The circle of gratitude
that makes a world
to be thankful for
and a person flush
at the bounty
she has made.
In thanks for autumn
the reminder of every
single colour of life
and of fading away,
and for the coming
a white-washed time
and making angels
in the snow.
Thank you to all
the ones who love,
and create this
ocean where we all
swim in love
together. – TS
As dawn crept in on my 40th year, I shivered with excitement – and trepidation, and oddly, a feeling of peace.
I’d already created a card from a photo of mine, so I could send my sincerest gratitude to so many people I love and hold dear. In this age of Internet, living as far away as Japan still feels, well … far, but I’m also able to stay connected in so many ways that fill my heart.
Less than two months after my birthday, I heard from Prolific Press that they were interested in publishing my travel-based poems that became my very first published collection, “Formation: Along the Ganges and Back Again.” I was flummoxed, elated, terrified, bedazzled, and mostly, filled with wonder.
Over the coming months, as I hunkered down daily to work on a new novel I’d started, Prolific Press and I selected, revised, formatted, compiled some more, and eventually, came up with the title and beautiful cover image for the book!
As this was going on, the words and the poems continued to flow, and by the happiest of serendipitous encounters, I discovered Women’s Spiritual Poetry, a beautiful blog and project that serves as a platform for women’s poetry from all over the world. I submitted my first poem there, and had such a warm, lovely experience that I haven’t looked back! Catherine Ghosh, WSP’s courageous, generous, brilliant and gifted leader, provides such a warm and protective space for her writers, that becoming part of this community has been a truly remarkable gift – yet another in my 40th year!
They say 40 is magical, powerful, special, and I believe this to be true.
A few months ago, Catherine invited us women to become part of a collaborative effort: her second anthology of poetry consisting if poems coming from the blog. I leaped at the chance! I ended up getting involved in the selection process, have five poems included in the book, and I also did a little bit of proofreading, and wrote an introduction for one of the chapters: Voicing Soul Secrets.
There was actually another little serendipity involved here. I live in Japan, as you know, so much of the work that goes on in my co-writers/poets’ lives happens while I’m in the throes of dreamland. I’d noticed late at night (for me), before going to bed, that 13 writers would be needed for chapter introductions. My eye fell immediately to Soul Secrets, but I didn’t want to be pushy – I was fairly new to the group, and didn’t want to overstep, and I for sure didn’t want to take some work that another poetess was dreaming of doing! I told myself that if it was still available in the morning, I’d offer to write it.
When I woke up … it was the only one left!
Being intimately involved in the production process of this book was a privilege and a huge learning experience. I got to watch as one of our poetesses, Shailie Dubois, offered a painting she’d done that was so stunning it ended up on the cover of the book – she also did another for the back cover, and did one of the book’s two trailers (Catherine, a masterful video creator), did the other).
And now, just after my 41st birthday, I am gifted again … with the release of the book! On the day of its release, our new poetry book “Where Journeys Meet: The Voice of Women’s Poetry” made it to the #1 spot on Amazon’s Bestselling New Releases in Poetry by Women *and* to the #2 spot in Bestselling Poetry by Women (in general) right next to MARY OLIVER, one of my heroines!
What a year, and bookended (!), no less, by two books. For a human like me, who has been dreaming and breathing words her whole life, this is a moment I want to fully dive into with my full appreciation and gratitude.
The work never stops, the words continue to flow, emotions run in every which way … but for now, we are here, and there is a lot of celebrating to do.
Thank YOU for being here to celebrate with me. May we share words and hearts for a long time to come!
I am thrilled to be writing with a very exciting announcement …
I have written book of poetry, published by Prolific Press, and it’s just been released!
I’m so excited to formally introduce my first full published work, “Formation: Along the Ganges and Back Again”, and so grateful to Prolific Press for seeing something in my heaping manuscript of poems, and helping me make this dream of mine come true! I’m so proud to say that the book is available here:
Just to tell you a little bit about it, I thought I’d share the official synopsis!
