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Posts Tagged ‘Poetry’

No mud, no lotus (a beautiful saying of Thich Nhat Hanh’s).
No lotus, no more mud.
No more mud, no more lotus.

No compost, no food.
No food, no shit.
No shit, no more compost.
No more compost, no more food.

If there’s shadow,
there’s light.

If you’re in one of those muddy, shitty, shadowy places,
hang in there. You’re not alone. We’re all in this together.

© Lynda Skeen

Lotus in Hollywood Forever Cemetery, © Lynda Skeen

Worms
after St. Francis of Assisi’s “Prayer for Peace”

Ahhh…

Surrender to our subtle, quiet mysteries,
and let us help you find peace.
Where there are stormy fires of undigested passion,
where there is the new pain of unreleased injury,
we offer you the cool salve of earth and silence.
Where there is doubt and mistrust,
we offer you the imperturbable elegance
of transformation.
When you are stifled by despair,
we offer our rich castings of promise.
For your sadness, we offer the gentle smiles of our curves.
In our darkness, feel the comfort of shadow.

Release all that no longer nourishes you.
Allow yourselves to slough off the old, to grow,
to acknowledge mistakes,
to say, “this isn’t working anymore, this isn’t right,
this isn’t doing anyone any good.”
Together let us explore the silent, mysterious journey,
the non-linear churnings,
the indispensable winding detours.
Let us turn your leftover mustard greens and sweet melon rinds,
your jagged egg shells and ignorance
into new gardens flowering with broccoli and lettuce,
cherry tomatoes, daffodils, and wisdom.
Let us teach you
of time’s unhurried alchemy.

Till your gardens with kindness.
Slip under the earth’s brittle crust with us
and delight in the infinite, hushed shades of our brownness,
and the fertility of decomposition,
as we wrap our long, comfortable bodies around the world,
transforming the world
one moment at a time.

May the cycle of blessings
and the blessings of the cycle
nourish, sustain, and intrigue you.

Ahhh…

Amen.

(“Worms” © Lynda Skeen, with thanks to the publications Abalone Moon and Tiger’s Eye where it was previously published)

Saving a Worm on a Rainy Day in Seattle, © Lynda Skeen

Saving a Worm on a Rainy Day in Seattle, © Lynda Skeen

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Shadow work allows us to acknowledge and integrate as much of our multidimensional selves as we are able, enriching our lives and our capacity for more growth. While Marianne Williamson might say in A Return to Love that “It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us,”* I know from personal experience that the dark can be terrifying as well. And if the light is frightening, maybe it’s not only for its sheer power, but for its power to reveal our “darkness,” our shadows, the totality of who we are. Shadow work is important because our unexplored parts are part of who we are, and it’s important to get to know as much of ourselves as possible so we won’t be blindsided by our own secrets, and so we can harness all of our energies for our highest good.   What do we keep hidden from ourselves and others, and what is our fear we have of it being seen? That is one of the basic questions of shadow work.

 

To begin, an initial journey you might want to do is re what does the shadow mean to you, apart from anyone else’s definition?

 

Here are some of my thoughts about ways of working shamanically with the shadow:

 

  • We can work with the Jungian definition of our shadow parts, which are aspects of ourselves our ego casts off / doesn’t accept. These are parts of ourselves that need to be acknowledged and integrated; I wouldn’t suggest merging with them too soon though or give them what they want necessarily; they can tend to be like wounded children who need love and acceptance so their true gifts can be revealed. Sometimes all they need is to be acknowledged; sometimes the integration work is more complex.

 

Here are some journeys you can do:

  • Journey to see if there’s a helping spirit that wants to be your specialist for this (might be someone you already work with; might not).
  • Then ask to meet one shadow part at a time.
  • Acknowledge it with love and compassion.
  • Ask if it needs anything.
  • Ask what its true nature is.
  • What is its purpose?
  • What is its medicine?
  • Journey to your True Self and ask what you need to do to be able to accept this part.
  • What healing do you need to do?
  • Does that shadow part need any healing?
  • And then work with your helping spirits to offer it the healing it asks for.

 

It’s a good idea to do this work with a trusted Helping Spirit, and ask them to facilitate anything that your Shadow might ask for. Remember, you can always come out of a Journey if it gets too intense or unpleasant; you can always say “no;” you always have free will. Your intent is to bring only what is for your highest good into your life.

