From the eCourse, “Gratefulness: Life as a Wholehearted Journey with David Whyte & Br. David Steindl-Rast” – Session One.
[David Whyte] It’s an absolute pleasure to be sharing the stage with Br. David. Br. David played a very powerful part in my life at a very crucial threshold.
What I want to work with in the short time here before I join Br. David for a conversation on the couch is the incarnation of gratefulness, in a way, in human life. You can think about gratefulness as the ability to find the words of thanks and gratefulness, but you can also think about it as a state of being, a kind of frontier, a measure of the intensity of your presence and the ability to occupy this edge between what you think is you and what you think is not you, and to be that conversation. And I often think, in order to create a real conversation, you have to make a real invitation. When you’re at a point where you don’t know how to take the next step, I often think you have to ask for two kinds of help. One is visible help; and the other is invisible aid to help you along the way.
I remember when I was just at that point of announcing to the world that I was going full-time as a poet, for which you don’t get much accolade or confirmation, I had had a very, very bad day at work and came home luckily to spend an evening with Br. David. What we used to do was get a book of Rilke, the great German poet, in the original German, and then in English translations; and we’d have a bottle of red wine with it because the Benedictines always insist on that. [Laughter] But I was so stressed from the day I’d had, and I felt like I was in a dead-end where I was. So I said, Khalil-Gibran-like to Br. David, “Speak to me of exhaustion.” He put his glass down for a moment – so it must have been serious – and he looked at me to see if I was being serious, and he realized that I was, that I was absolutely exhausted myself. And he said the most wonderful thing – and this is where the invisible help came – he said, “You know, David, the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest.” And I said, “The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest. What is the antidote to exhaustion?” He said, “The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness. This is the point where you have to take a full step into your métier, into your future vocation, and wholeheartedly risk yourself in that world.”
[To Br. David] So thank you – over all these years, these many years later – I thank you for that invisible help and the ability to speak courageously about the future.
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