In the Pinewoods with Mary Oliver

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

It's 5:00am. I'm up early with candle lit to spend time with you and one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver. If you've not read her before, the suggestion is to drop everything, even reading this and get yourself a copy of any book of poetry by her, favs are Twelve Moons and House of Light. She writes of her greatest love--Mama Nature, with an intimacy so real, she puts you there. Miss Oliver was said to step outside her door, gone for hours to fall inside a time warp of communion, with the trees, creatures, birds, flowers...where she gave her heart over to it and wrote of her experience. Such awareness, such mindfulness. such close attention, was her life and she takes us there, inside her perception. As I flip through House of Light, trying to determine which to share, Miss Oliver speaks...

Five A.M. in the Pinewoods  

I'd seen 
their footprints in the deep
needles and knew
they ended the long night

under the pines, walking
like two mute
and beautiful women toward
the deeper woods, so I 

got up in the dark and
went there. They came
slowly down the hill
and looked at me sitting under

the blue trees, shyly
they stepped
closer and stared
from under their thick lashes and even

nibbled some damp
tassels of weeds. This 
is not a poem about a dream, 
though it could be. 

This is a poem about the world
that is ours, or could be.
one of them--I swear it!--

would have come into my arms.
But the other
stamped sharp hoof in the
pine needles like

the tap of sanity
and they went off together through 
the trees. When I woke
I was alone. 

I was thinking:
so this is how you swim inward,
so this is how you flow outward,
so this is how you pray. 

Sweet Little Does ~ swim, flow, pray through your summer day. May you taste beauty and light, and may every good thing, lead you home, home, home to the precious life within and all around. Amen. 

Letting Go Gives Us Freedom

Monday, April 3, 2023


Within a few hours of studying one of my favorite Thich Nhat Hanh quotes on Letting Go, I had the experience of being with someone who thought they were losing their mind. Their personal experience was anything but free. 

I left our interaction wondering how to ease these very real and dark parts of people’s experiences? The mind I was given a glimpse of, experienced the very opposite of freedom. How can we be with those suffering mental anguish in ways that are effective, compassionate and safe? In the words of one of my teachers—these questions are my core suffering and the answers to these questions are my awakening. 


As I sit here now, revisiting the experience, I am not free. Feeling the anguish of my loved one, my heart and mind are not free. In moments like these, I become still, settle-in and listen….


Can you take a single breath? And then another? Bring the mind home to the safety of your body, this room, with a fire in the hearth, the good company surrounding you. It begins with safety. What if there’s no answer, what if there’s nothing to fix, what if there’s merit in the experience of mental confusion? What if it’s enough to know you did not agitate, add to, or dismiss? 


How can one meet mental confusion with a mind of freedom? Imagine if the mind witnessing was not free, how it might react, attack, convince, or insult. It is a free mind that will meet such a state with compassion and peace, not adding any suffering. Being with.


Being With

 ©2023 Karla Johnston,


Free mind begins with letting go,

Knowing—there is nothing to attain, 

only letting go:


Of Anger,





Let go 
and lonely 



Enter, one breath

of love.


of forgiveness


of peace…




it takes but one

to bring mind back

to the safety of body

the center of heart.


You are not alone.

You are never alone,

alone is impossible. 

just one, 
take one,

breath of freedom.  


Surfing the Waves

Sunday, February 26, 2023

This week I had the opportunity to watch a very moving protocol for trauma care in the Emergency Department where I work. A voice came over the intercom, clear and calm: "Full trauma arrival ETA 15 minutes." And progressively the announcement went until, "Full trauma arrival now. All hands on deck." 

Wheeled from the ambulance into the ER receiving hallway was a person on a stretcher with a neck brace, eyes closed, injuries obviously sustained. The normal chatter of the ER silenced, as all direct-care personnel stopped what they were doing, arrived and circled around the patient, three rows deep. All were alert, quiet, waiting at full attention while the charge nurse and ER doctor stepped in and began the assessment. We listened as call outs to appropriate care specialists were made and the newly formed team stepped forward to begin life saving measures. You could have heard a pin drop. 

A palatable reverence swept through the Emergency Room. From my station, I came back to my breath and began offering Metta.* I suspect I was not the only one. An elderly man poked his head out of his room and looked on with wide eyes. Within minutes the patient was whisked out of ER towards the operating room.

I was filled with a sense of awe for the fragility of life and those who are willing to step forward, ready to offer whatever supports life. Imagine if we could learn a similar protocol whenever we are witness to a person's decline, "Full trauma arrival now. All hands on deck." Imagine if we stopped everything we were doing and gravitated toward the one in need with full attention and an open heart, ready to give of ourselves. Imagine if we touched a deep reverence in moments of decline, realizing this truth--life is fragile, and we are only here for a precious amount of time. Can I be gentle with myself and others? Can I help repair injury? And if not, can I offer pure attention, in awe and reverence? 

Looking around the ER at the faces of caregivers, I went away from the experience gratefully inspired, uplifted and sobered. Everyday we ride the balance between birth and death, only most of the time we're totally unaware. Precious, precious life teaches ~ everything changes, constantly, dramatically and in ways barely perceptible. When full remembrance of this truth is practiced, we can surf the waves...up and down....beside one another.  

* Metta - practice of wishing well for another, said to naturally arise in the face of extreme suffering. Metta describe the feeling of care one actively engenders toward another. It is said to be the most natural state of who we truly are and can be compared to prayers for the benefits of all beings.

Bounty ~ 14 Days of Love

Friday, February 3, 2023

Poetry Friday, here we go....

