I have invested much of my life in “becoming something” that I believed served in alleviated me from perceived threats to my survival. At the same time that “belief” influenced my perceptions that inevitably involved the referencing of myself, others and the world in an external, technical and limited way. In my cultural assimilation that began at birth, I came to assume that there was a knowing that was external to me and not of my own revelation and direct experience. How was I to know differently?
I now realize that in that assimilation I have been somewhat blind to deeper revelations of self. As I question in contemplation that has been born in silence, my “self” , I can’t help but wonder how many of us humans can claim to be truly the “representatives” of ourselves? How many of us can come to see as I am seeing in an ongoing way, and as I am striving to live to do, that we have become nothing but the servents of collective standards, official dogmas and ready-made opinions and that ultimately there is emptiness in that? How many of us allow ourselves to attend to the message that is discovered in aloneness; and to discover from this, that the authentic whole is only born here from solitude?
As Henry Corbin suggests, this is not a kind of theology that is learned in books nor in critical examinations of historical texts, but in the dark night and suffering of the soul. That suffering is unique to our individual experience and the ideal example of an individual religion.”
Inevitably as I move closer to death I am seeing the relevance of dropping the stories and the suffering that comes with them and seeing the benefit in beginning to discover deeper truth while I am still living. The challenge being how to draw on a capacity to discover what is truth and what is not and to return to contemplation of what is discovered, in attentiveness to the darkness, and what lay underneath, unbound by story; a depersonalised treasure of being.
I have been spending a lot of time here In Canada, being with and emailing a very dear 80 year old friend who is increasingly finding herself lost in dementia and forgetfulness. Her husband lovingly cares for her but she is increasingly succumbing to her declining cognitive ability, fear and loss of independence. All seems to be part of a pattern that she has lived. She creates elaborate fantasy’s of being victimized, defending them, disregarding any attempt at correction and she still possesses a fierce striving and desire for independence that she has always had. It seems that this way of seeing herself in the world is something deeply imbedded, beyond conventional reality and it seems to have a major influence on her perceptions.
I listen attentively to her stories and her fear and in that attentiveness , she can seem to quickly turn to find herself in the most loving compassionate space, radiating a wonderful poetic flowing energy. The reality of her is not exhausted by this outer face of fear, that is trigerred when I challenge her perceptions, Although this is all more than what can be understood through my reliance on reductionist ways it is clear to me that we are a part of an existence in which she and I are all members of a universe of ceaseless creativity in which life, agency, meaning, value, consciousness, and the full richness of human action emerge. I sense that this part of her is shining through the other more resistant conditioned part. In a way, she is dancing with this all. Maybe there is fear in letting go of that familiar, surface however much it perpetuates pain within her.
I love to be with her. It is a vulnerable yet very intimate and pure, compassionate and loving relating at times. It touches something more real within me. Maybe we are all dancing in the same way that My friend seems to be.
I often prefer being alone. I love intimate moments with others but I find being with people difficult. Those intimate moments are not always possible. Being myself with some people does not always work out well. Not everyone can tolerate my way. Communication just does not work with everyone and I am learning to take responsibility for that. I feel in my heart that my growing comfort with my own vulnerability; my awareness of my own insecurity and human limitations can be difficult for some.
Often and more than ever I need space to be with myself and to turn to silence and nature where in my awareness I seem to expand. In this place I come to know myself and to settle into and embrace my vulnerability and In that awareness to take the next step in life, not always with intellectual intent. More than often it is in spontaneous action.
When being with another involves intimate sharing it is amazingly invigorating and freeing although there is most often always work involved at some point along the way. With intimates it can be a free flowing and natural rapport but those kinds of relationships take time. I often encounter and come to see the places that I am blocked in that intimate unfolding.
I do not expect that new relationships will develop into deeper friendships and at times it is quite disappointing that things do not work out. I sometimes assume that it is the fault of others or that I am unlikeable but in the end I come to realize the challenge of relating to others. It involves a lot of work just to find a place of honesty with self and to be able to recognize and accept my fear and to see how it interferes with relating even with myself. Trust does not come easy for me; self doubt does. That’s where most of my judgement, prejudice and distorted perceptions originate from. Relationship can intensify that.
When relating to another is grounded in a faith and openness, it avoids becoming static and destructive. I expand emotionally in a vibrating reciprocal exchange. Something more sympathetic arises from this, as if something more real is freed from a habitual mode of being where I so easily become trapped and entangled in literalism and dogma. There is in that opening an ebb and flow towards the embrace of the mystery and change of life that I have been drawn to but have never allowed myself to reside in. In that shift away from a tendency to identify with something fixed of self something more authentic, attentive, forgiving, loving and compassionate is born..
Etsy Hilessum wrote in her book ” An Interrupted Life” that “the greatest cause of suffering in so many of our people is their utter lack of inner preparation “. In my own preparation, contemplation plays a big part. It helps me to face myself and my own intellect and as well to examine the world. There is no guarantee that I will see what I need to see in order to open to deeper truth. If I do remain blind to truth, as I age and my ability to survive decreases, “how I will die” will inevitably show me who I am.
Inward contemplation has enabled me to realize that I encounter difficulty in relationship with others in my reliance on conventional and habitual ways and the denial and ignorance that they promote. In a reliance on these ways, one never moves past the superficial veneer of self and the complacency that arises in this. They filter our experience in a way that we no longer experience life directly, from a place of passion and sensuality. Assumptions dominate in this insulated way of being becomes and distort my reality. In the blindness I project fault and insecurity onto the world and other.
In awareness I realize the separation and disconnection from what is more authentic and the self conscious sensitivity and fragmented perception that emerges from that disconnection.
In meditation I realize that the imagination is essential to my experience as a human. In my habitual, conditioned way I am frozen and not in a place of flowing. In preparing myself I am free in feeling and action, even amidst great pain and hurt. I learn to live with a hurting heart rather than a closed one, learning that with spontaneous skill and love we can stay present to the wound of pain and that there is a flow through the suffering .
These days I live quite an unconventional life. On many a day tears fall for the most ineffable of reasons, but its not sadness that brings that on, but more something emerging from within. Its something new, original, and profound, where language fails and the mind is humbled and neutralized by the lack of a concept available to explain it. There is something more real of me that arises as treasures, which can come in the form of spiritual revelations of breathtaking beauty and grandeur in awareness. They are revealed along with the tearful realization that I have been lost and I am only now finding my way home.
I also experience hardship and difficulty as most anyone does, although, I now know to enter into those moments that I once avoided. There is wonder in things that I once saw to be banal, painful and empty and now see them to disclose something forgotten. Its more of a newer understanding or dawning; that reality can be seen for what it truly is: metaphor for the truly Real. All is to be embraced even those experiences we once perceived as being undesirable.
It is the the measure to which it furnishes the means of going beyond all conformisms, all servitudes to the letter, all opinions ready-made.…a procedure that engages a more entire me. Perhaps it is “soul” because it brings into play the most secret sources of energy.