Welcome, traveler! Enter and take your rest...

A chaikhana is a teahouse along the legendary Silk Road pilgrimage and trading route linking China to the Middle East and Europe. It is a place of rest along the journey, a place to shake off the dust of the road, to sip tea, and to gather together to sing songs of the Divine...



Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

by William Butler Yeats

 

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

-- from The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats, by William Butler Yeats


/ Image by Rene Schroder /

View All Poems by William Butler Yeats


In the midst of work and scrambling, like all of you, to make sure my family is safe and provided for as best as possible through the shifting dynamics of this outbreak, I have also been trying to find the time to connect with all of you and send out another poem.

In this period of social distancing, connection is such an important thing. I feel that, on some level, that is at the heart of what this illness represents -- just as it forces us to keep our distance, it highlights the need for connection. We can view it as a challenge, or an invitation, if we like, to dispel the illusion of separation and, instead, to open our hearts, to connect genuinely, and to re-establish community. While we may feel like there is an enforced distance and isolation happening, it is important for us to remember that there is, in fact, no distance, except whatever distance we carry in our hearts.

Even in my own neighborhood I have witnessed some truly moving acts of connection happening. A few days ago, my wife was checking in on her mother, who lives nearby. While she was there some neighbors we'd never met before approached but kept a safe distance, and told my wife that they knew her mother lived here and was elderly and they offered to help in any way they could -- run errands, pick up medicines. We were deeply touched and realized just how profound a simple offer of neighborly help can be, and how rare it is for all of us. There is a large elderly population where we live, and I now see similar open offers of help being posted by many people on our local neighborhood bulletin board. These sorts of actions are so healing to communities dealing with crisis.

I encourage all of us to find ways to stay connected and, when possible and safe, to be of help.

This time can be understood as a social reset button, a disruption in our old patterns and rhythms in order to formulate new and healthier social norms.

A few suggestions that may help through these periods of solitude and anxiety...

- Recognize the beauty all around you. Appreciate nature, which continues to share its beauty with undiminished generosity.

- Take time for quiet and contemplation. Meditate or pray. The more comfortable we are with our own stillness, the more whole we are in every situation.

- Stay physical and playful. Go for a walk if it is safe. Practice yoga or tai chi. Turn up the radio and dance with abandon!

- Be willing to accept that we aren't fully in control of the situation as it unfolds. Trust that we have the awareness and inner resources to navigate through.

- Stay in touch with friends and family -- our outer resources. We humans are social creatures; we exist both as individuals and in groups, and we need all levels to be healthy and balanced. To minimize the feelings of separation, use face-to-face methods of talking -- try Google Hangouts, Skype, or Zoom. They're free and you get to see everyone's smiling face.

- Stay connected with your neighbors, even meet neighbors you've never spoke to before, through neighborhood bulletin boards. Create a mutually supportive network that is local.

- Break out the tabletop games and puzzles in your home.

- Reconnect with life through plants. If you have a yard, start a vegetable garden. If you don't have a yard, start growing sprouts -- alfalfa sprouts, lentil sprouts, mung bean sprouts. Not only do these activities provide a healthy addition to the diet, they remind us of the sheer beauty and magic of life, especially needed when one feels enclosed.

- Read. Read poetry.

- Send love into the world and be willing to help when you can. That's how a world works well.

Of course, sending so much love to all of you...

Now, for some poetry.

=


Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

I had heard this line long before I discovered it was from a poem by Yeats -- this poem.

Isn't that a wonderfully evocative line? So vulnerable, yet as wide open as the world of dreams. The statement invites us to be gentle and to be aware, for who knows what has been laid before us and with what care?

Go back and reread the entire poem. Read it aloud.

Notice how it feels like it rhymes, but it doesn't actually rhyme. The poet instead is repeating the same words at the end of his lines: cloths... light... cloths... light.

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,


But we get that powerful alliteration in the fourth line: night... light... half light. It is simple, almost a child's rhyme, but it has impact. It is more like a chant, as if the poet is summoning the child's mind within us.

And again, he repeats the ending phrases: under your feet... my dreams... under your feet... my dreams.

I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.


With that we are witness to magic, sealed with a child's singsong repetition. A healing spell that breaks the heart with such vulnerability, and heals it again with hope and the heavens.

May as well chant it again.

I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.



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