Recently I have been introduced to the poetry of David Whyte. I think perhaps I was looking over some notes I took from my spiritual class and there was a reference in it about a poem from David Whyte that then spurred me to look further and look further I did. I now possess a couple of books of poetry of his and an audio CD of which I absolutely love. I have played it numerous times. Just the sound of his voice is soothing and his laugh, his laugh is infectious. I find myself laughing not always because what he says is so humerous but listening to how he laughs and how he is totally amused by himself makes me laugh with him. I find the whole thing quite delightful. And even though I have listened to it numerous times I always find some new nugget of information that I missed before or that I identify with today that I didn’t yesterday. On the other hand, my kids hate it! He repeats lines of his poetry that deserve a second look, or of emphasis and meaning. My kids particularly hate this. The drama of it is lost on them but they endure it like good little soldiers.
There is something about his poetry that I connect with. That opens a door and allows me to walk through it. The following poem of his explains it all.
The Lightest Touch
Good poetry begins with the lightest touch,
a breeze arriving from no where,
a whispered healing arrival,
a word in your ear,
a settling into things,
then like a hand in the dark
it arrests your whole body,
steeling you for revelation.
In the silence that follows
a great line
you can feel Lazarus
even the laziest, most deathly afraid
part of you,
lift up his hands and walk toward the light.
— David Whyte
Poetry is like touching the Infinite and wrapping yourself around the words and living inside them. It wakes you up so you can hear the call of the knocking at the door. There are particular parts of his poetry that have stuck with me and I continue to carry with me. One is a question that he posed. What if when we met someone we acted or treated them as if we already knew their story. And if we could do this, wouldn’t that change the whole conversation. I like this. In fact, I love it. Think about this for one breath. What if you knew that the seemingly scattered coworker had a parent that was dying? The angry teller just had a fight with their spouse. The unfocused student at school has been neglected by their parent. The clerk at the store who has messed up on the cash register for the 3rd time is a new employee and in fact it is their first day on the job. Knowing these things changes the conversation does it not? You have more compassion, understanding, patience, empathy any number of measured responses that speak volumes of kindness.
It’s as if the scales have fallen from your eyes when you truly contemplate this and embrace it. Somehow in doing so a part of the selfish ego is shattered, or shed and there is an expansion into the Infinite and all that is offered. The process creates a space, a vastness that didn’t exist before. What if you approached the conversation as if you already knew the other person’s story?
Thought provoking isn’t it? Quite profound and illuminating, simple and complex all at the same time. Imagine how this changes the dynamics of your life and those around you. What do you bring with you each and every moment if you look at each person that you come across as if you already know their story. Do you see them differently? Maybe you actually see them for the very first time. They are no longer nameless faces that pass in front of you each day. They are faces of the Infinite that have a story and now you know what that story is and all judgment falls away. Callousness and hardness fades away and love and caring takes its place for we already know the story and it has changed the whole conversation.
A student approached me where I work and they proceeded to tell me a story of what they believed about themselves and it was quite a bizarre story. Now the old part of me who sees things on the surface automatically thought what is wrong with this person? The new part of me saw and treated them as if I already knew the story and it did change the conversation. This person has a less than ideal home life and just wants to be seen, to know that they matter, that someone cares and at some basic level isn’t that what we all want. To know that we have been seen and heard and someone knew and understood our story and in the process that story, our being made a difference.
What if we approached the conversation as if we already knew the story? Everyone has one. Right now in this moment take the opportunity to let this thought transform you and as it does you will find that the lives of those around you are transformed as well. When we as human beings do this the energy around us will shift. The conversation is just beginning.