Poems & Quotes for the Soul
This being human is a guest-house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you
out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Rumi, “The Guest House”
Translated by Coleman Barks
We have not come here to take prisoners
But to surrender ever more deeply
to freedom and joy.
We have not come into this exquisite world
to hold ourselves hostage from love. Run, my dear,
from anything that may not strengthen
your precious budding wings,
Run like hell, my dear,
from anyone likely to put a sharp knife
into the sacred, tender vision
of your beautiful heart.
We have a duty to befriend
those aspects of obedience
that stand outside of our house
and shout to our reason
“oh please, oh please
come out and play.”
For we have not come here to take prisoners,
or to confine our wondrous spirits,
But to experience ever and ever more deeply
our divine courage, freedom,
Hafiz, “The Gift”
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language. Even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.
Willing to experience aloneness,
I discover connection everywhere;
Turning to face my fear,
I meet the warrior who lives within;
Opening to my loss,
I gain the embrace of the universe;
Surrendering into emptiness,
I find fullness without end.
Each condition I flee from pursues me,
Each condition I welcome transforms me
And becomes itself transformed
Into its radiant jewel-like essence.
I bow to the one who has made it so,
Who has crafted this Master Game;
To play it is purest delight –
To honor its form, true devotion.
Jennifer Paine Welwood, “Unconditional”
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the door sill
Where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.
Today like every other day
We wake up empty and scared.
Don’t open the door of your study
And begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do
There are hundreds of way to kneel
And kiss the earth.
Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror
up to where you’re bravely working.
Expecting the worst, you look, and instead
here’s the joyful face you’ve been wanting to see.
Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you’d be paralyzed.
Your deepest presence is in every small contracting
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as bird wings.
When I’m with you
we stay up all night
When you’re not here
I can’t get to sleep
Thank god for these two insomnias
and the difference between them.
Trust your wound to a teacher’s surgery.
Flies collect on a wound. They cover it,
those flies of your self-protecting feelings,
your love for what you think is yours.
Let a teacher wave away the flies
and put a plaster on the wound.
Don’t turn your head. Keep looking
at the bandaged wound. That’s where
the light enters you.
And don’t believe for a moment
that you’re healing yourself.
Even after all these years
the sun doesn’t say
“You owe me”.
Look what happens!
The whole world lights up.
The trees before you and the bushes beside you are not lost.
Wherever you are is a place called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
Do Sad people have in
They have all built a shrine
To the past
And often go there
And do a strange wail and
What is the beginning of
It is to stop being
Hafiz, “Stop Being So Religious”
Now is the time
Now is the time to know
That all that you do is sacred.
Now, why not consider
A lasting truce with yourself and God?
Now is the time to understand
That all your ideas of right and wrong
Were just a child’s training wheels
To be laid aside
When you can finally live
with veracity and love.
Now is the time for the world to know
That every thought and action is sacred.
That this is the time
For you to compute the impossibility
That there is anything
Now is the season to know
That everything you do
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For the time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Wendell Berry, “The Peace of Wild Things”
“It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work,
and when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey.”
When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.
Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.
There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your womb
The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
David Whyte, from “Sweet Darkness”
“It Felt Love”
How did the rose
Ever open its heart
And give to this world
All its beauty?
It felt the encouragement of light
Against its being,
We all remain
If the angel deigns to come
it will be because you have convinced
her, not by tears but by your humble
resolve to be always beginning;
to be a beginner.
Rainer Maria Rilke
The time will come
When with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you have ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Derek Walcott, “Love after Love”
Earth teach me stillness
as the grasses are stilled with light.
Earth teach me suffering
as the old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me humility
as blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth teach me caring
as the mother who succors her young.
Earth teach me courage
as the tree which stands all alone.
Earth teach me limitation
as the ant which crawls on the ground.
Earth teach me freedom
as the eagle which soars in the sky.
Earth teach me resignation
as the leaves which die in the fall.
Earth teach me generation
as the seed which rises in the spring.
Earth teach me to forget myself
as melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me to remember kindness
as dry fields weep with rain