Wednesday, December 29, 2021

On "doing the work"

Recently someone asks what it actually means

"to do the work" 

Appreciation for candor and demands to simplify abstractions

Yet leaning into it, and making space for what comes up

is indeed the work 

When a bird appears outside the window, may we find the ability 

to pause.

May we untangle ourselves from the frenetic pace of doing 

to observe.

May we allow it to be there in all it's bird-ness 

to get curious.

Most especially if it's a crow or a blue jay-

May we examine what is happening 

on the walls of our interior world

May we see magic, matching exterior decor

Warning: it may feel yucky...stay with it

Sink deeper still. 

May something soar through:

A memory

A realization

A connection

Swimming in liquid metal, insight pools 

Permanent welding to this discomfort, not a chance

Marinating does not breed pain

Rather raises it for illumination, new spotlight:


Clear seeing, leading to wise understanding

leading to acceptance, leading to release.

May you watch the bird's wings as it flies away-

You've done the work. 

Keep going...

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Softness and Truth

Electric liquid pools in wrists and hands

Activated by a heart being noticed

Autopilot mode's power cut off

Mindfulness floods in hot and fiery

Gentle care like cotton fleece

 Supports the work of becoming aware

A breath the cushion for a hazy stare 

The push to determine next steps

Shouting callously from somewhere 

To be here now 

Is all that it is fair

Sunday, November 14, 2021



Amanda C. Symmes, LICSW

Sitting down with the feelings today

No knocking needed- just come on in

and join me for a cup of tea

(or whatever you'd like to sip on) 

Then spill it -

Tell me what I need to know right now,

Why are you here?

Resentment, you can talk first, 

You've been 

awfully loud lately...

what gives?




Ohhhhh, what an interesting shade 

of excrement you are

Sitting quietly with you 

here and acutely mulling over-

your role



You fizz into everything I do lately

Your rancid stench is strong and refuses 


I'll find what's rotting, to free you

What's that? 

Your near enemies are stress and frustration? 

And since they've been improperly cared for

you had to step in? 


 I am ready to listen

Breathing leads to seeing leads to hearing leads to healing

You say your far enemies are

autonomy and space? 

Why YES. Of course they are.

Okay, I see you

I appreciate this offering 

Breathing in, I make space for all of it

And your message

seems tangled up in 

something else?

Who is that hiding

behind you? 

Why are they holding your


Come in, come in

Share your tea with me, please.

Ohhh, there you are Fear.

 I almost didn't recognize you. 

Perhaps, I neglect to actually look at you mostly,

it is simply too much to hold

but seeing you hold resentment's hand 

I feel less afraid. 

I see you in yourself.  

You come in so many colors-heavy and expansive

The gradience of gray

comes alive now, majestically

Purple and emerald are 

fused here twisting around inside as well

My chest tightens only briefly at

at the thought of letting you stay 


But in your other hand I see

your tea you clutch is trembling as you

seek your own release from me

It's not the other way around

Has it been this way all along?

I wasn't paying attention Fear

and I am sorry for that

You are obtuse and seeing all

the dangers ahead is your job 

and it can serve me if I listen with wisdom

and discern well

Rather, in my rejection of you

you've become caged here

with me

Each of us stuck holding the key for the other 

So while resentment has stepped to the side

It waits for you and I

to do our thing...

Inhale, Exhale, Release

Oh how beautiful

Your tea is gone and we've

pulled ourselves together

You are not shaking and

foreboding at all

You are a magnificent swirling

energetic light 

Pure power and potential 

When I see you as this

you only become more

precious and beautiful 

and like a ribbon or an aurora 

You call for me to trust

Encircling me in electricity, fueling me with newness-


Each of us, drawing energy from the other, 

we gain strength to move on

Your near enemy may be worry,

But your far enemy is the bravery that I need right now

I had no idea that looking just a bit closer and holding myself still here, 

That I would find you...

What is coming next, I do not know

How wondrous to not get to know!?

