Guide Words

Guide WordsI have a collection of small, porcelain birds in different colors, with guide words painted across their rounded bellies.  These tiny, bright birds are lovely to look at, but it is the idea behind them that appeals to me the most: a simple message – guide words, in this case – to center, to guide or to inspire.

My little companions were a welcome gift, but they are not essential to the act of this simple meditation, nor does a single guide word have to be chosen to meditate on. Anything can be chosen to contemplate, to reflect on during the different ups and downs that each day brings.

The importance of this practice, to me, lies in two things – the feelings or thoughts invoked by the chosen piece, and how they apply to the challenges of the day, and the act itself, the time spent on considering something unrelated to schedules and to do lists.

To pause, however briefly, during a busy day and read the lines of a poem, or a beautiful passage of prose, or even to hold a cool, smooth figurine in your hand and read the word printed on it, a word like “Joy” or “Forgiveness”, taking a moment to think about what those guide words really mean to you.  We don’t always allow ourselves these snippets of time, forgetting how vital it is to be moved and inspired by something that seems so small.

Guide Words to Guide You Through the Day

My plan for the next week is to read one poem, the same poem, every morning.  The same poem so I can apply the same guide words to the differences I’ll encounter each day, pondering the same guide words in new ways over the course of the week.  Not as simple as the act of meditating on one word, but I like the idea of using a poem to bring a window of beauty into each day of my week, and I like the idea of exploring the poem as the days pass.

Just as it doesn’t have to be a single word, it doesn’t have to be a poem.  A favorite quote, or a new one that inspires (there are so many good ones on this blog!), a page a day from a special book, or even a piece of music or a picture.  Something that helps you to pause and see in a different way; something that you can carry with you, in your head and your heart, through the hours.  Something that, just like my birds with their one word, you can come back to as a source of strength throughout the day.

Perhaps it will be the message itself that helps – the idea of tolerance, when you need to remember some, or the word gratitude to help remind you of all you have.  Or perhaps it will be the time spent appreciating and absorbing your words, your picture, your song- the moment of enjoyment and respite you choose to give yourself, a glimpse into the well of something deeper, something personal, that you can draw from when you need to.

Image courtesy of smarnad /

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