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Book club

Week 14, by Kimberly Prendergast

“Becoming the Poem”

Just when you thought Nepo couldn’t go any deeper….these last couple of weeks dig so deep I don’t know that I can capture it well, if at all. I was struck with the themes around being so fully present. In order to “be the poem” one must show up to the party and be fully engaged with what is in front of them. As Nepo writes on page 227, “ the fate of humanity: to weather the cost of standing in the open in order to be guided by the angels.”

That sounds exciting, scary, invigorating and heavy all at the same time. Thank goodness for his examples of Beethoven and Picasso because they help me to grasp what it all means. In reflection, I think about the times I have danced. I love to dance. I used to do it all of the time. As I have gotten older that pastime comes along rarely. But I know that I still love it. I think dancing calls one to be fully in the moment with their body, mind and spirit. The body moving to a beat or flow, connecting with the sound of music and sometimes others. When I dance I become the poem; dancing is pure, improvisation, channeling the stream of energy in the room.

Nepo talks about rehearsing as a means to “keep death at arm’s length”. Death being the opposite of life, then rehearsing keeps us fresh in the moment. It’s not about getting it perfect, it’s about engaging with the process. Currently, I am rehearsing for a play so I am particularly struck by this metaphor for my process–to keep it fresh and look at the words from a new perspective each time I practice. Then broadening this process to the rest of my life I wonder if I can show up fresh and engage with each shower or each time I cook dinner or walk the dog? Can I be the poem then?

Finally, Nepo leaves us with the question about being a conduit between other living things. In some odd ways this is my calling in both acting and as a therapist. To connect to or with, to speak in honesty and in truth, to channel the others perspective in order to bring to life or promote healing. When I am good at what I do it is when I am fully present in the deepest parts of my being to bear witness and let the story unfold in front of me. The opposite is also true, when I am invested in making the outcome mine, or caught up in my head full of judgment or fear I am no longer any good at what I do because I am no longer fully present and I have shut down the flow.

What struck you about this week’s reading?


Book Club Schedule:

  • Week #15 The Empty Saddle through This Belongs to Everyone, Eva Tsoureka, Dec. 9
  • Week #16 FINAL book club round up Zoom, Saturday, December 18, 10am pacific

Tracey here: Please RSVP to me regarding a final Zoom. If you’d rather, we could meet shortly after the beginning of the new year and discuss how we might incorporate some of Mark’s wisdom moving forward. Let me know!

11 Comments

  1. Kimberly, I love that you wrote, “When I dance, I become the poem.” I can relate to that! Yes, being fully present is exhilerating, and I feel this way when I dance, and also when I create art. Creating art was the conduit for understanding how being present is a precious gift to myself. I spent so many years being in my head so much of the time, always thinking about all kinds of things, and processing situations I was in or would be in. Often while driving and listening to music, I would turn off the radio because I realized I had shit to think about and the music was distracting! Yikes!

    Now I live in the present so much that I spend a few minutes each evening going over my calendar for the next day, setting alarms on my phone to keep myself on track so I’m not late for appointments, lunches, etc.

    Another topic in Becoming the Poem caught my attention. Nepo writes, “Once discovering that we are constantly in process, that we are constantly unfolding, the goal is not to solidfy our character and views, but to stay devoted to how we – and what we think and feel – evolve.” Until I was in my early 50’s, I didn’t feel my life was a “journey.” I had felt that it was more like going through the motions of what one does to get through life. This includes good times and difficult ones. It felt like I was supposed to get somewhere (emotionally, spiritually, financially), and then life would be easy and good. But I was so wrong. I am grateful I realized that my journey is a wonderful ride, with twists and turns that help me grow, that open up possibilites to find joy, grace and hope.

    1. Love this comment, Sue. Thank you. I, too, marked that sentence about evolving. Like you, for a long, long time I assumed life was going to be better then. Whenever then was and for whatever reason who knew? Certainly not me. Like you, I’m so grateful for the waking up in me that continues to unfold and shows me over and over again that meeting life where I am now and accepting it and allowing myself to be make my heart sing and afford peace. XO

  2. Kimberly, I really related to your description of how and when you felt most effective as a therapist. It was the same for me. When I could be still and create a container for my clients without judgement or agenda I was most effective.

    So what I want to respond to in this weeks material is the expression “Mind the Gap”.
    This is what I am trying to do on a daily basis as I strive to live more mindfully and as I attempt to quiet my mind in daily meditation. What do I find in the gap during meditation when I can quiet the incessant chatter in my brain? Peace complete peace. It feels so good on the days I can get there that I never want it to end.

    Remembering to practice mindfulness as often as I can the world becomes a banquet of sensuality and wonder. The other night in the bathtub I was delighted by the sound of the running water, the amazing feeling of sinking into its warmth, the smell of my soap and shampoo and the amazing sensual experience that is bathing. The more I can remember to live mindfully the more I am amazed at the beauty of existence. There is nothing else we need to do.

    1. Diane, LOVE this and you remembering to be mindful and sharing such a powerful experience of being mindful is such a great reminder about why remembering is important, LOL..That’s a lot of remembering..I know. But I’m trying to say that I SO get what you mean and where you’re coming from. It continues to amaze me..I used to want so much stuff. I got stuff and the problem is that when you’re just going through life looking for something out there to make you happy no amount of stuff will achieve that, at least for any length of time. Now, I keep looking around wondering what I can rid of. Where I can send some of this stuff that maybe someone else may need or get good use out of. Why? because I want, simply, to be present to the wonder that my life without those trappings has. It’s a huge change, that is for sure. XO

  3. Diane and Sue thank you both for your shares. I find it so interesting how we all have so much in common. I suppose to get through the topics in this book to the very end we would have to have some shared experiences in our lives. Certainly, as you have both commented finding ways to cultivate presense daily is our shared journey. And yes, as Sue writes, this process is never ending and we can look at that as a burden or a gift. I think I am just beginning to glimpse the gifts.

