Intimacy involves the survival and sustenance of a relation through ongoing creation and destruction of intersubjectivity.

The relational perspectivist approach I am advocating views the patient-analyst relationship as continually being established and reestablished through ongoing mutual influence in which both patient and analyst systematically affect, and are affected by, each other. 

— Lew Aron (1952-2019)

... those who cannot feel continually alive in the present because, as children, they did not feel continually remembered and alive in the minds of their primary caretakers.

... for mutuality to exist we must have two participants who feel themselves to be autonomous people, capable of saying 'yes' or 'no' to each other while maintaining respect for each other's point of view

 Sheldon Bach

The Paradoxical Theory of Change: Change occurs when one becomes what she is, not when she tries to become what she is not." ... One must first fully experience what one is before recognizing all the alternatives of what may be.

 — Arnold Beisser


My effort to save my sanity mirrors your effort to save your sanity.

... as we free ourselves from shame and blame, the [other's] patient's accusation no longer persecutes us, and hence, we are no longer in the grip of helplessness."  

Intersubjectivity: ... reciprocal, mutually influencing quality of interaction between [people] ...

Mutual recognition: ... a relation in which each person experiences the other as a "like subject," another mind who can be "felt with," yet has a distinct, separate center of feeling and perception.

 — Jessica Benjamin


Every session attended by the analyst must have no history and no future. What is 'known' about the patient is of no further consequence: it is either false or irrelevant. If it is 'known' by patient and analyst, it is obsolete....The only point of importance in any session is the unknown. Nothing must be allowed to distract from intuiting that. In any session, evolution takes place. Out of the darkness and formlessness something evolves.

 — Wilfred Bion

  • I don't care what anybody says; I like doing it, and it's what I shall continue to do.

  • Speak in extremes, it'll save you time.

 David Bowie


Self – states are highly individualized modules of being, each configured by its own organization of cognitions, beliefs, dominant affect and mood, access to memory, skills, behaviors, values, actions, and regulatory physiology. When all has gone well developmentally, each self – state is compatible enough with the modes of being that are held by other self – states, to allow overarching coherence across self – states, which in turn creates the capacity for sustaining the experience of internal conflict.

. . .To this I would add but one thing: I believe that the "hope" of which Friedman writes comes not from just being "accepted" as you are but from being needed as you are from the recognition that, in some genuine way, being with you as you are brings your analyst pleasure despite your "problems."  Call it "love" if you will, or at least the fountain from which love flows. But regardless of the name we choose, it is this, I submit, that most nourishes the soil of therapeutic (as well as early developmental) growth - a patient's capacity to change while remaining the same - the foundation of development because it is the foundation of hope. . .

... dissociated domains of self can achieve symbolization only through enactment in a relational context.

 — Phillip Bromberg


This is the eternal origin of art that a human being confronts a form that wants to become a work through him. Not a figment of his soul but something that appears to the soul and demands the soul's creative power. What is required is a deed that a man does with his whole being...

Man wishes to be confirmed in his being by man, and wishes to have a presence in the being of the other ... Secretly and bashfully he watches for a YES which allows him to be and which can come to him only from one human person to another.

No purpose intervenes between I and You, no greed and no anticipation; and longing itself is changed as it plunges from the dream into appearance. Every means is an obstacle. Only where all means have disintegrated encounters occur.

All real living is meeting.

— Martin Buber, I and Thou (1923)

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time 
— Thomas Stearns Eliot O.M. (1943)

Fairbairn's Moral Defense and Depression, Guilt, and Self-attacks

One feels ‘bad’ instead of ‘sad’ in degrees relating to early experience which removes one from the dangers of annihilating shame by means of restricted 'badness.'

One substitutes absolute badness (a state in which the loving attachment itself is seen as destructive), the child develops the belief that she is ‘bad’, allowing her to function with less fear.

The child can avoid the loss of her early attachments’ goodness by treating herself as morally bad – a dreadful situation, yet in no way as disturbing as having to see herself as absolutely, and therefore irredeemably bad.

It is better to be a sinner in a world ruled by God than to live in a world ruled by the Devil (1952)

 Ronald Fairbairn


All in all, no universally applicable rules  … in The Clinical Diary

... children feel physically and morally helpless, their personalities are not sufficiently consolidated in order to be able to protest, even if only in thought, for the overpowering force and authority of the adult makes them dumb and can rob them of their senses. The same anxiety, however, if it reaches a certain maximum, compels them to subordinate themselves like automata to the will of the aggressor, to divine each one of his desires and to gratify these; completely oblivious of themselves they identify themselves with the aggressor.

