The Poem Strikes Back! (creative writing exercise)

poem-strikes-back

It’s a bit strange title for the blog post, isn’t it? This is a different approach to writing prompts and exercises that you are accustomed to on this blog, but the last thing we want is to be boring and monotonous.

And before you dismiss whole idea, because it sounds silly – actually it is all about being aware of different perspectives. This is a sort of continuation of blog posts related to mindfulness and why not taking a role play as a foundation for writing prompt? To go even step further, let’s imagine that you are a poem. What would poem have to say? We use our writing as a tool to release our anger, love, passion, depression, fears, admiration, secrets, desires…Is your poem tired of you? Are you whining all the time? Are you always concentrated on what’s going on inside yourself that you missed a beautiful, strong and passionate  winter storm? The birch outside your window doesn’t have any leaves, have you noticed that?

Or you are trying to please everybody all day and you forgot to smile. Can you count how many times you smiled today?

Do you remember your latest dream? And when was the last time you danced to your favorite song?

Let your poem tell you all that. Imagine your writing is a mirror, what is it reflecting? What is missing out of your life? What is too much?

This is something I like to call reversed mindfulness. You are observing, noticing, listening…but instead of what is, we can focus on what isn’t. Our poem can tell us that story, a sort of self-reflection that shows us where our life is at, right now and what we can change.

It doesn’t matter if its humorous, boring, exaggerating – nobody is perfect, so neither is your poem. It’s about the understanding how we can enjoy life more.

So here’s the setting: It’s time for your writing. You are about to sit at your table but there is already a piece of paper waiting for you. It’s a poem, addressed to you and it says: “Dear_______

So, this is my take on the exercise:

Dear Maja,

how are you today?

Another grey Tuesday in the sunny Hague?

That rainy hat you are teasingly pressing on your head

Forget it…let it blow

like a wild bat…

Feel the wind through your hair,

that boring despair – leave at home

(there’s no such thing  “a graceful yawning”

I can tell you that!)

And why there are only two crossed lines

on your forehead?

Smile with your face,

you don’t have to know everything just yet.

Life unfolds, there is a reason I’m saying you this.

Stay close to me, my dearest friend.

You are not alone – like the Moon follows Earth,

I’m behind you, invisible, most delicate thread

you’ll understand, close your eyes, jump over that doorstep.

What your poem has to tell you?


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Spirituality, poetry and inner growth – how they are connected?

gita_poetry

Did you know that we can trace origins of word ‘spiritual’ back to the ancient times and it comes from latin word spirare which means to breath and in larger sense it can relate to life itself and living energy force? Taking from these meanings, than anything connected to the pure act of breathing has a spiritual connection, and so does poetry.

A self-actualized spirituality in the most broaden sense might be an acquired integrity, a Self that is truly aware of here and now, and takes actions with compassion and kindness.

For me personally, spirituality also means accepting life and the change that comes with it, learning to navigate with the flow and with the given resources and knowledge make the best of any given moment. It also means dropping the guards of ego-driven principles and having trust in uncertainty, unpredictability of life. Instead of I there is also we and they; there is no scarcity – only abundance for each uniqueness we represent; experience and appreciation for any moment and emotion instead of burdening myself with material stuff.

And finally it is also about connectedness, being true and open to yourself and learning to trust your own honesty.

All these integral parts can be experienced through poetry and let it be our vehicle for learning and growth. Starting from that vantage point of how life should be we work through all that is happening to us – we observe and feel, until we get to an understanding that our perceived reality is as it is.

This whole process of spiritual awakening, poetess Jane Hirshfield so finely portrayed in this essay:

The moon in Japanese poetry is always the moon; often it is also the image of Buddhist awakening.

Although the wind
blows terribly here,
the moonlight also leaks
between the roof planks
of this ruined house.

Izumi Shikibu (Japan, 974?-1034?) [translated by Jane Hirshfield with Mariko Aratani]
This poem reminds that if a house is walled so tightly that it lets in no wind or rain, if a life is walled so tightly that it lets in no pain, grief, anger, or longing, it will also be closed to the entrance of what is most wanted.

Ant that openness to life is our first gate and allowing we give ourselves to enter the spiritual growth.

On a branch
floating downriver
a cricket, singing.

Issa (Japan, 1763-1827) [translated by Jane Hirshfield]
Issa’s singing cricket is Cavafy’s “great Yes” in action. The haiku offers a portrait of the circumstances of all our lives. Carried by capricious currents, certain to die, we nonetheless fully live.

