Welcome to week four — the final week — of our practice. I’m excited to have had the opportunity to offer these excerpts from my new book, How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope. Please allow this week’s poem to spark your own joy, delight, memory, and imagination in whatever ways it will. As much as you can, I encourage you to create some quiet space to sit with this offering and see what it brings up for you.
Notice what you feel drawn to and honor how you feel moved to engage with the poem.
May you find delight and inspiration in this week’s practice.
With hope and love,
by Michael Kiesow Moore
. . . and silence is the golden mountain.
of our lives
lake of nothing,
then we can
us to be
to hear it.
You can find a printable version of this poem as part of our poetry collection.
Option 1: Stop here. Allow yourself to sit with this poem and let it live in you. Notice how and when it enters your awareness over time. What surfaces for you? If and when you’re ready, you might continue your exploration of the poem with option 2.
Option 2: Deepen your relationship with the poem with the following suggestions: You might begin by reflecting on your sense or interpretation of the poem, reading my reflection of the poem’s meaning as it feels helpful for your own reflection. Engage in the suggested practices to cultivate an embodied experience of the poem’s words and images.
Because my mind feels so full of “chatter,” I have had to learn ways to adapt, especially since we now have so many potential distractions at hand. For instance, I no longer sleep with my phone next to my bed, and try to stick to the rule of no texting or web-browsing after 8pm, no screens at all after 9. Sometimes, if I’m home alone and feel myself overly drawn into social media or work emails, I’ll unplug the wifi router and put away my phone, gifting myself at least a few hours of what I call “soul time” in order to get back in touch with myself.
We each have to find the ways that work best for us, yet I appreciate Michael Kiesow Moore’s opening invitation in this poem to “listen” to all the noise our devices and minds create in our lives, and then to “Turn everything off” and feel the difference for ourselves. I often have trouble letting go of the speed and busyness of work that follows me through the evening (especially now that I work from home), and no matter how much I can see “that golden mountain” of silence waiting off in the distance, it is much more tantalizing (and easier) to keep feeding the frenzy and stress.
I remember once being on a silent meditation retreat for five days, and having so much trouble quieting my mind that I began making plans to leave. Yet I kept at it in spite of my resistance, and during one of the seemingly endless meditation sessions, with both legs numb and aching, I felt a sudden shift inside my heart. Then I was finally able to “sink into that perfect lake of nothing.” The spacious emptiness didn’t last for more than a few moments, but I carried that slowness with me for several weeks, even after the retreat was over, knowing that any stillness we discover in our lives is always “a golden mountain” we’ll have to keep finding again and again each day.
Over the next week, watch for moments when you feel anxious or overwhelmed by news, social media, or work commitments or simply the chatter of your mind. If and when you can, turn off or put away all of your devices, gifting yourself with even a small amount of total quiet. You might have to sit with a bit of discomfort for a while, in meditation or simply paying attention to the space around you and your breath as it comes and goes in the body. But see if the feeling eventually shifts. Later on, or the next day, journal or write a poem about the quiet you allowed yourself to slip into. Was it difficult at first, or did the stillness feel welcoming from the very beginning?
We invite you to share your reflections in the space below the author bio.
James Crews is the author of four collections of poetry, The Book of What Stays, Telling My Father, Bluebird, and Every Waking Moment. He is also the editor of two anthologies: Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection and How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope. Crews teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Eastern Oregon University and lives with his husband on an organic farm in Vermont. jamescrews.net.
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“Golden mountain”: not an image I would have thought to connect with silence which I might usually picture as cool and blue-toned like still water, more like that “perfect lake of nothing” the chatter sinks into. “Golden mountain” calls to mind a mountain suffused with sunlight, warm and radiant, a beautiful image of peace and wholeness. The sense of sight contains in it some distance, so it is interesting that we don’t see the mountain, but “apprehend” it. Hearing is something we take inside of us: I like the twist of senses at the end of the poem: the golden mountain is “waiting for us to be still enough to hear it”.
I discovered that I cannot compose on the spot poetry, because I have to paint it first, which is done in silence, and which takes time, sometimes days. The words will come from somewhere, at some point, in the silence. James, this workshop has been meaningful to me, and will continue to keep your words and thoughts with me as I proceed. Grateful to you and Gratefulness for this ecoiurse. Sonya
James thank you so much. The poems you have picked have lifted my spirits up, gave grace to my soul, comfort for my thoughts. So creative and helpful.
Silence has at least two sides. Most of us know, far too well, the shadowy side of silence, which needs acknowledgment, but little more. It is the silence that clouds our judgement, hardens our hearts, and drains our souls. Paradoxically, our busy, media burden lives filled with deadlines, negative encounters, and endless to-do lists feeds that dark shadowy side of silence.
And, there is the life giving side of silence. It is warm, soft, golden and elusive. There are many pathways to finding that inner golden silence.. One can search and prepare for its arrival, but it may take days, even weeks, even years before one realizes the comforting presence of golden silence. Some as a vocation, or personal ritual, practice sitting and preparing for golden silence. However, some may find it while rocking a sleeping baby, or sitting without words next to a friend or loved one. Other individuals may find it working in the garden, sitting watching the dawn or the gathering dusk. It is the silence that clear the vision of one’s mind, heart and soul. It engenders clarifying insights and deepening gratitude. It opens the ears of one’s heart to the faint whispers of the universe and more.
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An eight-day practice inspired by Br. David Steindl-Rast’s appreciation of haiku.
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