Monday, April 11, 2011


Photo from Tom Curtis
In the blurb I wrote about myself for my provider profile on the insurance website, I talk about helping clients be kinder with themselves. Yet when I actually try to help clients with this, I often get the question: “How do I do this?” I’m still working this out myself.

This poem by Galway Kinnell has helped me:

St. Francis And The Sow:

The bud
stands for all things,
even those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as St. Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of
the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking
and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

For me, this poem is like drinking fresh juice. My body knows it is good. It reminds me of something I have lost that is waiting to be found. It reminds me that blessings are to be found here on earth, that they are in fact, all around me, and even, in me.

Like the sow, we are creatures of the earth. We have our spines, our fodder, our slop. Our perfect loveliness does not depend on transcending these things but is present in our earthiness, in our contradictions, scars, and coarseness. We too deserve blessings of the earth on us.

In the poem, it is St. Francis who reminds the sow of her loveliness, but this is so she can remember, so she can again flower from within of self-blessing.

So for me, self-blessing is an act of self-kindness, of reminding myself of my own goodness despite ways that I appear ugly to myself. Sometimes this requires a leap of faith – an openness to the possibility that I am in my heart good despite the fact I don’t feel that way at all.

Self-condemnation – telling myself there is something wrong with me – is an old habit, a well-worn path in my brain. It takes force of will to remind myself to self-bless. It is a discipline, a remembering again and again that beneath my fear and the ways I harden myself is my own heart both strong and broken.

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