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Do you remember learning about William Wordsworth in your high school English class? He was a big deal among the British Romantic poets, lived late 18th/early 19th century, was Britain’s poet laureate for a spell, and was the kind of poet that other poets write poems about. (By the way, in case you were wondering, this is what an English major ends up doing for a living—teaching yoga, writing about it ad nauseam, and making endless references to poetry and poets and how they are all basically pointing to the same thing—presence.)
So, as a child, Wordsworth and his siblings were basically orphaned. Though relatives became reluctant guardians, from an early age William had enormous pressure on him to choose a respectable career which would enable him to move out and support himself and his sister, Dorothy. William was incredibly close to Dorothy, who was of a social class that simply wouldn’t allow her to work.
His guardians expected William to become a vicar for the Church of England, a respectable career, but one for which Wordsworth had no love. William’s love was poetry, but to his guardians, poetry was the career-equivalent of homelessness.
As a young man, one early-summer’s morning, Wordsworth was walking across the meadows and heathlands toward his home at Hawkshead, no doubt burdened by the tension between following his passion of poetry and taking a job doing what others expected him to do.
As he walked, the sun began to rise and light up his senses with a splendor of the majestic landscape, also brightening and dissolving his dark and heavy worries. Soon, he was brimming with joy, drunk with the dawning light on the meadows, the dew and vapors on the heath, and a vision of the “sea laughing at a distance.” He speaks to this magical moment in perhaps his finest and most enduring poem, Prelude, in which he says,
Ah! need I say, dear Friend! that to the brim
My heart was full . . .
And then, with his heart brimming, with his senses thrumming, the dawning light of the morning began to work a miracle on his heart by illuminating it to the sure and deep knowing of its gift for the world as a poet. It’s as if God, the Cosmos, or Creation—whatever—spoke and made promises to him that he must follow poetry, must offer it as a gift to the world, and that it would all work out.
Check it out. In the same poem he says,
. . . I made no vows, but vows
Were then made for me; bond unknown to me
Was given, that I should be, else sinning greatly,
A dedicated Spirit. On I walked
In thankful blessedness, which yet survives.
Boom! Drop the mic. Walk off stage.
And from that moment forward, with such clarity, joy, and peace in his heart, Wiliam never doubted his purpose again.
And speaking of the Church, with this sure knowledge of his heart’s gift to the world as a poet, Wordsworth felt he would be sinning greatly against an even higher power than the Church if he didn’t honor the vow which was so clearly made to his heart.
Spoiler: being a poet worked out great for Wordsworth. Actually, more than great because Wordsworth devoted himself to poetry and set up a house for himself and his sister where they could immerse themselves in the craft of poetry. Dorothy was also a poet and this setup gave her the freedom to write. William and Dorothy were a poetry tour de force as they lived a life of all things poetry. They would discuss, analyze, and workshop poems and upon completion, Dorothy would pen them in her immaculate handwriting.
Perhaps most importantly to William, his sister Dorothy was his purest love, his North Star, and his muse. If he would have relented to a career in the Church, he would have been exiled from his two loves, Dorothy and poetry.
Ultimately, my point here is that with presence you too can hear (or have heard) the vows that the world is making to your heart about your gift to the world. It may not be as public or as grandiose as William Wordsworth’s but regardless, is nonetheless just as important, the world needs it just as much, and it is your own private marriage to the world.
I always say that poets are yogis with a pen, or yogis are poets with poses. In both disciplines, one comes to know themselves, their True Nature, by practicing regular and abiding presence. Whether poet or plumber, it takes a fierce presence in conversation with that thing that is larger than all of us, but to which all play an integral part, in order to do any good work in this world.
This week, I invite you to practice listening. Go to a yoga class. Sit and meditate. Go on a walk and leave your phone at home. Open up to creation by drinking in your senses, a profound and delicious way of practicing presence. Listen and hear the world speak to your heart. Allow your heart to speak to your mind.
I also invite you to join me for my next Yoga Nidra course: Sourcing Your Heart’s Gift, a supportive practice that regularly takes you deep inside to hear and develop your heart’s gift for the world.
This is the last week to register!
Sourcing Your Heart's Gift: an online meditation and yoga course designed to help you to dive deep into your heart to discover and develop your purpose and courageously share it with the world.
February 12–March 25 2018