Poetry for Meditation

About 5 years ago, I took the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn. I meditated daily for about a year, and then it slowly slipped away from me. Last year while I was taking my course in Positive Psychology, I decided to reintroduce meditation into my life. It took several months for me to ramp up to it. I don’t know why there was such resistance, because I know it is beneficial… and yet, there you have it. Resistance. With a capital R.

So in October I challenged myself to 30 days of the body scan. The one I have is 45 minutes… which is a big time commitment and was likely part of where the resistance was coming in, I’m sure! So for 30 days I did the body scan challenge. A body scan is a where you lay on the floor and listen to a guided meditation that focuses in on different body parts and just has you notice what might be going on in those different parts of your body. And I succeeded with the 30-day challenge! (Mostly. Ha! Every day except one or two, if I remember right.)

Anyway, lo and behold, my husband Mark expressed an interest in joining me in my morning meditation. Last summer he had re-discovered archery, and was feeling like that was meditation for him, and was missing it in late November after he’d put his bow away. So he started to join me in meditation. We have been doing some days of recorded Deepak and Oprah’s 21-Day Challenges, some days with just music, and a few days of body scans. The most recent Deepak and Oprah’s 21-Day Challenge just ended, so I decided I’d like to try silent meditation. I haven’t done much of it, and would like to give it a try.

So yesterday was our first day doing silent mediation. We decided we’d set the timer (Insight Timer, an app for iPhone, which I really like!) for 20 minutes. I sat down, set the timer, and BOOM! Instant meditation. Only it felt very jarring! I wasn’t used to not having someone ease me into it. So after our 20 minutes, I told Mark it felt a little TOO jarring, and he said, “Like on your mark, get set… MEDITATE!” Yeah, just like that. So I asked if he’d mind if I started with a poem and then we would ease into it that way. He liked that idea, so this morning was the first day with a poem.

Here’s a little bit of friendly advice: READ YOUR POEMS BEFORE YOU SHARE THEM IN YOUR MEDITATION! I hadn’t done that, and so I just thought I would take my New and Selected Poems, Volume One of Mary Oliver and start at the very beginning, since this book is new to me, too. So at 6am I started with the first poem, Rain. It has seven parts, and I decided I would read the first three. I read:

All afternoon it rained, then
such power came down from the clouds
on a yellow thread,
as authoritative as God is supposed to be.
When it hit the tree, her body
opened forever.

Mark: “Could you slow down just a little bit? I feel like you’re going a little too fast.”
Me: “Sure. I’ll start over, and I’ll slow it down.”

All afternoon it rained, then
such power came down from the clouds
on a yellow thread,
as authoritative as God is supposed to be.
When it hit the tree, her body
opened forever.

2 The Swamp
Last night, in the rain, some of the men climbed over
the barbed-wire fence of the detention center.
In the darkness they wondered if they could do it, and knew
they had to try to do it.
In the darkness they climbed the wire, handful after handful
of barbed wire.
Even in the darkness most of them were caught and sent back
to the camp inside.
But a few are still climbing the barbed wire, or wading through
the blue swamp on the other side.

What does barbed wire feel like when you grip it, as though
it were a loaf of bread, or a pair of shoes?
What does barbed wire feel like when you grip it, as though
it were a plate and a fork, or a handful of flowers?
What does barbed wire feel like when you grip it, as though
it were the handle of a door, working papers, a clean sheet
you want to draw over your body?

Or this one: on a rainy day, my uncle
lying in the flower bed,
cold and broken,
dragged from the idling car
with is plug of rags, and its gleaming
length of hose. My father
then the ambulance came,
then we all looked at death

“WAIT A MINUTE!” Mark interrupted, “This is NOT putting me in the right mindset to meditate! Escaping from prison? Suicide??”

I responded, “There was a suicide?!”

Mark retorted, “You were so busy reading slowly that you didn’t notice the suicide?? I feel like I’m in fight or flight mode here, not ready to meditate mode…”

I found and read Mary Oliver’s The Journey, knowing that I’d heard that one before in the context of meditation, and it had been shared by several of my Positive Psychology faculty and peers. And afterwards, we meditated in silence. For 20 minutes. Except when I got the giggles, thinking about Mark interrupting my reading, saying how stressed out he was by that chosen poem, the one that was going to ease us into our meditation…

I still am giggling, thinking about this several hours later.

About lookingglassletters

Love to learn and live and travel and connect. ... and write and ski and walk and read...
This entry was posted in Learning, Observations, Positive Psychology, Self care and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Poetry for Meditation

  1. Linda Heikkila says:

    I love Mary Oliver poetry and a copy of The Journey is displayed on my fridge where I can read it often. This speaks to my recovery.

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