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Posts Tagged ‘poetry

My Dreams, My Works, Must Wait Till After Hell

I hold my honey and I store my bread

In little jars and cabinets of my will.

I label clearly, and each latch and lid

I bid, Be firm till I return from hell.

I am very hungry. I am incomplete.

And none can give me any word but Wait,

The puny light. I keep my eyes pointed in;

Hoping that, when the devil days of my hurt

Drag out to their last dregs and I resume

On such legs as are left me, in such heart

As I can manage, remember to go home,

My taste will not have turned insensitive

To honey and bread old purity could love.

Gwendolyn Brooks

For everything there is a season

If we do not sow in spring and reap in summer, what will we have the autumn and winter?  And if we don’t eat the harvests we stored during the cold months, won’t they just rot?

We make ourselves unhappy when we muddle the seasons. Look again.  The harvest in the store is still there.   There is no need to eat it all at once. But eat.

New Year’s Resolutions – fragile for some ~ too sturdy for others

Tonight we have fun, and tomorrow we break our New Year’s Resolutions.  That’s how it goes for most people.

People like me achieve New Year’s Resolutions.  We are the  “get it done” sort of person.   We also understand that goal-setting is not everything.  Worse, it can be dangerous.  When we set goals, we develop tunnel vision – that’s how it works.  We focus on one thing and disregard side-effects.

“Get it done” people have a bigger challenge to explore life fully

Those of us who find goal-setting easy have a bigger challenge ~ to explore life fully.  Do we have the courage to explore what we can’t control and do we have the courage to explore with no intent to control? Do we dare leave the light and explore the dark?   Could we do a that job we hate without getting wound up about it?   Can we learn to relax in the company of someone we dislike?

Do we have the courage to simply stand in awe of the richness of our lives and all its possibilities ~ without acting ~ without trying to make the world do our bidding?  Do we have the strength of character to simply stand in awe?

Can that be the New Year’s Resolution of 2010?  To Live Life Fully and Be Still?

As ever, here is a poem by Raine Maria Rilke on the courage to live fully.

Ignorant Before the Heavens of My Life

Ignorant before the heavens of my life,

I stand and gaze in wonder. Oh the vastness

of the stars. Their rising and descent. How still.

As if I didn’t exist. Do I have any

share in this? Have I somehow dispensed with

their pure effect? Does my blood’s ebb and flow

change with their changes? Let me put aside

every desire, every relationship

except this one, so that my heart grows used to

its farthest spaces. Better that it live

fully aware, in the terror of its stars, than

as if protected, soothed by what is near.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Look in the light?

I’m sure you all know the story about the man who was looking for something under a street-light.  A passer-by stopped to help and asked what he was looking for.  “A sixpence,” the first man said.  “I dropped a sixpence.”  “Where did you drop it?” asked the second man.  “Over there”, the first man said, pointing outwards into the dark.  “Why are you looking for it here, then?”, said the newcomer.  “Because here is where the light is”, answered the first.

So many of us run our lives on that principle.  We know we need light.  So we head towards the light.  But so has everyone else.  And in business-terms, that patch is “over-traded”. In social terms, the “in-crowd” is there.

Look beyond the light

It is good to be there too.  But who is being excluded?  And why?

In many countries, we are approaching the Christmas festival and many of us will be packing up preparing to criss-cross the globe to rejoin family.  We are heading towards the light and warmth of the family hearth.

In the Christian tradition, it is also a time to think about those who are not included around a family hearth.  It is a gesture of kindness and compassion to reach out.

It is also in our self-interest.  Poets remind us that it is in the dark, the place where we generally do not look or listen, where the value of our lives might be.  Paying attention to the dark might bring value to the hearth.

Poetry about looking beyond the light

Here is a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke on making friends with the dark.  Maybe that should be the New Year’s Resolution for 2010.  To spend a moment each day looking beyond the circle of light into the dark beyond?

You, darkness

You, darkness, that I come from

I love you more than all the fires

that fence in the world,

for the fire makes a circle of light for everyone

and then no one outside learns of you.

But the darkness pulls in everything-

shapes and fires, animals and myself,

how easily it gathers them!

– powers and people-

and it is possible a great presence is moving near me.

I have faith in nights.

Rainer Maria Rilke

As Once the Winged Energy of Delight

As once the winged energy of delight
carried you over childhood’s dark abysses,
now beyond your own life build the great
arch of unimagined bridges.

