The journey of self-compassion can be one of the hardest journeys of all. And I love the ways that Lizzie Winn and Justin Wise discuss it in practical and poetic terms in their podcast Turning Towards Life. In this episode, they use one of my poems, “Above the Paradox Valley,” as a launching pad for finding metaphors and practical tools for meeting ourselves in difficult moments.
Above the Paradox Valley
after Ocean Vuong, “Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong”
You do not need to know what comes next.
There is always another storm, and you
cannot hang the tent out to dry before
it has gotten wet. You cannot shovel snow
that has yet to fall.
Put down the shovel. Breathe
into the dark spaces of your back,
feel how they open like cave doors
to let in the light.
Let your face soften. Let the creases
fall out of your brow. The mind,
no matter how clear, will never become
a crystal ball.
The wisest part of your body
knows to run when it hears
the first crashes of rock fall.
It does not pause then to consider
metamorphic or igneous,
nor does it hesitate to wonder
what might have pushed them down.
It is no small thing to trust yourself.
It’s okay to cry. It is right
that love should shake your body,
that you should find yourself trembling
in the rubble and dust
after all your certainties come down.
Your breath has not left you.
Here is the morning rain. It opens
the scent of the leaves, of the air.
All around you the world is changing.
What are you waiting for?
Here is the cup of mint tea
growing stronger in itself.
Here on this cliff of uncertainty
there is a stillness in you
so spirited, so alive
the wisest part of your body
from Naked for Tea (Able Muse Press, 2018)