I have had a long-standing interest in poetry and love reading as well. I was glad to come across so many poems, rich in meaning and deep in wisdom during the course. It has made me reflect on the relationship between poetry and mindfulness. Poetry is a form of expression of what was felt at the time. In that sense, the reader or the listener are invited to hold the space that poetry offers. It also has the power to connect in ways that prose may find difficult. Poems are often used to punctuate prose to allow that depth of connection to be conveyed.The British playwright Alan Bennett has said, “The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.”I have also read somewhere that the appeal of poetry may be because for the briefest of moments, one realises that one is not alone. A poet somewhere is sharing with you what they felt and inviting you to feel with them. Judgment is arrested as you simply notice the expression of the poet’s inner experience.During the course, I noticed how the poems of Mary Oliver, Rumi and John O’Donoghue were used to convey messages that were part of the curriculum in a very effective bite-size way, often dropped in at the end of a practice when the mind was quiet, open and receptive. Quotes are used during the course too but are perhaps too brief to allow the experience to flourish. Poetry as a genre is everywhere when one begins to notice with sensitivity. Like the breath and the body, it has the potential to help us connect with the moment. Jon Kabat Zinn famously said Mindfulness is simple but not easy. Poetry can be like that. Simple but not easy to access, receive, assimilate and digest. There is poetry in song and our everyday lives. If one notices, there is poetry in art and in our relationships. There is so much poetry in nature. All one has to do is to be quiet and notice it in the ever-changing gray clouds and the falling leaves.My poems often come to me after a practice and are often linked to an insight that triggers creativity. I sometimes take the time to use journalling to write a poem rather than a paragraph. I use nature metaphors which I also came across during the course. In the poetry of John O’Donoghue, he says “I would love to live like the river flows, carried by the surprise of its unfolding.” In Wild Geese, Mary Oliver says … “whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting…”During the teacher training course, which I have just completed, I wrote many poems. Here is a short offering from one of them, which I wrote on the Silent day at Trigonos, when faced with the inevitable, how does one “be” when there is so much to “do”.
You could gaze at the sunlit waves
dancing in the lake
or the blueness of the sky
echoing the song of the birds.
You may come across a rusty
unloved fence post held
together by rotted wood and a hanging bolt.
You could watch ants meandering
along the pristine bark of the silver birch along
their sure and unmarked way.
You may notice the tightness of the flower buds
Eager and bursting to open into the promise of spring
and watch your being overflowI
I hope you have been enriched by poetry as much as I have been and I hope your mindfulness practice gives you a way to access a genre rich in content that may help deepen your practice.