Tag Archives: David Whyte

Coffee Date

20 Jan

20130120-091531.jpg

After the reinvention of Red’s coffee shop in Santa Barbara’s funk zone, Goleta Coffee Company has been my favorite coffee shop. I don’t come too often, because there are so many more that are closer to where I live. But I really just love this place, feel instantly at ease, cozy, and energized by all the visual eccentricities. I adore places like this. A little industrial, a little mismatched and haphazard, and if you can’t have an outdoor patio, then yes please to the fireplace surrounded by booths and a couch. Some of the furniture is quite hideous, and there’s a crazy red paisley rug on the concrete floor under the sofa, but these things make me want to camp out for hours all the same. I’m really here to do some IIN coursework, which I’m excited to get started (who ever predicted I would say that about school!), but I was listening to one of Jen Lee’s Retrospective podcasts, (where she has conversations with so many different people with different backgrounds and different kinds of work about how they got where they are, stories from their life and what drives, inspires and provokes thought in them.) on the way over here. She interviewed a novelist, Diana Spechler in the one I listened to this morning, and I was so captivated by this conversation. It just sparked so many thoughts in me.. Those kinds of mind-boggling, open-ended, questioning thoughts about why the society is in the state and shape that it is, and how achingly delicate and impressionable the human mind can be, and how long we can hold on to healable wounds that we try not to realize are there. It made me think about how so many people are in such desperate need for connection, whether they realize it or not. And how overwhelming that need seems sometimes, and by that I mean the need in the world. How great the need is for mentors. The need for, not even service and resources and organizing committees, but for one individual to sit with another individual and be able to hold a space of patience and honesty and unconditional love. For a conversation.
I guess, for me anyways, it always comes back to conversation. So much can be healed through conversation with another. Through entering into a real conversation with yourself about how you’re making your home in the world and what is or isn’t nourishing you. A conversation with the scarier parts of the secret wishes and judgments that we try to keep locked inside ourselves so that the world stays properly balanced on our own self determined axis.
And I don’t think the power even lies in finding the answer. I think back to how many friends and former homeless shelter clients, and even fictional characters (which you know were based on real emotions) have said, if only I knew why I do this! Why do I have this pattern, this reflex, why do I keep myself here, why do I do this to myself… if I only knew why, maybe I could do something about it. It sounds almost like just another mind trick to keep yourself stationary, doesn’t it? Safe in the obvious truth that until you figure out the answer… there’s nothing that can possibly be done differently.
I think fixating on the answer is a stalling technique. And I think the real power lies in the conversation. In the attempt to understand. In the willingness to hold a dialogue with yourself or someone else, or in prayer or in meditation, and to ask the difficult questions, “the questions that have no right to go away” (David Whyte). To always try to have that courageous conversation. It opens up those dark and messy places, it brings them into the light, little by little, until they don’t feel so taboo anymore. Until the twisted and aching, the hidden and seemingly shameful are finally recognized as passing, malleable, and so unavoidably human and common and cyclical. I don’t know how it happened, that unpleasant feelings became so unmentionable. Like excitement and enthusiasm and affection and satisfaction are the most acceptably universal feelings. But shame… loneliness, and despair and numbness and uncertainty and even sometimes desire… struggle… how did those feelings get exiled? To the land of no-that-never-happens-to-me or don’t-you-mention-that-out-loud-because-it-might-make-people-uncomfortable… to see or talk about an emotion that has a story attached to it. Its all just so stupidly common. From drug addictions, to body image and disordered eating, to the aftermath of feeling abandoned by a parent to the regular old longing for things to be shaken up a little.

How the mind reels.
I may have ended up in a very different place than the podcast started me out with. But isn’t that just how thoughts are. They tip and they pour into other thoughts, which tumbled out in various directions and trip over personal histories and experiences before being sifted into new or rehashed notions.
And I just had to get that all out onto a page, even a virtual one, so that I can focus on learning dietary theories and planning out my February.

Thanks for having coffee with me.

