Welcome to week three of our practice. I’m excited to continue offering these excerpts from my new book, How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope. Please allow this week’s poem to spark your own joy, delight, memory, and imagination in whatever ways it will. As much as you can, I encourage you to create some quiet space to sit with this offering and see what it brings up for you.
Notice what you feel drawn to and honor how you feel moved to engage with the poem.
May you find delight and inspiration in this week’s practice.
With hope and love,
by Joy Harjo
To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
We pray that it will be done
Option 1: Stop here. Allow yourself to sit with this poem and let it live in you. Notice how and when it enters your awareness over time. What surfaces for you? If and when you’re ready, you might continue your exploration of the poem with option 2.
Option 2: Deepen your relationship with the poem with the following suggestions: You might begin by reflecting on your sense or interpretation of the poem, reading my reflection of the poem’s meaning as it feels helpful for your own reflection. Engage in the suggested practices to cultivate an embodied experience of the poem’s words and images.
In this poem, Joy Harjo—the first-ever Native American U.S. Poet Laureate—calls us to another kind of prayer, urging us to “open our whole self” both to the natural world around us and “To one whole voice that is you.” While participating in nature, and not merely observing it, she implies that we encounter untold mysteries and feel ourselves held in “a circle of motion” that goes beyond this one life. She offers the example of sighting an “eagle that Sunday morning/Over Salt River,” sharing that the way it flew with “sacred wings” and “swept our hearts clean.” Many of us may find a similar reprieve in deeply receiving the gifts of the living world around us.
Joy Harjo invites us into that space of sacred connection, telling us to “Breathe in, knowing we are made of/All this,” and encouraging us to know that we too are “blessed” simply “because we/Were born.” In this way, she implies that finding beauty in nature allows us to find the natural beauty in ourselves and our own lives at the same time, proving what Lynne Twist has written: “What you appreciate appreciates.”
Invitation for Practice
Go to a favorite spot where you feel more deeply connected to the natural world, even if it is just a window looking out at a tree or a few potted plants. Sit quietly, watching your breath and absorbing all of the physical details of the life around you. After doing this for a while, you might now write about that experience of presence, defining or perhaps re-defining prayer for yourself. You might also begin with Harjo’s words, “To pray,“ and then fill in the blanks, seeing where that phrase leads you as you let your imagination take over.
We invite you to share your reflections in the space below the author bio.