• Deborah Vail

"The Anatomy of Peace" - A Poem by John Roedel

Updated: Oct 31, 2021


We talk a lot in my office about the refuge our breath can provide from judgmental thinking, especially in the mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) groups I lead. I came across this poem the other day and thought it did a lovely job of describing the healing role our breath can play:


"The Anatomy of Peace"


my brain and

heart divorced

a decade ago


over who was

to blame about

how big of a mess

I have become


eventually,

they couldn't be

in the same room

with each other


now my head and heart

share custody of me


I stay with my brain

during the week


and my heart

gets me on weekends


they never speak to one another

- instead, they give me

the same note to pass

to each other every week


and their notes they

send to one another always

says the same thing:


"This is all your fault"


on Sundays

my heart complains

about how my

head has let me down

in the past


and on Wednesdays

my head lists all

of the times my

heart has screwed

things up for me

in the future


they blame each

other for the

state of my life


there's been a lot

of yelling - and crying


so,


lately, I've been

spending a lot of

time with my gut

who serves as my

unofficial therapist


most nights, I sneak out of the

window in my ribcage

and slide down my spine

and collapse on my

gut's plush leather chair

that's always open for me


~ and I just sit sit sit sit

until the sun comes up


last evening,

my gut asked me

if I was having a hard

time being caught

between my heart

and my head


I nodded


I said I didn't know

if I could live with

either of them anymore


"my heart is always sad about

something that happened yesterday

while my head is always worried

about something that may happen tomorrow,"

I lamented


my gut squeezed my hand


"I just can't live with

my mistakes of the past

or my anxiety about the future,"

I sighed


my gut smiled and said:


"in that case,

you should

go stay with your

lungs for a while,"


I was confused

- the look on my face gave it away


"if you are exhausted about

your heart's obsession with

the fixed past and your mind's focus

on the uncertain future

your lungs are the perfect place for you


there is no yesterday in your lungs

there is no tomorrow there either


there is only now

there is only inhale

there is only exhale

there is only this moment

there is only breath


and in that breath

you can rest while your

heart and head work

their relationship out."


this morning,

while my brain

was busy reading

tea leaves


and while my

heart was staring

at old photographs


I packed a little

bag and walked

to the door of

my lungs


before I could even knock

she opened the door

with a smile and as

a gust of air embraced me

she said


"what took you so long?"

~ john roedel (johnroedel.com)


A video reading of the poem can be found by following this link.


You can support John's writing by buying him a cup of tea right here.

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