Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

Wild Geese 

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Mary Oliver

The Journey by Mary Oliver

The Journey

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice–

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do–

determined to save

the only life you could save.

By Mary Oliver

Meditation: A Practice

Meditation is a word that can evoke all sorts of feelings within the self all the way from utter fear to deep love. There is a reason. When we sit on a cushion we sit with ourselves. We bravely take the time to be. Meditation is a way to train the mind. The mind, used to being free, will resist. Stay the course. To know the mind, is to know the self. Here is one of many ways to begin.

Find a spot that is quiet, where you can sit with your spine straight. If it is helpful for you to sit against a wall or with back support, please do so.

Set a timer for 5 minutes. Make the commitment to SIT STILL for five minutes. All sorts of thoughts and sensations will try to distract you from your commitment, be firm, no movement. When we move we distract ourselves. The point of meditation is to see how long we stay with ourselves without being distracted.

Focus your attention on your breath, either as it moves in through your nostrils or as your chest/abdomen rises and falls.

Every time you realize your mind has wandered, kindly say to yourself “thinking” and come back to noticing the breath. If you think the entire time, be gentle with yourself. If you can only focus on the breath for a second at a time, but notice you lost your awareness of the breath, great, be kind with yourself. You see meditation not only trains the mind to focus, it also trains us to be kind with ourselves. What a gift!

Practice this as much as you can. Soon you will be sitting for 10 minutes, and more once you realize the benefit. Studies show that it takes 30o repetitions to get muscle memory, 3,000 to reach embodiment and 10,000 to reach mastery. That said, the more your practice the faster you will live into a new relationship with your mind. Also remember the earth moves in cycles, daily, monthly, seasonal cycles rule our lives. If by chance you happen into a cycle of non-meditation, be kind to yourself and return to your practice when you can.

If you need more help, invite perspective. Email for more tips and tricks. Join us for a practice session. The support you need is out there, you only need to ask.

A New Voice, A Kind Voice

An author that I love, Michael Singer, has a book titled The Untethered Soul. The book is a fascinating read. In one chapter he writes about the voice we all have in our head. You know, the voice that says you are stupid, look old, do everything wrong, are insensitive, eat poorly, etc.; the voice that is our constant companion. Singer proposes that if said voice was a friend outside of our head, we would have ended the friendship a long time ago. We would never stand to be spoken to that rudely, yet we speak to ourselves that way all the time.

Often it is hard to hear the voice, it speaks frequently and is habitual therefore we tend not to notice. Yet this internal voice shapes how we engage with the world. We can have supportive family and friends on the outside, but if the voice on the inside is mean and nasty, we give more weight to this inner truth than to the outer world view of us. Instead of seeing the supportive family and friends, we see the opposite. We collect data to support our inner view of ourselves. We validate our story.

This voice also shapes our body. When we feel great and things are going our way, we hold our body in a way that reflects our circumstances. We smile, we look up and engage people with eye contact, keep our spine straight, and walk confidently with firm strides. We embody our mood. When we do not feel great, are having a bad day/week/month/year/life our body reflects that as well. We do not smile, if we do it is contrived, we look down and avoid contact, we slouch, and we walk limply. In this respect, we also embody our mood.

We can fire the voice. When we fire the voice, we fire the mood and all sorts of capacity becomes available to us. We can say thank you very much, I know you are trying to protect me, you have served me well, now rest. There is a new voice that I wish to listen to now.

In order to fire the voice, I mean really fire the voice not just reduce its hours to part time, we have to create practices to make space to listen for the new voice. One practice that I have used to support my new voice is meditation. This practice allows me to hear my voice without any external distractions. Over time, I was able to hear the new voice not just on the cushion, but everywhere in my life. The old voice came by now and again for an alumni party but did not stay very long! See post on meditation for instructions.

Another practice is to read Mary Oliver’s poem, The Journey, five times a day to yourself. This poem describes what it feels like to hear your pure voice for the first time, and recognize the resistance that occurs when we choose the new voice instead of the old.

Lastly, ask for help. Give new life to yourself; ask all the people you know to give you only positive, supportive feedback for a week. See if you can hear it. Go ahead invite perspective, this is a voice that is truly your own, please make space to listen. The world needs your unique voice, it is calling you.