Beginning Again, Again

  • For the Road to Santiago by David Whyte

    “For the road to Santiago, 

    don’t make new declarations

    about what to bring

    and what to leave behind.


    Bring what you have.


    You were always going 

    that way anyway,

    you were always 

    going there all along.”


    No New Year’s Resolutions, as we traditionally think of them, is what this poem says to me.  No NEW declarations. No asking, “What practices do I bring with me into this year, and which will I leave behind?”  Interesting, even useful, as those questions might be.

    Instead, this poem suggests I “Bring what I have.”  And what I have is moi!  Battle scarred in places, threadbare in others, jewel like radiance in yet others.  What is it to bring just what I have, just me, into 2022?  It must mean that what I have is enough.  Could it mean I don’t need a new improved version of myself?  Could it mean that what is inside of me, what has always been inside of me, now mixed with 70 years of experiential learning is enough?

    I do not love the idea of imagining a “new and improved” Nancy.  That view fundamentally makes who I am right now, less than.  It makes the work I have done thus far, particularly last year not enough!

    There is something in our unending quest for self-improvement (as contrasted with growth) I find wanting.  To start with, it often become deficit based, a one-sided conversation about what I am lacking.  I declare who I want to become and what I intend to do, often perfectionism in disguise and a quest for control.  But who is the “I” doing that pronouncing?  Often it is the part of me that lives in the land of lack of “not enough.”  There is not enough time or money or worst of all, I am not enough or worthy enough.  This “I” is not the part of me that offers something aspirational, meaningful, or exciting.  All those things scare it because is aligned with control and security, what I should declare more than what is in support of my becoming.

    So, this year, in my winter retreat, I focused on “where I was always going…the way I was always going.”  I feel most at home in the world when I’m aligned with my deep joys that are grounded in my true nature.  When I bring what I have.  Who I am.  “The way I was always going anyway.”

    By beginning my days in this retreat from “beingness” (my essential nature) and allowing my “doingness” to flow from that, I found belonging and ease.  I have spent most of my life trying to do it the other way around.  You know “early bird gets the worm.”. But think about that little admonition, it is based on lack. The idea that there aren’t enough worms, so you better get up early!   To be fair, it could have originated from someone whose “beingness” is in fact getting up early and “doing” something.  There is no one size fits all.

    I have a son who simply delights in “doing things.” He does them for their own sake.  He loves the process of “doing” all the things he does.  Whether he gets an A or D or misses something on his list, doesn’t seem to matter much.  He just loves to begin again the next day. He loves being in motion “toward” something.  Maybe anything.

    He has relatives on my side of the family who are very much like him.  I love this about him and them.  But I am not like that. I do things to get them done.  (Other than laundry. I love doing laundry. 🤪) But everything else, I do to get it done. When I complete the task, I do not feel satisfaction, I feel relief.  I like good healthy food so therefore I cook it, but there is no “atelic” pleasure (pure joy in the doing) in the process for me.  My relationship to many of the activities of my day is what Oliver Burkeman would call instrumental or “telic.”   They are a means to an end for me.

    On the other hand, you know the way my son lights up working his way through a to-do list; well, I find that level of pleasure and joy in the arena of real connection and transformation.  What psychotherapists call 2nd order change, which is not incremental improvement but a change in perspective that reframes everything.  I make my living helping people achieve 2nd order change, a change in how they see something, particularly themselves and what is possible for and through them.   I seem to never tire of 2nd order change, it is endlessly exciting to me.

    Oliver Burkeman’s book 4000 Weeks is a book that yields 2nd order change for the reader.  And because of his book, I reordered my days for a week during my winter reset.  I discovered that the “I” that had been leading me through my days was not the part of me that trusted me or joy!  It was the “not enough” part. That part thinks we must get up early to get that dang worm!  That part thinks enough productivity will yield a meaningful life for me.   But I am built for exploration more than for the execution of lists.  Or said another way, my execution is best on display when in service of exploration.  My productivity feels meaningful when it comes from my essential self and is connected to what matters to me: connection and transformation.

    I started this piece saying I am not a fan of “new year’s resolutions” and mentioning that I found them to be one-sided.  They are generally authored, at least for me, by the parts of me that don’t particularly trust me or life.  They trust control.  They may present themselves as aspirational, but underneath the surface lurks a desire to be in control of life, for the sake of security.  Now while this is most human and perfectly normal, it is not the place that enlivens me (us) or our days nor is it connected to the forces of evolution and emergence.

    While not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, I am a fan of a conversational approach or invitational approach to beginning again.  In this approach, you rest enough and create enough space free of regular distractions, so that you might overhear yourself say something you didn’t know you knew.  You bring along curiosity to meet the sometimes-wild ideas or impulses that may appear before you.   Also bring your courage, to reduce the influence of the “I” that tends to be based in scarcity and not enough.  That “I” has good questions to offer, even if they come from a fearful and self-protective place, BUT it should not be able to control the Begin Again, (the what-matters-most-this-new-year) conversation which, if you are like me at all, it often does.  Its role comes later when it is time to carve a path to what matters most this year.

    A conversational approach to a new year is a back and forth between current reality and emergent reality.  “The place we were always already going anyway.” Because the emergent can only come from what currently  is.   I was always going to discover the joy that comes from honoring my nature instead of trying to control it.  How do I know this?  Because my life has been filled with a certain level of discontent these past few years.  And it took that discontent and trying so many other things before it occurred to me to stop.  To just stop “trying.” To stop “efforting” in my life.  And instead adopt the curious and invitational posture of wonder towards the miraculous collection of atoms and energy that is me.  The Oliver Burkeman book helped enormously in this effort.  As did the exhaustion of these last few years!

    If, after these past few years, you too find yourself weary of life in some way, this could be a very good thing.  It could in fact be FOR YOU.  It could be a gift from your soul, your essential self, who has decided to sit down and withdraw all energy from the activities of your days until you listen to it and feed it.  Because…

    “…It’s still possible in the end

    to realize why you are here

    and why you have endured,

    and why you might have suffered

    so much, so that in the end,

    you could witness love, miraculously

    arriving from nowhere, crossing

    bravely as it does, out of darkness,

    from that great and spacious stillness

    inside you, to the simple,

    light-filled life of being said.”

     David Whyte

    Here is to the brave new land of a deep and abiding trust in the “way we were always going anyway.”



    March 21st, 2022 | admin | Comments Off on Beginning Again, Again | Tags: , , , , ,

About Nancy


Nancy C. Wonders is an interior designer. The “interiors” she designs are psychological, not physical, space -- a client’s personal interior landscape, or the emotional barometer of a team, or an entire organization. Nancy’s office includes a “design bar” where clients have a chance to re-invent how they see themselves and/or their organizations. These re-structurings result in discovering what is fresh, new and alive. This discovery prompts profound, immediate change, on both the inside and in interactions with others. Read more»

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