I love David Whyte. I love him the way I love Rumi or Oliver Platt or Danielle LaPorte or David Robinson or…….
I read him and listen to him, and often have only a glimmer of what he is talking about. But the glimmer goes deep inside and stirs around, sometimes making me uncomfortable, sometimes moving me to tears.
I had ordered his cd “Midlife and the Great Unknown”, not knowing anything about his work, but the title accurately described where I was in my life. I was a few months into a life-changing journey. It was a journey that involved CFIDS (chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome). I was 47 years old and my future was unknown in terms of health, employment, housing and everything else that connects with these significant elements of life.
David talked about his own experience with exhaustion and a conversation he had with a Benedictine monk, Brother David Steindl-Rast. It is recounted in the current O Magazine:
There was a time, many years ago, working at a nonprofit organization, trying to fix the world and finding the world didn’t want to be fixed as quickly as I’d like, that I found myself exhausted, stressed and finally, after one particularly hard day, at the end of my tether, I went home and saw a bottle of fine red wine I had left out on the table that morning before I left. No, I did not drink it immediately, though I was tempted, but it reminded me that I was to have a very special guest that evening.
That guest was an Austrian friend, a Benedictine monk, Brother David Steindl-Rast, the nearest thing I had to a really wise person in my life at that time or at any time since. We would read German poetry together—he would translate the original text, I read the translations, all the while drinking the red wine. But I had my day on my mind, and the mind-numbing tiredness I was experiencing at work. I said suddenly, out of nowhere, almost beseechingly, “Brother David, speak to me of exhaustion. Tell me about exhaustion.”
And then he said a life-changing thing. “You know,” he said, “the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest.”
“What is it then?”
“The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness. You’re so exhausted because you can’t be wholehearted at what you’re doing……..”
Listening to this cut me to the core and brought me to my knees in tears. I had been teaching elementary school for 20 years, and had wanted desperately to find a way out for the last five. Since I did not make the conscious choices to live in a way that was in accordance with my heart, CFIDS became my unconscious exit strategy. I was not living wholeheartedly in my work and thus my life, and that showed up in my body.
David’s words made this clear to me. My exhaustion was not just about medical/physical issues. It also had a heart centre – and in fact, that was most likely a root cause of my CFIDS. (I’m not meaning to be simplistic here. A lot of conversations could be held about the origin of disease, dis-ease, and there is no one answer.)
The challenge to live wholeheartedly continues. I can still feel that initial jolt of recognition and the tears can still flow on particular days. That is, in part, what this blog is about because I think the ability to live wholeheartedly comes down to love, and most particularly the ability to love myself. I work on that in both new and on-going ways. There is always another layer. Always another layer.
To read the whole O Magazine article from David Whyte, 10 Questions that Have No Right to Go Away, go here: