The Caribbean poet and playwright Derek Walcott has a lovely poem reminiscent of Rumi’s The Guest House.
The poem is called Love After Love.
Reunion is a key theme of the poem. After a life of desiring people and things outside of ourselves, we come home. To the person who’s been there with you all along.
Now, I love the poem for the sheer and simple beauty of the words and the nuanced message.
But I can’t help but notice how it elegantly encapsulates a key lesson we learn from mindfulness meditation.
When we practice, we return to ourselves, again and again and again. Where did we go, that we must return? Indeed, we don’t always realize that we’re lost.
But that’s exactly why the great masters exhort us to practice every day.
I’ve been meditating regularly for over 27 years, and I am still shocked at the power of my own mind to delude me. You’d think at this point it wouldn’t be a surprise, right!?
But nearly every time I sit down to practice, I am dazzled by the power of the human mind. We have these narratives spinning up in our heads all the time. We’re fantasizing about alternative futures. We’re nursing grudges, resentments, and regrets from the past.
And for me there is always this moment, when I drop into the zone of practice and slip seamlessly into the present moment.
In that space, all the deluding filters melt away.
In those moments, it’s like a fresh breeze just blew in. I can feel it on my skin. My ears open up, and I can hear car engines whirring in the distance, birds crooning and calling, dogs barking into space, crickets chorusing.
My animal body melts as the sounds resound within me.
Yet just moments ago, I might as well have been a million miles away. All this was happening—the thrum of Life—but I wasn’t there. I felt none of it. At least not consciously.
And that is the dazzling power of our minds to cast a veil over our awareness.
Call it mind wandering, discursive thinking, the default mode network, etc. When we’re in it, we’re not really here in this reality. We’re somewhere in between. And we spend A LOT of time in that realm—not quite asleep and not quite awake.
That’s why Ram Dass wrote a whole book called Be Here Now! To urge you and me to come back home to ourselves again and again. To build a new habit of being, where we abide in the here and now, fully in our bodies, awake to our senses, and deeply alive.
This, I believe, is the bounty and richness, the kind of love that Derek Walcott is nodding to in his poem.
So here’s the poem. Let me know what you think and whether it rings true for you too.
LOVE AFTER LOVE
by Derek Walcott
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.