searching for voice (in all the wrong places?)


I’m wondering how my fellow introverts and/or contemplatives and/or mystics out there are holding up in the midst of the political milieu?

Frequently, in these recent hyper-reactive days, I have found myself recalling the spirituality typologies I learned years ago –the heart-centered relational types, the action-centered social justice warriors, the mind-centered intellectual truth seekers and the contemplative-centered seers of beauty-and-wonder that are the mystics/poets.


For those of us whose home rests in that forth- introverted/contemplative- space, who naturally and easily drift back into that poetic space of seeing beneath, these times of being pulled up and out into the chaotic body politic can soon feel disorienting and overwhelming.  I’ve found myself reaching across the axis into my intellectual/thinking self for the comfort that deep understanding can bring. That’s always an easier place for us (introvert/mystics) to go than into action on one side or relationships on the other.  But that place can also leave us feeling as if we are lacking somehow.

Alone, too.

I’ve found myself yearning for contemplative community again.  I don’t know about you, but when poet David Whyte’s winter brochure came with its resonant letter of introduction (albeit a love letter that was greeted with blank stares by those around me, with whom I tried to enthusiastically share it) , I was ready to book a flight to the west coast.

Our way of seeing in the world is often difficult to communicate, as so often we are dabbling in the ineffable, and instead we come across as out of touch.  When the surface of life gets chaotic, especially, we dive deep beneath it, seeking wisdom and oneness and peace. All of the wisdom traditions expound this way of understanding in some way, whether it’s Rumi’s

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,

there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.

Or the oft quoted and attributed to many

God is a circle whose center is everywhere”

Alas, this is who I am, the gift that I bring?.  I have known this for some long time now, yet it continues to elude me exactly what I am to do with it.  Just last week, on the 240 question Via character strength survey I took, (which divides up our types into surprisingly similar categories as the spirituality typologies above) I scored highest on seeing Beauty and seeking Wisdom. (I suspect this is why photography has so often appealed to and satisfied me. I think it mirrors something within me that is always looking through a beauty-seeking lens, even in the midst of the messiness of life).  Not surprisingly, it seems I possess much less strength in the broad categories of courage and civic justice, those ‘doing’ vs ‘being’ characteristics of being human and doing life.

Last evening, with a new group of women who had initially formed around processing our pain and grief to what felt like the cataclysm a few weeks ago, we collaged.  I admit, I was feeling quite vulnerable because I feel like the misfit there already, my water so different than their fire, my way of seeing from a different vantage point than theirs. I fear being misunderstood, at least, being judged as inadequate (because I lack the fire of an activist) , or labeled as the ‘other’ (because I have moved to seeing the humanity in the other), at worst.  These are women on a social justice mission. There is still a lot of pain and blame there, a lot of outering of rage.

By the end of the evening, I didn’t feel I could share my images. My ‘seeing red’ was pulled from a photography journal that used a red filter to make trees appear pink. The women in my collage were gazing into a pool, looking inward for solutions. (“looking on a whole different spectrum” were the words that accompanied that image).  Most poignantly, was my solitary bird on a wire, a gaggle of birds on a separate wire, the words ‘Lost in translation’ separating the two. Today, in praying with the images, I noticed the group of women in red, circling a tree. I think I had wanted to be a part of that circle. Instead I realize I’m feeling more like the solitary tree on the hill of ice and snow standing outside that circle.  That was how misfit I felt.

And yet, I expect I need these women too. I may need to have this water of mine stirred up from time to time so that it doesn’t get stagnant, or at least warmed up so I don’t grow cold, detached from my own humanity,  for I realize that the flip side of the gift of introversion is withdrawal, of mysticism is becoming recluse, of seeking wisdom is rationalizing. My low energy can slow to depression and apathy. And I desperately need a dose of their courage, if only to honor my voice and to safeguard what it is that I bring and who it is that I am. There are not a lot of models for this quieter type of strength  in our culture. Perhaps they are all absconded away in their hermitages.

And so I am back to longing for community, community that honors my way as life-giving too.


In the final paragraph of the letter of introduction to the David Whyte brochure, he invokes this

We live in a time where each of us will be asked to reach deeper, speak more bravely, live more from the fierce perspectives of the poetic imagination; find the lines already written inside us: poetry does not take surface political sides, it is always the conversation neither side is having, it is the breath in the voice about to discover itself only as it begins to speak, and it is that voice firmly anchored in a real and touchable body, standing on the ground of our real, inhabited world, speaking from a source that lives and thrives at the threshold between opposing sides we call a society.

Here is my living example, then, of the mystic poet/introvert trusting his voice, believing it to be both necessary and good. In addition to his upcoming winter retreats, he offers a recording of one of them, entitled “Half a Shade Braver”, the description of which includes these words:

“The essence of leadership is our willingness to be seen, to be vulnerable, and to risk ourselves. To step into that role is to hazard ourselves in the world, both for others and for something we can’t fully articulate.”

Be brave, my quiet ones. Be brave.



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Karen
    Dec 01, 2016 @ 08:08:32

    I too continue to long for community, and sometimes it saddens me. Is it merely a fanciful wish? Or a real longing that can be fulfilled? Alas, I still have not found it.



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