Mindfulness poetry is a powerful way to connect with the heart of the experience of mindfulness. Whether or not we have a formal mindfulness practice, mindfulness poetry can help us keep, or regain, our footing in a world of upheaval. They can inspire you and bring you closer to the wonder of living a mindful and compassionate life.
You’re probably aware of the advantages of practising mindfulness meditation on a daily basis, especially if you are a member of MindOwl’s online community. However, without a more specific focus when we first begin practicing, it can be difficult to keep your mind on the present moment. This is where tools like mindfulness poetry can come into play. You are not required to memorise anything like a mantra, instead, simply read meditative poems like the ones in this post and use them as prompts to direct your thoughts.
In this article we will walk you through how poems about mindfulness can be helpful for you in your daily meditation practice, go over some of the most well known poets of mindfulness poetry and how you can write you own poetry to deepen your practice.
Why Mindfulness Poetry Matters
To read a mindful poem with full attention is to be in the present moment without judgement, simply aware of the music of the words. Mindfulness poems ask, even demand, of us attention that excludes the outside world, the mundane and complex worries of living in this moment and time. They invite us into a world of raw beauty or emotions, challenging us to improve ourselves through their carefully chosen language.
In times of confusion, stress and fear, mindfulness poetry can help us act with clarity and loving-kindness. The refuge of mindfulness poetry can provide a place of solace, where we can restore energy when we feel drained. People who practice mindful activities like poetry think about how to get rid of these negative emotions by doing something that explores all emotions, even the difficult ones like misery, despair and fear. These people believe that if you do something practical, you’ll be able to overcome your negative emotions.
Most of us do not take painful situations as teachings. We instinctively hate them. We run away like crazy. We are used to all kinds of escapism. Addictions stem from this moment where we meet our edge and just can’t stand it! There are so many ways to escape from the moment. When we confront them through poetry we are able to feel disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear are actually very clear moments that teach us where we are holding back rather than just being bad news.
When Things Fall Apart Excerpt by Pema Chödrön Excerpt
Pema Chödrön is an American ordained Tibetan Buddhist nun and and principal teacher at Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia. She was a former acharya of Shambhala Buddhism and disciple of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. She has written many books on subjects such as heart advice, fearlessness and compassionate living.
In this excerpt, Chödrön is discussing being present:
“We think that if we just meditated enough or jogged enough or ate perfect food, everything would be perfect. But from the point of view of someone who is awake, that’s death. Seeking security or perfection, rejoicing in feeling confirmed and whole, self-contained and comfortable, is some kind of death. It doesn’t have any fresh air. There’s no room for something to come in and interrupt all that. We are killing the moment by controlling our experience. Doing this is setting ourselves up for failure, because sooner or later, we’re going to have an experience we can’t control: our house is going to burn down, someone we love is going to die, we’re going to find out we have cancer, a brick is going to fall out of the sky and hit us on the head, somebody’s going to spill tomato juice all over our white suit, or we’re going to arrive at our favorite restaurant and discover that no one ordered produce and seven hundred people are coming for lunch.
“The essence of life is that it’s challenging. Sometimes it is sweet, and sometimes it is bitter. Sometimes your body tenses, and sometimes it relaxes or opens. Sometimes you have a headache, and sometimes you feel 100 percent healthy. From an awakened perspective, trying to tie up all the loose ends and finally get it together is death, because it involves rejecting a lot of your basic experience. There is something aggressive about that approach to life, trying to flatten out all the rough spots and imperfections into a nice smooth ride.
“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. From the awakened point of view, that’s life. . . .
“The way to dissolve our resistance to life is to meet it face to face. When we feel resentment because the room is too hot, we could meet the heat and feel its fieriness and its heaviness. When we feel resentment because the room is too cold, we could meet the cold and feel its iciness and its bite. When we want to complain about the rain, we could feel its wetness instead. When we worry because the wind is shaking our windows, we could meet the wind and hear its sound. Cutting our expectations for a cure is a gift we can give ourselves. There is no cure for hot and cold. They will go on forever. After we have died, the ebb and flow will still continue. Like the tides of the sea, like day and night — this is the nature of things.”
The Peace of Wild Things Excerpt by Wendell Berry
Wendell Berry is an American novelist, poet, essayist, environmental activist, and farmer. In his opinion, his works are an expression of the meaning to life he has found and what he values within it. He explores many aspects of his rural agricultural life such as; healthy rural community, connection to place, the simple pleasures of simple, good food, good work but also ignorance, greed violence against ourselves and the natural world.
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For the time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Mindfulness Poems by Mary Oliver
Mary Oliver was an American poet. Rather than the human, mundane world, her work is inspired by nature, as a result of her lifelong passion for solitary walks in the wild.
