Blog

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Poetry as a Spiritual Practice of the Heart

Photo by CrizzlDizzl


Today I join my Spiritual Journey family of bloggers as we celebrate National Poetry Month and look at the ways we incorporate poetry as a part of that spiritual practice of the heart.

One of my favorite writers, Leanne Payne, once said that images are the language of the heart. If that's the case, then poetry with its vocabulary of images, speaks directly to the deepest places within us.

I have often used poems as a starting place for communion and meditation. There is a kind of wooing in a poem that draws me deeply into stillness and prayer.

Here is one that has spoken to me recently.

Vespers
by Derrick Austin

Lord in the pigment, the crushed, colored stones.
Lord in the carved marble chest. I turn away
from art. You are between my eye and what I see.
Forgive my errant gaze. Tonight, I can't sleep
and won't frighten the deer in my peonies.
Like children who rub their grimy hands over everything,
they only want to touch and be touched by grass.
They've never known violence, cars howling out of darkness.
Lord in the camellia, drifting in and out of sight,
like those blushing, perfumed heads will you welcome me?
I, too, am little more than a stranger in your garden.
Stroke my velvety antlers. Open your palms.

from Between Midnight and Dawn: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide, compiled by Sarah Arthur.

See what other bloggers have to say about this idea at Beyond LiteraacyLink. Thanks to Carol Varsalona for hosting today.




Monday, April 2, 2018

2018 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem




April is National Poetry Month and there is a flurry of poetic activity all over the web. One of my favorite projects of the month happens in the Kidslitosphere, a group of children's authors, teachers, and poet bloggers who celebrate Poetry Friday each week and a smorgasbord or poetic adventures during April. Seven years ago, Irene Latham began the Progressive Poem, a 30-line poem written by 30 different poets over the month of April. Every year the poem twists and turns with a life all its own as we collaborate with one another and the poem itself.

I invite you to take this amazing journey with us! 

Here are the links to each day's contributor. 

April
Jane at Raincity Librarian
Michelle at Today's Little Ditty
Jan at bookseedstudio
Irene at Live Your Poem
Linda at TeacherDance
Janet F. at Live Your Poem
11 Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales
12 Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink
13 Linda at A Word Edgewise
15 Donna at Mainely Write
16 Sarah at Sarah Grace Tuttle
18 Christie at Wondering and Wandering
19 Michelle at Michelle Kogan
20 Linda at Write Time
23 Amy at The Poem Farm
24 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
25 Kiesha at Whispers from the Ridge
26 Renee at No Water River
27 Buffy at Buffy's Blog
28 Kat at Kat's Whiskers
29 April at Teaching Authors
30 Doraine at Dori Reads





Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Sing!


Spiritual Journey Thursday has rolled around once again and it's time to chime in with some lovely fellow bloggers and talk about our pilgrimage through life. Our topic today is music. Karen Eastland is guest host for the round up over at Live Your Poem where her topic for the day is "Face the Music."

Sing, make a joyful sound!

It's the first line of an old hymn we sang at church when I was a kid. I loved the way the verses modulated a half step up to the next key each time we sang it again and again.

Sing and make melody in your heart.
These words come from a letter Paul wrote to a church in Ephesus in the first century a.d. It's evident from the context of the letter that Paul was in prison and suffering when he wrote it. Clearly he had experience with finding a joyful heart in the middle of difficult circumstances.
...giving joyful thanks...
This phrase was the heart of my weekly meditation for my yoga classes this week. It also comes from Paul in another letter, Colossians.

It's interesting to me how these phrases intersect along the idea of joy. Joy is an emotion. We don't have immediate control over our emotions. They are feelings that seem to come and go as they please. But we do have control over our actions. No matter my circumstances, I can sing. No matter what I'm suffering, I can find many things to be thankful for.

When I was a kid, we often went to my grandparents' house in south Georgia. Between the tiny (and I do mean tiny) town of Adrian and my grandmother's sandy driveway, a bridge spanned the murky waters of the Ohoopee River. My granddaddy called it the Hoopee. Just over the bridge on the left an artesian well bubbled up.  Someone had added a pipe to the crack in the rock, but there was no pump, just a constant stream of gurgling fresh water.

It delighted me as a child. Understanding that there was enough pressure below the ground to force the water up through cracks in the rock didn't alter my fascination.

The block is under the sacrum, not the tailbone or the low back.

With my students in supported bridge pose this week, we talked about allowing the belly to be soft like a deep bowl and imagine that artesian well bubbling up from within. I think this must be my favorite picture of what joy feels like. Enough pressure created from the choice to give thanks, from the choice to make music in my heart, and as a result joy bubbles up from the depth of my being.

