Tag Archives: David Whyte

Sparks will fly #37 #onemore

Remember when you were little and you counted the sleeps towards something and there was just one more sleep to go? The idea of one more has been haunting me in my sprint to holidays, putting my belongings into storage, handing over work, finalising papers and board and business responsibilities. One more email, one more call, one more meeting, one more conversation, one more bag … and now it is one more sleep. It is quite a heady mix of letting go, relinquishing on the one hand and taking up on the other. My quest is to remain open, open the road and to the questions that might emerge along the way. The question I am trying to hold onto is: What will the road reveal?

Despite all the trials, tribulations, betrayals and horrid things I have endured that have worked their way through me in various guises these past years, I am arriving once again to a new threshold – as we all do each new day. Every moment is uniquely gifted for us to receive with as much open heartedness as we can muster. I am thankful I have arrived with one more sleep to go. One more night, the last one in what will soon have the title of the old bed. I won’t be returning to that bed ever again. My grandfather made it for my parents and I have written about it before. We are parting company and it is the last vessel other than my own body that held a marriage. We are breaking up, the bed and I, and are freeing each other from our shared history.

The experience of a dry mouth from anxiety, fear, stress, followed by the insatiable desire to quench the thirst by drinking copious amounts of water, seems like the body reaching out to be a well seeking to be filled. This instruction is one for the road too. Fill up often, leverage off the fear to dip into the well. Shaking off the dust and emptying shoes of sand and pebbles so you can walk on more freely … all the feels of one more sleep.

There were days and so, so many nights, when I didn’t think I could get to this day and now it has arrived with the ease of a gentle reassuring kiss, and a blessing to go forth. As well as some basic clothes, my walking sticks and notebook, I will be taking my own version of the Examen with me – it always seems to help move me forward.

1. Resting into the presence of creative energy of love and the UniVerse – the one Word some call God.
2. Reviewing the day with gratitude.
3. Paying attention to my emotions – how did they show up during the day.
4. Choosing one feature of the day and reflecting on it with love and curiousity
5. Looking toward tomorrow.

There is always one more of something to do, to anticipate, to welcome, to farewell. There is always one more David Whyte poem to journey with, and it has been The Well today (posted below). There are always more sparks to fly and as I fly with my little spark inside of me I wonder what will the road reveal?

The Well

David Whyte

Be thankful now for having arrived,
for the sense of
having drunk
from a well,
for remembering the long drought that preceded your arrival
and the years walking in a desert landscape of surfaces looking for a spring hidden from you for so long that even wanting to find it now had gone from your mind
until you only
remembered the hard pilgrimage that brought you here,
the thirst that caught in your throat; the taste of a world just-missed
and the dry throat that came from a love you remembered but had never fully wanted for yourself, until finally, after years making the long trek to get here it was as if your whole achievement had become nothing but thirst itself.

But the miracle had come simply from allowing yourself to know that you had found it,
that this time
someone walking out into the clear air from far inside you
had decided not to walk past it anymore;
the miracle had come at the roadside in the kneeling to drink
and the prayer you said,
and the tears you shed
and the memory
you held
and the realization
that in this silence
you no longer had to keep your eyes and ears averted from the
place that
could save you,
that you had been given
the strength to let go
of the thirsty dust laden
pilgrim-self
that brought you here,
walking with her
bent back, her bowed head and her careful explanations.

No, the miracle had already happened
when you stood up,
shook off the dust
and walked along the road from the well,
out of the desert toward the mountain,
as if already home again, as if you
deserved what you loved all along,
as if just remembering the taste of that clear cool spring could lift up your face
and set you free.

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Photo by Bram. on Unsplash

Sparks will fly #35 #Spring

Been pouring all night, so appropriate for waters breaking to birth the new season of spring. Like so many new beginnings, first there is the heaviness of pregnancy, then the waters break before something formed but not quite fully operational, arrives. This is the season of buds forming, then opening, the seeds who have been busy gathering up their energy in dark places push through and poke their green heads up. This is the season where possibilities emerge and what looked like it might have been dead or at least in a deep Sleeping Beauty kind of sleep, opens and transforms.

