In an earlier post I wrote about poems that seemed to “say it all.” These poems capture in a few words what might take hundreds of words when written or spoken in sentences and paragraphs. They go to the heart of the matter—and a great poem or song touches us in a way that is difficult to describe.
Actually, when something is difficult to describe it is understood by our right brain, the part of our mind that is beyond words.The seat of language is in the left brain, so the left brain dominates our thoughts. But the right brain makes connections—it has a wealth of information that’s harder to access because it has no words to communicate. It requires us to pause, to silence our thoughts, and to simply feel what is in the moment. That’s why practices like meditation can be so powerful—they help us integrate and understand in a way that’s impossible when our minds are racing.
A poem or a quotation that grabs us makes us pause. We catch our breath, stop the voice in our heads and simply experience the moment. Usually it lasts only a moment until the left brain kicks in and we’re thinking again. But for that moment, we experience something bigger. The more we give ourselves the opportunity to expand and open ourselves in that way, the more we access the intelligence of our whole brain.
A poem resonates because it speaks to a shared experience in some way. A poem I found several weeks ago has always resonated with me and I’m going to risk sharing it because I’m hoping it will speak to you as well. It is about risk—something my clients, individual and corporate, deal with on a daily basis. And so do I, which is why this poem always makes me pause.
To laugh is to risk appearing the fool
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental
To reach out to another is to risk involvement
To express feelings is to risk exposing your
To place your ideas, your dreams before the
crowd is to risk their loss
To love is to risk not being loved in return
To live is to risk dying
To hope is to risk despair
To try is to risk failure
But risks must be taken; because the greatest
Hazard in life is to risk nothing
The person who risks nothing, does nothing
Has nothing, and is nothing
He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but
He simply cannot learn, feel,
change, grow, live
Only a person who risks is free
So take a moment to find something that moves you to a place beyond words; that forces you to pause for a moment and just be. In our go-go, multi-tasking world, you’d be taking a risk!
*I found several versions of this poem on the internet and different people were identified as the author so the real author is still unknown to me.
Plum Cluverius, PCC is an executive coach with over 30 years experience in leadership development. She lives and works in Richmond, Virginia.