So, my friends, sing!


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Spiritual Journey Thursday: The Man in the Moon



Sometimes I think take ourselves way to seriously. We get caught up in our journey and finding our purpose and spend so much time in self-reflection and evaluation. Not that those things are bad, but I firmly believe God make us in his image and laughter must proceed from that making. In a pain science course I recently took, one of of the suggestions for reducing chronic pain was to laugh, especially with someone. I have several good friends who make me laugh and I love being with them. 
So when Donna's prompt for writing today's spiritual journey post from a snippet or poem or quote about the moon popped up, I went straight for Tolkein. I also happen to be reading a very thick book on the Inklings right now as a climb in be every night. (It's not funny at all.) So Tolkein is on my radar at the moment.
Anyway. Here is the poem. Laugh a little. The journey will be lots more fun.

Then pop over to our host today, Donna at Mainely Write, for more reflections on the moon.

The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon
by J. R. R. Tolkien


There is an inn, a merry old inn
beneath an old grey hill,
And there they brew a beer so brown
That the Man in the Moon himself came down
one night to drink his fill.

The ostler has a tipsy cat
that plays a five-stringed fiddle;
And up and down he saws his bow
Now squeaking high, now purring low,
now sawing in the middle.

The landlord keeps a little dog
that is mighty fond of jokes;
When there's good cheer among the guests,
He cocks an ear at all the jests
and laughs until he chokes.

They also keep a horn-ed cow
as proud as any queen;
But music turns her head like ale,
And makes her wave her tufted tail
and dance upon the green.

And O! the rows of silver dishes
and the store of silver spoons!
For Sunday there's a special pair,
And these they polish up with care
on Saturday afternoons.

The Man in the Moon was drinking deep,
and the cat began to wail;
A dish and a spoon on the table danced,
The cow in the garden madly pranced
and the little dog chased his tail.

The Man in the Moon took another mug,
and then rolled beneath his chair;
And there he dozed and dreamed of ale,
Till in the sky the stars were pale,
and dawn was in the air.

Then the ostler said to his tipsy cat:
'The white horses of the Moon,
They neigh and champ their silver bits;
But their master's been and drowned his wits,
and the Sun'll be rising soon!'

So the cat on the fiddle played hey-diddle-diddle,
a jig that would wake the dead:
He squeaked and sawed and quickened the tune,
While the landlord shook the Man in the Moon:
'It's after three!' he said.

They rolled the Man slowly up the hill
and bundled him into the Moon,
While his horses galloped up in rear,
And the cow came capering like a deer,
and a dish ran up with the spoon.

Now quicker the fiddle went deedle-dum-diddle;
the dog began to roar,
The cow and the horses stood on their heads;
The guests all bounded from their beds
and danced upon the floor.

With a ping and a pang the fiddle-strings broke!
the cow jumped over the Moon,
And the little dog laughed to see such fun,
And the Saturday dish went off at a run
with the silver Sunday spoon.

The round Moon rolled behind the hill,
as the Sun raised up her head.
She hardly believed her fiery eyes;
For though it was day, to her surprise
they all went back to bed!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

One Little Word for 2018



STRETCH

What does this year hold? There is no way to know, but we can begin the year with an intention to open our hearts to the people, circumstances, and challenges that we will encounter.

Over the last few months of 2017, I have often felt David’s instruction in the Psalms to “lean not to your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge him” resonate in my heart. I feel very conscious of how much I don’t understand. It is sometimes challenging to move beyond our own perspective and realize our limitations.

With that in mind as I move into this new year, I feel the Lord’s encouragement to grow, to open my heart without fear, to strengthen body, soul, and spirit. I have always loved the image used in Isaiah, chapter 54. Verse two says this. “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.” This was spoken to people who lived in tents. God was telling them to make room in their hearts, in their homes, in their minds, to make space, room to grow. Not to hold back even with all the challenges that might come along.

So that's my intention for the year--to grow, open my heart, and strengthen my body. To stretch in every way I can. 

Margaret hosts the Spiritual Journey Thursday roundup over at Reflections on the Teche

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Spiritual Journey FRIDAY?



I remember my grandmother saying she was forever a day late and a dollar short. I'm feeling her words in my bones these days. Yesterday was Spiritual Journey Thursday and I was supposed to post reflections on my one little word for the year. I skipped Poetry Friday -- again -- but I'm determined to find a few reflections on connections!

Connection was my word for this year. You can look back on my original post here. I didn't realize until I went back and read this post that I was thinking about pain science way back at the beginning of the year and connecting mind to body. I did end up taking a pain science course for six weeks in October/November. It was wonderful to learn so much. And I'm teaching a workshop on Saturday on avoiding back pain from holiday stress where I will be helping folks understand why they experience chronic pain. So an interesting connection from January to December.