 

  • Another obvious definition of our shadow that I’ve been shown is that “shadow is [just] the response of light to form.” While we’re in physical form, we’re going to throw a shadow, i.e. take up space. So a nice way of approaching this is to journey to the shadow your physical presence casts and acknowledge that it’s ok to exist as a physical being. Acknowledge and appreciate all that happens in the shade. Explore what is this Self that casts a shadow? What are your gifts and talents?

 

  • Along these lines is approaching shadow as a gift – darkness as grace. Mary Oliver writes in her wonderful poem Sleeping in the Forest, “All night / I heard the small kingdoms breathing / around me, the insects, and the birds / who do their work in the darkness.”**  We need the darkness. We need sleep and worms who burrow in the earth. We need to appreciate the beauty of mystery and creative chaos and the shroud of “darkness” around All That Is. Without the quiet space between notes there would be no music.

 

Journey to Mystery! Get to know your subconscious, that rich, fertile soil that lies within us. And acknowledge that much will never be understood or grasped consciously. Allow yourself time to explore silence and uninterrupted, unplanned time to go deep into yourself. Allow yourself to “be in the dark” about things – to not always have to know. Explore what are your shadows about but gently.

 

This is actually one of the hard things about living here in such a beautiful place like Los Angeles – there are so few rainy days to burrow in under a blanket and explore your interior world without the exterior, sunny world calling loudly to you. But here in the Northern Hemisphere the days are cooling off and getting shorter, and even in LA we’ll be getting some rain, so interior work gets easier.

 

Eucalyptus tree shadows - Golden Gate Park - © Lynda Skeen

Eucalyptus tree shadows – Golden Gate Park – © Lynda Skeen

Eucalyptus Tree shadows - Golden Gate Park - © Lynda Skeen

Eucalyptus tree – Golden Gate Park – © Lynda Skeen

 

  • Another way to explore the shadow is as the flip side of our strengths – the shadow of our light – the yang to our yin – the other side of the coin.
    • For instance, we can understand Love because its opposite exists. Acknowledge your capacity for the full gamut of emotions. You don’t have to act on them all; just acknowledge their existence.
    • And explore how on this plane of duality, energies and emotions can be expressed and experienced in “positive” and “negative” ways. It can be enlightening to explore how your passion for peace might actually be an expression violence (“hating war” more than “loving peace”), or how your “love” for someone is actually more a form of clinging out of your own insecurity. When you feel a twinge of discomfort about an action you are taking, that is a clue it’s something you might want to explore in terms of the shadow. Emotions have a huge spectrum – exploring them and shifting where you sit on the spectrum can be extremely empowering.

 

Soul retrieval, extraction, ancestral healing, energy work, and other forms of shamanic work can greatly assist with shadow work – before, during, and after. It’s important to sort out what energies are actually yours and what you’ve been holding onto from others, what have glommed onto you that aren’t actually yours; and what energies have you lost touch with along the way. It’s a spiral, not a linear process. The more whole and healthy you are, the better able you are to accept and integrate the shadow side of yourself, and the more of yourself you can accept and integrate, the more whole and healthy you become.

 

In addition to shamanic work, here are some suggestions for other ways in and to process what you’re shown:

 

  • Depending on what comes up, you might want to engage the help of a therapist to work on a psychological level. Regardless of whether or not you decide to work with a professional, it’s important to have emotional support during this process, a loved one or group of close friends who will be there for you as you do your work
  • Ask for insight from dreams before you go to sleep
  • Body work, both to help release some of the energies and to process them after they are released – including acupuncture, massage, etc. – keep the energies circulating and integrating
  • Meditation, acknowledging but not focusing on whatever comes up
  • Stream of consciousness art/music/ writing
  • Being out in nature, feeling your feet on the ground, acknowledging the four directions and your physical place in the world
  • Yoga and other forms of exercise the connect the body, mind and spirit

I hope these ideas might be useful springboards in your shadow work explorations. Take your time, be gentle and curious with yourself and the process, and remember that this work doesn’t end!

 

Many blessings on your process.

