The Waiting Room

The Waiting Room October 12, 2015


In November, Sounds True will publish a new, expanded edition of Inside the Miracle: Enduring Suffering, Approaching Wholeness, which gathers twenty-eight years of my writing and teaching about suffering, healing, and wholeness, including thirty-nine new poems and prose pieces not yet published.

One of the great transforming passages in my life was having cancer in my mid-thirties. This experience unraveled the way I see the world and made me a student of all spiritual paths. With a steadfast belief in our aliveness, I hope what’s in this book will help you meet the transformation that waits in however you’re being forged.

The following piece is an excerpt from the book.


The truth of things waits out of view ready to surprise us when we least expect it. I learned the truth of this while out in the marsh one day at twilight.

Lost Speech

The more that falls away,

the more knit I am to things

before they speak; drawn into

the waters of silence. When I

listen carefully, I am drawn be-

low the words of those speaking,

into the current using them, as the

wind uses a reed to get animals to

stop chewing and widen their

eyes. I once followed sunset

into a purple marsh and

stepping on a fallen log,

the tangled brush tugged

the trees to sway. Hundreds

of cranes lifted and I was un-

done. I am now devoted to

the lost step that brings

us into the open.

A Question to Walk With: Tell the story of a time when nature surprised you.

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The eyes of animals in paintings surround us. Their stare makes me confess that in the beginning, I believed I saw something no one else had seen, and that feeling of being another Adam fueled my days and sense of worth. Like most, I ingrew my own version of things: lamenting my lack of brotherhood while secretly exalting that I alone could see.

In truth, I was starting to shed all this stuff, but it took getting cancer to shake me of my need to feel special. And sitting here in a waiting room at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in a ship-wrecked part of New York, staring straight into this old Hispanic woman’s eyes, she into mine—I accept that we all seek the same peace of wonder, all wince from the same weight of knowing, though we each speak in a different voice.

Suddenly, but cumulatively, like the crest of a long building wave, I know that each being as it’s born, inconceivable as it seems, is another Adam or Eve, each of us unique and common. Now I understand. It is not my separateness that makes me unique, but the depth of my first-hand experience. Clearly, as I look around, the most essential things I sense and feel, we all feel. I meet you there. I believe this acceptance is helping me stay alive.

This burdened majestic Hispanic grandmother fighting her tumor looks at me across the waiting room without a word on this sweltering day, the way an old Egyptian slave at one oar must have looked at his younger counterpart three oars down: no pretense, no manners, no needed phrases, but simply with a tired soul that will not look away which says: though this body is chained, these eyes are your eyes and they are forever free.

A Question to Walk With: Journal about a time when the difficulties of life brought you instantly close to a stranger.

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