Posts Tagged ‘stillness’

Teach us to sit still.
            —T.S. Eliot, “Ash Wednesday, Part 6”

How soon I seem to have forgotten
how to be still, how to not plan,
how to step out into the day
and let the world itself write
the story of how a morning becomes
an afternoon becomes a night
becomes a woman.
How soon I seem to have forgotten
the value of not doing,
the gift of unscheduling,
the blessing of dipping my toes into the stream
of no time, then wading in full body,
where I remember I am part of an infinite story
at the same time I relearn how fragile it is,
this life.
How soon I forgot I could change it all.
Even now, I could be still again.
I could choose silence.
Even now.

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I am still learning how to dance with grief—
it leads me through strange sequences,
intricate steps I have yet to master.
Just as I think I have learned
what comes next, I stumble, I step
on my own feet, I trip, I fall. I never
ask myself if this is a dance I want to learn.
It’s the dance I’ve been invited to dance.
If asked, I might have said no. But
today, grief holds me tightly, as if
to keep me from falling. Then loosens
its grasp as I let myself be led.
I am a student in trust. And we glide,
and I’m spun, and sometimes
we just stand, this stillness
its own kind of dance
I am slow to learn.

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All that Dances Through

Though grief prefers a solemn shuffle
and mirth prefers to shimmy and skip,
they often come together
on the dance floor of the heart.
They’re not picky about the music.
Really, all they want from me
is a dance hall spacious enough
where there’s room for them both
at the same time—
a place where mirth can whirl
and grief can shamble.
When I’m small,
they push against the inner walls
and kick me in the ribs,
and they dance, and they dance.
I feel every step.
Is it true I can hold it all?
And I am what is still
as grief lumbers and mirth leaps.
And I am what is still here
long after the dancers leave.

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The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green Earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now.
—Thich Nhat Hanh

Today the miracle is to sit
in the sunlit room and be
in the sunlit room,
to be here and only here,
here in the bountiful silence,
here in the shifting shadows,
here in the hands of midwinter,
not in this same room five years ago,
but now as the tulips
drop the soft curls of their petals
like lingering pink praise.
So seldom in these grief ridden days
do I feel a feeling so pure
as this peace that arrives
on the low-angled light
when I am quiet and still
and the world invites me
to show up for whatever
slim warmth there is, and
know it is enough.

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This longing to get it right—
to not only find the right path
but to walk it with grace,
without stalling, without stumbling.
But the forest is dark and deep
and the paths are many—
and I fall, and in falling,
I stop.
So this is what it takes
to notice the beauty of being still,
to see how staying in place, too, is a path,
how falling, too, is a grace.
How much easier it is to walk now
when I trust any path I’m on is the right one,
even this one where I fall,
even this one when I don’t move at all.

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One in the Center

wind that tears

the limbs from the trees—

what is still, still still

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Still to Come

There will be a time when I will sit quietly

on the chair and feel no urgency to rise, to rush.

Won’t feel the crush of the unfinished list,

won’t feel late, overdue, behind. I may not

even know the time, won’t fear the tick of the clock

as an adversary. Perhaps I’ll even close my eyes

and lean back and let my limbs soften

like honey warmed in the sun.

An idea might come, but I’ll not try to capture it.

This isn’t laziness, no part of me will think so.

No, I’ll revel in the slowness, the unhurried day.

And I’ll remember, perhaps, a time when the ticking

felt like a bomb inside me. Where did it go,

I might wonder, as I pour myself another cup of tea,

the scent of bergamot citrusy and bright.

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I want to linger at the side of the road

where the dark birds sing into the eddies of dawn,

yes linger in the low-angled light, in the big-hearted shadow

that blankets this bend in the canyon. Though I have many

miles to drive before I arrive, let me stay here

a while beside the river, still for a willowy moment, the water

the only thing moving. How many landscapes do I pass

without meeting them? How many worlds do I miss

as I rush from one here to the next? Oh bless this

quiet, where there is no hum of highway, no rumble,

no center line, no blur. Why do I so seldom linger,

my bones full of rush and current. In this moment,

I remember how deeply I love the stillness of rocks

that haven’t moved for a thousand years, the calm

of the dirt that has nowhere, nowhere to go.

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The wind, every day now, the

wind, the wind, the clamorous

wind, it lifts my dress and whips

my hair, the riotous wind, it

steals my words, unwinds my thoughts, the

demanding wind, the wilding wind, wind

that spreads fire, wind that unbranches the

cottonwood trees, the wind, the wind unlayers

me, invites me to find someplace still in me,

the wind, the relentless wind.

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written at the Carmelite Monastery in Crestone, CO

It holds everything, silence,

offers itself as a blank staff

on which every song is written—

the tiny hymn of insect wings,

the baritone of the jet as it flies

from one measure of sky to the next,

the dry requiem of rustling grass,

the emphatic chorus of crow.

How generous, silence,

am I willing to know it?

How it includes even the cough,

the belch, retching, the wailing,

the snarl, the scream, the shatter,

and scores these in concert with the hum,

the lush purr, the whisper of the lover,

the ecstatic tremulo of sigh.

There is no sound it refuses to hold.

Its patience is infinite.

So when we, like weary pilgrims,

tired of hearing the percussion

of our own footsteps, arrive at its doors,

silence receives us, welcomes us home.

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