“Formation” begins with the attempt to engage with a lost childhood through words – but ultimately, it is a search for something deeper, the mining of then and now for a love that hovers, ever elusive. The search inspired a journey eastward, where inner and outer worlds collide. In their form, content and spirit, the poems in this collection reflect the varied landscapes of Southeast Asia, India and Japan. “Formation” takes the reader into the heart of the poet’s reminiscences and passions as they mesh with the lively physical and spiritual spaces encountered.
It’s been a long road from the days these poems were scribbled in moments of passion and reflection, over chai or after days of retreat, onto just about anything from napkins, homemade journals I crafted from found paper and mosquito coil boxes (there’s nothing like creative re-purposing) and any number of journal-jewels I found along the way, mostly in Thailand, Laos, India and Japan. I’m beyond humbled and exhilarated to see years of being on the proverbial road, learning, musing and word-forming, ending up here, with this beautifully put together collection. The evolution of these scattered works into this book has been a profoundly rewarding experience in itself, and one that is very close to my heart!
I invite you to have a look at the book at either of the links above, and would be ever so grateful for your support. Prolific Press is an indie publisher who puts a whole lot of passion into the books they produce, and support for small publishers (and of course, their authors) goes a long way!
If you do buy it, and love it, and would like to review it, or have any feedback at all, please feel free to contact me. I’d love to hear from you, and every Amazon review helps to get the book out there! And if you know anyone who might be interested in poetry, travel-writing, or who might just need a book to read, please share and pass this along!
You can also find up-to-date information about the book right here as time goes on. Thank you so much for sharing in this adventure with me. It’s an exciting and heart-palpitating thing, to be baring oneself like this in such a public arena, so I’m very grateful for your support!
With love and in gratitude,
Words are so precious.
There are times when we can feel at battle with them, when we so badly want to express the deepest parts of ourselves or what we experience, and come up short.
Sometimes there are just no words, and the world itself is ever-spinning, and we are spilling over with emotion. This can be so wondrous, and also difficult and isolating.
Language allows us to connect, but also provides the barrier to the truths that lie behind it. Ah, words!
But then, once in awhile, the right words appear. They can pour right out in a spellbinding moment of harmony between self and world, between us in communication.
They can come in the form of storytelling, the perfect book you sink into and never want to end.
Or, they can come in the form of a poem, like the one below, by Jack Kerouac, who never seemed to take a single word for granted.
I think Kerouac’s ability to put a mountain of truth into each word formation was a dual commitment, which he fed with discipline and passion: to live life beyond the border of words to its very edges, and to do everything he possibly could to reach out to others, using language to give structure to the messiness, chaos and glory that he found.
I read this poem often. I love how it takes us to the vital importance of being kind and not harboring negativity, and to the sacred aspects of ordinary life, which can be our springboard into awe and ecstasy.
Rocks don’t see what we see. Should we take what we see so seriously? What a beautiful sentiment.
I hope you enjoy it and feel inspired to let it move through you as you carry out your day!
“The world you see is just a movie in your mind.
Rocks don’t see it.
Bless and sit down.
Forgive and forget.
Practice kindness all day to everybody
and you will realize you’re already
in heaven now.
That’s the story.
That’s the message.
Nobody understands it,
nobody listens, they’re
all running around like chickens with heads cut
off. I will try to teach it but it will
be in vain, s’why I’ll
end up in a shack
praying and being
cool and singing
by my woodstove
~ Jack Kerouac
HAPPY THANKSGIVING, EVERYONE!
*Also published on elephant journal, here!
It’s Thanksgiving. It’s cold, and only getting colder, at least where I am.
I can’t think of a situation where I’ve ever had to be forced to watch a movie, but this is a particularly fun time of year to take to the couch (ideally in good-ish posture), wrap myself up in a blanket, sip ginger tea and watch movie (after movie) to my heart’s content.
Sometimes there’s nothing like a great film to give you a window into the stories of others, and the visionary minds that bring them to life. For that I am thankful!
Here are just a very few movies that directly or indirectly take us on a gratitude journey, that you might enjoy watching this Thanksgiving season. Enjoy!
(P.S. This list is far from comprehensive. There are so, so many films from all over the world that are not represented here—I’d need dozens more Thanksgivings to scratch the surface—and I’d love to hear your ideas!)
