Dealing With Difficult News
As National Poetry Month draws to a close, I selected some of my favorite poems to share with you. I love this month of celebrating poetry! When I am facilitating corporate and women’s leadership retreats or giving mindfulness talks, I often weave in a poem to invoke a different way of listening. Poetry invites another way of opening to timeless teachings and universal truths. Its succinct, vivid and metaphorical language provides trail markers on this journey which can be at times bewildering and mysterious. We can use poetry as a way to come into that deeper part of ourselves at any time.
I turned to poetry this week when I found out on Tuesday evening that my beloved Uncle Sam left this earth. He was my godfather, co-signed my first car loan, and danced with me at my wedding during the father-bride dance to Rocket Man as my dad watched from another realm.
When life hurls us unexpectedly into the mystery, into bewilderment, grief, longing or despair, there are deliberate moves we can make to give space to the feelings. It is not about suppressing, avoiding or denying heartbreak, but giving space to the tender places by surrounding them with a larger space of awareness.
Two of the practices that helped this week when the sadness was at its heaviest was reading poetry and taking a walk to “Take in the Good.” We can hold both the larger space of awareness and also the sadness at the same time – as a mother tenderly holds a crying child. But the space reminds us that we are larger than any one situation or any one powerful mood or feeling – we are like the deep blue ocean and the waves also. The waves come and crash over us, but the deep blue is the peace and serenity that is who we are. Below I am sharing a short video with the Take in the Good Practice, and some of the poems that remind us of the mindfulness and awareness teachings that give us insight and allow life to live through us no matter what is happening.
By Roger Keyes
Hokusai says look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing.
He says look forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,
you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat
yourself as long as it is interesting.
He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.
He says everyone of us is a child,
everyone of us is ancient,
everyone of us has a body.
He says everyone of us is frightened.
He says everyone of us has to find
a way to live with fear.
He says everything is alive–
shells, buildings, people, fish,
mountains, trees, wood is alive.
Water is alive.
Everything has its own life.
Everything lives inside us.
He says live with the world inside you.
He says it doesn’t matter if you draw,
or write books. It doesn’t matter
if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your veranda
or the shadows of the trees
and grasses in your garden.
It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.
Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength
is life living through you.
He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.
Love, feel, let life take you by the hand.
Let life live through you.
THE GUEST HOUSE
Translation by Coleman Barks
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 are 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 whatever comes.
Because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
ON JOY AND SORROW
By Kahlil Gibran
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the same well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.
In the words of Hafiz:
“One regret, dear world, that I am determined not to have lying on my deathbed is that I did not kiss you enough.”
And a stanza from David Whyte:
“Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the
conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.”