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The Power of a Beautiful Question with David Whyte

David Whyte

David Whyte is a poet that takes his listeners on a voyage deep into the soul.

He blessed Melbourne with his presence recently at a half day poetry reading hosted by Talking Sticks called “Solace: The art of asking the beautiful question”.

The beautiful question is one that has the power to shift our thinking, catalyse inner change and open us to new possibilities aligned with our our deepest longings and truth.

As Whyte explains in an interview with Krista Tippet from On Being: “The ability to ask beautiful questions, often in very unbeautiful moments, is one of the great disciplines of a human life. And a beautiful question starts to shape your identity as much by asking it, as it does by having it answered. You just have to keep asking. And before you know it, you will find yourself actually shaping a different life, meeting different people, finding conversations that are leading you in those directions that you wouldn’t even have seen before.”

His poetry captures the human experience of longing, soul searching and the drive towards meaning-making and powerfully directs us back to the often muffled inner voice which can be such a potent guide, if only we could make the space to listen.

David Whyte guided his Melbourne audience on a journey through the history and landscape of Ireland, home of his ancestors, but more profoundly on a journey through the inner landscape of the soul.

As he so eloquently explained “poetry is language against which you have no defence” and true to his words, his poetry pierced through the defences of many a listener in the room, whose tears were a sign of the magical power of his words to soften the heart and allow vulnerability to surface.

Whyte’s poetry reminds us of the reality of inevitable change, grief and loss, and the possibility we have for living with greater freedom and deeper presence. He invites us to transcend the confinement of our own conceptual, problem solving mind and return to the body, the only place where life is directly experienced. A doorway to the sacredness of the present moment.

His words help us inhabit a deeper place within ourselves where wisdom flows, and where we can tolerate life’s uncertainty with more grace, hovering more comfortably in the spaces between knowing to allow for greater possibility and creativity.

Be taught now, among the trees and rocks, how the discarded is woven into shelter,

learn the way things hidden and unspoken slowly proclaim their voice in the world.

Find that far inward symmetry to all outward appearances,

apprentice yourself to yourself,

begin to welcome back all you sent away,

be a new annunciation,

make yourself a door through which to be hospitable,

even to the stranger in you.

 – David Whyte

Whyte offers a handful of “beautiful questions” that emerge from his poems igniting curiosity and encouraging meaningful inquiry: “what would my life look like if I was to drink from a deeper source” and “what would it be like to start a conversation with myself  that my future self would thank me for – what would it be like to become the saintly ancestor of my future happiness”.  

“Pathmaker, your footsteps are the path and nothing more;

Pathmaker, there is no path, you make the path by walking.”

~ Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

Great poet of the Spanish Civil War

The conversations we are having with ourselves – both conscious and unconscious – are the foundation of our future. By asking ourselves “beautiful questions” we can begin new inner conversations, expand what is possible, open up new interior frontiers and align with our deepest purpose in the world.

Listen to him recite his poem Working Together.

Be taught now, among the trees and rocks,

how the discarded is woven into shelter,

learn the way things hidden and unspoken

slowly proclaim their voice in the world.

Find that far inward symmetry

to all outward appearances, apprentice

yourself to yourself, begin to welcome back

all you sent away, be a new annunciation,

make yourself a door through which

to be hospitable, even to the stranger in you.

 – David Whyte

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