I am constantly impressed by how seeds quietly go about storing up their energy and  push and push and push, until there is a crack in the brown ceiling they hit them selves against, and keep striving towards the light, but that comes after the dark and often shitty, dank place they are in and at the other end they build a system of roots that do deeper and hold themselves in place. This two way stretching and striving for nutrition and life is a constant reminder to me of what is needed to get by in the world. The human condition is fraught with times we are in the dark, know leaning into the light will help us unfold, and that we have to go deep to draw on what gets left behind in the soil. All those micro-organisms, humus, worms are there to help us reach for the stars.

Sparks of life, new ideas, possibilities and invitations start turning up to announce that hibernation has come to an end. I wonder what I have unknowingly been hibernating that might burst through some of what has been hiding under ground?  Within two weeks I will have packed up all I have left to make a home, packed a bag to hit the road, said goodbye to a village that has held me for the past fifteen years and closed a lot of chapters. I will wander away quietly with no ceremony, not quite a disappearance as I am sure to find my way to being close by on my return, but I will be without a permanent address for the first time in my life. This new season in my life comes from heavy clouds, plenty of precipitation and fodder churned into the earth from scraps, shit and disease, breaking down and turning into fuel.

Spring following winter is reassuring, even on day like today Father’s Day in Australia, where I miss my Dad. He  always had hope even well into his dying days. He was a man who opened himself up to new possibilities from ideas, words, food and was never short of advising on what might need to be transformed or changed to bring new life to a situation (he continued to write to the coaches of his football team even in his last days).  He died in spring and this year I will be on the other side of the planet when it will be his anniversary and birthday. We buried him on his birthday and when we talked about dying, he told me he wanted to be buried so the earth and all its creatures would take their time with him.  These words have held me in good stead during the winter seasons past and this one in particular. The title of a book he wrote, Help Yourself to Happiness, I am taking as a clear message from him to enter this season.

Letting nature take its course and being reminded to lean into what the winds, rains and Gaia herself wants to teach me and invite me into a practice. With the practice comes the discipline and truth that winter is followed by spring.

As we wake up and enter the spring, coming into what was in the dark, beneath the surface, where there are expectations for sparks to fly, I turn to David Whyte’s poem What to Remember When Waking, to hold me as the new season arrives.

What to Remember When Waking

 

In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.

What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.

To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.

You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?

Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the writing desk?

— David Whyte

bookKeith

Dad wrote this book and it was published by Lothian in 1999. Nothing says spring like a daisy.

Sparks will fly #21 #music

The poet sings like a lark surrounded by virtuosos who know how to get the best out of each and every inch of their instruments, in a space designed for the singular purpose for sound to reach our ears and soak into our bodies – this was a musical nourishment to savour. One indeed to take to the grave, as I instructed my youngest to include You’ve underestimated me dude in the set to be played at my funeral. Energetically, the pulse of life, with all it highs and lows, swirled around us in raptures. I bow down to your talent and your willingness to share them with us all:

Kate Miller-Heidke | vocals / piano
Keir Nuttall | guitar
Iain Grandage | cello / piano
Jessica Hitchcock | backing vocal

You know sparks will fly when the shock of greying luxurious hair on the cellist arrives just before the first words of introduction are spoken. The ancestors were already in place and the next generation eagerly was taking up their invitation to join the appreciation society. David Whyte says: Poetry is language against which you have no defenses. The quartet raged a triumphant victory march and reached into the cracks and chasms of my heart and soul, my sword and my shield were rendered helpless, I was left defenceless.

I am being instructed through a set of exercises which is calling me to examine some of those cracks and chasms. It is not all comfortable. As this day dawns I am wondering how perhaps there is another way in to be opened, music and poetry has served me well in the practice to keep being broken open, they can creep into me with the open-heart surgery and exam of life seems to require!

In a recent speech I made, I shared a couple of snippets of time when I was literally under threat of death – a knife being pulled on me and a gun pointed at me. There have been a few other times death has come knocking. As a child suffering from asthma where breath in the body was scarce, in traffic there have been a few near misses, running behind a bus as a ten year old on the streets of London. And, I have had a death threat too during anti-racist campaigning. Coming close to death is an invitation to live more fully. It is also to unpack how these near-death experiences can continue to work their way into the future and not be relegated to the past, as if somehow they already processed, packed up and neatly put away. Music calls these experiences out into the open for review.

