Strange how a spiritual journey is like a circular coil. In my youth I thought I had found detachment and could be “in this world but not of it.” I emotionally floated above the secular world, sending peace and love outward. I was never off-balance, never found fault, was always content accepting the duality of outer reality. My daily contact was just as much with inner masters as with outer acquaintances. People came up to me and commented that I seemed to have found the ultimate answer (which I told them I hadn’t), or insisted I was the most Christian person they’d ever known (despite my repeatedly telling them I was not a Christian). I had found a mystic’s peace and contentment that lasted for years.
I think of that early mystic period now as the time when my inner faith held me far above the lower world’s reality. I floated in it. I clung to it. I would have continued, unaware I was clinging to the peace and harmony, had not Kali decided to step in and strip me of past attitudes and platitudes. Suddenly I was thrown back into life's emotional ups and downs, the harsh reality of marital problems (and eventually divorce), and a personal struggle to rediscover peace and harmony at a deeper level.
My second mystic phase was a short burst of blissfulness. It came after an intense search, another period of reaching out to the higher truth of Beingness. After that, I felt there was no other desire in my heart than to live always seeing the divine in everything around me.
I would have clung to that peace and harmony. I know that now. I would have entered another long mystical period had not my inner teachers immediately ordered me to take what I had learned back down into the lowest levels of reality. Dutifully, I plunged back into life, into its social struggles, falling into passionate ups and downs, defending the helpless and abused.
I could not understand my next spiritual step. I went through periods of allowing myself to be pulled under by the rawest emotion and then searching to discover truths within those emotions. Certainly it stripped away illusions about my own mastery of rising above human nature. Yet, emotions themselves became dear to me, a part of the creator’s gift that I could not reject: they came as part of a whole, wondrous package.
I stand now ready to start all over: to try a new way of being “in this world, not of it.” Somehow I must do this not by riding upon positive attitudes far above concerns of the negative, nor by riding on waves of contentment, focused only on the realization of the divine’s infinite presence in all reality.
Now, for the first time in many, many years, instead of drifting without direction, I find myself facing a new spiritual goal: to empty myself in a different manner and learn to rest, to move as an empty and content vessel within this reality; to quietly listen, giving up the deepest inner resistance, letting each moment pass without the need to respond or defend my own being; to “be” in a much deeper level than I have known in the past.
All this must sound humorous to you, perhaps just the faltering step of an ignorant American. Though I have had answers to my deepest spiritual questions (for which I am eternally grateful), I think this step is just learning how I will take responsibility for that blessing. Perhaps it is just my need to spiral around until I reach the core. Perhaps the spiral continues forever and the core is really a black-hole that throws us out into another dimension, where we begin all over in another dimension. It is the journey that delights me.
How long this new process will take I cannot foresee. Perhaps the rest of my life. Perhaps future lifetimes. I cannot even be confident that I will not encounter stopping points again. I only rejoice that I am once more back on the spiritual path, no longer afraid of the unknown.
This year I seem to have finally settled into retirement. I am busy sorting through and reorganizing the house, at least my sections of the house. Each week, I fill trash and recycle bins, I accumulate bags for charities. As I now sort I can more objectively decide what will never be used in my current life. I was not successful with this level of cleansing before (despite multiple cullings, garage sales, and charity donations). I sold my house to remarry, and there was so little room to squeeze the possessions of my life and history into a new husband's established home. What was left of my history and my boys' history remained in basement storage. Hidden. Neglected. Slowly forgotten as a new lifestyle evolved.
Surprise. After 6 years in my new life, I can admit I will never use half the stuff of days gone by. It has been neglected because it no longer fits today's life. I am surprised by the joy in simplifying, in minimizing the unnecessary clutter.
In the same way I am now cleaning out my inner life. After three years in Tai Chi learning the movements, I am finally focusing on Tai Chi’s inner discipline, on noting energy flows and seeking inner balance within the motion.
I’m afraid my meditations have been irregular until this year. It’s not easy being married to an atheist with an active, semi-regimented lifestyle. We both keep up with yoga stretches and balancing poses, but I have been hesitant to carve out a special time for meditation, especially in a small, open-concept house.
Perhaps the timing was just not right for spiritual discipline (or so I'd tell myself)--- not with the adjustment to Randy’s lifestyle, building a new home environment in two places (Ann Arbor and the cabin), and trying to redefine my own life (which no longer revolved around children or a career). I could tell myself that, but guilt lurked in the back of my mind.
I was also running away, wasn't I? Craving a reprieve after the last spiritual step forward, afraid of what I might need to face before the next breakthrough. Historically, each test prior to an insight became more horrendous than the one before. Could I survive anything more intense than my last challenge? how does one ever know?
Here I am, though, meditating each morning after rising. Randy is getting acclimated to my routine. I am rediscovering the stillness and focus. Not surprisingly, I am a bit rusty. How blissful to think this may finally be the year of emptying out, of removing the deepest, age-old blocking points. I am taking it slowly and focusing on persistent, gentle baby steps forward, but I am no longer afraid of facing the spiritual realms. I take that as my indication that the timing is finally right.
It feels good to begin again.
Time is too slow for those who wait,
too swift for those who fear,
too long for those who grieve,
too short for those who rejoice,
for those who love,
time is eternity.
How quickly the time has flown and I still have not gotten back to creative writing. I've been wasting way too much time on Facebook, writing on politics and trying to reach for middle ground: a tone that appreciates the "individual freedom and responsibility" argument while also appreciating the "interconnectivity of human society and the need for compassion/support of the less fortunate" argument; a tone that brings heated debate back to underlying issues instead of mudslinging; a tone that reminds people that the opposition is not "the enemy hell-bent on destroying our country." We are all Americans and have been debating these issues (yes, heatedly) since our founding fathers sat down, bickered and spat out the compromise now revered as our Constitution.
I have not been a model mystic during this political season.There are moments when I have allowed myself to get riled up over the lack of compassion for the poor and sick, the roll-back of rights and freedoms for minorities, over the injustice and greed of a system set up to maintain a select group's power at the cost of the comon good. I recognize my old and established "step in and defend the underdog" attitude. I have always regretted it, always wondered if it matters in the long run. Yet I also wonder if one would live with more regrets for not stepping up, for not reminding people to reconsider what it means to be a human(e) being.
I chide myself that I am not spending my retirement finishing my book, that I have not updated the blog in a coon's age, that any serious expressive writing has been caged for so long (since I remarried, now that I think about it). Perhaps I need to rethink my designated working area to make it more conducive to creative writing. Perhaps. This new office space has never worked right for "the flow."
I feel the inner nudging, the whispering from deep within that it's time to tear apart my manuscript one last time and finish the damn project. I feel the Writer struggling to unfold and bloom again. I procrastinate, grab my camera, and set off once again to take pictures.
Has the Photographer become a handy excuse to override the Writer, to follow the course of least resistance because writing is more demanding? Or am I caught between competing passions and, for now, the Photographer has successfully fought for its own space to bloom.
Perhaps by summer's end, I will find my way beneath the writer's block and be able to look upward with a new vision.