Monday 28 April 2014

Listen with Your Eyes

  It has to be said that by no stretch of the imagination can I be called a 'people person', depending on how far one is able to stretch one's imagination I suppose. In that particular area I struggle to develop the necessary stretchability to make my opening statement a fiction. It came as a complete surprise, therefore, to undergo my recent experiences in London and the 'enlightenment', if I might call it that, that was the aftermath of those experiences.
  Please bear with me if I recall my experiences in a way which pays no heed to the commonly experienced timeline, in which one event necessarily follows another in temporal sequence. The point here is that that is not how I remember my recent trip to the UK. And I must insist on being true to my thoughts and my feelings about that trip. 

  On the evening prior to my departure from the UK, I spent a few lovely hours with my eldest daughter and her family, with whom I ate and drank very well indeed. I also enjoyed some private, quality time with her which must remain private. But sometimes I do wonder what I have done to deserve this renewed relationship. But enough of that, please.

  On my final day, whilst waiting for my flight home to be called, I had lunch at one of those Japanese, self-service establishments in which a loaded and moving conveyor belt displays its wares for the communal delectation. This was new to me so I asked one of the girls employed there to give me a crash course on the form one was required to observe. With a quick giggle, she gave me the necessary information and reminded me to 'hang onto' the colour-coded dishes I had used, 
          "cos then we can charge you for what you've 'ad." 
That seemed to be eminently reasonable. At the end of my lunch, still watching the goodies passing me on their neverending journey - and wishing I had a little more room for further culinary indulgence - I looked around for someone to assess my consumption so that I could pay my bill. An open-faced young lad showed me a short cut to the till where our business was duly transacted.
"That was fun,"  I said.
  "Your first time?" he queried.
Gulping briefly at an unbidden thought about what that question might have meant in a totally different (and more appropriate) context, I said that it was. There was clearly a great deal of pleasure felt that one of his customers had enjoyed the experience of eating at 'his place'. Wishing him well for the rest of the weekend, I went on my way. 

  It had been two days earlier that, having been let out on my own to make my own travel arrangements and travel to the other end of London, (well people are concerned that one might get lost, or lose my ticket, or succumb to some other unfortunate happenstance, and it was a long time ago that I was born in this city), that finally I met up with Natalie d'Arbeloff, that lovely lady who appears in the blogging world as "Blaugustine". Rarely, for me, has time flown so quickly as we conversed about matters psycho-spiritual. It was such a deep pleasure to converse unselfconsciously and to be received so unjudgementally. As we sat and talked and listened, it came to me that I was experiencing that wonderful sense of listening with my eyes, and seeing with my ears. This is a difficult idea to describe, but is so simple when enjoying the sensation.
  Perhaps the real effect of that day's interaction with friend Natalie showed itself on the journey back to where I was staying, by underground and overland trains. As I said above, I am not a people person, but when I observed the people around me, the world seemed to take on a kind of glow. People are what they are, and I was not seeing them through rose-tinted spectacles, yet there was a joy, a sense of one-ness, a disappearing of inappropriate barriers, a coming togetherness that nevertheless precluded unnecessary contact.

  That evening, I mulled over the wonders the day had offered, and I considered the possibility that I might not reach the end of my presumed spiritual journey in this life, because I do not know what is the manner of that ending. More and more, I have become aware only of the next step, or few steps, that I am asked to take - in faith - and leave the rest to whatever guides my feet. At its deepest and most aware-ful level, this is a fearful experience, for to live totally in the present in this way, is to cut oneself off from the past and all that experience and support as well as from the hopes and expectations of the future. The Path no longer seems to be straight, but is gently curved as if I am being lovingly nudged away from my own ideas about where I should go, towards the way I was always destined to travel, if I chose to listen and hear. Some words came to me:-

"............Men's curiosity searches past and future
And clings to that dimension.  But to apprehend
The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation for the saint -
No occupation either, but something given
And taken, in a lifetime's death in love,
Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender.
For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
Whilst the music lasts........"

My posthumous thanks to T.S.Eliot who wrote those words, (from the third of his Four Quartets) and my living thanks to my dearest of all friends, Lucy, for introducing me to T.S.Eliot's writing.  

