Ingrid Goff Maidoff - Tending Joy

Celebrating Poetry, Beauty,
& the Sacred Essence of Joy

Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

First Crocus!

first crocus, March 5th 2013 


As the day follows night,
every winter is followed by spring.
Flowers bloom again, nectar filled,
to sip for new energy,
peace and well-being.

from The Honey Sutras

Poem: When Joy Returns



When Joy returns from a long journey,
she is carrying a basket of wildflowers;
bread; grape jelly; a book of poems.
“I go sometimes,” she says,
“when I feel we have stopped conversing-
when your love and appreciation wane
and I become another forgotten thing.
I go and I have a good wander.
And then I come back.
You know I always will –
when you light the porch lantern;
offer a quiet prayer;
when you enter your own heart again
and find the field where I go for dancing.”

Ingrid Goff-Maidoff

Softening Toward Sorrow

Ten Thousand Joys,
Ten Thousand Sorrows

Oh, happy living:
plant the seeds for flowers
and not for weeds;
tune the heart and mind toward joy-
and allow your sorrows
to visit when they come,
for this will make you whole.

The joyous life
isn’t a day in which
all sorrows disappear-
but one in which the
weight of your war
begins to soften
and melt away.

~Ingrid Goff-Maidoff

I hope this poem doesn’t come across as too light in the face of the kind of sorrows many of us face every day.  The poem, and the words below, occurred to me after speaking in an interview on joy.  I felt afterward that I needed to give more space to the simple fact that, most of the time, life is not a bowl of roses, money or cherries… and that to expect, hope, or want it to be otherwise adds more suffering to one’s lifetime.

I’m not joyful all the time, (not radiantly cheerful and exuberant all the time), though joy is there, quietly present, in my life.  I have worries and stresses just like everyone else.  Today I felt a familiar pain that seems to be held deep in my right shoulder. “You again,” I found myself saying,”hello, you familiar ache.”  I am learning as I get older to accept the existence of this ache as part and parcel of the human experience.  If anyone ever promises you a formula for a pain or stress-free life, they are offering a life of delusion.

In all my years exploring joy, it was a freeing, liberating, and happy day when I learned that Buddhists teach that rather than try to control life, we instead learn to embrace the ten thousand joys and the ten thousand sorrows. A whole life, as it turns out, contains a balance of both, and learning to live with this truth eases a pressure some of us may place on ourselves or others through wishing otherwise. It is fine to appreciate and even hope for the joys of living. It is lovely to create a beautiful and loving life.  It is also necessary to learn to accept, and perhaps even to trust the sorrows.  

When we allow ourselves to feel our sorrows, they have a way of widening and deepening our experience of living.  Through their instruction, we become more whole.  This isn’t to suggest we go looking for sorrows- they will come of their own accord.

What I’m still learning is this: it is beneficial to tune the heart and mind toward joy- to plant the seeds for flowers and not for weeds, but we must do our best not to create extra suffering for ourselves and others through the striving, struggle, or disappointment which  arise from the thought that life should have no sorrow.

The enlightened life isn’t a life in which all sorrows disappear- but one in which the weight of our resistance, our mental agitation, and our stubborn insistence that life be just the way we want it begin to soften and melt away.  Rather than resist a concern, an ache, or a stress- rather than struggle against it,  or repress it and wish it wasn’t there, we learn to lighten and to soften toward it.  We aren’t passive toward it, nor are we a victim of it- we are willing to meet it.  “You again,” we open, “have you come for conversation?”








Tending Joy, Journal Excerpts May 25th 2012

This morning I put the kettle on to boil and then headed out to the asparagus patch to harvest some of its skyward reaching shoots.  Jonah and I have been spending a lot of time digging in the dirt this spring.  He’s been teaching sustainability.  I call it “restoring Eden.”

In the garden, much like everywhere, we don’t know what we are doing.  We refer to books for advice and promptly forget their guidance.  Standing amid the fertile weeds, we must forgive in advance our failings.  It feels like the only way to proceed is to call this not toil but surrender; not labor but opportunity.  Anything is possible here.  Surely something will grow.


     On my way to the asparagus, I pop a single red strawberry into my mouth.  I used to save these sweet offerings for the children, feeling double delight in their pleasure.  Now that they are grown, I’m learning, once again, how to please myself.  I’m surprised that this is a work in unraveling and not simply second nature.