Ferenczi (1873-1933)

  • In mourning it is the world which has become poor and empty; in melancholia it is the ego itself.

  • One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.

  • How bold one gets when one is sure of being loved.

  • Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth ...

  • We are never so defenseless against suffering as when we love.

  • Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength.

  • Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious.

  • Neurotics complain of their illness, but they make the most of it, and when it comes to taking it away from them they will defend it like a lioness her young.

  • No neurotic harbors thoughts of suicide which are not murderous impulses against others redirected upon himself.

  • Instinct of love toward an object demands a mastery to obtain it, and if a person feels they can’t control the object or feel threatened by it, they act negatively toward it.

  • ... man should not strive to eliminate his complexes but to get into accord with them: they are legitimately what directs his conduct in the world.

  • It is a predisposition of human nature to consider an unpleasant idea untrue, and then it is easy to find arguments against it.

  • Neurosis is the inability to tolerate ambiguity.

  • There are no mistakes.

  • We are what we are because we have been what we have been.

  • I never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me as a member.

— Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)

Submission: One may choose to submit to domination and or control, defense against surrender—   feelings of depression, misery, sadness, or resignation … often confounded with it for exploitative purposes. … one feels one's self as a puppet in the power of another; one's sense of identity atrophies.

Surrender: Not voluntary—not a choice—it just happens, does not include domination and/or control, feeling dread/dying and/or clarity, authenticity, relief, joy, ecstasy, aliveness, ecstasy- … experience of being- "in the moment," totally in the present, where past and future, the two tenses that require "mind" … have receded from consciousness. ... discovery of one's identity, one's sense of self, one's sense of wholeness, even one's sense of unity with other living beings. One surrenders in the presence of another, not "to another" as in the case of submission.

Therapy guides surrender and provides an environment to make surrender possible. In the West surrender has meant "defeat." In the East it has meant transcendence, liberation.

... there is, however deeply buried or frozen, a longing for something in the environment to make possible the surrender, in the sense of yielding, of afalse self.

— Emmanuel Ghent

photo credit: Darleen Stry

Without the dimension of affection, analysis is a futile and sterile undertaking. Without 'partaking' of the patient's emotions, the analyst is nothing more than a robot-interpreter who would do better in changing his profession before it is too late.

... we hear different things nowadays, things which used to be inaudible.

— André Green

We have a tendency to think in terms of doing and not in terms of being. We think that when we are not doing anything, we are wasting our time. But that is not true. Our time is first of all for us to be. To be what? To be alive, to be peaceful, to be joyful, to be loving. And that is what the world needs most.

~Thich Nhat Hanh 

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.

In every child lurks a child, an eternal child, something that is always becoming, is never completed, and calls for unceasing care, attention, and education. That is the part of the personality which wants to develop and become whole.

 — Carl Jung


The mark of a good marriage is when only one of you goes crazy at a time! can no more survive psychologically in a psychological milieu that does not respond empathetically to him, than he can survive physically in an atmosphere that contains no oxygen.

— Heinz Kohut (1913-1981)


But there is something more to be regained, something more subtle, more delicate, almost impossible even to name. That is the restoration of our inner selves. By inner self, I mean that part of me that imagines, that dreams, that explores, that is constantly questioning who I am and what is important to me. My inner self is my true freedom. My inner self roots me to me, and to the ground beneath me. The sunlight and soil that nourish my inner self are solitude and personal reflection. When I listen to my inner self, I hear the breathing of my spirit. Those breaths are so tiny and delicate, I need stillness to hear them, I need slowness to hear them. I need vast silent spaces in my mind. I need privacy. Without the breathing and the voice of my inner self, I am a prisoner of the frenzied world around me. I am a prisoner of my job, my money, the clothes in my closet. What am I? I need slowness and quiet to ponder that question.

— Alan Lightman


... we seem to acknowledge and yield most readily to the magic of a great work of art. May we assume that this magic is connected with the achievement of a reconciliation-with the return, on a higher level of organization, to the early magic of thought, gesture, word, image, emotion, fantasy, as they become united again with what in ordinary nonmagical experience they only reflect, recollect, represent, or symbolize? Could sublimation be both a mourning of lost original oneness and a celebration of oneness regained? (1988)

— Hans Loewald

... the best way to manage some kinds of painful thoughts is to dare them to do their worst, to let them lie and gnaw at your heart till they are tired, and you find you still have a residue of life they cannot kill.

