Giving Our Life a Center: Part 2


Focus: When Am I True to My Self?

Please do this practice for 30 to 45 days.

Please stop three times per day and write down to the following questions. These questions somewhat overlap so that you can have a deep, multifaceted view of your motivation.

During this last period of time:

  • When did I act/speak/plan from clarity of purpose and intent?
  • When did I act from fear, avoidance of discomfort?
  • When did I remember and act from my values and commitments?
  • When was I acting to please others, from habit and familiarity?
  • From what I learned in this reflection, what will I take up and what will I put down?




I May, I Might, I Must

Marianne Moore

If you will tell me why the fen
appears impassable, I then
will tell you why I think that I
can get across it if I try.


From Moby Dick

Herman Melvillemelville

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.


On The Off Chance

Ingrid Goff-Maidoff

On the off chance I am more
than a monkey who dreams,
raising bread to my mouth
I thank some kind, nameless source.

On the off chance I am more
than a monkey who dreams,
sipping the dark wine
I feel part of the river.

On the off chance I am more
than a monkey who dreams,
nibbling your soft, generous lips,
I make love to your ancestors.


Success is counted sweetest

Emily Dickinson

Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed.emily-dickinson
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.

Not one of all the purple Host
Who took the Flag today
Can tell the definition
So clear of Victory

As he defeated—dying—
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Burst agonized and clear!




Amy Lowell

High up in the apple tree climbing I go,
With the sky above me, the earth below.
Each branch is the step of a wonderful stair
Which leads to the town I see shining up there.

Climbing, climbing, higher and higher,
The branches blow and I see a spire,
The gleam of a turret, the glint of a dome,
All sparkling and bright, like white sea foam.

On and on, from bough to bough,
The leaves are thick, but I push my way through;
Before, I have always had to stop,
But today I am sure I shall reach the top.

Today to the end of the marvelous stair,
Where those glittering pinacles flash in the air!
Climbing, climbing, higher I go,
With the sky close above me, the earth far below.


A Secret Life

Stephen Dunn

Why you need to have one
is not much more mysterious than
why you don’t say what you think
at the birth of an ugly baby.
Or, you’ve just made love
and feel you’d rather have been
in a dark booth where your partner
was nodding, whispering yes, yes,
you’re brilliant. The secret life
begins early, is kept alive
by all that’s unpopular
in you, all that you know
a Baptist, say, or some other
accountant would object to.

It becomes what you’d most protect
if the government said you can protect
one thing, all else is ours.
When you write late at night
it’s like a small fire
in a clearing, it’s what
radiates and what can hurt
if you get too close to it.
It’s why your silence is a kind of truth.
Even when you speak to your best friend,
the one who’ll never betray you,
you always leave out one thing;
a secret life is that important.

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