Connecting with nine grandchildren, all but one, far away is always a challenge. I generally read two books to each of them onto a CD for their birthdays. Though I've been late on a few of the last ones, I have managed to connect with them a bit more this year. Finally having one close by, very close by, next door to be exact, has been a most wonderful connection. Tomorrow I get to have him with me all day long. Poor little guy had shots today and is feeling a little under the weather.

My writing has taken a bit of a back seat while I sort out my yoga studio, but I'm learning to connect with my yoga audience with a weekly newsletter where I share breathing and stretching tidbits and simple info on poses, as well as a bit of spiritual encouragement. It's been fun.

Yes, it's been a year of connections, old ones and new ones.

I haven't a clue what my word for next year might be. Hopefully I'll find that connection before the year is out. Read more reflections at Irene's blog Live Your Poem.


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving Poetry Friday!



I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!






It's been two months since my last post. I've missed all my Poetry Friday friends, but I've accomplished  a whirlwind of stuff. I moved my yoga studio to a new location with more room and more exposure.












I started a 200-hr yoga teacher training program. The training runs for ten weekends between September to May. We just finished weekend three and I am remembering just how much I love teaching.










I took a six-week online pain neuroscience class through my son's physical therapy clinic and absolutely loved absorbing as much information as I could squeeze into my brain. I'm looking forward to translating some of that info into yoga workshops, especially for people struggling with chronic pain.







Unfortunately, writing has been on the back burner. It will come back, I know it will, but for now, it's still okay to do what's in front of me. Although I have managed a poem or two a month. Here's my poem from this month's Today's Little Ditty Challenge. I think I need to reassure myself that I really did write something this month!

A Gnarled Oak 

extends tumorous limbs across the road,
the mass of leaves a marvel of deep shade 
despite disease—like our Walmart greeter
ticking off receipt items with a grin.
He’s forgotten the lumps under his skin, 
ignores the way eyes skitter from him 
to the latest sale or the cashier making change
or the house shoe-clad girl in the next aisle. 
The discomfort not his. He smiles and greets,
his roots sunk deep in some whispered truth
only his ears are tuned to hear
and bestows his grace-filled shadow
without reproof.

© 2017 Doraine Bennett


I want to recommend a beautifully written and illustrated book for those of you who love celebrating advent with your family.
Image result for all creation waits by Gayle Boss
Paraclete Press, 2016
In her introduction, Gayle Boss says, "The practice of Advent has always been about helping us to grasp the mystery of a new beginning out of what looks like death. Other-than-human creatures--sprung like us from the Source of Life--manifest this mystery without question or doubt...They can be to us 'a book about God...a word of God,' the God who comes, even in the darkest season, to bring us a new beginning."

So begins twenty-four short, lyrical descriptions of animals and their adaptations in winter,  enhanced by original woodcuts created by David G. Klein
Here is a sampling of the animals and a few excerpts to whet your appetite for this lovely book. 
Painted Turtle One day in the fall, as water and air cooled, at some precise temperature an ancient bell sounded in the turtle brain. A signal: Take a deep breath. Each creature slipped off her log and swam for the warmer much bottom. Stroking her way through the woven walls of plant stems, she found her bottom place. She closed her eyes and dug into the mud. She buried herself. 
Black Bear Crouched in the snow-muffled quiet I imagine hearing her slow breathing. I imagine smelling slow-burning bear--the fat she made from all those nuts, berries, bugs, and plants melting and fueling her sleep. She is shrinking--except in the den deep inside her body. There she is multiplying, balls of cells swelling into new forms of her.
Wood Frog There will come a warm day in spring when the ice goes out--of the ponds, of his blood--and doesn't return. The with dozens of other wood frogs he'll hop to the pond and send up a thrilling chorus: Death, we've robbed you of your ruin, we've takin you in. 
Eastern Fox Squirrel He would dig a decoy hole--or two, or more--before depositing a nut. Or after. He came back later and reburied nuts in new places...What he depends on to survive the barren season is the power of memory. I imagine him curled in his nest, a wind-tight ark of leaves and twigs high in the three, each night consulting the map of his memory. 
You may read more here.
Watch the book trailer here. You may have to scroll down a bit to find it.


LightUponLight cover_72dpi
And if you're looking for something on the more adult level, this is one of my favorites from Sarah Arthur. You can read an excerpt at this post from a few years ago.



Carol hosts the Poetry Friday roundup this week at  Carol's Corner.



Maybe I won't wait two months before I post again!