Butterfly on a Window

Poetry as Listening (and why this matters during COVID-19)

Photo by Jian Xhin from Unsplash


Like me, and many of us in this time, you’re likely feeling a myriad of familiar and unsettling emotions…


I choose the word ‘familiar,’ as I do believe you’ve been here before. In different ways, to differing degrees. You know this feeling.


Here you are! Which means, you must have made it through – yippeee!


Yet, amidst the storm it feels like the most challenging and gritty time to be alive. We are indeed in some complex, ambiguous and uncertain circumstances.


A collective cocoon.


If I was to relate this to a rites of passage experience, a coming-of-age ritual or a self-initiation ceremony, I would say we are in a collective coming-of-age.


A cocoon. Dismantling and testing all we thought we know and had locked in. Challenging our stability and taken-for-grantedness.


Whether there is a reason beyond our knowing for this global systems-shock, sometimes the ‘leaning in to the skid’ (diving into the discomfort), is actually the most non-resistant approach to sitting in this time.


Resistance, aversion, trying to skip around the puddle will sometime mean we come out the other side unscathed. It also means though we are in constant tension and contraction as we consistently avoid and deny the invitations to grow, to build, to develop.


From a humanistic perspective, all challenges are here to invite us into greater capacity. Challenges surface to invite us into the tension, sitting with the tension until we learn to integrate the parts of ourselves tested. We come out the other side with greater resilience.


What an annoyingly powerful and potent process. Isn’t it just so that most often, our greatest growth happens during the times that test us most?


Our uncomfortable invitation.

Here we are! In this cocoon, our basic needs tested, our sense of community as we know it tested, our loneliness probed.


This is the core of many self-initiation processes. To be sent for a quest into the forest, with nothing more than yourself. To find your way, gather your own faculties, navigate your inner-qualms.


All. by. your. self.


In this process a kind of poetry takes place…


Poetry is often the art of overhearing yourself say things you didn’t know you knew. It is a learned skill to force yourself to articulate your life, your present world or your possibilities for the future.

David Whyte


Oh thank you David – you’re always so eloquent and on the pulse.


Initiation processes are generally facilitated at moments of transition; from boy to man, girl to women, young adult to adult, women to mother and so forth.


What takes place during these processes is a kind of ‘contemplative intimacy.’ We become intimately aware of our inner-lives. Yes, our fears, anxieties, self-doubts – all of it.


Through this process, we start to sit with these parts of ourselves, sift (which is the etymology of the word crisis by the way – ‘to sift’) through the stories that don’t serve us anymore and with enough patience, sticking-to-it, and gradual softening into acceptance, a new story emerges.


We might transition from being the man that likes to gift things to others only so he can be the hero, to the man that gifts things to other without expecting anything in return. A man who has stock over his own resources.


As uncomfortable as it is, and as challenging as it may be amidst the ‘need to hurry and scurry to solutions,’ can we sit with ourselves in this way? Can we practice a kind of poetry? Listening. Keenly. Inward.


What might occur on the other side? May we hear ourselves in a new way, may we soften into a part of ourselves we’ve been in resistance to for some time.


May we emerge from this cocoon knowing how to better-serve this time, from a place of grace not greed.


Seeking resources to support you in this time?


πŸ‘‰ If you are seeking resources and support in listening, sitting with yourself and holding yourself in compassion during this time, I am sharing resources regularly on my Instagram page.


πŸ‘‰ You can also join me online at anytime for a guided meditation.

πŸ‘‰ It may also be a perfect opportunity to contemplate and explore your relationship with Being and Doing, as well as how you dance with them both. Join me for my 10-Day course online here.


Please also know that I am in this with you, we all are. Feel free to reach out on my email (al[at]aljeffery[dot]com) if you are ever seeking an ear to be heard by, or a heart to be felt by. I am here πŸ™


I’m curious, what resonated for you in this piece? How are you spending this time in isolation?


πŸ‘‰ Feel free to comment below or let me know on Facebook.

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