Within - Consciousness, Mythology,
Astrology, Quantum Physics...
"What would it be like to be the
ancestor of your own future happiness? To be the saint
that you pray to in thanks?"
Whyte "Be patient toward
all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions
themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written
in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot
be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the
point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you
will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant
day into the answer." --Rainer
"The ultimate touchstone
of friendship is not improvement, neither of the self nor of the
other: the ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of
having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted
the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed
in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them
for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish
"Astrology is a language.
If you understand that language, the sky speaks to you."
Sekhmet, one of the
oldest known Egyptian deities, is depicted as a lion-
headed woman, usually with the solar disc on
her head. Daughter of the sun god Ra and herself a
solar deity, Sekhmet ("Mighty One")
is the protector of the Pharoahs in her fierce
aspect, as well as goddess of healing.
Unlike Sekhmet and the fierce goddesses, Kali, Durga,
etc., of Eastern cultures, the West --to our detriment--
has no path or conscious model to embody the Wrathful
(fiercely protective) Feminine.
The Dream of the Cosmos: Interview
with Anne Baring
by Dr. Betty J. Kovacs - Sept 2011
Birds Who Flew Beyond Time - Earth-healing fable by
Anne Baring, based on Farid Ud-Din Attar's The Conference
of the Birds. Exquisite illustrations by painter Thetis Blacker.
"I believe that the astonishingly consistent
and nuanced reality of the planetary correlations with the archetypal
dynamics of human life is one of the most compelling intimations
we have that we live in a meaning-laden and purposeful universe."
the reason we
haven't found our grail,
the key to who we are as
women, is because we
look for it in worlds of
false power, the very
worlds that took it away
from us in the first
place. Neither men nor
work can restore our lost
scepter. Nothing in this
world can take us home.
Only the radar in our
hearts can do that, and
when it does, ... 'We will
light up like lamps, and
the world will never be
the same again.'."
The River of Life
Once a people lived along the banks of the river of life
The river of life is a river of sweet water, that awakens the
seeds of spring
and nourishes all growing things.
The river of life is a storm wind, blowing fresh across the earth.
The river of life is the deep molten fire that shakes the continents.
And the people should have had all they needed for happiness
But they were plagued by a terrible monster, the triple-headed
monster of Greed, Hate, and War.
Greed sucked up all the colors of life and locked them inside
Hate severed the threads of love and taught the people to fear
War threatened destruction to anyone who opposed the monster's
And the people were separate, and afraid, and poor.
The threads of connection were frayed.
The fabric of care unraveled.
And War took the young and marched them off to slaughter and die
in places far away.
Greed stole their future...
The river of life ran dry.
The women saw the springs go barren, the new sprouts fail, the
trees die, and the hills turn brown
And they wept and mourned, and didnt know what to do.
The women, too, were divided, for some had more and some had
Old wounds and present injustices kept them apart.
But as War shook his fist, and threatened to unleash
weapons to destroy the earth...
The women turned to each other; they said: "We are scraps
of a torn fabric,
but if we tie them together,
we can bind wounds, dry tears,
weave a net to carry heavy loads.
"We must amplify love, and throw off dread,
Take back our power and spin a thread,
A life-line, held in our strong hands,
A living web of shining strands.
"And our hands remember how to spin.
We spin freedom on the rising wind,
We spin threads of life, the cords of fate,
We spin love into a river that can overrun hate.
"We spin justice burning like a flaming star;
We spin peace into a river that can overcome war.
And if you want to know where true power lies,
Turn and look into your sisters' eyes.
"So come mothers and grandmothers,
Lovers and daughters.
Come spinners and weavers,
Tool makers, potters,
Dancers and dreamers,
Fixers and changers,
Singers and screamers.
Forget all the dangers.
Come ancestors, guardians, Goddesses too,
You who teach us, you who speak true,
You who plant, and you who reap,
You who soar and you who creep,
You who cook, and you who drum,
You who have been, and you yet to come,
You who fight with the sword,
You who fight with the pen.
