Listen to the following three poems on the Audio page, and then allow yourself some time to reflect and write in your journal about whatever comes up for you.
When you are finished, put your journal down and let your lesson “rise.” Good writing is like homemade bread and takes time to rise. Resist the urge to read it over, criticize, cross out, or share too soon. Let it alone. Give it time.
Give yourself time, too. You are writing for the person you are becoming.
Then, at least a week—or better, a month—later, return to what you have written and read it now that the writing—and you—have had the time to rise.
From this perspective of the self you are rising into and becoming (what some people call the “higher self” and I call the deep, inner voice of wisdom), you will be able to reflect back upon your earlier writing and have the wisdom to understand what your deep, inner voice was saying.
Fire rises when all else falls away.
So light is loss, so simple burn.
Smoke rises, too, the sign of what is
going, the promise of return.
The sky is the place our minds go to look
for nothingness, but even then great clouds come in.
I have learned to greet absence as an opportunity.
To see the violence of constant win.
Still I dream of one thing I cannot lose.
An end to hardness, and nothing more to choose.
You ask me to join you in your cave, and I do.
I sit down on the damp floor and we watch the dark walls
dripping with yellow light from the candle.
You are like that light,
I tell you.
See how you affect everything around you.
You do not believe me.
It takes time.
I breathe out. I let go of my impatience,
even though I know candles do eventually burn out.
I must let you take your time.
This is what we have forgotten:
the way the water collects
at the bottom of each leaf
overnight. And in that drop
is a tear. And in that tear
is a spider. And when the drop
falls, you can hear the spider
singing as she throws silk
back onto the leaf. In this
falling and singing and
coming back up is a circle
of motion that can save us,
if only we would hear it.
Next week is the autumn equinox, and this is a time of balance.
There is a wonderful exercise that many business people have to do each year to get ready for tax time, and it is called “balancing the books.” To do it, you record all the expenses for the year, and you balance them by recording all the income. By doing this, you get a clear picture of what the business has lost or gained over the course of the year. Being honest about this is vitally important for the health of the business, and in turn, for the health of our whole economy.
You can balance the books, too, now at the autumn equinox—the next time you are in a tight spot, uncertain of your next step, unhappy and stuck, or angry and spinning, sit down with your journal and write about the situation in a way that balances both emotion and event.
Take five …
If you are drowning in feeling, give yourself five minutes to discharge the emotion, using “I feel … ” statements.
Then, for five minutes, switch to a more objective or journalistic style: Write what happened to trigger these feelings—the who, what, when, where, why, and how. Let yourself get the story out.
If you are an analyzer, try the opposite and give yourself five minutes to analyze what happened.
Then switch. Download your emotion onto the page for five minutes. Let yourself feel.
Research by James Pennebaker has actually shown that journaling in this balanced way can help reduce chronic pain from recurring conditions such as asthma and arthritis.
Do your own research. Try balancing your books and see what happens.
For many people in the United States, this day in September recalls a time of trauma that reverberated for years around the globe. Many of us have healed from individual and collective traumatic histories in our lives.
What lies beyond your own fear?
Take 20 minutes with your journal to find out.
What used to scare you as a child? Write about this in your journal; you may want to do this exercise in the presence of a trusted friend or therapist or coach.
First, spend ten minutes writing about what happened. Who? What? When? Where? Think of yourself as a journalist. Get down the facts. Tell the story.
Time yourself so you feel safe and have boundaries around what you are doing.
When ten minutes are up, switch to a new page and write about how you felt. Pour out all the feelings. The anger, the fear, the sadness, the numbness, the anxiety.
Again, time yourself so you can safely go into these feelings and come back out again. In opening yourself to writing in this balanced way, you are using your hands and your heart and your mind and your memory to create the key that will heal your fear and unlock your own cage.
At the end of 20 minutes, answer this question in one sentence:
What is beyond my fear?
(The answer may surprise you—in a good way!)
When people say the earth is warming, we know it is true. We know this not because of statistics or quantitative proof but because we observe the effects of this heat in the lives of humans and the natural world every day.
In a lightning-speed, linear way, humans zoom. We rush away from our violent histories: domestic violence, sexual assault, war, combat trauma, genocide, slavery, colonization, global capitalism, climate change. And we propel ourselves into the future with fantasies of victory: conquest, winning, success.
And all of this leads to ever-increasing violence, a sense of disconnection from our minds and our bodies and our spirits, a hole in the center of ourselves that feels like an emptiness that can never be filled.
The way out of this is in the present. It is, literally, right here.
In this moment.
We do not have to try.
There is nothing we need to do.
Do we force the plant to fruit, fruit, fruit?
No. We reach out our fingers and pluck the grape gently from its climbing vine and place the round shape on our tongue. Bite slowly. Savor the wet sweetness. Swallow.
This is how it gets done.
This Labor Day, rest from your labors, from your rushing and trying and pushing and striving. Isn’t it time that you did?