Quote

Life comes to find us

13 Mar

” ‘Life comes to find us as much as we go out to find it.’ … could be a line from a Hallmark card, except for the radical imaginative step he asks us to take next. Life can find you, only if you are paying real attention to something other than your own concerns. If you can hear and see the essence of otherness in the world, if you can treat the world as if it is not just a backdrop to your own journey, if you can have a relationship with the world that isn’t based on triumphing over it, or complaining about it… Wordsworth tells us, that we put ourselves as the center of the world, strangely, by eliminating our concern for the smaller self. When something beautiful and overwhelming, like a waterfall, or the morning light, or the mountainside takes us outside our worries… we are put in a privileged position, that is far more than the ability to appreciate a good view. Hearing and seeing, without the filter of interpretation, is seen by Wordsworth, as the act of reaching the real conversation at last. And it is this conversation that does all the work of helping us find our way into the future.”

- David Whyte, in The Three Marriages, talking about William Wordsworth’s poem Prelude.

Building Courage

18 Jan

smelling the flowers

I’m building up the courage to write about the miscarriage.  Miscarriages.

And I’m a little surprised that I have to build it at all.

It’s a shame that the arrival of new wonderful things in life, a baby boy for instance… don’t just erase the lingering traces of old heartbreaks.

The fragments that led me here… To the place where I’m realizing I still have to sort through these feelings…

The dream I had, the details of which are unrealistic, of course.  But left me with the sickening feeling that I’d lost everything I had built.  My life, my family, my sense of peace and joy and wonder.

The electric bill, that I’ve felt like I should keep under my name.  Just in case.

Pieces of a talk by David Whyte.  About how much potential love and adoration there is in the face of a family you’ve created, and how terrifying it is to give in to that love because what would you do if you lost it.

The strange hesitation, something like nervousness… like it’s the very first time, even though it’s obviously not.

So I’ve been biding my time…

Not biding really…

Dawdling.

Trying to gather strength to dive into my own muffled pain.

Part of me accusing myself of melodrama.  But I know I’m entitled to the traces of pain.  As much as I’m entitled to the sifting.  As much as I’m entitled to the releasing of it.

There’s a part of me that really wants to tell my story with my own voice.  Right here.  It just feels like I could own it more that way.  Bare a little more soul.  And leave less room for editing.  But I don’t have the equipment to do that.  So I may just buck up and write it all out.

Just know that I want to do this.  I’m just a little scared.

Confessions of an Over-Caffeinated Brain

28 Sep

SkyI’ve been wanting to write, and the problem has been that there are so many things I’ve been wanting to write about that I fear they will exit the flood gates in a woefully unorganized fashion. I’ve spent most of the morning writing through various thoughts to be placed elsewhere, and caffeinating myself from an espresso machine that dispenses perfectly formed cups of coffee in the push of a button. I can never own one of these. I have enough energy to race around the building after two cups.

That aside, I have an hour before I have to leave for work, and in that hour I really want to write about the unknown.  Fear of the unknown, conversation with the unknown, and contentedness with the unknown.  And I’m giving myself permission to write about these things, despite how little I have actually engaged in dialogue with them, because how else do you familiarize yourself with something besides entering into conversation about it.  For me, for now, that means writing.

I think so many people have heard of that quote by Rilke,

I beg you…to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without ever noticing it, live your way into the answer…

I bought that quote on a magnet earlier this year when I was going through an incredibly difficult and foreign experience.  I bought it because I knew that I had no answers or explanations for what had just happened in my life, and that it was so new that it would take me a while to wade through the unknown, and I wanted to remember to sit with those things.

Now I’ve not always remembered to sit with those things.  I’ve gotten frustrated to the point of tears over the lack of answers I’ve been able to provide for myself.  I’ve been so disgusted with my inability to neatly categorize my experiences that I’ve tried to detach from them, only to have them erupt in very misplaced areas.  Of course I’ve had those times where I’ve slowed down, let feelings ebb and flow, let the unknown simply be the unknown… but those times have taken work.  Constant reminders and monitoring.  It’s been part of my challenge to myself over the past week… to take those necessary first steps but at the same time to ease off on myself.  To stop demanding that so much of my time and efforts and evolution be constantly producing efficient results.  To stop insisting that I always be able to chart my progress, and instead, to let my life shape itself through those first courageous steps.

