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What to Remember When Waking

by David Whyte

In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,

coming back to this life from the other

more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world

where everything began,

there is a small opening into the new day

which closes the moment you begin your plans.

What you can plan is too small for you to live.

What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough

for the vitality hidden in your sleep.

To be human is to become visible

while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.

To remember the other world in this world

is to live in your true inheritance.

You are not a troubled guest on this earth,

you are not an accident amidst other accidents

you were invited from another and greater night

than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window

toward the mountain presence of everything that can be

what urgency calls you to your one love?

What shape waits in the seed of you

to grow and spread its branches

against a future sky?

Is it waiting in the fertile sea?

In the trees beyond the house?

In the life you can imagine for yourself?

In the open and lovely white page on the writing desk?

from The House of Belonging, Many Rivers Press

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The Pyramid, called The SHIFT Rx Challenge Pyramid was informed by Florence Williams’ research in her book The Nature Fix, as well as Tanya Denkla-Cobb/the Biophilic Cities Project’s “Nature Pyramid.” The SHIFT Rx Challenge Pyramid indicates optimal “doses” of nature. From daily micro-doses that can range from exposure to daylight and plant life multiple times per day to annual multi-day excursions into wilderness areas where people can disconnect from technology, the Pyramid offers recommendations for duration as well as location of nature contact.

“Time spent outside in nature is good for us,” said Christian Beckwith, Executive Director of The Center for Jackson Hole, SHIFT’s parent organization. “In an age when the average American child spends seven hours per day in front of screens and seven minutes in unstructured play outside; rising obesity rates add billions of dollars to health care costs; opioid addictions outpace car accidents as the leading cause of death; and the growing disconnect from nature, particularly in our urban areas, leads to stress, depression and increased levels of mental anxiety in our citizens, time outside has never been more important.”

To learn more about SHIFT Rx and the 2019 SHIFT Rx :Nature as Medicine Festival in Jackson Hole in October, visit http://shiftjh.org.

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Nature Rx Part 1 - YouTube

Nature Rx is a grassroots movement dedicated to entertaining and informing people about the healing aspects of nature. More at Nature-Rx.org.

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crossing a creek

requires 3 things:

a certain serenity of mind

bare feet,

and a sure trust

that the snake we know

slides silently


just beyond our vision

will choose to ignore

the flesh

that cuts through

its territory

and we will pass through

some people think crossing a creek

is easy,

but I say this—

all crossings are hard,

whether creeks, mountains,

or into other lives

and we must always believe

in the snakes at our feet

just out of our vision

and we must practice believing

we will come through.

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Hokusai says look carefully.

He says pay attention, notice.

He says keep looking, stay curious.

Hokusai says says there is no end to seeing

He says look forward to getting old.

He says keep changing,

you just get more who you really are.

He says get stuck, accept it, repeat

yourself as long as it is interesting.

He says keep doing what you love.

He says keep praying.

He says every one of us is a child,

every one of us is ancient

every one of us has a body.

He says every one of us is frightened.

He says every one of us has to find

a way to live with fear.

He says everything is alive --

shells, buildings, people, fish,

mountains, trees, wood is alive.

Water is alive.

Everything has its own life.

Everything lives inside us.

He says live with the world inside you.

He says it doesn't matter if you draw,

or write books. It doesn't matter

if you saw wood, or catch fish.

It doesn't matter if you sit at home

and stare at the ants on your veranda

or the shadows of the trees

and grasses in your garden.

It matters that you care.

It matters that you feel.

It matters that you notice.

It matters that life lives through you.

Contentment is life living through you.

Joy is life living through you.

Satisfaction and strength

is life living through you.

He says don't be afraid.

Don't be afraid.

Love, feel, let life take you by the hand.

Let life live through you.

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In Praise of the Earth

Let us bless
The imagination of the Earth.
That knew early the patience
To harness the mind of time,
Waited for the seas to warm,
Ready to welcome the emergence
Of things dreaming of voyaging
Among the stillness of land.

And how light knew to nurse
The growth until the face of the Earth
Brightened beneath a vision of color.

When the ages of ice came
And sealed the Earth inside
An endless coma of cold,
The heart of the Earth held hope,
Storing fragments of memory,
Ready for the return of the sun.

Let us thank the Earth
That offers ground for home
And holds our feet firm
To walk in space open
To infinite galaxies.

Let us salute the silence
And certainty of mountains:
Their sublime stillness,
Their dream-filled hearts.

The wonder of a garden
Trusting the first warmth of spring
Until its black infinity of cells
Becomes charged with dream;
Then the silent, slow nurture
Of the seed’s self, coaxing it
To trust the act of death.

The humility of the Earth
That transfigures all
That has fallen
Of outlived growth.

The kindness of the Earth,
Opening to receive
Our worn forms
Into the final stillness.

