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Even Buddhas Have Bad Days – Poems about Being Human

by Kate Quartermaine

listed in psychospiritual

[Image: Even Buddhas Have Bad Days – Poems about Being Human]

 There is a myth that those who are spiritually aware, will – or should – walk through life in a state of peace and wellbeing, that rain and storms in other words, won't impact them as they might the less evolved. But, as Kate Quartermaine tells us in her book of delightful poems, “Even Buddhas Have Bad Days”, spiritual practice is an umbrella; it will rain and it will pour but if you remember to take your umbrella with you and you remember to put it up, then hopefully you won't be soaked to the skin and catch pneumonia.  And if you forget your umbrella, as most of us do on a sliding scale from sometimes to very often, you need a friend to remind you. This book is such a friend, because above all it comes from a place of kindness and an understanding of our human condition; and that, in my book is the basis of all authentic spiritual teaching and practice. To use the much-quoted words of the Dalai Llama,

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”

This book is deceptively simple and infallibly kind and the only requirement in making use of it is that we are human beings.


Health includes physical, mental, social and spiritual wellbeing. One definition of spirituality is that which is meaningful for us and which enables us to have a sense of connectedness – to others, to our world and to ourselves. It may or may not include a religious framework. Without any sense of meaning and connectedness, good health is likely to escape us. After Kate’s own health crisis and recovery, she began working holistically and energetically with others. These poems illustrate not only the wisdom she draws from her own decades long spiritual practice, but her understanding of human nature and our fundamental commonality, borne out of years of therapeutic experience. Boiled down to our basic human dilemma, we lose touch with our true nature and feel separate and small in a big world. For Kate, the truth is, we are not alone and these poems act as gentle reminders.


Kate's poems rhyme; they have rhythms and patterns which contemporary poetry rarely employs – and contemporary critics may eschew. In the poem, “They Told Me”, she explains that her tutor and her peers' did not approve:

“But rhymes, they just kept creeping in

Ignore them though I would

And also, if I may say so

Some of them were good.”

They are and they serve a purpose. Kate is no lightweight but her thoughts and nuggets of wisdom are delivered with a light touch.  Just as AA Milne's poems are comforting for their rhythm and rhyme, so Kate's bring a warmth and comfort while dealing with the difficult, the thought provoking and the profound. Lisa Williams’ charming illustrations enhance the sense of playfulness, however challenging the subject matter may be.


Even Buddhas Have Bad Days is organized into themes which tell us immediately that the focus of the book is not trivial. Book ended by Kate's Musings, the sections are: Just Being Human, Human Being, Being Mortal and Divine Beings Sacred Conversations. This is life's journey: into a body, through life's challenges and at the other end of life, back out of that body. The key to Kate's optimism, which is never patronising, preaching or invalidating of tough experiences, is found in her trust in and relationship with the divine, a divine which she sees as a companioning love and wisdom from whence we came and to which we will return. In the poem “I Am the Song”, she writes,

“I am the story your life is now telling

I am the pathway leading you on

I am your wisdom, your guide and your tutor

I am the light guiding you home.”

 In the section Just Being Human, Kate deals with everything from dieting to summer holidays, the death of a friend to the unhelpful voices inside us. In “There's a Rhino in My Garden”, she says, using the extended metaphor of animals trampling her best intentions,

“My life is like a garden, I try to tend it well

Create a place of happiness where I in peace may dwell”.


“The powerful hippopotamus, he really frightens me

Each time I plant my garden out, he comes along to see

He tramples my begonias and ruins all the grass

He'll wallow in my future dreams and wallow in my past”.

In the following section, Human Being, Kate looks at our human striving to find the divine within. It isn't easy. In “Soul Rush”, she writes,

“We get ensnared by worldly things, concerns and cares and worryings

But when we let our hearts fly free, then what beauty we can see


Lessons easy, lessons sweet, lessons hard, each we can meet

Greet them with a knowing smile, invite them in to stay a while.”

Rumi, in his poem The Guest House, has a similar sentiment,

“This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

…Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they be a crowd of sorrows”

We are mortal, though we often live as if death happens to other people, but in the section Being Mortal, Kate does not shy away from the truth. There are poignant and 'tougher' poems about society's cruelty which has led to the death of soldiers, to people becoming refugees, and to the suicide of young girls made pregnant and abandoned; and there are poems which 'hold our hand' at the death bed. In “Gently”, we are asked, – gently:

“Softly, softly, now come forward

Feel the calling, feel the power

Feel the love that draws you onward

T'wards this most import moment

This destined time, this sacred hour.”

In the final section before the Final Musings, we come into closer conversation with the Divine. In life and in death, the divine is close at hand,

“Beloved one

Do not worry

I will come.”

Who is this Book For?

  • For those who would like to take themselves a more lightly.
  • For those who want to be reminded there is joy inside every human heart.
  • For those who need some loving kindness and compassion as they walk through life.
  • For those who need to know they are not alone and who perhaps feel a little lost.
  • For those who grieve and those whose body may not be able to hold onto life for much longer.
  • For those, in other words, who need a little help putting up their umbrella, which, as Kate says in her dedication, is “human beings – everywhere”.

Kate's poetry is not erudite in form, it is accessible to everyone. Her poems are shot through with light and humour and her voice is kind. Here you will not find criticism for falling off the path but humility and understanding – after all, even Buddhas have bad days. Yes, they do. We may have Buddha nature within us but life's challenges are, well, challenging. Criticism breeds fear of falling; kindness breeds the encouragement to get up, dust ourselves down and start again. As her poem “Never Give Up” says:

“Never give up until your last breath

For this path continues right up to your death.”

With a little help from a friend.

Further Information

Illustrated by Lisa Williams

Available from 

Nickie Aven
TAUK Publishing

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