Relief whispers that our path has not ended yet

We dodged the temptation to shove

ourselves onto the highway

of "expected next steps"

for a quick trip to nowhere good

 Continuing this slow journey

With caution-

 This terrain is less traversed

So the perils that lurk can hurt, at times

These messengers that dropped in for tea 


to give mind to all of it

They were never trying to take up residence

In fact they have already alerted the 

more important guests to arrive


They just sought time tea for tea

With me

To spill into this space together

Now that I feel them

slipping out the door

I am content in my home with Space. 

Sunday, August 22, 2021


Staring out the open window,

the thought returns-

the urgency grows as it clings and


the etiology of the question 


Information is given,

not as a gift to behold

rather a burden or curse

a game of hot potato

and what is deemed worse

and while it's tempting

to go for the low hanging


past crimes


anecdotal encounters 

that reside

in slime

it has not gone there


you must be curious why?

perhaps you won't wonder

forever because

the real truth 

stands up for itself 

while you hide under

cloaks and with shields-

a new narrative 

wrapped inside of 

a subversive spin

through media

mitigating your loss

stealing truth for itself

can only happen for 

so long

for the authentic Truth

resides comfortably

inside of itself

waiting for reality's

light to shine brightly

and illuminate all that

is right 

so as I brace myself

for your next pointed


on character, calculated

printed and broadcast

with tools only ever

intended to harm

I know we will be safe

Seeing the storm for

what it is-

I see the way the trees

bend and give way

withstanding the weight

of what threatens- 

and allows 

This intensity

is temporary and 

the strength of the trees

stands for itself

as do we, rooted

in all that is sacred

because love and kindness heal 

and whilst under this brutal attack

it will remind us what is real

scrutinizing the winds that bloat 

shifting not with a lightness

but the option to float 

because change must happen


                        -and will,

regardless of your plan

I am blown back to thoughts

about the importance of our soul-

What dwells within yours?

A deep restorative breath 

reminds me

truth lives here

in my lungs, home, heart

In my metta practice too

May you have goodness

to fill your soul and abate

May you have healing

to teach the soul to shed hate 

May you have insight

to learn the soul determines fate

Please know, it's never too late

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The River

Today I watched the river 

I heard a cadence of consistency-

A pulsing, a rushing acting with

Ardency perhaps and yet no,

It was actually nothing 

like it at all, really 

While the water moved in endless

urgency, it was I who saw it that way,

that was my story I was tossing

out and dressing it up with

Reckoning with this habit,

I noticed with clearer vision-

water approaching a large boulder

And it climbed itself along

its surface in smooth strength

until it couldn't any longer

The dimensions were just not

fitting any further for the flow

to pass over

And the current was forced

to split itself in two

And as I watched this

endless process of

climbing and splitting and sliding

only to 

careen away and fall much further


I thought to myself

It's right there, I know

A blissfully simple and yet exquisite bending

Just as there is no individual drop of water

in a river 

There is no I in Self

It is the moon

It is the sun

It is the earth 

And sky blending

the water and us

straight into one


watching the river,

this was what I saw.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Keeping on

Clinging to "the and" has brought relief

Equanimity, as waves smash the reef

Yet is there something solid to be found?

The landscape shifts and roots re-ground

Poison bleeds into the layers unseen

Breathless pain when things get mean

Certainty does not dwell, in or out

Will not assuage massive doubt

What is being sought, subtly shifting

A landscape in flux, flightless drifting

Keep on moving, forward and know

This is how we are meant to grow

Monday, July 5, 2021

Sense and Solitude

Making sense of what has transpired is like 

Counting drops of liquid in a cup

Life comes and goes, ebbs and flows

I ascribe meaning on top of all of it

And these stories often hinder my truth

What is it I see when I open my eyes?

What is it I see when I close them?