1. The Wizard of Oz (1939, Victor Fleming)
This movie hardly needs an introduction. A girl with a heart of voice of gold venture to new and wondrous lands, experiences a whole lot, and realizes that “There’s No Place Like Home.” I’m not making light of this storyline. This is far and away my favourite film, and I feel that Dorothy’s enormous gratitude for her life and ragtag family back home is only amplified by her gratitude over having met with such incredible adventures on the other side of the rainbow. We can be grateful for here, there and everywhere!
2. Pay it Forward (2000, Mimi Leder)
As the “pay it forward” movement and gift economy culture gain momentum, it’s worth taking a look at this beautiful little film about a boy (The Sixth Sense’s Haley Joel Osment) who, for a school assignment given by a somewhat taciturn teacher, (Kevin Spacey), does what he can to make a better world. It’s hard not to be very moved by this film.
3. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006, Gabriele Mucchino)
Based on the real-life story of Chris Gardner’s one-year struggle with homelessness, this film stars Will Smith and his son Jaden, as they navigate their way through hardship in this incredibly uplifting and inspiring film. Gratitude as an M.O. for good living is firing on all cylinders here.
5. Dancer in the Dark (2000, Lars von Trier)
This might sound like a strange choice for a Thanksgiving films, since tragedy oozes out of every pore of this collaboration between the very unique-minded Lars von Trier and none other than Bjork. Rarely, however, have I experienced such exquisite grace in a female lead performance, or felt as acutely as I do here that the human spirit has an edge over any obstacles that dare to stand in the way of magic and positivity.
6. My Neighbor Totoro (1988, Hayao Miyazaki)
I’d have to recommend any film by this genius filmmaker, who officially announced his retirement from feature filmmaking this year (cue tears over here). My Neighbor Totoro delights in its sheer simplicity: two girls move to the countryside, and encounter some of the forest’s delightful spirits. This movie leads by example, telling us to slow down, enjoy the moment, and let the magic and awe in.
7. Like Father, Like Son (2013, Hirokazu Koreeda)
Koreeda has such a gift for lyrical storytelling. Two couples’ babies were switched at birth in hospital, and six years later, they are informed of the accident. What to do? The director uses this very painful situation as an opportunity to explore the infinite nuances of love, what it means to be a parent, to be connected to someone through blood or shared experiences…and it will wrench at your heart as it moves to its redemptive conclusion. Pure heart.
8. Boyhood (2014, Richard Linklater)
One of the best films of the year. Linklater paints a cinematic portrait of a childhood, using the same actors over a 12 year period to stunning and powerful effect. We can be very grateful here for the sheer ingenuity of a director who had the vision to present a movie of this kind, where we can glimpse into the growth, change, transition and the ephemeral nature of life through the medium of the moving image.
9. Love Story (1970, Arthur Hiller)
Classic tear jerker teaching us that love knows no bounds. Enough said.
10. Edward Scissorhands (1990, Tim Burton)
Another classic, where the lucky viewer gets to watch Johnny Deep do his glorious thing, and spend a couple of hours rejoicing in all that is special and different in this world, through the eyes of Tim Burton’s mad genius. The celebration of diversity has never been this poignant or mesmerizing.
For elephant journal published version, and video clips, see here! And I’d love to hear more suggestions!
Wanna get happy? Just do this one thing.
Noooooooooooo. Of course not.
Happiness—or a consistent state of contentment—is very much something we can enjoy striving for. I believe that it is an achievable state, but there are absolutely no direct routes there. And if anyone tells you there are, I’d suggest carving yourself a beautiful, elaborate path in the opposite direction from their advice.
There’s something really lovely and fragile about knowing we can’t have instant happiness, that we get to wade into the many rides that our emotions take us on daily (even hourly), so that we can experience the fullness and richness of life.
But there are some things we can do to encourage ourselves down the long and winding road toward happiness, and it’s often the little things, done with mindfulness and persistence, that accumulate and train or minds (and brains) to think happy.
You know the drill: train the body to like running, and at first it will laugh and maybe spit at you—but eventually it will cave to your iron will, and a runner you (and your body) will be!
