from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Sunday, 2 June 2013


What a difference small acts of kindness make to our lives, and our view of being alive. When I was in Scotland and blogging in April, I remember adding in to my posts snippets from Radio 4 programmes that I was listening to on the long drive north; one of these was a phone-in dedicated to people publicly thanking strangers who'd helped them, then gone on their ways anonymously. By the end of the fifteen-minute slot (I think it was), driving through Glasgow as I was (and I'm not at my best in city driving, perpetually over-stimulated by everything), I was weeping enough to have to peer really hard to make sure I took the turn for the Erskine Bridge and Loch Lomond instead of ending up in Gourock on the wrong bank of the Clyde.

Yesterday, looking through a book of poems to read a handful to my regular group, I re-met this poem and thought I'd post an excerpt. Reminds me of Kahlil Gibran's words on allowing sorrow to carve deeply enough into your being that joy has somewhere to reside.

from 'Kindness'

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 purchase bread,
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.

Naomi Shihab Nye

from the abridged Staying Alive, ed. Neil Astley


  1. From Miriam:
    The extract from 'Kindness' is inspiring and I thought about it as I walked this golden morning at 5am, sun just rising, silvering the tops of wild barley, the meadow dew-drenched and frothing with May blossom. The land felt kind and soothed any lurking sorrow. I thought of harsh words: how they're hurled in anger, designed to hurt but if you're lucky they'll slide off you, or better still, be taken in and reshaped in a sort of act of kindness to yourself.

  2. Miriam, thank you. Lovely poetic words! The last clause is a beautiful embodiment of what Tibetan Buddhism calls 'tonglen': the practice of breathing in hurt and suffering, one's own and others', and transforming it with compassion into something good... Rx

    1. Thank you for that affirmation, Roselle. This process of transformation all started for me in 2006 during a short course in Buddhism led by a monk from the community at Cornishead Priory, Ulverston, Cumbria. But I didn't know about 'tonglen'. So interesting and reassuring how the thoughts somehow keep rolling in the right direction once they're planted.

  3. Miriam, I didn't know about the course you had done - always so much to learn! - but am not surprised to hear it. Love to you and J. Rx


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