— George MacDonald (1858)


Despair is the absolute extreme of self-love. It is reached when a person deliberately turns his back on all help from anyone else in order to taste the rotten luxury of knowing himself to be lost.

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.
We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone 
- we find it with another.
— Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

Your absence has gone through me like a thread through a needle.

Everything I do is stitched with its color.

— William Stanley Merwin (1955-2012)


* The art of not experiencing feelings. A child can experience her feelings only when there is somebody there who accepts her fully, understands her, and supports her. If that person is missing, if the child must risk losing the mother's love of her substitute in order to feel, then she will repress emotions.

The true opposite of depression is neither gaiety nor absence of pain, but vitality—the freedom to experience spontaneous feelings. It is part of the kaleidoscope of life that these feelings are not only happy, beautiful, or good but can reflect the entire range of human experience, including envy, jealousy, rage, disgust, greed, despair, and grief. But this freedom cannot be achieved if its childhood roots are cut off. Our access to the true self is possible only when we no longer have to be afraid of the intense emotional world of early childhood. Once we have experienced and become familiar with this world, it is no longer strange and threatening.

Where there had been only fearful emptiness or equally frightening grandiose fantasies, an unexpected wealth of vitality is now discovered. This is not a homecoming, since this home has never before existed. It is the creation of home.

Depression consists of a denial of one’s own emotional reactions. This denial begins in the service of an absolutely essential adaptation during childhood and indicates a very early injury. There are many children who have not been free, right from the beginning, to experience the very simplest of feelings, such as discontent, anger, rage, pain, even hunger—and, of course, enjoyment of their own bodies.

— Alice Miller (1923-2010)


The ability to suspend concern with consensual reality and fully explore one's own fantasies is crucial to personal expression that makes originality possible. It is necessary for artist to be able to forget about the outside world, what other artists vane done before them, what value the market will place on their productions. Artist work by playing, trying things out with out knowing where they will go, as if they are actually inventing, not only their own creations but the entire medium as well (1993). 

Escher's "Stairs" is an apt image for this feature of the analytic process. Just as the stair climber imagines himself rising to new heights only to emerge again and again at the beginning, so do the members of the analytic dyad discover themselves caught again and again in the same entangling interactions. ... The analyst and the patient are on the stairs together. It slowly, painfully becomes apparent that, despite the patient's arduous efforts to climb to a higher level, the patient is dedicated to just this stair system, just the imprisoned form of life with none other than the analyst as his cellmate. Paradoxically, it is precisely when the patient begins to appreciate her stair system, her impasse, not as an obstacle but as a way of life that the stairs themselves become enriched and new possibilities emerge (1997).

— Stephen Mitchell

Only those who attempt the absurd will achieve the impossible. I think it's in my basement... let me go upstairs and check.

~ Escher

For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn't understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.

— Cynthia Occelli

 (2000) Ogden’s analytic third [modified]: While the patient-therapist couple is being created, an analytic third  is created, sustaining and sustained by the patient and therapist as two separate subjects. Patient and therapist come into being in the process of the creation of the analytic subject. The analytic third, while created together, is not experienced the same by patient and therapist since each remains a separate subject in dialectical tension with the other. Though the analytic third is constituted in the process of the mutual negation and or recognition of patient and therapist, it does not reflect each of its creators in the same way; transference and countertransference reflect one another, but are not mirror images of one another.                                                                                             

Thomas Ogden (2004)

photo credit: Darleen Stry

One of the most useful and underutilized tools we have to understand ourselves and our relationships is the Taboo. It’s those hidden forces that all cultures, via the family and community, ingrain in us in order to create and maintain the boundaries which preserve social order.

No matter the era, society has always been organized around shifting sets of incentives and prohibitions, license and abstinence. Is it any wonder that we struggle to find the balance between compliance and defiance in our personal lives?

— Esther Perel (2020)

In the beginning every child is an only child. The child is not possessive of the mother because he already possesses her; he behaves--in fact, lives--as if he is entitled. Our first inklings, that is to say, are monogamous ones: of privilege and privacy, of ownership and belonging. The stuff of which monogamy will be made.

Because everyone begins their life belonging to someone else--physically and emotionally inextricable from someone else--being separate, or having to share, leaves us in shock. For us, then, it is all or nothing; and so there is always potentially the feeling of being nothing that comes from not being all. If you start life as part of someone else's body, your independence is a dismemberment.

