Poems of Transformation: Love After Love, by Derek Walcott

Sacred Union Alex GreyLove After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

– Derek Walcott


Derek Walcott, Nobel Prize winner for literature in 1992, usually writes long poems. But this poem, “Love After Love,” is different. It speaks of feasting and celebration. And of the joy of two selves, long parted, reuniting. Evoking in the reader his or her own particular experiences of separation and belonging.

There is something profoundly affirming and validating that may be recognised in its lines; we may puzzle who is this person whom we are to greet again? This stranger from whom we have been parted for so long?

As individuals born into the modern world, we aspire to create the life we want for ourselves. We strive to “make something of ourselves” in the world. Yet ancient psychological traditions would say that the pattern of who we truly are lies dormant within us from the beginning, ready to unfold, just as the oak tree is already there in the acorn. Suggesting that one’s task in life is to discern the pattern, listen for it, and make room for it to emerge, instead of trying to “make ourselves happen.”

It may take some time, perhaps most of a lifetime, before we realise that a quiet, strange voice is whispering beneath our outward efforting and labours. Speaking from a different current, which may want to go one way even while we push to go another.

Until that time, the conscious self assumes the role of sole champion of our destiny and purpose. However as we soften with experience, the conscious self comes to embrace that other one whom you also are.

Walcott’s poem touches a deep current of human experience, of exile and homecoming. It is as if you have known all your life that home is as near to you as your jugular vein, yet still distant somehow. Coming home, then, is a joyous communion with your self, a celebration and festival of your life. The time for which, the poet says, is now.


Artwork by Alex Grey


Mindfulness: Entering a Deeper You

Mindfulness is a secret that was well understood in the ancient world and has been kept alive by certain cultures until the present day. It is so effective that it’s now one of the preferred treatments recommended by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

Monk SweepingThe practice of mindfulness is a process that leads you to a profound understanding that thoughts and feelings (including negative ones) are transient. Like clouds in the sky, they come and they go. And ultimately, you have a choice about whether to act on them or not.

Mindfulness practice helps cultivate a deep and compassionate awareness that allows you to assess your goals and make the best choices towards realising your deepest values. It is the beginning of a process that puts you back in control of your life.

Mindfulness-based Psychotherapy

Living mindfully has been shown to exert a powerful influence on one’s health, wellbeing and happiness. The cultivation of a mindful life is akin to learning a musical instrument, or training a system of muscles through regular and patterned exercise. The skills and benefits gradually accumulate, deepen and unfold.

It is important to have good guidance. Mindfulness-based psychotherapy provides a coherent structure within which you can observe your own mind, body and life unfolding. It offers a systematic, safe and trustworthy approach for working with, and through, whatever arises.

Through its simple yet radical practices of self-awareness and self-inquiry, you begin to see what happens when you pay attention and act with kindness and compassion towards yourself and others, even if it feels a bit artificial at first.

Emotional Freedom

An important aspect of mindfulness-based psychotherapy is learning how to simply be with one’s emotions. While we inevitably feel a little sad, anxious, or irritable from time to time, it’s not the mood that does the damage but how we react to it. . .

For instance you may have noticed that the effort of trying to free yourself from a bad mood can often make things worse? It’s as if struggling against difficult feelings pulls you deeper into an emotional quicksand.

The reason this happens is because our state of mind is intimately connected with memory. It’s constantly trawling the depths in search of memories that echo our current emotional state. These memory echoes are incredibly powerful, and once they gather momentum, they are almost impossible to shake free.

In mindfulness-based psychotherapy you learn to recognise memories as they arise and to safely and freely experience your emotions, without getting overwhelmed by the influences of the past.

Suffering is Optional!

A further benefit of mindfulness practice is the eradication of unnecessary suffering from our lives, much of which arises out of our habitual ways of thinking and acting.

Mindfulness-based psychotherapy encourages you to see and break unconscious habits of thought and behaviour that prevent you from living life to the full. You begin to see that while pain is a part of life, suffering is optional!

Sometimes the habits that cause us the most suffering are the ones we’re most unaware of. It’s as if we’ve trained ourselves to look the other way while we suffer! A trained therapist acts as a kind of mirror in which we can become aware of our blind spots. As we begin to see how we habitually block and judge ourselves, alternative paths and choices emerge.

In time, new pathways are carved out in our neural circuitry and old patterns are permanently released. It’s worth remembering that it may take time for mindfulness practices to reveal their full potential, but they lead to deep-down and lasting change, which really can make your life more joyous and fulfilled.


Photo by Andy Cheek of Stevenage, Herts.