Friday, December 16, 2011

What we have to learn, in both meditation and in life, is to be free of attachment to the good experiences, and free of aversion to the negative ones. ~ Sogyal Rinpoche

Sunday, December 11, 2011

In meditations last month we practiced a breathing exercise promoted by Dr. Andrew Weil, a great practice for calming the mind. This exercise may be quite simple, but it calls for great awareness. I love, love, love this practice. Here are the details:

Breath Counting (reprinted without permission but hopefully Dr. Weil won't mind)

If you want to get a feel for this challenging work, try your hand at breath counting, a deceptively simple technique much used in Zen practice.

Sit in a comfortable position with the spine straight and head inclined slightly forward. Gently close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then let the breath come naturally without trying to influence it. Ideally it will be quiet and slow, but depth and rhythm may vary.
  • To begin the exercise, count "one" to yourself as you exhale.
  • The next time you exhale, count "two," and so on up to "five."
  • Then begin a new cycle, counting "one" on the next exhalation.
Never count higher than "five," and count only when you exhale. You will know your attention has wandered when you find yourself up to "eight," "12," even "19."

Try to do 10 minutes of this form of meditation.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

the Buddha on meditation

Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what holds you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom. 
~ Buddha

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Spirit First is now on MeetUp!

Spirit First hosts monthly meditations in the Washington, D.C., area and you can now join us on MeetUp. We are a regular bunch of busy people who like to take time out to pause, breathe, and meditate. We are from all faiths and disciplines, and everyone is welcome. Monthly gatherings include mindfulness meditation, guided meditation, music meditation, and silent meditation. We look forward to sharing sacred space with you. Find us here: Spirit First MeetUp.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Third Annual Poetry Contest

Third Annual Spirit First Poetry Contest

Deadline: January 31, 2012
First Prize: $175
Second Prize: $125
Third Prize: $75

Complete guidelines:

Spirit First is pleased to announce its third annual meditation poetry contest. Poetry submissions may be of any length and any style but must have a theme of meditation, mindfulness, stillness, or silence. Poems may reflect any discipline, any faith, or none. Poems must be previously unpublished.

Please do not enter more than three submissions. Sending more than three poems will lead to those poems being disqualified.

Please submit your poems by email unless you do not have access to the Internet. Poems will be accepted by U.S. Postal Service for those who do not have Internet access. All others are requested to be emailed. Poems sent by U.S. Postal Service will not be returned. Poems must be received by January 31, 2012.

Poems should be submitted with a cover note listing the author's name, address, telephone number, and email address. There is no cost to enter this contest. Submissions must be received no later than January 31, 2012.

Winners will be announced no later than March 31, 2012, on the Spirit First website at Winning poems will be published on the Spirit First website and the Spirit First blog, and in the Spirit First newsletter (authors retain full rights to their poems). Selected poems may be invited to participate in an upcoming book publication (authors will retain full rights to their poems).
How to submit:
By email: send to
By U.S. Postal Service (for those without Internet access), send to the following address:

Spirit First Poetry Contest
PO Box 8076
Langley Park, MD 20787

We look forward to reading your poems!

Friday, May 27, 2011

“Don’t tell me how wonderful things will be . . . someday. Show me you can risk being completely at peace, truly okay with the way things are right now in this moment, and again in the next and the next and the next . . .” ~ Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Thursday, March 31, 2011

First-place Winning Poem

Spirit First is pleased and honored to announce the first-place winning poem for 2011 awarded to Levi Noe for his poem “Om.” Levi is a native Coloradan and a graduate of Metropolitan State College of Denver with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a concentration in writing. Currently he is a teacher of children ages 1 1/2 to 6 years at Montessori Academy of Colorado, but beginning in May 2011 he will be an English teacher in Japan with the English Academy of Communication. Levi's free time is spent reading, writing, bicycling, snowboarding, cooking, eating, learning, unlearning and drinking in life. His current and future goals include, but are not limited to, the fields of writing, education, healing, freeing, and empowering. 
by Levi Noe

The bee’s buzz— the hum, the love

                        Is this Om?

