15 most beautiful poems about mindfulness

mindfulness_poetry

We are all aware that present moment is the place where our power lies. Not in the past or future, but in the now where we can make the most of our lives. Yet, being mindful is not that easy: we often catch ourselves dwelling on the past or worrying about distant events, thus allowing sometimes beautiful tiny moments escape our attention. In this post I share my own practice on using poetry for meditative purposes that I found to be helpful. Today I list here my 15 top poems about mindfulness, purpose in life and happiness. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I do.

 The Journey by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice-
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do-
determined to save
the only life you could save.

What Do We Know by Mary Oliver

The sky cleared
I was standing
under a tree.

and there were stars in the sky
that were also themselves
at the moment

at which moment
my right hand
was holding my left hand
which was holding the tree
which was filled with stars
and the soft rain —
imagine! Imagine!
the long and wondrous journeys
still to be ours.

The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry

 When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For the time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

What We Need Is Here by Wendell Berry

 Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.

You Reading This, Be Ready by William Stafford

 Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life–
What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

Enough by David Whyte

 Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.
This opening to the life
we have refused
again and again
until now.
Until now

Stand Still by David Wagoner

The trees before you and the bushes beside you are not lost.
Wherever you are is a place called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again saying Here.

No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

Happiness by Hermann Hesse

If luck you chase, you have not grown
enough for happiness to stay,
not even if you get your way.

If, what you lost, you still bemoan,
and grasp at tasks, and dash and dart,
you have not known true peace of heart.

But if no wishes are your own,
and you don’t try to win the game,
and Lady Luck is just a name,

then tides of life won’t reach your breast
and all your strife
and all your soul will rest.

Rumi

Be empty of worrying
Think of who created thought
Why do you stay in prison
When the door is so wide open
Move outside the tangle of fear thinking
Live in silence
Flow down and down
Into always widening
Rings of being

Hafiz

Now is the time
Now is the time to know
That all that you do is sacred.
Now, why not consider
A lasting truce with yourself and God?
Now is the time to understand
That all your ideas of right and wrong
Were just a child’s training wheels
To be laid aside
When you can finally live
with veracity and love.
Now is the time for the world to know
That every thought and action is sacred.
That this is the time
For you to compute the impossibility
That there is anything
But Grace.
Now is the season to know
That everything you do
Is Sacred

Franz Kafka

You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen.
Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quite still and solitary.
The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice,
it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

T.S. Eliot

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope for hope
would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

Osho

There is a music which has no sound,
the soul is restless for such silent music.
There is a love in which the body is not,
the soul longs for such unembodied love.
There is a truth which has no form,
the soul longs for this formless truth.

The Way It Is by William Stafford

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

One Sand Grain Among the Others in the Winter Wind by Jane Hirshfield

I wake with my hand held over the place of grief in my body.
“Depend on nothing,” the voice advises, but even that is useless.
My ears are useless, my familiar and intimate tongue.
My protecting hand is useless, that wants to hold the single leaf to the tree
and say, Not this one, this one will be saved.


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Getting into the flow (creativity exercise)

csikszentmihalyi-mihaly

Probably you can recall that there were moments in your life when time seemed to stop, everything around you just froze and you were riding this wave of creativity where everything was possible; you felt like you can accomplish anything, you were so immersed in what you were doing that all of your senses were focused and sharpened on that one particular activity, and your body excluded everything else? Fun and exciting in the same time, right?

And today it might seem harder to achieve that creative bliss we are all looking for, since we are so distracted and interrupted with everything going on around us. In this TED talk Dr. Csikszentmihalyi, explains that our nervous system is incapable of processing more than 110 bits of information per second. If you’re listening to someone talking, you need to process about 60 bits of information per second in order to understand what they’re saying.

He further points out that when you are doing something with high focus, your mind don’t have enough room to process other information concerning how you feel, bodily functions or other needs. Creative people often call this as the entering the state of flow and like nothing else except what they are creating exists.

chart-state-of-flow-300x233

“The flow” graph.

So how can you enter the ‘flow’? Can it be practiced? How can we use it to improve our creative skills?

As you can see on the above graph, the state of flow is dependable on the level of skills you use and the level of challenge you pursue. The higher the challenge and the more skills we need to engage, the better chance we have for entering the sate of flow.

