“Mindless Life in Ghostly Shadows”

a sonnet by Paul Burgess–this is one of my rare “serious” works. I would genuinely appreciate any feedback readers would provide.

This drinking tea to empty out a cup
And doing tasks to cross them off our lists
Directs the eyes to what is coming up,
Although what’s here, and nothing else, exists.
If sewing only to complete a dress
With thoughts of only what will next arrive,
Then shadows and a deathly emptiness
Accompany all moments we’re alive.

Without Awareness, tapestries of what has passed
Are woven presents filled with ghostly dreams,
And threads of faded “Now” that we’ve amassed
Will hold together Future’s fraying seams.
To always look behind or play the seer
Exchanges “is” for “is not truly here.”

This poem was inspired by the following passage from Thich Nhat Hahn’s Miracle of Mindfulness:

If while washing the dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.”…If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future–and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life” (5).


8 thoughts on ““Mindless Life in Ghostly Shadows”

  1. Louise Wahler

    My grandmother passed away in November at 96 and I went back for the funeral, seeing cousins I hadn’t seen in over twenty years since I left the country. Living in the US that glorifies dysfunctional families, it was striking how very functional that extended family is. It is functional because of her simple love. She had no life roadmap beyond bringing up her kids and grands and great grands. No great aspirations or achievements. She lived in the now not the future, just as this poem describes, serving afternoon tea to all the cousins on Saturday and always cheerful. She was mindful before mindful was fashionable, and when we visited with her, she brought us into her now too.
    It’s hard to find that same space today in the midst of a city noisy, even with the windows closed, but sometimes I put in my headphones and play a calming, simple, beautiful zen game on my phone, with no other purpose than to enjoy it. No score. No achievement. Just calm and now. Peace in my pocket. Thanks for the reminder.


    1. paulwhitberg Post author

      It means so much to me to be able to connect with a reader. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. Before I discovered the practice, I was a mess. I am so glad that you were able to have close, loving relationship with someone who understood the power of being present.


  2. Pingback: “Mindless Life in Ghostly Shadows” | Second Chances at a First Class life

  3. Pingback: Salty Dog Digital | Poetry to remind you not so much to wake up and smell the coffee but to slow down and sip the tea

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