Withdrawal — A New Perspective on Finding Center

I love this from poet David Whyte (shared by friend Martin Siesta) that reframes withdrawal. I’ve noticed in myself during the last year a different relationship to withdrawal. I’ve needed quiet space in a way that I have not before. I’ve needed to say no to people and events that have felt important. I’ve felt a reasonable amount of anxiety with this. Confusion. Why am I not say yes? Crazy? The withdrawal, the claiming a new place of center, has been more important.

Refreshing to hear this from David Whyte.


is underestimated in this time of 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 elaborations of what was to begin with, a very simple invitation. Withdrawal is often not what it looks like – a disappearance – no, to withdraw from entanglement can be to begin the process of renewing the primary, essential invitation again. Though life does seem determined to be a beautiful, constant and often 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 remove our sticky hands or our feet or our minds from 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 our selves entirely and absolutely, abruptly and at times uncompromisingly 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 our selves 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 voice, a clear, rested, embodied tonality we can call our own.

Excerpt from WITHDRAWAL taken from the upcoming reader’s circle essay series. ©2013 David Whyte.

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