  4. Kimberly,

    I love the Nepo quote you referenced first and agree it is both invigorating and heavy at the same time. Dancing is the perfect example of becoming the poem! When I read your bit about dancing, it brought a childhood memory. As an early teen I came home from school one day to find my mother dancing all around our living room. We had this big console record player with built in speakers. I’m sure she was playing Frank Sinatra, whom she loved. Being a typical teenager I was horrified by the site of my mother (who I did not think was cool at all) dancing all by herself. Now it makes me so happy! Also, I dance all over my house all by myself too.

    The practice of being in the present is getting better for me, although I have a wonderfully active monkey mind too. Mind the Gap is a great way to think of it. It reminds me of noticing the pause in the breath, or more specifically practicing the pause. Following the prompt to “Enter the Spaces in Between”, I took my fancy lunch of a PB&J out onto our patio. Normally in December in the Midwest, one wouldn’t be sitting outside but it was an unusually warm day. I sat down on the concrete in the sun and just noticed. My black cat was stretching out enjoying he warmth as well. Most of the leaves have fallen, loads of pine needles around to be bothered by or simply enjoy. I love the smell of pine, it smells like Christmas. In between the details of me sitting on the concrete are many things. It is the fading handprints of my children from long ago. It is the peacefulness and grounding that I find sitting literally on the ground. It is the sense that all of my people that are gone from this world are not gone at all, they are right here with me.

    Once again, thank you all for your wonderful insights and thank you Tracey for this community. ❤️

    1. Oh Joan! How I love imagining you and your mom dancing around all alone (or still “together!”) What a happy, fun, and beautiful thought. Thank you for sharing about taking your lunch outside and just noticing. The other day, I got my booster and I was sooooooooooooooooooooooooo tired. I had no energy for anything. I told myself to get busy and then I told myself to forget it. I was allowed to rest. So I laid down on our bench outside and just looked: at the sunshine on the tree leaves, at my cat sniffing around, at the butterfly floating by, listening to the neighbor’s kids playing in their yard. I just took it all in and had such a sense of calm appreciation. I’m so glad you felt that too..and all that these moments hold. Thank you for sharing…XO

  5. Thank you, Kim. I agree! The further we go with Mark the more our minds get bended! I love to dance too and agree that it is one of those activities that can take us completely away…by which I mean make us so fully present that we are no longer ourselves we just are. I’m glad Mark keeps reminding us that this process is an ebb and flow because I was about to write that I wish we could stay there all the time, but that isn’t reality and, if we could always be that way, maybe it would no longer be so amazing. Maybe because my book is coming out next year, but I was taken with “Slipping Through” and all that Mark wrote about letting go of outcome, letting go of “striving to be important.” Of course, as an American person I fall into the trap of wanting to feel important. In the process of sharing my story, which is also my family’s story, that has fallen by the way. At this point, what I want for my story is as Mark says and as Kim said why we need each other…and how we stay grounded in our common humanity.

    I am a tad confused though, related to this, about what he writes about intention. “We waste too much time trying to make our intentions come true, rather than entering the unseen field that waits beyond our intentions.” Hmmm. Perhaps I need to journal around this. For me, when I think about intentions..I think, for example, about self-care. I talk about intentions related to self-care. If I’m thinking about going for a walk, my intention used to be because I needed to get my fat, lazy ass off the couch and go for a walk. Now, my intention is to move my body, to feel my feet against the earth, if I’m lucky to commune with the trees and the wind. Maybe I’m making too much out of it…or, perhaps I can understand it in stages. In other words..first stage is to engage from a place of nonjudgment..then that may allow me to enter the field that waits beyond.

    But I do appreciate his reminder that it’s rare for what we intend to manifest in the world. My experience around my book is already teaching me to let go of intentions and expectations and to try to meet reaction where it is and how it is with an open heart. I know I won’t have control once my story is in the world. I will endeavor to remember that the “spillage often holds the gold.”

    Another fabulous week. Thank you friends.

  6. Thank you to everyone in this community, for sharing your thoughts and experiences. There were times when I felt alone with my struggles, but I don’t think I’ll ever feel that way again. I’ve grown and been fortunate to find women who I can relate to in many ways. We are all fortunate to have each other to relate to! And when we have experiences that others haven’t, this is still a safe and loving environment to support each other.

  7. Oh ladies, those chapters are like “OMG where should I start?” Around 14 pages are only the sentences that struck me the most and I want to talk about!!
    So, it will take a while… haha
    Just wanted to say that I enjoyed a lot reading your stories and comments, while feeling a bit nostalgic that our journey is almost over.
    It was so revealing on many levels. At first, I was a bit scared, kind of reluctant to speak my voice, struggling with language, not sure if I am understood..
    So, it would take longer, having to dig deeper to find the appropriate words to express myself, bringing up forgotten memories. Become such a meditational ritual, that I will miss. And how much I loved how I could relate to all of your stories. It’s another proof that we are all connected in so many different ways. We are all the same. It’s so wonderful, each time I have another proof, the happier I am:)

    Thank you all and specially you Tracey for creating this amazing group

    1. Thank you for this lovely comment, Eva. I think it’s very powerful and never can be heard enough when someone says she was scared to join this journey and did it anyway and experienced strong feelings of connection as a result. That is the point! And I’m even more thrilled and hope that this journey has shown you that you need not worry about any language barriers from you outward or from outward in! Thank you for being here. Your words have inspired us all.

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