What if it's safe to rest? What if you already belong?

belonging common humanity mindfulness self-compassion self-worth Aug 26, 2023

I hope you're well, and that you've had some gentle and restful moments this week. I realize, too, that your week may have felt more like this:


We all have hard days, weeks, months or seasons. And it can be hard to let ourselves truly rest. With all that we're navigating in life (collectively and individually), it often feels like like there's no time, or like it's not safe to rest. If you're in a helping profession, you may have an especially hard time with this.

It's easy to think that there's always more that we could be doing, and that we have to constantly be working, keeping up, achieving some particular thing. As if we have to earn our place here. We forget that we're enough, and that we already belong. That we can rest here and now.

When I struggle to find peace and allow myself to rest, the following poem helps me recenter. Even though I've read it many times, it's still a powerful reminder that each of us belongs. And I find that when we remember this, we can find rest right where we are, even on the hard days. I hope this poem gives you comfort, too:

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours,
and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting ~
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.


To practice with this poem, put a hand on your heart and take three breaths:
With each inhale, say silently: I do not have to be good
With each exhale, say silently: It's safe to rest here and now
When you're finished, notice how you feel.

If you'd like to work with this poem in a creative way, you can draw or paint your own "we are here" heart (see above). Or hand-letter a phrase from Mary Oliver's poem, such as "You do not have to be good" (or "I do not have to be good"). Once you have lettered the words, add drawings and/or colors that feel soothing to you.




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