What we need is here.

…clear in the ancient faith: what we need is here. And we pray, not for new earth or heaven, but to be quiet in heart, and in eye, clear. What we need is here.
— Wendell Berry, Wild Geese

What we need is here. This is one of those sentences that, when I am having a hard day, always makes me think, “Bullshit.”  What I need isn’t HERE. When what I need is more money, or snow tires or someone in particular, then it doesn’t feel like it is here --it feels like it is there. And there can feel so far away, so far out of reach. I can be inconsolable, frustrated, impatient. When you feel like what you need is there, then you completely forget to look where you are: you forget to be here.

Clear in the ancient faith. That’s the part of this poem I love. He’s describing the geese overhead flying overhead and knowing their way. You have all seen it, geese flying high, in formation. They know where they are going. They have each other. They have all they need to get where they are going. Those beautiful lines in the sky, those harbingers of change in both fall and spring.

What we need is here. Maybe I needed this refrain this week because sometimes the world’s problems seem too big, too ongoing, and my despair can creep back. Despair is always a sign that you have lost your ancient faith, that you have forgotten that you have all you need. It is a sign you are looking outside of yourself, and everything you are looking for is inside.

This may be one of the biggest disciplines of healing. You aren’t going to keep yourself from losing it, from getting frustrated, from feeling despair, from wishing that someone or something could fix it for you—all of that, my friend, is a guarantee of this work. But the discipline is coming back to yourself, to be clear in the ancient faith: what we need is here. To catch yourself in the act of looking everywhere but within and to sit yourself down. Breathe. Pray. As the poet says, be quiet in heart. This act of slowing down, of catching yourself is so powerful. It is a necessary skill or capacity for healing, for being able to tolerate the grief and loss and frustration that comes with healing trauma, or really, getting through any tough stretch of life.

It’s not about putting a better face on it, or wishing it away or pretending it’s not bad. It’s about knowing, having faith in, trusting that despite how you feel, you have all you need to make it through the journey. It might not be pretty. You might not be happy. You might feel like you are barely hanging on. I am pretty sure that those geese who fly all the way from Canada to Virginia have moments of wondering whether they are going to make it, or at the very least “Are we there yet?!”

When you say to yourself, “what we need is here,” you are the friend who comes over for tea on a bad day and says “we can figure this out.” Healing requires that we befriend ourselves, not abandon ourselves. That in our worst moments we remind ourselves, what we need is here. 

© Gretchen L. Schmelzer, PhD 2015