The emotional labour is never really over and comes repackaged and repurposed … and often for me this is through music or poetry. When a song moves you it has tapped into memory, or maybe into possibility or fantasy. There were many such moments last night. The cello becomes your spiritual director, the shaker becomes the metronome of your heart beat and the highest notes crescendo to match your higher self as the heavy darker tones of chords thumping on strings and keys takes you down as far as the notes will go … and then some. Rumi says: If all the harps in the world were burned down, still inside the heart there will be hidden music playing. It is this hidden music which is being examined but I can’t get to it without the live music on the outside. And it is in between sets that the reflection takes place, in the quiet, when instruments are lying in state, when the cup of tea is getting cold, when the chairs are empty, when the leads are relaxed. I am in between sets when I reflect, everything is still on stage, there is gratitude and expectation of more.

Remaining open is the way sparks will fly and the door is always ajar when I can hear the music.

Ukaria

Between sets, Ukaria 25 May 2019

Year of Self-Compassion #46 #poet

On arrival to the Byron Bay Community Theatre, the line is already out the door, while the coffee beans just roasted brew to join with the steam in machines arrested and held by slender latte coloured bodies. There are no ugly people in Byron. I choose a seat in the fourth aisle immediate front and centre with a spotlight above my head. I come as a naked pilgrim, stripped bare and with nowhere to hide and nothing to hide. He tests the sound system with that eternal question from the nunnery scene in Hamlet, the most famous of our English bards handed down throughout to the centuries: To be or not to be. This is no rhetorical sound check , it is delivered not as a question, but as a statement. The perfect beautiful question in this place where yoga and reiki and meditation novices and masters find one another; where stones and chakras and cards are caught, folded and coerced into be-ing and be-coming and be-held.

I am in the light and on this day where being and not being live along side of one another in the poetic practice of blessing and being blessed. I know I am ready and also so weary my eyes can barely stay open. As I settle in to the listening, the three wise women chatting behind me, invoke Jesus, Mary and Joseph as their cussing lineage. Now invited into the space the Holy Family settle in too and appear from time to time throughout the day brought into the conversation by the poet and stories of his beloved friend and this comfort holds me near the nativity, a surprising advent invitation.

In the gathered, there are the groupies and those who have come dragged along by their female lover reminding them a lyric is an aphrodisiac and if only they could serenade their soul like the charismatic poet. We are all seated on red chairs for this red letter day. Phones are being put to good use with texting of girlfriends to tell them where they are. The fifty shades of grey hair in the room are interrupted on a regular basis with chemical offerings of red, purple, blues, blondes and blacks. I think about our desire for individuality and wonder what would happen if we all lived the truth of our bodies, one hair at a time. I notice one of the younger ones in the gathered taking a selfie and think well I haven’t seen that before at a poetry and philosophy session. I am so delighted to see this rock star of the word worthy of this modern iconographic action – it is an arrival all of it’s own, alongside the words and pictures we will be making in our imagination and memories today.

A green Edwardian chair of perhaps oak with a hint of a regency strip is placed next to the clothed table with a pile of his books, carafe of water in a glass already half full and my mind instantly recalls his poem Everything is Waiting for You. The chair and I begin a conversation and within a few back and worth lines, I am mischievously invited to come and sit. It is an invitation I refuse but laugh gently and know this crone is home to an Empress as well and maybe … everything is waiting for me too?

Most of the audience is bespectacled. Ready to see with new eyes and hear with new ears, perhaps a phrase or a line to sustain them as they go forward in their lives. The lady next to me (who I discover is called Susan) has gone to the toilet twice before we start, she is so excited. Locals are connecting with friends and the last of this tribe for today arrives as the final wriggles and giggles leave the bodies. I am excited for them who will hear the poet for the first time in the flesh, in the same way I was excited in the cottage at Ballyvaughan with fire stoked and hearts warmed by other pilgrims. Abundance and generosity had settled in long before we got there.

