Tag Archives: David Whyte

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

 

Year of Self Compassion #26 #witness

Hannah Gadsby’s raw and powerful performance in Nanette is indelible. For anyone who is not the norm – what ever that is – who has been beaten to a pulp for not fitting in by someone else lower down the foodchain and yet somehow closer to being the norm, will resonate and celebrate her bravery and anger. This is not a review of her performance or of the content. I was effected at the cellular level and the experience of being witness to her story.

Holding onto her words about reputation and her desperate plea, her begging for straight, white, men to “pull their socks up” has me aching. I am aching for the men I know who are doing just that, pulling up their socks, being quiet, getting out of the way, relinquishing the space and celebrating the women in their lives. I am aching for the women who are pushing and pulling, and making the spaces for themselves and others and who recognise their own privilege and are getting out of the way for other women who are not the norm to fill it up. I am aching for myself, as I grow older and my own privileges change, and I am not welcome in places I was before. I am more invisible than before and I have so much privilege by virtue of my white, educated, housed, healthy, first world existence. I genuinely grieve for what I have lost but I had it to loose in the first place and I have to keep reminding myself of that. Inside of me, there is arrogance and there is shame.

Stripping back. Unplugged. Bare. The hollow space, no, hollow spaces, laying empty inside of me and more hollow and louder because they were once full.

Watching Gadsby’s performance was watching her fill up. With each breath and phrase, she added a layer of energy of power and in doing so didn’t take anything away from another else. She wasn’t emptying herself with self-deprecation, she was filling herself with the audacity of vulnerability. Persecution is not funny. Alienation is not hilarious. The stage is her safe place, no one is going to interrupt her, she knows how to hold tension. As audience, we are all witnesses, but there is no witness protection program for the white, straight men or for those who stand with them. I have colluded with many of them, made them look good by being the feisty and friendly feminist, toning down my anger to make it all a little more comfortable. It isn’t comfortable for the Gadsby’s of the world who are aching and hurt, raped and excluded. I am setting myself the challenge to be at least one or two more shades braver and will think of Gadsby’s brave choices to tell us her story (not the least using art history as the medium to explain perspective and women’s exploitation on the canvas).

It has been a week of being haunted, and watching Gadsby’s performance made sense of some of the haunting in ways I won’t share today. But I do want to say protection, privilege, reputation are taking me to humility, guilt and shame too. Brene Brown says she is ‘pro-guilt’ because it helps us stay on track and make choices to move away from behaviours and helps us align with our personal values. Gadsby showed up. All of her showed up. And as I witnessed her performance I witnessed a powerful act of self-compassion. The room was full of light and she managed to banish some of her own darkness with her anger, her begging and her relentless seeking to come home to herself. This is a quest for humanity, not power or privilege. It is a quest for us all to be each others witness, to make space for one another to be heard, to be seen, to be whole, to be healed.

We got to show up for ourselves and for our people. We got to show up for each other. There is enough room for all of us and diversity is the first step, inclusion the second. Start with the first step as David Whyte reminds us: “Start close in, don’t take the second step or the third, start with the first thing close in, the step you don’t want to take.” Close in for this white women is with the white men I am around, its easy to go to the margins, much harder to start close to home.

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light. Brene Brown

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Photo by Jan Haerer on Unsplash

Year of Self Compassion #13 #Easter 2018

I went on retreat with a universal question: What is right for me at this time? Rilke’s direction has served me well before – live your questions now – and I discover that I am breathing into my question before I arrive at the destination, even though that phenomena was hidden from me until I was actually there. Stephanie reminded us how so often we are actors in each others story and what appears as moments of synchronicity have actually been prophesied. A truth right there … even the stones will shout out. Over recent months I have been touched by such kindness, generosity and compassion. As we sing in choir – my little cup runneth over!

So for retreat, I go to a foreign land, amongst strangers, and everything is preordained. Everything is waiting for me. The opening myth, one I am a novice studying, a poem recited that hangs on my wall, a story of a broken pot I have written about more than once and even on the same liturgical calendar day, a reading given to me by the teacher to read which I have read time and time again and the last line written on a torn from a paper towel placed centrally in the sight each time I sit at my desk.I am so astonished at the alignment, I laugh heartily and am warmed by the love that has obviously been holding me to get me to this place, at this time. It is, as the title of John O’Donohue’s book is named, “Eternal Echoes“.

“Embodied self compassion” is the theme of the retreat and the teachings are practical and potent for everyday application. Given my question and the experiences offered and met, I find living my question binds me to this sacred season – I am re-membering and in doing so I am re-membered.

What is right for me at this time? I am right to trust this. I am right to hear the eternal echo. I am right to come home to my-self and to call out to those parts of me in exile, wandering about in a forty year wilderness, waiting for the invitation to come home. Some parts in exile are finding their way stumbling in the dark, others racing towards ths light, one way or another, they are coming home, creatively, intuitively, by design and by accident, intentionally and unintentionally, in surprising and unsurprising ways.

On the in-between day of Easter Saturday, I took the track Pilgrims Path to the Sanctuary and came back the Goddess Way. Where the trek was slippery and indistinct on the way up, it was marked with female witnesses on the way down to the Centre – another homecoming.

This. is what is right for me at this time.

To reconnect.

To re-member.

To call home what has been exiled.

