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6 May 2016
This time last week I was listening, for the first time, to internationally acclaimed poet, philosopher and speaker David Whyte. He wasn’t long into his story-telling and poetry that I thought to myself, ‘Why have I never heard of this man before!’. David was in Melbourne last Friday and Saturday thanks to Mel and the team at Talking Sticks, a Sydney based business that aims to create ‘experiences that transform’. Their tagline reads, ‘Transforming conversations is our business.’ I was grateful to be part of this personally transforming conversation with David and the many who were gathered. In the morning, David shared his story telling and poetry with corporate leaders at Federation Square’s Deakin Edge Theatre, inviting us to ‘become visible’, to get comfortable in the ‘not knowing’ and to ‘ask for help’ – particularly as leaders of organisations. He was joined on stage afterwards by four prominent business leaders who shared their views on vulnerability, openness and what it takes to be a good leader.
On the Friday evening and Saturday morning, a general audience of about 300 (at each gathering) listened in reverent silence as David posed beautiful but disturbing questions … challenging us to be ‘a shade braver’. I’m not sure whether I liked the story behind the poem, or the poem itself, better … but both intertwined to beautifully reveal a little more of the heart and soul of the author, and beckoned me to reflect on my own heart and soul. David challenged us to become aware of ‘the frontier in each of us’, that place where we’d rather run from, or ignore. To listen to the conversation that is taking place there. Is there a beautiful but disturbing question that needs to be asked? Of ourselves? Or to another? There usually is. And herein lies the invitation extended by David. To listen. Perhaps write down this conversation (I know this has become a new ritual for me!). And to become more aware of the world around me. Ask for help. Ask the beautiful but disturbing question and be surprised. Get comfortable with the unknown. The not knowing. He is inviting each of us to be ‘a shade braver’.
There was so much to take in over the three sessions I had the privilege of listening to, while working. It was confronting at times, endearing and hilarious at others. However, I know that this is only the start of my conversation with David Whyte, his poetry and words, with myself and others – in hopefully, a deeper and more meaningful way. I accept David’s invitation to enter more deeply into this beautiful pilgrimage of life. To be aware of those ‘frontier’ moments in my own life – and perhaps those of others. To walk with others. And in walking on, to be a shade braver. Go on, ask a beautiful but disturbing question today. Who knows where the conversation will lead.