Updated: Jul 9
Several weeks after Covid became part of the public conversation I signed up for an online, ongoing discourse with the Irish poet David Whyte. I’d been a fan for years, savoring his soulful perspectives on what he made holy by beautiful words and his commitment to bringing contemplative reflection and the creative imagination to the corporate world. I’d always wanted to hear him talk about ... well, anything. Then one day, as the fates and the gods would have it, through the magic of Zoom, he and his worldwide audience began coming into my living room for 75 minutes three Sunday mornings every other month.
These “sessions” as he calls them do not teach us how to write though I learn a great deal about writing by listening to him talk about what gives rise to a poem. He is lyrical, in the grand old tradition of the Irish storyteller, weaving tale after splendid tale about poems he recites from memory, poems that lift us—temporarily, at least—above the unimagined estrangement we all feel in the presence of a virus that is anything but grand or lyrical. His covenant with language, with poetry and storytelling, turns sheltering into sanctuary.
What strikes me most is that his stories about loss are startlingly beautiful, as beautiful as his stories about the fullness of friendships he treasures. His adventurous spirit and emotional generosity, his willingness to be utterly vulnerable and utterly human, his heartfelt championing of what is transcendent in this time of gathering sorrows, are soulful.
One Sunday in May, he ends the session by talking about a poem he’d written years before and views as a prototype for how to re-enter our post-Covid world. He describes the genesis of the poem. I furiously take notes. He says the words “return with bliss-bestowing hands.” I lift my pen from paper and look at him--as if he can see me—aware I’ve just been given the direction I’d been looking for regarding what to write in the blog you are now reading.
Here it is: In a recent study by the Fetzer Institute on spirituality in America, 86% of the respondents identify as “being spiritual” and 60% of those respondents aspire to be more spiritual. These results are representative of conclusions now being drawn in other studies about our current psychosocial needs. A growing number of people want “Something Greater” to build their lives on. They want to live and work with greater meaning. With inspiration and purpose. They want to experience life as a sacred encounter. To have a personal relationship with the God of their hearts. They want to be of service to others.
So, this blog will share stories that I hope will help us do that—stories about courage, about unconditional love, about unexpected “A-ha’s” that connect us to the holiness in the present moment. We can return to our post-Covid world having made the best of things, even the hard things, even our mistakes, with bliss-bestowing hands. The deeper we go, the greater the harvest.
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Margaret Wolff is a writer, storyteller, art therapist, and retreat leader. Her work celebrates the ways in which the collective wisdom and storytelling reveal the truth and beauty of our inner lives and connect us—heart to beating heart—to each other.
COMING HOME: Finding Shelter in the Love and Wisdom of Paramahansa Yogananda (White Pearl Press, May 20201), is a curated collection of 14 modern-day stories of spiritual awakening that reflect “the most creative and transformative experience life can offer—developing an intimate partnership with the invisible God of one’s heart.”
Available wherever fine books are sold.