And then I bump into my Friend on the road to Emmaus, with my companions, and we are asked: “What’s been going on these past few days?” and I don’t recognise him straight away, but I do notice familiarity in my heart and gut. Then, I know who we met on the road.

We are all surrounded by signs and signals, confirming our decisions and pointing us in the direction that is right for us at this time. Opening our eyes is one step, going to your heart and gut for instruction might turn a different result to the one in your head. There is more than one way of knowing … and being known.

We have more than enough signs to know with our heads, hearts and souls, about what is right for us at this. If only we could, go on retreat as a species and embody self compassion? Until that days dawns though, it remains for us gifted with these times to follow O’Donohue’s instruction that: “The duty of privilege is absolute integrity.”

For after all is said, and after all is done: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” – CS Lewis

This poem of David Whyte’s is a favourite and certainly sums up so much for me this Easter and I was grateful to be able to share it with others at Mana.

Everything is waiting for you – David Whyte

Your great mistake is to act the drama as if you were alone.
As if life were a progressive and cunning crime with no witnesses
to the tiny transgressions.
To feel abandoned is to deny the intimacy of your surroundings.
Surely even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding out your solo voice.

You must note the way the soap dish enables you, or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.

The stairs are your mentor of things to come, the doors have always been there to frighten you and invite you, and the tiny speaker in your phone is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the conversation.
The kettle is singing even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots have left their arrogant aloofness and seen the good in you at last.

All the birds and creatures of the world are utterably themselves.
Everything is waiting for you.

Special thanks to the Mana Retreat Centre, Retreat Directors Stephanie Dowrick and Joyce Kornblatt and my fellow retreat family, especially Wendy, Shasta and Marlene.

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Mana Retreat Centre

Year of Self Compassion #8 #Footprints

No longer just an imaginative tool in a science fiction story, your finger print is unique and the way to open many a door or transaction.  Yet I am more captured by my footprint. How I live on this earth and how lightly I tread. We have plenty of guides to help us with our ecological footprint, but how about our emotional footprint? How we tread on each other’s hearts, how gently we inhabit our thoughts and steer unwelcome ones away; how we make a mark with hobnail boots or light as a feather plimsolls.

I was pulled up this week and rightly so. While I had been moving through grief and loss, other sojourners were at a different place and on a different tangent, and I had a case of foot in mouth disease …. my footprint not very elegant or helpful. And while a sad emoji face with a suitable coy look of embarrassment might be appropriate too – I know my own journey needs to respect those on the same path. Keeping your own counsel has its place in self compassion and treading lightly on the emotional environment we share with others.

The first place of belonging is to ourselves and finding ourselves dwelling in our own house and creating the garden for all kinds of ordinary and extraordinary beings for us to cohabit doesn’t actually mean we are on our own.  The threads and beads of life weave around us and intersect in places visible and invisible, with the power to be gentle or the power to throttle with a strangulation that silences and suspends life itself.  The space between the two may be gossamer thin.  In these moments catching yourself to ask, is the next sentence, or phrase, an act of self-compassion or perhaps it is a unceremonious fall into a chasm that is going to take a while to get out of, is time well spent in discernment. And I failed to take that moment more than once these past few weeks and there have been consequences all round.

Putting on the right shoes for the walk we are in, helps with the footprint making that follows. I have had a week of stilettos and blundstones, when more slippers and flats would have been a better plan for the maintenance of relationships and my own health and well being. It is a lonely place to be, knowing the footprint is bigger than it needs to be and deeper than it was expected to be, and making more of a memorable mark on others.

Re-purposing the spaces I inhabit and helping my ideas, hopes and dreams to find their way home in me so I can belong to them again, and indeed have new ones find their way to me.  This is the way of the pilgrim to have a footprint that is worthy of the path and a path worthy of the footprint. Somewhere inside the house we belong to is also the one that belongs to us, and in that belonging there are clues to self-compassion. It starts with being merciful to oneself and letting every part of yourself be in sympatico, and in that place of tenderness, perhaps your footprint can be just the right shape, size and weight it needs to be for you and for others.  Sadly that won’t always be so, and unintentional harm will be done because the shoes are a few sizes too big, or maybe the heel is a little sharper than it needs to be, or a sole that is heavier than the ground on which you walk requires. It is not with self-flagellation I come to this awareness, but with gratitude for the reminder, gentle footprints of self-compassion are gifts to others too.

THE HOUSE OF BELONGING

I awoke
this morning
in the gold light
turning this way
and that

thinking for
a moment
it was one
day
like any other.

But
the veil had gone
from my
darkened heart
and
I thought

it must have been the quiet
candlelight
that filled my room,

it must have been
the first
easy rhythm
with which I breathed
myself to sleep,

it must have been
the prayer I said
speaking to the otherness
of the night.

And
I thought
this is the good day
you could
meet your love,

this is the black day
someone close
to you could die.

This is the day
you realize
how easily the thread
is broken
between this world
and the next

and I found myself
sitting up
in the quiet pathway
of light,

the tawny
close-grained cedar
burning round
me like fire
and all the angels of this housely
heaven ascending
through the first
roof of light
the sun has made.

This is the bright home
in which I live,
this is where
I ask
my friends
to come,
this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love.

This is the temple
of my adult aloneness
and I belong
to that aloneness
as I belong to my life.

There is no house
like the house of belonging.

– David Whyte
©1996