Take a Step

Start Close In


Start close in,

don’t take the second step

or the third,

start with the first


close in,

the step

you don’t want to take.


Start with

the ground

you know,

the pale ground

beneath your feet,

your own

way to begin

the conversation.


Start with your own


give up on other

people’s questions,

don’t let them

smother something



To hear

another’s voice,


your own voice,

wait until

that voice


becomes a 

private ear

that can

really listen

to another.


Start right now

take a small step

you can call your own

don’t follow

someone else’s 

heroics, be humble

and focused,

start close in,

don’t mistake

that other

for your own.


Start close in,

don’t take

the  second step

or the third,

start with the first


close in,

the step

you don’t want to take.


-David Whyte




I enjoy walking labyrinths. Just when I think I’ve found a clear path to the centre, I’m led outwards again, back to the rim. Making my way round those twists and turns helps me to let go, to allow the path to take me where it’s going and to settle into the beauty of each moment. It’s a powerful reminder that inasmuch as I make choices, life will often meander in ways I cannot predict. And that has often kept me from taking the first step.

I remember being given a copy of David Whyte’s poem years ago. It struck a chord with me, even then, but lately it’s become a kind of mantra. I’m good at taking a lot of steps, especially the familiar ones. I like taking the well-worn tracks, from one activity to another, from one train of thought to the next. It’s easy. It’s safe. It’s the taking of steps into new territory that scares me. I think of where I plan to go, how far away it is, all the challenges along the way, how unprepared I feel (how unprepared I am). And I wind up not taking that first step at all. Start close in… I don’t want to do that. If I do then I’ll have to take more steps. And close in is where all my fears and insecurities and confusions lie. Just beneath the surface.

Whyte talks about not letting other people’s questions smother something simple. My questions are often simple. Taking the next tiny step is simple, not easy, but simple. This last year or so I have been taking those little steps, sending mails and making calls, writing. I can’t say the steps have become easier to take, but the way ahead does seem clearer. And I feel a sense of integrity growing inside myself. I am beginning to take myself more seriously. I am beginning to believe that I may get to the centre of some of my goals.

It feels good, this taking of one small step after another. Start with the first thing close in, the step you don’t want to take.


One thought on “Take a Step

  1. There was a time when I knew this poem by heart because I loved it so much. It is one I often give to my coaching clients – so much wisdom in those simple words – start close in – can be said over and over like a mantra and then the end the one I don’t want to take – that is always the clue for me of where I really need to go, where the edge of discomfort lies and yet time and again the pearls lie waiting beyond the edge.

    Thanks for the reminder of this beautiful and yet practical poem that offers an injunction for living.



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