What if you woke up each morning to a poem instead of an alarm? Poet Naomi Shihab Nye, famous for her poem “Kindness” (you can read it here: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/kindness), woke her son up for years with poetry from poets all over the world. Always short, sometimes just a stanza of a poem, that morning’s poem would come up, over time, in the family’s conversations as their son brought up the feelings and ideas evoked in him by the poem of the morning. What would grow in us if we took time each day for poetry? What would grow in our families? I love Nye’s description of a poem: “When you’re in a quiet place, when you’re remembering, when you’re savoring an image, when you’re allowing your mind calmly to leap from one through to another, that’s a poem.”
The idea of stretching our vocabulary with poetic images, to be able to express feelings and beliefs we may not have even been aware of; to open to deepening relationships with both ourselves and others, that is the gift of poetry. And all of us are poets. What if each day you were to write down in a journal just a few phrases of images, memories, or feelings that you noticed in your day? In no time at all, piecing them together, you would have a snapshot of what you are consciously and unconsciously moved by: the starry shapes of yellow daffodils, cawing crows carefully gathering bark and sticks and flying off towards new homes, longer days lifting spirits. These images remind me how beautiful it is to see the season changing and spring brightening the landscape. Taking the time to notice images is a gratitude practice, noticing what mattered to you that day that you are grateful for. This has been shown to be powerfully beneficial by enhancing empathy, reducing aggression, and improving sleep, self-esteem and physical and psychological health. Such a simple act – expressing your gratitude for 2-3 things each day, can make a big difference in your life. We tend to wait for those big moments to be grateful (celebrations, rituals, successes) but each day our lives are made up of hundreds of little acts and images that we can be grateful for (enough food, a roof over our heads, running water, flushing toilets, chocolate, butterflies).
As spring breaks out around us, you might play with these spiritual practices of poetry and gratitude to remind you of what matters, what makes a difference each day, and who you are as you piece together these moments, images and ideas. Happy Spring!