Exiting The North

English: Photograph of a Vajrayogini painting ...

English: Photograph of a Vajrayogini painting from Thangka. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The last few months have been strange.  A submersion in single-minded commitment. Trying hard to get the thesis finished, and when I haven’t succeeded in hitting the targets, putting everything else off till I do.

This approach, weirdly, sapped the energy right out of my work.  I see how much that is a part of my agreements.  To be alone.  To isolate myself.
I held on.
Doing the practices of the North, and dawn meditations, where I struggled to stay awake, I was aware of this deep anxiety.  The pain of how I separate myself from all things.  The way the work of the thesis, unreleased, hung around and fed the anxiety.  How as soon as I did the work, that anxiety would lift.  The sense of connection returned.
It has been a test to stay with it, and leave it, all at once.  Let this part of the project go.  And accept its incompleteness.  Because beyond assembling, some light editing and binding the thing, there isn’t a great deal more I can do content wise.  Got to trust what’s there.
I finally handed the thesis in a month and a half ago, but it is still not quite done.  There are the examiner’s comments, due after Easter.  Further revisions likely.  Meanwhile, life goes on.  In the North you face the biggest tests to your staying power…  I get it.  Finishing this work is my hot spot. Staying with the wisdom of the process as I begin to face East in the Wheel.
We went back to South Africa over the festive season.  To see family, and for my partner to do some work.  We have taken the risk that he leave his job to work the hail season over there, so that with the cash he makes, he can buy a vehicle over here in London and we can have more control over his working hours in order to share child care responsibilities more equitably.  While in South Africa, I kept writing on the thesis daily, energised by proximity to the place that my work is all about.  The tension between separation and unity.  This is all tied in with what I do next.  How I manifest my intention in the real world. On the last day there a friend came over to tell me about a project she is working on, to set up a school that emphasises the natural world and play as central to children’s education, and also bridges the gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged in South Africa by offering subsidised places to low income families.  It’s about building an amazing, innovative space to educate children that is accessible to those who are normally excluded.  It is pretty risky and untested.  My friend wants me to get involved, and work on the project.  There is funding.  It’s a paid role.  This would be in about 6 months time.
I sit with the possibility of what can come next.  The risks and the rewards.  What do I do with what I’ve learnt?  How do I manifest right action?
Before we went to South Africa, and while we were discussing whether my partner should leave his job or not, I had the following dream.  It speaks to the heart of ‘what next’.  The step by step.  The letting go. The trust and faith.  The marriage of the miraculous with the pragmatic.  The dream mobilised many symbols of the past few years to powerfully engage me.  I’m still sitting with this one.
I go to a party, with young French people next door to our old home (This is the house we used to live in, our dream home, which we were evicted from very suddenly a year and a half ago.  Though traumatic, the energy released by leaving was what propelled me into opening up to new possibilites.)  I am not with my family.  I must make a decision about whether or not I stay and take halucinogens with these young, sweet, naive,open and exploring French students.  It is hard to make the decision, but still I stay, not deciding either way.  I know it is only for one night, taking the drugs and exploring my own mind.  I will go back to my family.  I look at our old garden next door.  I speak to Charlotte Joy (a colleague in the anthropology department who also has young children, but is more successful than me), and show her the garden, explaining how we lost it when we were evicted.  “It looks dull but at least it is here” I say, because the wild forest like garden planted by my friend is gone, and has been replaced by healthy looking – if dull- vegetable patches.  Well tended.  I am describing the garden to Charlotte in terms of loss, but I realise as I speak that there is no loss.  It was never really my garden.  
 
I must still make my decision about imbibing the halucinogens.  
 
There is aggressive knocking at the door.  Noise Officers from the council, female, like the two women who evicted us from our home in the real world.  i don’t invite them in, but they barge past to serve noise eviction notices.  Suddenly I realise I have nothing to fear from them!  This house is not mine, and the music that had been playing loudly has been turned off.  What a laugh!  An anti-climax for them.  
 
I must still decide.  
Sarah from the ReUnion (the amazing artist project that I got to know over the summer that took over and transformed urban waste ground near our flat into a magical summer space) talks it through with me.  She is somehow running all of this.  But she is neither naive nor young.  She is youthful, knowing and wise.  She is the one who knows.  She will not make a decision for me, but she shows me the den that has been made to cocoon me when I need to retreat from the massive explorations of my conciousness I will undertake by eating the halucinogens.  I know that I will take this leap, it is just scary and I worry about leaving my children.  
 
But it is only one night!  
 
I will be back with my family!
 
This decision is connected to the business idea my partner and I have been discussing in the real world. I see that our plans have a spiritual source and involve travel to South Africa.  
 
I take the drug.
 
My daughter is suddenly there, and afraid.  
 
Twin goddesses rise up out of the wooden floor boards to help me.  
 
They are made out of fire.  Wildly powerful.  But also controlled, exotic, and deeply knowing.  They are coloured red and orange.  
    
They have a lot to show me.  
 
