More poetry for mindfulness: Rainy days..

14300922917_ef36d68a0b_mThe weather in Britain in the past two months has been extraordinary. Talk of climate change was once more to the fore as we waited in vain for the crisp, cold days of winter. Instead of a white Christmas we had the warmest December on record, record rainfall and the consequent horrors of flooding, and now January is throwing everything at us.

Winter is often a time for reflection, but it can be a time when the black dog of depression and deep sadness comes over us. Relationships are vulnerable, the world seems drab after the light and sparkle of the festive season and spring can feel a long way off.

We are great advocates of mindfulness here at The Terrace, and it is at times like this that the practice of being mindful can come into its own. As we are paying attention to the present moment, meditating on our environment, and focusing on our breathing, we are more aware of our feelings, and can let painful and frustrating thoughts go with greater ease. Emptying our minds is difficult, but as Wendell Berry (a great exponent of poetry appropriate for mindfulness practice) maintains in this poem, it is only as we let things go, and cease to be distracted by indecision, that our mind becomes a space in which we can appreciate the ‘clear days’…

The Clear Days by Wendell Berry

The dogs of indecision
Cross and cross the field of vision.
A cloud, a buzzing fly
Distract the lover’s eye.
Until the heart has found
Its native piece of ground
The day withholds its light,
The eye must stray unlit.
The ground’s the body’s bride,
Who will not be denied.
Not until all is given
Comes the thought of heaven.
When the mind’s an empty room
The clear days come.

Do you have any poetry that helps still your mind and enables you to focus? We would love to hear your ideas.

Miranda Bevis, our Mindfulness expert, is offering new 8 week courses this month. 
Starting Tuesday January 26th 6.30- 8.45pm
Starting Wednesday January 27th 9.15- 11.30am

Optional half day for both courses: Sunday 6th March

Contact us at post@the-terrace.co.uk or on 01823 338968 for more details

Image courtesy of Phillippe Gillotte on Flickr Creative Commons

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Poetry IS mindfulness – so soothe the mind & feed the soul…

images (7)Earlier this week, The Huffington Post published a Daily Meditation – it was entitled Poetry of the Earth and featured a poem by John Keats  – On the grasshopper and cricket. It got us thinking about how closely poetry is connected to mindfulness and meditation practice. For to read a good poem, that speaks to your heart and resonates with your soul is truly to be living in the moment. It is a moment of pure emotion, stillness and intensity.

We have posted articles which include a poem to illustrate a point, or to encourage mindfulness, on this blog a number of times. We hope that at least one of them has struck a chord with you, especially as we have tried to choose works that distill what it is to be still in just a few lines. We recommend that you read the poem through a couple of times, then read it aloud (or mutter it under your breath if you feel more comfortable, or are in a public place) feeling the words in your mouth. How often do we actually concentrate on what we are saying? The way the syllables feel on our tongue, in our throat, on our lips? To read a poem is to be mindful, don’t you think?

So today we have chosen another favourite by the poet Wendell Berry, who has featured on ‘Let’s talk!’ before. In What We Need is Here, Berry expresses what many of us sense in the fast paced world most of us live in. We aren’t asking for more, or new or exciting. We are asking for quiet and to find a calm place where we can really see what is important……

What We Need Is Here

Wendell Berry

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.

What do you think? Do you have any favourite poems that you turn to in times of worry, or crisis, in order to reduce your anxiety and focus the mind? Perhaps you write poetry, in which case we would love to hear from you and find out a little about why you feel it is an important way to express yourself. Do get in touch!

More poetry for mindfulness: Keeping Quiet by Pablo Neruda

DE_20120613_PI_retarus_quiet_time_screenWhy do we find it so hard to be, simply, still? Here at The Terrace we are lucky enough to have an expert mindfulness practitioner, Miranda Bevis. Her experiences have been immensely positive, both personally and professionally and she is keen to share the  life enhancing nature of mindfulness, which is now being taken up as an effective therapeutic tool by practitioners in the National Health Service.

Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It is something that has to be worked at, but it is incredibly powerful as a way to manage the ever-increasing pace of life in the 21st century and to cope with personal life challenges.

Sometimes, the practice of mindfulness is easier to describe by illustration, using poetry to distill the essence of what it means to be ‘still’. We have tried to do this before on ‘let’s talk’ and the poem we chose then, by Wendell Berry , got a huge, positive response. So here is another favourite, by the Nobel prize-winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. In Keeping Quiet,  Neruda asks the reader to stop, take time out from the frenetic pace of life and make time for silence. In that quiet time we can reflect on our lives, and stop being so  ‘single-minded/about keeping our lives moving/and for once could do nothing’ . It isn’t simple inactivity, it is a time to connect with ourselves, and with the earth. In doing so we can return to our routines with energy and with an appreciation of our lives and the impact of our actions.

Keeping Quiet
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Do you have any favourite poems which you use to help you reflect on life and which offers you the chance to be still and take time out for yourself, alone? We would love to hear your suggestions, and to hear what you think of this poem. It will take more than one reading, but we do hope it will offer you food for thought.

Miranda Bevis offers regular mindfulness taster sessions here at The Terrace. The next available slots are on the 13th and 14th of May 2014. See our website for more details.

 

Poetry for Mindfulness – I go among trees and sit still…..

treesOn ‘let’s talk’ we occasionally like to post a favourite quote,  a poem that strikes us as relevant to the work we are focusing on or simply words that mean something to us at a particular moment, on which we can focus our minds and enjoy ‘quieting’ our mind.

Today we thought our readers (and thank you – all those who follow us) might enjoy the following poem, by American poet, environmental activist and author Wendell Berry. Berry is a man often quoted by those who practice ‘mindfulness’, a subject we have discussed in recent blog posts. He is a man who believes in many things that relate specifically to living what he considers to be a ‘good’ life. He is a farmer, and supports rural communities, sustainable farming and the wonder of feeding our bodies with healthy food.  He is anti-war,, concerned about globalisation and the ever-growing industrialisation and technological advances in our lives. He sees connections in everyday things, and in our lives. He is a prolific writer and we intend to find out more – he is clearly a man who feels that we need to create a way of life for ourselves that takes in the essential value of the given moment, does not become increasingly complex and fraught with difficulties we struggle to overcome and in which we can learn to face and ‘befriend’ our worries, thus taking away their power to drain us.

I go among trees and sit still

I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
Around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
Where I left them, asleep like cattle…

Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
And the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.

Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry

 

By Wendell Berry from Sabbaths, 1987, North Point Press

Do you have a favourite poem that when read can calm your thoughts, allow you to breathe and face the day with greater strength? We would love to hear your thoughts.