Wonderful Words

The Power of Words
by Jessica Harwood

I hated poetry until I was a senior in college.  

I had no idea how powerful words could be until a friend showed me the most marvelous Rumi poem. I was sitting in the library, diligently studying for exams, when this 13th century Persian poet captured my experience and feelings with the most beautiful images and words. 


My worst habit is I get so tired of winter
I become a torture to those I'm with.
If you are not here, nothing grows.
I lack clarity. My words tangle and knot up.
How to cure bad water? Send it back to the river.
How to cure bad habits? Send me back to you.
When water gets caught in habitual whirlpools,
dig a way out through the bottom
to the ocean.
There is a secret medicine given only to those who hurt so hard they can't hope.
The hopers would feel slighted if they knew.

And with that, I had a way to dig myself out of the habitual whirlpools. The patterns of study, study, study, work, work, work, were released with this secret medicine of words. 

It is remarkable how words can break our patterns, stop our limited brain whirlpools and release us out into the ocean. 

Now I try to memorize poems whenever I hear a string of words that is so moving. 

Having a poem on my tongue, rolling around in my mind, is like being wrapped in a cozy blanket, walking around with a secret comfort object that no one can see, but that I can use whenever I need. A spiritual practice. Like this other Rumi phrase: “Let the beauty we love be what we do.”

Many faith traditions have mantras -- words that are repeated over and over during rituals. Starting with Hinduism 3,000 years ago, people realized that they could connect their minds, bodies, and spirits with words. In the third and 4th centuries, Catholics would seek a word from monks -- a singular word or phrase -- to ruminate on. 

What word or words could bring you to a place of contemplation? Do you already have a poem or mantra as your secret medicine?

Last winter, I was having a snack with some RE students after the service, before going outside to play. I kept looking at my watch, calculating how much time we would have to play, wondering if everyone had enough warm clothes, thinking about how to keep the kids safe and also give them the sense of autonomy that comes with play, blah, blah, blah. 

Why was snack taking so long?! I looked up to see the 4 and 5 year olds’ plates were still full of food. 

“I am savouring my cheese,” Sylvia explained. 

And with that, I was catapulted out of my whirlpool. SAVOUR. Savour! Sylvia had the secret medicine! 

This happened in the beginning of January and I had just read about one word New Year’s Resolutions -- as a mantra for the year. A word that can help you through the year and guide your goals. 

Savour is my mantra for this year. It has that quick magic of taking me back to the present moment, digging me out to the ocean. Thanks, Sylvia!

Beverly Lanzetta said that, “True contemplation always overflows into creation—it becomes a creative act.” Today we will get to create poetry together -- a product of our collective contemplations. As a community, we will weave our words together and create together -- let the beauty we love be what we do. 

I think of Jerome, standing at the top of the hill, watching his words spread to the people below, “The more words he knew, the more he could clearly share with the world what he was thinking, feeling, and dreaming.”

There is power in our words -- power to connect to each other and to something greater. There is the simple magic of words strung together into poems - to create, to comfort, to play….to transcend. 

As part of our service, we collected words and phrases that people love the sound or meaning of. Then we asked people to use those words and phrases to make poems collectively. Here are the poems:

Me: windswept, topography, happy. 
smooth gratitude, may I be filled with loving kindness, smile. 
hope: I am here, I forgive you, I love you
you: go in peace, cat.

Life in an ever-flowing stream. 
Oh, what a beautiful morning.
No man is an island.
Hopeful, spacious, effervescence, sparkle, ebullient.
Severally gentle, epicurean. 
Ah aubergine, you’re salubrious, peach.  
Instead of blithering, soothe with love. Reflection. 
Go where you will go to. 
Whisper peace, peaceful world. 
I love you. 

Throw it to the wind, ephemeral shell!
Love, she persists: strong, complete. 
A beautiful life! Empower yourself to do amazing things, serendipitous whole family. 
Conceptually systematic, feliz. 
Real gel, I love you!


Benevolent luminescence. 
Listen: love is all you need. 
Other friends have flown before. 
Mystic, fluffy vacation extravaganza. 
Elucidate joy!
Floating green trees around us flutter.
When in doubt, take a nap.