Poetry can be an amazing way to get us in touch with our thoughts and feelings. Let's face it, sometimes we have no idea what we're feeling or why. Poetry offers us artistic expression for what we cannot fully express.
Here are just some of my favorite poets and poems that describe matters of the heart, mind and soul!
A CONFESSION : Jeff Foster
My most crippling suffering and depression
became my greatest teacher.
ended up pointing me
to that place of total surrender,
to the giving-up of the war with life,
to who I really Am
beyond my story.
If you had told me this years ago
(that suffering was an invitation to grace)
I may have laughed at you,
called you a liar,
booted you out of the room.
I couldn’t hear it then.
I hear it now.
This is the paradox of suffering:
Life can hurt, hurt deeply,
but that hurt always contains an invitation
To let go.
That which threatens to destroy us
invites us home.
And then one day,
we look back at our suffering
With eyes of gratitude.
FINDING GOLD: Jeff Foster
If we run away from our sadness,
If we turn our backs on anger,
If we deny fear its inherent right to be here,
If we kick our pain out onto the cold, dark streets,
How will we ever know
That these weren’t precious gifts made of gold,
Forged in the fires of ourselves long ago?
ON CHANGE: Jeff Foster
The greatest change seems to happen
When we stop trying to change
And sink creatively into the mystery of the moment.
The greatest transformation seems to happen
When we stop looking for the ‘solution’
And end the war with the non-existent ‘problem’
The greatest healing seems to happen
When the ‘healer’ gets out of the way
And all of life’s energies are allowed to flow freely.
YES I AM BROKEN, BUT I AM WHOLE!: Jeff Foster
You do not heal 'from' trauma.
You simply come to know yourself
as Life Itself.
And you turn towards the wounded place.
And you flush it with attention,
which is love.
And maybe the wound will always be with you.
Maybe you will always walk with the hurt.
But now, you hold it. It doesn't hold you.
You are the container, not the contained.
It doesn't control you any longer, the wound.
Because it is drenched in awareness now.
Drenched in You.
Loved by You.
Even celebrated by You.
You do not heal 'from' trauma.
You find healing 'in' the trauma.
You find yourself at trauma's sacred core.
The One who is always present.
The One who can bear
even the most intense feeling states.
The Indestructible One.
The Infinite One.
The Powerful One.
The trauma itself becomes a portal to God.
To the Absolute.
To the Safety of Yourself.
And you will cry out in joy,
and you will cry out in sadness,
and you will cry out in relief,
and you will cry out in revelation,
"Yes I am broken,
but I am whole!"
A MILLION SHADES OF GREY: Jeff Foster
You can feel
excitement and sorrow
at the same time.
You can hold
boredom and bliss
You can be the wide open space
for guilt and joy,
'Contradictory' feelings often arise together.
As the mind struggles
to 'make sense' of experience,
seeking a non-existent
(its version of 'safety').
But human experience is never black and white.
And 'opposing' feelings
can co-exist peacefully.
In the Sky of Presence,
the Sky of You.
is knowing yourself
as the space
for ALL feelings,
No contradiction there.
BE LOVE: Jeff Foster
Don't seek love.
Be what you are.
Be the unconditional Presence
in which every thought,
sensation, feeling, sound,
has a loving home.
Break the spell of unlovability.
Destroy the lie of unworthiness.
Be what you are.
Still I Rise: Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Phenomenal Woman: Maya Angelou
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Be Still: Thomas Merton
Listen to the stones of the wall.
Be silent, they try
to speak your
to the living walls.
Who are you?
are you? Whose
silence are you?
Who (be quiet)
are you (as these stones
are quiet). Do not
think of what you are
still less of
what you may one day be.
be what you are (but who?)
be the unthinkable one
you do not know.
O be still, while
you are still alive,
and all things live around you
speaking (I do not hear)
to your own being,
speaking by the unknown
that is in you and in themselves.
“I will try, like them
to be my own silence:
and this is difficult. The whole
world is secretly on fire. The stones
burn, even the stones they burn me.
How can a man be still or
listen to all things burning?
How can he dare to sit with them
when all their silence is on fire?”
On Pain: Kahlil Gibran
Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.
Much of your pain is self-chosen.
It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.
Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquillity:
For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen,
And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.