Nature always knows the best way to express itself and in the most difficult circumstances finds a tiny sun beam and a drop of water to carry on life. We all have that knowing in ourselves, but in the process of making a living we forgot to live.

And what I most like about poetry is it reminds me, teaches me and supports me in this process of learning to live again.


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Autumn

For some reason autumn has always been my favorite time of the year. Dark green, yellow and deep red are colors that always reminded me of maturity, contentment and that satisfying feeling of carrying enough knowledge and experience into the colder and darker days…

For the first official day of autumn let us enjoy these simple yet mindful words by Amy Lowell:

A photo by davide ragusa. unsplash.com/photos/4jcFu1byopQ


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Making Peace by Denise Levertov

As today we are celebrating a World Peace Day, I thought of sharing this beautiful words by Denise Levertov, “Making Peace” and through poetry take opportunity to first find peace within ourselves and simply let that energy transcend further, around us:

peace_poetry


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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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Simplicity – the ultimate sophistication of your work

whitman

Once Jane Austine said that life has turned into a “succession of busy nothings” and unfortunately I have found a lot of truth in her words. We often forget what really matters and get caught in petty, trivial things that deplete our time and energy. About 2 years ago, I took a radically different approach to my life – mostly provoked by my health issues. I began to simplify and minimalise everything I could – from physical stuff, what and how I eat, my everyday habits, what kind of thoughts and conversations I “consume” and interesting – beside the momentary benefits like feeling more free, relaxed and lighter (in every sense!) a need for poetry was born again. And I truly believe in the saying “Less is more”, where minimalism and poetry enriched my life on so many levels.

Today I will not speak much of a poetry, but rather I will try to share my tips and views on simplification, which can help in your writing, work or business; to find what really matters, prioritize and do more of the things you love. In the long run, you will feel more content and accomplished.

1.Learn to say no and cut down on meetings

I know we usually want to please everybody, but try to analyze your obligations more clearly and think: are all those meetings, tasks and chores really necessary? Today? What can’t wait? What can you delegate? What requires your personal, undivided attention? Once you manage to clear your schedule (just a little bit :-)) you will be more productive on the things that really do matter.

2.Take digital sabbatical when ever you can

According to International Association of Business Organizing a typical U.S. worker is interrupted by communications technology every 10 minutes. It’s a productivity killer and developing habits of focusing at a priority task is of vital importance in gaining time –which is your most valuable asset.

3.Find business processes you can automate

This is especially important in our business culture – everything requires approval, signature ext. Sharing files and templates among coworkers can help reduce incoming e-mail and paper jams.

4. Lean is the new black

Once you set your priorities, try to find any gaps where you can develop your own shortcuts to make processes lean as possible. Focus your resources on the things that matter the most.

5. Go paperless

Don’t get me wrong: I know, for the writer this one can be really hard.

I personally love the smell and the sound of lisp paper.

I love having blisters on my fingers from extensive handwriting.

I like to taint my fingers with blue ink – nevertheless there are possibilities for us to cut down the paper work and therefore the clutter accumulating on our desk and in our drawers. I’ve included here this simple info-graphic with tips and tricks to help you along the way:

infographicdont-waste-time-but-dont-waste-paper-either-1-1024

6.Adopt the Zen productivity mindset.

This idea is from Leo Babauta’s phenomenal blog Zen habits, where he proposes for us actually to put limits and strict rules on everything:

Besides forcing you to focus on essential tasks that have a large Return on Investment (ROI), it forces you to eliminate the non-essential tasks. No other system forces you to do that. It forces you to make the best use of your time. It forces you to limit the time you spend on things, which means you have more time for other things that are important to you, and you are able to focus on what you want to focus on, instead of everything coming at you. It simplifies your life and makes you less stressed out.

In a nutshell, limit yourself how many tasks a day you are going to execute; do one task at a time – and put rules on repetitive tasks – like, you will check your e-mail only twice a day. It’s an edgy idea but worth a try.  In my post What writing haiku taught me about business the notion of simplicity also came forth, but we can always challenge ourselves even further.

7.Cut the the weeds at their root.

It’s so easy to go back to the old habits. Once you realize you are starting to overcomplicate things again, go back to the rules. Adopting minimalism as an entrepreneurial mindset takes time and effort. Once you see the benefits, “busy nothings” will dissolve by themselves.

But I say unto you,

Take this stuff just as a stuff;
Movement is movement;
Sitting is sitting,
but don’t wobble
under any circumstances!
My stuff has turned into a dragon
and swallowed up the whole world.
Where are the poor mountains and rivers and great earth now?

Yun-men Wen-yen, (Ummon), 864-949