Saturday, October 25, 2014

New Poetry Contest Announced

Annual Spirit First Poetry Contest

Deadline: January 31, 2015
First Prize: $200
Second Prize: $150
Third Prize: $100

Complete Guidelines:

Spirit First is pleased to announce its Sixth 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 (we are referring to peaceful solitude—not loneliness). Poems may reflect any discipline, any faith, or none. Poems must be previously unpublished.

Enter up to 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, 2015.

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, 2015. Please note: We are sorry to say we are unable to provide personal evaluations/reviews of individual poems (we receive many requests for this).  

Winners will be announced on or before April 30, 2015, 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!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Silence Sings: An Evening of Songs, Poems, and Meditations

Friday, September 5, 2014
7 p.m.

Silence Sings, a private house concert in Silver Spring, Maryland, featuring John Mizelle. Come join us as John presents an evening of original poems, songs, and meditations that overflow in celebration of our miraculous world and the still, bright emptiness from which all of creation breaks into blossom.

John Mizelle is a prize-winning poet and fiction writer; a singer and songwriter with three published CDs of original lyrical music; and a psychotherapist and teacher of meditation and spiritual psychology. His passion is direct experience of Self beyond the conditioned mind. He draws inspiration from the mystery of the natural world, from the mystic poets of all times and places, from music, and from people. He lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains of the Central California coast with his wife and a family of animals. Learn more about John at

We hope you will be able to join us for this special evening--please let me know if you are interested.

This event is donation based.

July meditation with guest musicians Ronn McFarlane and Brian Kay, a lute duet

Mindfulness meditation...guided meditation...and silent meditation in a room with others on a spiritual path. Our July meditation will include guest musicians Ronn McFarlane and Brian Kay as a lute duet.

Grammy-nominated lutenist Ronn McFarlane was a faculty member of the Peabody Conservatory from 1984 to 1995, teaching lute and lute-related subjects. In 1996, Mr. McFarlane was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Music from Shenandoah Conservatory for his achievements in bringing the lute and its music to the world. He has over 25 recordings on the Dorian label, including solo albums, lute songs, recordings with the Baltimore Consort; and "Blame Not My Lute," a collection of Elizabethan lute music and poetry, with spoken word by Robert Aubry Davis.

Award-winning musician Brian Kay has performed throughout the United States and beyond. A multi-instrumentalist, Brian specializes in historical plucked instruments and ancient songs of the world, is a songwriter and singer, plays a variety of percussion and wind instruments, writes poetry, and paints. Brian has been featured at distinguished venues such as Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Shriver Hall, and The Boston Early Music Festival. His radio appearances include Baltimore's WYPR and Boston's WGBH. His debut album Ocean was released in November, 2013.

Meditations in Silver Spring, Maryland, on July 19 begin at 10:30 and continue for one hour or so. Following meditations you are invited to join us in the dining room for lunch--delicious organic, whole, vegetarian snacks. Let me know if you are interested, and I will send you the location. Welcome to our meditation community!

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Our 5th annual Spirit First poetry contest received an amazing 1,752 poems, a record-breaking year for us! Poems came in from 48 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 45 foreign countries (the only missing U.S. states were Iowa and North Dakota).
Poems from outside the U.S. arrived from Algeria, Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, England, France, Republic of Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kosovo, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Myanmar, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Republic of Seychelles, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Serbia, China, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, and Ukraine. (Some poems arrived with nationality/address unknown.)
Thank you to all who participated--we appreciate every poet, every poem. Your writing is important to the world--please keep doing what you are doing.
Very special thanks to our team of judges and all your efforts to select the winners. What a great work it was to choose from so many beautiful works!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Jacqueline Jules is awarded first place for her poem “To Be A Gold Droplet Floating.” Jacqueline Jules is the author of the poetry chapbooks, Field Trip to the Museum, published by Finishing Line Press, and Stronger Than Cleopatra, forthcoming from ELJ Publications. Her poetry has appeared in numerous publications including Christian Science Monitor, Soundings Review, America, St. Anthony Messenger, Inkwell, Third Wednesday, Little Patuxent Review, The Innisfree Poetry Journal, Potomac Review,  Imitation Fruit, Calyx, Connecticut River Review, and Pirene's Fountain. She is also the author of two dozen books for young readers including the Zapato Power series, No English, Sarah Laughs, and Never Say a Mean Word Again. Visit her online at

To Be A Gold Droplet Floating
                   by Jacqueline Jules

While sometimes
prayer dissolves me
like sugar in water...
to become a sweeter substance,
I am just as satisfied
with suspension
in this oil and vinegar world—
to be a gold droplet floating
in a dark, mysterious sea
I can withstand
a hard shaking
and not be absorbed
by bitter circumstances.


Second-place honors go to Jennifer L. Freed for her poem “This Strawberry This.”