Closing them is key 

Scary as it may be

Sitting with the muck I see myself

an actor with roles in stories and events

makeup and costumes and automatic lines

retorts and expressions memorized, leading me

to more of the same, an endless game

Staying with it, I ride the breath to

a new horizon where True Nature rests

and I see I can come home to myself

Whenever I wish, right here in this 

breath and in this moment

I make a choice to put down attachments

and allow ideas and limiting beliefs to rest

no, this is not some sort of existential test

rather, a lovely invitation to be lovely

and to see the lovely and in the lovely

Scanning the senses with gleeful curiosity 

I hear birds chatter and find melody that delights

I see the clouds' quick moves and feel hopefulness for change

I feel wind like a cosmic breath and know I am connected

I smell trees nutty freshness and sense timeless rooting

I taste the fruit with new lips and miracles abound 

There is so much more, always happening

I can continue to sink deeper into all of it

I will commit to understanding beyond 

that which my intellect can have power over

So that I may evolve and grow new wisdom 

And peace and gratitude will flow creating

space for power between, uplifting the unseen

I will sit in solitude and know

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Moldavite Muse

Birds in bushes bristle and burrow

But resist dwelling in sorrow 

Taking flight into tomorrow

Music is a language from beyond

and if our people are using this

with wise intention

we must heed the call of musing

hold the meaning in the moment

with aligned action we must leave

the bush and fly too 

Feel it and know

Be with it and go 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Cardinals and Birthdays and Love

I am thinking of you (and Nanie) on your birthday, Grampie. And I think this has meaning beyond the calendar

Yesterday, on the eve of your 101st birthday I took a walk. I was a bit distracted with follow up for work and not really paying attention to my experience or surroundings. I had finally just put my phone away and decided to mindfully enjoy the rest of my rail trail stroll, when a bird came blazing straight toward my face. It was brilliant and red of course when it veered off into the tree next to me, I confirmed it was a Cardinal. And then I thought of you Grampie. When I see Cardinals I always do. Then, I remembered it was the day before your birthday, and smiled until a rustling grabbed my attention, sort of like Nanie might do, "Ummm, hello? I'm over here?" And there, I spotted your female mate perched nearby, slightly above and more settled in a regal sort of way. Of course. Hi guys! I marinated in this moment full of peace and contentment and a feeling of certainty I was with you both. 

Today, on your birthday, as I dropped Remy off at my sister's house to do her remote learning, I stepped out of the car while still groggy and a red blur whizzed past, waking me up fast.  Yes, it was another male Cardinal, patiently waiting for me to take notice. And so I did. I promptly shared it with Remy, reminding her of his birthday and then Marley and then Meghan too. Once we had all had a glimpse they were off again. Happy Birthday indeed.

Cardinals are not entirely uncommon, I realize this. And yet there is significance here. Nanie loved them. She had pins and mugs and wall hangings and all sorts of other doo-dads. I regret not ever talking to her about where this fondness originated, but after she died it was evident in a more pronounced way and I recall keeping a few things to remember her by with this special symbol. Years later, when it your time to pass Grampie, you were truly so ready. It was hard saying goodbye but also so deeply moving to see a life so complete. You had missed Nanie dearly (I can imagine you saying it just this way) and it was time to move on. 

Grampie, you were pragmatic as hell, and I remember accompanying my dad after to collect the attire for the wake, only to learn that YOU HAD SELECTED IT for yourself much prior. You it hanging just so, and it was specified elsewhere that this would be the outfit. When I saw it, I immediately began crying. Grampie you were well known for your penchant for plaid on plaid and bolo ties. I loved these bolo ties and felt proud of your unique style. On this occasion it was the bolo tie that called out to me. It almost flew to my eyes, much like my Cardinal sightings these last few days. It was a cardinal on your bolo tie. I had NEVER seen this one before. I asked my dad about it and he said "Well that makes sense. My mother loved cardinals." 

Grampie, you are incredible. You dressed up to meet your mate again, just as I had thought...You wanted to make her happy.  

Cardinals are always found in pairs. My grandparents were a pair unbroken through death and I believe to be reunited in peace. I enjoy believing it's them that I spot Cardinals and to be honest, it is always in moments of significance (if I am paying attention and reflective enough to see the connection or the offering of support). 

