Tag Archives: poetry

One-Breath Meditation

Gary Snyder ’51 begins his essay, Just One Breath: The Practice of Poetry and Meditation (Tricycle, Fall 1991) with a straightforward teaching:

In this world of onrushing events the act of meditation — even just a “one-breath” meditation — straightening the back, clearing the mind for a moment — is a refreshing island in the stream.

What is this “meditation” that even one moment is good? Snyder says,

… it is a simple and plain activity. Attention: deliberate stillness and silence.

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The Zen of Philip Whalen ’51

Students of zen meditation are famous for their cultivation of the arts of haiku, calligraphy, and tea ceremony. Presence. Simplicity. The qualities that emerge on the cushion appear in every aspect of one’s life.

The cross-currents of zen, poetry, and calligraphy, have a rich history at Reed as well. “Loosen Up. Festoon.” by John Sheehy ’82 (Reed Magazine, March 2016) explores the currents sailed by Reed poet and zen master, Philip Whalen ’51 (Crowded by Beauty: The Life and Zen of Poet Philip Whalen by David Schneider ’73). Continue reading

Opening Creativity’s Door

My 5th grade teacher would periodically say, “Alan, you aren’t creative.” Before you jump to any conclusions, let me add that this talented, committed woman was the most important teacher I had in elementary school and she devoted herself to tapping all of the potential – intellectual, musical, artistic – that my classmates and I had locked up inside ourselves. Still, it was more than a little surprising to hear about my apparent lack of creativity.

Her comment made creativity seem very mysterious to me. Why was I missing out on this basic human capability? Continue reading

Finding Time

If today’s meditation session is like most, a small group, less than a handful really, will join me in the chapel to sit quietly for part of the noon hour. The Reed chapel is a chapel in name only, but the soaring ceilings, the tall windows on both sides of the room, provide an atmosphere that is light, spacious, airy, and contemplative. I’m sure more people would come, enjoy a few moments of beauty and quiet, if only they could find the time.

Thoughts like these remind me of a joyous, deceptively simple poem by Nanao Sakaki called Happy Lucky Idiot (Tricycle, Summer 2013). It leads the reader through a series of reflections, “If you have time to X, Do Y, If you have time to Y, Do Z”. It concludes:

If you have time to dance
Sit quietly, you Happy Lucky Idiot