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by heart

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I don’t think there’s a lovelier expression or metaphor than to learn something “by heart”– to have some poem lodged in the heart so deeply, it’s part and parcel of your body and your spirit.  It’s finally an utterly sensual experience.  To know something “by heart” is to know it in the most intimate way, in the mouth, on the tongue, in the ear.” Alan Shapiro 

The Radiance Sutras

“There is a place in the heart where everything meets”

Rumi by Drew Dellinger, In a Tree House by Hafiz via Daniel Ladinsky, and Sutra 26 from the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, translated by Lorin Roche, are the first three poems which I felt moved to learn by heart. They were my first direct experiences of the healing and transformative power of poetry.   Over the years, many more poems have found their way into my traveling treasure chest.  The ones below are amongst my closest and dearest companions.  I have journeyed with them through highs and lows while walking around the rolling hills of Western England, the mossy forests of Sweden, the cobbled alleys of Assisi, the desert mountains of Sinai, and the rice fields of Bali.  We have fallen asleep and woken up in each others’ arms in all kinds of places, including airplanes, jungles, and hospitals.  They have been the soul food and medicine I have needed to stay sane and nourished in this world.

The wonderful thing about knowing a poem by heart is that it goes everywhere with you.  You can drink from its well anytime you need, and spontaneously share its nectar with anyone you meet.  It is like a river which can spring at any moment to enliven and nourish you, and everyone else around.  The poems I love to recite are ongoing invitations and portals into more presence and possibility, more truth and tenderness.  They make me feel rich with a life-giving currency that facilitates the free flow of everything I treasure: awareness, presence, wisdom, beauty, honesty, courage, creativity, and connection.  I enjoy sharing them with friends and strangers all around the world: nurses and yogis, mothers, taxi drivers and community leaders.

 

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Precious Gems

When it comes to learning to linger, here are some of my favorites poems:

You can find the books in which these poems were published by following the link at the end of each post.  Most of them are on my list of favorite poetry books. If any poem strikes a deep chord in you, I encourage you to learn it by heart.  It does not take very long, and it could change your life!  I will be adding more poems on this page over time, as I receive permission from the authors.  If you wish to receive updates, you can subscribe to my Sparks of Life newsletter and follow me on soundcloud.