What we need…

What We Need Is Here

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.

Wendell Berry

I had not read this full poem prior to today. A little portion of it was attached to a beautiful picture posted by Tara Brach, a woman who I admire greatly, whose podcasts and dharma talks help me see clearer, help to ground me in now and detach from anything other than the present moment. I completely understand why she would quote this poem.

I pray. It is a newish custom. I pray the gentle words of the Serenity prayer :

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference”.

Well, maybe those words are not so gentle, yes?  They call me to be here now, in the moment, accepting of anything and everything and so damn much that I cannot change. I cannot change the fact that 4 of my dear friends are dealing with cancer. I cannot change the fact that my husband died. I cannot change the fact the my beautiful boy is struggling to do what he wants to do in life. I cannot change so much, so much that I deem wrong in my world and in the world that ripples out from me (I cannot change the fact that the world still ripples out from me…how did I get so important?) I can, however, accept these things, and in acceptance am able to, sometimes, come up with creative and loving way to attempt to change the circumstances around the facts; make it easier for me and others to deal with these unacceptable and unchangeable facts, this random world.

This is a good prayer, a mantra prayer. It centers me and calms me when I need it….Serenity Now!  It is sometimes as simple as this prayer.

Then there is the prayer I call my  “reset button”. I start the day with it, but often find myself repeating it during the day.

“God, I offer myself to thee, to build with me and to do with me  as Thou  wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy power, Thy love and Thy way of life. May I do Thy will always”.

That prayer is called the Third Step Prayer and it is located in the Big Book of AA.  Oh the fights I had with my sponsor about this prayer!  First of all, that I had to say a prayer at all when I so desperately didn’t believe that there was anything in the Universe that would answer or acknowledge that prayer. The added indignity of having to memorize it with all the Thee’s and Thou’s when it clearly states in the paragraph following this prayer that we can use our own words as long as the  meaning was still the same (and I certainly re-wrote this quite beautifully, thank-you-very-much!). She was, however, adamant that I memorize it exactly as written, and now I can’t imagine it any other way.  The old-timey  verbiage is comfortable in my mouth and in my mind. It hardly matters though, because the pivotal words in this prayer for me, the reason why I pray it at all , is  in the line “Relieve me of the bondage of self….” Get me  out of my own way, out of my head, out of the results I want, just be here now, be free of that incessant, selfish and self-centered voice that just fucks me up and makes me useless, USELESS, to myself and others. Sometimes I am amazed at how often I say this prayer to myself in a day.  Sometimes I end up a day grateful I barely repeated it.

The Serenity prayer is my mantra, the Third Step prayer my reset.

And then there is the beautiful Meditation Prayer written by St. Francis of Assisi :


Just the reading of this is meditation, and I often use this as a gateway into that state. I do not have it memorized, but there are times when I am on the mat in shevasana that this comes to me in it’s entirety. It is a call to compassion and change, one that I wish I occupied more. The true freedom of living this way, of inhabiting this prayer, is not lost on me. “It is in dying that we are born into eternal life”…life is what it is and we, I, do the best we can at any given moment, or at least attempt it. What is that eternal life after? Is it in memories of the living, energy, another state of being, reincarnation?  I used to believe it was a void, a nothingness, but I have too often been surprised and delighted by coincidences (?) that I choose to believe are winks from another place, another state of being…I don’t know. I no longer believe in nothing; I am, as yet, unaware of what I do believe in except that sacred now and the unusual (for me) idea that the universe is not a hostile place and that if I attempt to stay in the flow, abandon as Berry calls it so beautifully, that I will be ok, with the idea that ok is the smallest possible word for the largest of all possible experiences.

The mantra, the reset, the meditation.

As Berry says above:

“And we pray, not

for new earth or heaven, but to be

quiet in heart, and in eye,

clear. What we need is here.”

(I am compelled to include a “wink” here about the St. Francis Prayer. I have a dear friend who is a wonderful composer. He was the choir director of the choir Tom sang in for years, and several months..maybe even a year, after Tom died Stephen composed a beautiful piece of choral music around the words to this prayer, and then dedicated it to Tom. He took a few of our dearest friends into a studio and recorded it and I have that recording and play it often, and have for years. I love Sarah McLaughlan’s rendition of this piece and almost included it here but just couldn’t, because all I can hear is Steve’s. I so wish it was on Sound Cloud or youtube so that I could post and share it. The best part of the piece for me though, and I swear this is true, is that every time I listen to it I hear Tom singing tenor vocals, clear as a bell.  This prayer is a true meditation for me, in so many ways.)


Add yours →

  1. Love this. Love you. Let’s keep praying.

  2. So so beautiful.

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