THERE ARE WORDS IN US
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.
Poem taken from the book ‘Becoming Kuan Yin: The Evolution of Compassion’ by Stephen Levine, available on Amazon: