Poetry used in our classes and retreats.

  • 24 Nov 2014 11:35 AM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

    [read during the Fall 2014 WPHP class retreat day]

    There are two kinds of intelligence:  

    One acquired, as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts

    from books  and from what the teacher says, 

    collecting information from the traditional sciences 

    as well as from the new sciences. 

    With such intelligence you rise in the world.

    You get ranked ahead or behind others

    in regard to your competence in retaining

    information. You stroll with this intelligence

    in and out of fields of knowledge, 

    getting always more marks on your preserving tablets.

    There is another kind of tablet, one

    already completed and preserved inside you.

    A spring overflowing its springbox. 

    A freshness in the center of the chest. 

    This other intelligence does not turn yellow or stagnate. It’s fluid,

    and it doesn’t move from outside to inside 

    through the conduits of plumbing-learning.

    This second knowing is a fountainhead 

    from within you, moving out

    The Essesential Rumi, Translation by Coleman Barks with John Moyne, Harper, San Francisco, 1995.

  • 4 Nov 2014 3:35 PM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

    [read in the Winter 2014 MBSR class in Bellingham] 

    Do not try to save

    the whole world

    or do anything grandiose.

    Instead, create

    a clearing

    in the dense forest

    of your life

    and wait there


    until the song

    that is your life

    falls into your own cupped hands

    and you recognize and greet it.

    Only then will you know

    how to give yourself

    to this world

    so worth of rescue.

  • 4 Nov 2014 3:33 PM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

    [read in the Winter 2014 MBSR class in Bellingham] 

    I go among the 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 is afraid of me comes
    and lives a while in my sight.
    What it fears in me leaves me,
    and the fear of me leaves it.

    It sings, and I hear its song.
    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.

    After days of labor,
    mute in my costernations,
    I hear my song at last,
    and I sing it. As we sing,
    The day turns, the trees move.

    -untitled poem from 1992 (?) section of collection Sabbath Poems.
    Berry has a Sunday practice of writing a poem for the Sabbath, mostly written out of doors. 

  • 4 Nov 2014 3:31 PM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

    [read in the Winter 2014 MBSR class in Bellingham] 

    Try to love everything that gets in your way:

    the Chinese women in flowered bathing caps

    murmuring together in Mandarin, doing leg exercises in your lane

    while you execute thirty-six furious laps,

    one for every item on your to-do list.

    The heavy-bellied man who goes thrashing through the water

    like a horse with a harpoon stuck in its side,

    whose breathless tsunamis rock you from your course.

    Teachers all.  Learn to be small

    and swim through obstacles like a minnow

    without grudges or memory.  Dart

    toward your goal, sperm to egg.  Thinking Obstacle

    is another obstacle.  Try to love the teenage girl

    idly lounging against the ladder, showing off her new tattoo:

    Cette vie est la mienne, This life is mine,

    in thick blue-black letters on her ivory instep.

    Be glad she’ll have that to look at all her life,

    and keep going, keep going.  Swim by an uncle

    in the lane next to yours who is teaching his nephew

    how to hold his breath underwater,

    even though kids aren’t allowed at this hour.  Someday,

    years from now, this boy

    who is kicking and flailing in the exact place

    you want to touch and turn

    will be a young man, at a wedding on a boat

    raising his champagne glass in a toast

    when a huge wave hits, washing everyone overboard.

    He'll come up coughing and spitting like he is now,

    but he'll come up like a cork,

    alive.  So your moment

    of impatience must bow in service to a larger story,

    because if something is in your way it is

    going your way, the way

    of all beings; towards darkness, towards light.

  • 4 Nov 2014 3:29 PM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

    [read in the Winter 2014 MBSR class in Bellingham]

    I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers 

    flow in the right direction, will the earth turn 

    as it was taught, and if not how shally 

    I correct it? 


    Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven, 

    can I do better? 


    Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows 

    can do it and I am, well, 



    Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it, 

    am I going to get rheumatism, 

    lockjaw, dementia? 


    Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing. 

    And gave it up. And took my old body 

    and went out into the morning, 

    and sang.

  • 20 Jul 2014 11:17 PM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

    Mary Oliver - When Death Comes

    When death comes
    like the hungry bear in autumn,
    when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
    to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;

    when death comes
    like the measle-pox;
    when death comes
    like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

    I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
    what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

    And therefore I look upon everything
    as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
    and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
    and I consider eternity as another possibility,
    and I think of each life as a flower, as common
    as a field daisy, and as singular,
    and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
    tending, as all music does, toward silence,
    and each body a lion of courage, and something
    precious to the earth.

    When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
    I was a bride married to amazement.
    I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
    When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
    if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

    I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
    or full of argument.

    I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

  • 20 Jul 2014 11:17 PM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

    Leonard Cohen - Ring The Bells

    Ring the bells that can still ring.

    Forget your perfect offering.

    There is a crack in everything.

    That’s how the light gets in.

  • 20 Jul 2014 11:16 PM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

    John O'Donohue - For a New Beginning

    In out-of-the-way places of the heart,

    Where your thoughts never think to wander,

    This beginning has been quietly forming,

    Waiting until you were ready to emerge.


    For a long time it has watched your desire,

    Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,

    Noticing how you willed yourself on,

    Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.


    It watched you play with the seduction of safety

    And the gray promises that sameness whispered,

    Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,

    Wondered would you always live like this.


    Then the delight, when your courage kindled,

    And out you stepped onto new ground,

    Your eyes young again with energy and dream,

    A path of plenitude opening before you.


    Though your destination is not yet clear

    You can trust the promise of this opening;

    Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning

    That is at one with your life's desire.


    Awaken your spirit to adventure;

    Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

    Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,

    For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

  • 20 Jul 2014 11:15 PM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

    Derek Walcott - Love After Love

    The time will come

    when, with elation,

    you will greet yourself arriving

    at your own door, in your own mirror,

    and each will smile at the other’s welcome

    and say, sit here. Eat.

    You will love again the stranger who was your self. 

    Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

    to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

    all your life, whom you have ignored

    for another, who knows you by heart.

    Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

    the photographs, the desperate notes, 

    peel your own image from the mirror. 

    Sit. Feast on your life.

    Derek Walcott, Collected Poems 1948-1984, New York, Farrar Straus Giroux,


  • 20 Jul 2014 11:15 PM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

    David Whyte - Enough

    Enough. These few words are enough.

    If not these words, this breath.

    If not this breath, this sitting here.

    This opening to the life

    we have refused

    again and again

    until now.

    Until now. 

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