When I left London in August 2016, it was like the bottom fell out of the box that was my world. My legs trembled, my heart pounded and my eyes were perpetually tear-filled. At the start of my journey came an incredible three days spent at McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala in the presence of His Holiness The Dalai Lama. I sat packed in with people from all over the world on a concrete floor, listening to his teachings about compassion, kindness and essential humanity. It was the start of a long road to truly opening up to myself.


To follow this amazing experience, I signed into a six-day silent meditation at a beautiful Buddhist meditation centre called ‘Tushita’, perched above McLeod Ganj. Having chain-smoked my nerves furiously away en route, I walked into the gates on day one for enrolment. WHAT WAS I THINKING? I hadn’t been silent (sleep excluded) for more than an hour in my whole life. Most of my friends would comfortably call me ‘Chatty McChatterson’. I must have been mad. Was I in the right place? Doing the right thing? What if I was wrong? What if this departure from my ‘reality’ was a huge mistake? What if…? The specific vibrations of fear, doubt and self-loathing resonated throughout my body. The relentless self-questioning and incessant internal dialogue of doubt that was so familiar was there, yet again, as if like clockwork. I didn’t realise just how much of a hold these feelings had over me. It seemed that every time I had the chance to do something that was truly good for me, something inside sabotaged it. Its often easier to do the things that are bad for us first, right? There is a more detailed blog post about my silent meditation later, for now I wanted to introduce with a snapshot of what was going through my mind, to offer relevance to the words below, which arrived at a time that I most needed them.


During my stay I read a book that was given to me by a dear friend in the UK as a leaving present. It must have been day four when I found the poem below in the middle of this book. Like a positive magnet reaching a negative material, this poem sought me out at precisely the right moment, in the pitch black of the night, in the strict silence of my dorm room, and stuck to me. Like a 5 year old with his flashlight, from under the bed covers that had been fashioned into some form of tent, this collection of words found me. It’s words immediately produced powerful yet stifled tears, reluctant, as I was to wake any of my roommates. The tears were neither of sadness nor joy, they were simply a potent release. It was at this point that I knew that yes, I was in precisely the right place, at the right time.


The reason I share this with you now is simple. The New Year was often filled with promise, but for some it can be filled with dread. The pledges we make to change even a little (or maybe a lot) can seem so tricky, so challenging. When life is crappy, it really is crappy – I know just how hard it is to see over the precipice. In the face of quite literally ‘all-change’, this poem brought me profound peace. So if you find yourself feeling weak, despondent or just plain beaten up, or if you find yourself considering giving up – on anything you have set your mind to – maybe have a look at these beautiful words. I hope they pick you back up again like they did for me.


If not you, then who? If not now, then when?



There are words in us


There are words in us

that don’t know how

to get to the surface.

Words hidden in our marrow

afraid to show themselves

concerned the world will end

if they are uttered.

Words that cross

the river of pain

that wish to tell the world

how much love is hidden

just below our fear.

And some of these words

sometimes find their way

to live among us

in the trust to hear them,

words that spin our compass

anger and loneliness redirected

by insight and forgiveness,

words like mercy and compassion,

words we never trusted to exist.

Words hide in the strangest places,

under stones, in clouds,

in a moment of your generosity;

in poems beginning their first line

climbing happily into the heart singing

how close the moon comes

when we trust the night.

Words even hide in other words.

Mercy hides in the hesitant pause,

questioning how much can be trusted

to the tongue, to the pen.

Invoking their true voice

rise to the surface

to sing their original song.


There is a sudden word that can make us

throw our old baggage over our shoulder

and hit the road in search of our true treasure.

It may come sometimes counting our breaths

deep in some surprising stream, passing through

the labyrinth around the heart

worn smooth from trying, clearing

the undergrowth that leaves us

in love for no earthly reason.


Breathing in, “What is the word?”

Breathing out, “Hidden in everything?”

Each inhalation uncovers

what lies hidden and unborn.

Breathing in and out

in the mad house or

on the meditation cushion,

to find a word

sane enough to save us.


Mala beads, green on green.

Poem taken from the book ‘Becoming Kuan Yin: The Evolution of Compassion’ by Stephen Levine, available on Amazon:

Comments (1):

  1. AJ

    08/01/2018 at 12:29 PM

    Ahh … eloquently put, Nathan. And how apt that while unable to speak you find this beautiful poem about words. Even better, about words deep inside you waiting to surface. AJ


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