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Tribute to Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver the great American poet died on January 17th 2019 at the age of 83. She was a prolific writer whose work received many awards and accolades. Her collection American Primitive received the Pulitzer Prize in 1984, and in 1992, she was awarded the National Book Award. Many of her poems are well known and used by teachers within the dharma community as well as the wider mindfulness meditation movement.

I first came across her work about five years ago in her New and Selected Poems and have found her poetry a continued source of inspiration. Her poems have a contemplative and detailed attention to the natural world. Often they evoke joy, delight, surprise and a sense of interconnection. Whilst her poems are often light and almost conversational in tone they often introduce a deeper reflection upon our lives. I feel it is this quality of reflection, particularly upon transience, as well as the evocation of attentive presence to the natural world, that have made her poems so endearing to practitioners of meditation. I leave you with what I believe to be one of her finest poems “Morning Walk”.

 

Little by little

the ocean

empties its pockets –

foam and fluff;

and the long, tangled ornateness

of seaweed;

or the whelks,

ribbed or with ivory knobs;

but so knocked about

in the sea’s blue hands

and their story is at length only

about the wholeness of destruction –

they come one by one

to the shore

to the shallows

to the mussel-dappled rocks

to the rise to dryness

to the edge of the town

to offer, to the measure that we will accept it,

this wisdom:

though the hour be whole

though the minute be deep and rich

though the heart be a singer of hot red songs

and the mind be as lightning,

what all the music will come to is nothing,

only the sheets of fog and the fog’s blue bell –

you do not believe it now, you are not supposed to,

you do not believe it yet – but you will –

morning by singular morning,

and shell by broken shell.

Contributed by Mike

 

Birth and Becoming

By Ajahn Chah

“It is taught that birth is suffering, but it doesn’t really mean dying from this life and taking rebirth in the next life. That’s too far away. The suffering of birth happens right now. It’s said that becoming is the cause of birth. What is this “becoming”? Anything that we attach too and put meaning on is becoming. Whenever we see anything as self or other or belonging to ourselves, without wise discernment that such is only a convention, that is becoming. Whenever we hold to something as “us” or “ours” and it then undergoes change, the mind is shaken by that. It is shaken by a positive or negative reaction. That sense of self experiencing happiness or unhappiness is birth.  When there is birth it brings suffering along with it, because everything must change and disappear.”

Contributed by Ray