Sunday, December 25, 2011

You, darkness, of whom I am born-

Dear Friends,

Rilke's poem comes to mind as we approach the darkest days of the year:

You, darkness, of whom I am born-
 I love you more than the flame
 that limits the world
 to the circle it illumines
 and excludes all the rest.
 But the dark embraces everything:
 shapes and shadows, creatures and me, people, nations-just as they are.
 It lets me imagine
 a great presence stirring beside me.
 I believe in the night.

In the shortest days of the year, and the darkest, it is a time to celebrate the light within. We see the Xmas lights and Chanuka menorahs, and groups throughout the world include the light, candles, and fire in diverse spiritual traditions. But Rilke is on to something important. Yes, it is a time to celebrate light, but it is also a time to celebrate darkness, for all things, including creation and birth, begin in the dark. 

David Whyte's marvelous poem, "Sweet Darkness" is another poem that comes to mind:

Excerpt from Sweet Darkness

. . .You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

And I think to myself "ah, yes, the world to which I belong"! And where is that world?
But then the poet continues:

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

Here comes the precious pearl of poetic wisdom!

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.

David Whyte    The House of Belonging, Langley, WA.: Many Rivers Press, l998

At this time, we are asking ourselves, "What is too small?" "What is enough?" "Do I have enough?" "What gifts will I receive?" "What will I give?" Too often we find ourselves exhausted, depleted and feeling empty. This brings me to Pablo Picasso's beautiful picture above called "Le Soupe." We see the adult serving the soup, palms cupped around its warmth.
The bowl has the look of waiting. Author David Applebaum suggests that when empty, the bowl has the look of perfection. It was made to hold that which cannot hold itself. All bowls imitate the human hand, with palm concave and stretching toward a generosity of heaven. After a passing shower, the bowl, full with rain, quenches the thirst of sparrows, thrushes and other birds. The bowl may also be thought of as exemplifying the law of service. For one thing serves another that serves a second that serves a third, and there is a round-robin effect, in which the ones giving service are sustained.
The poetry circle nourishes all who participate. The following exercise is a beautiful way to celebrate the completion of a poetry circle or a way to begin one. Place an empty bowl in the center of the circle, and prior to the event, ask each individual to bring a poem that nurtures the soul, and place it in the bowl. Each person then chooses one of the poems and reads it to the group. At the Creative Righting Center, we recently had this delicious "poem soup" and left filled. At the very end, we read this poem by Chrystos:

Ceremony for Completing a Poetry Reading  (Excerpt)

                                    This is a give-away poem
                                    You have come gathering
                                    You have made a circle with me…
                                    Within this basket is something
                                        you have been looking for
                                    all of your life
                                    Come take it
                                    Take as much as you want
                                    I give you seeds of a new way. . .
                                    this is a give-away poem
                                    I cannot go home
                                    until you have taken everything
                                    and the basket which held it
                                    when my hands are empty
                                    I will be full

                 Imaging the Word: An Arts and Lectionary Resource, Volume 3
                 Eds. Blain, Gouwens, O’Callaghan, & Spradling
                     United Press Church, 1996, p. 249

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thunder 'n Writening: Exploring Anger and Forgiveness

  While some anger is productive and beneficial, other angers are red-hot, insidious and corrosive to mind, spirit, and body. Thunder 'n Writening is a  series of writing exercises to externalize, explore, and exorcise anger, working towards one of the most difficult spiritual challenges — forgiveness. 

1. Part I. See William Carlos Williams' famous poem, "This Is Just to Say" which is an apology for taking the plums that "you were probably saving for breakfast." It ends with, "Forgive me. They were so sweet and so cold."
The writer doesn't sound real regretful, does he? For complete poem, see

Write your own apology poem- or a letter to someone asking for forgiveness. If you feel you don't owe anyone an apology, but would like to receive an apology, write an apology letter from the offending party to you!

 Part II: See Kenneth Koch's response poem to William Carlos Williams' poem
 It is a parody filled with dry  humor. Write your own exaggerated and hostile couplets. Don't hold back!

2. See James Schevill's poem:  "A Screamer Discusses Methods of Screaming"
    This is a great poem for writing and group discussion.
    Writing Exercise: Write a poem discussing your personal way of screaming.

3. Write about your anger as though you were the other person in the confrontation.

4. Dialogue with Anger, as though it were a person; find out what Anger can tell you in script form.

5. Revisit an annoying or upsetting angry encounter that is on your mind. Set aside at least 30 minutes to do this -- best done when your anger gremlin actually acts up.
a-Write for 5 minutes- actual dialogue between the two people. Set timer.
b-Write (5-10 minutes) Inner Monologue of each person as you re-read what was said. The inner monologue  is not what is said, but is what you are really thinking, and imagining the other person might be  thinking.
c- Write (5 minutes) Zoom in with a close up camera to a physical feature on the other person. Write in detail. Now focus in as though you were observing a physical feature of your own self.
d- Write (2 minutes) about what you are feeling in your body at this moment of anger or upset?
e- Write  (2-4 minutes) What  about this situation upset you the most?
f-  Write (5 minutes) Zoom Out -  If someone were able to observe this scene as if looking from a hallway or  through the glass of a window, what is the picture they would see?

6. Write a concrete poem about anger. 
    Doodle it with markers. See The Annihilation Poem for inspiration.

Short Stories About Anger

"The Use of Force" by William Carlos Williams, a short story by William Carlos Williams 

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