 

Joshua Tree rock spiral - © Lynda Skeen

Joshua Tree rock spiral – © Lynda Skeen

 

 

 

*http://www.marianne.com

**from Mary Oliver’s collection Twelve Moons , p. 3; available online at http://www.poetseers.org/contemporary-poets/mary-oliver/mary-oliver-poems/sleeping-in-the-forest/

 

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The Poet in Bed in the Morning

 

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out…
–Billy Collins, “Introduction to Poetry”

 

She drops a mouse into her bed of poems
to see what it would do – what she would do.
It crawls across her covered feet,
then wraps its tail around her bedpost
like a string around its finger,
not wanting to forget its strength
(it can do this –
it can do this).
She picks some words from between her teeth
and holds them out to the mouse.
“Come back,” she says.
But the mouse leaps onto a window ledge
then disappears through a slit in the screen.

So she licks the words from her fingers,
leans back,
and looks at the day.
She is a child under a sprinkler,
a baby at its mother’s breast.
She has no idea what to do
with either words or nourishment.
Drinks too much.
Lets herself feel full and dull and stupid.
Maybe she should shave her head.

Instead, she muffles the day with ear plugs,
rolls over around a pillow,
covers her eyes with a blanket,
and releases herself again
to the dark.

 

© Lynda Skeen

 

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I recently returned from two nights of camping in Joshua Tree National Park, a very frustrating trip that was like trying to camp in the middle of a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant.  Kids ran through my campsite whacking nearby cacti with sticks; parents played techno-trance music and 90’s rock as the Super-Full Moon rose between the Joshua trees.  On my way to hike outside of the campground, I passed a small child busily smashing bugs with a rock.

It’s hard to find space in the wilderness unless you can backpack out into it, which most of us can’t.  And although I’m glad people go into nature in whatever capacity they are able (after all, nature is what we’re made of; we are nature), I miss having the opportunity to hear sounds other than those made by other people.

For this post, I’ve decided to share a poem I wrote a couple of years ago after an encounter with a bobcat in Joshua Tree.  On this trip I write about in the poem, I was able to get a bit closer to the sights and sounds of nature despite being in a campground.  I re-read this poem to remind myself that camping in California isn’t always as loud and busy as it recently.  I hope you enjoy the poem, which is a bit longer than those I’ve posted in the past.  I’ve also posted a couple of photos from last weekend’s trip.

Joshua Tree Full Moon Rise, © Lynda Skeen

—————————————–

Joshua Tree Bobcat

Words to address you are as elusive
as sightings of you
darting in and out of shadows,
merging with wordless, formless space.
I have been smitten by you and your landscape,
and baffled why I continue to choose another life
even after staring into your spotted face in the bushes.
The final gift on the final day of my desert camping trip,
you crossed the road.
I stopped my car and followed you into the brush.
We stared at each other.
I held my breath.
Neither of us ran away.
Now I understand that the gift you gave me
was choice, and a memory that can bring you back
even in the middle of my life here in the city.

A creature living without an instruction book,
as sure of itself as the sun of rising,
as the rain of falling,
you remind me of my own Nature.
Remind me to take the time to be reminded,
to pull back the curtains and embrace my own Wildness.
Your beautiful spotted face helps me remember
the crunchy warm sand that feels good beneath my feet,
the night sky full of stars and mystery
that humbles me into awe.
How wealthy I feel under the desert’s lavish sunset.
How magical to see what’s usually hidden –
the orange-red flames of the cactus’ first bloom;
dark caterpillars soon to emerge as something other
than what they were;
baby jackrabbits close enough that I can see the
red marks on their ears.
It is my aesthetic – my palette.
Sandstone and cactus flower.
Empty skyline.
My outsides and insides finally in synch.

I love the potential for getting lost.
To lean against danger.
to get dirty and know my own scent.
Stripping off the layers and paring down to happiness.
To eat when hungry; sleep when tired.
To spoil myself with the simplicity of Enough.
To immerse myself in Darkness at night.
To close my eyes and see nothing.
To open them and see nothing but
a sky filled with stars,
potential,
silence.
To hear my thoughts,
then let them quiet.
Nestling up next to the sound of wind and flames.
To release them into the wild
to become something I cannot control.

Leaving the urban hypnosis of self-imposed to-do lists,
I am one step closer to what I’m made of,
less surrounded by what I’ve made.
In the desert, things are more connected to their meanings –
clattering of pebbles means something moved,
cave means staying dry in a thunderstorm.
One step closer to Source,
away from mind’s creations.

