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Sample Poem and Exercise

The Journey
by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice-
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do-
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Copied for therapeutic/educational use only.

Read the poem, “The Journey” by Mary Oliver a few times and let your mind be open to what comes up for you from your own life experience.  

After reading the poem, think back to any time in your life where you had a similar experience of knowing, “what you had to do”; when you allowed yourself to take a step, even though there were other voices shouting bad advice, and there were things blocking your road, and it was late enough, but you heard your voice and strove forward anyways.  

In your journal, describe this experience to me. This is a time when you listened to your own voice and marched through the darkness into the light.  It could be as simple as a change in a job, entering or leaving a relationship, or just one of those ideas that pushed you to a new beginning, and new clarity.  These are the stories of our voice.

Consider these details:

Where were you?

How old were you?

Who else was around you at that time?

Were there people giving you other advice?

What were the roadblocks in your way?

How did it feel to honor your voice and take that step?

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