Maybe an ordinary day isn’t ordinary after all

Last Sunday’s Mystical Poetry Love Fest exceeded all our expectations. The four presenters–Nancy Barton, Neale Lundgren, Diana Wentworth and I–had a delightful time. Based on the feedback, I feel certain the sixty-eight souls listening around the world did too. Special kudos to Jude in Perth who kept herself awake in the 3AM hour by reading poetry to her cat, Thomas.

But, as so often happens, the person who got the biggest AHA may well have been me. Via Diana Wentworth. Or rather, via Anne Sexton.

Nancy and Neale and I read our many favorites from Hafiz and Rumi and other long ago poets. But Diana kept bringing us into the present with modern poets–poets many of us didn’t know or didn’t recognize as “mystical.” There was one poem in particular that left everyone on the Love Fest in stunned silence. The topic was “What is mystical poetry really all about?” Nancy and Neale and I shared some pretty lofty stuff from professors and Hafiz and William Blake, but Diana capped the conversation with this jewel:

Welcome Morning

There is joy
in all:
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
each morning,
in the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
each morning,
in the spoon and the chair
that cry “hello there, Anne”
each morning,
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
each morning.

All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
each morning
and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.

So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.

The Joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard,
dies young.

~ Anne Sexton ~
The Awful Rowing Toward God

When Diana finished reading the rest of us sputtered something about our morning coffee being changed forever. And indeed, when I went downstairs on Monday morning, my kitchen glowed through my new eyes. I blessed my kettle, praised my orange cup, thanked God profusely for my ten-year old french press. I thanked my frig for chilling the cream and blessed the farmers and roasters who magically deliver Italian roast to my cupboard. Then, as I inhaled that first exquisite sip, I closed my eyes and thanked Diana for bringing us Anne Sexton and Anne Sexton for changing my ordinary morning into a temple of gratitude.

But why stop at breakfast, I thought. I spent the whole day seeing my bed, my sheets, my office, my computer, my windows, my walls–everything–through Anne Sexton eyes. Welcome morning. Welcome afternoon. Welcome night.

If you’ve ever wondered what mystical poetry is about, this is it. It’s all God, it’s all love, it’s all life, it’s all joy. And the only response is THANK YOU.

If that feels good, turn around and look at the room where you are right now. Look at it through Diana Wentworth eyes, through Anne Sexton eyes, through your own divine eyes–and see the joy.

What do you see?

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All the True Vows, David Whyte

I am writing the LearnBook for the Plug In! course. (I’ve decided not to use the term workbook anymore because learning isn’t work, it’s joy. So from here on all my support materials are going to be called LearnBooks. Don’t you think that sounds much more fun than the heavy workbook?)

Plug In! is about how to step into The Intersection to access the kind of creativity, guidance and support that will take your writing or other creative endeavor to a whole new level.

One of the steps in The Intersection is to write your creative blessing and then speak it aloud every day. To support that idea, I am reading David Whyte’s “True Vows” to the class. Re-reading it today, I fell in love again with the profound ideas, and the elegant way David expresses them. Like a tumble of water, the words flow into your mind and heart and you cannot help but feel them in your bones. Speak this poem aloud slowly and ideally standing. Let these words flow through you. You will be changed.

All the True Vows

All the true vows
are secret vows
the ones we speak out loud
are the ones we break.

There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.

Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don’t turn your face away.

Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.

Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made
nor the work they have chosen

nor the one life that waits
beyond all the others.

By the lake in the wood
in the shadows
you can
whisper that truth
to the quiet reflection
you see in the water.

Whatever you hear from
the water, remember,

it wants you to carry
the sound of its truth on your lips.

Remember,
in this place
no one can hear you

and out of the silence
you can make a promise
it will kill you to break,

that way you’ll find
what is real and what is not.

I know what I am saying.
Time almost forsook me
and I looked again.

Seeing my reflection
I broke a promise
and spoke
for the first time
after all these years

in my own voice,

before it was too late
to turn my face again.

David Whyte
The House of Belonging


Derek Walcott “Love after Love”

Poetry really can save your life. That’s what Kim Rosen says in Saved by a Poem. And she’s right. I know. I am saved almost daily by the Sufi mystical poet, Hafiz, or David Whyte or, Derek Walcott. Today, I learned from my good friend, The Writer’s Almanac, is Derek Walcott’s birthday. A celebration is in order, don’t you think?

Here’s a Derek Walcott poem that saved my life. I love it so much I painted it in white chalk paint on an indigo wall in my bathroom. These words bless me every day.

Love After Love

The time will come
When, with elation,
You will greet yourself arriving
At your own door, in yoru own mirror,
And each will smile at the other’s welcome.