He stands on the stair off stage but visible to all, his eyes glued to Mel the promoter extraordinaire who has midwifed his visit. She is in a regal blue skirt and she relays his conversational leadership credentials and then with a whoop and a cheer and some serious applause he arrives. Nothing in the way between him and the audience, we are about to begin a conversation and his first words are “very good”. To ease himself into this conversation he invites WB Yeats and his life long love Maud Gonne in and recited the Song of the Wandering Aengus. I surprisingly hear the poet’s daughter Charlotte’s soprano voice waft into the lyric, maybe he is thinking of her as he recites the poem, I decide intimacy is on the menu today.

I start composing a Litany for Intimacy:

To meet life as we find it

to arrive at a place where the river has already flowed by

to go just beyond yourself

to be half a shade braver

to say no to something formed and yes to something yet to form

to be around tonics, those people who with their gravitational pull just make you feel better

to recognise the past in your body

to break promises and vows

to have your heart broken

to fall forward.

We are barely into this day and I am being drawn in memory, once again, to what I have stopped being and what calls me to love. And another litany begins to unfold, this time a list of names start to turn up alongside one another, and, with no filters, unrequited love appears and disappears. Just like the chattering monkeys of meditation, I don’t hold on to them, I notice them and then let them go. Tears fill the well as the poet reminds us all it is only because you care that your heart can be broken, and you chose the person for that special gift, a super power of being the one to break your heart. This gift of a thousand shards leaving me bleeding and bruised, never able to be put back together, I hear an invitation to write more about falling over and it was not the ground beneath my feet no longer there, but my feet no longer able to tread on anything solid. Like The Burren, my favourite spiritual director, I need to learn to walk on ground that is swampy, with hidden crevices, that looks solid when it is not, that is stone and ancient, ready and waiting for me.

I got a glimpse of my old mischievous self at the beginning of the session and caught myself with an inner smile, a familiarity and echo to my old self. It was a joy to recognise, I have been laughing again more, and this spiritual discipline might well be the one to guide me home. My small steps, though infantile and tenuous are helping me fall forward. A mantra is forming “go a step beyond yourself”. This is attributed to John O’Donohue and joins Seth Godin’s line “levelling up” and this poet’s phrase “half a shade braver”.

My bravery, between the cracks, and in the solitude, is haunting and humbling me down – all I need to do is show up. A pro tip arrives with the advice to ask for help – visible and invisible. Another one follows in close succession: develop the discipline of breaking promises in order to keep the conversation real. What promise do I need to break right now, that has been held and nurtured in my soul is a question I expect to lead me to a profound act of self-compassion. I have plenty more to mine from this gift of time and place with David Whyte. His new collection The Bell and the Blackbird has more than enough breadcrumbs for me to find my poetic pilgrim way on this camino.

The Bell and the Blackbird

The sound
of a bell
still reverberating,

or a blackbird
calling
from a corner
of a
field.

Asking you
to wake
into this life
or inviting you
deeper
to one that waits.

Either way
takes courage,
either way wants you
to be nothing
but that self that
is no self at all,
wants you to walk
to the place
where you find
you already know
how to give
every last thing
away.

The approach
that is also
the meeting itself,
without any
meeting
at all.

That radiance
you have always
carried with you
as you walk
both alone
and completely
accompanied
in friendship
by every corner
of the world
crying
Allelujah.

The Bell and the Blackbird
© David Whyte and the Many Rivers Press 2018

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Year of Self-Compassion #45 #pebble

I have been contemplating how to invite more self-compassion into my life and it is a real challenge to explore what kindness to self actually feels and looks like. There is always the temptation of selfishness embedded somehow into the seams of kindness when I think about it.  So as all good teachers would tell you, the only way to get better at something is to practice it. Such a simple instruction – practice. Do it once and see what happens and then you will have a little adjustment and get better at it. I haven’t been returning phone calls, or doing detours to catch up with people who might like to see me, I have been trying to hold space so I can pursue what is life giving for me and I been walking more. It’s time to get ready for the camino, the real one, not the metaphorical one. It is going to be a quest with cobblestones along the way long before I get to the streets in Portugal and Spain.  There is baggage to shed in kilos, fitness and emotions. There is hope to be made and practices to be scheduled.  There are poems to be read and written. There are songs to be sung and stories to be heard.

