Is It Time To Withdraw? Post Pandemic Clearing Out

Our long difficult year of pandemic isolation seems to be drawing to a close. I’ve been led to look hard, and hopefully kindly, on all I’ve learned. What and whom do I wish to hold close to the center of my life? How has my own path been clarified, and what must I do to attend to that, with integrity and generosity?  It seems to require meticulous care right now.

Here is a stunning tiny essay, just one page, by one of my favorite American poets, David Whyte, which might bolster your clarity and courage.

Withdrawal

can be the very best way of stepping forward and done well, a beautiful freeing act of mercy and as an art form, underestimated in this time of constant action and engagement. So much of what we are involved with, in even the highest cause, becomes involvement at the busy periphery, where the central conversation has been lost to the outer edges of what was to begin with, a very simple central invitation. Withdrawal is often not what it looks like – a disappearance – no, to withdraw from entanglement can be to appear again in the world in a very real way and begin the process of renewing the primary, essential invitation again.

Though life does seem determined to be a beautiful, and entrancing distraction – just as we ourselves are a distraction to others, testing them as we test ourselves and our mutual sincerity – our participation in this dance of distraction also makes more real, and more necessary, our ability to return to essential ground, to an essential person or an essential work.

We stick to the wrong thing quite often, not because it will come to fruition by further effort, but because we cannot let go of the way we have decided to tell the story and we become further enmeshed even by trying to make sense of what entraps us, when what is needed is a simple, clean breaking away.

To remove ourselves entirely and absolutely, abruptly and at times un-compromisingly is often the real and radically courageous break for freedom. Unsticking ourselves from the mythical Tar Baby, seemingly set up, just for us, right in the middle of our path, we start the process of losing our false enemies and even our false friends, and most especially the false sense of self we have manufactured to live with them: we make ourselves available for the simple purification of seeing ourselves and our world more elementally and therefore more clearly again. We withdraw not to disappear, but to find another ground from which to see; a solid ground from which to step, and from which to speak again, in a different way, a clear, rested, embodied voice, our life as a suddenly emphatic statement and one from which we do not wish to withdraw.

David Whyte: Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words (2018)

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