Holding to your own conversation (the unique discipline of patience)

“…One of the powerful disciplines of holding a conversation is saying NO to all of the voices and the demands that don’t have some kind of real, powerful underlying YES in them. And to understand that this YES doesn’t necessarily come to a straight away, that you might have to deal with a good stretch of silence and spaciousness, but actually that silence and spaciousness might be a gift to you in order to be able to integrate yourself at the core of what you’re about in a way you couldn’t if you’d have stepped out straight away.

And that there are times where we’re actually hidden away from the world by necessity, but as long as we’re actually working with that core interior promise, we will emerge in cyclical forms. And that this seasonality of appearance and disappearance is going to be a feature of the way we hold the conversation, and the conversational identity that we are shaping for ourselves.”

– David Whyte, What to Remember When Waking

 

There are times in all creatures’ lifespans to go quiet, dormant, or “dead” for a season. The Oak sheds its leaves for the winter. The Grizzly hibernates. The flower closes up each night. The over-worked field lies fallow in order to regenerate nutrients. And sometimes we, too, find ourselves “dead”, like there’s nothing moving within, nothing to give or share or make.

When this time comes, as it does for us all, we’d do well to surrender to the energy of the moment rather than fight it. Which can be difficult, of course, given that we live in a culture where the dominant message is “more/faster/better”.

However, to really let go into the quiet and stillness is a tremendous gift, and a discipline. It’s a time to tend more to the inner conversation, or as David Whyte puts it, to our “core interior promise”.

“And that there are times where we’re actually hidden away from the world by necessity, but as long as we’re actually working with that core interior promise, we will emerge in cyclical forms.”

This silence – which may stick around longer than we want or are comfortable with – may also be a key ingredient to our becoming. It may be a test of our patience and/or ability to persevere with ourselves and our heart’s greatest desires.

“…you might have to deal with a good stretch of silence and spaciousness, but actually that silence and spaciousness might be a gift to you in order to be able to integrate yourself at the core of what you’re about in a way you couldn’t if you’d have stepped out straight away.”

So, perhaps, then, one of the disciplines of actually doing great work, work that has real meaning and heart, is the ability to continue to attend to our inner conversation, despite seemingly “nothing” happening on the outside.

This ability to keep that small fire of conversation lit is a rather big task, I think, and takes much self-commitment, courage and conviction (it’s certainly taken that for me, at least). Because, when the world hasn’t yet recognized us or acknowledged our offerings, it can be very lonely and uncertain territory. It can make us think that we’re doing this all for nothing, so why even bother.

But I assert that this exact moment – the moment when “nothing” seems to be happening  – is one of the BIGGEST opportunities we have. It’s a moment when we can grow our muscles of patience and perseverance, and continue to track that ‘core interior promise’ in whatever ways we can.

This moment is also an opportunity to add another stick to that tiny fire of our own, unique conversation. This is when we need to:  write that strikingly honest poem, even if we know it will simply remain in the safety of our journal;  dance the dance that brings us alive, if even just in our room;  paint that canvas, just because we love the colors of the paints;  go on a journey into nature, even if it’s just to the park; or really, whatever it is that stokes the seed of that conversation we are creating with the world.


Standing in the silence and the unknown can be a frightening and doubt-filled task. And it’s no doubt a discipline that takes patience, presence and faith.

But if you stay long enough and keep your own conversation going in whatever small ways you can, the tide will turn.

Keep that fire going.

Photo: Skitter Photo

Photo: Skitter Photo

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