Spirituality & Health Magazine

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The Practice of Nested Meditations

by Kevin Anderson

Since the 76 nested meditations in Divinity in Disguise were published (two of which are included below), I’ve been asked many times how I write them. Many people are finding that the nested form of poetry is accessible and helps them move, in a few words, from surface observations or feelings into deeper layers of experience.

First, a few guidelines. There’s no need for every stanza to connect logically to the one before or after. Each stanza is its own separate meditation, as is apparent if you pause for a breath or two between stanzas in two examples below.

I honor you.

I honor you,

my soul.

I honor you,

my soul

companion, as you are.

I honor you,

my soul

companion, as your are

Divinity in disguise.

Wet are the strokes of life.

Wet are the strokes of life

upon you, a still being.

Wet are the Strokes of life

upon you, a still-being-

painted masterpiece

Wet are the strokes of life

upon you, a still-being-

painted masterpiece

God is calling, "Claudia."

Each stanza after the opening line begins with the words from the prior stanza in the exact order and with the same spellings and line breaks. It might seem easier to allow oneself to rearrange words or use homonyms (e.g., soul and sole), but part of the magic feeling the nested form evokes is seeing the exact words in the same order take us to such different places as the next line is added. The form brings delight in part because its tight structure -- which would seem to straitjacket the writer -- cannot prevent the piece from escaping to surprising enlightenment.

I use the word SCOPE to teach my method for writing nested meditations.

S: Show up with a pad of paper and a pen or pencil. The muse skips over your house if you’re not poised with pen in hand!

C: Calm your body, mind, and spirit with a few minutes of deep breathing.

O: Observe your inner and outer world. Make note on paper of inner thoughts or feelings or outer perceptions (sights, sounds, smells). Let the flow be free.

P: Play with one or more of the lines you wrote down in the step above. See if you can add another line that shifts the meaning in a surprising way. If not, rework the first line or choose another one to play with. Keep playing your way from stanza to stanza.

E: Enjoy the enlightenment that often comes from such word play.

The SCOPE acronym also reminds us that this form can be used to zoom in on an experience (like a microscope) or zoom out for the big perspective (like a telescope). Either way, we can enjoy the enlightened awareness that comes through word play.

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