A Walk

by Rainer Maria Rilke

English version by Robert Bly
Original Language German

My eyes already touch the sunny hill,
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has its inner light, even from a distance--

and changes us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on,
answering our own wave...
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.

-- from Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke, Translated by Robert Bly

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/ Image by Sergiba /


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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

My eyes already touch the sunny hill,
going far ahead of the road I have begun.


This is a fascinating truth that we tend to forget in the hard materiality of the modern world-view: We do not only touch the things with which we come into physical contact. We are often just as profoundly affected by what we see, even when it is out of our reach or not yet within our reach in the physical sense. Sight is a form of touch. It is contact. We touch, and are touched by, what we see.

Rilke's insight invites us to expand our understanding further still. If what we see with our eyes is a vital sort of contact, then, naturally, what we see, but not with our eyes is just as vital. What we imagine, what we daydream, what we plan, what comes to us in dreams and meditative vision, these touch us too. They affect us. We react to them. They nurture us, feed us, or they may unsettle us and break our hearts.

So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has its inner light, even from a distance--


Real touch is not about fingertips on skin or hard metal or stacks of money. Real touch is heart to heart, mind to mind. Real touch is a process within the awareness, not about dense matter encountering more dense matter.

What we seek is never what we seek, but the affect it has on us. With everything we seek, what we actually seek is self-transformation. And, of course, that transformed self is already within us, just awaiting our own permission to be that. That is why Rilke says--

and changes us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are...


Whether we yearn for a beloved person or place or circumstance, that encounter always awaits us within.

a gesture waves us on,
answering our own wave...
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.


We can read his final lines as suggesting something about the ephemeral nature of reality, or it can be the dawning recognition that we are continuously receiving communication, encouragement, contact, we have just been missing it because of our fixed ideas about what we seek and what is real.

Sending love to you in this new year...



Recommended Books: Rainer Maria Rilke

The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke The Soul is Here for its Own Joy: Sacred Poems from Many Cultures Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God In Praise of Mortality: Rilke's Duino Elegies & Sonnets to Orpheus
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A Walk