SONGS OF GRATITUDE how poets connect us to the pulse of praise

Ameer (Amir) Khusrau, Indian poet and musician of the 13th century.

Here’s one story: When Shiva got his creative groove on, he danced his cosmic dance and rat-a-tat-tatted a  hand-drum called a damaru. From those vibrations emanated the 10,000 things, the physical forms of trees and streams, of mountains and flowers. All forms, the story reminds us, come from sound.

And if we want to feel gratitude for the things of this world, for where they come from, and for the vibrations of this one wild life, we might turn to poets. Poets help us feel gratitude pulse in our marrow.

In its ancient forms, poetry is song. Ancient Aryans whose culture birthed the Vedas likely heard each sound of the created world and of the human voice as sacred. Poetry wedded the human voice with the bounties of this physical world.

No wonder, then, that the Aztec word for this act of uttering poetry translates to “the flower and the song” or “flower-song.”  A fifteenth-century poet of Mexico called Hungry Coyote carried on this tradition. Here are words from his “The Flower-Tree”:

Begin the song in pleasure, singer, enjoy, give pleasure to all, even to Life Giver. Yyeo ayahui ohuaya.

Such a poet has the model disposition to praise.

Indian women practitioners of Buddhist Tantra had call to sing. They underwent years of rigorous discipline. Then, they emerged in an awakened state and sang with Walt Whitmanesque exuberance of their experience. Here is one from Kambala:

Kye Ho! Wonderful!

Lotus pollen wakes up in the heart’s center –

The bright flower is free from mud.

Where do the color and fragrance come from?

What reason now to accept them or turn away?

Yogini poets of the past such as Mirabai and Lal Ded sing to the Beloved., playful, teasing, they ache with desire to yearn again with the divine and remind us to be grateful for those brief moments of bliss.

Contemporary poets hone our eyes and ears to fall in love again with the world’s small manifest things. Pablo Neruda sings to old socks. Mary Oliver rhapsodizes about a red bird. Gary Snyder honors the elements.

Some of us might feel challenged to feel gratitude. But poetic song opens us to deep vibrations of the physical world. It brings us into a space of intimate celebration and of connecting the images and melodic phrases that swirl within us to that which we’re celebrating. The bird song within, the bird song without.

This creative vibration of the universe and of the manifest world is spanda.  When we’re connected with spanda, we’re in life’s flow. We weave a day with graceful work, genuine connection, spontaneous play, and authentic celebration.

A day well lived is cause for song. And such a day is one of deeply felt thanksgiving.

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- who has written 3 posts on Yoga Modern.

Jeffrey Davis is author of The Journey from the Center to the Page: Yoga Philosophies and Practices as Muse for Authentic Writing (first ed. Penguin 2004; revised and updated ed. Monkfish 2008). A student of Sri TKV Desikachar of Chennai, India, he teaches workshops in tracking wonder and embodied creativity at centers around the world including Kripalu Center, Omega, Sivananda-Bahamas, and the UNM Taos Writer's Conference. He is a writer and creativity consultant whose clients include creative professionals, practitioners, entrepreneurs, schools, and organizations.

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