facebook page for further details.