Come harpies and banshees and gorgons and Witches;
Come sweet loving hearts and furious bitches!"
"Break the chains that have kept us bound.
Weave a web to pull the monster down.
In the face of truth, no lie can stand.
Weave the vision, strand by strand.
"We are sweet water, we are the seed,
We are the storm wind to blow away greed.
We are the new world we bring to birth;
The river rising to reclaim the earth."
"You have to
take seriously the notion that understanding the universe is your
responsibility, because the only understanding of the universe that
will be useful to you is your own understanding."
“[In any great discovery] we find
the often disturbing and happy experience: ‘It is not I; I
have not done this.' Still, in a certain way it is I — yet
not the ego... but... a more comprehensive self.”
-- Baron Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker,
physicist and philosopher
"People say I have created things. I've never
created anything. I get impressions from the Universe at large
and I work them out. But I am only a a plate or a recorder or receiving
apparatus, what you will. Thoughts are really impressions that you
get from outside."
Inanna - Queen of Night
c. 1800 BCE Iraq - The British Museum
The Sumerian goddess of love and war, Inanna or Ishtar,
was Nanna's daughter and associated with the Underworld
the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful
than the risk it took to blossom." --Anaias
Nin "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the
men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach
them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."
--Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Seeking Beauty's Place in our
by James Hubbell
My world is the world of objects, of inner musing made real, a world
of things not necessarily coming from ideas. Yet, there are thoughts
and ideas that have been extremely important to me through the years.
One is Beauty. This word, at least in the art world, has been out
of favor for a good part of this century. I would like to see its
reintroduction into the modern world with the understanding that
Beauty, like love, has the power to change things. It can also help
us make decisions and unite the disparate elements in our lives.
Why has our time turned away from Beauty? Why have we been party
to the catastrophic destruction of culture and nature in this century?
In our rush to idealize what we thought was the scientific, rational
approach —our wish to harness nature— we turned away
from those concepts not easily explained in scientific terms, such
as spirit, love and beauty. Albert Einstein has characterized our
age as being one of "perfection of means, confusion of aims."
In my late teens, I was doing two kinds of paintings. One kind
was by most standards, grotesque —people contorted, things
out of shape. I realized that these works did not give me pleasure
to do, so I decided not to do them anymore. I made up my mind, I
am not sure why, to follow Beauty. I also decided not to try and
define Beauty. I find now that I will often do a work, and in my
mind say that it is not beautiful, yet a year or so later realize
that it is. I learn from making the art object and my work tells
me new things about beauty.
What I call Beauty is far from what we call pretty. A plastic
rose no matter how well fashioned can never be beautiful; it can
only grow dusty. It is the full cycle of life of a real rose that
gives it its beauty. Knowing that it wilts and dies is the essence
of its wonder. Mozart's music is beautiful because there is within
the wonderful melody both the pathos and the joy of being human.
Beauty must contain within it not just the sunshine but the shadows.
And an art that contains only the darkness leads only downward.
It is in that precarious balance at the edge of heaven and hell
that the power of Beauty lies.
Beauty can be a guide in helping us put together a complex world
and be a tool to help us make changes for the better. Our particular
time in history is marked by indecision and misdirected efforts,
not only in the technical fields but also in such diverse worlds
as politics, architecture, philosophy, and culture. We are unsure
about life, why we are here, or even how to make a decision about
what we value most. We begin to sense that even those paths laid
out by science and technology may not take us where we wish to be.
Beauty can be the arbiter of paths.
It may not be the "way" but it can help us in choosing
the "how." At the present time, we have a great many tools
and technical know-how to make a new world: everything from stainless
steel hip bones to sustainable houses and cities. But how do we
relate these things to life and each other so that they truly serve
life? It is here that a sense of Beauty and balance can help us
give form and meaning to what otherwise would be scattered possibilities.
Einstein says, "The most beautiful experience we can have is
the mysterious. It is the emotion which stands at the cradle of
the True Art and True Science."
There is a connection of beauty, both inner and outer, to love.
Both can open up within us feelings that seem to be outside of fear.
Putting aside fear even for a moment begins to change things. Somehow
beauty and love awaken that part in us that allows us to be ourselves.
I have come to call this, "to give light." It can come
through an individual or a work of art. It is very much one human
reaching to another and allowing for the wholeness of the other.
I believe we underrate even our traditional concept of beauty.
Why is nature so prolific in endowing its creations with magic of
form, color, and diversity? Is it merely for competition and procreation?
Or does the beauty of the flower or an Indian maiden dressed in
her beaded buckskin change the rules of the game? Is beauty perhaps
the physical manifestation of love? Does Beauty open the door and
allow Love in?
Some years ago, we built a small house for some friends. It is
used for counseling. It was designed specifically for inner healing.
A great deal of effort was put into how it would be experienced....
the entering of it was by a falling sculptural space with a surprising
light within. All because we believe that space and light can transform
our understanding of who we are and what life is about.
It is my hope that we are rediscovering Beauty. Not the "pretty"
of the 19th century or the ugliness of this century, but a robust
kind of Beauty that accepts the intertwining of chaos and order,
and of darkness and light... one that guides and transforms life
because it sees life as a whole. Can we learn to put a sense of
Beauty to work for us?
James Hubbell is an internationally recognized artist and architect.
Visit his web site
to view examples of his artistic vision and his public projects
designed to feed the soul.
"We have been to the moon,
we have charted the depths of the ocean and the heart of the atom,
but we have a fear of looking inward to ourselves because we sense
that is where all the contradictions flow together."
own impulse to create and evolve is the direction of “God”
in evolution, not just a human need, not just a blind effort to
survive or reproduce, but in fact an implicate order of growth,
the urge to self-evolve. I realized that each of us is the universe
in person. Our motivation to evolve is the "soul of evolution"
experienced as our subjective desire for self-evolution, for communion
with others, with nature and with Spirit." --Barbara
to flower, and flowering is being beautiful: but we wish to ripen,
and that means being dark and taking pains." --Rainer
"If you don't know
the trees…you may be lost in the forest, but if you don't
know the stories… you may be lost in life." --Siberian
day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again." --C.
"We can become authentically
public only by first going to the depths of the private. At
the heart of the uniqueness of the individual lies the universal.
Every person's deepest ecstasies and fears are old as mankind and
common as dirt. Thus, the greatest freedom for the individual comes
from the love of many stories. The strongest state is the one
that keeps the fewest citizens in jails, insane asylums, and ghettos.
... [O]pen the doors behind which you imprison the citizens of your
private commonwealth. ... [F]orm a community of teller and listener.
It is a call to revolution; seize the authority to create your own
Keen and Anne Valley-Fox, Your Mythic Journey
does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but
by making the darkness conscious." --Carl
"It is easier to try to be better than you are than
to be who you are. If you are trying to live by
ideals, you are constantly plagued by a sense of unreality.
... And when the crunch comes, you have to recognize the
truth: you weren't there."
"If success or failure of this planet and of human
beings depended on how I am and what I do, how would I be? What
would I do?"
"We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow
sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow
partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish
in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward,
forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells,
"The truly creative mind in any field is no more than
this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To
him a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy,
a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and
failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering
necessity to create, create, create — so that without the
creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something
of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create,
must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency
he is not really alive unless he is creating."
that every good idea and all creative work are the offspring of the
imagination, and have their source in what one is pleased to call
infantile fantasy. Without this play with fantasy no creative
work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the
play of imagination is incalculable. It must not be forgotten
that it is just in the imagination that a man's highest value
may lie." --Carl
"How is it possible that a being with such sensitive
jewels as the eyes, such enchanted musical instruments as the
ears, and such fabulous arabesque of nerves as the brain can experience
itself anything less than a god.."
“We’re living in a time where we each
need a tremendous amount of courage — a fierce kind of attention
and intentionality. The doorway is always through your vulnerability,
the experience where you are open to the world whether you want
to be or not.
“I’ve come to consider vulnerability
as a form of imaginative intelligence, and the good news is that
it can be cultivated. The real challenge is the pain that comes
with vulnerable living. When pain arises, it is tempting to say
to yourself: ‘If this is the way that God is playing, no
thanks, I’ll back up.’ Self-compassion is needed to
During and after the season of pain, the question
that comes up is: “Will I turn back to vulnerability, to
living a wholehearted life?”
I spent July writing for hours almost every day, working on a
story for an anthology on love revealed through grief. My focus
was my relationship with my dear uncle, the man who raised me
from age three to 21. I began with a laundry list of memories
of things we did together, and it was poignant, beautiful, heart-wrenching,
teary, grief-filled, and delightful to re-member so many things
I had long forgotten.
It was a deep excavation of known and unknown layers of love
and heartbreak in my life with him. The great treasure appeared
when I found an old torn black and white photo in my childhood
album which I had looked at many times over the years, but had
never truly seen until that moment. In that photo, I am about
four, sitting on my uncle's knee, looking into his fifty-year-old
face and he is looking into mine. My little face is beaming with
radiant joy and we both have big smiles. The love between us is
palpable and my heart immediately broke open with tears of love.
I knew that he knew that I existed! I also realized that not only
did he bring me joy, but I was a joy to him! I had never taken
that in before.
These realizations filled me with grace and gratitude for the
blessing of my uncle who was an intelligent, kind, and loving
man who truly saw me in the midst of a heartbroken, traumatized
family. I also wept with joy for that little, radiant me who,
with him in the moment this photo was taken and many others before
I went to school at six, was pure and utterly untouched by any
of the trauma I had experienced before going to live with him.
I saw the Golden Child that I was then--an image of myself that
had been hidden behind the long-held image of the trauma child.
I experienced pure grace in this soul retrieval of the Golden
Child as she came alive within me day by day writing; my body
shook with deep re-membering and I experienced a profound shift
of identification. Now when i look back, I see and feel this Golden
Girl as well as the one who suffered.
We all have a Golden Child within us, a core of being that has
remained utterly pure and untouched by any trauma. So often, we
become identified with the trauma child, the one who suffered
greatly, that the Golden Child falls into the shadow. You may
have a memory of a single moment, or times with a grandparent,
an animal, in nature, or alone as a child when this Golden Child
was present and you felt pure joy, fully present, untouched by
anything painful that has happened.
If you don’t recall any Golden Child moments, consider
looking through old photos, as they may evoke memories. When I
looked at my album, it was as if I had never seen that photo before.
I also noticed that there were no other photos of me with that
kind of love and radiant joy on my face until I was an adult woman
and had done a lot of inner psychological and spiritual work.
Writing the memories was so amazing, as each one catalyzed another.
I started with a list then expanded on it, filling our the details
of each event. Making art, doing a collage, finding and framing
a photo of your Golden Child and putting it where you can see
it each day can help integrate this aspect of our younger, pure,
radiant self, and shift the paradigm of your present identity.
The thought-provoking poet David Whyte considers what
we should be asking ourselves—especially when we least want
to confront our own answers.
By David Whyte
June 15, 2011
The marvelous thing about a good question is that it shapes our
identity as much by the asking as it does by the answering. Nine
years ago, I wrote a poem called "Sometimes" in which
I talked about the "questions that can make or unmake a life
... questions that have no right to go away."
I still work with this idea. Questions that have no right to
go away are those that have to do with the person we are about
to become; they are conversations that will happen with or without
our conscious participation. They almost always have something
to do with how we might be more generous, more courageous, more
present, more dedicated, and they also have something to do with
timing: when we might step through the doorway into something
bigger, better—both beyond ourselves and yet more of ourselves
at the same time.