Thursday 17 April 2014

It Must Inevitably Be So

It was a long time ago, but insofar as time will allow, I remember the experience well. Yet it seems to be a part of a different life, and one which involved a different person. And in a real sense that is true, because my awareness of the 'me' living in time comes through a series of mind images that are only approximations, if that, of a timeless, inner reality. That long-ago experience, at a time when I came to realise how badly messed up I was, that I had allowed myself to become as a result of living with another's alcoholism, was like waking from a nightmarish, dense fog into a genuine spiritual awakening. I would not have described it as such at the time because I was too caught up in the events of the moment and, in any case, I did not have the experience to understand what was happening. That was to come later. Beyond that I need say no more about that time. I wish now to skip through time to the present moment.
I love the life I lead with its unhurried, thoughtful way of leading me towards I-know-not-what. But the daily excitement, those odd little lurches in the pit of my stomach that seem to indicate something wonderful is working its way through at a level that seems to be far beyond my consciousness, yet at the same time seemingly in the next mind-like room, cannot obscure an insistent longing as once again I find myself figuratively walking through an inner mist. But before my meaning should be misconstrued, let me say immediately that this is no nightmare I am experiencing, but the experience is certainly dreamlike.
The spiritual awakening to which I referred earlier was all part of the process which has been described as the "Dark Night of the Senses." As St. John of the Cross said, it may take many years before one is ready to experience the "Dark Night of the Spirit." In my eagerness, or more correctly impatience, to get on with the job and get everything fixed and sorted, I spent a long time watching for the signs that would indicate the onset of that final stage of spiritual embattlement. Such foolishness. Time passed, and as it did so that eagerness waned, and I proceeded to deal with life, including my inner life, as it came on a day-to-day basis. I continued to listen, at least as best as I was able, to those inner promptings that indicated the way I needed to travel. I read as widely as I was able because this journey, in all its manifestations, fascinates me beyond measure. When one loves, one wishes to know all about that which one loves. It's as simple as that.
         Earlier this year I began to experience the new psycho-spiritual heights that I reported as faithfully as I was able. It seemed as if I were being lifted to ever new heights, only to be left like the Fool*, teetering on the edge of a cliff. I could imagine neither any higher point to which I could be transported, nor any depth to which I could be cast. Thus it was that I found myself to be uncertainly prepared for the beginnings of this "Dark Night of the Spirit." 
Rather than the black fog that was part of my earlier experience, this current part of my journey is more like living in a white mist. Another major difference between the two 'nights' is that unlike the earlier night, there is no pain here, but there is an intense longing. Back then I was assailed by guilt and an awareness of great inner, insane damage, but here there is the sense of a great, guiding love. Just at the moment when I least expected it, just at the moment when I had forgotten about my earlier hopes and spiritual aspirations, it began to happen. In a sense I feel totally unprepared for what I am going through, and I see that that is how it must inevitably be. The very last place to which my inner journey must be entrusted is my own hands, because I never did know what was in my best spiritual interests. I could never know that. If I had been prepared, I would have tried to control the process, and in the end ruin it. How could I have known just how difficult this stage in my life would be? Could I have maintained my commitment if I had had prior warning of what it was going to be like? I don't know. But there is a spiritual power in my life that appears to deem it appropriate that I should pass this way at last. 
It may be a long time before I can write with any degree of assurance about what this stage of the journey entails. I just wanted to write about where I am now, that I appear to be ready for this encounter with the Divine, that everything is going to be just fine.

* A reference to the blind Tarot figure.

Saturday 5 April 2014

A Case of Mistaken Reason

Let me begin with two facts. The first is that recently a wooden piece of furniture which I had bought and assembled suffered some minor, but easily reparable, damage. The second fact is that I greeted the discovery of the damage with a mixture of annoyance and concern. Now those two facts do not at first glance seem to be very promising material for a script. Yet when I began to think about my instinctive reaction to the situation, the more I realised there was something there that would stand investigation.

Now annoyance is just a milder form of anger, but anger it is nonetheless. Concern is, in like manner, a milder form of worry, and both emotions are instinctive, negative reactions which originate in the unconscious mind. As I probed more deeply I began to realise that the origins of these emotions was fear, which at first seemed to be a rather preposterous idea. Yet fear is a natural condition of life. It is an instinct we have inherited from our forbears, and further back from other members of the animal kingdom. At earlier periods in our far distant past we were beset by all sorts of dangers against which we had to be constantly on our guard. Danger to life and limb was ever-present, and the consequences of putting oneself in a situation where one was vulnerable and powerless could be dire indeed.

In modern times, at least for most of us perhaps, physical danger is much less in evidence. Yet the instincts remain. Coupled with the fear comes the emotions that will spur us to action if that task becomes necessary; hence the feeling of anger. Now anger usually rises quickly, but then subsides, whilst, on the other hand, worry exists at a relatively low level but is more persistent. Such would be the natural reaction to the fear of attack on one's person by someone close by. Even in modern society, a killer or abuser is first sought among the family of a victim before extending the search to those further afield. 

In the recent situation concerning the article of furniture, it would appear that my sense of "I-ness" had momentarily identified with the furniture, and inwardly recorded the incident as an attack on my self. An old instinct had been inappropriately turned inwards and directed against my ego, and that had in turn triggered an equally inappropriate reaction.

"But so what?" one might ask. "The situation was trivial, and the damage fixed. Get on with life!" Yet if I am truly seeking after truth, to be followed perhaps by wisdom and understanding, I cannot ignore this incident. The truth is that for those few moments I was clearly living in a long-distant past, in a state of illusion. And I have to ask myself how much this activity goes on. The answer is that it goes on all the time. In a world where the past is an illusion, and the present doesn't really exist, except as a meaningless concept, what meaning can I possible attribute to anything I think or have ever thought, feel or have ever felt, or sense or have ever experienced? These three attributes of the ego are, in the end, intrinsically meaningless.

Recently I have wondered about the possibility that I am passing through a "dark night". Now I do think that in some way I am travelling a journey that is going deeper than I have been before. The high excitement of a relatively noisy spiritual life may be giving way to a gentler, more profound experience.