Tonight I’m reminded of the inspiring opening stanza of David Whyte’s poem, “Start Close In”, which I heard him recite aloud at Toby’s Feed Barn in Point Reyes, CA, back in August.

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step you don’t want to take.

Read the rest of the poem here

Don’t we all like to convince ourselves not to pursue our big dreams because of the great chasm separating “here” from “there”? We imagine our goal, and then quickly make the list of things we need to get done or overcome before we can get there. As the list of things grows, and the probability of getting them done starts to dawn on us, we start to shrink back from our goal, or dial down our aspirations. David Whyte’s poem reminds us that sometimes it’s as simple as taking the FIRST step. Often that’s the one that holds us back the most – the first defining step that we don’t want to take. We hold back, not realizing that maybe, just maybe, that first step could unlock the door to a cascade of other possibilities, one of which could shorten the distance between our “here” and our “there”.

The rest of the poem talks about the first step often being the most fearful because it is the most authentic path for us. It’s our own. We often mistake other people’s paths as ones we should follow, or other people’s voices as the ones coming from inside us. But a soulful – and fulfilling – life must begin with that first authentic step to call your own, no matter how small and humble.

Elsewhere in his writings, David Whyte has captured it even more vividly in the metaphor of the writer facing the first blank page before creation begins:

“We leave the beckoning blank page of our life completely empty because we don’t have confidence in the particular first sentence that confronts us.”

What first step will you take…the step you don’t want to take?

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