Being a couple reminds us, persuades us again, that we are also someone else--of a piece with them. As everyone who is in love (or in mourning) knows, what is politely referred to as separation is mutilation. Growing up means becoming a phantom-limb; falling in love means acquiring one.

But if monogamy is where we start from, our first knowledge is of infidelity; that is what knowledge is about. Temporarily the mother can be everything to the child, but the child cannot possibly be everything for the mother. He can't feed her or sexually satisfy her, or have adult conversations with her. From the child's point of view the mother is--as the father will soon be--a model of promiscuity. She has a thousand things to do. She knows other people.

One of the aims of psychoanalytic treatment may be to enable the patient to find, or be able to tolerate, more satisfying obstacles to contend with. Poor obstacles impoverish us. (1993)

— Adam Phillips

The first distortion of truth in ‘the myth of the analytic situation’ is that analysis is an interaction between a sick person and a healthy one.

To be able to alleviate the suffering of other human beings and to contribute a little to the knowledge of how to do this, was what I desired since a long time ago and with particular intensity.

— Heinrich Racker (1910-1961)

If during this period of intense dependency a child's vital attachment to mother is disrupted by losses that are too early, too severe, or too total, the child will be plunged into existential terror. It is the terror experienced when the mother is unavailable, unresponsive, or unattuned too long or too often. The infant cries out and is not heard. Unable to maintain an image of mother, the infant is over whelmed, incapable of sustaining her self. Unable to imagine the future, the infant feels only the dreadful present. This state presents a very real threat to the development of a sense of self, to the experience of "being." The self may die before it has a chance to exist.

— Judith Rendely


The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude… once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.

— Rainer Maria Rilke (1902-1908)

No change, I can't change, I can't change, I can't change,

but I'm here in my mold, I am here in my mold.
But I'm a million different people from one day to the next
I can't change my mold, no, no, no, no, no, no, no

— Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Richard Ashcroft

It is not essential to strive for change.

One changes as one becomes more of who she/he/they already is.

A new idea is a light that illuminates things that had no form before the light fell on them and gave them meaning.

— Ken Robinson

Sometimes you hear a voice through the door calling you, As a fish out of water hears the waves . . . Come back. Come back. This turning toward what you deeply love saves you."

— Rumi (1207-1273)3)

... a traumatized mother, to maintain her psychobiological homeostasis, must avoid intersubjective connection with a child who is seeking it to regulate his own distress.

... Lou Sander's 'moment of meeting' cannot take place.

— Daniel Schechter

It is when the world within us is destroyed, when it is dead and loveless, when our loved ones are in fragments, and we ourselves in helpless despair - it is then that we must create our world anew, reassemble the pieces, infuse life into dead fragments, recreate life.

— Hannah Segal

For life is the best thing we have in this existence. And if we should desire to believe in something, it should be a beacon within. This beacon being the sun, sea, and sky, our children, our work, our companions and, most simply put, the embodiment of love.

Make your interactions with people transformational, not just transactional.

If you feel good about who you are inside, it will radiate. ...

Never let go of that fiery sadness called desire.

We go through life. We shed our skins. We become ourselves.

~ Patti Smith

I complained that someone wanted to throw me under the bus; Dr. F [Solomon's therapist] said, "You are under the bus already. Just try to be Gumby and deal with the impact." And when I said I didn’t feel it was worth prolonging an argument with someone who had hurt me badly, he said, "Don’t allow good judgment to be upstaged by altruistic masochism.

— Andrew Solomon

Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.

— Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

Pain is not pathology.

Delusional ideas understood as a form of absolutism — a radical decontextualization serving vital restorative and defensive functions. Experiences that are insulated from dialogue cannot be challenged or invalidated.

— Robert Stolorow

Intersubjectivity: system of reciprocal mutual influence— any psychological field formed by interacting worlds of experiences

— Robert Stolorow and George Atwood

When the satisfaction or the security of another person becomes as significant to one as one's own satisfaction or security, then the state of love exists. Under no other circumstances is a state of love present, regardless of the popular usage of the term.

— Harry Stack Sullivan 

One does not show all of one’s personality to any one person and one has to solve each so-called me-you relationship within its own domain.

