Words of Wonder

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

by Derek Walcott

 

A true mindfulness classic, this poem, you may well have come across it before. It jumped out at me from the wonderful anthology Soul Food: nourishing poems for starved minds which contains many treasures.

I’m often surprised at how easy it is for me to get a bit removed from myself in the fluster and bluster of my daily juggles as a working mum. So where Derek Walcott speaks about how ‘the time will come’ when ‘you will love again the stranger who was your self – well, that can happen several times a day for me. And just like we’re encouraged to rejoice when coming back to the present moment in a practice after a longer or shorter period of being entangled in thinking, coming back to myself during the day deserves the same simple but ‘elated’ welcome that this poem speaks so eloquently about.

I was reflecting on this process of losing and finding oneself, both in the daily smaller ways as well as the bigger way that might occur with a traumatic event. I’m reading David Treleaven’s book Trauma Sensitive Mindfulness (which I highly recommend for it’s clear, thorough and useful exploration of this important subject, and I’m especially enthusiastic about his inclusion of the traumatic impacts of social injustice and systemic oppression) and I’m struck by how challenging that path can be. In my everyday life I find that mindfulness so often provides a path straight back to myself, but I’m really grateful that I can learn from David’s experience of what might be involved in that longer and trickier journey after trauma – in which mindfulness can play an important role, but with some extra supports in place to prevent it actually exacerbating the challenges.

May we all find a way to feast on our lives…