• Be gentle

    Be gentle with yourself these days.
    Sometimes the currents beneath
    bring tangles to our hearts

    and we don't notice
    and glide smoothly on
    but wonder why we are
    tired, or angry, or fractious.

    Sit yourself down
    with your wise grandmother,
    and let yourself
    be a small child again in her arms,
    and let whatever comes, come.

    And when the small child
    has done her crying,
    set her gently on her feet again
    and send her softly back out into the world.

    And sit, as only grandmothers can,
    calm and grounded,
    wise with twinkling eyes,
    amid the ups and downs
    of this crazy world.

  • These are not my words

    These are not my words,
    any more than that is my sunlight
    or this is my air.
    But that is you
    really breathing there,
    deep rasping breaths,
    as if you are reaching to
    the bottom of your lungs
    and clearing them out.

    And that is your body
    speaking itself,
    unlike yesterday
    when, light in dreams,
    you danced and smiled,
    your mind spinning
    and turning in sleep.

    And when the thought
    ‘you are not yourself’
    comes into my mind,
    I take a pen
    and draw the lines of your face
    just as they are
    and draw them again
    when you move
    and again a moment later.

    And somehow,
    this anchors both of us
    in the moments as they pass.
    And thoughts of ‘you’ and ‘me’
    are no longer important.
    There is just the moment
    and how it is.

  • Swimmer

    Be not the drowning swimmer,
    limbs thrashing, sinking,
    gulping for air.
    Rather a seabird on the surface of the ocean,
    rising and falling with its peaks and troughs.

    Don’t be blown away by the hurricane,
    battered and bruised
    with the breath knocked out of you.
    Rather a tree, arms outstretched
    to receive the wind’s pummelling embrace,
    deeply rooted.

    Don’t hide, frightened, in your dark cave.
    Rather be a soft, sleek animal,
    skillful and alert
    to the sun’s glow, the rain’s caress
    and the comfort of your beating heart.

  • Life

    Live life fiercely
    but don't be afraid of dying.
    Embrace that most fundamental of knowings
    and let it colour every breathing moment.

    Gaze calmly across the divide
    and write words of love and gratitude
    to speak for you from the other side.
    Share out the trappings of your life
    and choose your resting place.

    Then dance freely,
    gifts given,

  • Close

    Keep it close,
    that moment when your heart tugs
    and your eyes well.

    To feel the world's sorrow
    is also to feel its joy.

    Allow moments to expand
    to hold all they have to show us.

    Slow your step,
    so the ground where you are
    can be washed by your tears.

    Then watch,
    as the slow pale light that follows
    and the whole world sparkles,
    like sunshine after rain.

  • Stop and stand

    Stop and stand
    on your own patch of ground
    – where your feet are.

    Really stand there,
    all of you – body and mind.

    From this place
    comes all your wisdom,
    comes every answer
    that is possible
    for you to know
    right now.

    * * *

    And when you see hurt,
    hold tight to your sword
    and know that you cannot fix another.

    Instead, bear witness with the ground
    to that other body,
    to all its found and unfound wisdom.

    And when you think
    ‘I want to take your suffering’
    just stand.

    And when you think
    ‘I want to take your pain’
    just stand.

    And when you think
    ‘I cannot bear to stand here, I have to do something’
    just stand.

    And if you really must do something,
    then remember love
    and breath it
    and be it.

    And let the seams of your soul
    soften and melt away
    so the boundary
    between me and you
    is no longer there
    and we are both love
    and witness to love,
    ground and standing feet,
    question and answer.

  • Frontiers

    On those difficult days, when a frontier looms,
    decisions seem called for
    and the armies of your mind muster
    and set off on a headlong gallop
    towards the horizon,

    they make so much noise
    that the heart's soft voice
    is drowned out,
    and kick up so much dust
    that compassion's anchor loses purchase.

    The faster the armies gallop,
    the farther away the horizon seems,
    the bumpier the path
    and the cloudier the dusty air

    and we trip over innocent rocks
    and trample innocent plants
    and startle quietly grazing flocks,
    causing them to scatter
    and become embroiled in our turmoil.

    But if we can persuade the horde
    to slow a little
    – that stopping a while will help
    rather than hinder –
    perhaps we can sit by the side of the track
    and let the dust settle
    and the noise die away.

    And somehow, we find ourselves
    where we need to be
    – which is here –
    and we can set anchor again.

    And when, out of the silence,
    the soft voice of our heart speaks,
    it has all the answers we need.

  • Let me hear you

    Let me hear you.
    Speak your heart
    and empty out those dark corners.

    Words unspoken
    cannot bring joy.
    Let them dance,
    even if their steps first falter.

