Visual meditation: pond

This week, we read the poem “Three Meditations,” by Jeanine Stevens, a professor of anthropology and psychology. Jeanine’s also an accomplished practitioner of Tai Chi and a compassionate and effective writing workshop facilitator. She’s drawn some haunting poems from my heart that I’m still revising.

Here she shares the process she uses with students to lead them in a visual meditation to that space of awareness where clarity can occur, as in her pond reflection. Try it yourself!

For the pond meditation, I have students put all books, etc. away.
Both feet on floor like they used to tell us in grammar school.
Then, I have them imagine sitting on the bottom of a still pond,
and try to bring up sensory details, colors, fragrance.
Then, of course, unwanted
thoughts will begin to intrude. So simply make them into a bubble,
and watch them gradually rise and disappear on the surface,
keep doing this until the active mind gets tired, no thoughts
come and by then they may be meditating.

Did you clear your mind? Discover a poem? Find some peace? Or not?

As we say in yoga: it’s all information.

As Dogen says, “Study the self to forget the self.”

Enjoy!

Three Meditations

What is it about bodies of water that pull our human bodies toward them for reflection and renewal?

I’m so happy to share with you, readers, this poem by Jeanine Stevens. I love, love, love it and I hope you do, too. Please breathe and enjoy.

 Three Meditations

by Jeanine Stevens

 

 
Pond

Trees drop shadows. Purple filters asparagus green.

Cool water barely moves,

yet the pond breathes sage: a gentle summer.

Hidden in the riparian belt near Arcade Creek,

     bugs flit, skim circular.

Oxygen is here in the exhale of fish.

I sit cross-legged on the bottom, arms folded waiting

for thoughts I know will come:

    the worry of a life resurrected,

    my own tardiness. Each flaw

I morph into a silver minnow that swims in loops.

I’m patient until I weary of its motion, then encase

each in a bubble and release to the glassine surface.

 

River

I stand on the Salmon Falls Bridge.

Autumn wind spins the pines,

water cascades over boulders,

    scatters stellar jays and mountain chickadees.

These are cool-season colors: bone clouds, pale sky 

The air is pungent with late sun on dry buck-brush.

Upstream, a medium-size log tumbles in the current

    thrashing anxious.

Other birds land on the railing, also looking.

I absorb the logs agony, watch it travel underneath

    steel girders, reappear and pause for my gaze.

Enough introspection: it disappears downstream.

 

Ocean

Near Goat Rock on the Sonoma Coast, my skin sticks

    with salt spray and yellow sand.

Surf roars, soaking up speech. White foam laps knees,

     bronze kelp, slimy and wet, hugs my body. 

A brown pelican glides overhead, drops its lunch near

    my feet, a fish chunk oozing pink gills.

Mid-winter, I brought all my concerns with me.

A gray gull harps the wind.

Her angle of flight spirals, embeds in my repetitious

    monkey mind, a century familiar

yet temporal— like fish breath and catapulting log,

this gull, so ordinary, exits

    behind a twisted cypress hugging the cliff.

 

Jeanine Stevens spends her time writing poetry, constructing collages, practicing Tai Chi and thinking about water.

Edging Exotic into Consciousness

A poem from Sacramento anthropologist, poet, friend, Jeanine Stevens.

Jeanine began the poem in an At Home in Our Bodies workshop held in my living room in early 2014. It was a peaceful and powerful gathering of smart women reading poems by other smart women across all stages of life that I was fortunate to lead.

Thank you, Jeanine!

Edging Exotic into Consciousness

White space as breath holds narrow interstice, a small pocket that grows
multitudinous inhaling the entire Artic Sea. The scent of balsam

as from stately firs is gobbled up as fragrance by hungry lungs. Incense
becomes smoke, slips down vessel and tissue to mid-section. Even if

tarnished like an acid etched mirror, belly wants its share, devours
all, nothing frittered away. Rumblings of metaphor, the is ness

of mulled-over images chewed into morsels, reformed, released
to rest in golden channels. The conduit is assembled, the smoke

extinguished. If my thigh feels chafed and I rubbed hard enough, what
would emerge? This great human shank sprung from the center of green?

 

Note: First published in Edge. Poem used with permission of the poet.


More from Jeanine on Yoga Stanza:

House Wren

Moonshadow

Evensong

Enjoy!