Love’s Bounty
©Karla Johnston 2023

Dictionary gives two definitions, seemingly, entirely different:
Bounty – generous giving that is vast, natural and complete
Bounty – payment for capture and destruction of a living being
this simple,
4 letter word,
doesn't tangle with word jujitsu.

Let’s just say, Love (with a capital L),
awaits your noticing
it is everywhere, all the time,
in every situation and circumstance
no matter how life-shattering it seems.

Love has put a bounty on your head—
you are priceless,
nothing you do
can separate you
from Love.
That's a period

I will be leading 14 Days of Love meditation Saturday, February 11 at 9:30am Pacific Time. Please come join in this no-charge Copper Beech Institute offering in whatever  ways you can, and if you can't make each days two meditation offerings, you will receive the recordings so you can soak it up at a time good for you. CBI facilitators are heart-guided individuals who will offer 14 days of infused and embodied practices. Enjoy! 

Rest ~ 14 Days of Love

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Ahhhh, that feeling of coming to rest after being bone tired, when the body lets go to gravity, lets a comfy recliner, the bed, or another hold it….

What about the rest that comes while INSIDE the whirlwind of tension and chaos? This is what mediation is calling us to practice. When we come back to our breathing, that simple exchange of in and out, we immediately notice the whirlwind of the mind. “Rest, rest,” we encourage our bodies with the practice, and at times, it is achieved—a deep rest, a deep rest that is aware, alert, free and open hearted to what comes, whatever that might be. 

Recently, I was considering the deep transformational power of suffering. Think about the most life-changing moments of your life, more than likely, most of them involved a deep level of suffering. When it hits, as it will, in every life, can we go to the practice, can we rest? I think of the function of a Tap Root ~ to deeply stabilize, absorb nutriments, and store those nutriments when the times get tough. Can we build the strength of our Tap Roots, can we rest in the dark, maybe even probe deeper? What are your nutriments, the things that give you life? Music, friends on the path, a walk in the sunshine, a flower opening to spring? Can we take time everyday to rest in what nourishes us and store it for times of need, when we or our loved ones are called to transform? Rest, my Darling, rest deeply, knowing you are held and equipped with everything you need for growth, life and transformation. 

I will be leading 14 Days of Love meditation Saturday, February 11 at 9:30am Pacific Time. Please come join in this no-charge Copper Beech Institute offering in whatever  ways you can, and if you can't make each days two meditation offerings, you will receive the recordings so you can soak it up at a time good for you. CBI facilitators are heart-guided individuals who will offer 14 days of infused and embodied practices. Enjoy! 

Nourishment ~ 14 Days of Love

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Day 1 ~ Nourishment

Hello Sweet Darlings, sitting by the fire, with Bene the cat curled like a monkey around my neck, holding his little 9 pound hunk of love and hen-pecking the key board, I know nourishment. I know love.  

Love is all around, everywhere, all the time even in the most dire and heart-shocking times. LOVE…IS…EVERYWHERE. Today's practice is seeing love, feeling love, receiving this truth. Today’s theme is nourishment. Oh, wait…press pause…hot tub just fired up outside, I don’t want to miss my love soak (see, it’s everywhere:)…OK, I'm back. 

The definition of "nourish," is to tend something to grow. How sweet that definition. What do you tend? How do you tend yourself? How do you tend others? Enjoy the contemplation today as we begin my Day 1 augmentation to 14 Days of Love--a program offered by Copper Beech Institute (CBI). It's with great gratitude, 14 Days of Love is highlighted in an encouragement for folks to come soak up two meditations a day and to practice: LOVE...IS...EVERYWHERE. It's a no-charge, donation based program.

I will be leading on Saturday, February 11 at 9:30am Pacific Time. Please come join in whatever  ways you can, and if you can't make each days two meditation offerings, you will receive the recordings so you can soak it up at a time good for you. CBI facilitators are heart-guided individuals who will offer 14 days of infused and embodied practices. Enjoy! 


What Happens When We Inhabit the Practice?

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Two weeks ago, I was completely and utterly exhausted. Getting over COVID, after a busy day, the effects still lingered. The previous night, I had been supporting my loved ones for four hours at a critical juncture point in recovery. It had been brutal, and as a result, I had no energy left. I decided to lay down for a 30 minute nap. 

When my alarm went off, I woke with a profound sense of love, of being entirely loved. I felt embraced and held and to my surprise, entirely rejuvenated. I sat there, soaking it in for many moments, and then my thinking mind came back on board…what caused that? I was practically unconscious and the love was unmerited. I didn’t ask for it, I was’t even thinking of anything loving, in fact, I was feeling the opposite, fully drained. Where did that love come from? Did I slip into someone’s whispered prayer for me? My grasping mind wanted to know—how do I produce such care for myself and others?


The nicest part about the whole experience is that since waking up from the nap, I have felt the same presence of love every day since, sometimes many times a day, at moments usually unsuspecting: during an inconvenient holiday work assignment in the ER, while driving, while cooking, while getting ready in the morning, waking up in the middle of the night to pee….

I’ve noticed three things usually (but not always) occurring when I’ve been “held in love”—a quiet atmosphere, a quiet mind, a state that is open and receptive. In order for loving presence to be available to me, I must be available to it. Perhaps filling up with love, peace, contentment is the result of mindfulness coming to fruition, a mind and heart turned towards compassionate care, in a direction that is skillful and good. 

What Happens When We Inhabit the Practice?
©2023 Karla Johnston,

Perhaps we become
love, peace and joy, 
inside and around us 
at all times
across all realms of wakefulness 
and rest.