Jennifer L Freed’s poetry chapbook, These Hands Still Holding, was a finalist in the 2013 New Women’s Voices chapbook competition, and has just been published by Finishing Line Press (April 2014).  Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry East, Cloudbank, The Worcester Review, Common Ground Review, and other publications. To read some of her other work or to learn more, please visit her website: 

This Strawberry This
        by Jennifer L. Freed

A hundred years ago in Hong Kong, I stood strangely
in a cluttered shop on a cluttered corner, gazing
at unexpected American candy bars
that had crossed the Pacific to land there
on those shadowed shelves. Names from such a distant
place – Mars, Milky Way, 5th
Avenue. I stood and stared
for such a while that the clerk asked if I was ill. No.
I had been away: six months
in the Chinese mainland, where there were no
such luxuries of once-familiar food.
The candy was extravagantly dear, foreign
import price, and I was barely
out of college, was in Hong Kong only long
enough for booster shots (encephalitis, hepatitis, malaria).
What little money I had
had to last me another six months
back in the People’s Republic, and then
still fly me home. So the choice
of which chocolate to buy, the choice of whether
to buy at all
seemed a matter of slow and grave consideration.
And so I stood, and gazed, and weighed with care the options
of nut and caramel, of nougat and crunch, or of none
of these, and I knew that what I bought, if
I bought, would not be casually
chewed, but allowed to soak
on my tongue, to last, for it would be the last
time I would have a chance
to taste my home for yet another half a year. And maybe that’s why
now, worlds later, in this other
life, the one with children’s schoolwork spread across the kitchen
table, and flowered backpacks piled up by the door – in this
life, when I come home late one evening, stomach panging
for my missed dinner, and I grab
a handful of this and a clutch of that, quickly
chewing without even a plate because the harried day has not yet left
my bones, I am suddenly stilled
by a bite of summer strawberry.
A strawberry.
Chilled from the ‘fridge.
Taste this, a part of me says. Pay attention.
is breath-
takingly good. This
is the only this
I’ll ever


Third-place honors go to John Mizelle for “The Birth of Stars.” John Mizelle is a prize-winning poet and fiction writer, a singer, a songwriter, a recording artist with three published CDs of original music, and a psychotherapist and teacher of spiritual psychology. His passion is direct experience of Self beyond the conditioned mind. He draws inspiration from the natural world, from the mystic poets of all times and places, from music, and from people. He lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California with his wife and a family of animals. He can be contacted at, or his website,

The Birth of Stars
         by John Mizelle

There’s a place of deepest quiet,
where every sound is a clear voice.
There’s a place of deepest darkness,
where softly burning stars rejoice.
There’s a place of deepest stillness,
from which the dancing worlds arise.
To rest there, breathing softly,
is the first, the last, the only prize.

The greatest life, the longest line,
leaves no more mark than morning dew.
The king who builds a mighty throne
succumbs to something small and new
that rises from the emptiness
to feast on body’s heady wine.
No end to the blessed kingdom,
no end to this dance divine.

This body is a sacrament,
each cell a flaming drop of God;
this mind a complex instrument
whose simple purpose is to laud
this wonder giving shape to life,
as universes rise and fall;
each self a speck in emptiness,
yet inside each self resides all.

The redwood asks not how to live,
but rises, graceful, toward the sun.
It hosts whole worlds in its brief life
and feeds still more when it is done.
The task that is offered us
is to discover what we are.
Rest now—your heart teems with light;
by nature, it gives birth to star.


Editor's Choice Award goes to Gabriella Brand for “River, stream, brook, mind.” Gabriella Brand's poems, short stories, and essays have appeared in Room Magazine, Cordite, Christian Science Monitor, The Citron Review, 3Elements Review, and other publications. Her work is part of the "Connected" anthology put out by WisingUp Press. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Now and then, she undertakes solo spiritual pilgrimages, including walking from France to Spain on the Camino de Santiago, as well as the more challenging 88 Temples of Shikoku, Japan. Gabriella Brand is a lay preacher in the Unitarian tradition, frequently addressing groups in Quebec, New England, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Contact: and

River, stream, brook, mind
            by Gabriella Brand
Meditation, it’s like getting in a canoe.
So wobbly, at first.
No idea how to navigate,
no idea how to survive a meeting with an iceberg,
a tumble over Niagara Falls,
the free-fall of the mind,
the winding river, the unpredictable waves.

Breathe, says the master. Don’t hold your breath.

But I find myself tightening my life-vest,
and clinging to the sides.

Take it all as it comes, says the master,
the twists, the turns,
the scraping of the hull,
the long portage,
the doldrums and the rapids.

But I keep hitting rocks, I say.

Get rid of the paddle, says the master.

And when I finally do, I float,
buoyant as a plover,
high above the little creek I used to call my head.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Poems, poems, poems! Meditation and mindfulness poems...

We have well over 900 poems registered and entered in our current poetry contest, with a big pile of poems that have arrived in the past two or three days that are not yet processed. We love hearing from you! Our contest continues until the last day of January, and if you have not yet entered, we look forward to hearing from you. Details in blog post dated September 30 or on our website at