And say, sit here, eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread,. Give back your heart
To itself, to the stranger who has loved you

All your life, whom you ignored
For another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

The photographs, the desperate notes, Peel your image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Aaaah, I feel saved just reading that as I type. What poem saved or continues to save your life?


December Plan Day 18 part 2: The Enough Prayer

Ordinarily I write one post a day in the December Plan. But today’s post on who really needs forgiveness has caused many a tear. These are good tears. These tears are little messages bobbing up from your soul saying, “Yes, oh yes. Please forgive yourself. There is so much ahead of us, so much beauty, so much potential, so much joy, but as long as you have this gaping hole in your heart, you can’t see all that good. And because you can’t see it, you probably can’t have it. So, yes, darling one, please forgive yourself. Because the truth is you are so much more beautiful than you can ever know.”

I’ve struggled mightily with this idea of not being enough. And for a very long time. I wrote this prayer, “Enough,” back in the early nineties, well before my divorce. The words still resonate today. To me, they sound like long slow deep vibrations from a bell that has been ringing for a very very long time. I am ready to stop clanging the bell of “not enough.” I’m going to say this prayer one more time today. Out loud. With vigor. I’m going to feel it in my bones and know that it is true. From this day forward, I am enough. I am more than enough.

Here. I think this prayer is for you, too.

Enough
A Prayer of Abundance (copyright Janet Conner 2009)

Dear God of the universe,
creator of all life, hear me.
This one prays.

In the mirror.
In the reflection that bounces from me to the world and back again,
there is a circle, a circle of sadness.

I am not enough.
They see “not enough.”
Therefore, I am not enough,

not good enough
not enough of something
not strong enough, perhaps

not smart enough, for sure
not handsome enough
not pretty enough

not wealthy enough, never wealthy enough
not fast enough
not clever enough

not tough enough,
but too tough sometimes and that makes me
not kind enough

something not enough
many things not enough.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter what.
The specific fault is irrelevant.
I don’t have to name it.
It’s enough just to know that I’m not enough
of whatever it is I’m not enough of.

Do You understand this, God?
Seems a bit convoluted, I know.
But circles are circles.
And everywhere I turn,
there are more of them.

If I look at my work – I’m not good enough
and, of course, they see I’m not good enough.
Therefore, I’m not.
Good enough.
And doesn’t my “success” just prove it.

If I look at my family – I’m not loving enough.
They know I could love them more.
Just look at our tensions
and You’ll see that I’m right:
I’m not loving enough.

If I look in the mirror – I’m not pretty enough.
There it is for the world to see:
blemishes, imperfections, crooked teeth, blotchy skin, ridiculous hair, flaccid muscles.
I think I’ll stop now.
But You see. Well, I see.
I’m not pretty enough.

If I look in my checkbook – I’m not rich enough.
Doesn’t take a banker to see I don’t earn enough.
Perhaps if I worked harder, smarter, faster, better…something,
I’d be better off.
But there it is: I’m not rich enough.

I could continue, but I need to move on.
There are things to do, people to see, problems to solve.
And I’m not organized enough to get it all done.

So I have to get going.
But first, I need to ask You this question. It’s important.
Why did You put me here if I’m not enough?

Why didn’t You make me pretty enough, smart enough, rich enough?
You could have, You know.
Even now, You could do it in a single breath:

Ask and poof, I am beautiful
Ask and poof, I am wealthy
Ask and I’m smart

Ask and I’m wanted
Ask and I’m wise
Ask and I’m…

What?
What do I want?
What do I really want?

Want beyond wanting?
Need beyond needing?
What is the hole that must be filled?

Love…I guess. Yes, Love. That’s it, isn’t it?
If I had Love – enough Love – I would be blessed.
If I had Love – the right Love – I would be joyous.
If I had perfect Love, pure Love – Your Love – I would be healed.

That’s what I ask for, dear God.
That’s what I want.
Love is what I need.
Starting here. With me. Just me.

Fill me with the Love of the angels.
Build a bridge of Love across my doubts and fears.
Pour Love all around me
in my eyes, my mouth, my heart and my mind.

It feels good, this Love,
warm and calm and easy.
It has no ambition, but it won’t stay still.
It needs nothing, yet it sets my heart in motion.

This Love is peaceful, yet yearns to spread.
It oozes out of me and fills the room.
It swims out of the room and fills the house.
It radiates out of the house and seeks the world.

I guess it is enough, isn’t it!
Enough for me.
Enough for now.
Enough for always and ever.

Enough.

Amen.

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What one poem will they read at your memorial?

The House of Belonging by David WhyteI went to a Celebration of Life memorial service for the Rev. Geri Glinski at Unity Church of Palm Harbor today. Geri was a light. And I don’t mean metaphorically. Geri glowed.

