Poetry as Meditation

Joy is not made to be a crumb

A couple of years ago, I heard Mary Oliver’s poem, “Don’t Hesitate”, for the first time that I can recall. I might have heard it before, but this time, it just really stuck out, because I was feeling the weight of the world — the challenges of being a mom, having moved across the country a few years ago, the ever-present water hose of cruelty and negativity and systemic conditions that made it just feel like…the world was crap. And here was this poet telling me that, yeah, it actually is and we’re not wise, but, we should celebrate happiness anyway. And not just a little, like a crumb. But, really, truly, experience joy and give ourselves over to joy.

Nearly immediately, I ordered Oliver’s collected works in her book, Devotions, which has since remained a staple on my bedside as a quick read before bed; and it’s been a constant companion on camping trips and other opportunities where I know I’ll spend time reflecting or meditating. “Don’t Hesitate” is still a favorite and one I turn to when I hear the roar of a world saying that things don’t matter or that some people shouldn’t experience joy. It’s what I hear when my family spontaneously breaks out in a dance party at the announcement that the 2020 Presidential Election has been called by media outlets for Joe Biden.

Don’t Hesitate

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happens better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

Mary Oliver
Poetry as Meditation

We Shall Be Known & Sharing Life Virtually

For the last several weeks, I’ve found myself repeatedly singing this song — to my 5 year old when he woke up with leg cramps; to myself in the shower; as I drove through an unfamiliar neighborhood on my way to do a porch pickup of something and saw a political sign that made me sigh in frustration.

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of being invited to virtually witness an ordination into Unitarian Universalist ministry — it was the first ordination I’ve ever seen and I had no idea what to expect, especially in a virtual format!

Without hyperbole, it was one of the most life-affirming and generative experiences I’ve had since this entire pandemic started.

Other ministers from around the country attended, along with family and friends near and far. There were pre-recorded segments, and parts where those who knew the new minister well shared about her ministry and its impacts already.

And music. Oh there was beautiful music.

I particularly loved this song, which included folks near and far into a chorus and choir of love and community.

This has been my chosen meditation more often than not since the ordination.

We shall be known by the company we keep

By the ones who circle round to tend these fires

We shall be known by the ones who sow and reap

The seeds of change, alive from deep within the earth

It is time now, it is time now that we thrive

It is time we lead ourselves into the well

It is time now, and what a time to be alive

In this Great Turning we shall learn to lead in love

In this Great Turning we shall learn to lead in love

Lyrics to We Shall Be Known, by Karisha Longaker of MaMuse

My anxiety has increased the last week or so, as we move toward an already-chaotic election, in a year of chaos and hardship for so so many people. I’m choosing to focus on the company we keep, the fires that need tending, the seeds to be sown, and the possibility of a future and a time when we all thrive.

Poetry as Meditation

Using Poetry as Meditation

Photo by Hans Vivek on Unsplash

This year has been like a decade. COVID, with its attendant lockdowns, quarantines, and social isolation, have wreaked havoc on my mental health, and those around me. The world feels like a constant state of alert, without any recourse to unwind or de-escalate. As the year has progressed, I’ve struggled to maintain rituals and routines that bring about a sense of normalcy or space for deep reflection and meditation.