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Center for Action and Contemplation

Poetry as Gateway

Friday, October 2, 2015

Myth, Art, and Poetry

Poetry as Gateway
Friday, October 2, 2015

In a recent webcast here, Mirabai Starr said, “Poetry is a gateway into unitive consciousness. It knocks on the doors of the heart and the heart opens. Poets speak truth in a very naked way that bypasses the rational mind. Poetry evokes, rather than describes.” [1]

I believe poetry can help us connect with our True Self, uninhibited by ego’s needs for certitude and security. A good poem can open us to experience Reality and let it shatter the walls that protect our falsity. Kabir (c. 1440-1580) was a religious reformer who “achieved a remarkable synthesis of Hindu, Muslim, and even Christian belief.” [2] He was an artist and musician, and his poems were probably originally songs. Sit with Kabir’s metaphor of unitive consciousness: “All know that the drop merges into the ocean, but few know that the ocean merges into the drop.”

Now let your heart open as you read this poem by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) [3]:

I’m too alone in the world, yet not alone enough
to make each hour holy.
I’m too small in the world, yet not small enough
to be simply in your presence, like a thing—
just as it is.

I want to know my own will
and to move with it.
And I want, in the hushed moments
when the nameless draws near,
to be among the wise ones—
or alone.

I want to mirror your immensity.
I want never to be too weak or too old
to bear the heavy, lurching image of you.

I want to unfold.
Let no place in me hold itself closed,
for where I am closed, I am false.
I want to stay clear in your sight.

I would describe myself
like a landscape I’ve studied
at length, in detail;
like a word I’m coming to understand;
like a pitcher I pour from at mealtime;
like my mother’s face;
like a ship that carried me
when the waters raged.

They say it is worth learning German, just to read this poem in its original.

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

[1] Mirabai Starr, Unitive Consciousness: An Eastern Perspective, an unpublished webcast (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2015).
[2] Daniel Ladinsky, Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West, (Penguin Compass: 2002), 209.
[3] Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy, trans., Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God (Riverhead Books: 1996), 67-68. Used with permission.

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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