At the service, her daughter read Geri’s favorite poem, “The Road Less Travelled” by Robert Frost. Immediately I wondered, what would they be reading if this were my memorial? What poem would my family and friends instinctively know is my all-time favorite. Hafiz, of course. I’m forever reading and quoting the great Sufi mystic, Hafiz. But if they had to read just one poem, I think it would be David Whyte’s, “All the True Vows.”

When I read this poem in 1997, my marriage had disintegrated and I was desperately seeking a core, an essence, an answer that could make the chaos make sense. Reading this poem, I knew that my answer lay in writing my own “true vows.” I call it my Covenant with Spirit. And from the moment I wrote my seven vows, they began to magnetically rearrange my life. I still repeat my seven-line Covenant every day. It’s still true, and it would still kill me to break them.

All the True Vows
(from The House of Belonging)

All the true vows
are secret vows
the ones we speak out loud
are the ones we break.

There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.

Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don’t turn your face away.

Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.

Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made
nor the work they have chosen

nor the one life that waits
beyond all the others.

By the lake in the wood
in the shadows
you can
whisper that truth
to the quiet reflection
you see in the water.

Whatever you hear from
the water, remember,
it wants to carry
the sound of its truth on your lips.

Remember,
in this place
no one can hear you

and out of the silence
you can make a promise
it will kill you to break,

that way, you’ll find
what is real and what is not.

I know what I am saying.
Time almost forsook me
and I looked again.

Seeing my reflection
I broke a promise
and spoke
for the first time
after all these years

in my own voice,

before it was too late
to turn my face again.

I, too, spoke in my own voice before it was too late. And that call, that voice, that new, personal, sacred promise created the life I now live. So, although I so want lots of mystical poetry at my celebration, lots of Rumi and Hafiz and Meister Eckhart, first and forever, there must be David Whyte.

How about you? What words have grabbed your attention, turned your head, and will not let you go? Whatever that poem or statement is, find it, print it, say it. Say it. Say it today.

And share it with us. What one poem do you want them to read at your memorial?


Raymond Carver and his last perfect sentence

Raymond Carver's last poems

Raymond Carver's last poems

It is Raymond Carver’s birthday today. I just learned that from the May 25th edition of Writer’s Almanac, published daily by American Public Media.

I love email. I love the daily surprises and messages it delivers both from friends and deep soul writers who want to talk about Writing Down Your Soul, and from newsletters I signed up to receive. Most of the latter go away after a bit, however. Only a few continue to be welcome, day in and day out, in my little blue mailbox. (Ok, so it’s not blue and it’s not a mailbox, but I like to pretend it is.) Neale Donald Walsch’s “I believe God wants you to know” is a keeper. TUT, Messages from the Universe is a keeper. The Daily Om is a keeper. Love them all. But the one I’ve read the longest and the one I will continue to read until Garrison Keiller no longer has a voice, is Writer’s Almanac.

Every day, we Writer’s Almanac recipients are blessed with a poem and then, a bit of the literary news of the day. On this day in history, Garrison tells us, so ‘n so died, or was born, or published his or her book. It is amazing to me, but there are no days bereft of great and important writing news. Somehow that makes starting my day a little sweeter. We writers, sitting alone in our back bedrooms, need a little reminder that we are a part of a great history, a great river of words, and our little skiff, floating along gathering and contributing what it can, matters.

Well, today, Garrison told me, is Raymond Carver’s birthday. Say the name, Raymond Carver, and the exquisite book with the simply perfect title, “What We
Talk about When We Talk about Love
,” comes instantly to mind. And I love it. But my favorite is, “A New Path to the Waterfall,” because the last poem, on the last page; the last words he managed to push onto his typewriter are so beautiful they hurt:

Late Fragment

Late Fragment by Kariann Burleson of http://www.dailypoetics.com

Late Fragment by Kariann Burleson of http://www.dailypoetics.com


And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

May we all be so blessed, as we step out of our skin, to wave back and say: “Thank you for giving me the experience to call myself beloved on this earth.” But the big aha for me and for many is that the state of feeling “beloved” isn’t dependent on the perfect soulmate-type romantic relationship. Raymond Carver had that with his beloved Tess Gallagher, but many of us have not had, or have not been able to hold onto, that ideal. So will we exit “unbeloved?” No, a thousand times no. Because every time we pick up a pen and speak with our Beloved, we get a wee taste of that deep loving connection. We are all Beloved by The Beloved.

Raymond Carver gave us the perfect sentence, the perfect expression for this day, which Americans call Memorial Day. It began as a day to remember those who served our country in the armed forces, but isn’t it true that in some way we all serve? We are here to serve one another.

In memoriam then, I bless you, Raymond Carver, and thank you for your last, late, glorious fragment. It is a blessing and a beacon to all of us.

Do you have a poem or saying that is your beacon? I’d love to hear it.