I’ve been reading and listening to Sharon Salzberg’s words for going on 23 years now, and starting the annual February meditation program has come to feel like a migration, a call to join a cyclical sangha. This call comes at a time of year that can be particularly introspective and cold, and one when I am often not spending enough time outside of buildings — in my church.
For these reasons, and because Mary Oliver is naturally on my mind, the month-long invitation to practice here reminds me a bit of a gentler version of Oliver’s call of the wild geese, which are, “over and over announcing your place/ in the family of things.” In whatever state we may find ourselves, (“You do not have to be good…no matter how lonely”) we belong in ourselves, in our body, in our universe, and simple awareness meditations can confirm this through time spent being and listening instead of trying and doing.
Hello, fellow meditators, and metta for your month!
Oliver’s full poem is below, because it’s really too good to cut into pieces.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.