Growing into wholeness can take many years, or it can happen in an instant. That Grace-filled moment when we can be alone with ourselves and truly like who we are. Often it is the spectre of fear that blocks the threshold to the brilliant blaze of full aliveness. We flounder as we grasp the elusive memory of wholeness, the melted butter richness of contentment, often so difficult to sustain in the context of our relationships, our working conditions, our financial worries. Reality congeals around us, enveloping the spark of hope; we are becalmed, stagnant, stuck. We lose our way in the dark woods; confront the black wolf of our own shadow. Phantom-like we float through the motions of marginal living, unable to feel even our joy, as we sit, silent, inconsolable. Yet through the symptoms in our tired bodies, our souls scream out from the abyss of our own isolation. We know what we don’t want. But do we have the clarity, in our sleep-deprived, crowded lives to glimpse the spark of passion that gives meaning to our existence? Do we know what we really love?
The lives we create with the thoughts we think, moment by moment, day by day, may obliterate that spark. Like the little Match Girl in the Hans Christian Anderson adaptation of the fairy tale, we wander the icy streets, staring into windows at abundant tables, Christmas trees bedecked with baubles and gingerbread sticks, the cosy log fires of other peoples’ living rooms. We sit in the nook of our days, striking match after creative match, depleting our life force, snuffing out our passion… settling for the falling star of the job, the relationship. We believe the slippery lies that freeze us to death. Perhaps our biggest fear may be that if we free our minds of the thoughts that petrify us, open our hearts, we will make those big life changes that will crash through the flimsy structures of our lives. Our marriages will be torn asunder, we will resign from our jobs, alienate our friends. Often that is exactly what does happen. And yet, if we stay with padlocked heart in the dark dungeon of routine chores or cup cake fixes – a new hair style, a pair of expensive shoes, a holiday, or interior design project to distract us – the price we pay for living in the safety zone will exhaust our spiritual bank account. We will project our dis-ease upon others in our homes and offices, we suffocate our souls with addictions, and we numb our bodies with medication. Eventually we must pay a price for a life unlived. “What is not brought to consciousness comes to us as Fate, ” said Jung.
The way of the heart is the way of the “sacred warrior” said Chogyam Trungpa. There is a danger in feeling our hunger, dismantling our defences. But what also happens is that when we free-fall and smash through our fear, the angels send us white feathers to guide us on our path. We may need to crash and burn. To rise, like the phoenix from the ashes of our lives, burnt black, transformed irrecoverably.
Changing base metal into gold is not done with bells and whistles, but in the darkness of the night. In our dreams, our daytime reveries, the sudden surge of recognition that feels strong and authentic in our bellies. Like goddess-saint Brigit of Kildare’s ever-burning flame, our light will not be extinguished unless we douse it ourselves. No man, woman, god out there can extinguish our own Divinity. It is there all the time if only we will turn towards the Light and warm ourselves at the fire. The spark we need might be a fragment of a conversation we overhear in the supermarket, the lyrics for a song; encouragement of a friend, a skilful therapist, to coax the green shoots of new growth. Sometimes we are required to dismantle the fortress of our hostility and our fear, granite stone by granite stone. To fall slowly into the ocean of our tears and swim to shore. We will always be required to work honestly, consistently to see through the smoke and mirrors that distort our truth. We will always be required to silence for ever the competing voices in our heads – our parents, our society, our siblings or friends – and recognise the sound of our own true voice. We will always be required to have a genuine desire to change our lives. To be vigilant that our journey towards self-awareness is not simply self-absorption or narcissism. Only then can we fall slowly into the reality of our lives. To begin to live in conscious relationship by being truthful in our communications, realistic in our great expectations. To laugh more, guilt-trip less. Only then can we savour the blissful beatitude of being in flow in our lives; in harmony with the whole cosmos. Healed, and whole.
For Ray. “Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.” Rumi
Paula Mills. Feather art. Glen Hansard Falling Slowly