I’ve been ever so slowly discovering that the reason I’ve had such a hard time taking those first steps into the unknown is because so far, I’ve refused to acknowledge that somewhere along the way I became a bit terrified of the unknown.  A thing I’ve always appreciated about myself is my comfort with change.  The excitement I find in changing living arrangements, going to new places, exploring new vocations, learning new things and resting in the comfort that things will work themselves out.  If something doesn’t go as I’d planned, an opportunity will always present itself.  This is how my life has always gone.  So it’s been really hard for me to recognize that this relationship that I had with the unknown had changed from happy-go-lucky acceptance, to tight-fisted refusal to move forward without some kind of predictable outcome.

But my attachment to that fact that I held dear about myself has not prepared me for this truth… that I have become intimidated by those unknowns.  That recently I’m tending more towards seeing the possible failures and heartbreaks and humiliations in them rather than anticipating a world of potentialities.  And holding on desperately to my former disposition of jumping into the thrill of the new is keeping me from offering up to myself those small bits of support and comfort that might give me the courage to walk more slowly towards those potentials.  And maybe that means taking small steps through the unmapped landscape that results from loss.  Making slow-paced venture, and allowing myself some excitement over growing possibilities for the future.  And most especially, acknowledging that maybe all those things I’ve been afraid of and worrying over and have kept me immobile are of my own making.  And that I really am strong enough and deep enough to pull out all the necessary love and forgiveness and curiosity that I need in order to keep taking steps forward.

Phew. Now there’s a lovely thought.

21 Days. A week later…

19 Sep

21 Days

So.  It is almost a week to the day since I got a text message from Miss Kimberly Gill saying, Would you be willing to commit to 21 days of moving outside of your comfort zone with me?

Now, those who know my friend Kim understand why this text did not cause me the least bit of surprise.   A handful of clarifying questions, a sunset and a sunrise later, a post showed up on her blog, followed by an email to friends and family.   Yes, she was presenting a challenge to herself and those willing to join, to spend 21 days to doing things that she wished to, but normally wouldn’t for fear of being uncomfortable.

This sounded like a fantastic idea to me!  I love to play these kinds of games, like little dares to myself.

So I added my affirmative comment to her post, read over the others, and set about with a pen and paper to figure out what my plan of attack would be.

I started listing things that I had really been wanting to do but hadn’t because they’ve felt too silly, scary or otherwise have made me squirm at the thought.  As my list grew, panic began to set in at the thought of tackling all of the things that I’d been putting off for weeks, months, some for a few years!   That panic proceeded to plague me for the entire week.  Lovely, hmm?


Enter David Whyte

He reads this poem on an audiobook I downloaded:

START CLOSE IN

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.

Start with the ground you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own way of starting the conversation.

Start with your own question,
give up on other people’s questions,
don’t let them smother something simple.

To find another’s voice
follow your own voice,
wait until that voice
becomes a private ear
listening to another.

Start right now
take a small step you can call your own
don’t follow someone else’s heroics,
be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake that other
for your own.

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.

~ David Whyte ~

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.

So I reconsider… and I remember an email I got this week from the Inner Mean Girl brigade.   It was about ditching expectations.   Lightening up on an unattainable quest for perfection and underpromising instead of overpromising.

Start close in.

I think about the 21 day challenge again.   I know that I have a couple of security blankets, ie. things that keep me cocooned inside of my comfort zone.   Mainly they are: sleeping far later than necessary and extreme internet usage.   Both of these things eat up time in my day like no other, and set me off in a cranky mood because of that time I feel like I’ve wasted.

So.   In an attempt to broaden my chances for exiting my comfort zone… I’m going to start with curbing those things first.   AND in an attempt to wig out my inner perfectionist, I’m not going to overpromise.  I’m not going to lay out my master plan with my list of 21 things and my do’s and don’ts for the next 21 days.   I’m going to start with those first things, and let the rest unfold.   That’s what this 21 days will be about for me.  Starting now.

phew!

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