Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

not here to teach me
but to bring beauty
this red nasturtium

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with thanks to Joi Sharp

There’s a lovely Hasidic story of a rabbi who always told his people that if they studied the Torah, it would put Scripture on their hearts. One of them asked, “Why on our hearts, and not in them?” The rabbi answered, “Only God can put Scripture inside. But reading sacred text can put it on your heart, and then when your hearts break, the holy words will fall inside.

―Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

Again today I rest my hand above my heart
and feel how naturally the body softens,
how simple it is in this moment to forgive
myself for thinking I should be anything
but what I am. Hello air that fills
this body. Hello life that pulses through.
Hello mystery of gentling. Hello self
who would resist. I rest my hand
above my heart and think of how
for many years my teacher laid
her teachings exactly there—
placed them right where my hand is now
so that when my heart broke,
the teachings fell in, just as the Rabbi
once said they would.
I think of how it saved me, this falling in,
how in that terrible breaking moment,
what had been understood only by the head
became blood, became breath,
became every step, every unstep,
became nerve, became bone,
became true.
I rest my hand above my heart
and feel how this, too, is the tenderest of teachings—
to say yes to the body, to ask nothing of it,
to feel in the palm the miracle of heart beat,
and fall in, fall all the way in.  

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Strange Teaching

Sometimes when I forget to think
I feel in me eternity, feel big bang
and black hole and spiraling galaxy.
Feel myself as arc of swallow,
bend of river, canyon depth,
feel myself as wind, as branch,
as scent of evergreen,
as slowly spinning earth.
In those moments,
I feel the everything I am
and the everything I’m not—
a self so whole it is lost.
No me, no you, no other,
no here, no there, no when,
no need to name, no need
to understand, no need
to state things just so.
The quietest of teachings:
the erasing of the one
who wants to know.

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By Example




He taught me you can never have too much love

or too much ice cream in the freezer. That it matters

how you shake someone’s hand. He taught me


to pile wet seaweed on a bare patch of dirt

so the earthworms will come to the surface.

He taught me how to cast, to set the hook, to filet.


He taught me to cheer for myself. Once,

he taught me to say no, and to mean it,

and we shouted it over and over into the phone,


our voices a joyful chorus of refusal. He taught me

that despite unceasing pain, you can still

be grateful to be alive. That it is possible


to love someone very different from you.

That you can go to different schools together.

He taught me to take life seriously, and then


to speak in made up languages and giggle till you cry.

He taught me you can’t save everyone, but

you can save a few. And it’s important that you do.


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I’m still learning.

            —Michelangelo, on his deathbed

Sometimes I feel as if

I missed something.

Something big. The sermon

that would forge a love affair

with the divine.

The history lesson

that would teach me

how to forgive myself.

The webinar that would train

me in doing the right thing

at the right time. If only

I had read the right book

or met the right coach

or drunk the right tea. If only.

I don’t believe it, not really,

though sometimes

I wish it were as easy

as auditing a class.

Perhaps that is why

I write poems.

I’m taking notes.

Because sometimes

the truth slips into them.

Because it’s surprisingly easy

to forget.

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I am afraid of the darkness and the hole in it.

            —Martin Luther, “Luther”



And when Martin Luther was struck with plague

in 1527, he refused to leave the city, though he trembled,

though he burned. He felt it was the devil’s assault

sent to reduce him with despair. And reduced, he was.

There is darkness so great we lose all sense of direction,

forget even which way is in. There is darkness

so great that even the holes in the darkness are terrible,

cannot be seen as light. And in that terrible August,

the Reformer argued with God. And all that terrible August,

Luther trusted God’s promises. And he told himself,

Pray. Read. Sing. And the darkness endured.

Sometimes, Luther found, there are darknesses

so great we forget how to sing ourselves. Sometimes,

the only way through darkness, through doubt,

is to teach other people to sing.

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Mommy, she says,
I can see right through myself.
What do you see,
I ask.

I see the night,
she says.
Are there stars,
I ask.

She pauses long.
And then a few moments later
she says, Mom, I’ve disappeared.

How do they do it,
these young ones,
teach us to be
so wholly here.

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