My First Poem in Thirty-Five Years

Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön tells the true story of a man who wanted to rid himself of all his negative emotions, but especially his terrible fear. Nothing worked because whatever his meditation teacher told him, he managed to turn it around into an intellectual exercise.

Finally, his teacher sent the man off to a small hut in the foothills to spend time in silence and solitude. The very first evening he was there, the man lit three candles, then sat down on the bare wooden floor to meditate. Suddenly he heard a rustling sound in the corner of the small room. When he turned to see what it was, he saw, in the dim light, what looked like a huge king cobra.

All night long the man sat in complete stillness, afraid to move, keeping eye contact with the snake, alert, completely focused on watching its every move. Finally, the last candle guttered out and the room was plunged into total darkness. When that happened, the man began to cry, “not in despair, but from tenderness” Chödrön writes. “He felt the longing of all the animals and people in the world; he knew their alienation and their struggle.” He saw all his faults clearly, but he also saw that he was infinitely precious and loved. It did not matter that he did not understand himself. His being was a well of riches beyond compare.

Letting go of everything—fear, control of the situation, his ideas about who he was supposed to be—the student surrendered completely. He stood up, walked to the corner, bowed to the snake in deep gratitude, then lay down on the floor in front of it and fell into a deep sleep.

When he awoke in the morning, he was alone in the room. He didn’t know whether he had just imagined the snake or whether it had been real. But he knew that something fundamental had changed for him.

Two nights ago, I found myself unable to sleep because I was transfixed in front of my cobra, the fear that I might get sick again and die. I was consumed with longing for someone to appear and tell me what is going to happen to me and what I need to do. Either I wanted the heavens to open up and the Great Goddess herself to descend with reassurances and the answer to all my questions about my life’s purpose carved on stone tablets. Or I wanted a great shaman to look into my future and tell me that I was going to live to be a hundred and thirty.

But instead I had an epiphany. In a painful, wonderful, strange, joyous way I finally figured out that the Universe has paid me the greatest compliment it ever could, by allowing me to realize that no one can give me “the answers.” All I can do is to walk the path of the passions of my heart, and to realize that the fear I feel at times is my passport to truth because it nails me to the moment. It allows me to live in the shining present.

In gratitude for this great truth, I wrote the first poem I’ve written in thirty-five years. It’s about those silent places within us where striving and explanations stop and all we want to do is to open our hearts to life and to the precious, imperfect, mysterious, and wonderful beings around us. And here we find the still center where we finally acknowledge and accept that we ourselves are precious, imperfect, mysterious, and wonderful.


The only message worth reading

is the message written in your soul.

The only tracks worth following

are the tracks left by the hawk in the sky.

The only place worth stopping

is the place in the air where the hummingbird hovered.

The only task worth doing

can be seen in the glistening white eggs of the monarch butterfly

driven to give to life, 200 times, 1,000 times, until her death.

Can I do less?

About Joy Parker

As a three-time cancer survivor and storyteller, I felt compelled to create this blog because I felt the need to connect with an audience and immediately share what I am learning as I am learning it. The material in this blog is serving as the basis for two books that I am writing. The first book talks about how illness is a vehicle that takes us into the unknown land, teaches us things we couldn’t otherwise learn, and then gives us the opportunity to bring them back to our community. It offers a compass and creates a map of the unknown land so that others might find their path more easily. Most important, it shares what I have learned about waking up and being truly alive in this magnificent world. That might sound simple enough, but the actual experience is devastatingly beautiful and powerful. The second project is a book with medicine cards discussing many of the lessons I’ve learned from my experiences with healing and as a healer, the indigenous world, and walking a spiritual path. Most important, it is the story of the development of my own personal mythology. People tend to think of myths as massive stories and beliefs that develop in a culture over hundreds or thousands of years. We now live in a time of crisis and we don’t have a hundred years. The time for healing and transformation is now, and we are the ones we have been waiting for.
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7 Responses to My First Poem in Thirty-Five Years

  1. Tayria Ward says:

    Gorgeous, every bit of it. I like the prose that goes with it. Tremendous.

  2. What a perfectly expressed piece of writing! And what a profound healing!

    Oddly, last night I was thinking about snakes (am going to India in a couple of days) and turned on PBS, only to see a show about the lives of Black Mambas! I have an old, old relationship with rattlesnakes, who do not frighten me much any more. I am more anxious about Mambas and cobras.

    Also, yesterday, I told a client a story about Pema. Then I wrote the story into a presentation I will be giving. The story is about how complex the world is, how we have to make difficult, perplexing choices.

    Thank you for sharing your world with us. Such a blessing! May you (may we all) be well, and remember you vastness.

  3. Silvana Balsimelli says:

    Looking death in the eye in everymoment and surrendering to it, is the lesson I get from your words and experience.

  4. hello!This was a really impressive theme!
    I come from itlay, I was luck to discover your Topics in bing
    Also I learn much in your subject really thanks very much i will come again

  5. I am very grateful to find your blog and the beautiful and deep expresion of your inner self. The poem is a beutiful way to remind us the answeres to our questions are in front and inside us, we only need to really be.

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