I sent out a newsletter this morning, ruminating on the garden and how it symbolizes – in an active and useful way – the love and inner peace into which we are all slowly spiraling. Sign up if you like!
I am doing some ACIM-specific writing in the form of Facebook Notes, and welcome you to read them and help me refine my thinking and its expression. Writing and reading are a shared dance and I am never not in need of partners, new steps, reminders not to step on toes, et cetera.
Finally, I want to share something personal.
This summer, I had the unusual (for me) experience of being physically unwell. I had to take some powerful medication, an experience to which I am generally averse. For the first time ever I underwent anesthesia. I was laid up in ways that are unfamiliar and debilitating.
A lot of time was given to a sort of hazy reflecting, remembering, re-cognizing.
Also simply to resting.
A couple of years ago I had a powerful experience in the Cambridge Library. The gist of it was that while it was okay to keep reading and studying, it was no longer precisely necessary. A door opened and I was invited to walk through it.
So naturally I stayed in the library and kept right on reading and studying.
This summer, that intense – some might say frenetic – study finally collapsed on itself. Sickness and medication combined to make me largely incapable of sustaining it. Intellectual busy-ness slowed to a crawl. In its place was a gentle float, not unlike that described by Bob Dylan in “Man in the Long Black Coat.”
There are no mistakes in life
some people say
and it’s true sometimes
you can see it that way
but people don’t live or die
people just float
she went with the man in the long back coat
The whole song is worth listening to, really.
Anyway, in time, that floating softened into a gentle peace towards which I was resistant, even hostile. It was if I were leaning on a slight fence, gazing into an enormous lovely field. All I had to do was lean the tinest bit and I would live in that lush bounty forever.
And I wouldn’t lean! I couldn’t. It was such an incredible to thing to witness! Imagine someone offering you a slice of blueberry pie and you just knock it to the ground, even though you’re starving and you love blueberry pie. Imagine doing that over and over . . .
Yet I saw more than that, too. Namely, I saw that the peace that offered itself did not recognize my resistance. It wasn’t indifferent to my resistance. For this peace, my resistance didn’t exist.
That is, there was no relationship between “Sean” (my body, my learning, my feelings, my issues – the whole screwy welter) and this peace. One could be the biggest, most selfish idiot imaginable and this peace would neither depart nor retract its openness.
The pie was never not there. It only seemed like you were knocking it away.
Why do we say no to Love? Why do we refuse to let go of the sliver of identity that causes us so much grief and pain?
Those are nontrivial questions! And lately when I reflect on them, and seek to answer them in pragmatic ways – to bring the answers forth in my living – I find myself reflecting in turn on A Course in Miracles – that beautiful, maddening curriculum and its beautiful, maddening body of students, of which I am a – yes – a beautiful, maddening aspect.
As I have begun to physically heal, and to resume more natural levels of energy and attention, it is A Course in Miracles I find myself writing about and relying upon to remember how to navigate both life in the world and Life which is Love.
The way station and the trail and the summit merge . . .
Saying so is a bit more personal and biographical than is perhaps helpful, or even necessary, but honesty matters. Vulnerability matters. Healing is in no small part our willingness to to fully own our need for healing and then – when the healing is offered, which it always is – to accept it, as best we are able, on the terms in which it appears.
It remains my conviction that by giving attention to our living in the world, and sharing that living with others, that living will – sometimes dramatically but perhaps more often in gentle ordinary ways – make clear a path to a peace that surpasses understanding, and a love that is impersonal and unconditional, and the happiness attending both.
On which path I remain a wordy and sometimes obtuse traveler, whose wordiness can never make clear my gratitude for your fellowship and care.
Thank you for sharing this, for being able and willing to put your experience into words. My daughter asked me to officiate her wedding in December and for many, many months I have struggled to even begin to write anything at all. This morning. . . a few glimmers of insight. I was reminded that I sent her a quote of the day every day she was in college and that one of those was Rumi’s (and yes, I know that not all translations are accurate 😏) field out beyond ideas. And the next thought that came to mind was a prayer I said every night to her from Numbers — “May the Lord shine His face upon you and grant you peace. I started jotting down notes — about a field, about peace, about the words of a woman I met on a riverboat in Maine who views everything as either “Love or not love” and then felt nudged to read your blog.
So I came here and read about, well, a field and peace and love, of course. But it is this paragraph that bid me pause an re-read:
“It remains my conviction that by giving attention to our living in the world, and sharing that living with others, that living will – sometimes dramatically but perhaps more often in gentle ordinary ways – make clear a path to a peace that surpasses understanding, and a love that is impersonal and unconditional, and the happiness attending both.”
And it struck me how beautifully it sums up what a marriage could be like. And I would be grateful to you if you would allow me to borrow it — with attribution — to include in my ceremony.
Thank you for considering my request. I am grateful you are feeling better. I am grateful, too, for what you learned — what you grokked, if you will — during your healing journey. And, out beyond all those ideas 😉, I am grateful for you.
Thanks for reading, Cheryl. Yes, of course, use that paragraph. Verba mea, verba tua. And congratulations on the pending wedding!
I’m so glad you’re on the mend. I hope you’ll allow yourself that “floating” into “gentle peace” as needed or desired, even as you return to your more normal state. That you’ve written as much as you have this summer, despite illness, is amazing. Thanks.
I also have a hard time leaning into peace. Oh, I trust PEACE; I just don’t trust MYSELF to be sufficiently alert and attentive in THIS life when I’m peaceful (or happy, for that matter). You say you look to ACIM “to remember how to navigate both life in the world and Life which is Love.” I get that the latter can (and does) help me do the former, but I still have trouble trusting myself to correctly grasp the Guidance. Clearly my ego is fighting the process.
But Guidance received can’t and won’t dispel all uncertainty, and why would it? I love what you wrote about “Being Happy in and with Uncertainty.” And this gem—“When we view the world and our living not as a problem to be solved but as a partner for a dance, then our living changes. It becomes happier in the sense of being less rigid, conditional and exclusive. We aren’t trying to control life or restrict life. We are just responding to life as it responds to us.”—well, I feel like I should tattoo that somewhere. 😉
I am grateful for the abiding certainty of love, however.
All good wishes, Sean, including vibrant health,
That would be a long tattoo!
I hear you about trusting guidance, being present to what is given, et cetera, including the self who seems to be monitoring and overseeing . . .
Yet it does soften somehow, in time.
Yes, the body is healing, as bodies do, so long as they do. All experience is welcome, I guess. It felt oddly like a gift, a slow-motion insight extending earlier insights (and making me think a lot more deeply about “light” and “dark” and their variants as metaphors).
But now I am being wordy 🙂
Thanks again for reading and sharing. It’s nice to hear from you, Margaret.