Consolations: The Writing and Poetry of David Whyte

Hello Everyone,

I hope that you’ve been growing, learning, and thriving these past two weeks.  Recently, I have been enjoying the extraordinary books and poetry by David Whyte.  He writes of the raw, dark, poignant process of living and dying and makes it glow with renewed purpose and meaning.  His poetry and work teach us to let go of the shame we carry, for being human and vulnerable, and allow us to connect authentically.  

I am looking forward to attending a pre-conference workshop of his, called, “The Art of Asking the Beautiful Question” at the ACEP (Association of Comprehensive Energy Psychology) conference at San Antonio, Texas, in May.

In this newsletter, I want to explore how his writing encouraged and enlightened me, as I explored my childhood traumas this past weekend at PAIRS.  I hope that you will enjoy my reflections.

Have a great week!  ☺ 


Consolations: The Writing and Poetry of David Whyte

“Consolations, The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words” by David Whyte was written in prose and published in 2016.  He dedicated the book to “words and their beautiful hidden and beckoning uncertainties.”  These words were arranged in alphabetical order--words such as alone, beauty, courage, and disappointment.

Of the word, disappointment, he wrote:

Disappointment is inescapable but necessary…

What we call disappointment may be just the first stage of our emancipation into the next greater pattern of existence.

The measure of our courage is the measure of our willingness to embrace disappointment, to turn towards it rather than away, the understanding that every real conversation of life involves having our hearts broken somewhere along the way and that there is no sincere path we can follow where we will not be fully and immeasurably let down and brought to earth, and where what initially looks like a betrayal, eventually puts real ground under our feet…

Disappointment is just the initial meeting with the frontier of an evolving life, an invitation to reality, which we expected to be one particular way and turns out to be another, often something more difficult, more overwhelming and strangely, in the end, more rewarding.

This past weekend at PAIRS, we worked together, as a class, on our childhood betrayals and disappointments, letting go of our emotional attachment to the stories that had defined us, yet had nothing to do with us.  We embraced our disappointments and came to understand that “every real conversation with life involves having our hearts broken somewhere along the way and that there is no sincere path we can follow where we will not be fully and immeasurably let down.” 

Perhaps “disappointment” does not adequately express the intense suffering caused by repeated neglect and abuse.  Or, perhaps, the word “disappointment” could be redefined, to include the existential desolation and anguish from such profound loss that to own it would plunge the victim into denigration and shame. 

Whatever word we choose to describe our experiences, each of us, being human, had been “fully and immeasurably let down” and, in our innocence and childhood, had re-interpreted our individual private let downs as a measure of our own worthlessness.

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In PAIRS, we were given the chance, to finally ask for what we needed, and we were able to heal through authentic, compassionate connection.  We supported each other by touching each other with the intent to bring consolation, and affirming each other’s innate worth. 

We became the voices of the past that should have spoken but had remained silent, and the arms of the past that should have embraced but had been absent.  We healed as we faced our disappointments and voiced them together. 

In the poem “Everything is Waiting for You,” David Whyte writes:

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone.  As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
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 the 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 unutterably
themselves.  Everything is waiting for you.

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Our collective mistake, as children of an imperfect world, had been to believe that we were alone.  As I witnessed my classmates open up and become truly authentic in their suffering, I felt myself through them.  I realized that I have never been alone in my suffering; rather, I had been universally connected through suffering.  As a group, we put down the weight of our aloneness and eased into the conversation.

The conversation was neither eloquent nor premeditated.  The words were simple and direct: “I want to be loved and accepted as I am,” “I was so afraid all the time, ”How could you have done that to me?  I was a child!” Finally, after decades of indignant waiting, we heard from our fellow classmates the words we had yearned to hear, “We are so sorry,” and, “you are beautiful and loved.”

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I didn’t notice, at first, any shift, resulting from the exercises we did during PAIRS.  But later that evening, as if a film had been removed, I could hear more clearly, the “tiny speaker in the phone” that was my “dream-ladder to divinity”, whispering softly, kind words--words of self-affirmation—strangely freed from the haunting gray, tattered fabric of the past that once clung to every thought-form and encounter.  

Later, I noticed that the world, and the people in it, had changed.  It was as if the hardened cocoon that had been me had cracked open.  To what?  To an awareness of the  fluttering, fragile, loveliness within self and others. 

It seemed as if the world had become a friendlier place where “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.” I had returned, to reclaim the pieces once tossed aside in grief, and had found that Everythinghad been waiting for me.