One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you their bad advice- though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles.
“Mend my life!” each voice cried.
You knew what you had to do, though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations, though their melancholy It was already late enough, and a wild night, and the road full of fallen branches and stones.
But little by little, as you left their voices behind, the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do- determined to save the only life you could save.
Don’t Hesitate by Mary Oliver
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate.
Give in to it.
There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind.
And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left.
Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happens better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins.
Anyway, that’s often the case.
Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty.
Joy is not made to be a crumb.
Mindfulness Poem by Rumi
Jalāl ad-Dīn Mohammad Rūmī, simply known as “Rumi”, was a 13th-century Persian poet, Isamic scholar, Maturidi theologian, and Sufi mystic.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
Because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
Mindfulness Poems About Gratitude
Gratitude is a wonderful thing that we can learn to cultivate. It makes us happy because we are grateful for what we have and how much we appreciate our life. We can’t help but smile when we are thankful but it’s also important for our mental health, giving us a moment of peace from daily anxiety. When we use and recite mindful poems we an make a connection between the words of the poem and our practice of grateful living.
Here are our favourite mindfulness poems about gratitude.
Awakening Now by Danna Faulds
Why wait for your awakening?
The moment your eyes are open, seize the day.
Would you hold back when the Beloved beckons?
Would you deliver your litany of sins like a child’s collection of sea shells, prized and labeled?
“No, I can’t step across the threshold,” you say, eyes downcast.
“I’m not worthy” I’m afraid, and my motives aren’t pure.
I’m not perfect, and surely I haven’t practiced nearly enough.
My meditation isn’t deep, and my prayers are sometimes insincere.
I still chew my fingernails, and the refrigerator isn’t clean.
“Do you value your reasons for staying small more than the light shining through the open door?
Now is the only time you have to be whole.
Now is the sole moment that exists to live in the light of your true Self.
Perfection is not a prerequisite for anything but pain.
Please, oh please, don’t continue to believe in your disbelief.
This is the day of your awakening.
Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
Mindfulness Poems About Patience
The word patience means “to endure” or “to bear”. It can also mean “to wait for”, “to tolerate”, or “to put up with”. In Buddhism, mindfulness is defined as being aware of what is happening right now. It is not thinking about the past or worrying about the future. It is simply being present in the moment. When we use mindfulness poetry to cultivate patience, we learn to wait and be aware in the present moment, so we can truly experience it and gain the benefits of life.
Here are a few of our favourite mindfulness poems about patience:
Love After Love by Derek Walcott
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
The Way It Is by William Stafford
There’s a thread you follow.
It goes among things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread. But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
Keeping Quiet by Pablo Neruda
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language,
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead in winter
and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.
Mindfulness Poems About Being in the Present Moment
Base: Mindfulness is being aware of the present moment without judgment. It’s not always easy to do, especially when we are stressed out or anxious. We can practice mindfulness by taking time to focus on our breathing, noting what is around us, or simply having open awareness.
Here are some mindfulness poems that may help you find peace and relaxation:
Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802 by William Wordsworth
Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still.
Breathe by Alistair HMP Dumfreis
Stress hooks its claws into the brain
creating false truths and unreal realities
to confuse, to assault, to breaking point
There’s no refuge in the past or future
The only answer? Breathe.
When thoughts spiral out of control
like a jet plane on a fatal collision course
there’s no respite and no saving grace.
When even sleep becomes a banned destination, look to the place of salvation. Breathe.
Anxiety can build and surge in a flood
overwhelming rational ideas and calm.
Depression throws its hooks into the mind and drags thoughts into the mud.
The perfect antidote? Breathe.
Focus. Not on the unchangeable past or on the unknown mist of the future
but on the now. The moment. Your breath. Let it bring the calm that’s desperately needed.
The final answer? Breathe.
Everything is Waiting for You by David Whyte
Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.
Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.
Lost by David Wagoner
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
Can Writing and Poetry be used to Meditate or to Cultivate Mindfulness?
When you are reading a poem that touches you, you are immersed in the images, the musicality and beauty of the language, the felt sense that the words create – you are nowhere else. Not all poems have this effect of course but those that do are a tool for you to deepen your understanding of youself and explore the benefits of mindfulness practice. Reading mindfulness poetry can deepen your practice in ways you can not imagine. And writing it can help you explore worlds of awareness you never thought possible.
Try it for yourself, anywhere is a good start. Try by using a specific subject to guide you, like the ones we looked at before. You could begin with gratitude. Now, we know from our mindfulness and meditation practice, gratitude helps us see more clearly.