I am starting my journey to this new frontier with a day with my favourite living poet, David Whyte. Along with other David devotees I am looking forward to his dulcet tones and questions to kick off my thinking and to warm my heart, and hold me accountable to the big enough story and to be half a shade braver every day henceforth.  The poem that has held me of Whyte’s so often is Santiago, and so it was very fitting some of my closest friends chose that one to read to me at my 60th birthday. They didn’t know it was a favourite, but they know and get me, so it was not surprising it was the one they chose.

When you take step closer in to yourself, your truest self, it is a step into depth, to the place where you can be propelled by the discomfort of the pebble in your shoe to recognise it as an irritable invitation to go further by throwing it onto the road ahead, liberated from its confines in your shoe, you too are liberated to walk a little further, comfortably. In Godspell, the pebble is called Dare. I have loved this song since I first heard it as a teenager, I have sung it a thousand times, and again at my birthday a friend recanted how I had taught her to sing it as well. She told the story as an example of me seeing the potential in her when she couldn’t quite see it herself.  It is only now I realize the pebble called Dare has been in and out of my shoe often along the road. This song is the only one not written by Stephen Schwartz and I have gone searching to see what Peggy Gordon who wrote it had to say about calling the pebble Dare. I hadn’t really noticed that the pebble had a name, I had always thought of the words ‘pebble dare’ as an act  and not read the lyric as I shall call the pebble, Dare. So interesting that after 35 years I get another insight. The road hidden and then seen – as the poem goes.  Peggy Gordon  explains about her clown character singing By My Side and says, “ the challenge of walking with this pebble that she masters sufficiently to know that she can walk with him anywhere that he may go. She calls the pebble Dare because she needs to challenge herself to overcome her fearfulness so that she can walk with him anywhere he may go. So, it’s not the pain; it’s the challenge; and, the pebble is called Dare because she knows she needs to challenge herself.”

Calling the pebble, Dare maybe an act of self-compassion to know when to put the pebble in your shoe and even better knowing when it can be discarded.  I feel I have had a pebble, and sometimes a boulder in my shoe for so long, it is time to discard it, imagine how much easier it would be to walk without a pebble called Dare.  Maybe I could walk with a pair of shoes called Ease or Gently, or put on socks called Comfort and leave bags no longer needing to be carried so it is a lighter walk?

So many possibilities. I have already walked along roads with the pebble in my shoe and know I can do that, what I don’t know is can I walk without it? What about trying a walk without the shoes at all?  That might be too big a lean into liberation, but it is certainly an act of self-compassion worth contemplating.

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Photo by Greg Tockner on Unsplash

 

Year of Self-Compassion #41 #garland

I had another fall this week on the night of my birthday and with great counsel and reflection have decided it is an exclamation point to end my 50s and to remind me I have landed, grounded into Act 3.  The road has come and gone on this pilgrim’s path and in places untrod by any other human before me, I have made new tracks across brambles, with pebbles that found their way into shoes ready to be liberated when the day is done. I have had sojourners and people along the way feeding me with food, ideas and wonder gifting me time and time again. I have been challenged to take roads so well trod it is a mystery why they are still needed for so many to travel on them, and now from vantage points and with new technologies, I can fly over them to new places and see them in new ways. I ended this week with a celebration of those roads with many who have travelled some of them with me. Maps I didn’t know I had inside of me and yet still arrived at Act 3 in tact.

A garland of gratitude was placed on my head and so begun an afternoon and evening of being celebrated. I highly recommend setting aside time to be celebrated, and get a glimpse of the addictive experience of celebrity and having fans. The birthday occasion brought joy and colour and with the flowers lovingly prepared for placement all of creation settled on my head. Heaven down to earth, landing me grounded in the beauty of nature and the truth that all things fade, loose their fragrance and come to an end – but not before the blossoming and adoration of their glory.

