Walt Whitman’s poem “O Me! O Life!” throws out numerous challenges to its readers, particularly people in business who have endured thousands of hours traveling to and from work in cars, buses, trains and planes. And those who have spent even more hours than that working in offices surrounded by unwise and unskillful people.
The challenge Whitman poses is how well do we really know ourselves? With as much humility as possible are we open to new discoveries about ourselves? After all this time and toil, who have we become? But also — more hopefully — what are we still capable of becoming? How can we fulfil our potential?
Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
Paraphrasing the meditation teacher Jack Kornfield: The challenge of our lives is continuously turning our internal compass toward true north; turning toward compassion.
Listen to your heart. Listen out for your own particular gifts and capacities, Kornfield advises. Listen to the cycles of your life for what it is time to do now with what you have been given. Bring your heart and your whole being into the present and respond to what is in front of you.