Why it always helps to sit beside the track…

picture of a herd of wild horses galloping
Pic by Adam Bailey, creative commons

My next book, Living Softly, shares three principles for living a more peaceful and fulfilling life: Mind your Mind, Be Kind, and Make Space for Grace. From time to time, as I work on the book, I want to expand on these three themes in this blog. Below, a favourite poem expressing how we can escape a racing mind to make better choices.

One of my old, old patterns is trying to work out decisions in my head. “I’m going to think hard about this,” I say, which runs counter to everything I know about living softly.

The truth is that the best decisions of my life have only ever ‘arrived’; my mind has been quiet and all of a sudden I’ve known what I want or need to do. The quietness, stepping back from the noise of my thoughts, has made space for grace to enter…

This wonderful poem by Irish poet Rachel Holstead expresses this far better than I’ve just done. I’m able to share it with you because Rachel generously publishes her poems under a creative commons licence: see http://www.rachelholstead.net/these-are-not-my-words)

I hope it speaks truth to you as it does to me.


On those difficult days, when a frontier looms,
decisions seem called for
and the armies of your mind muster
and set off on a headlong gallop
towards the horizon,

they make so much noise
that the heart’s soft voice
is drowned out,
and kick up so much dust
that compassion’s anchor loses purchase.

The faster the armies gallop
the farther away the horizon seems,
the bumpier the path
and the cloudier the dusty air

and we trip over innocent rocks
and trample innocent plants
and startle quietly grazing flocks,
causing them to scatter
and become embroiled in our turmoil.

But if we can persuade the horde
to slow a little
– that stopping a while will help
rather than hinder –
perhaps we can sit by the side of the track
and let the dust settle
and the noise die away.

And somehow we find ourselves
where we need to be
– which is here –
and we can set anchor again.

And when out of the silence,
the soft voice of our heart speaks,
it has all the answers we need.