Author, poet and speaker, David Whyte, describes what he calls the “conversational nature of reality” as the meeting of who we think we are with the reality that is presented before us in any given moment, any given situation. In his words:
“The only places where things were actually real was at this frontier between what you think is you and what you think is not you, that whatever you desire of the world will not come to pass exactly as you will like it. But the other mercy is that whatever the world desires of you will also not come to pass, and what actually occurs is this meeting, this frontier.”
The conversation that takes place at this frontier between our inner world and outer reality can take many different forms, depending on our emotional state, depending on our willingness to meet the reality before us – perhaps with resistance, perhaps with acceptance, perhaps with fear or excitement. Just as any conversation between two humans can be a dialogue (results in opening and learning) or debate (results in walls and argument) depending on our current inner emotional state and attitude toward what we want or expect from that conversation, so too does our personal conversation with reality look differently depending on how we are showing up for it.
Take the above video of trees blowing in the wind. Bay Laurel, Madrone, Douglas Fir. Each tree blows in the wind in a different way. The boughs bend differently – Madrone is strong and resistant, barely moving in the breeze; Bay is more flexible - they bow in their reception of the wind. The leaves of each tree are impacted differently – some flutter and excitedly expose their lighter undersides and darker top sides as if in a dance, bringing its own show of color into the reality of the wind. The sound that each tree makes as the wind blows through it is different, has a unique pitch, a unique cadence.
This conversational nature of reality shows up in all things, all beings. These trees are testament to the fact that even the trees are in conversation with reality. The qualities of their inner world – that which makes them Madrone, Bay, or Fir – are the very reason they dance as they do, so uniquely in conversation with the reality of the wind.
“The stairs are your mentor of things / to come, the doors have always been there / to frighten you and invite you, / and the tiny speaker in the phone / is your dream-ladder to divinity. / The tiny speaker in the phone / is your dream-ladder to divinity. // Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the / conversation. The kettle is singing / even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots / have left their arrogant aloofness and / seen the good in you at last. All the birds / and creatures of the world are unutterably / themselves. Everything, everything, everything is waiting for you.” - David Whyte, Everything Is Waiting
But, Whyte also points out how much time we humans spend away from that frontier. He points to how easy it is for us to distract ourselves away from this conversation - through the multitude of stimulation available (which disables our ability to actual know and feel what’s happening on the inside of us), and through our unique capacity to hide what’s actually wanting to come out. He even goes so far as to say that we are the only creatures on this Earth that can be anything but ourselves. I think about the masks that I wear each day, the personas I play, to appease someone, to fit into some standard of how or who I’m supposed to be, and I mourn the loss that happens each time I choose to be something or someone I am not.
Whyte honors John O’Donohue, another brilliant poet, by infusing some of his wisdom into this conversation: O’Donohue used to say that one of the necessary tasks is this radical letting alone of yourself in the world, letting the world speak in its own voice and letting this deeper sense of yourself speak out. Whyte points out that as we abstract ourselves out of our direct experience, we also abstract ourselves out of a “deeper, broader, and wider possible future that’s waiting for them if they hold the conversation at that frontier level.”
Personally, I am coming to agree with O’Donohue and Whyte, that this act of conversing with reality from an authentic place is indeed one of the central tasks we have as humans. And no doubt there is good reason to distract and to hide:
When we are our authentic selves, we are vulnerable.
To be vulnerable is to be exposed; to be exposed means we can be seen; to be seen means we can be touched; to be touched means we can be hurt. Thus, living in authenticity is an ultimate act of trust in the Universe - trust that we can continue to show up for an authentic conversation with reality, despite the response we get, whether that prove to be what we perceive to be painful, or perceive to be easeful.
So, what is this ‘deeper, broader, wider, possible future’ Whyte speaks of? Why should we choose this path of authenticity and vulnerability?
The answer to this I believe lies in Wholeness and Integrity. When we live on the outside what we we are carrying on the inside, we tune ourselves, we come into harmony with ourselves (and who here hasn’t appreciated the beauty of musical harmony). We come into Integrity - Oneness, Wholeness. This frees us from expending the energy needed to live out of integrity (which is actually quite a lot that we don’t even realize), and allows us to now spend that energy on what we came to this world for: to give our most unique gifts in service of others and the world. Living in integrity, we are more honest with ourselves, and only then be more honest with each other, creating more harmony in our relationships. With this newly released energy, we can be more creative, more playful, more artistic, and go to bed each night knowing we have shown up at that frontier and for life as honestly and authentically as we can be.
This is the conversation with reality that I want to be having.