In fact, I will never forget pulling into the parking lot on the day of my interview for the school I currently serve. The position felt truly special for some reason and I was hopeful I would be found as the right fit. As I drove in with nervousness and hope, a beautiful Cardinal swooped right across my windshield and my nerves lifted away with the birds. I said thank you. And I got the job.  And I said thank you again.

Yesterday and today's sightings are reminders that there is always more. No feeling is final, and ultimately our lives are not final. We live on in energy and gratitude and hope and truth and in faces and characteristics and big moments and challenge and memories and inspiration and change. We cycle through these things and in one another over and over and over. On this day, I am grateful to have come to truly know that to live on this way is to never truly die. Thank you to the Cardinals for these lessons. 

Happy Birthday Grampie. We miss you and Nanie. Thanks for the wisdom. 

Saturday, February 20, 2021

on seeing and being

snow on tree branches calls out

clinging yet without extending effort

bouncing with a weight defying measure

and in this simple act of being 

I am seeing my mind

unfettered and free, 

aware of the path and my ability

to return each time attachment

and longing pulls me into ego traps-

the paralysis stumps me 

the seeing mind trumps me

the being mind waits for me

suddenly the smallest of gusts

arrives and clears several branches 

and a silent and serene storm sways 

into morning's first light and as these 

tiny delights awaken me, I think 

"Oh my goodness I get to see this-

Everyone, LOOK!"

and the truth is we all get to see 

we can really see it so much that

these moments of insight tuck right

inside of us forever-

dwelling within, helping to soften

all that feels daunting and terrible

into a more balanced world 

one that invites us to witness

the wonder and the joy


please sit and look at the branches

and tell me something different

What's the point?

What's the point of a snowstorm

that dumps endlessly if you're not

going to walk in it at night

and marvel at the way it sparkles in the

street lights before wistfully 

joining the blanket hugging the ground 

which whispers

"we are magnificent" 

to absolutely no one 

and still, she is 

What's the point if you don't

wrestle on layers of snow gear 

contorting and shifting and 

sweating to prep with proper

measure just in case the 

sledding is so thrilling

and consuming you need to

be well equipped to just 

Let It Ride

Snow is for playing in, hard

What's the point of having

a life that you work so hard at

buffering out challenge or difficulty

if the real truth is that when 

Travesty strikes you actually 

finally feel like the truest version

of yourself 

Navigating loopholes while 

clarifying Values and Vision

What does it feel like to be 

without a toothache?

No one really knows

What they know is the pain

and they know the reality of

what pain teaches them and

what next best steps it tells

them to walk 

And that's the whole point. 

Thursday, January 28, 2021

On Knowing and Growing

A collective push to "go back" because

Well, "back" is where we belong

Yet it feels like reciting the lyrics

Without the melody inside of the song

And there is resistance, sharp and mighty 

In this, some dark underlying hues

Stay open, look and listen closer

I think we can garner some clues

Education as a whole is what?

Is it reading levels, facts and tests?

Is it curriculum over connection?

Is it expecting our personal bests?

What is our end goal for students?

To deposit an arbitrary amount of info?

To create robots who consume and produce?

To imply to know means more than to grow?

This pandemic sure has thrown us-

"Schooling" cracked open and wide

There was so much failure before this too

Can we dare to step inside?

The school to prison pipe line is as real

As the institutional response to query

Get in line, do this, do that as such 

Does it surprise us our vision is bleary?

It seems that creating life long learners

Would be one of the essential goals

So we must back up to find this path

Releasing square pegs from round holes

We have all the buzz words and concepts

Yet we neglect to apply it so well

We are missing the forest through the trees

Denying wisdom that our stories can tell

Our system is predicated on production

Creating consumers supports status quo

Are any of us interested in a system

Where to wonder is better than to know?

I ask all these questions today because

If we don't discuss it now, then when?