The strawberries are ripening one a day so far, each a sacramental offering to hold on the tongue in communion.  Yes, if we relied on this crop we would starve.  And yes, if we weren’t thankful for every humble thing, we would also starve.

What do I know of joy ~
except it is a word that I have savored?
A word so much like God,
full of promise and tender relating.

What do I know of Joy,
except it is a gift that I have opened
to find the forgiveness, wonder and welcome
that breathe life into my life?

Next week I will speak to a class on the presence and practice of joy.  Today I feel I can’t do this.  I have so little to say.  For the Greeks, the word Joy is Char, from the word Charis, which means grace.  What do I know, then, of grace, except the lovely way it slips in and holds us when we rest in our own unknowing.  So I might say,

Get wise:
Give up wisdom.
Give up thinking that
you should always know
what to do; what to say;
what is skillful
or even best.
Humble yourself
until you can enjoy
your own curious and frail
human being.
Feel how freeing
this actually is.
Sure, celebrate your triumphs,
but also, see if you can love
the tender place of unknowing.
Accept how vulnerable you are-
how possible it is
to be wrong, confused,
imperfect and adored.


Why do I love, as much as anything, a bowl of apples, a wooden spoon?






Savoring the Moments


The weather was so generously beautiful here last Sunday that I had a little walk along the Vineyard Haven Harbor before watching Bella’s soccer game.  This boat reminded me of my poem, ONE THOUSAND EVENINGS MORE- a poem that hopes to remind us to savor the preciousness of life.  The better half of me writes these poems…the other half forgets… and then feels grateful when remembering comes.

One Thousand Evenings More

What if we had
one thousand evenings more
to step into
like a small boat
waiting at the dock,
or a blank page
and the most exquisite pen in hand
to write the sun dipping hot flames
into the western sea,
the moon and stars rising,
and not have such words sound empty
like the straws on the broom as it sweeps
those last remnants of life
from the room we’ll leave behind?
And what if we had
one thousand evenings more
to walk in the woods,
to share a glass of wine,
to ask our friends
from where their happiness comes…
…to reinvent ourselves as lovers,
forgetting all we’ve learned,
even all that we’ve forgotten?

~Ingrid Goff-Maidoff

from the book, What Holds Us, New and Selected Poems

I have been loosening some of my “shoulds” lately… that I should be more, do more or have more before I be permitted to breathe deeply of the fresh air, or put my face in the sun, or feel joy tingling in my veins.  I hope that you have been too! This world is too beautiful for us to be distracted with the unnecessary, the unkind, the unloving, ungenerous or unimaginative. 

Thank you all for your loving comments of late, you have been, to borrow the phrase from another, like “wind beneath my wings.”  I feel very nourished, encouraged and healed by your presence in  my life.  Thank you!

Reflections on Loving Life

Love is the greatest fortune.
You will not amass it.
You are it.

“The moment you have  in your heart this extraordinary thing  called love
and feel the depth, the delight, the ecstasy of it,
you will discover that for you the world is transformed.”

Love Your Life

And a voice will come from the stillness
to give these words: Love your life.
You will know from its deep urging
to let go the well-worn list
of all you thought you first needed.
Begin here, freely,
from this muddy place.
It doesn’t matter if you are broken,
empty-handed, shabby.
Go now, into the day:
the open fields, markets,
the long trail to the sea.
Find all the ways
a lover loves the Beloved:
each hidden bloom, unspoken wound,
vagary of heart.
Become a brave and willing traveler
in a wild, forgotten terrain ~
a world of intimate tender relating,
infinite mystery, un-tethered joy.
Now, moving in this world, you know
that love is the greatest fortune.
Only, you will not amass it:
you are it.

~Ingrid Goff-Maidoff

(Often, when I am still enough, I feel words dropped into my being that are messages to ponder.  The other day I received the words, “Love your Life,” and felt quite instantly that this didn’t mean I was meant to list with gratitude everything I felt was going rightly for me, or, conversely, to list everything I still felt was necessary before I could love my life, but that I was being asked to love my life as if it were my beloved.  I was being urged to love my life as a lover would love- not as an end-point receiver of all good things, but as an intimate partner, a loving participant.  I was being asked to approach my life with curiosity, pleasure, appreciation, forgiveness, compassion, playfulness, awe- to love as a lover in the deepest sense of the word. I realize that to receive this guidance is one thing- to live by it is a lifetime of practice, remembrance, forgetting…. remembrance… forgetting…and remembering!)

