The Hidden Discipline of Familiarity

Excerpt from "The Conversational Nature of Reality" an On Being conversation with David Whyte and Krista Tippett (April 7, 2016):

"I went back into poetry because I felt like scientific language wasn’t precise enough to describe the experiences that I had in Galapagos. Science, rightly, is always trying to remove the “I.” But I was really interested in the way that the “I” deepened the more you paid attention.

And in Galapagos, I began to realize that, because I was in deeply attentive states, hour after hour watching animals and birds and landscapes — and that’s all I did for almost two years

I began to realize that my identity depended not upon any beliefs I had, inherited beliefs or manufactured beliefs, but my identity actually depended on how much attention I was paying to things that were other than myself.

And that as you deepen this intentionality and this attention, you started to broaden and deepen your own sense of presence. And I began to realize that the only place where things were actually real was at this frontier between what you think is you and what you think is not you. That whatever you desire of the world will not come to pass exactly as you will like it.

But the other mercy is that whatever the world desires of you will also not come to pass. And what actually occurs is this meeting, this frontier. But it’s astonishing how much time human beings spend away from that frontier, abstracting themselves out of their bodies, out of their direct experience, and out of a deeper, broader, and wider possible future that’s waiting for them if they hold the conversation at that frontier level.

Half of what’s about to occur is unknown, both inside you and outside you...

I’ve often felt the deeper discipline of poetry is overhearing yourself say things you didn’t want to know about the world. And something that actually emancipates you from this smaller self out into this larger dispensation that you actually didn’t think you deserved. And so one of the things we’re most afraid of in silence is this death of the periphery, the outside concerns, the place where you’ve been building your personality, and where you think you’ve been building who you are starts to atomize and fall apart.

And it’s one of the basic reasons we find it difficult even just to turn the radio off, or the television, or not look at our gadget — is that giving over to something that’s going to actually seem as if it’s undermining you to begin with, and lead to your demise. And the intuition, unfortunately, is correct. You are heading toward your demise, but it’s leading towards this richer, deeper place that doesn’t get corroborated very much in our everyday outer world."

"Everything is Waiting for You" 
by David Whyte

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.