Poem of Instruction: An Invitation to Self-Compassion

Share This Post

I wrote my first Poem of Instruction “As a Daily Prayer” at the invitation of my expressive arts therapy teacher and mentor, Dr. Christine Valters Paintner, in 2015. My poem was first published by Yoganonymous (a now discontinued website) in 2015 and later in Christine’s own book, The Wisdom of the Body: A Contemplative Journey to Wholeness for Women (Sorin Books, 2017). The poem still serves as a reminder to me of what I need to do for my health and my growth, and I read it regularly as an accountability check.

Eat greed foods
Drink fresh water
Repeat as often as possible,
As a daily prayer.

Ask for God’s help
Call upon the earth’s healing energy
Repeat as often as possible, 
As a daily prayer.

Laugh heartily from the belly
Move the body with joy
Repeat as often as possible,
As a daily prayer. 

Breathe deeply and fully
Connect with kindred spirits, or the silence
Repeat as often as possible,
As a daily prayer. 

Know that if you are ever too busy
To take part in these daily sacraments
Then you are too busy…

Ask yourself—what keeps me from
eating green foods
drinking fresh water
asking for God’s help
calling upon the earth’s healing energy
laughing heartily from the belly
moving with joy
breathing deeply and fully
connecting with kindred spirits or silence…

Listen to your breath, listen to your body–
The answer will arrive. 

I would now like to challenge you to write your own Poem of Instruction. These do not have to be long; a few lines will do. If your first reaction is “I can’t write poetry,” consider that what makes a poem a poem is that you determine when the lines start and stop. In prose writing, the natural endings of the lines on paper or in the word processing program determines that for us. And poems do NOT have to rhyme.

When I teach the Poem of Instruction, I generally recommend that you set a time for about 10-15 minutes of free writing in response to the question: How can I best care for myself today? After the free writing period concludes, go back with a highlighter or your favorite colored pencil, pen or marker, and notice which lines resonate the most with you. My teacher Christine often uses the word “shimmer” and I am a big fan of that word for these purposes. What lines, what words shimmer for you? Let those become your poem and if you are so inspired, you can even make some visual art or an accompanying playlist to help you further connect to your Poem of Instruction. You are free to share yours here in the comments, although that is not required. What I most suggest is that you leave your Poem of Instruction somewhere that you can readily access it, even using it as a daily reading if possible.

Photograph by Dorit Drori

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get updates and learn from the best

More To Explore

Bless Our Tired Asses

This poem is inspired by a road sign we saw whilst on the Australia part of our pilgrimage: “Don’t trust your tired self.” Inspired by