The Snow Man, Wallace Stevens
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
From Ulysses By Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)
Corpus Christi Carol
The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy
I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.
The land's sharp features seemed to be
The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.
At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.
Fall - after Rilke
Poetry from Rabindrath Tagore
2011 is the 150th anniversary of the birth of a wonderful poet: Rabindranath Tagore.
We had one of his poems last night as our reading after our meditation and we would like to share it now, along with two others, to show the range of his work. Many thanks to Peter Hodgman for the suggestion to share these poems in honour of the anniversary, but also simply because they are so powerful.
When the creation was new and all the stars shone in their first
splendor, the gods held their assembly in the sky and sang:
`Oh, the picture of perfection! the joy unalloyed!'
But one cried of a sudden:
`It seems that somewhere there is a break in the chain of light
and one of the stars has been lost.'
The golden string of their harp snapped,
their song stopped, and they cried in dismay:
`Yes, that lost star was the best,
she was the glory of all heavens!'
From that day the search is unceasing for her,
and the cry goes on from one to the other
that in her the world has lost its one joy!
Only in the deepest silence of night the stars smile
and whisper among themselves:
`Vain is this seeking! unbroken perfection is over all!'
If thou speakest not
If thou speakest not I will fill my heart with thy silence and
endure it. I will keep still and wait like the night with starry
vigil and its head bent low with patience.
The Morning will surely come, the darkness will vanish,
and thy voice pour down in golden streams breaking through
Then thy words will take wing in songs from every one of
my birds’ nests, and thy melodies will break forth in flowers
in all my forest groves.
Stream of Life
The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day
runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.
It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth
in numberless blades of grass
and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.
It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth
and of death, in ebb and in flow.
I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life.
And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment.
The second two are taken from Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore, translated from the original Bengali by the author. Lost Star was found on the internet, I'm not sure who the translator was.
Reflecting on mindfulness
We always have a poem after our meditation session, this evening I chose this one from W.S Merwin - it's a wry and poignant reflection on mindfulness, a gentle reminder to pay attention to the joy that may be present in each moment.
Denise Forbes-Cline has sent me this fantastic image of a butterfly taken in Key West on her honeymoon in 2007 - many thanks Denise! Now, close your eyes and just imagine, the brightest most beautiful butterfly is right under your nose!
The trouble with pleasure is the timing
it can overtake me without warning
and be gone before I know it is here
it can stand facing me unrecognized
while I am remembering somewhere else
in another age or someone not seen
for years and never to be seen again
in this world and it seems that I cherish
only now a joy I was not aware of
when it was here although it remains
out of reach and will not be caught or named
or called back and if I could make it stay
as I want to it would turn into pain
New Years Eve Guest Blogger
Group regular, Claire, has written a guest blog post this new years eve, aimed in particular at those who may be new to meditation and extolling its virtues:
Regardless of what spiritual beliefs that you may, or may not have, meditation has been shown by scientific research to have a positive effect on your well being. Emotionally, mentally and physically.
Research on Meditation: Meditation is shown to reduce heart rate, blood pressure, anxiety levels and it even changes the patterns of activity within the brain. All of these have positive effects on the body & contribute towards maintaining and regaining a healthy body, as well as a healthy mind.
If you’re going to make ONE new years resolution to improve the quality of your life, I recommend meditation.
I write this for those of you that may know little or nothing about meditation, so that, if you haven’t yet considered it as a positive habit to cultivate in 2011 that you might do so after reading this.
I first learned how to meditate in 1996, and have been on various different meditation courses, and read different books on the subject over the last almost 15 years. I’ve also practiced meditation, sometimes regularly, sometimes not so regularly and I’ve known many people who integrate meditation into their daily lives.
Why do they meditate? What are the benefits of meditation?
For me, the most important aspect is self awareness. Many people believe the aim of meditation is to have an “empty mind” to let go of the chattering thoughts, to discover pure bliss & peace. Although this certainly is an experience that many people who practice meditation have, it’s not necessarily something that most people experience every time they meditate, and for some it’s a rare or fleeting occurrence.
The trick to meditation is to be aware of one’s thoughts - recognising that we are not our mind, we are not our thoughts, but that our thoughts are only a part of who we are. Allowing the thoughts to go each time they arise, like we would allow muddy water in a glass to settle, rather than reaching in with our hands to separate the mud from the water.
I love the way Eckhart Tolle describes the fact that you are not your thoughts, and I recommend “The Power of Now” if you’d like some further reading on the subject.
In the mean time, Google your local meditation group, if you’re in London why not come along to the Open Meditation Group in Camden every Thursday, starting at 6.30pm. After a short introduction we sit in silence for 20 minutes and have tea and a chat afterwards, there is no charge to attend and you will be made very welcome.
Here’s wishing you a Happy, Healthy, Joyful and Prosperous 2011!!
Postscript, Seamus Heaney with Amazon link
Our reading last week was a beautiful poem from Seamus Heaney, Postscript. It somehow reminded me of long car journeys with my father when I was very young. I still get the feeling Heaney describes, when travelling through the countryside by car, quite often, the world is such a glorious place, it's wonderful when suddenly our hearts are "blown open" in recognition!
Living in central London, whenever I get out into green space, or particularly coastal countryside, it always delights my soul.
Here is the poem:
Postscript, Seamus Heaney
And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightening of flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park or capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open
It is published in Heaney's book, The Spirit Level, available from Amazon.
The group now has an Amazon associate account and we will use any proceeds from any sales commissions this site might generate to purchase more books on meditation we can lend out.
Let me know what you think of the idea of including links to purchase books on our site and if you would like to suggest any other books you think it would be good for us to highlight on here. We have some great discussions in the group, after meditation, about books people are reading and I thought it could be a nice idea to share some of these via the blog, or maybe they should be on the downloads and link page? Any feedback or ideas would be great....
peace and light
Photos added - do they work?
Our beautiful new site was looking a little bare, so I have added some photos...do they work? I'm not sure. Let me know what you think or if you have any other images you'd like to see on here! The ones I've used are a random selection I've taken in recent years.
A recent reading - Paracelsus
Each week we have a reading at the end of the meditation, here is one from a recent session:
By Robert Browning (1812 -1889)
Truth is within ourselves, it takes no rise
From outward things, whate’er you may believe.
There is an inner centre in us all
Where truth abides in fullness; and around
Wall upon wall the gross flesh hems it in
That perfect, clear perception which is Truth.
A baffling and perverting carnal mesh
Binds all and makes all error, but to know
Rather consists in finding out a way
For the imprisoned splendour to escape
Than in achieving entry for a light
Supposed to be without.
Our new website!
thanks so much to group regular, Claire Boyles, we have a wonderful new website! Let us know what you think and what you'd like to see on here - and please share it with your friends!