Author: <span class="vcard">Gudrun</span>

cactuswithflowerAttack
I intend to create a cacti fence
at the forest edge, drop several sharp thorn
plants and do not see how I angered
yellow jackets that fly up without warning
under my hat, into my shirt.

24 hours later, when face, chest and arm swell
to unsightly proportions,
I understand how instant karma is better
than when I have forgotten the cause,
and that pain is only seeking compassion

for all creatures,
so I open my windows,
welcome wind, welcome sun,
knowing a song to heal this day
is about to be born.

© Gudrun Mouw

A Poem

momflowerSince adolescence, I have been an avid journal writer. I learned, over time, to go back frequently and read through my journals in order to get a feel for certain themes and patterns. I haven’t been doing that much lately and right after breakfast this morning, I decided it was the right moment. I open my current journal to the first page and am shocked that I had begun it over 4 years ago. I remember many journals that ended after just a year. Becoming a grandmother has been a rich and beautiful distraction.

The current journal begins with a quote from the Gospel of Tomas: “If you bring forth what is within you, it will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, it will destroy you.” I do not remember how I came by this quote, but it still seems incredibly relevant. The next journal entry spoke of tumult I had been experiencing in one of the yoga classes, because of a particular student, who I considered to be difficult at the time. Looking back, I see that the problem got resolved, because I was, finally, able to “bring forth” my anger and speak truthfully about the situation….

I escape outside to do yard work before it gets too hot. This morning’s fog didn’t last very long. Living on over an acre next to a forest, there is always much to do. I consider fire clearance work to be a year-round effort, and this year I feel an even more urgent need to be diligent in the face of California’s drought. I recycle water from the kitchen sink to care for plants that have survived an unusually dry and cold winter. We have long given up on a lawn.

I like outdoor work, raking, weeding and hauling away dry grasses to our compost pile, not minding the lack of help. A long-ago yoga student, who in exchange for my role in his life as a “spiritual/yoga advisor,” used to come once or twice a week to assist me in the yard. I lived in Santa Barbara at the time. The garden was overgrown in spite of the professional crew who came once a month. My student and I talked yoga stuff and life stuff while we pruned and watered. It was great fun.

Near noon, more tired than usual from nursing a burn on my right hand, my glove was beginning to irritate the healing process, and I come inside ready to “bring forth what is within.” I treat my wound, have a well deserved lunch, smiling as I write this, because what is within is a sense of peace and contentment that comes from having worked hard, without agenda, without resentment, with enthusiasm and perfect timing.

 Gudrun

Personal Updates

 

calmblossum

 

The poems in the series called, “Six Movements” in Wife of the House are, for me, an example of how poetry “pokes holes” in consciousness, which I mentioned in my blog called, “The Book Release Reading.” After a night under the stars in a heightened state of consciousness, having just read The Kabir Book: Ecstatic Poems by Kabir, Versions by Robert Bly, it seemed as if a veil had blown away. Clear space opened, and then rapture

…arrives
electric in the red river
reason shatters

from Movement 2

apricotblossumexplosionRapture is not about a feeling of reward one might get after a goal is achieved, or a desire is fulfilled. Rapture is more like a surprise explosion and is often interpreted as an intoxication, or even “over joyfulness;” or it is seen as a trance-like state.

For me, rapture is an expression of consciousness moving with great force toward new understanding and insight. In that sense, rapture isn’t self-indulgent, as some might think, but it serves a greater purpose. In its highest form, perhaps, rapture may move one closer to a state the yogis call “samadhi,” or enlightenment.

 At midnight it goes
that boundary between my arm
and the breeze

from Movement 5

Jack Kornfield, in Seeking the Heart of Wisdom, talks about rapture as one of the “Seven Factors of Enlightenment,” and as a process of “learning to live and practice with a light heart.” Once that happens, I think, the real work of integration can begin. Though rapture stands apart in its truth, beauty and intensity, my teacher and guide, Swami Satchidananda Yogiraj, often urged that the benefits of our attainments be used to “lead a dedicated life,” meaning to lead a life that serves a higher purpose than one’s own selfish interest.

