Poetry & Words for the Soul


Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
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.

From In Blackwater Woods
by Mary Oliver

To live in this world you must be able to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

When Death Comes
by Mary Oliver

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps his purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering;
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

Now I Become Myself
by May Sarton

Now I become myself. It's taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people's faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
"Hurry, you will be dead before--"
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song,
Made so and rooted by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!

Two Kinds of Intelligence

There are two kinds of intelligence: One acquired,
as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts
from books and from what the teacher says,
collecting information from the traditional sciences
as well as from the new sciences.

With such intelligence you rise in the world.
You get ranked ahead or behind others
in regard to your competence in retaining
information. You stroll with this intelligence
in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always more
marks on your preserving tablets.

There is another kind of intelligence
already completed inside you.
A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness
in the center of the chest. This other intelligence
does not turn yellow or stagnate. It's fluid
and it doesn't move from outside to inside
through the conduits of plumbing-learning.

This second knowing is a fountainhead
from within you, moving out.

Words of Wisdom from the DALAI LAMA

One of the best ways to begin familiarizing ourselves with the virtue of patience is to reflect systematically on its benefits. It is the source of forgiveness. It has no equal in protecting our concern for others, however they behave towards us. When patience is combined with the ability to discriminate between the action and the one who does it, forgiveness arises naturally.

"A compassionate attitude opens our inner door, and as a result it is much easier to communicate with others. If there is too much self-centered attitude, then fear, doubt and suspicion come and as a result our inner door closes. Then it is very difficult to communicate with others."

"The purpose of our life needs to be positive. We weren’t born with the purpose of causing trouble, harming others. For our life to be of value, I think we must develop basic good human qualities – warmth, kindness, compassion. Then our life becomes meaningful and more peaceful – happier."

"Anger cannot be overcome by anger. If a person shows anger to you, and you show anger in return, the result is a disaster. In contrast, if you control your anger and show its opposite - love, compassion, tolerance, and patience - then not only will you remain in peace, but the anger of others also will gradually diminish."

"It is my fundamental conviction that compassion - the natural capacity of the human heart to feel concern for and connection with another human being - constitutes a basic aspect of our nature shared by all human beings, as well as being the foundation of our happiness. All ethical teachings, whether religious or nonreligious, aim to nurture this innate and precious quality, to develop it and to perfect it."

"It is necessary to help others, not only in our prayers, but in our daily lives. If we find we cannot help others, the least we can do is to desist from harming them."

"Alongside our natural ability to empathize with others, we also have a need for others’ kindness, which runs like a thread throughout our whole life. It is most apparent when we are young and when we are old, but we have only to fall ill to be reminded how important it is to be loved and cared about, even in our prime years."

"When we contemplate the diversity of spiritual traditions on this planet we can understand that each addresses the specific needs of different human beings, because there is so much diversity in human mentality and spiritual inclination. Yet, fundamentally, all spiritual traditions perform the same function, which is t o help us tame our mental state, overcome our negativities and perfect our inner potential."

"Saying that one should be patient and withstand trouble doesn’t mean one should be defeated and overcome. The whole purpose of engaging in the practice of patience is to become stronger in mind, stronger in heart. And you also want to remain calm. If you lose patience and your brain becomes confused with emotion, you w ill lose the power to analyze and figure out how to overcome the negative force that is opposing you."

"I believe an important distinction can be made between religion and spirituality. Religion I take to be concerned with faith in the claims to salvation of one faith tradition or another. Spirituality I take to be concerned with qualities of the human spirit, love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony, that bring happiness both to self and others."

Verses on the Faith-Mind

By Seng-ts'an, Third Chinese Patriarch

Translated by Richard B. Clarke

The Great Way is not difficult

for those not attached to preferences.

When neither love nor hate arises,

all is clear and undisguised.

Separate by the smallest amount, however,

and you are as far from it as heaven is from earth.

If you wish to know the truth,

then hold to no opinions for or against anything.

To set up what you like against what you dislike

is the disease of the mind.

When the fundamental nature of things is not recognized

the mind's essential peace is disturbed to no avail.

The Way is perfect as vast space is perfect,

where nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.

Indeed, it is due to our grasping and rejecting

that we do not know the true nature of things.

