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Poems, like metaphor, can help liberate us from the prison of words and language. They do this by disrupting, unravelling and deliteralising the everyday flow of language. I've selected some poems for you to try for yourself. They've been grouped according to the skill of psychological flexibility which the poem best illustrates. 


Let the wound lie open by Michael Leuni, Common Prayer Collection

When the heart is cracked or broken,

Do not touch it.

Let the wound lie open.

Let the wind from the old sea blow in,

To bathe the wound with salt;

And let it sting.

Let a bird lean in the hole and sing

A simple song like a tiny bell,

And let it ring.

Let it go, let it out. Let it all unravel.

Let it free and it can be,

A path on which to travel.


Jelaluddin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks

Out beyond our ideas

Of wrong doing

And right doing

There is a field.

I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass

The world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the words

You and me

Have no meaning.


Praying by Mary Oliver

It doesn't have to be

the blue iris, it could be

weeds in a vacant lot, or a few

small stones; just

pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try

to make them elaborate, this isn't

a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which

another voice may speak.


Eternity by William Blake

He who binds to himself a joy

Does the winged life destroy;

But he who kisses the joy as it flies

Lives in eternity’s sun rise.


"All the True Vows" from The House of Belonging by David Whyte.

All the true vows

are secret vows

the ones we speak out loud

are the ones we break.

There is only one life

you can call your own

and a thousand others

you can call by any name you want.

Hold to the truth you make

every day with your own body,

don't turn your face away.

Hold to your own truth

at the center of the image

you were born with.

Those who do not understand

their destiny will never understand

the friends they have made

nor the work they have chosen

nor the one life that waits

beyond all the others.

By the lake in the wood

in the shadows

you can

whisper that truth

to the quiet reflection

you see in the water.

Whatever you hear from

the water, remember,

it wants you to carry

the sound of its truth on your lips.


in this place

no one can hear you

and out of the silence

you can make a promise

it will kill you to break,

that way you'll find

what is real and what is not.

I know what I am saying.

Time almost forsook me

and I looked again.

Seeing my reflection

I broke a promise

and spoke

for the first time

after all these years

in my own voice,

before it was too late

to turn my face again.


The Journey by Mary Oliver, from Dreamworld

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice –

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But it didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with it’s stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognised as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do –

determined to save

the only life you could save.

"And the day came when the risk to remain in a bud was greater

than the risk it took to blossom." Anais Nin


The Serenity Prayer

Grant me the serenity to

Accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can; and

Wisdom to know the difference