Let us ask forgiveness of the Earth
For all our sins against her:
For our violence and poisonings
Of her beauty.

Let us remember within us
The ancient clay,
Holding the memory of seasons,
The passion of the wind,
The fluency of water,
The warmth of fire,
The quiver-touch of the sun
And shadowed sureness of the moon.

That we may awaken,
To live to the full
The dream of the Earth
Who chose us to emerge
And incarnate its hidden night
In mind, spirit, and light.

~ John O’Donohue ~

(To Bless the Space Between Us)

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April is National Poetry Month. Just returning from a pilgrimage in Japan, it seems natural to talk about the mindfulness practice of writing haikus.

In Japanese, haikus are seventeen syllables in three phrases (5-7-5). In English, it’s as simple as three lines. Patricia Donegan, a poet, translator and haiku expert defines a haiku as “a crystalline moment of heightened awareness in simple imagery, traditionally using a kigo or season word for nature.”

An haiku typically contains an element of nature and an emotion. Here are some examples:

In the cherry blossom's shade
there's no such thing
as a stranger.
Kobayashi Issa

Cutting a pear
sweet drops drip
from the knife
Shiki Masaoka

letting go
of a slanderous heart
while shelling the beans
Hosai Ozaki

The time it takes
for snowflakes to whiten
the distant pines.
Lorraine Ellis Harr.

In the ancient Japanese calendar, there was not just four seasons but twenty four small seasons (called sekki) each lasting around fifteen days, and seventy-two micro seasons (called ko) each lasting around five days.
Examples of names of micro seasons are:
east wind melts the ice
nightingales sing
silkworms hatch
blanket fog descends
North wind rattles the leaves

During my time in Japan this Spring, I lived through two small-seasons and three micro-seasons.

On March 31st, I started my visit to the Kii Peninsula, south of Nara, in the small or sekki season of Spring Equinox and the micro/ko season of Thunder Raises Its Voice. This micro season was the last one of the Spring Equinox season. Then, on April 4th, we entered the small or sekki season of Clear and Bright and the micro/ko season of The Swallows Arrive. And five days later, it was the micro/ko season of The First Rainbow Appears, still in the small or sekki season of Clear and Bright.

So with this culture of awareness of the changing nature of our surroundings, and such poetic names for each season, it’s no surprise that on my Kumano Kodo pilgrimage, I felt like I was walking into haiku country.

So why embracing an Haiku Mind?

Here is what a few known poets, priest and authors say:

In her book, haiku mind; 108 Poems to Cultivate Awareness & Open Your Heart, Patricia Donegan writes: Haiku mind is the awareness to tune into the vastness of the moment. When we can pause and relax in the moment, that is our haiku mind: the awakened, openhearted awareness that we can always tap into.

Similarly, in his book, A Listening Heart: The Spirituality of Sacred Sensuousness, Br. David Steindl-Rast writes:The Haiku is, paradoxically, a poem about silence. Its very core is silence. There is probably no shorter poetic form in world literature than the classical Haiku with its seventeen syllables and, yet. The masters put these seventeen syllables down with a gesture of apology, which makes it clear that the words merely serve the silence. All that matters is the silence. The Haiku is a scaffold of words; what is being constructed is a poem of silence; and when it is ready, the poet gives a little kick, as it were, to the scaffold. It tumbles, and silence alone stands.

And according to poet Tom Clausen: Haiku is all about the fleeting preciousness of experience, nature, and our seamless connection to everything.

So clearly writing an haiku, like reading poetry, is a mindfulness practice that I invite you into for the month of April.

And if you feel so inspired, please leave your haikus as comments on this blog. Here are some more that inspired my pilgrimage on the imperial Kumano Kodo. Thank you.

“On my pilgrimage
I walk into
haiku country”
“In silence
and still in silence
along the way”
“Pilgrim’s staff — 
I fill my mind
with emptiness”
“At first I follow
then pass and get passed —
pilgrim’s path”
the pilgrims walk — 
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HEARTBREAK by David Whyte

is unpreventable; the natural outcome of caring for people and things over which we have no control, of holding in our affections those who inevitably move beyond our line of sight.

Heartbreak begins the moment we are asked to let go but cannot, in other words, it colors and inhabits and magnifies each and every day; heartbreak is not a visitation, but a path that human beings follow through even the most average life. Heartbreak is our indication of sincerity: in a love relationship, in a work, in trying to learn a musical instrument, in the attempt to shape a better more generous self.

Heartbreak is the beautifully helpless side of love and affection and is just as much an essence and emblem of care as the spiritual athlete’s quick but abstract ability to let go. Heartbreak has its own way of inhabiting time and its own beautiful and trying patience in coming and going.

Excerpted from HEARTBREAK From the book of essays CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words by David Whyte

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