The desert is where I know I know these things.
When I get home to the city, they are camouflaged,
insight moving in and out like an itch
I can’t quite scratch.
An unspeakable sadness
fading in and out like light on your spotted face.
For I chose to return to the city.
I didn’t follow you deeper into the brush.
I returned to my car filled with camping gear and fresh water.
Thank you for the gift of choice,
for the memory of your beckoning face.
My memory of you, Bobcat,
is a bread crumb leading me Home.

And this, I now realize, is your gift.
I have your face to both pine for and delight in.
A face that reminds me that Nature, Wildness,
surrounds me, even here –
squirrels chasing each other in the purple jacaranda,
pigeons drinking from puddles of water at the car wash,
palm trees gently swaying in their tall wind,
white clouds in deep blue sky.
The threat of exile might keep me from climbing trees at work
or running up and down the street with my magnifying glass,
looking closely at what I can’t usually see,
but I can at least kneel over in the dirt in my back yard,
pressing my nose against the window of what the rest of existence is doing.

Sitting in the cool green grass,
beneath power lines,
surrounded by apartment buildings –
even here –
I can breathe
in
the sunset.

© Lynda Skeen

Venus and Joshua Trees at Sunset, © Lynda Skeen

Joshua Tree Landscape, © Lynda Skeen

Super-Moonrise at Joshua Tree, © Lynda Skeen

Cactus Bloom, © Lynda Skeen

Juniper Berries, © Lynda Skeen

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Since I posted a poem of mine a few weeks ago called “Worms – after St. Francis of Assisi’s ‘Prayer for Peace'” (http://wp.me/p1FkFN-1f), I wanted to also post the original prayer that it’s form is based on.  I’ve always loved this prayer, and hope you enjoy it too, whether you’ve heard it frequently or this is your first time:

St. Francis of Assisi’s Prayer for Peace

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

Grant that I may seek not so much

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

And it is in dying

That we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

–St. Francis of Assisi

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It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in America, when we collectively pause to give thanks for all our blessings, and to officially begin the Christmas season, even though Christmas decorations started appearing in stores at the end of October even before Halloween was over.  I just finished doing some yoga, and realized too late that I hadn’t given my dinner of turkey leftovers enough time to digest.  This is a time to celebrate bounty, which can send us off balance and into excess without much effort.

One of the things I’m very thankful for is the abundance of choices we have for spiritual growth here.  Again, it can feel overwhelming sometimes, like walking into a shopping mall knowing you want to get your best friend something special but feeling frozen at all the colors and textures, the pushing and shoving and sale tags.  It’s easy to lose sight of your heart, of the reason you’re there in the first place.

I want to encourage anyone who is beginning a spiritual journey, or who is perhaps changing directions, to not get discouraged at all the choices.  Take a moment to close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and invite your highest, most true self (even if you have no idea who that is) to lead you to the perfect choice for today.   And on the other end of the spectrum from feeling frozen, you don’t need to overstuff either – there will be more spiritual nourishment tomorrow.  Give what you’ve learned time to digest; honor it by putting it into practice in your life.  You don’t have to do everything in one day.

So, enjoy the Feast.  Let it nourish and sustain you.  Let it baffle, bless, and delight you.    Happy Thanksgiving.

**********************************************************

Along these lines, here’s a prose poem of mine that I hope you’ll enjoy:

Dear Diary

So, so much to do today; so much to do to prepare.  Woke up to the charm of my Zen alarm.  Eyes focused on the wooden Buddha across from my bed.  Got up to meditate.  But first, some flower essences.  No, first, bowed to the four directions.  Then flower essences.  My electrical system now balanced, headed for my meditation cushion.  Lit Nag Champa incense and a gold candle and visualized the rainbow of my chakras all bright and swirling.  Got up two hours later, stiff and sore, my head pounding for coffee.  Went to fix coffee, but realized I was supposed to practice yoga, so unrolled my purple sticky mat instead and began the salute to the sun.  Then got up and looked out the window.  Thanked the grass deva for being so green, and the sun deva for being so bright, and the spirit-who-moves-through-all-things for creating the devas, and myself for being thankful.  Lifted my hand drum from its shelf, closed my eyes, and drummed to my power animal.  Tossed three deer-bone runes from their leather bag and pulled five tarot cards from my Warrior Priestess deck.  (Note to self:  corroborate with the ephemeris.)  Then needed some quiet time.  Lit more incense and another candle, and then – and then the day was gone.  So here I am, relaxing before bed in a hot, lavender-scented bubble bath, with you in one hand and a feng-shui book about clutter clearing in the other.  So, so much to do.