What didn't work then, won't work next

We have a chance here to begin again

So yes of course, we must all "go back"

But what will this look like to do?

Can we hold the trauma and shades of fear

Are we ready to try something new?

Each class has always deserved two staff

One to inspire, engage and teach lessons

Another to temperature check the room

Supervise and provide small check-ins

Essential is this right here, right now

For teachers both on zoom and in person

Attendance, reading levels and oh ya, feelings

Without this, we'll continue to worsen

Yet with more students and less space I question

Will protocols simply loosen and give way?

Do we try it and then wait to see what happens?

Or perhaps try a therapeutic new way?

Hire more staffing, we need adults who care

And bring in more counselors and people to play

Keep class sizes small, make schedules freer too

Rotate in large spaces and hear what they say!

I believe that logistics can handle what's next

Remember that playfulness heals and repairs

Consider what do YOU hold fondly from school?

Not rules and silence, straight lines on the stairs

You remember the outside the box stuff

The times you truly felt truly seen

You recall when you found a true strength

And with mindful work you did glean

You remember the offhanded personal stories

Your teacher may not even recall they told

You recall how true connection made you feel 

You learned authenticity could not be sold

You learned serious hard skills like science,

Math, literature and history as well

Soft skills like perseverance and empathy

Or flexible thinking a much lesser sell

And this unrealized message sticks with us

Please just shut up and listen to me

Your truth and experiences are irrelevant

Get the work done, spare individuality

We cannot keep going on like this

We have a chance before it's too late

We need to inspire our children now

Educators who teach and participate 

Let's remind our students how to laugh

Deeper still, because learning is fun

To be truly alive and immersed in a moment

It will be here that the real work is done

We are ALL life long learners you see

I learn this from children each day

If we take a deep breath, put agendas aside

Bravely we'll find a new way

We will follow their lead and listen

We can teach them the sound of their voice

Understanding education can be so much more

Our students deserve to have more of a choice

It is their future they seek to inherit

We wish them to have happiness and smarts

But we need to discuss how to define these

Let us begin to teach to their hearts

I know that this prose is flowery 

I realize there is not lots of concrete

I encourage us to walk a different path

I am happy to sit down and meet

If you hear my intention and urging

If you see what I mean and agree

Will you take a chance and will you go there

Will you wander to wonder with me?

There is no "going back", that's all gone now

There is only what lies before us ahead

There is possibility and hope if we see it

There is so much more to be said 

Let us be brave and go do it

Let us sit quiet and still 'til we know 

Let us share out our new wisdom boldly

Let us be proud when we reap what we sow

Friday, January 22, 2021

I Seek

I seek to live inside the sun 

where mind, body, soul

can undulate as one

I seek to dance upon the moon

hearing the stars as they sprinkle

laughter with tune

I seek to hide inside a wave

to locate my inner current

riding my soul to save

I seek to scream atop the mountain

and take up space wide, like water

moving through a fountain

I seek to sketch myself inside a cloud

making notice of my body

learning how to feel proud

I seek to settle into a stream

notice piercing not as pain

but beauty of a waking dream

I seek to fly inside a wing

align with the hawk's mighty grace

carrying me to what I bring

I seek to collapse into dirt

marinating in the texture of life's cycle

aware of what cannot hurt

I seek to travel by ray of light

walking with eternal faith 

my place in time, day or night

I seek this for me

I see this for you

I seek this in the name of all that is true

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Negative Space and Me

Tony told me the other day 

That often times in art

It makes "the most sense" to focus on 

The negative space 

In order to bring shape to 

what is

And while he admitted this is hard,

he concluded it to be where the

most power lies in creation.

Today, I sit sleepy eyed on my porch,

with a space heater, warming me

while I pandemically work from home,

the day after Trump supporters

stormed the capitol. 

This is reality. 

It is simply what is. 

I cannot control what is happening,

but I can always control my response.

And so I feel the weight of my coffee in a stainless

steel tumbler (so it won't chill quite as fast)

I breathe in, and exhale out with extension

Quiet is the truest companion.

