Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life –
What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?
by William Stafford
Beginners mind, and recognising the preciousness of the moment is one of the key ingredients in mindfulness. I’m assuming William Stafford wasn’t particularly calling what he points at in this poem ‘mindfulness’, but he’s captured this aspect of it beautifully. The ‘breathing respect that you carry’ as the best gift to the world, what does that mean to you? What happens when taking a phrase like that into your practice, into your day?
I’m curious about this man who, according to Wikipedia, had his first collection of poetry published when he was 46 years old, who kept a daily journal for 50 years and who wrote nearly 22.000 poems (of which 3.000 were published). What a steady stream of practice! No wonder he can write with such surety – in his own questioning way – about not ‘waiting for time to show you some better thoughts’ and nothing that can be given that is ‘greater than now, starting here, right in this room, when you turn around’.
And on the morning of his death, at 79 years old, he wrote a beautiful poem called Are you Mr. William Stafford? with in the middle the lines: “‘You don’t have to / prove anything,’ my mother said. ‘Just be ready / for what God sends.'” Now that is what I call resting in the moment.