Words of WonderFor Calling the Spirit Back from Wandering the Earth in Its Human Feet - Joy Harjo

Put down that bag of potato chips, that white bread, that bottle of pop.

Turn off that cellphone, computer, and remote control.

Open the door, then close it behind you.

Take a breath offered by friendly winds. They travel the earth gathering essences of plants to clean.

Give it back with gratitude.

If you sing it will give your spirit lift to fly to the stars’ ears and back.

Acknowledge this earth who has cared for you since you were a dream planting itself precisely within your parents’ desire.

Let your moccasin feet take you to the encampment of the guardians who have known you before time, who will be there after time. They sit before the fire that has been there without time.

Let the earth stabilize your postcolonial insecure jitters.

Be respectful of the small insects, birds and animal people who accompany you. Ask their forgiveness for the harm we humans have brought down upon them.

Don’t worry. The heart knows the way though there may be high-rises, interstates, checkpoints, armed soldiers, massacres, wars, and those who will despise you because they despise themselves.

The journey might take you a few hours, a day, a year, a few years, a hundred, a thousand or even more.

Watch your mind. Without training it might run away and leave your heart for the immense human feast set by the thieves of time.

Do not hold regrets.

When you find your way to the circle, to the fire kept burning by the keepers of your soul, you will be welcomed.

You must clean yourself with cedar, sage, or other healing plant.

Cut the ties you have to failure and shame.

Let go the pain you are holding in your mind, your shoulders, your heart, all the way to your feet. Let go the pain of your ancestors to make way for those who are heading in our direction.

Ask for forgiveness.

Call upon the help of those who love you. These helpers take many forms: animal, element, bird, angel, saint, stone, or ancestor.

Call your spirit back. It may be caught in corners and creases of shame, judgment, and human abuse.

You must call in a way that your spirit will want to return.

Speak to it as you would to a beloved child.

Welcome your spirit back from its wandering. It may return in pieces, in tatters. Gather them together. They will be happy to be found after being lost for so long.

Your spirit will need to sleep awhile after it is bathed and given clean clothes.

Now you can have a party. Invite everyone you know who loves and supports you. Keep room for those who have no place else to go.

Make a giveaway, and remember, keep the speeches short.

Then, you must do this: help the next person find their way through the dark.

by Joy Harjo


This one needs you to know you have a little piece of undisturbed time to settle in to. Make a cup of tea, sit in your favourite chair and read this through once or a few times.

What Joy Harjo (Muscogee or Creek Nation poet and former three times poet laureate of the US, find out more here) is saying to me, is that there are many ways in which we human beings have lost our way, both culturally and individually. I feel this is true for me every day. I carry the sense that I’ve somehow lost a certain necessary something that is essential to a life lived. Is it wholesomeness, depth, presence, balance, human connection, stillness? It’s hard to put into words but I know what is getting in the way, for me at least – technology, a culture of speed and ambition, isolation, a felt disconnection from the web of life.

In my life time I’ve experienced the pre-technological era as a child and I’ve spent 6 years mostly free of technology on a retreat island. I’m now part of the crazy world of instant communication and instant getting – whether it’s information, entertainment, communication or consumables. This is a very uncomfortable passage of time to bridge. I know the real, simple, direct, open quality of a life without the huge wider world crowding

into it. I also know about the blessings of technology of course, but this poem speaks deeply of what I feel is lost to us in these ‘strange’ or ‘uncertain’ times, as they’re often referred to.

And yet it is found in moments that we can and do all experience, which sparkle through the mesh of content, proliferating perceived necessity and rushing about. I hear about these glimpse moments a lot in our mindfulness groups and I certainly witness groups falling easily back into a more tranquil and connected existence at Samye Ling on weekend retreats. This is a place where we can ‘call in a way that our spirits return’ and often by the end of the retreat there’s a sense of a joy and celebration – a tranquil version of a party perhaps!

Fay Adams

Ps. If you’d like to join a retreat at Samye Ling this summer Compassion in Nature in August still has places and would make a wonderful, different kind of summer holiday. If you feel tired of being pulled in different directions, if you need to fill your own cup and let go of caring roles and responsibilities, this compassion retreat is for you.

Photo by Mike Erskine on Unsplash