Entering into Act 3, as I have stolen from Jane Fonda, to begin this sixtieth trip around the sun, I wanted to pause and acknowledge a new beginning. I had forgotten in doing that, I was also recognising Act 2 was over. Three distinct decades and when reflecting on the great gifts of this time it was to the children and their gifts to me that I centred. I marked the moment by pivoting the song sung at their baptisms (Bob Dylan’s Forever Young) to be a blessing for them now and for all my friends and family as they enter with me, what I hope will be a generous Act 3.

I am weary and at times wandering around in fogs of ditheriness (if that is a word) where grief and loss try and fade into the wilderness of back recesses of my mind. The garland is going to be my kit of sustainability to remind of the beauty woven with strings of memories, rewired to land in a new way to hold my head together when it feels like it is wandering around in the dark.  The shapes and hues bursting out from the solid base that holds it altogether, yet remains essentially invisible is a delightful reminder of foundations that seem to keep me together, even when I don’t realise.

I am calling this my garland of gratitude for lessons learnt, harvested colour and beauty in my life, for the diversity and inclusion of a circle, for the giver and the gift, for the ability to receive and have a wreath laid upon my head, for the invitation extended and received to be crowned, for the fragility of life and how nature delivers time and time again on answers to questions formed and emerging.

Celebrated comes from the Latin and means to be frequently honoured and the kind reflections, offerings and tributes that flowed in the garden on this special occasion came often and I certainly felt honoured by everyone’s presence and for those who couldn’t be in the garden who sent messages of love. To all of you who are in my head and in my heart who travel with me and bestow garlands on me I bow with gratitude. This pilgrim’s way will have more moments to take in the garlands of gratitude that descend on me regularly and in an act of self-compassion I am going to roll around in that love more often. Looking to the horizon the road is stretching on.

Santiago

The road seen, then not seen, the hillside
hiding then revealing the way you should take,
the road dropping away from you as if leaving you
to walk on thin air, then catching you, holding you up,
when you thought you would fall,
and the way forward always in the end
the way that you followed, the way that carried you
into your future, that brought you to this place,
no matter that it sometimes took your promise from you,
no matter that it had to break your heart along the way:
the sense of having walked from far inside yourself
out into the revelation, to have risked yourself
for something that seemed to stand both inside you
and far beyond you, that called you back
to the only road in the end you could follow, walking
as you did, in your rags of love and speaking in the voice
that by night became a prayer for safe arrival,
so that one day you realized that what you wanted
had already happened long ago and in the dwelling place
you had lived in before you began,
and that every step along the way, you had carried
the heart and the mind and the promise
that first set you off and drew you on and that you were
more marvelous in your simple wish to find a way
than the gilded roofs of any destination you could reach:
as if, all along, you had thought the end point might be a city
with golden towers, and cheering crowds,
and turning the corner at what you thought was the end
of the road, you found just a simple reflection,
and a clear revelation beneath the face looking back
and beneath it another invitation, all in one glimpse:
like a person and a place you had sought forever,
like a broad field of freedom that beckoned you beyond;
like another life, and the road still stretching on.

— David Whyte
from Pilgrim
©2012 Many Rivers Press

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Love you Mum Photo credit: Leanne Muffet Garland Mary-Anne Healy Kiss Luke Deslandes

Year of Self-Compassion #35 #blindspot

We all have blind spots, those parts of ourselves where we can’t see something even though it is in full view of others. In a car, we often have to stop and turn very deliberately and with a contortion to make sure we have all a line of clear sight before we can move with confidence, we do that knowing we are on the road with potential hazards all around us and without caution and care we might put ourselves in harm’s way.  This is not true to the blind spots we hold in relationships where we trust, have confidence and operate as if there is no present danger.  We don’t doubt ourselves about the range of vision of the circumstances we find ourselves in.  We often need others to point out to us what they can clearly see as an obstacle we are facing even though we don’t see it in amongst the everyday obstacles of living without fear.  When fear arrives we begin to second guess everything, we start to check and double check and even triple check the incoming information.  The doubts seep in and we don’t move as confidently on our path or make definitive claims or easy decisions at the crossroads or read the map with the same level of assuredness.

