Recently I wrote a poem for musical composer and friend, Brad Fowler, entitled, “Mirror Anima”. The piece premiered at the Missouri Music Educators Association annual conference, performed by the Kearney High School Bel Canto Choir, and directed by Jason Elam. Below is the poem and a recording of the performance, followed by a little note on the meaning of the poem.

Mirror Anima

From mountains to rivers
the unseen becomes my eyes
mirror anima, mirror anima

From rivers to mountains
the seen reveals divine
mirror anima, mirror anima

In mountains and rivers
beholden to Love, I find
mirror anima, mirror anima


Exploration of the Poem

Quick technical note: Each triplet follows this syllable pattern: 6, 7, 10.

The poem is inspired by a zen teaching referencing mountains and rivers.

First triplet: At first we experience the world normally. It’s not that it’s wrong, but from a certain perspective it is incomplete. We see mountains and rivers, we point to them and say, “yep, that’s a mountain.” And of course, that’s true. But there is something deeper than our cursory experience of the mountains and rivers.

Second triplet: When we are on a spiritual path of any kind, or simply have a significant, jarring spiritual experience, there is a moment when we realize there’s more here than what we used to experience. We’re not sure exactly what, but it’s bigger than all of this. Hence, mountains are not mountains, rivers are not rivers. We see that they are not what we used to think; we start seeing what-is-not in everything.

Third triplet: Through deepening our path we come back around to experiencing life simply, yet with profound depth. Mountains are mountains again, but we see and experience them so deeply, yet it is so ordinary and matter of fact.

Mirror Anima. For me, the emotional equivalent to the “seeing” in the poem is the experience of equanimity, which is talked about specifically in Buddhist teachings, and by other names in various contemplative traditions. In a conversation with my teacher, Hokai Sobol, he mentioned that equanimity comes from the Latin roots meaning “equal soul” or “equal anima”. Now, technically it seems it is actually “animus”, but anima leans more towards soul/spirit, which I prefer here (I’m taking some creative liberties). Note that I’m not using these terms in the Jungian sense, just in their old school roots and meanings.

Diving a little deeper, Hokai pointed out a feeling that I have had in my practice but wasn’t able to articulate: when we are with things, life, and others just as they are, without adding, subtracting, or projecting, we see them as they are and we feel them as such, we experience equal spirit in everyone else. So, here “mirror anima” is pointing to spirit being mirrored in everything and everyone, and the peace and heart-connection that arises in seeing mountains as mountains, rivers as rivers.