Wonders happen if we can succeed
in passing through the harshest danger;
but only in a bright and purely granted
achievement can we realize the wonder.

To work with Things in the indescribable
relationship is not too hard for us;
the pattern grows more intricate and subtle,
and being swept along is not enough.

Take your practiced powers and stretch them out
until they span the chasm between two
contradictions…For the god
wants to know himself in you.

Rainer Maria Rilke

For the god wants to know himself in you

As we approach the end of the year, many of us will be trying desperately to clear our desks so that we can take a few days off to be with our families.

Many of our tasks will be tedious.   And our “to do” lists will be long.

This is the time to take each task “as it is”, one at a time, to do it with pleasure, not thinking about the other tasks, disregarding our fatigue for a moment, and to see the link between our task and our deepest dreams, not in a tortured way, but with the delight of a child.

We need to do the task with a caress and a verve “For the god wants to know himself in you.”

The Power Of One

One song can spark a moment,

One flower can wake the dream.

One tree can start a forest,

One bird can herald spring.

One smile begins a friendship,

One handclasp lifts a soul.

One star can guide a ship at sea,

One word can frame the goal.

One vote can change a nation,

One sunbeam lights a room.

One candle wipes out darkness,

One laugh will conquer gloom.

One step must start each journey,

One word must start each prayer.

One hope will raise our spirits,

One touch can show you care.

One voice can speak with wisdom,

One heart can know what’s true.

One life can make the difference,

You see, IT’S UP TO YOU!

Author Unknown

A Psychologist’s View of the The Power of One

Powerlessness

Most people who consult a psychologist feel powerless, or at least overwhelmed by circumstances.  They don’t want to hear about the power of one!  First, they want simply to be heard.  They want to be acknowledged and not feel foolish for feeling powerless.  Then ideally they want the power of many.  They want the circumstances fixed ~ now!  Of course, that’s the psychologist’s job:  to help put their predicament in perspective and to stay withe them until they are willing to move forward again.

Portfolio workers

Increasingly though, work & organizational psychologists help people who run portfolio careers. Portfolio workers often consult us when they are feeling powerless, or unappreciated!  The reality though is that they have massive power.  In a sense, each person works in a niche.  In reality, they work at the nexus of a great network.  Everything they do, or don’t do, potentially makes a massive difference to the world.

Portfolio workers are the new bosses

There are many things that frustrate us and on which we voice an opinion in the pub or on a blog.  In the ‘olden days’, solving those problems would be in the gift of a ‘boss’.  In our interconnected world, we can do anything about anything.  Because we are so powerful now, we need to take the responsibility of ‘bosses’ on our shoulders.

Are we ready to change the world?

Do we really want to solve the problem in the way we say?  Have we thought about the side-effects?  Are we willing to take responsibility for the side effects?

We have become so powerful that the fun of complaining in the pub is over for us!

And use our influence wisely?

What we really have to do is to list all the changes in the world that we want to see.  Put them in order of importance.  Become sufficiently expert to understand the ripples that we will cause and the costs of our solution to other people.  And do it.

The interconnnected world is also a moral world.  Sitting around complaining when you have the power to act marks us as parasites.  But action requires moral accountability.

Are we willing to be accountable for the small things we do, and not do?

Can we be goal-oriented and mindful at the same time?

Goals and mindfulness are two of the most powerful concepts in contemporary psychology.

No doubt, when we are pursuing a goal, we pay attention to what we are doing.  But at a cost. We also neglect what is going on around us.

When we pursue a goal, we are often “in flow”.  It’s wonderful!  We are fully engaged with what we are doing.

Yet, the surest sign that we are “in flow” is that we run late for the next meeting.  We remember our flow experiences as much for the anger they arouse in other people as the joy we experience when we are fully engrossed in what we are doing!

This post is a cerebral account.  I am trying to understand the issues.

  • How can I be goal-oriented and focused on what is going on around me?
  • How can I pursue goals of the future yet be ‘fully present’.

Poets often solve our conundrums!

The poets have often already asked and answered what we want to know. Today I found a poem from Rainer Marie Rilke: A Walk and I hope it will help me understand how to be goal-oriented and mindful at the same time.

So often when an ideas in psychology is unsatisfactory, western ideas about time seem to be the root cause of the problem. Rilke’s poem recasts the ideas from temporal space to physical space and helps us imagine alternative ways of understanding the world.

