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Center for Action and Contemplation

Myth, Art, and Poetry: Weekly Summary

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Myth, Art, and Poetry

Summary: Sunday, September 27-Friday, October 2, 2015

Another building block in my wisdom lineage is the world of myth, art, and poetry. (Sunday)

Good symbolism and imagery moves us into contact with our True Self, with others, and with Everything—“God.” (Monday)

“I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories . . . water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.” —Clarissa Pinkola Estés (Tuesday)

“To see life as a poem and yourself participating in a poem is what the myth does for you.” —Joseph Campbell (Wednesday)

The goal of great poetry is to get right to the heart of the experience so that it resonates with your own inner knowing. (Thursday)

“Poetry is a gateway into unitive consciousness. It knocks on the doors of the heart and the heart opens.” —Mirabai Starr (Friday)


Practice: Haiku

In The Cloister Walk, Kathleen Norris writes, “Poets understand that they do not know what they mean, and that is their strength. . . . Writing teaches us to recognize when we have reached the limits of language, and our knowing, and are dependent on our senses to ‘know’ for us.” Haiku is a short form of Japanese insight poetry, a simple way of communing with nature. As with writing and reading other poetry, haiku can open the heart and mind to non-dual consciousness and to immediate encounter with Presence.

Creating haiku requires discipline and conciseness, focusing on just a single moment or movement and a couple juxtaposing elements. A haiku is a little sliver of concentrated reality. There’s no room for parenthetical, extraneous material—all the if’s, and’s and but’s. You must leave space for the imagination to fill in the gaps.

Here are two different translations of a frog haiku by Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694):

An old pond
A frog jumps in—
Sound of water.
(Geoffrey Bownas and Anthony Thwaite)

(James Kirkup)

I invite you to try writing a haiku as a way of being intimately present to reality. Don’t worry about making a perfect poem or following the rules. Many English haiku poems consist of 17 syllables in three phrases of 5, 7, and 5 syllables. But however the words emerge, let the process of creating the poem break you open to a deeper knowing, beyond definition and description to experience.

Find somewhere you can sit undisturbed while paying close attention to something in nature—a flower, tree, sunrise, rock, rain. Observe the object without words or analysis. Experience being here, in this moment, in this space. Listen for the essence of being, communicated wordlessly to you.

After some time in silence, jot down a few words and phrases. Play with the way the words sound, speaking them aloud, rearranging them, letting go of unnecessary words. Allow the poem to flow from your unmediated encounter of God’s presence within nature.

Gateway to Silence:
“To see a world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wild flower.” —William Blake

Image credit: The Winged Deer (tapestry detail), French School, (15th century), Musee des Antiquities, Rouen, France, Peter Willi, The Bridgeman Art Library.
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