A sweet Bengali girl from my daughter’s school comes and comforts her as I absorb the knowing the Goddesses are imparting.  They do this by asking a series of questions about the business idea.  As I answer it gets clearer.  At its heart, the plan must be altruistic and self-helping, connected to our mission in South Africa.  
At this point I woke up.
I went to the bathroom, and when I came back to bed and fell asleep, I felt the Goddess again, her twin aspect now singular.
My body was vibrating.
I knew she was made of fire.
Advertisements

Dreaming of Darkness

Light in the night (Castelldefels)

Light in the night (Castelldefels) (Photo credit: jcarlosn)

It was a disembodied voice, heard in the gap between sleeping and waking, that brought me into the Wheel of Initiation.  Sounds like something unmissable, but actually capturing dreams and listening to the pointers of truth emerging from our subconcious requires a bit of engagement and discipline.  Sometimes we just don’t feel like doing it!  I know I don’t.  Being in a deep, wonderful sleep, or about to go into a deep wonderful sleep, it can be tempting to not write down the dream when it wakes you, or scrawl down the word that is repeating incesantly.  The night I heard the disembodied voice repeating the word that would lead me to Julie Tallard Johnson‘s work over and over again was one of those nights when I REALLY wanted to just sleep.  It had been a long day, full of the demands of children, family, home, work and it had been crappy weather to boot.  I was SO ready for a good sleep.  But this word, repeating, would not go away.  So I turned on the light, scrawled it in my bedside notebook, and promptly went into that much needed deep and refreshing sleep.  The next day, I checked out the word and the journey began that brought me to the Wheel of Initiation and this very page I am writing now!

Something to be said for keeping a bedside notebook for these night time scrawlings!  And also something to be said for just getting them out, however.  I have been known to write dreams in the dark too, allowing the pen to just let whatever has come to have some space in the gap of wakefulness.  It is always a bit of a thrill and occasionally a surprise to read it back in the morning.

So when I had another repeating word appear in the gap between sleep and awake the other day, I paid attention, scrawling it down with the promise to check it the next morning.

The word was Prometheus.

I knew Prometheus was a figure from Greek mythology, but couldn’t quite remember which one. I had it mixed up with Icarus as I googled the next day.  But this was not a dead end of confusion.  Icarus is destroyed by flying to close to the sun.  And Prometheus is punished by the Gods for stealing fire and giving it to humans.  Now what was this dream voice trying to communicate to me?   There is something here about too much light, and reflecting on where I was at around the time this dream voice appeared, I was trying very hard to be positive and good, a light-filled person.  You know.  Spiritual and glowing and saintly.  Super committed to my practice.  Wanting very badly to progress.  Be the most spectacular initiate ever.  A wonderful human being.  And in the process I was running myself ragged, trying to be all things at all times.  To my family, myself, my practice, my work, community, circle.  And feeling bad and guilty when I wanted to ‘switch off’.  This was resistance trying to get me!

There is absolutely nothing wrong with striving to be these things.  But in the process of trying so hard to reach the Light, there is a danger of suppressing the darkness that is also nourishing.  Too much emphasis on being positive, light and good, and we can get burned.

The Tao Te Ching speaks a lot about darkness:

Freed from desire, you can see the hidden mystery

By having desire, you can only see what is visibly real.

Yet mystery and reality emerge from the same source.

This source is called darkness.

Darkness born from darkness.

The beginning of all understanding.

Jeanette Winterson has written about the beauty and power inherent to surrendering to darkness at times when it is necessary.  Her descriptions of retreating in response to the coming of winter darkness ignite a warm glow in the heart, reminding me of the subtle interplay and dance of darkness and light, and also of the many faces of light.  Not always bright, manifesting light can be as much about the low glow of a winter fire, wrapped in the blanket of darkness.  When my daughter expresses her fear of the dark at bedtime, I try to describe it in these terms.  To think of the dark as a cosy blanket, that we wrap around ourselves to help us get to sleep (she doesn’t always buy it!).

In denying our shadow; our darkness, what do we suppress in ourselves?  The feminist writer Audrey Lorde would describe what we suppress in our desire to be too-good/light as The Erotic.  This is an erotic far removed from nullifying porno-culture.  It is, in Lorde’s words, …a measure between the beginning of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings.  It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire.

Again, I come to this confusion about the nature of light and dark.  The danger of making an equivalence between moral value and the qualities of light and dark.  This confusion is a way in which what Steven Pressfield describes as ‘Resistance’ finds a subtle way in.  Resistance operating in one of its most successful disguises, making over-work and an insane striving,  into the illusion of our true work.  In Audrey Lorde’s words:

This internal requirement toward excellence which we learn from the erotic must not be misconstrued as demanding the impossible from ourselves nor from others.  Such a demand incapacitates everyone in the process.  For the erotic is not a question only of what we do; it is a question of how acutely and fully we can feel in the doing…. The aim of each thing which we do is to make our lives and the lives of our children richer and more possible.  Within the celebration of the erotic in all our endeavors, my work becomes a longed for bed which I enter gratefully and from which I rise up empowered.

Beware the myth of Prometheus, where the  bringing of fire is equated with punishment.  Lighting the inner fire requires only a love for the darkness that surrounds it, and an appreciation of the dance between the two.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/oct/31/jeanette-winterson-night-guide

http://www.metahistory.org/guidelines/EroticUses.php

://www.amazon.co.uk/Wheel-Initiation-Practices-Releasing-Inner/dp/1591431115/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1336561683&sr=8-1