I chase it with my
                    wild longing.

What do flowers chant
to make the bees come?

Levi Noe
First-place Winner
Spirit First Poetry Contest 2011

Second-place Winner

Second-place honors go to Mankh (Walter E. Harris III) for his poem “This Is the Somewhere You Wanted To Get To.” Mankh is a writer, small press publisher, and Turtle Islander who lives in Suffolk County, New York. His most recent book of poems is Adam Had No Earthly Navel. Mankh takes pleasure in nature and enjoys listening to music, learning about various spiritual traditions, and keeping up with world news and cultural trends. His literary website:

This Is the Somewhere
You Wanted To Get To

by Mankh (Walter E. Harris III)

this bus stop
before the bus arrives
is also a destination

this bagel & coffee
in the car before
the work day begins

this reading
and delivering of this communiqué,
this now
is the somewhere you wanted to get to

if you could just
kick it down a notch
you would notice this
bliss that lives in the cracks,
between the lines,
in the air called empty
by those who never noticed
this is the somewhere
to get to

if you have arrived
then you are not waiting,
not hoping,
not needing,
step right up, ladies and gentlemen,
see it before you believe it

if this is really the somewhere
you wanted to get to
then clear the table
and call off the dogs,
call off the second coming,
turn off the porch light,
all bets are off,
send the posse packing home
and let's just waltz
between the starry firmness
guiding us, guiding us on

let's just stand, arms outstretched,
a pack of canines
licking our un-crossed palms,
sandpipers piping the sand,
let's take a stand and take our time,
let's give a shit,
make it work,
let's shake it down and do it up

open your mind
allow the clouds
to roll on by
as a goldfinch
eats the thistle seeds
then whistles blissfully
this is the somewhere

Third-place Winner

Third-place honors go to Kaveri Patel for her poem “Forgiveness.” Kaveri is a practicing family physician in northern California. In her seven years of practice, she has found that compassionate listening is perhaps more important than the exact medical diagnosis. Her own healing journey has taught her that kindness is key to meeting all difficulties in life. She especially loves to empower women and help them reconnect with the sacred feminine within.

Kaveri has written for MotherVerse, Passing It On, and the Palo Alto/Menlo Park Parents Newsletter. She enjoys writing both poetry and prose as a means of connecting with self and the world around her. Kaveri lives with her beautiful husband, daughter, and mother in northern California. In her free times she enjoys mindfulness meditation, yoga, singing, music, the ocean, and spending time with her family.

by Kaveri Patel
There’s something new about the world
the day after it rains.
It’s as if an artist
erased the whole palette,
then redrew homes, the trees, the sky
with bolder outlines, and brightened
them with new paint
more vibrant than the old colors.

What if we were all artists
washing away old images of ourselves
with tears of forgiveness?
What if you could see
past outer appearances
and your heart was
your only canvas?
Would you imbue it
with the shades of your love,
or tear it to pieces
to equal
your number of self judgments?

There's something new about the world
the day after it rains.
An artist erases the whole palette
for the chance to begin again.

Spoken Poem Award

Spirit First is very pleased to announce the Spoken Poem Award 2011 goes to Frank James Davis of Troy, New York, for his poem "For Enlightenment."

For Enlightenment
            by Frank James Davis

As I now rise
to start life's sleep,
I pray the Lord
my truth to keep.
Working each day,
until I'm dust,
I've yet to learn
just why I must.
My mind might soon
remember why,
if I should wake
before I die.

Editor's Choice Award

Spirit First is pleased to announce the Editor's Choice Award 2011 goes to Rick Kempa for his poem "In Northern India Right Now." Rick is a poet and essayist living in Rock Springs, Wyoming, where he teaches writing and philosophy at Western Wyoming College. A book of his poems, Keeping the Quiet, is available from Bellowing Ark Press. Rick is also a poet featured in our Spirit First poetry book Moments of the Soul 2010.

In Northern India Right Now 
by Rick Kempa (for the students in my Religious Studies class)

In Northern India right now
there is a thin, thin man.
He is naked and has been so
for decades.

He is standing off to the side of the road
on one leg,
his other leg tucked high against his inner thigh,
his hands clasped before him.

He has no possessions
not even a bowl like the Buddhist monk.
When villagers come out in the evening to feed him
(because holy men must be fed)
he uses the bowl of his hands.

He does not cut his hair
because it is a home for creatures.
When he walks he brushes the path before him
with a clutch of peacock feathers
so as not to harm the creatures.

He will not kill the mosquito that drinks his blood
If he is attacked by a dog, he is bitten.

He is pursuing
the Way.

What are we to make of him?

In Iran there are men who
whirl and whirl for days in circles,
their hair, their black cloaks flowing behind them
turning inward towards the truth, towards love,
deserting their egos
seeking through the sacred dance
the Way.

What are we to make of them?

In a small town in New Mexico each spring
one man is chosen—honored—to be the one
who has his clothes torn from him,
who bears the lash, wears the crown of thorns,
who, barefoot, hauls the wooden cross up the steep hill,
is tied to it and stood upright,
while the community gathers in prayer at his feet,
believing that his suffering, his penance,
opens for them the Way.

What are we to make of them?

We might put them at a distance
as objects, curiosities. Weird! Strange!
We might even, if our own small world dictates,
judge them. They are wrong.
Their ways are not Truth
(meaning, of course, “my truth”).

We cannot enter their world views,
see them from within.
But can we at least stand at the edge,
understand them,
find something in their worlds
that speaks truth to us?

Friday, March 25, 2011

our resting place

There is a resting place, a starting place that you can always return to.  You can always bring your mind back home and rest right here, right now, in present, unbiased awareness.   ~Pema Chodron

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

true religion

A spiritual person tries less to be godly
than to be deeply human.
                                             ~ Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Jr.

photography by Madalina Diaconu
with permission

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spirit First on Facebook

Spirit First now has a presence on Facebook, and oh, my...what great joy this has become! It's been especially sweet for me to create the photo album for our Moments of the Soul poetry book (I had no idea how wonderful it would feel to see the faces of the poets whose words I have been reading for the past year).

Several days ago I sent the word out that we are on Facebook, and I asked folks to visit and choose to "like" our page. My intention was to reach 25 hits and wow, within about 24 hours we reached more than 80! I'm so pleased to have you all visit the page and support us and the work of Spirit First. I've felt encouraged by your presence, your comments, and your emails.With so many of you joining us here, it feels like community.

Come see us and visit us often:
You are warmly invited to "like" us. 
~ Diana Christine

Monday, March 14, 2011

on meditation...

Meditation is something wide and vast that ultimately expands into the Infinite. When we meditate, we throw ourselves into a vast expanse, into an infinite sea of peace and bliss, or we welcome the infinite Vast into us. Prayer rises; meditation spreads. Meditation is constantly growing and expanding into peace, light and delight. When we meditate, we gradually see, feel and grow into the entire universe of light and delight.   ~ Sri Chinmoy

Monday, February 28, 2011

take time to meditate...

The affairs of the world will go on forever. Do not delay the practice of meditation. ~ Milarepa

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Poems, poems, poems...

What a wonderful outpouring of poems we received for our Spirit First poetry contest for 2011…our contest closed on January 31, and now we are holding 1,022 poems from 44 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 26 foreign countries. How beautiful this is! The state most represented is California with 105 poems, followed by New York with 84 entries. We received poems from a couple of states we didn’t hear from last year, like Alaska and North Dakota (we welcome you!).