If we are sincere in asking, the eventual answer will give us
both a sense of coming home to something we already know as well
a sense of surprise—not unlike returning from a long journey
to find an old friend sitting unexpectedly on the front step,
as if she'd known, without ever being told, not only the exact
time and date of your arrival but also your need to be welcomed
Here are my 10 Questions That Have No Right to Go Away.
1) Do I know how to have real conversation?
A real conversation always contains an invitation. You are inviting
another person to reveal herself or himself to you, to tell you
who they are or what they want. To do this requires vulnerability.
Now we tend to think that vulnerability is associated with weakness,
but there's a kind of robust vulnerability that can create a certain
form of strength and presence too.
There are many tough conversations, but one of the most difficult
is between a parent and an adolescent daughter, partly because
as a parent we are almost always attempting to relate to someone
who is no longer there. The parent therefore usually tries to
start the conversation by offering a perspective that the daughter
finds not only out of date but also unhelpful; the daughter then
replies by way of defense with something just a shade more unhelpful,
and so the process continues. A year or so ago, I found myself
in exactly this dynamic, my daughter's bedroom door slamming shut
just as I was just about to say that last, deeply satisfying unhelpful
But I caught myself and said, "David, this isn't a real
conversation. How do you make this a real conversation?"
I gave it the old 10-minute cooldown time, walked into the kitchen,
made tea and put out a tray, and on the tray: a plate of cookies,
a milk pitcher, a cup and a saucer. Then I knocked on her door
and said in a very different, more invitational voice, "Come
on, Charlotte, I've made tea. Let's go and have a talk."
As soon as I put the tray down and we had sat next to each other,
almost by accident I happened to say exactly the right thing—I
said, "Charlotte, tell me one thing you'd like me to stop
doing as a father. And tell me one thing you'd like me to do more
of." She suddenly gazed up at me with a lovely look in her
eyes, one I knew from her very early infancy. She was engaged
again because at last I was really inviting her to tell me who
she had become—not who she had been or who I wanted her
to be—but who she was now.
2) What can I be wholehearted about?
So many of us aren't sure what we're meant to do. We wonder if
we're simply doing what others are doing because we feel we don't
have enough ideas or even enough strength of our own.
There was a time, many years ago, working at a nonprofit organization,
trying to fix the world and finding the world didn't want to be
fixed as quickly as I'd like, that I found myself exhausted, stressed
and finally, after one particularly hard day, at the end of my
tether, I went home and saw a bottle of fine red wine I had left
out on the table that morning before I left. No, I did not drink
it immediately, though I was tempted, but it reminded me that
I was to have a very special guest that evening.
That guest was an Austrian friend, a Benedictine monk, Brother
David Steindl-Rast, the nearest thing I had to a really wise person
in my life at that time or at any time since. We would read German
poetry together—he would translate the original text, I
read the translations, all the while drinking the red wine. But
I had my day on my mind, and the mind-numbing tiredness I
was experiencing at work. I said suddenly, out of nowhere, almost
beseechingly, "Brother David, speak to me of exhaustion.
Tell me about exhaustion."
And then he said a life-changing thing. "You know,"
he said, "the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest."
"What is it then?"
"The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness. You're
so exhausted because you can't be wholehearted at what you're
doing...because your real conversation with life is through poetry."
It was just the beginning of a long road that was to take my
real work out into the world, but it was a beginning.
What do I care most about—in my vocation, in my family
life, in my heart and mind? This is a conversation that we all
must have with ourselves at every stage of our lives, a conversation
that we so often don't want to have. We will get to it, we say,
when the kids are grown, when there is enough money in the bank,
when we are retired, perhaps when we are dead; it will be easier
then. But we need to ask it now: What can I be wholehearted about
3) Am I harvesting from this year's season of life?
