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Start Close In

white flower bud in close up / start close inI’ve been in a number of conversations these past several months focused on how to best meet climate crisis, thoughtfully. It’s not an easy question to answer. Often what does feel easier is to lean towards states of denial or despair. To open up space for more constructive options, many teachers in the Buddhist tradition encourage us to first tend to the understandable sadness, confusion and grief that is present. This is a way, they have found, to free up steadier attention and resourcefulness, qualities that make a strong basis for constructive and thoughtful action.

I am reminded of this encouragement during the current coronavirus outbreak. When our minds are racing and panicking it’s more difficult to respond wisely. Emotions are more likely to get ahead of us and the situation. Sometimes the best way to move towards caring discernment is to first pause and kindly tend to the anxiety. Click here for a couple of ways to do such tending.  Continue reading for a poem by David Whyte, Start Close In, that also invites us to start with the first step, even when we’d rather jump ahead. (You may also want to check out this link to listen to the poem read by David Whyte.)

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.

Start with your own
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something

To find
another’s voice,
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

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