Jun 23 2017

David Whyte – It is Not Enough

Published by at 8:37 am under Poetry

It is Not Enough
by David Whyte

It is not enough to know.
It is not enough to follow
the inward road conversing in secret.

It is not enough to see straight ahead,
to gaze at the unborn
thinking the silence belongs to you.

It is not enough to hear
even the tiniest edge of rain.

You must go to the place
where everything waits,
there, when you finally rest,
even one word will do,
one word or the palm of your hand
turning outward
in the gesture of gift.

And now we are truly afraid
to find the great silence
asking so little.

One word, one word only.

“It is Not Enough” from Where Many Rivers Meet by David Whyte.  Copyright © 1990, 2004 by David Whyte.  Used by permission of the author and Many Rivers Press (www.davidwhyte.com)  All rights reserved.


/ Image by babasteve /

As I know many of you have experienced in recent weeks, we too here in Colorado have had several hot days. Then last night, a burst of rain. This morning cool, damp, overcast. Even the starlings are stunned with relief and are quiet.

Reading today’s poem by David Whyte, it feels as if he is exploring a deep insight, but what he is actually saying is not entirely clear. Let’s try to puzzle it out together.

It is not enough to see straight ahead,
to gaze at the unborn
thinking the silence belongs to you.

I suspect he is saying something about not becoming too self-satisfied even with our most spiritually open states, that we shouldn’t become convinced that we possess those moments.

You must go to the place
where everything waits…

When I think of waiting, I imagine a patient stillness, but also uncertainty. And in that uncertainty our awareness remains open, receptive, alive. In possession and certainty, the awareness becomes fixed, taking in less and less of the flowing mystery.

there, when you finally rest,
even one word will do,
one word or the palm of your hand
turning outward
in the gesture of gift.

This, to me, is the heart of the poem.

But what is this “one word” the poet refers to? David Whyte’s writings aren’t particularly steeped in Christian terminology, so he is not likely to be making a reference to The Word as Christians understand it.

He draws an equivalency between that one word and the palm of an open hand in the gesture of a gift — a beautiful image. This one word suggests a lack of self and lack of clinging, and that becomes a gift or an offering.

And now we are truly afraid
to find the great silence
asking so little.

Now that we are resting, waiting, having passed through insight without clinging to it, free from self, bathing in the great silence, that’s when he brings up fear. But the fear is not of the silence, rather that so little is asked of us.

I take this to mean that we are so intent on action, on doing. Even in our spiritual opening, we expect some impulse or divine command to do something with it. But instead the reflex to act fades away. One profoundly and simply IS.

We don’t do, we open. Like a hand in a gesture of gift. Like the lips parting to utter one single word.

One word, one word only.

What do you think this poem is saying? Do you read this poem differently?


Recommended Books: David Whyte

The House of Belonging Where Many Rivers Meet


David Whyte, David Whyte poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry David Whyte

US (1955 – )
Secular or Eclectic

David Whyte grew up in Yorkshire, England. He studied Marine Zoology in Wales and trained as a naturalist in the Galapagos Islands. He has also worked as a naturalist guide, leading anthropological and natural history expeditions in various parts of the world, including treks among the mountains of Nepal.

Whyte’s poetry reflects a living spirituality and a deep connection to the natural world.

He is one of the few poets to take his perspectives on creativity into the field of organizational development, conducting workshops with many American and international companies.

David Whyte currently lives in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

More poetry by David Whyte

5 responses so far

5 Responses to “David Whyte – It is Not Enough”

  1. Harvey Gillmanon 23 Jun 2017 at 10:05 am

    Overwhelmed by the simple beauty of this poem. Reminds me of the words of the mass: Only say the word and I shall be healed. The wordless word. The life word. The word that is life. The word that is not a word. So precious it must not be spoken. Almost never. Almost.

  2. cynthia moranon 23 Jun 2017 at 12:23 pm

    I think the word is YES ….that we are invited to say YES to life, YES to loving unconditionally , YES to forgiving without reserve , YES to peacemaking ….or maybe it’s THANK YOU to all of the above?. Open palms and open hearts ; simply open to God/Love in all things . Our YES is the gift we offer humanity , and ultimately , to ourselves .

  3. Christineon 23 Jun 2017 at 10:07 pm

    I hear some of the same things that you do Ivan… This is how I broke it down

    It is not enough
    to know
    to follow
    to go inward
    to see the unborn – thinking it belongs to you (as it can’t be possessed)
    to experience

    You must go to the place where everything waits – (? The Great Silence)
    There, when you finally rest (from knowing, following, seeking, and experiencing – as you said – the doing)
    then one word will do, or turning the palm outward in the gesture of gift…
    (I also see this as a gesture of surrender, of waiting, humbled, the end of doing, etc. I too see this part as the heart of the poem…)

    Once there we are afraid of the Great Silence asking so little – that only asks one word
    (don’t know why this would make us afraid)…

    Like Cynthia said, I think the word is ‘Yes.’ Saying Yes to the Great Silence, the Great Mystery, etc.

    That’s my interpretation 🙂

  4. Annaon 24 Jun 2017 at 3:53 am

    I feel
    the word

    IS…

    LOVE…

    But it is not
    the Human sentiment.

    It is the
    Sound,
    Vibrations,
    Frequencies,
    that directly resonates
    with our inner essence…

    It is a key word for
    Opening and
    Communicating …
    …in Silence.

    Try and you will see
    It is true!

  5. Carolon 25 Jun 2017 at 4:29 am

    Thank You Ivan,

    This is a beautiful poem and beautiful responses thus far. As always I loved your
    commentary helping us to find insights, and especially ‘Now that we are resting,
    waiting, having passed through insight without clinging to it. . . and ‘instead
    the reflex to act fades away’. What a blessing. . . Carol

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