Zen spirit in poetry

October 5, 2022 in News

Gavin Thomas Murphy runs a website called Gratitude In All Things where he looks to Ignatian Spirituality for strength and inspiration.

Roshi Robert Kennedy SJ, Jesuit priest and Zen master, put the following challenge to us after we sat in silent meditation at the Earth + Sky Dojo (meditation hall) in Dublin. He said: “Why are you here? Why are you doing this? You need to know why you are doing it because Zen demands a lot from you.”

He acknowledged a degree of desperation in his own life when he first came to Zen practice many years ago. It involved hours of silent sitting and silent walking meditation. “I had to do Zen,” he said. “It was the next step for me.” He encouraged us to think about our needs too.

Here I present two poems that try to answer the question of why I engage in Zen practice. My first poem Come with Me addresses the theme of relationships and my second poem More of You deals with the theme of work/career. Please try to pay attention to the spirit behind my words.

Come with Me

Oh woman of beauty,
Woman of wonder,
Your touch and gaze
Blossoms my life.

When our eyes met
– amid lavender and honey –
We relished the sweetness
Of our waiting.

Ah! We will tell our ilk
How we urged and longed
And watered the depths of loneliness.
We ceased wasting time
To be here together NOW.

We will forever long,
And forever need.
But we will do it
In unison my dear.

More of You

Perfect packages of divine love,
Wrapped in all shapes and sizes,
Knowing what it’s like to suffer,
Knowing what it’s like to feel low.

I bow in respect, in reverence,
As they walk the lowly fields,
As they pluck the heads of grain,
“Less of us and more of you!”

We listen to the belly of silence,
Breathing, observing, expanding,
Meditation draws us close,
With cords of faith and love.

Our feet and chins are raised,
Our lungs are filled with air,
Alive with passion and purpose,
“Less of us and more of you!”

Finally, read the words of the Evening Gatha (‘verse’) that is chanted at the end of Zen practice each day. I hope that my own poems share some of its essence. After reading, you may be moved to write your own poem!

Evening Gatha

Let me respectfully remind you,
Life and death are
of supreme importance.
Time swiftly passes by
and opportunity is lost.
Each of us should strive
to awaken. Awaken!
Take heed,
This night your days are
diminished by one.
Do not squander your life.

Zen Centres

Grey Heron Zen, Dominican Retreat Centre, Tallaght, Dublin »
Earth + Sky Zen, 1 Upper Gardiner Street, Dublin City »