Rilke suggests that that when we see a goal “on our horizon”, we draw it into our present. The present and future are merged and there is no difference between them.

When we look at the horizon we are energized to get up and walk.  And motivated perhaps to ignore the glorious flowers right near us.

The world exists because we pay attention to it and it takes its form because of our attention!

Equally, another person standing right next to us is in another world because they are paying attention to different things. They are even on a different time plane because their future changes their present!

The future and the present are not two different places ~ nor is one better than the other

Rilke talks in the poem about the pleasure of dreams.  He is not saying, though, that dreams are better than the present.  He is saying the future and the present are one place.  And whatever we believe about the future, changes the present.  Our dreams change the present moment.

How the future can fix the present

Sometimes, in those moments when we don’t like the present moment, we could look again at our horizon.

When we don’t like the present, before we complain, maybe we could run an exercise of looking at three different horizons?  If one of the versions of the present becomes more enjoyable ~ could we live from there?

Here is Rainer Marie Rilke’s poem, The Walk, translated by Robert Bly.

A Walk

My eyes already touch the sunny hill,

going far ahead of the road I have begun.

So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;

it has inner light, even from a distance-

and charges us, even if we do not reach it,

into something else, which, hardly sensing it,

we already are; a gesture waves us on

answering our own wave…

but what we feel is the wind in our faces.

Translated by Robert Bly

Rainer Maria Rilke

PS What is the copyright on this poem and if someone wanted to by a copy, what would they buy? Is there an Amazon link I could add here?

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Cold Poem

Cold now.
Close to the edge. Almost
unbearable. Clouds
bunch up and boil down
from the north of the white bear.
This tree-splitting morning
I dream of his fat tracks,
the lifesaving suet.

I think of summer with its luminous fruit,
blossoms rounding to berries, leaves,
handfuls of grain.

Maybe what cold is, is the time
we measure the love we have always had, secretly,
for our own bones, the hard knife-edged love
for the warm river of the I, beyond all else; maybe

that is what it means the beauty
of the blue shark cruising toward the tumbling seals.

In the season of snow,
in the immeasurable cold,
we grow cruel but honest; we keep
ourselves alive,
if we can, taking one after another
the necessary bodies of others, the many
crushed red flowers.

Mary Oliver

I had been thinking about the giving up of dreams in late middle age and the possibility of giving them a decent burial complete with eloquent eulogy.

Tonight, England is cold and my apartment is cold and Google threw up this poem about cold, or the winter season of our lives, or growing older.  It is in the winter of our lives, that we think hard about what we really want and in strange way, feed on dreams of our youth.  That is an alternative metaphor to a burial.  Dreams of our youth are stored in the barn as fodder to be consumed before summer comes around again with a new harvest?

Love after Love” by Derek Walcott is copyrighted.  Follow the link for a poem written for those who are tired, burned out and feeling lost.

Is is easy to retreat from life

Barack Obama said of his natural father – he had difficult life because he did not reach out to people.

When times are difficult, we tend to retreat from the world.  When we are unpopular in the playground, we pick up our toys and go home.  Then we really have no one to play with us.  Do you know that people who are lost in the bush or surrounded by fire actually hide from their rescuers?  When times are bad, we may be tempted to hide.

We may be rejected but it will help us little to go this way

“I am learning to abandon the world
before it can abandon me.
Already I have given up the moon
and snow, closing my shades
against the claims of white.
And the world has taken
my father, my friends.”
By Linda Pastan, a new poet for me.
When we are out of sorts with the world, we must ask ourselves how we can change the conversation and fall in love with life again.
When we are feeling bruised, we might also remember “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver.  “You do not have to walk on your knees for 100 miles through the desert . .  You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves . . 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”.
UPDATE:  I’ve just found this old post and link to a tremendous poem on living with fear
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Last night, I stumbled on a wonderful collection of poems. Do bookmark this link and keep it for a moment when you want to relax.

For this morning, at a time when the economies of the UK and the US are about to become very turbulent, it is good to read a poem from German poet, Rainer Rilke.

…I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903

in Letters to a Young Poet

It is so hard to think about living without a clear goal.  We’ve been taught to be wilful rather than curious.

Maybe the first question is what it would feel like to turn all my goals today into questions?

What would it be like to get up?  What will it like to have a shower?

Just to ask a series of questions?

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