Work as a pilgrimage of identity

Last summer I was in Washington State, and since it’s the area where the poet David Whyte lives, it seemed right to read the new book “Pilgrim” during that trip.

The book came with a CD on which David Whyte read out some of the poems and gave reflections on them.

I loved it!


And in the beginning of October, he came to Amsterdam, for a workshop around “work as a Pilgrimage of Identity”.


“A pilgrim always passes through quite quickly,

often on the way to a place

that only lives in our imagination”

Our identity is based on those narratives from our past that we carry with us and decide to share. We choose our identity, who we are, by choosing the stories and the way we tell the narrative.


That sentence hit me!

What are the stories that I tell when people ask who I am?

The stories about my parents, grandparents, the events that shaped me…. there are so many, so why do I chose the onces I chose? He challeged us: Who would you become if -now, right at this moment- you pick others, that are equally “true”?

“Create an identity so that you cannot be found where you were found before; dissapear in the way you know yourself”

David Whyte asked us several question that will sit in me for a while:
– Human beings are a conversation between happiness and pain. Can you live to the point of tears? (= not hide from pain & heartbreak)
– Can you invite in something that you cannot describe? (the unknown). Can you navigate through the unknown without naming the known, and treat whatever happens as a powerful stranger you meet on your journey?
– How do you hold your conversation with life? Do you make an invitation?
– If you look at your parents: who are the women and the man that they were before they became your mother and father?


The road in the end taking the path the sun had taken,
into the western sea, and the moon rising behind you
as you stood where ground turned to ocean: no way
to your future now but the way your shadow could take,
walking before you across water, going where shadows go,
no way to make sense of a world that wouldn’t let you pass
except to call an end to the way you had come,
to take out each frayed letter you brought
and light their illumined corners, and to read
them as they drifted through the western light;
to empty your bags; to sort this and to leave that;
to promise what you needed to promise all along,
and to abandon the shoes that had brought you here
right at the water’s edge, not because you had given up
but because now, you would find a different way to tread,
and because, through it all, part of you could still walk on,
no matter how, over the waves.

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