The roles we embody stem from our core identity. Many people have developed a finely cultivated mixture of their personality traits, values, and beliefs in order to fit in to their desired role at any given time: employee, family member, colleague, friend, professional, etc. One of the finest balances involves structure and nurture, logic and love, discipline and flexibility. The former enhances our ability to fit into social norms and adhere to rules and regulations of daily life. The latter allows us to express our individual personalities and experience social benefits from creativity and connection. In the following poem, I explore this dynamic through the lens of a monarch.
Rise ye protectors, for we need your strength of force,
Strike at the source, give our enemies no foothold, no recourse
Rise ye healers, for we need your strength of will
Mend our wounds, give illness no foothold, never mind the bill
Rise ye philosophers, for we need your strength of mind
Feed our souls, give aimlessness no foothold, for the sake of all humankind
Traveling is its own reward. For the obvious reasons such as experiencing new cultures, new foods, and new ways of thinking, but also for the not so obvious. The small, subtle shifts and changes in how we interact with other people, the feeling of being immersed in a different language, the way that our internal clock acclimates to a different time zone. All of these experiences and more ranging from experiencing constant and heavy snow for the first time, to the first haggling experience in a foreign market, to enjoying an afternoon in a carefully cultivated bamboo forest add up to something sublime and somewhat paradoxical in both its abstract nature and its tangibility to those who’ve lived there far longer than we have. The following poem is an attempt to capture a single fond moment of many from one of my trips.
Salmon and orange slices, who knew?
Off to the market, with my gaze askew
Still in doubt, but curious too
Onions and garlic, the familiar fixings
As the ingredients gather and meld, so do we
The cooking three
But now, brothers from far shores
We all experience reality differently. Each living organism on earth has a different understanding of reality, whether it be through the sonar abilities of dolphins, plant photosynthesis, or the extrasensory detection of pollen that bees are capable of. As humans, we’ve developed efficient ways to easily respond and react to the wide variety of data presented to us via convenient shortcuts. Essentially, a large part of our conscious reality comes from our ability to comprehend the past and use categorical information to determine our present. Our world comes alive in the interactions between these individual realities. The following is a haiku highlighting the brilliance of our shared realities and a throwback to one of my favorite books, 1984, by George Orwell.
2 + 2 is 4
But what if we all agreed
2 + 2 is 5?
Often, when we speak of nature, the notion of primal forces come to mind. Wind. Water. Fire. Earth. Chief among them is water, the only one that can exist in all forms of matter as a solid, a liquid, and a gas. Wind also plays a vital role. Similarly, we all embody different roles in our lives as we move about our day. Naturally, these roles share characteristics with one another, but have specific utility for specific experiences. They each have their part to play in the way that we interact within our relationships. The following poem draws similarities between us and nature.
Water, ice, rain, snow, nourishment, fluidity
Mother, cashier, caretaker, chef, cherishing, home
Wind, energy, propulsion, melodious, connection, calming
Father, housekeeper, repairer, worker, protection, safety
As the cold settles in, and clouds fill the sky, some of us are more influenced than others. Taken to the extreme, the medical model officially calls this seasonal affective disorder, but I believe overall, it’s overdiagnosed in our community. After all, adjusting to change is difficult for all of us, so naturally it makes sense that the changing weather, lighting, routines, temperature, clothes, customs, etcetera would have a noticeable impact. The following poem is an ode for winter and a wish for spring.
So long that the sound of a bird’s chirp is all but forgotten
Spring’s bounty has long past rotten
Dark days, and yet ever more sun than moon
Once the cycle moves forward, we shall rejoice in the sun’s boon
I recently started a 30 day program with Vitanya which utilizes neuroscience to increase brain balance and performance. I’ve noticed slight changes since beginning two days ago. The most significant of which is related to an experience I had upon waking up this morning. See, I had been dreaming and, from my foggy remembrance, I was grasping for something. Right as I was going to secure whatever it was, I woke up and felt like I had just grasped air. It’s as if I woke up right as I was about to finish the action in my dream. This was quite curious because I’ve never had this experience before (or if I did, I do not remember). It seems that the once firm barrier between the land of dreams and the physical truth of reality has become more flexible. Maybe next time, I'll be able to grasp something more than air. In any case, to commemorate this change, I’ve crafted the following haiku.
End of a trek
Dream joined with reality
A new day has dawned
Some neuroscientists are trying to prove that our reality is a co-constructed illusion powered by the electrical signals of our brain as information is relayed via our senses. The ways that we perceive the world is a large part of this illusion. Our vision is one of the easiest senses to fool, as evidenced by the myriad of visual tricks we can use to hide things (or even people!) in plaint sight: e.g. the invisible gorilla illusion. Please enjoy the following poem on how we perceive the moon from an earthbound view.
Larger than life one moment, fleeting in many days’ breath
Where does this cosmic entity disappear to, if not death?
Bathing us sometimes with ethereal light,
It’s fullness, and blueness a sight of surreal delight
Waves always under its thrall
Even when it seems to be with us, not at all
We think our long sight and humankind’s vision has unlocked its secrets
But what about the dark, unseen side of the moon?
Grief is an elaborate process that is unique to every individual and to every event. It's five stages and the nature in which one bounces from each stage to another reminds me of the star method of bolting a car wheel. The criss-cross pattern first creates the shape of a star across the bolts and, for the best results, you can't fully complete each bolt the first time; you have to come back and secure it once the other bolts have been attended to. Similarly, in each experience of grief, often we cannot be completely satisfied with our experience of denial, bargaining, anger, depression, or acceptance until we've been through each one at least once. Even if we think each part has run its course, mindfully reflecting and checking in on each aspect while paying attention to how our minds and brains react is a great way to ensure that our grief process has been honored and respected. The following is a backwards poem I wrote to highlight just one example of how the five stages of grief resembles more of a starry pattern, than a linear one.
It is almost time for acceptance.
The end is soon to come for your depression,
For you will overcome your denial
As you’ve run the course with the tactic of bargaining
And thus, your anger subsides
In the modern society we live in, we are inundated with information. Everywhere we look and everywhere we go, we see, hear, and feel messages that are pulling us in many directions. What if there was a way for us to carve out a moment of peace at will? The practice of mindfulness (and related activities that connect attention, breath, movement, and rhythm such as yoga and martial arts) us reconnect with our unique experience of humanity, reinforce our sense of self, and achieve a state of serenity. The following poem highlights the notion that there is more to the world and ourselves than what our eyes can see, what our ears hear, what our bodies feel, and what our minds think.
What does it mean to be human?
Tis an age old question
Thoughts? Sensations? Feelings? Emotions? Connections? Actions?
We are more than what we think
We are more than our sensations, feelings, and emotions
We are more than who we know
We are more than what we do
We are even more than who we love
Zoom out far enough and you'll see
The threads that bind span sea to sea
What's in between it all?
Perhaps a moment's peace from the seemingly endless squall?
Within each of us is an endless number of possible futures. According to the multiverse theory from quantum physics, each and every decision we make (or not make) births a new diverging path in this labyrinth within. Endlessness can be frightening because it evokes a sense of the unknown. Today, I share with you my own strategy for conquering the labyrinth within.
Look into the mirror and you’ll see
Who you were and who you could be
Forgive your past, you’re wiser than before
Embrace the present, embrace the fore
Save for the future, we know not what awaits
Do your future self a kindness and hone your strongest traits
Walk forward and remember
We are stronger together