On Marriage: Kahlil Gibran
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.
On Self-Knowledge: Kahlil Gibran
Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.
But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart's knowledge.
You would know in words that which you have always known in thought.
You would touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams.
And it is well you should.
The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea;
And the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes.
But let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure;
And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.
For self is a sea boundless and measureless.
Say not, "I have found the truth," but rather, "I have found a truth."
Say not, "I have found the path of the soul." Say rather, "I have met the soul walking upon my path."
For the soul walks upon all paths.
The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself like a lotus of countless petals.
On Joy and Sorrow: Kahlil Gibran
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, "Joy is greater thar sorrow," and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater."
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.
you were made of the sky
do you remember that?
Before they told you
what you were supposed to be
Before they destroyed
your elegant wings.
Before they tricked you
and chained you to an idea
to a prison they made for you
branded you with a label, with pain
Tried to remold you
easier for them
But your blood
didn’t let you
forget, did it?
The taste of the sky,
The memories of flying
to the horizon just to kiss
the sun before he fell asleep.
Once Apollo himself loved you
so much, that he softened
the sun’s heat so it could
not melt your wings.
He is still waiting for you
to remember who you were
before they turned you
into something they understood.
Come, you have always known
what it would take
to eat those chains,
to fly free again.
Nothing about this
was ever going to be easy
Freedom was built
on backs and bones and blood.
Take the thing
that is owed to you.
Forge new wings
in the belly of betrayal.
Watch them quiver
as you rise again,
this time breathing fire
your spine made of fury.
Show them what happens
when they try to take the voice
from those born of the sky
Become your own battlecry.
- Nikita Gill, Freedom
This is the kind of hero you are: every time things have become so difficult you can barely breathe, you have clenched your jaw and pulled your way through. This is the kind of hero you are: you have saved yourself from drowning and waded your own body to the shore just in the nick of time. This is the kind of hero you are: every time someone has been cruel and beaten your heart to a bloody pulp, you have taken this broken thing and painstakingly brought it back to life. This is the kind of hero you are, you are your own knight in shining armour, you are a supernova.
- Nikita Gill, This Is The Kind Of Hero
You are a real thing in a world held together by thumbtacks and plastic people. You will struggle to be heard with your genuine birdsong voice amongst the drone of machines. This is why you need to learn to amplify yourself, my love. The world needs more like you and it desperately needs your tragic, beautiful, authentically human voice.
- Nikita Gill
This is your skin and you owe it to your body to be comfortable in it. This is your voice and you owe it to your truth to be strong and loud with it. This is your history and you owe it to your ancestors to fight and be proud of it. This is your soul. And you owe it to yourself to not let any human, any demons, any trauma desecrate the sanctity of it.
This is how you swallow courage and spit out pain. You feel it, all the way to those sinews within you. You learn from it, when it crescendos through your blood. You allow it to end at its own pace like a tragic symphony does. Then you take what it has left behind, the lesson that is the courage and you use that movement, that bravery to spit out the heartache.
Courage : Ann Sexton
It is in the small things we see it.
The child's first step,
as awesome as an earthquake.
The first time you rode a bike,
wallowing up the sidewalk.
The first spanking when your heart
went on a journey all alone.
When they called you crybaby
or poor or fatty or crazy
and made you into an alien,
you drank their acid
and concealed it.
if you faced the death of bombs and bullets
you did not do it with a banner,
you did it with only a hat to
comver your heart.
You did not fondle the weakness inside you
though it was there.
Your courage was a small coal
that you kept swallowing.
If your buddy saved you
and died himself in so doing,
then his courage was not courage,
it was love; love as simple as shaving soap.
if you have endured a great despair,
then you did it alone,
getting a transfusion from the fire,
picking the scabs off your heart,
then wringing it out like a sock.
Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow,
you gave it a back rub
and then you covered it with a blanket
and after it had slept a while
it woke to the wings of the roses
and was transformed.
when you face old age and its natural conclusion
your courage will still be shown in the little ways,
each spring will be a sword you'll sharpen,
those you love will live in a fever of love,
and you'll bargain with the calendar
and at the last moment
when death opens the back door
you'll put on your carpet slippers
and stride out.
Kindness: Naomi Shihab Nye
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 with 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
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 every where
like a shadow or a friend