Please join me, Kim Jordan, and other Deep Nature Poets as we deepen our relationships to ourselves, our loved ones, the greater living Earth community and the Divine. How?! By immersing ourselves in the beauty of nature and writing simple, present moment awareness poetry.
To begin, we’ll gather at a park and stroll in silence to an area that meets our needs. Our walks will range from 10 to 45 minutes depending on each site. When we reach our destination, you'll let yourself be drawn to a place where you can sit comfortably for 30 minutes.
You'll begin your meditation with eyes closed, resting the mind by bringing your attention to your senses. You might notice the warmth of the sun, the moisture in the air, the smell of moss or rich soil. You might feel uplifted by birdsong or grounded by the earth. After 10 minutes a meditation bell will sound and you'll open your eyes as slowly as possible. Now you can take in the beauty of color and form, the play of light, the activity of the creatures who poet David Whyte has noted “are unutterably themselves.”
After 10 minutes the bell will sound again and you’ll write from your heightened yet relaxed state. The point of the exercise is not necessarily to write a great poem, though that may very well happen. The point is to simply reflect what you observe in nature without imposing anything on to it. We'll engage with this prompt in the spirit of the Taoist sages whose poetry reflected the truth that “existence itself it poetical.”
In Spring when the flowers are all in bloom,
The evening river appears smooth and motionless.
Suddenly the tidewater comes with the reflection of glittering stars;
The ebbing waves carry away the image of the moon.
- Yang Kwang
At the third sounding of the bell, we’ll gather and I’ll break our silence with an invitation to share our poems, though there will be no pressure to read! As we walk back to our meeting place, we can discuss our experience.
At the very least, we’ll be invigorated and will hopefully take this more objective, embodied, present moment awareness back into our daily lives and relationships for a time. For instance, we might see our spouses, children, careers, etc. without superimposing any filter onto them, and this clarity might provide some needed space for deep, transformational conversation or insight.
The experience might also take our poetry to a new level or it might even allow us to penetrate the deeper reality of nature, if only for a moment. “We might stir the poet’s primordial innocence to consciousness,” or “rest in the single steam of heaven and earth.” These lines come from Creativity and Taoism: A Study of Chinese Philosophy, Art and Poetry by Chung-yuan Chang, and refer to the experience of the sage who, through his practice, has identified with the primordial source and interfused with all things.
The wide pond expands like a mirror,
The heavenly light and cloud shadows play upon it.
How does such clarity occur?
It is because it contains the living stream from the
- Chu Hsi
This Meetup was partly inspired by Chung-yuan’s book, (which I highly recommend for a fuller understanding of this type of poetry,) but it was also inspired by a David Whyte interview called “The Conversational Reality of Nature,” by my desire to meet like-minded people, and by my desire to contemplate nature in silence safely.
I plan to meet once a month, perhaps twice during Spring and Fall. Throughout the year we’ll get to experiment with location, season and time of day. Along these lines, I’d greatly appreciate your suggestions on location. I’ll try to keep the walks to less than a mile and the drives within the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area – unless someone in the group requests a particularly sweet spot that requires a little more effort.
The meditation structure presented here is an offering, but if you want to meditate with eyes open the entire time or if you’re moved to poetry before the bell sounds, feel free to let it flow. Also, please feel free to join Deep Nature Poets even if you can’t attend soon or often.
Exceptionally well-behaved dogs are welcome, but well-behaved in this case means, of course, that they must sit with you quietly for the entire 30 minutes of our practice.
I’ll include a classic Taoist or Chinese poem with each month’s invitation, and I’ll end this invitation with some excerpts from the resources cited above.
Excerpts from Creativity and Taoism
We have discussed the proposition that Tao, in its ontological sense, is an inner experience through which man and nature interfuse as one. This ontological experience is often described as non-differentiated, non-conceptual, and inexpressible primordial innocence. Chinese poetry at its highest form serves as a means of reflecting this primordial innocence.
In Chinese poetry, the secret meaning of nature in things is often revealed spontaneously and immediately through the poetic pattern which emerges from the realm of indeterminacy. When nature's reality stirs the poet's primordial innocence to consciousness, he experiences a pure beauty which is free and luminous. Jacques Maritain says of this poetic "innocence:" "Creative innocence is the paradise of poetic intuition, the existential state in which poetic intuition can reach full power and liberty." Such pure beauty and spontaneous joy, we are told, cannot be felt by those who are strangers to the realm in which man and nature are completely interfused.
"...the man of Tao drives directly into the center of things and establishes an inner relation between nature and man. To him, the inner power of nature is revealed. Nature, in turn, radiates a new beauty from her hidden source. This direct contact with nature provides what the Chinese commentators call Shen yun, or spiritual rhythm. It is this spiritual rhythm vibrating within the poet that gives him joy. The notion of spiritual rhythm is much emphasized by Chinese critics as an outcome of an interfusion between the subjectivity of the poet and the objectivity of reality. It is an invisible interplay between two poles.
When the moon rises in the Heart of Heaven
And a light breeze touches the mirror-like face of the lake,
That is indeed a moment of pure joy,
But few are they who are aware of it.
In these lines, the poet merely brings out the objective reality grasped by him in a moment when his non-ego self is revealed. The great Self reflects things but does not change them.
Excerpt of David Whyte on "The Conversational Nature of Reality," an interview from On Being with Krista Tippett
I went back into poetry because I felt like scientific language wasn’t precise enough to describe the experiences that I had in Galapagos. Science, rightly, is always trying to remove the “I.” But I was really interested in the way that the “I” deepened the more you paid attention.
And in Galapagos, I began to realize that, because I was in deeply attentive states, hour after hour watching animals and birds and landscapes — and that’s all I did for almost two years — I began to realize that my identity depended not upon any beliefs I had, inherited beliefs or manufactured beliefs, but my identity actually depended on how much attention I was paying to things that were other than myself. And that as you deepen this intentionality and this attention, you started to broaden and deepen your own sense of presence. And I began to realize that the only place where things were actually real was at this frontier between what you think is you and what you think is not you.