— Edward Tauber (1952)

“Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.”
"When people are compulsively and constantly pulled back into the past, to the last time they felt intense involvement and deep emotions, they suffer from a failure of the imagination, a loss of the mental flexibility. Without imagination there is no hope, no chance to envision a better future, no place to go, no goal to reach.
"Many traumatized individuals are too hypervigilant to enjoy the ordinary pleasures that life has to offer, while other are too numb to absorb new experiences – or to be alert to signs of real danger. When the smoke detectors of the brain malfunction, people no longer run when they should be trying to escape or fight back when they should be defending themselves.
"Rage that has nowhere to go is redirected against the self, in the form of depression, self-hatred, and self-destructive actions. One of my patients told me, ‘It is like hating your home, your kitchen and pots and pans, your bed, your chairs, your table, your rugs.’ Nothing feels safe – least of all your own body.
"As long as you keep secrets and suppress information, you are fundamentally at war with yourself…The critical issue is allowing yourself to know what you know. That takes an enormous amount of courage.”
― Bessel van der Kolk

Never  forget: the unconscious is really unconscious.

In the name of humanity, I refuse to accept a fascist America

— Judy Vida

My kids are starting to notice I'm a little different from the other dads. Why don't you have a straight job like everyone else? They asked me the other day.

I told them this story: In the forest, there was a crooked tree and a straight tree. Every day, the straight tree would say to the crooked tree, "Look at me...I'm tall, and I'm straight, and I'm handsome. Look at're all crooked and bent over. No one wants to look at you." And they grew up in that forest together. And then one day the loggers came, and they saw the crooked tree and the straight tree, and they said, "Just cut the straight trees and leave the rest." So the loggers turned all the straight trees into lumber and toothpicks and paper. And the crooked tree is still there, growing stronger and stranger every day.

— Tom Waits


Mentalization: Thinking about Thinking

Ability to understand mental states of oneself or others, that underlie overt behavior-

Imaginative ability to interpret perceive behavior in terms of intentions-

Understand misunderstanding-  consciously or automatic - weakened by emotion-

— David Wallin

— Margery Williams

photo credit: Bronwynne Kidson

When life belongs to you and you belong to life, you are set free from hunger and fear. You experience the essential dignity and nobility or your existence, which does not depend on anyone else’s approval or validation. In this deep sense of union with love, you realize you are not wounded, have never been wounded, and cannot be wounded.

— Jon Welwood

Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide. It is a joy to be hidden, and disaster not to be found.


Tell me what you fear and I will tell you what has happened to you.


The mother gazes at the baby in her arms, and the baby gazes at his mother's face and finds himself therein... provided that the mother is really looking at the unique, small, helpless being and not projecting her own expectations, fears, and plans for the child. In that case, the child would find not himself in his mother's face, but rather the mother's own projections. This child would remain without a mirror, and for the rest of [their] life would be seeking this mirror in vain. ... the patient must go on looking for the past detail which is not yet experienced. This search takes the form of a looking for this detail in the future.


... only after a treatment has made considerable progress that the fear of breakdown comes to the fore as a dominating factor.

... that what is not yet experienced did nevertheless happen in the past, then the way is open for the agony to be experienced in the transference, in reaction to the analyst's failures and mistakes.

Fear of breakdown is related to the individuals past experience, and to environmental vagaries.

... fear of breakdown can be a fear of a past event that has not yet been experienced. ... This idea can be applied to other allied fears, ... death and the search for emptiness.



Let down your tap root

  to the centre of your soul

Suck up the sap

  from the infinite source    

  of your unconscious

  and be evergreen.

~ D. W. Winnicott (1896-1971)


Not to take possession of your life plan is to let your existence be an accident.

It’s the relationship that heals.

— Irvin Yalom

Shame: A way to get to know yourself!

FREAK and other states of Being

F is for the fun person you know how to be.

R is for the relaxed person that really exists.

E is for the excitement that is always possible.

A is for the assumptions that get in fun's way.

K is for the kindness to which you ultimately return.

Have fun.

... arising dissociated bodily experiences can feel lethal.

Interrogate the meaning-

— Anonymous (2011)

All work posted on this site with the permission of the artist. Please let me know if you would like to contribute...

You can't test courage cautiously.

Annie Dillard

The End


more poetry

“Hope” is the thing with feathers  (1861)

That perches in the soul -

And sings the tune without the words -

And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -

And sore must be the storm -

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chilliest land -

And on the strangest Sea -

Yet - never - in Extremity,

It asked a crumb - of me.


...the truth must dazzle gradually or every man be blind

— Emily Dickinson 

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.