Live neither in the entanglements of outer things,

nor in ideas or feelings of emptiness.

Be serene and at one with things

and erroneous views will disappear by themselves.

When you try to stop activity to achieve quietude,

your very effort fills you with activity.

As long as you remain attached to one extreme or another

you will never know Oneness.

Those who do not live in the Single Way

cannot be free in either activity or quietude, in assertion or denial.

Deny the reality of things

and you miss their reality;

assert the emptiness of things

and you miss their reality.

The more you talk and think about it

the further you wander from the truth.

So cease attachment to talking and thinking,

and there is nothing you will not be able to know.

To return to the root is to find the essence,

but to pursue appearances or "enlightenment" is to miss the source.

To awaken even for a moment

is to go beyond appearance and emptiness.

Changes that seem to occur in the empty worldwe make real only because of our ignorance.

Do not seek for the truth;

Only cease to cherish opinions.

Do not remain in a dualistic state;

avoid such easy habits carefully.

If you attach even to a trace

of this and that, of right and wrong,

the Mind-essence will be lost in confusion.

Although all dualities arise from the One,

do not be attached even to ideas of this One.

When the mind exists undisturbed in the Way,

there is no objection to anything in the world;

and when there is no objection to anything,

things cease to be— in the old way.

When no discriminating attachment arises,

the old mind ceases to exist.

Let go of things as separate existences

and mind too vanishes.

Likewise when the thinking subject vanishes

so too do the objects created by mind.

The arising of other gives rise to self;

giving rise to self generates others.

Know these seeming two as facets

of the One Fundamental Reality.

In this Emptiness, these two are really one—and each contains all phenomena.

If not comparing, nor attached to "refined" and "vulgar"—you will not fall into judgment and opinion.

The Great Way is embracing and spacious—to live in it is neither easy nor difficult.

Those who rely on limited views are fearful and irresolute:

The faster they hurry, the slower they go.

To have a narrow mind,and to be attached to getting enlightenment

is to lose one's center and go astray.

When one is free from attachment,

all things are as they are,

and there is neither coming nor going.

When in harmony with the nature of things, your own fundamental nature,

and you will walk freely and undisturbed.

However, when mind is in bondage, the truth is hidden,

and everything is murky and unclear,

and the burdensome practice of judging

brings annoyance and weariness.

What benefit can be derived

from attachment to distinctions and separations?

If you wish to move in the One Way,

do not dislike the worlds of senses and ideas.

Indeed, to embrace them fully

is identical with true Enlightenment.

The wise person attaches to no goals

but the foolish person fetters himself or herself.

There is one Dharma, without differentiation.

Distinctions arise from the clinging needs of the ignorant.

To seek Mind with the discriminating mind

is the greatest of mistakes.

Rest and unrest derive from illusion;

with enlightenment, attachment to liking and disliking ceases.

All dualities come from ignorant inference.

They are like dreams, phantoms, hallucinations—it is foolish to try to grasp them.

Gain and loss, right and wrong; finally abandon all such thoughts at once.

If the eye never sleeps,

all dreams will naturally cease.

If the mind makes no discriminations,

the ten thousand things

are as they are, of single essence.

To realize the mystery of this One-essence

is to be released from all entanglements.

When all things are seen without differentiation,

the One Self-essence is everywhere revealed.

No comparisons or analogies are possible

in this causeless, relationless state of just this One.

When movement stops, there is no movement—and when no movement, there is no stopping.

When such dualities cease to exist

Oneness itself cannot exist.

To this ultimate state

no law or description applies.

For the Realized mind at one with the Way

all self-centered striving ceases.

Doubts and irresolutions vanish

and the Truth is confirmed in you.

With a single stroke you are freed from bondage;

nothing clings to you and you hold to nothing.

All is empty, clear, self-illuminating,

with no need to exert the mind.

Here, thinking, feeling, understanding, and imagination

are of no value.

In this world "as it really is"

there is neither self nor other-than-self.

To know this Reality directly

is possible only through practicing non-duality.

When you live this non-separation,

all things manifest the One, and nothing is excluded.

Whoever comes to enlightenment, no matter when or where,

Realizes personally this fundamental Source.