On being enough


When my dear friend Jan Lundy asked me for a poem on “Enough” for her Contentment Course,  I found several in my collection What Holds Us.  This poem speaks to being enough.  I hope that as you read it, you feel yourself relax into the acceptance that you are, just as you are, enough.  This is what walking does for me: puts me at ease; unravels knotted places; soothes an over-thinking mind; restores a sense of belonging.  Perhaps scheduling some time in a beautiful place is a gift you might give yourself today.  I hope so!

Hold Me Until I Know You

Benevolent Universe,
Your fields stretch out before me.
Wild roses emit their sweetness.
Daisies sway on the hillside.
The world seems friendly, relaxed,
intimate with my secrets,
and accepting of all of me.
The road, lined with ancient walls,
does not ask me
for change or improvements
before setting forth along it.
If this is not a grace, please
hold me until I know you.

~Ingrid Goff-Maidoff


The House Of Spirit

Something in me is so drawn to these words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Every spirit builds itself a house; and beyond its house, a world; and beyond its world, a heaven.” I think it is my own spirit that loves these words- that loving inner awareness that witnesses and guides my life.    I have an inkling that this spiritual self – or presence- or being- or soul – is here to experience life on earth in all of its delights and challenges, to learn some things, to participate and to contribute.  And I have a deep sense that this spirit is firmly seated in, deeply rooted in, and lives in love, all the while longing to remember to be in this world as love, in love, held by love and as a channel for love.

I have built a house here with my family- and it is a messy house and a colorful house and a joyful house.  It is a safe and comfortable house and, I hope, a loving house.  Beyond this house- the world that we live in.  And rippling out from this world, a heaven.  “All the way to heaven,” said Saint Teresa of Avila, “is heaven.”  My spirit knows that this is true.

Come friends, rest in the grace of this allowing.
Joy is the light radiance of our love affair with living.

I realize that creating a spiritual house is a common theme in many of my books.

Here is a poem from Moonlight and Remembrance:

Everything is sacred, precious.
I light candles, incense,
scatter beauty around my house:
color, delight, fragrance, spice,
texture, plants and flowers.
Let there be life and love
right out in the open.
Nothing to hide.
Nothing witheld.
Here foolishness,
simplicity and devotion
carry no shame.
Come friends, rest
in the grace of this allowing.
Joy is the light radiance
of our love affair with living.


And here is  one from What Holds Us:


Because I want holy temples and sacred rites
invoking the gods to come and live with us here forever,
and I long for the perfume of intimacy
with the living timeless Divine,
I went on the world wide web and bought
amber incense, oils, and a hundred beeswax candles.
Beeswax for their honey fragrance,
and the golden warmth they’d give our home.
My good husband noticed them arrive in two boxes,
and I sheepishly explained
the more you buy, the cheaper they are,
And he laughed and did not chastise me
for being a frivolous fool.
Instead he took me in his arms and said,
“I love you.  You’re so much fun.”

This morning I glued some new House Blessings, and I thought of my own home, and the house of my spirit- the world my spirit builds, and beyond this world, a heaven.


This house is Love’s house.
It is a sanctuary, a garden, a safe haven.
May it be delightful.
May it be a home that encourages
creativity and peace,
togetherness and private time.
May it be an environment
that celebrates life, untidy and ever flowing.
May simplicity be honored in this house,
valuing love above all else.
May daily chores and small moments
all be approached with reverence and with love.
Mistakes may be seen as lessons learned.
Kindness, forgiveness, laughter, joy,
and calm enthusiasm
will nourish all who enter through its doors.
May all who visit leave refreshed.
May all who live in this house
live in contentment and harmony,
dreaming many beautiful dreams,
rejoicing in the way things are.

written by Ingrid Goff-Maidoff

from the book, Good Mother, Welcome

Friends, I wish you a deep sense of belonging in the house of your spirit! With love and joy, Ingrid