Words of WonderHouse of Belonging - David Whyte

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

thinking for
a moment
it was one
like any other.

the veil had gone
from my
darkened heart
I thought

it must have been the quiet
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.

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 realise
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.

by David Whyte


Another David Whyte poem this week, one that nearly made it to being choice-of-the-week several times already. It is one of my long-time favourite poems ever since I first heard it as a teenager, with different elements of it speaking to me at different times. Today it is ‘the temple of my adult aloneness’ that made it jump out at me, and ‘I belong to that aloneness as I belong to my life’. Curious how that sense of ‘belonging to my life’ can feel so bright and true one day, and such a far off yearned-for place the next…

But I find many little gems within this poem. What does it take for the veil to lift from a darkened heart? How do I find that easy rhythm to ‘breathe myself to sleep’, what prayers might be said to ‘the otherness of the night’? And how do I learn to ‘love all the things it’s taken me so long to learn to love’?

There is the poignancy of this maybe being the joyful day I could meet my love, as well as the day that someone close to me might die… it invites bright presence, a treasuring of what’s here, and not leaving life unlived. And living fully like this enables a landing right here in this bright home, which I hear both as this house and this world, the universe around me, but also as landing right here in this life of mine, and fully inhabiting this body.

When I first started to meditate in my late teens, I thought meditation was all about the mind and finding some freedom there. Practices like mindful movement and the bodyscan felt a bit boring and a distraction from what, if I was completely honest, I was even more interested in: either some proper buddha-bliss or at least a delightful daydream with myself in the starring role. I recently heard a somatic meditation teacher talking about meditating ‘on top of the body’, where subtle (or not so subtle!) tension in the body gets in the way of awareness breathing in the fibres of our body and there’s just thoughts in the head, competing with each other. Sounds familiar…

So this slow descent into the world of the body, of living awareness in the heart, seems connected with the radical acceptance required for letting myself land in my adult aloneness, and for sensing my true belonging. Being aware of the ubiquitous fear of life that leads me down any number of distraction paths but somehow not quite falling for them, and actually being able to bear being with myself in its multi-layered reality – if only for moments at the time. And that feels pretty unparalleled, and worth all the uncertainty and discomfort that precedes or even accompanies it. As the poem says: ‘There is no house like the house of belonging’…

Photo by Greg Jenkins on Unsplash

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