Recipe for Conscious Existence: Inspired by Naomi Shihab Nye and “yutori”
Ink on paper
The familiarity of Naomi Shihab Nye‘s poetry often spread from my family’s poetry shelf into my life. Shihab Nye’s collection of poems A Maze Me: Poems for Girls sat at an eye-level vantage point, beckoning me to unfold the dog-eared pages and enter the poems myself. But it was when I heard Shihab Nye’s voice that I was truly affected by her work. And that’s where today’s inspiration stems from.
When I first heard Naomi Shihab Nye’s interview with the On Being podcast, I was transported into a space of being. Listening, I wondered if the simple state of being is the thread that weaves humanity together.
The Meriam Webster Dictionary defines being as, “the quality or state of having existence” and further as, “conscious existence”.
Shihab Nye’s On Being episode is called “Your Life Is a Poem”. Which seems so fitting because I’m fairly certain that poetry is a physical incarnation of this “conscious existence”, one that can be shared, one that needs to be shared. Because the act of being grows harder and harder with the increasing pace of culture.
Shihab Nye recounted one of her student’s explorations and explanations of being and how poetry can help us to be in a place of “yutori”. The following quote was the direct inspiration for today’s piece. Read it then be.
“And a girl, in fact, wrote me a note in Yokohama on the day that I was leaving her school that has come to be the most significant note any student has written me in years. She said, “Well, here in Japan, we have a concept called ‘yutori,’ and it is spaciousness. It’s a kind of living with spaciousness. For example, it’s leaving early enough to get somewhere so that you know you’re going to arrive early, so when you get there, you have time to look around.” Or — and then she gave all these different definitions of what yutori was, to her. But one of them was: “After you read a poem, just knowing you can hold it — you can be in that space of the poem, and it can hold you in its space, and you don’t have to explain it. You don’t have to paraphrase it. You just hold it, and it allows you to see differently.””