Why should the brain and mind be any different?
Awhile back, I wrote an article, 5 Things To Do Before Breakfast for a Happy Day. I’d like to follow that up with a companion piece about quick and simple things you can do right before bed to cultivate contentment in your life. I hope you enjoy!
Okay, you’re snuggled into bed, comfortable and warm and cozy. Check. Now …
1. Say thank you and review the day.
First things first: gratitude. Take a moment to say thank you – for the day you had, for the privilege and honour of having lived another glorious day, and for your own efforts at making a go of this crazy, powerful thing called life.
On to the review: don’t labour over this unnecessarily and absolutely don’t be full of regret for things left undone. Try to assume a slightly detached point of view, as though you were going over a friend’s activities, and try to observe, without judgement, one or two things you are proud of doing that day, and one or two things you might have done differently.
This will help you foster an ongoing awareness of your goals and behaviours, and this will help guide you toward your ideals.
As a last part of this review, you can make a mental note to yourself that for the next 24 hours (until your next nightly check in), you will aim, through your words and actions, to do and be exactly as you would like, using as a measure your highest aspirations for yourself.
2. Create a sankalpa and recite it to yourself.
“Sankalpa” is a Sanskrit word, and is something close to an intention or resolution. It’s actually more of an idea for something we are very determined about, with the goal of making positive changes in our lives.
It is suggested that you decide on only one sankalpa, and that it be quite short and phrased in a positive and not negative way. It should also be phrased to indicate that success has already been achieved. So we should try to get at the root of our deepest desires and goals, rather than focus on more superficial ones.
Examples of sankalpa might be, “I am strong and healthy” or “My life is exactly as I desire it to be” or, if this has been an issue, “I am free from addiction.”
In achieving a firm resolve about the positive direction we want our life to take, we train our brains and minds to become more flexible for accommodating these changes in our lives. In this way, it helps to bridge the mind and body, and get them working in sync for the better.
3. Set an intention to remember your dreams.
I love this one. As we know, our minds are very powerful and trainable tools. We meditate to gain control of our minds, tame our thoughts and live in active harmony with the world around us. We can effectively guide the mind to work to our benefit, and one way to do this is to have access to our dream world.
Some people remember their dreams easily and naturally. I am not one of those people. There are several ways to cultivate this ability, and one easy and effective way is to actually think about it before bed. As you’re lying in the dark, you can bring to your attention the desire to remember your dreams, and even tell yourself, “I am falling asleep now, and dreams will come. I will be aware of these dreams, and remember them when I wake up.”
When you start remembering your dreams in the morning, you will have a feeling of accomplishment—you have guided your mind into working for you!
You can then work with your dreams in any number of ways.
4. Breathe and scan your body.
All this reviewing and intention-setting may have inadvertently made your mind over-active, and now is a good time to prepare body and mind for relaxation and sleep.
It’s simple! Take a few long, deep breaths, letting go of the thoughts and actions of the day. Then, at your own pace, bring your attention from the toes all the way up the legs and torso, front and back, followed by the hand, arms, shoulders, neck and head.
As you’re doing this, try not to judge any sensations you’re experiencing, or condemn yourself for having thoughts or distractions. And if you fall asleep, that’s okay! You have become rested, and that’s great! Just go along with the scan for as long as you can, and this objective, gentle attention will have a dramatically calming effect.
5. Give the world and yourself some love.
If you are still awake now, notice if any source of pain came up during your body scan or even your memories of the day, and gently place your hands on that area, if you are able, and let the love flow. Do what you would do for your own child, or lover, if they were in pain. Touch, hold, fold in warm embrace.
You can also use your breath to fill this part of you with calm and peace. And if the pain was more psychological or emotional, place your hands on your heart, or chest area (or somewhere else, if your instinct guides you there), and do the same.
Remember that the love you give yourself is also love that extends out to the whole world, and by nurturing yourself, your surroundings become filled with light. In treating yourself with kindness, you are actually showing how grateful you are to be part of the magical unfolding of life.
There’s nothing better than going to bed in an atmosphere of gratitude and love!
*This article was published in elephant journal, here.