famous

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,   
which knew it would inherit the earth   
before anybody said so.   

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.   

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.   

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.   

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.   

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,   

but because it never forgot what it could do.   

Famous by Naomi Shihab Nye
in 180 More – Extraordinary poems for everyday, selected by Billy Collins

so much happiness

It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.

But happiness floats.
It doesn’t need you to hold it down.
It doesn’t need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records…

Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch.  you are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.

Naomi Shihab Nye

the size of the cloth

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.

How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.


Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.

You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night the plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say,
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Nye

missing the boat

I’m a derelict today so please enjoy this awesome poem we heard read last night by Sensei Beate Stolte in her talk from Upaya: Fundamental Point of Zen:

Missing the Boat

It is not so much that the boat passed
and you failed to notice it.
It is more like the boat stopping
directly outside your bedroom window,
the captain blowing the signal-horn,
the band playing a rousing march.

The boat shouted, waving bright flags,
its silver hull blinding in the sunlight.

But you had this idea you were going by train.

You kept checking the time-table,
digging for tracks.

And the boat got tired of you,
so tired it pulled up the anchor
and raised the ramp.

The boat bobbed into the distance,
shrinking like a toy–
at which point you probably realized
you had always loved the sea.

Naomi Shihab Nye Different Ways to Pray– Breitenbush Publications, 1980


Thank you for practicing,

Genju

practicing wellbeing

Previous: clear waters

The Practice of Wellbeing

Living Well

The practice of living well is simple.  Choose the actions that sustain physical health and joy.  Engage in the activities that are useful and beneficial to ourselves and others.  Adjust and adapt when conditions change and those activities are no longer useful or beneficial.  When we are on autopilot and catch ourselves hopping on a train, we can remember our intention to practice wellbeing and return to that station with ease.

The practice of living well is not easy.  We tend to be distracted or hyper-focused, demanding or disconnected, clinging or disinterested.  We hold beliefs that we are entitled to certain things in our life that are also a measure of our acceptability or success.  And often the actions that grant us those things have a cost.  We feel off kilter, off center, tipping too far over into distress and ill health.  We become reactive and forget our skillfulness in living well.  Our lives are filled with trains that take us nowhere or to destinations that are unpleasant.

Wellbeing is not the absence of illness or distress.  It is the recognition that we are tipping over, remembering where we felt balanced, and returning that center point.  When we engage in our actions with awareness of what is useful, beneficial and the cost of our choices, we are practicing a skillful way to return to the center.  The stronger the skill in remembering and recovering that center, the more skillful we become in at practicing wellbeing.

That process of noticing, remembering, and recovering embody the practice of mindfulness.  We pay attention, become aware, recall past consequences and skillful actions, and make choices in this moment that are based in our belief that living well is the only act of kindness possible for ourselves and others.

A poem by Naomi Shihab Nye:

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth
What you held in you hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.

How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.

You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night the plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Nye

Thank you for practicing,

Genju