David Whyte: Poet Laureate of the Soul

by Judith Rich on June 1, 2017

If the collective soul had a poet laureate, my nominee would be David Whyte.  Several years ago, I attended a day long workshop with him at Green Gulch Farm, a Zen retreat and conference center, nestled in a valley amongst the coastal hills in Marin County, just north of San Francisco.

I’ve loved Whyte’s poetry and prose since I first ran across him a decade ago with one of his first books, The Heart Aroused. His writing captures the complexity and simplicity of the soul’s longing to know itself, a kind of modern day Rumi.

Here’s a taste of his writing, one of my favorite pieces of his, from his book The House of Belonging.

THE HOUSE OF BELONGING

I awoke
this morning
in the gold light
turning this way
and that

thinking for
a moment
it was one
day
like any other.

But
the veil had gone
from my
darkened heart
and
I thought

it must have been the quiet
candlelight
that filled my room,

it must have been
the first
easy rhythm
with which I breathed
myself to sleep,

it must have been
the prayer I said
speaking to the otherness
of the night.

And
I thought
this is the good day
you could
meet your love,

this is the black day
someone close
to you could die.

This is the day
you realize
how easily the thread
is broken
between this world
and the next

and I found myself
sitting up
in the quiet pathway
of light,

the tawny
close grained cedar
burning round
me like fire
and all the angels of this housely
heaven ascending
through the first
roof of light
the sun has made.

This is the bright home
in which I live,
this is where
I ask
my friends
to come,
this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love.

This is the temple
of my adult aloneness
and I belong
to that aloneness
as I belong to my life.

There is no house
like the house of belonging.

Much of the last 20 years of my life has taken place “on the road”, spending over 50% of my time, in foreign countries, in different U.S. cities, in hotels, on airplanes, in training rooms with large groups of people; a very public person, yet also very solitary.

My experience has been a sense of belonging everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Co-mingled is the experience of loving strangers and being loved in return yet feeling separate, a brief part of the intimate life of the people who come to open their souls and discover them selves, a mid-wife to the birth of freedom. And yet a stranger.

Somewhere along the way, finding myself in yet another place that wasn’t “home”, I had a realization. Home is who I am. Home is a state of being, not a physical place. The sense of belonging nowhere instantly became the realization of belonging everywhere.

My ego took up residence in my soul that day. I found my House of Belonging and have been home ever since.  Where is your House of Belonging?

Thanks for stopping by….. see you around the bend.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Arithrianos aka Samuel Bonney June 2, 2009 at 5:48 PM

home is where the throne of awareness is, in the centerless and bottomless “space” of the clear light nature of mind, it is closer than your next breath. At least that’s my experience. Glad you took up your true residence, there is no end to the sufferings of false “homes”. Thanks for the poem, and glad you enjoyed your workshop.

Judith Rich June 2, 2009 at 10:45 PM

Brilliant thought, Arithrianos. Thanks for sharing it.

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