Monday, September 30, 2013

2014 Meditation Poetry Contest Announced

Fifth Annual Spirit First Poetry Contest

Deadline: January 31, 2014
First Prize: $175
Second Prize: $125
Third Prize: $75

Complete Guidelines:

Spirit First is pleased to announce its Fifth Annual Meditation Poetry Contest. Poetry submissions may be of any length and any style but must have a theme of Meditation, Mindfulness, Silence, Stillness, or Solitude (but only peaceful solitude, not loneliness). 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 Poems must be previously unpublished.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, 2014.

Please submit your poems all in one file or inside the body of an email (rather than three poems in three separate files). Be sure to include 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, 2014.

Winners will be announced on or before April 30, 2014, on the Spirit First website at Winning poems will be published on the Spirit First website and the Spirit First blog, and in a Spirit First newsletter (authors 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

To all our participating poets, thank you for your beautiful words. We look forward to reading your poems!

Journeys in Silence Piano Concert

JOURNEYS IN SILENCE piano concert. Haskell Small, a pianist well-known for his imaginative programming, will kick off his national tour entitled “Journeys In Silence” with a free concert on October 5 at 8 pm, presented by the Washington Conservatory of Music at Westmoreland Congregational UCC Church, One Westmoreland Circle, Bethesda at Massachusetts and Western Avenues, the boundary of DC and Bethesda. Free concert--Donations accepted at the door.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

For many years, at great cost, I traveled through many countries, saw the high mountains, the oceans. The only things I did not see were the sparkling dewdrops in the grass just outside my door.
~ Rabindranath Tagore

photography by permission
cindy lee jones

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Romero Wyatt, Special Guest Musician

Romero Wyatt will be special guest musician for next Saturday's meditation in Silver Spring (September 21), and you are welcome to join us (30 people already signed up). He will provide rhythms, tones, and vibrations for the sound meditation portion of our program. Romero Wyatt is a percussionist who started playing hand drums at the age of 7 and since then has studied with master drummers from all over the world. He has incredibly rich experience in providing drums and percussion for churches, dance classes, dance productions, theatre productions and recording artists. He has worked with some of today's legendary choreographers and has an extensive resume.
Romero, welcome to Spirit First!


Tuesday, August 06, 2013

A lifetime may not be long enough to attune ourselves fully to the harmony of the universe. But just to become aware that we can resonate with it -- that alone can be like waking up from a dream.
~David Steindl-Rast
photography by Max Niedzwiecki
used with permission

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Alan Green Guest Musician in Upcoming Meditation

Spirit First is pleased and honored to announce special guest musician Alan Green will be playing music for the sound meditation portion of our monthly meditation on Saturday, July 20, at 10:30 in the morning.

Alan Green is a talented multi-instrumentalist who sings and performs on Tenor and Soprano Saxes, Flutes, Keyboards/Synthesizers, and other acoustic and electronic instruments. He specializes in Smooth Jazz, Caribbean/ Reggae, and all of the Classic R&B and Jazz Ballads.

With over 40 years of experience as a musician Alan Green has performed nationally and internationally before such diverse audiences as the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and for political fundraisers, some of which have been attended by such notable individuals and dignitaries as the Vice President of the United States.

If you are interested in joining us, please reserve a seat by contacting us at No admission charge.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

First-Place Winner, Poetry Contest 2013

Levi Andrew Noe is awarded first place for his poem "To Light the Way." Levi Andrew Noe hails from Denver, Colorado. He is a writer, a teacher, a yoga practitioner and instructor, a maker of botanical products, a world traveler, and a seeker of realness in all its forms. Levi is in the process of self-publishing his first book, a children's picture book titled One Day as a Raven (read more about his book here).

If Levi were trapped on a desert island and could have only one book to read, he would have a very hard time deciding between a collection of poetry from either Rumi or Hafiz.

To Light the Way
            by Levi Noe
I imagine a time
when the spark
you truly are
finally catches fire
through all the damp and mildew
and sets your dead-wood self
I am supposing you will say
something like “yeeouch!”
and possibly you may
be desperate enough
to stop, drop, and roll,
or run for the nearest
body of water.
But then
after several minutes
of mortified lunacy
you will find yourself
covered in dirt
dripping wet
laughing hysterically,
not caring how insane
the crowds gathering around
might think you are,
not worrying
whether or not
someone has called the police.
I imagine you will stop laughing then
and begin to weep
for all the illusions
of skin
and bone
and sinew
and thought
that now blow somewhere
across the midwest as fertile ash.
All of that illusion
that you once identified with,
and claimed as yourself
gone, gone, gone.
And once the madness
and mourning pass
I suppose you will float away
or choose to stay here as a naked,
penniless, homeless wanderer
with no aim, no fear, and no motive
but to love and to burn like a candle
to light the way.