    Trust that what emerges
    will be warmed by the sun,
    will be sheltered from the wind
    by my listening.

    Let words that have been furled
    tighter and tighter inside
    emerge and stretch and sway.
    Watch them lighten

    and feel your heart lift
    as their weight eases
    and they flow out into the world
    like butterflies, to land or float away.

    Let them go
    and see your soul dance
    to sweet silence
    in the hallowed space that remains.

  • Heart

    My heart is as big as the island of Ireland,
    its edges sheer cliffs and infinite rocky shores.
    Inside, there is hummocky land, vast expanses of bog
    and pockets of lush pasture.

    And everywhere, there are jewels,
    small fluttering birds, lustrous grasses, tiny blossoms.

    My heart is full of jewels
    that catch the light of each moment
    and shine its spectrum
    back out into the world.

  • Landscape

    Imagine sitting on the mountainside,
    the whole world spread out before you,
    the tide ebbing and flowing,
    waves whispering on the shore
    or crashing on rocky outcrops,
    weather sweeping in from the west, or east,
    obscuring parts of the landscape
    or changing the colour of everything,
    sheep wandering in the fields below,
    ships like specks on the horizon.

    Sit here and tell me
    that you are the centre of things,
    that the thoughts in your head
    are so important that they change
    the face of the world.

    Watch the slow rhythm,
    the constant change
    that happens without you doing anything at all,
    and feel the comfort of this.

    Sit and be curious, and pay attention,
    so that when you choose to join the dance,
    you will have no illusions about being
    the centre of it,
    but can skip lightly and skillfully
    along its myriad paths.

  • Spring Poem

    for Eddie, and in homage to Micheál Fanning

    Anxious moments these,
    watching lambs take
    faltering first steps
    in the field below the house.

    Impossible to accept
    that nature takes her course
    – anxiety leaps
    with each stumble of tiny hooves
    each hop of the preying bird.

    Trust instead
    the wise man down the road
    who tempers anxiety with calm,
    concern with care,
    as he shepherds his growing flock.

    Me, I sweep the floor,
    untousle the bedroom
    and make breakfast
    – tending my own small flock
    of cat, man and soul
    the best I can.

  • The real world

    Try living in the real world.
    Cut out the escapes
    into fiction and fantasy,
    into wanting and dreaming,
    and open your soul to what is around you
    in all its irrational glory.

    Can you face that gap
    between letting go
    of all that you cling to,
    and facing that
    from which you have hidden?
    No small task –
    an uncomfortable spotlight
    on yourself at centre stage.

    But in this great unentangling
    of heart and mind,
    can you find joy
    in those simple things
    that lie around you?
    Can you meet
    the tender heart
    of the stranger you pass?

    How can I explain
    those moments of joy and gratitude
    that well in the midst of your suffering?
    No lack of care or compassion –
    what privilege just to be alive with you,
    to offer even a morsel of comfort.

    And if joy is even here,
    then trust that it is everywhere
    in this real world of suffering and impermanence
    if we care to look it
    and ourselves in the eye.

  • Thank you

    for Ann Marie

    Thank you for telling me your sorrow,
    for sharing that tender flower in your heart.

    Would that I had the sense to have listened all day,
    but the world confounds and confuses
    and I could not have been better than I was.

    But you were raw and true
    and you waited for me.
    Thank you.

  • Change

    The cloud lifts
    and the mountain is suddenly white,
    merging with grey-black sky and light.

    Everything changes
    – bare branches suddenly adorned with blossom,
    scarlet amaryllis outrageous in bloom

    and now the sky
    – lilac and lavender –
    and, already, the snow melting and fading.

    Let go of clinging
    and join the dance.
    Let soft body and supple mind
    join the ongoing flow of life.

    Each moment
    – of glory or despair –
    is just as it is,
    as long as it is,
    and it passes.

    Be the flow, the movement,
    the flicker of light on the hillside.
    Be in every now, not just this now,
    be the music and the dance.

  • Control

    We seek safety in control,
    in putting things in place
    in setting things up
    in holding on tight.

    But really, the world will turn as it will
    and all we must do is grow older
    and, someday, pass away.

    And the more we pretend
    that this is not so,
    the less time we have for really living.

    Can it not be beautiful,
    this slow tuning in with the world,
    this slow settling into our skin,
    this careful tending of the light within?

    By feeling this raindrop,
    we are alive.

    By watching that wave break
    and hearing its sound on the shore,
    we are alive.

    By watching the sun come up
    and hitting the snow on the mountain,
    which is not how it was yesterday
    and is not as it will be tomorrow,
    and is only now,
    we are alive.

    Let us not find ourselves at the end
    thinking ‘what happened?’
    but just be here, and here, and now, and now
    each moment deepening our wisdom
    and refreshing our hearts.

  • Gift

    Give yourself the gift of your attention.
    Catch the whirlwind rush
    and gently, calmly, set it aside.

    Sit still and watch its flurries
    echo inside you.
    Stick with the stillness
    and find calm in your breath.

    And as the flurries dissipate,
    find the knot inside
    whose tight curling, tense clinging,
    is at the centre of it all.

    And sit and still sit
    and know that, in time,
    the knot will unfurl, release,
    and there will be space again.

    And space becomes your gift,
    encircles everything,
    slows the pace,
    lets the light in.

  • Soft

    Look how the colour has come back
    into the world
    – one night's rain enough
    to awaken new growth.

    Do you remember how it is
    to be soft?
    Like a young child
    before the strains of the world
    grow into her bones.

    Look at that river of shining blue
    that meanders across the bay.

    How is it to flow through this world,
    curving gracefully with its currents?

    Look at the cat's warm body
    in the sun on the windowsill.

    Let us be animal again,
    awake to the light and the rain and the warmth,
    soft and alive and blessed.

  • Nasc

    Thugamar síob d’eachtrannach an lá fé dheireadh,
    é curtha ón mbothar ag an ndeoch
    ach ag siúl siar chun cabhar a thabhairt d’iar-chomharsan.

    Iontach na bearta beaga cabhartha a nascann sinn,
    a líonann bearnaí na tíreolaíochta,
    a thugann scáth duinn uilig.

  • Human I

    Give people space to be human.
    Loosen the nooses of judgement
    we tie around each other
    – prejudging imagined actions.

    Give yourself space to see how things are.
    Look through the lens of love and compassion
    – see suffering for what it is
    and the actions born of it.

    Set aside your need to be right
    and instead, recognise that ache
    as the creaking of the heart's doors
    as they struggle to stay open.

    Allow the pain of unmet desires
    – for closeness, agreement, support –
    and outside that narrow focus,
    find other unexpected treasures.

    Give yourself time
    for the slow dawning of truth and wisdom
    and feel the warm glow of light
    when it arrives.

  • Human II

    Ditch the mechanical illusion, the digital vision.
    We humans cannot go faster than our hearts allow,
    than the bellows of our lungs will pump.

    Take this as a comfort –
    that so many expectations
    are unreal, unattainable,
    laughable even.

    We are human
    and our power is in being ourselves,
    in nurturing our hearts,
    in nourishing our bodies and minds.

    And if speed is required,
    it comes from clear minds,
    strong bodies and open hearts,
    not from ticking clocks
    or endless machines.

    Be fierce in your humanity.
    Be devoted to this life.
    Be light on this earth.

  • Present

    Lost in thought,
    I am jolted into the present
    by two horses
    bucking and kicking across a field,
    by a boat
    traversing a silvery blue shower in the bay,
    by clouds
    swooping like pregnant swans on Brandon.

    How can I lock myself
    in the box in my head
    in a world of such magic and wonder?

    What need for altars
    when such wondrous reality
    bucks and kicks
    and demands my attention?

  • Perfect

    You can't make it perfect.
    Life has a habit
    of popping up to remind you of impermanence.

    Be graceful in letting go,
    in releasing that perfect dream.
    Let yourself come gently down
    to reality, to how it really is
    and to the constant change
    that happens whatever we do.

    Set your feet on the ground again
    and let yourself flow with the earth's turning.
    There is no perfection but this dance
    with all its colours,
    nothing to do but the living and letting go
    of every moment.

  • Niche

    I am tired
    of living in niches within niches.
    I want to be out in the open,
    free to feel the fullness
    of the wind, the light, the rain.

    To touch the earth
    and not just marvel
    but dig in and become it
    and nourish and grow
    and be nourished and grow
    and learn.

    And to have the space
    to find the space around my heart
    which gives space to see
    that there is space for everything.

    And not shut out, put off or shrink away
    but to open wide, let in, stand firm.

    And to find strength
    from the roots in my feet
    that go deep down into the earth
    and touch the magma at its core.

    And to go into the dark and be still
    and to find the flame
    and bring fire into this world
    and to open my eyes and be awake.

    And to know, then, no tiredness,
    only brimming calm.
    No walls, only infinite space.
    No fear, only infinite love.

  • Air dancing

    On the beach yesterday,
    a massive wind
    blew spray from wave,
    sand from shore,
    the very particles of being.

    We are nothing more
    than a momentary
    assemblage of atoms,
    forming and reforming.
    Nothing but a movement
    of air and matter
    blown by the currents
    of the universe.

    Yesterday, the wind blew me asunder
    leaving nothing but air dancing
    on the shore
    and I was nothing
    but emptyness and connection.