The Process of Writing

In the past, when I won a prize, published my work, or had a book accepted for publication, expectations rose, but things did not always go well. It reminds me of my teacher, Swami Satchidananda, who often said, “make no appointments and you will have no disappointments.” Disappointment, I have noticed can sometimes lead to bitterness.

I do not consider myself to be a bitter person. When my American Sabbath school teacher called me “a martyr for my religion,” I did not connect with what she was talking about. I was not aware of holding resentment for the brutalities I experienced as a child born in Europe during the last world war.

The problem with bitterness is that, for me, it became like a secretly poisoned drink where the bitter taste could not easily be detected. Eventually, I realized I was bitter about two books that had been accepted for publication but didn’t make it through to the final process.

I was also bitter about the sense of failure I had regarding my teacher, who after learning about a poetry prize I had won, congratulated me warmly, as if he had always know I would do him proud and said, “Write, write…publish.” However, I felt for some years I was not able to live up to his words of encouragement.

One of my favorite poems that personifies a personal experience of going beyond negative patterns (such as bitterness) in Wife of the House is “Lila’s Love:

Gazing beyond plank and beam
beyond floorboard and frame
of self she twirls
to the core of eucalyptus
 

On the other side of bitterness, I discovered joy, especially, joy as a great healer. Recently, I heard a conversation and could not help but respond:

 Overheard

“Are you happy?”
“What about?”
Happiness is nothing
to be about; joy is
everything.

I am grateful these days to be aware of how unacknowledged bitterness, resentments and disappointments can create an atmosphere of insecurity and a lack of fulfillment. Joy, on the other hand, is free from all such contractions.

 Gudrun

The Process of Writing

I remember a mountain hike with my daughter. Before we reached that remarkable Santa Barbara County ocean view from over 3,000 feet, we saw the remains of cattle on a summer dry meadow. There was not much left but shrunken hides and separated bones. We stopped. We did not speak. The sight relieved us of words.

Many years later, I am still haunted by that scattered sight of death. I do not know why this vision has emerged now. I don’t remember having written about this particular experience before. There has been a silence around the subject of death that has imprinted itself over the years—a silence that appears to ask me to look more deeply.asianclouds

Once, a fellow middle school student questioned me, “Have you ever seen death?” I answered incorrectly, “No.” It took a long time for me to acknowledge out loud the truth of my early life. Even now, it often seems easier to address my early exposure to death through my writing.

My last public reading, before the Wife of the House book release, was at the behest of my friend, Perie Longo, who was Santa Barbara’s poet laureate at the time. At that reading, I shared a poem that addressed some painful recollections:

 

The Quality of Light

Exploding bombs saved my grandfather
from the Auschwitz train; the town hid him,
and we who had been marked to follow the fate
of rejected religion fell like blessings in the snow—
my first memory, cold at my back
and the sharp glint of a bayonet.

Inside one of those other camps
filled with ghosts of humanity
and alcoholic Russian guards
who came to hate their lives
as much as they hated us,

my second memory was light—
outside the screams, shots and beatings
and that stench of death and dying–
sun through a damaged roof
spread inside me like a healing balm.

The “Quality of Light,” speaks of a subject that is explored in my forthcoming poetry collection called Frozen Souls. Such poems depict an intense and difficult history in order to invoke transformation, which seems to me to be a natural part of the process of birth, death and dying.

Wife of the House, on the other hand, is a collection about the process of learning how to connect the details of one’s every day life to a sense of presence and mindfulness in order to experience an expansion of consciousness. “Truth is One; Paths are Many,” was one of my guru’s favorite mottos, which brought home to me the value of tolerance gained through the exposure to different life experiences, cultures, belief systems, etc., a tolerance that can ultimately help us to be more whole as human beings.

Gudrun

A Poem Forthcoming Work

I apologize, the comments option has been turned off. My daughter has just updated the last two posts so comments can be posted. Thank you.

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