Tag: Spiritual

 

When I am liberated by silence…
My whole life becomes a prayer.

—Thomas Merton

 

I still see that light shining around
any object; and I still feel that current,
sometimes so strong I may not
have feet on the ground.

And that space inside grows larger,
like a scary no beginning, no end;
vibrating, vibrating until the silence
is no longer silent.

 

 

Gudrun Mouw (c)
July 4, 2017

A Poem

The publisher of Raincloud Press recently sent me a review of my poetry book, Wife of the House, saying she thought I might “enjoy it.” The review had been posted on LibraryThing, a website for librarians.

I was pleased by a thoughtful and erudite discussion of poetry in general and also appreciated the reference to Wife of the House as “spiritual writing” and what the reviewer called “the backdrop of second-wave feminism.” I was intrigued and more fully understood, perhaps for the first time, why the book did not find an audience earlier.

The broad perspective and historical overview the reviewer exhibited in her piece was not available when I first tried to publish my collection. Decades ago, I read from another manuscript called Frozen Souls at an UC Santa Barbara event. A playwright contacted me afterwards, asked to read my entire manuscript and spoke to me about turning it into a play. Frozen Souls is a collection of poems that tell the story of two people, a girl and a man. The voice of the girl grows into a woman, and the male voice remains that of a mature man.

The playwright wished to change the male character into a woman for the play. At the time, I had already formulated a direction which the LibraryThing reviewer called “different from the culture of feminism rooted in the Friedan era.” I had chosen, which the reviewer correctly pointed out, to explore “feminist and metaphysical themes” in order to find a healing path that does not exclude anyone.

As a result, the Frozen Souls project did not move forward. I regretted this, on occasion, thinking, perhaps, I was getting it wrong and that I was out of step with the times. The current review gives me renewed faith that spiritual growth and the evolution of feminist consciousness do not need to be antagonistic issues. Put another way, and as Sri Swami Satchidananda repeated many times, “Paths are Many, Truth is One.”

 

 

(Frozen Souls is a collection of poetry scheduled for publication in 2016)

The Process of Writing

The Sun She Comes and Goes

 

February’s night creatures

often shrink

with cold

and frank impatience.

 

Sometimes warm, sometimes hidden

behind high clouds, today’s sun teaches

about the pleasant and unpleasant.

 

Though thoughts arise,

dissolve,

light continues to spread

beyond herself.

 

SunRiseDkThis morning I woke up late. It was close to 5:30 am. I was not happy about it, because of my schedule to teach a morning yoga class. I was concerned there wouldn’t be enough time for morning meditation and yoga practice. I lit two candles, took some water and, instinctively, began the yoga pranayama called Bastrika, or rapid breathing with retention.

I remember a story told by one of my teachers, Swami Vishnudevananda, at his ashram in Grass Valley, California where my daughter and I stayed for a time. He said, “Meditation is like jumping into a mountain stream. It is crystal clear when you look at it, but even when you just step in, it becomes murky. With stillness and patience you will see how natural currents wash away sediment stirred up from the bottom.”

I realize how the breathing practice quickly created currents that washed away a challenging mind state. My lack of ease about how much time I had or didn’t have could have impaired the meditation process, but the breathing practice released this obstacle.

I am reminded of a story from another Ashram where I lived for nearly two years with my daughter. I asked one of the Swami’s living there: How can I tell the difference between my thoughts and the thoughts of others? I’m having a great deal of difficulty with that, I told him.

He said, “Observe, carefully, how the thought arises, then, you will see where it is coming from.” This has turned out to be very good advice. It has relieved worry and cultivated compassion for the human condition common to us all. It has made it easier to take responsibility for my inner landscape. Today, for example, I was able to observe how anxiety arose but did not arrive, or find a place to reside.

A Poem Personal Updates

SunsetPaintedCavePoets such as Gerard Manley Hopkins and Emily Dickinson have appealed to me for the metaphysical nature of their work, their innovative use of language and spirit of independence. I admire in Sylvia Plath’s poetry what has been called her “control of intolerable pain.”

Theodore Roethke’s grandfather was a Prussian, as was my maternal grandfather. I was born in the home of my grandparents in East Prussia, and when I met the poet Kenneth Rexroth in the 1970s, he said that my poetry was very “Prussian.” At the time, I didn’t get what he meant by that. However, when I review Roethke’s work, I am still drawn, as I was from the first, by his wry approach to nature as a great clarifying force.

Discovering the mystical poets such  as Kabir and Rumi was very exciting for me. They both have the quality of being refreshingly irreverent and, at the same time, intensely spiritual. I find that these mystical poets’ ability to describe the strange and awesome world of ecstasy to be a continuing source of inspirations.

The Process of Writing

During the time I was working on the poems for Wife of the House, I wrote an article for the Premier Edition of the PRACTICAL MYSTIC called “Poetry as a Spiritual Journey.” The article still CroppedRiver90seems current. Certain excerpts make me smile, because I am surprised that I knew these things then. It’s a bit like a parent suddenly thinking, wow, when did my child become a thoughtful and conscious being. Here is a quote from the article:

The concept of a spiritual quest didn’t occur to me in the beginning. All I knew was that, through the reading and writing of poetry, I experienced a joyful, creative energy such as I hardly knew existed. I wanted to develop this heightened state of consciousness….Spiritual teachers who subsequently came into my life showed me the possibility of achieving greater mental clarity [through…the] process of quiet observation and meditation.

…I often like to write poems beginning with [an area of concern] or a lack of comprehension and depict [a] clarification which is discovered by the end of the poem.

An example of such a poem in Wife of the House is “Full Moon,” which begins with:

She sits hungry
for something
she cannot eat…

and ends:

Fruit suspended
on the tree
will ripen and break loose

 

This search for discovery depends on an attitude that the poem itself is guiding me. Consequently, I work as a scribe, and the voice of the poem is a gift of higher consciousness from everything around me. If a poem is faulty…, it is because I’m not a pure instrument; I don’t always hear or see, unhindered by old programming.

Also, I don’t always know what a poem’s gift is; sometimes, it takes years. Just recently, looking at the first poem in Wife of the House as something I might want to read to an audience, I was shocked to see something I had never wanted to acknowledge before. “A Young Girl’s Dream” is about a dream that had haunted me for many years. The last stanza,

She tries and tries
to keep from going bare
blossoms dropping
to her feet

 

I understood, at last, is about the aging process. The dream was prescient, and finally I am able to admit, though blossoms may fall away, each age has its own special beauty. Going bare can also be about feeling free to be transparent.

Gudrun

The Process of Writing

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Wife of the House is a book of poetry I wrote during a time when it wasn’t cool, in reply to the question, “What do you do?” to say, “I’m a housewife.” The poems became, at times, a defiant response to the blank expressions that sometimes greeted me when I gave such an answer. I am happy to see the women’s movement has evolved to the point that a person’s individual choice to work outside the home as a young mother, or to work at home is considered to be a matter not to be pre-judged by others.housewife2

The book’s title poem, “Wife of the House,” depicts the kind of prejudice in the market place against the so-called “unemployed” wife that is thankfully less prevalent in today’s plastic money age. On the other hand, such a poem can also serve as a reminder that there are still a number of areas where change is needed in order to promote fairness and equality for women.

There are modern family issues reflected in the Wife of the House poems that continue to be negotiated in every new generation. There are issues of personal freedom within family structures, the yearning for creative expression and solitude, or how one can transition from ideas to manifestation. I am still processing some of these issues of self-realization, and by being willing to continue the work I began so many years ago have uncovered a renewed optimism and enthusiasm.

Gudrun

The Process of Writing

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