I wonder if the blind spot is a way of us colluding with our selves, not turning or examining what there is to see and learn?  I wonder if it is there to protect us from seeing things that will hurt us? I wonder if it is there to invite others to help us see what we can’t see?  A blind spot is incredibly uncomfortable to face once it is pointed out and you turn towards to the light and see what is there facing you in full view. It is a transfiguration of sorts to come into the blinding light of truth to see something that you couldn’t see before. The invitation offered is one to ask questions you have never asked before, to make meaning from actions that have not had meaning attributed to them, to explore new possibilities and to be open the heartbreaking liberation of an unexplored view, a horizon becoming more visible as the fog lifts.

In the Celtic myth of the Tuatha De Danann, the tall supernatural Irish tribe of gods and goddesses, teachers of science and the arts, with mystical powers to communicate beyond the grave and brought with them four treasures – a stone, a spear, a sword of light and a cauldron from which no one would ever go hungry.  At the moment of attack and when their final battle against overwhelming odds was upon them – they turned sideways towards the light and disappeared.  It was not an act of cowardice or retreat, it was a way of not fighting and finding freedom in a new dimension. They went to the edge and from there turned towards, not away, to the light, the light saves them from perishing and leaves their enemies without a fight to be had. The battle evaporates.  They found the blind spot of their enemy and in turn found their freedom – an extraordinary juxtaposition and lesson from a legend.  It took to the third battle before they took this action.  So I take some comfort that even these wise ones didn’t do it in the first instance, and indeed not doing it at the beginning of their war, they were able to make some gains along the way and learn some lessons that lead them to their final departure from the battle field. They were not going to be taken prisoner by the fight or the enemy. To turn and face the light instead of an on- coming maurading horde seems like very good advice to me. Perhaps it is even the foundations of nonviolent action? If there is nothing to fight then the fight is over; the disinfecting powers of sunlight so well known in modern science reinforces the hygienic value of such an action.

There is something about the relationship between a blind spot and turning towards the light captivating me.  To become transparent and the veil has dropped and all is there to be seen is shining a light on truth and beauty, but to turn towards the light, is a movement of you to the light, where the you and the light can blaze as one, not two elements mirroring one another. An invitation not to reflect the mystical, but to be the mystical.

The blind spot that protected us in the beginning pivots as we become the light and it evaporates.  While it is as natural as a flower rears her head to reach the light and rotate to get the best rays, it feels un-natural to not face the enemies when they appear on the battle field. To leave them there without a fight, to leave the scene altogether feels like giving up, but to be transfigured is to be elevated and transformed, it is an act of beauty visible to gods and goddesses and not one for the dark arts of war and wounds. Luminosity on another plane is quite intoxicating, if only it was as easy as turning towards the light.  Checking just how many battles you have to be in before you leave the field and my enemy is an invisible one turning up when I often am devoid of my armoury.

As an act of self-compassion I am reminding myself , I need people around me to help me with blind spots and I am grateful for those who point them out to me. This is feedback with bravery. I am also setting a practice to notice when I can turn towards the light, and in doing find more beauty and peace, more artistry and magic.

 

TOBAR PHADRAIC

Turn sideways into the light as they say
the old ones did and disappear
into the originality of it all.

Be impatient with easy explanations
and teach that part of the mind
that wants to know everything
not to begin questions it cannot answer.

Walk the green road above the bay
and the low glinting fields
toward the evening sun, let that Atlantic
gleam be ahead of you and the gray light
of the bay below you, until you catch,
down on your left, the break in the wall,
for just above in the shadows
you’ll find it hidden, a curved arm
of rock holding the water close to the mountain,
a just-lit surface smoothing a scattering of coins,
and in the niche above, notes to the dead
and supplications for those who still live
.
But for now, you are alone with the transfiguration
and ask no healing for your own
but look down as if looking through time,
as if through a rent veil from the other
side of the question you’ve refused to ask.

And you remember now, that clear stream
of generosity from which you drank,
how as a child your arms could rise and your palms
turn out to take the blessing of the world.

In RIVER FLOW: New and Selected Poems
© David Whyte and Many Rivers Press

reflections