This past weekend I attended a symposium featuring the internationally renowned poet, David Whyte. As the subtle beauty of his words and images—and even more, the silence behind them—washed through me, an intense inner resonance asked to be heard. “This is a fellow traveler,” it said. “Pay attention,” it said. “You can learn from this one,” it said.
He told stories, he recited poems, and over and over the same three threads ran through. One was “the conversational nature of reality.” This reminded me of an observation from the American Buddhist, Jack Kornfield,
“All of spiritual practice is a matter of relationship: to ourselves, to others, to life’s situations…Whether we like it or not, we are always in relationship, always interconnected.” ~Jack Kornfield
David Whyte would no doubt add, “…always having a conversation.” Everything we see, hear, touch, taste, smell, think or feel initiates a relationship, a conversation with otherness. Otherness that sparks our imagination. Otherness that provides clues, if we’re observant, to who we really are. Our ongoing conversations—sometimes between ourself and another, sometimes between Inner Ego and Inner Other—motivate us to reflect, form questions, discover new insights, and ultimately, act on what we know to be true.
Which brings me to a second thread that colors his poems: the importance of asking “beautiful questions.” Again, not just of other people, but of all hidden otherness everywhere. For example, while sharing a story about the thoughts and feelings that an ancient stone carving of a woman’s face evoked, he said, “We stand on the threshold of what has not yet occurred…a possible future. What is the invitation?” What is the invitation of this joy? These tears? That yearning?
A question like this invites us to take a new step, in a new direction, to a newer, truer reality. Toward my growth. My truth. My reality. Toward the life I was born to live.
A third thread binds the others into the artful fabric of a life: “Beauty is the harvest of presence.” It’s true. The seeds of our beauty are sown with our presence. The bud of our beauty opens petal by petal as we practice presence moment by moment, day by day, year by year.
“Start close in. Don’t take a second or third step. Start with the first thing close in, the step you don’t want to take. Take a small step you can call your own. Start with your own question.” ~David Whyte
If we’re not listening to the Other right now there will be no conversations worth having. If we’re unaware of standing on the threshold of what has not yet occurred, of a possible future, we will never ask the beautiful question, “What would it mean for me to be the ancestor of my future self?” If we don’t stay present long enough to see and take the step we don’t want to take, the fabric of our lives will never flower into a work of art.
Inspired by the beautiful poem that is David Whyte, I have a beautiful question for you: “What threads run through your life?” Or as my friend Rachelle Mayers, a gifted videographer and media consultant, asked me three months ago: “What principles do you live by?”
Here was my response: