Live Virtual Group Session: 6pm EST April 13th 2020

Thank you to everyone who joined the April 13th virtual live session. It was so great to be with 57 people joining in from Australia, Brazil, Canada, and across the continental USA.

Our text for the session, “Last Letter to My Son” by Nazim Hikmet, is posted below. Choosing today’s text is a gesture toward continuity with Hikmet’s “The Mailman”, which we read last Monday before needing to end our virtual session abruptly. Just as the poem’s father and son are separated, we, too, are separated over long distances and yearning to connect. Sharing the poem this evening also seemed like a mutual, simultaneous delivery of Hikmet’s precious letter.

Reading aloud, two volunteers gave voice to thoughts and feelings embedded in the poem. Closely reading for language and craft, participants pointed to the blending of darkness and light, commonalities among all beings and things,and the experience of being alone, especially now. Multiple participants noted the repetition of “but people above all” (four times in 23 lines). Others highlighted the father’s call for his son to respect where he lives, by invoking “your father’s house,” which someone suggested could refer to an earthly or a heavenly father. The facilitators were moved by the comment about grief being for “what was not dead but rather what was dying” and by someone calling today’s text “a lesson in connection.” As we moved throughout the text, we kept returning to the first word: Still. One person spoke of the various uses of “still” as “ongoing” or “motionless.”

This session’s prompt was: Write about a habit worth cultivating.

Participants’ writings included habits of journaling, keeping still, listening (as a language to convey what is not possible to put into words), looking both inward and outward, making a clearing, and fostering compassion —a suffering with — so that compassion becomes a way of walking with others.

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Please join us for our next session: Wednesday, April 15th at 12pm EST, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.

We look forward to seeing you again soon!

From “Last Letter to My Son” by Nazim Hikmet
From Poems of Nazim Hikmet, trans. Randy Blasing & Mutlu Konuk. NY: Persea Books, 1994 (revised 2nd ed., 2002).

                it's no fun
                                    to startle in the middle of work sometimes
or count the days
                     before falling asleep alone.
You can never have enough of the world,
                     Memet, never enough . . .
Don't live in the world as if you were renting
or here only for the summer,
but act as if it was your father's house . . .
Believe in seeds, earth, and the sea,
but people above all.
Love clouds, machines, and books,
but people above all.
                    for the withering branch,
                                    the dying star,
                                                       and the hurt animal,
                    but feel for people above all.
Rejoice in all the earth's blessings –
darkness and light,
the four seasons,
but people above all.

10 thoughts on “Live Virtual Group Session: 6pm EST April 13th 2020

  1. In response to the prompt “Write about a habit worth cultivating”:
    Learning poems by heart so as to have something to take with me everywhere, into the woods to ward off bears, or into the negative pressure room to ward off boredom or despair. Poems stored away in the mind become wise friends that know just what to say, what to question. In the dead of the night, they make good company.


  2. Tammy Smith

    Writing in the Morning Light

    To write every day is to breathe history
    in the present moment
    as it unfolds

    in my house – not my father’s house- no
    he left me
    to my own devices: keyboard, cupboard, coffee maker

    I brew my cup of morning Joe strong
    stirring it like brown confetti
    I want to ingest first deeply and then fling outwards
    to see where it lands

    I look around – at my home- at the outside world suffering
    sitting with myself
    still and unencumbered
    but filled with longing.

    I sleep alone – yes- for now
    but the star I wish upon
    not unlike a Jimminy Cricket parable where I trust my conscience
    guides me toward a future love
    a soulmate with which I can connect and share words
    writing together in the glow of dawn.


    • Andre Lijoi

      The idea of breathing history in the present moment onto paper as one writes is breath taking. The little stanza about brewing coffee when left to your own devices and consciously ingesting that brew deeply is so tangible, palpable. And the history of the present moment is one of suffering, longing. Yet there is a journey afoot to a future love. Lovely. Thank you.Andre


  3. In response to the prompt “Write about a habit worth cultivating”:
    Learning poems by heart so as to have something to take with me everywhere, into the woods to ward off bears, or into the negative pressure room to ward off boredom or despair. Poems stored away in the mind become wise friends that know just what to say, what to question. In the dead of the night, they make good company.


  4. A habit worth cultivating~~

    To live a life worth living,
    absorbing all that surrounds the body and soul.
    Stretching the limits of ability and talent.
    Benevolence and compassion to all of earth’s inhabitants.
    Acknowledgement that existence is one of interdependence.
    Nourishment and sustenance given to those yearning.

    I sit in amazement as I gaze around me.
    Thankfulness for all that is a part of my life.
    When my journey is complete, I will exhale
    and look to the heavens.
    Life has been good.
    I am grateful.


  5. Derek McCracken

    Hello, ceiling. Hello, sky.
    Good-bye yesteryear. You there, legs?
    Bedtime not time.

    Let’s negotiate a bit before we go all in.
    Brain — do your thing. Heart — all 4 chambers sing.
    Stomach — open up your butterfly net.
    Liver, be kind. Bones 206 trombones
    slide into form. The performance
    has started…

    The curtain is up!


  6. Yeng

    When I looked up the poem I found a version that had a section before the start of what we read. Do you know if that is accurate? It tells of the poet’s situation and his wife.


  7. Patricia D.

    Journaling keeps me open, surprised, humbled, happy and grateful. My tiny script reveals a tightness that only writing can loosen. I don’t edit, judge, correct, think, or even know what I am writing. I’m fine with that as it frees me from my academic self – the trained scientific writer who has been so successful in publishing. I never, ever reread a journal article that I authored. No need, it’s out there, in the past and I have moved back to the habit of journaling.


  8. What I have learned from many years of yoga practice (some more intense than others) is awareness of one’s breathing, making a habit of noticing how one inhales and exhales but also taking note of other breathing expressions like sighing and yawning. I find it fascinating how our breathing patterns affect our souls and moods yet we rarely take the time to observe the air going in and out, probably because our culture of (over)achievement has distracted us from one of the most basic human actions.


  9. Andre Lijoi

    the practice of the good or the God-like
    until it becomes a habit
    says the Saint.
    Good habits for the doctor
    None like Compassion
    “to suffer with”

    There’s lots of suffering going on right now
    and lots of suffering with…

    Who can stand the suffering
    he suffering with…

    Can we bear all of the others’
    It mustn’t cost too much to care
    It must be a habit
    so we can walk with the other
    so they can bear their suffering
    knowing others are with them.


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