Yesterday, one of my dearest friends sent me David Whyte’s recent TED Talk. Like you, I get too many emails to count, but for some reason, this one called me to listen.
Decades ago, my employer used Whyte as part of our executive development programs. I found him to have a remarkable gift for using words to draw on our innermost realities and shift our experience of being human. Yet I was never more moved by his poetry than I was today.
He spoke of three illusions we hold privately as well as together. Personally, I believe our investment in these illusions prevent our deepest wellbeing.
Illusion 1: We can somehow construct a life where we’re not vulnerable.
Illusion 2: We can somehow construct a life where our hearts won’t be broken.
Illusion 3: We can somehow plan enough so that we can see the straight path from here to there.
When I check in with myself even for a second, these illusions make me laugh. It is easy to see what fantasies they are, the seeking of an existence that was never based in what it means to live fully, authentically, truthfully, with open minds and hearts. Our vulnerabilities, heartbreaks, and forays into the unknown are part of what makes us feel whole and alive.
Whyte ends his TED Talk by wrapping these illusions into his beautiful poem: Santiago.
The road seen, then not seen, the hillside
hiding then revealing the way you should take,
the road dropping away from you as if leaving you
to walk on thin air, then catching you, holding you up,
when you thought you would fall,
and the way forward always in the end
the way that you followed, the way that carried you
into your future, that brought you to this place,
no matter that it sometimes took your promise from you,
no matter that it had to break your heart along the way:
the sense of having walked from far inside yourself
out into the revelation, to have risked yourself
for something that seemed to stand both inside you
and far beyond you, that called you back
to the only road in the end you could follow, walking
as you did, in your rags of love and speaking in the voice
that by night became a prayer for safe arrival,
so that one day you realized that what you wanted
had already happened long ago and in the dwelling place
you had lived in before you began,
and that every step along the way, you had carried
the heart and the mind and the promise
that first set you off and drew you on and that you were
more marvelous in your simple wish to find a way
than the gilded roofs of any destination you could reach:
as if, all along, you had thought the end point might be a city
with golden towers, and cheering crowds,
and turning the corner at what you thought was the end
of the road, you found just a simple reflection,
and a clear revelation beneath the face looking back
and beneath it another invitation, all in one glimpse:
like a person and a place you had sought forever,
like a broad field of freedom that beckoned you beyond;
like another life, and the road still stretching on.
You are “more marvelous in your simple wish to find a way than the gilded roofs of any destination you could reach.” On our human journeys, I am touched by how we can spiral back to the wellbeing and wisdom that was there all along…within ourselves.
Interesting in learning more? Check out our programs for wellbeing, leadership, and culture transformation at bewellleadwell.com and wisdom-works.com. Or, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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