 

Cranes, Bees and Evensong

Sandhill cranes in California’s Central Valley -> Autumn

Jeanine Stevens offers a perspective on the birds in the poem “Evensong.”

As for yoga, the birds’ seven-foot wing span (in the greater sandhill cranes) provide inspiration for flowing arms as we move through poses. The crane has a four-foot-long trachea coiled behind its breastbone through which traveling air makes the distinct sound; you often hear a crane before you see it. In our human bodies, the humming of a bee breath, brahmari, can brighten the heart (it’s fun!) and soothe the mind, especially in relation to others, in a group. Communicating, gathering, being. Drifting, lifting, flowing and still.

Evensong

~near the levee west of Lodi

Late afternoon, I wait

for this holy herd.

God has pledged beauty.

I haven’t asked, but have hope

this Sunday. Out day-feeding,

Sandhill Cranes appear

in the distance

like random fence posts.

Some resemble flocks of grazing sheep.

Suddenly airborne, they appear,

sounding like a thousand

loping horses. Long gray necks

haul bustles awash in bright ochre,

gallop along the flyway,

a private corridor invisible

to my naked eye.

You don’t have to sit

in cathedrals, listen to sermons,

or place offerings in the till.

Simply wait, look for the vast,

watery beds, a feathered sanctuary

waiting for the moon

to open her pewter eye,

scan their still silhouettes

and call them her own.

 

Jeanine Stevens 

Note: Poem posted with permission of the poet.

Upavistha Konasana + Jeanine Stevens

The courage to prolong the moment that may be required in Upavistha Konasana can be found by accepting the energy from the ground and all around. As the poet does, opening her eyes wide to seeing.

 

Moonshadow

 

Shadows sink this evening

into pearl white hydrangeas.

Fern’s spiny clumps

poke pinpoints at the sky,

ivory cosmos melds

into the red brick wall

where purple fig hugs coolness.

A well-known peace contents me.

 

I open all the windows,

climb the stairs

to my attic room,

stand in the whitish gleam,

lean against the clipped ceiling,

then step onto the wooden deck

face the still lawn and garden below.

Evening dew saturates

curling maple leaves.

Everything inspires me!

 

The milky way unzips itself,

flashes like a silvery

fish-scale vortex—

vertigo—I steady my hand

on the railing, wet mushrooms

break the earth, release

a meaty odor. I remember

the words I wrote last night, but keep

my pen still. I want to prolong

this much darkness, a chance

placement, melding moon shadows,

and the crisp outline of stars

I may never see

quite this way again.

 

– Jeanine Stevens

Note: Poem previously published in Eclipse (Rattlesnake Press, 2008); used by permission of the poet

Pair with: Upavistha Konasana

Speak: Notice the speaker’s conviction conveyed through the steadiness of the lines.

Consider: When do you choose to “keep [your] pen still” and not speak or write, purely notice?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paschima Namaskarana + Jeanine Stevens

Paschima namaskarana, reverse prayer pose, can be practiced sitting or standing, with variations (including holding elbows behind the back) available to most. The movement can be a regular part of a person’s daily stretches. Transformed by attention, reverse prayer pose is a gesture to honor ourselves and who we have been, in preparation for who we are becoming. Folded arms are wings, like those of the bird in the poem: the answer to a question the poet had not known to ask is tucked beneath them.

House Wren

“One Without Looks Within”  Thomas Hardy

 

Dusk, a bird at the window, intent jet eyes,

perfect circles—I look away, but somehow

she attaches to the sill above my desk.

The darkened sky outlines leaves sharp

as beaks.  Branches thick as arms scratch

eaves, dwarf the endless pecking—small dots

in exactly the same spot, as if to poke through

and touch me.  I’m puzzled, but know the signs,

omens, gifts, symbols in dream journals.

Is this how it happens?  A speck of warm fluff—

the totem you hoped would be a fox, eagle,

at least a lunar moth—is just a simple house

wren you are smart enough to notice.  I half

expect a key to peek from under the tiny wing.

Jeanine Stevens

Note: Poem previously published in Ruah; used by permission of the poet

Pair with: reverse prayer pose

Speak: Pause with a sense of wondering at the dashes.

Consider: This poem asks, Is this how it happens? How do  seemingly ordinary moments hold insight?