A voice in the darkness

I have been thinking for some time “I must write my blog, I must write my blog, I WANT to write my blog!”  And so, last Thursday, at long, long last, I sat down to do just that.

And you know what?  NOT.  A. THING.  N O T H I N G.

I started writing a few different pieces, dragging the words out of myself and then deleting them all.  My mind was blank.  I literally had nothing to say.  I am not the greatest of thinkers or orators at the best of times – this I know – and yet, and YET..!  The emptiness and loneliness I felt in that moment was really painful.

Since we returned from Canada at the start of December last year, my mind has been in varying states of turmoil.  In many ways, I’d say (and have done, numerous times) that almost every aspect of our lives is in question.  Where are we going to live?  How are we going to earn money?  How are we going to continue educating our children?  How do we fit into the world?  Where is our place?

Lately, I’ve been experiencing a fine line between non-attachment, in the Buddhist sense – essentially practicing release from desire and therefore suffering – and disconnection.  Because that is what I have been feeling since our return – disconnected.  From everything, and (almost) everyone, myself included.  What I have come to realise is this: people like to have answers for things!  Where ARE you going to live?  How ARE you going to earn money? Etc..  And when I can’t answer these questions, not only can it make the person I’m talking to feel really uncomfortable (does it make them call into question their own life choices?), it can also throw me into a state of uncertainty and anxiety.  I can go from experiencing the openness in our lives as liberating, full of potential, exciting even, to being full of worries and concerns about all those limitless unknowns.  And so I feel myself detaching and going into myself more.  As if I were curling in and around my invisible core, to keep it protected somehow.

At times like these, I know I need to remember my Medicine Card for this year – Black Panther – and the words of wisdom that accompany its medicine of “Embracing the Unknown”.  And I take to heart, too, these words by Rilke, shared by Pip Bondy at a Way of Council workshop I attended this past weekend:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue.  Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is, to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps you will find them gradually, without noticing it, and live along some distant day into the answer.

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

These words came to me like a soothing balm, at a time when I was feeling particularly small, particularly vulnerable and particularly voiceless.  I was surprising even myself with the level of aloneness that I could experience, surrounded as I was by strong, safe, solid, open, loving and generous hearts.

These words allowed me, too, to open my own aching heart.  To pour forth what I have been keeping from view for so long.  To ride the waves of shame and fear that threatened to swallow me up, to raise my head and speak directly from my heart into the hearts of others there, waiting patiently and with compassion to witness me and my story.

This is profound work.  And it is painful.  And, I know I will go back time and again into these sacred circles to open myself up – not only because I know of the deep healing that resides in this space, but also because I know this is where I remember how to connect. With myself, yes of course; also, crucially, with others, and with Spirit too.  Way of Council is often described as a place where people find ‘home’.  I know what that means, without really being able to explain it.  It is like a resting place, where soul can settle, and spirit can breathe out.  A place to come back to in those moments of darkness that always return,  knocking us off our feet and taking away our breath.

In our circle, I heard myself speak and I witnessed myself being heard.  And I was welcome.  It brought home to me that when we really, truly, deeply, honestly, openly speak from our hearts, and we really, truly, deeply, honestly, openly hear from our hearts, profound things happen.  We are all capable of this.  All we need to do is listen.  Our voice is always there, and we always have something to say.

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On the edge…

Boots_sea

I have been thinking a lot about edges over the past few months.

From a permaculture perspective, special things happen at edges.  Permaculture Principle number 11 states: ‘Use edges and value the marginal’:

The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place.  These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
David Holmgren
 

Edges can often seem blurred, unclear, impenetrable.  They can be places of mystery, places where we put things and forget about them.  And so, they can also become places that we fear.

Light_sea

What I’ve realised is that I put myself on the edges of things a lot.  A LOT.   Whether it’s finding a task to take me away from the intensity of a group gathering, seeking ‘my place’ on the mountain at the furthest extreme, always choosing to lay my mat at the side and back of a yoga class, or heading for the public toilet cubicle at the end of the row, I recognise I often feel more comfortable when I’m on the edge, or outer side, of things.

So why do I do this?  I could say it’s because I like space around me, to move, stretch, lean into.  I could say it’s because I like to watch over things – like an eagle sitting still in a tree, I can take the wider view, take it all in, oversee everything (not public toilets, honestly).  I could say it’s because, unlike conventional readings of my zodiac sign, Leo, profess, I like to stand back and let others take centre stage.  I could even say that it’s because I know that the most interesting things happen at the edges.  All of these things are even true.

And, I could say it’s because of fear.  Fear of taking up ‘too much space’.  Fear of being seen.  Fear of being heard.  Fear of ‘showing up’.   Fear of being ‘found out’ for who I really am.  Fear of not knowing what to say.  Fear of not ‘fitting in’.  Fear of not being ‘enough’.

And all of these things, too, are true.

Indian_Brook

Edges are always there.  They are easy to see, and they are easy to ignore, because often we are standing over here and looking to over there, and we forget to notice all the change that has to happen in order for here and this to actually become there and that. We are often so intent on looking at the horizon, at the next thing, that we can miss all the wild and wonderful things between now and then.

Beaver_lodge

Each and every one of us has edges too.  Places we can either take ourselves to, or places where other people or events can nudge us into.  They are the places we deny in ourselves, the places we fear, the places we don’t want to talk about, places that, at times, feel so difficult to move past.  They are the places that ask too much of us, places that make us want to shrink back into our older, more comfortable, more familiar, safer selves.

And, this safety net can serve as a natural protection at times too.  Sometimes we are not quite ready to go to the next place.  Sometimes we need to sit awhile, absorbing all that is here, all that is familiar, all that is us, just as we know it, before we move through the edge and into the other.  We need to honour those edges – they are not to be taken lightly!  Yes, there are deep pots of gold there, buried in all the undergrowth, but sometimes we must dig gently, respectfully, cautious of what else resides there, seen and unseen.

In The Wisdom of No Escape: And the Path of Loving Kindness, Pema Chodron writes that “Life is a whole journey of meeting your edge again and again” and I know that she is right.  Where I’ve come to myself, with all this musing, is that I need to really recognise and respect edges, both in the natural world, and within myself, for what they are.  The whens, wheres, whys, and hows of them all.   I need to make sure I’m using these edges wisely, that I am neither overlooking them nor spending too much time in them.  What I realise is that they can be tempting places, these dark and mysterious edges, when I start to investigate them in detail, and I can easily lose myself in them.

Sandals_fire