You could write something as simple as this to begin with:
“I am grateful for the sun,
for the moon, for the stars,
for the waves of the ocean,
for the trees, for the birds,
for the animals, for people,
This kind of practice and exercise can deepen your meditation practice and allow you to have be an active participant in your mindfulness rather than a spectator.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q. Can You Meditate While Listening to a Poem?
A.Yes, absolutely. You can listen to a poem as if it were music. It’s just that when you read a poem aloud, there is an additional element of meaning which can be used to guide your intention for that session. When deciding on a poem, pick a poem that mindfully addresses what you are trying to achieve with your meditation.
Q. What is Mary Oliver’s Most Famous Poem?
A: “Look again” from her book ‘Wild Geese’. This poem is about being present and aware of life and living in the moment. It reminds us to take time to stop, breathe deeply and reflect on our lives.
Q. What are Self-Compassion Poems?
Self-Compassion is a practice, like Mindfulness, that helps you become self-aware of your daily attention, and guide it towards creating more empathy and compassion for yourself, your emotions and experiences so you can in turn be more compassionate for others. Just like mindfulness poetry is a brilliant tool to grow you ability for mindfulness, Self-Compassion poetry can be an equally handy way, to increase you ability fo self-compassion.
Here is a small collection of Self-Compassion poems to get you started:
Always We Hope Someone Else Has the Answer by Lao-Tzu
Always we hope someone else has the answer, some other place will be better, some other time it will all turn out. This is it; no one else has the answer, no other place will be better, and it has already turned out. At the center of your being, you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want. There is no need to run outside for better seeing. Nor to peer from a window. Rather abide at the center of your being; for the more you leave it, the less you learn. Search your heart and see the way to do is to be.
Before I Leave the Stage by Alice Walker
Before I leave the stage
I will sing the only song
I was meant truly to sing.
It is the song
of I AM.
Yes: I am Me
I love Us with every drop
of our blood
every atom of our cells
our waving particles
—undaunted flags of our Being—
neither here nor there.
Self-Compassion by James Crews
My friend and I snickered the first time
we heard the meditation teacher, a grown man,
call himself honey, with a hand placed
over his heart to illustrate how we too
might become more gentle with ourselves
and our runaway minds. It’s been years
since we sat with legs twisted on cushions,
holding back our laughter, but today
I found myself crouched on the floor again,
not meditating exactly, just agreeing
to be still, saying honey to myself each time
I thought about my husband splayed
on the couch with aching joints and fever
from a tick bite—what if he never gets better?—
or considered the threat of more wildfires,
the possible collapse of the Gulf Stream,
then remembered that in a few more minutes,
I’d have to climb down to the cellar and empty
the bucket I placed beneath a leaky pipe
that can’t be fixed until next week. How long
do any of us really have before the body
begins to break down and empty its mysteries
into the air? Oh honey, I said—for once
without a trace of irony or blush of shame—
the touch of my own hand on my chest
like that of a stranger, oddly comforting
in spite of the facts.
Please Call Me by my True Name By Thich Nhat Hanh
Do not say that I will depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive
Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch
to be a tiny bird, with wings still so fragile
learning to sing in my new nest
to be a caterpillar in the heart of flower
to be a jewel hiding itself in stone
I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope,
the rhythm of my heart is the birth and death of all that are alive.
I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time to eat the mayfly.
I am the frog swimming happily in the clear water of the pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who,
approaching in silence, feeds itself on the frog.
I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant selling deadly weapons to Uganda.
I am the 12 year old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving
I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to my people,
dying slowly in a forced labour camp.
My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.
My pain is like a river of tears, so full it fills up the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and my laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.
Let’s Wrap Up
Mindfulness Poetry is a powerful way to cultivate mindfulness. It is an accessible poetry that connects us with ourselves, others and nature. It also provides a space for self-reflection and contemplation. As we grow in mindfulness, we become more compassionate towards ourselves and others. The work of many writers, scholars and poets shows the many benefits of daily mindfulness in our lives, decreasing our stress and allowing us to be present in the moment and appeciate what life has to give us.
Want to explore more of the aspects of mindfulness? Begin your journey into mindful living by exploring our blog with articles such as Mindfulness in Sport and Mindful Eating to help you bring mindfulness to every part of your life! And join our online community today to learn even more about mindfulness and meditation with our tailored courses, that help you be the best you.
MindOwl Founder – My own struggles in life have led me to this path of understanding the human condition. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy before completing a master’s degree in psychology at Regent’s University London. I then completed a postgraduate diploma in philosophical counselling before being trained in ACT (Acceptance and commitment therapy).
I’ve spent the last eight years studying the encounter of meditative practices with modern psychology.