We are especially honored and deeply pleased to receive poems from our international writers. We received 26 poems from India, followed by Canada with 24 entries. We received poems from all across the United Kingdom, including England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. Other nations we heard from include Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Nigeria, Philippines, France, Romania, Thailand, Germany, Ghana, Mexico, Qatar, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Dubai, Uganda, Pakistan, and Turkey. (We also received a few poems without locations indicated.)

Our poetry reviewing committee is busy reading each entry (thank you, team, for this is a very big work…), which will take several weeks. Winners will be announced by March 31 and will be posted on our website at as well as here on our blog.

Thank you, all, for sharing with us your words, your thoughts, and your hearts. We are grateful for your generosity and blessed by your presence.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

what feeds my soul

           ~by Sylvia Levinson 

Yesterday it was the little red-headed bird
that lit on my balcony and poked its beak
among the sweet alyssum.

Last week, the December rainstorm,
water curtain spilling
from the leaf-filled eaves.

Last month, the bowed head of a classical guitarist
suspended over his instrument,
waiting as the final note disappeared.

It’s always something.
Every day there is something.

What “something” takes you out of the routine
and mundane and feeds your soul?

used by permission from Levinson's book Gateways: Poems of Nature, Meditation and Renewal, A Self-Guided Book of Discovery

Saturday, January 15, 2011

book reception

It was a cold January morning but I was eager for the day. Today would be our Spirit First reception in honor of publishing Moments of the Soul. What a great year it has been, with an abundance of beautiful words, the creation of a community of poets, and the birthing of a book. Today we would come together to celebrate what we have done.

Before the opening of the reception, we came together for our Spirit First monthly meditations (several poets from across the country who could not attend planned to meditate with us from afar). I love how this group of people from across the Washington, D.C., area has been learning how to come together to share the spirit of meditation. We have become a family. On this day we began by greeting each other silently, and the experience was so rich that we shall continue this as a regular practice in our gathering.  

After meditation, our book reception opened and our guests began to arrive—everyone coming was either a poet or a friend of a poet (thank you, Hershel…). It was all quite wonderful to meet everyone. 

Our first poet to read was A. Jarrell Hayes from Baltimore, author of “Stone Mind.” Jarrell was thoughtful enough to let the gathered crowd know his poem was on page 10 so they all could follow along (what a great idea…). “Enter the mind of wood, not of treetops and leaves swaying in the wind, but sturdy trunks which remain unmoving…”

Our second poet was Anne Whitehouse, who came to us from New York. Anne’s poem, “Blessing XXXV,” leads us to a place of meditation: “…My body fills with breath, my heart at front and center, thoughts dissolved, softening, deepening into the interval where a goddess passes by.”
Our next poet was Krista Kurth from Washington, D.C. Krista has two poems in our book, and she read for us from “Evening Grace.” The grace she described comes from a place of thanksgiving and brings peace…“Breathing in, I feel tiny tendrils of peace twirling and opening out, taking root, in the new found space in my day – in my heart – spreading warm comfort throughout – and – into my core, and with it ripples of expanding quiet joy.”

Our fourth poet was Carol Peck, from right here in Maryland. Carol first read “The End of Suffering” for us from her friend Stephen Cribari, who couldn’t be with us (he was in London). Carol then read to us her poem “Quaker Meeting,” showing us how we can carry our peace with us wherever we go (we also read this poem at our last month’s meditation gathering).

Our closing poet was Terry Quill (also from Maryland), whose poem “Silence and Stillness” has led to a bit of discussion. Terry explained how he wanted to create a page of silence in the middle of all the reading and how he hoped readers would understand (Terry’s poem was not part of the contest).

To the many friends who gathered with us to celebrate...thank you (I wish I could name you all here but I can't). You have been beautiful in your support and your love. 

I didn’t know anything about hosting a poetry contest or publishing a book, and all along I have been learning as I go. I am grateful to all of you for helping make it happen, grateful that it became “its own rich thing” (thank you, Lisa Dordal…I quite like quoting your poem). I have loved getting to know all of you. Your poems have become part of who I am.