© Lynda Skeen

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When I moved to Los Angeles, one of the first things I did was to start container gardening in the back yard and driveway of our rental duplex. I also started a worm bin, and promptly fell in love with worms. The red wigglers used for vermicomposting, as it’s called, are a bit different than the earthworms I’d always been fond of, but are of the same general personality type. I looked forward to looking under the bin’s lid every day to see what had changed. To getting to know these gentle, quiet, tireless creatures. And I journeyed to them a lot, getting to know them in both ordinary and non-ordinary reality.

After several years of rough drafts of poems trying to express my relationship with these creatures, the worms themselves asked for a voice. I’ve always loved St. Francis of Assisi’s “Prayer for Peace,” and the Worm Spirit began to use that as a template for communicating.

As this year’s vegetable garden starts winding down, I thought I would share the poem that came through from the Worm Spirit, and encourage you to connect – both in ordinary and non-ordinary reality – with the spirit of the living beings that surround you, no matter how humble they may seem.

May your day be filled with wonder and transformation. And I highly recommend worm composting!

————————————————————

Worms
after St. Francis of Assisi’s “Prayer for Peace”

Ahhh…

Surrender to our subtle, quiet mysteries,
and let us help you find peace.
Where there are stormy fires of undigested passion,
where there is the new pain of unreleased injury,
we offer you the cool salve of earth and silence.
Where there is doubt and mistrust,
we offer you the imperturbable elegance
of transformation.
When you are stifled by despair,
we offer our rich castings of promise.
For your sadness, we offer the gentle smiles of our curves.
In our darkness, feel the comfort of shadow.

Release all that no longer nourishes you.
Allow yourselves to slough off the old, to grow,
to acknowledge mistakes,
to say, “this isn’t working anymore, this isn’t right,
this isn’t doing anyone any good.”
Together let us explore the silent, mysterious journey,
the non-linear churnings,
the indispensable winding detours.
Let us turn your leftover mustard greens and sweet melon rinds,
your jagged egg shells and ignorance
into new gardens flowering with broccoli and lettuce,
cherry tomatoes, daffodils, and wisdom.
Let us teach you
of time’s unhurried alchemy.

Till your gardens with kindness.
Slip under the earth’s brittle crust with us
and delight in the infinite, hushed shades of our brownness,
and the fertility of decomposition,
as we wrap our long, comfortable bodies around the world,
transforming the world
one moment at a time.

May the cycle of blessings
and the blessings of the cycle
nourish, sustain, and intrigue you.

Ahhh…

Amen.

(“Worms” © Lynda Skeen, with thanks to the publications Abalone Moon and Tiger’s Eye where it was previously published)

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I was recently at a poetry reading and reconnected with poetry friends and the teacher of a poetry workshop I haven’t attended for a few years.  I hadn’t seen them in a long time, and when they asked, “So, are you still writing?” I had to pause before answering.  Yes, I’m still writing, but it’s changed a lot in the past few years.

A funny thing happened when I hung up my Shamanic Reiki Practitioner shingle and started seeing clients on a regular basis.   I found that healing work came from and nourished the same place in me that my poetry came from and nourished, so I actually wasn’t writing poetry as much.   For some reason this surprised me.  Why wasn’t I sending out submissions and looking forward to publication like I had been?  The drive had just evaporated.  Not completely, but pretty much.  My healing work is filled with the same mystery, metaphor, creativity, and connection to Spirit that my poetry is.

I think what’s happening is I’m being asked to let my poetry take a break for awhile.  There are still half-finished poems I want to get back to, and rumblings of new ones that are asking for a voice.  And I did send one out last week for consideration in a contest.

But I think we need to let our creativity and connection to the Mystery be flexible.  We need to let go of old dance steps and learn some new ones.  Not that we stop dancing.  Just that we might tango instead of doing aerobics for awhile.

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