"Youth is wasted on the young" is the old saying. But
it might also be said that midlife is wasted on those in their
50s and eldership is very often wasted on the old.
Most people, I believe, are living four or five years behind
the curve of their own transformation. I see it all the time,
in my own life and others. The temptation is to stay in a place
where we were previously comfortable, making it difficult to move
to the frontier that we're actually on now.
People usually only come to this frontier when they have had
a terrible loss in their life or they've been fired or some other
trauma breaks open their story. Then they can't tell that story
any more. But having spent so much time away from what is real,
they hit present reality with such impact that they break apart
on contact with the true circumstance. So the trick is to catch
up with the conversation and stay with it —where am I now?—and
not let ourselves become abstracted from what is actually occurring
If you were a farmer, and you tried to harvest what belonged
to the previous season, you'd exhaust yourself trying to bring
it in when it's no longer there. Or attempting to gather fruit
too early, too hard or too late and too ripe. A person must understand
the conversation happening around them as early in the process
as possible and then stay with it until it bears fruit.
4) Where is the temple of my adult aloneness?
In 1996, I wrote a poem called "The House of Belonging."
In it, I spoke about the small, beautifully old house I came to
live in after the end of my first marriage. In the poem, I wrote:
This is the temple of my adult aloneness
and I belong to that aloneness
as I belong to my life.
That temple was the house I moved into after the end of a chapter
in my life. There I would live alone, but also with my son a good
deal of the time. It was a new start. There was a great deal
of grief in letting go of the old, but I was so very excited about
my new home. I felt that even though it was such a small house
and an old house, it had endless new horizons for me, as if the
rest of my life was just beginning from that place. It is important
to have the equivalent of this house at every crucial stage in
our lives. Where do you have that feeling of home? Do you have
it in your apartment? Do you have it when you walk along the lakeshore
or the seashore? Where do you have that sense of spaciousness
with the horizon and with your future?
Gaston Bachelard, a French philosopher, said that one of the
beautiful things about a home is that it is a place where you
can dream about your future, and that a good home protects your
dreams; it is a place where you feel sheltered enough to risk
yourself in the world.
5) Can I be quiet—even inside?
All of our great traditions, religious, contemplative and artistic,
say that you must a learn how to be alone—and have a relationship
with silence. It is difficult, but it can start with just the
tiniest quiet moment.
Being quiet in the midst of a frenetic life is like picking up
a new instrument. If you've never played the violin and you try
to play it for the first time, every muscle in your body hurts.
Your neck hurts, you don't know how to hold that awkward wavy
thing called a bow, you can't get your knuckles round to touch
the strings, you can't even find where the notes are, you are
just trying to get your stance right. Then you come back to it
again, and again, and suddenly you can make a single buzzy note.
The time after that, you can make a clearer note. No one, not
even you, wants to listen to you at first. But one day, there
is a beautiful succession of notes and, yes, you have played a
brief, gifted, much appreciated passage of music.
This is also true for the silence inside you; you may not want
to confront it at first. But a long way down the road, when you
inhabit a space fully, you no longer feel awkward and lonely.
Silence turns, in effect, into its opposite, so it becomes not
only a place to be alone but also a place that's an invitation
to others to join you, to want to know who's there, in the quiet.
6) Am I too inflexible in my relationship to time?
In Ireland, where I spend a great deal of time, they say, "The
thing about the past is that it isn't the past." Sometimes
we forget that we don't have to choose between the past or the
present or the future. We can live all of these levels at once.
(In fact, we don't have a choice about the matter.)
If you've got a wonderful memory of your childhood, it should
live within you. If you've got a challenging relationship with
a parent, that should be there as part of your identity now, both
in your strengths and weaknesses. The way we anticipate the future
forms our identity now. Time taken too literally can be a tyranny.
We are never one thing; we are a conversation—everything
we have been, everything we are now and every possibility we could
be in the future.
7) How can I know what I am actually saying?
