David Whyte, Courage, & Gratitude

On Saturday, I listened to one of my favorite poets, David Whyte, share stories of Ireland and recite his poetry for 3 hours in an intimate, old theatre in Portland.

I wrote down this line from his recited poem, “Coleman’s Bed”:

“Make yourself a door through which to be hospitable, even to the stranger in you.”

All morning, I heard a theme of courage. Courage to know yourself. Courage to be a kind host to yourself. Courage to be vulnerable. Courage to begin a difficult conversation with yourself:

“What’s the question you’re refusing to ask? What’s the conversation you’re not having?”

He asked, what if the I’m not enough feeling and the I shouldn’t be feeling this or experiencing that feeling is actually an invitation to begin a conversation with ourselves -- to look at the places where we don’t feel free? To feel the intensity of our stuckness and the power of that immobility? If we even just begin this conversation, he said, we’re on our way.

“What courageous stepping towards can I make? Where can I go against my habitual self – to be half a shade braver? Half a shade more generous?”

I notice how my body feels listening to his words. Stepping toward vs. diving in. Half a shade vs. a full shade. Baby steps. I’m relaxed, but also excited and inspired.

Where don’t I feel free?

My mind lands on the storytelling class I’m taking this month. A friend challenged me to take this class with her when I told her that telling a story in front of an audience, with a spotlight and a mic, Moth style, is an edge for me.

The Thursday after Thanksgiving, I’m doing just that. And Shit! I’m scared. (I literally felt my heart in my throat as I typed this, and just left the page to email my teacher and request that I go on earlier rather than later, so I don’t “cook,” as she says, in my overactive nervous system).

So here it is, in real time, my invitation to feel the intensity of this particular stuckness and feel the power of this particular immobility.

And the words I just typed a few minutes earlier whisper in my ear, half a shade braver.

The story I’m telling, ironically, is about another area in my life where I don’t (correction – didn’t) feel free: dance. Oy! Talk about “I shouldn’t be feeling this!” For so many years, I felt like a failure for feeling stuck around an activity that’s supposed to be fun and freeing.

I’m a year into my movement class with the amazing Laure Redmond, and after 48 years, I’m so flippin’ grateful that week by week, that part of me that over-thinks, cares how it looks, and struggles to let go is falling away.

  • I’m grateful for this question: “Where don’t I feel free?”
  • I’m grateful for this guidepost: “Make yourself a door through which to be hospitable, even to the stranger in you” and all the teachers and poets in my life, both those I have the privilege to know in person, and those I know only on the page, who carry this message in their unique way.
  • I’m grateful for each woman who claims a seat at a WTG circle and courageously steps toward themselves by putting pen to paper and courageously steps toward connection with a willingness to be seen. We need one another – both to be witnessed and to give the gift of witnessing – in this glorious life we share together.

I’m wishing you and your loved ones joy, cheer, and deep appreciation this holiday.

With love,

Want to write?
Take a pen & prompt journey:

writing prompt

“What courageous stepping towards can I make to be half a shade braver?
Half a shade more generous?”

Grab a pen & notebook. Write the prompt at the top of the page. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Or 5. Or 2!

Write whatever arises in your thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Don’t stop to think or edit - keep your pen moving.

Accept ALL that you write - the pretty & ugly; absurd & boring. Discover what wants to be felt, known, expressed, released...