During his research dr Dr. Csikszentmihalyi  and his team have evaluated many people on this topic and they managed to derive  few crucial points that describe how it feels to enter the state of flow:

  1. There is complete focus and determination;
  2. There is an overwhelming joy and excitement;
  3. There is an inner knowing that task can be delivered;
  4. All worrisome thoughts disappear and they are replaced with clarity and motivation on what needs to be done;
  5. The self-awareness is concentrated on the present moment.

It’s interesting to note that this research was performed on the topic of happiness and what makes people happy. Simple answer came out to be: being creative and enjoying it as much as possible.

So how can we use these key findings and apply them to our writing? How can we practice entering the state of flow?

Here are few suggestions:

  1. Pick an enjoyable, yet challenging activity with clearly defined goal.

Since we are talking about writing you can chose to write a poem that has certain amount of words, poetic form that is new to you, story on the topic you need to do further research and inquiries – something that goes beyond your ordinary writing practice. Remember that here you need to be fully engaged and use your skills. The challenge you pick can also help you enhance your capabilities, so don’t be afraid to go overboard of your usual writing. Play with words and dictionaries, learn foreign phrases – all that helps you become more creative and inventive in writing.

  1. Remove distractions as much as you can.

Once you enter that creative flow, if something interrupts you, the harder is to go back in and continue. So clear your desk, turn off your phone and concentrate on the task at hand.

  1. Let go of any past experiences that might influence your expectations and results of the activity.

Mastering that flow mindset takes time and practice so be gentle towards yourself and monitor your emotional response. You are in control of your attitudes so if you get too excited (angry, anxious, worried), calm down and try to regain your steady levels of energy: being sluggish and bored is also a sign that you fell of the ‘flow wagon’.

  1. To spice things up – give your self a time frame:

to work on a poem, a story, a chapter, an article in a continual interval – for example 30 minutes, and give all you’ve got. Focus on your writing and you’ll see how time will past in split second.

  1. Make it a regular habit.

Getting into the flow and enjoying the activity that brings desired results takes practice, so make it a part of your daily routine. Schedule your ‘ time flow’ every day and commit to it. Not only are you working on your creativity and skills, but you are improving your mood and bringing more happiness into your life. After all, isn’t that what we all are looking for? It’s worth a try.

Hermann Hesse on happiness, writing and how to say ‘yes’ to life

herman-hesse

Hermann Hesse’s life and literary quest was always preoccupied with constant search for meaning of life and faith. He was born into a Protestant-Pietist family of missionaries, preachers and theologians, but somehow Christianity didn’t offer him answers he was looking for. Soon, very much influenced by Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism, he developed his own notion that humanity actually belongs to some kind of Universal truth that goes beyond any religion and metaphysical explanation. In most of his work, especially in his spiritual poetry he always emphasized the importance of living in the now: on letting go and finding contentment within ourselves.

Whenever in doubt, he invites us to look in nature, observe the flow of life that goes around us and how we are part of that life. It is upon us to say yes to life, to affirm that we are part of some eternal life force and intelligence bigger than us; that we need to trust life and ourselves.

He writes:

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.

Hermann Hesse, Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte

Life is not good or bad. It is what it is. If we dislike something it is mirrored part of ourselves that we don’t like.

If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.

When it comes to writing, if it is something we really want to do in life, we will find the way to work for us. Once we recognize that we have that gift to share with world, gift and value of our own vulnerability,  that we accept and admire it with all virtues and flaws – that is real happiness. Words can be seen as our proof of existence and how we use them makes the whole difference.

“You must find your dream, then the way becomes easy. Happiness is a how; not a what. A talent, not an object. Without words, without writing and without books there would be no history, there could be no concept of humanity.

In the following poem I think that Hesse so vividly and accurately in the same time managed to capture the notion of happiness and why we are all during our lives so allured with it:

Happiness

If luck you chase, you have not grown
enough for happiness to stay,
not even if you get your way.

If, what you lost, you still bemoan,
and grasp at tasks, and dash and dart,
you have not known true peace of heart.

But if no wishes are your own,
and you don’t try to win the game,
and Lady Luck is just a name,

then tides of life won’t reach your breast
and all your strife
and all your soul will rest.

I hope that his thoughts will help you and inspire you in your further creative endevours. You can complement this reading with Mark Strand’s take on creativity, what writing haiku can teach us and little tips on how to develop your own mindfulness practice.


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