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Sign and Witness

One of my favorite quotes comes from Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet: 

“There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must," then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.” 

You could substitute the word “write” with anything in your life that you recognize as a deepest desire.  What in your life has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart?  What must you do to be fully yourself?  Is it something you are even ready to name?  Speak it aloud, just for a moment, and allow those words to hum in the air around you, maybe even sing them aloud: “I am an artist. . .or a writer. . .or a dancer. . . or monk . . .or  . . .??”

Is your life a sign and witness to this deepest desire?  What would you need to change for this to be true?

~Christine Valters Paintner

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4 Responses

  1. Thanks Antony, Swandive, and Sally. Yes, what I love about this quote is that it is so unflinching and keeps returning me back to the center, drawing me deeper, challenging me.