~T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton, Four Quartets

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

— Robert Frost


‘Tis a fearful thing (1075-1141)
to love what death can touch.
A fearful thing
to love, to hope, to dream, to be –
to be,
And oh, to lose.
A thing for fools, this,
And a holy thing,
a holy thing
to love.
For your life has lived in me,
your laugh once lifted me,
your word was gift to me.
To remember this brings painful joy.
‘Tis a human thing, love,
a holy thing, to love
what death has touched.

— Yehuda HaLevi


Enigmas (1960)

You've asked me what the lobster is weaving there with
his golden feet?
I reply, the ocean knows this.
You say, what is the ascidia waiting for in its transparent bell?

What is it waiting for?
I tell you it is waiting for time, like you.
You ask me whom the Macrocystis alga hugs in its arms?
Study, study it, at a certain hour, in a certain sea I know.
You question me about the wicked tusk of the narwhal,
and I reply by describing how the sea unicorn with the harpoon in it dies.
You inquire about the kingfisher's feathers,
which tremble in the pure springs of the southern tides?
Or you've found in the cards a new question touching on
the crystal architecture of the sea anemone, and you'll deal that to me now?
You want to understand the electric nature of the ocean spines?
The armored stalactite that breaks as it walks?
The hook of the angler fish, the music stretched out
in the deep places like a thread in the water?
 I want to tell you the ocean knows this, that life in its
 jewel boxes is endless as the sand, impossible to count, pure,
 and among the blood-colored grapes time has made the
 petal hard and shiny, made the jellyfish full of light
 and untied its knot, letting its musical threads fall
 from a horn of plenty made of infinite mother-of-pearl.

I am nothing but the empty net which has gone on ahead
of human eyes, dead in those darknesses,
of fingers accustomed to the triangle,
longitudes on the timid globe of an orange.

I walked around as you do, investigating the endless star,
and in my net, during the night, I woke up naked,
the only thing caught, a fish trapped inside the wind.

[Translated by Robert Bly]


Keeping Quiet (1950s)

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

— Pablo Neruda


Wild Geese (1986)

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

— Mary Oliver


The Invitation 

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

—  Mountain Dreamer


Transcendental Etudes (1977)

... No one ever told us we had to study our lives,
make of our lives a study, as if learning natural history
music, that we should begin
with the simple exercises first
and slowly go on trying
the hard ones, practicing till strength
and accuracy became one with the daring
to leap into transcendence, take the chance
of breaking down the wild arpeggio
or faulting the full sentence of the fugue.—
And in fact we can’t live like that: we take on
everything at once before we’ve even begun
to read or mark time, we’re forced to begin
in the midst of the hard movement,
the one already sounding as we are born.

At most we’re allowed a few months
of simply listening to the simple
line of a woman’s voice singing a child
against her heart. Everything else is too soon,
too sudden, the wrenching-apart, that woman’s heartbeat
heard ever after from a distance
the loss of that ground-note echoing
whenever we are happy, or in despair. ......

Double Monologue (1960)

... Since I was more than a child
trying on a thousand faces
I have wanted one thing: to know
simply as I know my name
at any given moment, where I stand.

— Adrienne Rich


Dirge Without Music (1928)

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

— Edna St. Vincent Millay


Anger is the deepest form of compassion, for another, for the world, for the self, for a life, for the body, for a family and for all our ideals, all vulnerable and all, possibly about to be hurt. Stripped of physical imprisonment and violent reaction, anger is the purest form of care, the internal living flame of anger always illuminates what we belong to, what we wish to protect and what we are willing to hazard ourselves for.   


The Well of Grief

Those who will not slip beneath

the still surface on the well of grief

turning downward through its black water 

to the place we cannot breathe 

will never know the source from which we drink,

the secret water, cold and clear,

nor find in the darkness glimmering 

the small round coins thrown by those who wished for something else.



if you move carefully
through the forest

like the ones
in the old stories

who could cross
a shimmering bed of dry leaves
without a sound,

you come
to a place
whose only task

is to trouble you
with tiny
but frightening requests

conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere.

Requests to stop what
you are doing right now,

to stop what you
are becoming
while you do it,

that can make
or unmake
a life,

that have patiently
waited for you,

that have no right
to go away.


Friendship is a mirror to presence and a testament to forgiveness. Friendship not only helps us see ourselves through another’s eyes but can be sustained over the years only with someone who has repeatedly forgiven us for our trespasses, as we must find it in ourselves to forgive them in turn. 

— David Whyte

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