I relish in the buttery softness of my leggings

clinging around my legs.

I hear birds and imagine myself inside their messages.

Without effort, I glance to the right:

Traffic, like shooting stars, comes and goes:

Destinations unknown, 

their backdrop a simple canvas of

muted gray, uninspired and plain.

Swiveling to the left I am struck

by that which often goes unnoticed. 

Streaming through a sliver of eastern window

Poking out like a surprise past my neighbor's

front porch:

the most breathtaking sunrise becoming born....

A beacon or a baton, it rises up fluidly

Trailing ribbons of pink and blue

Eventually cascading into an orange 

that bleeds out without caution or concern 

Azure clouds horizontally support the display 

I see their measure and I value their purpose,

They highlight simple excellence with dignity

I am sandwiched between plain ignorance

and a brilliant beautiful truth- 

A collision of consciousness of the

both/and phenomenon and 

I feel grateful for my ability to see

on both sides of me and appreciate. 

Simply SEEING what is there and 

being with it is an utterly useful way to

initiate a day. 

Taking in another sip of coffee,

I look to what lies directly before me,

Outside and straight ahead, additional pause. 

This is my inside as well. 

Several naked trees posing for no one-

Winterized and whole separate, yet 

somehow also joining together in my vision

Strong and dark on top of the white landscape

They are propped and unmoved at their base,

Inviting my eyes to continue to consume upward,

to take them all in, alone and collectively until

I land upon the tippity top the filaments fragile

yet carefully bending and giving way to the elements 

that threaten the exterior

Supported from the inside out and underneath,

a foundation that cannot be broken. 

I notice that this is where the negative space 

Calls out the loudest in a language we can all 

understand if we all were to make a choice:

To look, to listen, so that we may step into the world 

The one that sits patiently existing

Beyond what we see,

Beyond what we know to be true,

Beyond what is real and unreal.

We have a heart center that lives deeper.

It's here.

And we can not only be reminded of it.

It's here we can see it reflected.

It's here we can be energized anew.

It's here we can meet up with it

and be with it and in doing so

find our way to equanimity and fortitude, 

our guides.

Find our oneness. 

Find ourselves inside of tiny 

triangles dripping off of branches

See the way souls are simply

light that illuminates brightly

off of something else.

All of us. All of us. All of us. 

If we want to be okay, really okay,

we must come to recognize this in nature

so that we can return to our own true

nature and be with it. 

We can learn to accept what is with 

whole hearted awareness and without alteration.

When this wise view is really clear

we are free to cultivate our intentions

and actions and ultimately we can lead 

ourselves right on into our own redemption.

There is nothing negative about 

negative space, and for right now, it's

the only place I feel free. 

Won't you join me?

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Snowflakes and Meaning

We are all snowflakes

erratically rushing toward

our own demise

Autopilots of Grace

and meteorology

Sometimes growing larger

or spinning sideways

gaining traction in a new

direction, seeking one's

own reflection-

Suddenly a reversal

upwards while the others

shuffle and pass on by

A new try!

We create ourselves each time anew

We shape ourselves with intricacies unseen

We rush to be absorbed into something else

We long for identity and meaning, gleaming

We accumulate in collective posture, if lucky

We melt away, if not today, another day

Impermanence plants itself in everything

Even in this moment it will sing

These words are quiet and still, here

They arise and puff themselves out,

Boasting, seeking belonging and purpose

then float on to another pocket of prose

or a new poet's pen

Causing the wondering thought:

why bother?

who cares?

what's the point?

The point is in the experiencing

The meaning is in the noticing

There is beauty inherent

in noticing

There is love inherent 

in beauty

There is meaning inherent

in love

There is purpose inherent

in meaning 

There is connection

inherent in purpose

There is truth inherent

in connection

and on and on and on

like soft flakes falling

it continues

And an interwoven crystal web

Seemingly quiet

Reverberates in unison

In and out of the soul, 

It will always remain.