My spiritual practice has taught me that words are merely “symbols of

symbols.” So much potential for confusion, misunderstanding and, now and

again, that something else. I find a paradoxical ‘forgetting of the words’ when

I remove them from the page, ‘download them to my heartdrive’. There are the

symbols of the characters—letters, words. There are definitions of those

words. There is what those words mean to you, me, others. There are emotions

and memories evoked by certain words and phrases which are slightly or

completely different for each one of us. Then, when we give voice to them,

there are sounds associated with these words—vibrations, notes, frequencies

and rhythms within these sounds.


I didn’t have a word for this until I first heard the Japanese word “kototama”

(sometimes spelled kotodama). This word literally translates as “word spirit”.

(Koto “word/speech” and tama or dama “spirit/soul”). As I was taught, kototama

was the underlying reason we (A Japanese based spiritual community known

as Shumei) were chanting a 3,000 year old Shinto prayer in Japanese language

so archaic that even my Japanese friends could not understand most of the

meaning of the words. I was told “It’s not the meaning of the words but more

the vibration, the sound and spirit of the words that matters.” Something lit

up in me in that moment, a deepening explanation and consciousness for why

I was doing what I had already been doing for years.


Most often it is the so called “meaning” of a poem that first attracts me to

download it to my heartdrive. Once it’s firmly installed and I can give voice

to it in the highly particular way I hear it being spoken, I find I have become

equally interested in the way it sounds as I am in what it might “mean”. It

becomes for me a song. I have reflected long upon the process of downloading

poetry into my heartdrive. What happens to us when, through repetition,

commitment, love… we take the symbols off the page and put them in our

hearts? What magick can we conjure by calling up these verses in those ‘just

right’ moments when a segue arises? What effect does it have on our own

voice as writers to download the words of the great masters into our being?


I like to encourage people listening to or reading poetry to forget what the

poet meant when they wrote the poem—don’t even try. Rather, see what

it means to you at that moment. What feelings, memories, thoughts does

the poem evoke? Billy Collins, past national poet laureate and professor of

English speaks well of this in his poem “Introduction to Poetry”, when he

says “But all they want to do is tie it to a chair and torture a confession out

of it.” Of course there is nothing wrong with loving a poem intellectually,

emotionally or for any other reason. I think there are as many reasons to love

a poem as there are individuals in this world. I simply encourage all of us to

see what arises from within ourselves first.


Some esoteric information regarding kototama was shared with me by a man

who literally lives in a cave. In my own words, my understanding of this

teaching is that at one point in ancient history, all beings (not only human)

shared a common language. There were no misunderstandings. This was the

language of kototama, the language of creation and with each utterance we

created. Words (and sound) carry great power, and as the expression goes

“The pen is mightier than the sword”. The Christian Bible begins with the

passage “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God, and the

word was God.” I believe this idea of kototama is the direction that phrase is



Writing for me lies at the very heart of my spiritual practice. After publishing

this collection, I intend to experiment with leading some gatherings I refer to

as “Poetry as Practice”. I am interested in delving more deeply into the layers

of meaning, the kototama of poetry and how it can benefit us as individuals

and as a collective society. The way I see it, life is poetry and we are all poets.

Not all of us (thank goodness) need to write it down or recite it. I like to say

“Poetry is no fun without ears to hear.”


Over the years writing many of these poems down felt like as much of a need

as a want. First and foremost this is the reason for bringing this collection

to print. The wisest thing I ever heard Chief Arvol Looking Horse, spiritual

leader of the Great Sioux Nation, say was “Some of us have no choice.” Ah,

sweet choicelessness! Secondly this collection is for those to whom these

particular arrangements of symbols and sounds tickle something within in

you which you enjoy having tickled or perhaps disturbs a part of you that

needs to be disturbed.