This Dharma-truth has nothing to do with big or small, with time and space.

Here a single thought is as ten thousand years.

Not here, not there—but everywhere always right before your eyes.

Infinitely large and infinitely small: no difference,

for definitions are irrelevant

and no boundaries can be discerned.

So likewise with "existence" and "non-existence."

Don't waste your time in arguments and discussion

attempting to grasp the ungraspable.

Each thing reveals the One,

the One manifests as all things.

To live in this Realization

is not to worry about perfection or non-perfection.

To put your trust in the Heart-Mind is to live without separation,

and in this non-duality you are one with your Life-Source.

Words! Words!

The Way is beyond language,

for in it there is no yesterday,

no tomorrow

no today.

by David Whyte

Stand still. The trees ahead

and bushes beside you

Are not lost. Wherever you are is 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 are the same to Wren.

If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you.

You art surely lost. Stand still.

The forest knows

Where you are. You must let it find you.

by D. H. Lawrence

I am not a mechanism, an
assembly of various sections
And it is not because the mechanism
is working wrongly that I am ill
I am ill because of wounds to the soul
to the deep emotional self
And the wounds to the soul
Take a long, long time
Only time can help
and patience
And a certain difficult repentance,
Long, difficult repentance,
Realization of life's mistake,
And freeing oneself from the
endless repetition of the mistake
Which mankind at large has
chosen to sanctify.

The Well of Grief
by David Whyte

Those who will not slip beneath

the still surface on the well of grief

turning downward through its black water

to the place we cannot breathe

will never know the source

fr om which we drink

the secret water, cold and clear,

nor find in the darkness glimmering

the small round coins

thrown by those who wished for

something else.

"Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing & right-doing there is a field,
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full
to talk about ideas, language,
even the phrase 'each other' doesn't make any sense."
- Rumi

by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain. I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself, if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty, even when it’s not pretty, every day, and if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

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 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 stain 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.

On Grief…
From Traveling Mercies , by Anne Lamott

I was terribly erratic: feeling so holy and serene some moments that I was sure I was going to end up dating the Dalai Lama. Then the grief and craziness would hit again, and I would be in Broken Mind, back in the howl.

The depth of the feeling continued to surprise and threaten me, but each time it hit again and I bore it, like a nicotine craving, I would discover that it hadn't washed me away. After awhile it was like an inside shower, washing off some of the rust and calcification in my pipes. It was like giving a dry garden a good watering. Don't get me wrong: grief sucks; it really dos. Unfortunately, though, avoiding it robs us of life, of the now, of a sense of living spirit. Mostly I have tried to avoid it by staying very busy, working too hard, trying to achieve as much as possible. You can often avoid the pain by trying to fix other people; shopping helps in a pinch, as does romantic obsession. Martyrdom can't be beat. While too much exercise works for many people, it doesn't for me, but I have found that a stack of magazines can be numbing and even mood altering. But the bad news is that whatever you use to keep the pain at bay robs you of the flecks and nuggets of gold that feeling grief will give you. A fixation can keep you nicely defined and give you the illusion that your life has not fallen apart. But since your life may indeed have fallen apart, the illusion won't hold up forever, and if you are lucky and brave, you will be willing to bear disillusion. You begin to cry and writhe and yell and then to keep on crying; and then, finally, grief ends up giving you the two best things: softness and illumination.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi ~

Mother's Day - To My Children

~ Daisy Zamora

I do not doubt you would have liked
one of those pretty mothers in the ads:
complete with adoring husband and happy children.

She's always smiling,
and if she cries at all
it is absent of lights and camera,
makeup washed from her face.
But since you were born of my womb,
I should tell you:
Ever since I was small like you
I wanted to be myself
and for a woman that's hard –
(even my Guardian Angel refused to watch over me when she heard),

I cannot tell you that I know the road.
Often I lose my way
and my life has been a painful crossing
navigating reefs, in and out of storms,
Refusing to listen to the ghostly sirens
who invite me into the past,
neither compass nor binnacle to show me the way.

But I advance, go forward
holding to the hope of some distant port where you,
my children – I'm sure –
Will pull in one day after I've been lost at sea.

Helpful Forms

Click here to view and print forms for your appointment.

Click Here