Second-Place Winner

Second-place honors go to Mark Smith-Soto for his poem “Flamingos.” Mark Smith-Soto is Professor of Spanish and editor of International Poetry Review at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  He has published three prize-winning chapbooks and two full-length poetry collections to date, Our Lives Are Rivers (University Press of Florida, 2003) and Any Second Now (Main Street Rag Publishing Co., 2006).  His poetry, which has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and won him an NEA Fellowship in Creative Writing (2006), has appeared in Antioch Review, Kenyon Review, Literary Review, Nimrod, The Sun and many other publications.  In 2010, Unicorn Press brought out his work of translation Fever Season, the selected poetry of Costa Rican writer Ana IstarĂº.  His most recent works are Berkeley Prelude: A Lyrical Memoir (Unicorn Press, 2012) and the chapbook Splices, just out from Finishing Line Press.

            by Mark Smith-Soto 
What advantage in the wild
could there be in perching on
one leg, skinny and knob-
kneed, or in parading, among
predators, so openly pink?
What quirk in nature led
to this queer turn of bird,
gaudy bundle on stilts,
Cyrano beak, a neck for
sticking out? At the zoo,
thirty or forty of them stood
like an installation, ablaze
with improbable tranquility,
not a feather aquiver for minutes
on end. A while now I’ve
known unexpected beauty
can break you into a grin,
pluck the irony out of you
clean as a thorn. Watching
them that day, I raised one foot
and placed it on the other ankle,
for ten seconds at least
I stayed that way.

Third-Place Winner (tied)

Third-place honors go to Natascha Bruckner for her poem “One at the Center.” Natascha Bruckner earned an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Naropa University in 1999. She lives in Santa Cruz, California, and serves as managing editor of The Mindfulness Bell, a magazine on the art of mindful living. In January 2013, Natascha and fellow poet John Chinworth published a book of poems titled Whiskey Ginger, available on

One at the Center
            by Natascha Bruckner
You don’t see water.
You see wavering trees, rippling clouds,
a sun rocking back and forth.
The pond is a liquid mirror
until a small, stout-nosed fish
wiggles and taps the air
from below, sending out
concentric haloes
like portholes opening
then melting back to glass.
You don’t notice silence
until the bell master
invites bronze to sing,
wave upon ringing wave
surging outward
like flutes of a fountain.
The motion of love is no different.
Touch your darling with a smile,
a warm hand.
See joy lift his face.
Watch kindness ease her hands.
Water moves into waves as
silence folds into song
as we turn each other into love.

Be fearless like the stout-nosed fish.
Be humble as the bell master.
Be the one at the center
making a motion
of beginning.

Third-Place Winner (tied)

Third-place honors (tied) go to Iain Macdonald for his poem “Walking Meditation.” Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Iain Macdonald has earned his bread and beer in a variety of ways, from factory hand to merchant marine officer. He currently lives in Arcata, California, where he works as a high school English teacher. His chapbooks Plotting the Course and Transit Report are published by March Street Press.

Walking Meditation
          by Iain Macdonald
My elderly mother
takes my arm,
leaning on me
for support
as we head uphill
toward home.
She moves 
very, very slowly,
and I find
I must focus
and breathe
for balance,
her every step
becoming mine.

Editor's Choice Award 2013

The Editor's Choice Award 2013 goes to Temple Cone for his poem "A Closer Absence." Temple Cone is the author of three books of poetry: That Singing, from March Street Press (2011); The Broken Meadow, which received the 2010 Old Seventy Creek Poetry Press Series Prize; and No Loneliness, which received the 2009 FutureCycle Press Poetry Book Prize. An associate professor of English at the U.S. Naval Academy, he lives in Annapolis, Maryland.
A Closer Absence
           by Temple Cone
There’s got to be a word
for this longing
that kneels beside you
in an empty chapel
or follows you beneath bare trees,
a word inflected
with pulse and handclasp and breath.
You would need a thousand tongues
just to speak it,
unless you found
you were one of the tongues
and the word
was being spoken
through you. Was you.

2013 Poetry Contest

Spirit First is pleased to announce the winners of the fourth annual meditation poetry contest. Entries arrived from nearly every state in the United States, the District of Columbia, and 21 other nations worldwide. International submissions came from Australia, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, England, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Luxembourg, Myanmar, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Philippines, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Ukraine, and Wales. (Several poems arrived from poets without state/country information, so other countries may have been represented.)
As each round of the competition continued, the judging become more and more difficult. So many beautiful poems! Our reviewing committee had a great challenge in selecting the winners. Thank you, reviewing team, and thank you to all our poets for participating in this meaningful event. Congratulations to all our winners!

And now, we begin posting our winning poets and their poems.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spirit First on Blog Talk Radio

Exciting news! Spirit First will be featured on BlogTalkRadio tonight. We will be talking a little bit about Spirit First and who we are, and we'll be talking a lot about our annual poetry contest. Previous poetry winners will be featured on the air with us, so be sure to tune in and hear the poets in their own voices as they read their winning poems! Special thanks to our host, Stephen Sakellarios, who made all this happen (thank you, Stephen!).

Poets joining us tonight include Judith Prest, Lawrence Kessenich, Skip Renker, Wendy Winn, Monica Devine, Levi Andrew Noe, Kaveri Patel, Rick Kempa, Drew Myron, Carly Sachs, Holly Hughes, and Mankh. And me, of course, founder and director of Spirit First.

Tune in at 8 p.m. EDT or listen later in the archived programs. Find the broadcast here:

Oh, and these poetry winners on the air with us tonight are from 2010, 2011, and 2012. This year's poetry contest winners are not yet announced.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Grant me daily the grace of gratitude,
to be thankful for all my many gifts,
and so be freed from artificial needs,
that I might lead a joyful, simple life.
~ Edward Hays
A Book of Wonders
   photography by permission
graham jeffery

Friday, February 01, 2013

The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.
~  Brother Lawrence
The Practice of the Presence of God

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Benefits of Mindfulness

I just read an excellent article recently published to discuss the effects of meditation and mindfulness on the brain. You can find it here: Power of Concentration