Sometimes innocuous things scare me. Poetry was one of those things. My fear dates back to high school when we had to read poems I didn’t understand, composed of elements I didn’t understand. Iambic pentameter comes to mind.
Even though poetry scared me, I was still drawn to it. So to overcome this fear I went to a poetry workshop put on by the public library – Mindfulness and Poetry with Melinda Burns.
I loved how Melinda explained that mindfulness is “moment to moment non-judgmental awareness” and that poetry “puts that into words”. Basically, a poem is “someone really paying attention to life experience.”
Melinda introduced me to free verse poetry. It didn’t have to rhyme and I didn’t have to know the meaning of iambic pentameter. All of a sudden a form of expression with a large number of unknowable rules had no rules at all! A poem didn’t even need punctuation. How wonderful!
In her poem, How to Write a Poem, Melinda says to:
Forget everything you know about poetry
and remember this:
the poem is inside you …
Listen for the words that
lift the veil to the other world
where you know what you know …
I wrote my first poems that evening and they lifted that veil for me. I’d been feeling really down for a few days and not sure why. Before we started writing our poems, Melinda asked us to do an exercise where we wrote down things we had noticed in the last few days – ordinary things we had seen or heard or smelled. The one that stood out for me was the pastel colours on the cover of a book I had been reading for several days. I chose that book cover for the subject of my first poem and that poem shed some light on why I was feeling so down.
The book was filled with stories about the author’s life and recent losses. It was well written and I was quickly immersed in her world. Her personality and sense of humour were similar to mine so it was easy for me to take on the heavy energy in the book. The author’s world had become mine. I was carrying her grief and her frustrations. And from that low place I seemed to have no trouble finding examples from my own life to fuel my sadness. Misery loves company and I was able to find lots of company for my literary induced misery.
Writing those poems helped me access the inner knowledge of where my sadness was coming from – someone else’s life – someone else’s losses. Even though it felt like mine, it wasn’t my sadness at all. However, just knowing the heavy energy wasn’t mine didn’t release it.
Fortunately, I have been working with a gifted teacher, Kelly Pritchard, and she led me through a guided meditation to release the energy. She guided me to ask myself “What is standing between me and feeling fine?” It felt like something heavy and sad weighing down on me like a heavy, grey, wet blanket. She asked me to get quiet and first ask myself “Is this my energy?” and see how that made me feel and then ask “Is this someone else’s energy?” and see how that felt. The heavy feeling went away in response to the first question and came back in response to the latter. It was clearly someone else’s energy. With Kelly’s help, I pictured myself connected and rooted to the earth and sent the heavy energy that wasn’t mine permanently back to the earth. I felt lighter almost instantly.
I’ve spent the last several months cultivating getting quiet and listening. Opening space to hear what my body and spirit are trying to tell me. Now I have poetry to use as another way to get quiet and listen and a powerful meditation practice to use when I’m feeling out of sorts. Thank you Melinda and Kelly!
The Book Cover by Lisa Ivaldi
Which book to read next?
I love this moment
Full of promise
New ideas, new perspectives
I love the colours on this one!
Beautiful pastel lines on the cover
Such a joy to behold
So glad to be finished
the beautiful book filled with sad stories