I am going to try and put words around the ineffable, trusting that my years of writing will not fail me in this attempt.
Recently, my spiritual journey took a sudden right turn—rather like those amusement park rides where you are zooming along in a straight line (called “The Mouse,” I believe), and without warning, the car whips off at a right angle. You are left, heart and stomach, still going straight, but your body knows better—you are on a different track now.
And so—after many years spent happily in the “Christian Day Camp,” as I told my friend Paula D’Arcy (leader of spiritual retreats and author of many luminous books)—I have stepped into something different, something I am still getting used to.
I’m guessing that this began some time ago, and that I will never entirely know when “it” began. I can point my finger to some markers; the intense, ongoing suffering I experienced over the chronic illness of my daughter, which cracked my heart open, and a recent operation for complete hip replacement.
Something about having part of my body broken open, ground out and refitted, with all the dust of my ground bone on the table and my blood as well, changed me. Something about being in the hands of another and dependent upon them—a woman who always tried to be in control, coming up with solutions and managing things oh so well—changed me. Something about lying in bed unable to do much except look out the window at the clouds going by, listening to bird calls.
One afternoon, soon after returning home, the knowing came to me; “It doesn’t particularly matter if you are suffering or are joyful. They are not essentially different. They are just notes in the same song.”
Then came; “The problem with churches is that they try and tell us what is sacred and what is not, when everything is sacred—everything.”
And again on another day, as I thought about my past history as a published writer and regretted that I had never had a “break-out book”; “That does not matter. That is not who you are.”
So who is this “me” within that is not the writer, not the Christian, not the whatever she used to be? Eckart Tolle would call it the larger self, the self who is connected to all of creation and all people. Even ants. Even slugs.
This is the self which gave a radical “yes” to my life, accepting the suffering, not pushing it away, and not trying to control it. Just—sitting with it.
What I know is this, and I am a beginner here; where I used to see the world one way, I now see it very differently. On a recent evening at dusk, I went out to look at the hills. A rustling sound came from them, and I wondered; “Is it raining? What’s happening?” trying to name the sound. Then I let go, and the life within me flowed out to meet the life “out there,” merging without boundaries.
When we stop naming, stop categorizing, and stop judging, a huge space opens up inside. Life rushes in in all of its unutterable beauty. We are held by it, contained by it, and awash in it.
I used to say “amen,” but I think now I will say, “let it be.”