Poetry is often the art of overhearing yourself say things you
didn't know you knew. It is a learned skill to force yourself
to articulate your life, your present world or your possibilities
for the future. We need that same skill as an art of survival.
We need to overhear the tiny but very consequential things we
say that reveal ourselves to ourselves.
I have one friend who, when she is in a quandary, goes out for
a drive in her car and sings. Whatever she's grappling with, she
sings about it—to the windscreen, to the road, to the oncoming
traffic. Then she overhears herself singing how she actually feels
about something and what she should do about it.
Sometimes she pulls up to a stoplight, other people look over
and she's singing, slightly crazed, into the windscreen, but that's
her way of finding out.
8) How can I drink from the deep well of things as they are?
In the West of Ireland, there are very old, very sacred wells
everywhere. The locals call them "blessed wells" or
"holy wells." At them, you find notes to the dead, bits
of ribbon, keepsakes that people have left when they've said a
prayer for a child or someone who's sick. Often a local church
will have a Mass out there once a year. These holy wells are everywhere,
and they're part of the local imagination and have been for thousands
So to me, a well, a place where the water springs eternal all
year round, is a very real, blessed place to stop and think. Almost
always, when I'm struggling over a particular situation, I realize
that I am only looking at the surface of the problem and refusing
to go for the deeper dynamic that caused all the tension in the
All intimate relationships—close friendships and good marriages—are
based on continued and mutual forgiveness. You will always trespass
upon your friend's sensibilities at one time or another, or your
spouse's. The only question is, Will you forgive the other person?
And more importantly, Will you forgive yourself? We have to deepen
our understanding, make ourselves more equal to circumstances,
more easy with what we have been given or not given. We must drink
from the deep well of things as they are.
9) Can I live a courageous life?
If you look at the root of the word "courage," it doesn't
mean running under the machine-gun bullets of the enemy, wearing
a Sylvester Stallone headband, with glistening biceps and bandoliers
of ammunition around one's neck. The word "courage"
comes from the old French word coeur meaning "heart."
So "courage" is the measure of your heartfelt participation
in the world.
Human beings are constantly trying to take courageous paths in
their lives: in their marriages, in their relationships, in their
work and with themselves. But the human way is to hope that there's
a way to take that courageous step—without having one's
heart broken. And it's my contention that there is no sincere
path a human being can take without breaking his or her heart.
There is no marriage, no matter how happy, that won't at times
find you wanting and break your heart. In raising a family, there
is no way to be a good mother or father without a child breaking
that parental heart. In a good job, a good vocation, if we are
sincere about our contribution, our work will always find us wanting
at times. In an individual life, if we are sincere about examining
our own integrity, we should, if we are really serious, at times,
be existentially disappointed with ourselves.
So it can be a lovely, merciful thing to think, "Actually,
there is no path I can take without having my heart broken, so
why not get on with it and stop wanting these extra-special circumstances
which stop me from doing something courageous?"
10) Can I be the blessed saint that my future happiness will
Here's the explanation for what sounds like a strange question.
I have a poem called "Coleman's Bed" about a place in
the West of Ireland where the Irish saint Coleman lived. The last
line of that poem calls on the reader to remember "the quiet,
robust and blessed saint that your future happiness will always
We go to places of pilgrimage where saints have lived, or even
to Graceland, where Elvis lived, because these people gave something
to the rest of us—music or good works— that has carried
on down the years and that was a generous gift to the future.
But that blessed saint could also be yourself—the person
who, in this moment, makes a decision that can make a bold path
into the years to come and whom your future happiness will always
remember. What could you do now for yourself or others that your
future self would look back on and congratulate you for—something
it could view with real thankfulness because the decision you
made opened up the life for which it is now eternally grateful?
David Whyte is the author of The Three Marriages, Crossing
the Unknown Sea, and poetry collections including River Flow and
Everything is Waiting for You.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety,
And the grey promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
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