‘I see you’ – a path to intimacy with self and others?

We can neither see ourselves as a whole, nor can we truly conceptualize that in ourselves which experiences. The answer to the question ‘Who (or what) am I ?’ is by its nature a koan*. But perhaps it is a profound act of self-love to be able to affirm our emotions, our joys, our pain (emotional or physical) with the simple words ‘I see you’, without latching onto them and giving them power over us.

That loving acknowledgement can release the threads of attachment that so often ensnare us. It can enable us to own our darker thoughts and feelings, our shadow selves. We can experience what is as ‘real’, but within the context of the transience of all things. We can embrace the things we perceive as difficult or challenging and let them pass. We can also accept life’s gifts without clinging to them – these too will pass, yet the fact that we have experienced them will not.

One of the greatest desires of every human being is the longing to be seen . . . this is the miracle of love and friendship. (John O’Donahue in Four Elements)

It seems to me that when ‘I see you’ begins to permeate our way of being, it underpins all interactions. It is the grounding space that anchors each human encounter. We find it easier to enter the powerful place of deep receptive listening.

It is also the loving recognition of each creature, great or small, that crosses our path.

‘I see you’ directs us to the wellspring of love.

Unless you see a thing in the light of love, you don’t see it at all. (Kathleen Raine)

* koan – a paradoxical anecdote or riddle, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to provoke enlightenment


 

Water lily

Who am I?

‘I am’, cries the wind . . .
the song that stitches together
the seams of my life,
its melody
a ribbon running through it.

Crackling flames 
feed the fires of passion,
compel me forward,
agonized and exultant
and alive.
But it is in the still,
red coals
at the heart
of the fire
that wisdom lies.

Feet, firmly planted,
dig into the earth,
skip over fields
and frozen puddle-drums
and hot sand.
Odd that it is in
the dynamic of dance,
as my feet
leave the ground,
that I put down roots.

Held in the flow,
luxuriously floating,
buffeted, battered,
water brings me home 
to the self 
that is so much water,
as I learn and become
the depths
of its calm
that is and was and always will be.

‘I am’, cries the wind . . .
and the invisibility of air
surrounds me,
and I know ‘am’
as the invisibility of air . . .

“Who am I?”

July 2018
written during a retreat focused on Awakening Devotion and Heart Wisdom

Transformation, mystery and water

Fluent

I would love to live
Like a river flows,
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding.

~ John O’Donohue

I look out onto my beloved lake as it transforms, very visibly, from the illusory immobility of ice to its fluid state and I listen to what it has to tell me.

Water is the true stuff of life,
The deep mystery at the centre of all that is.

Water exists in a continuous state of flow,
a constant state of transformation.

Confronted by heat or cold, it turns shape-shifter;
mysterious mists weave their enchantments,
clouds build castles in the air,
Jack Frost traces ferns across the glass,
the land is pelted by hail and graupel,
and blanketed by a quilt of snow.

The lake freezes and, later, thaws;
watching the ice come in and leave
teaches me patience with the ebb and flow,
the unseen nature of transformation.
After days of retreat and revelation
a clear sheet forms over the returned water,
once – oh joy! – with the exquisite,
unexpected blooming of frost flowers.

Yet the process of change
continues inexorably,
moment by moment rewriting
the relationship between ice and water
in patterns of constriction and release,
of return to rigidity, then surge and flood.

Transformation exists
in every moment.
What is now
is not the same as what just was
or will be.

Out on the lake,
the ice lets go as we watch;
the clouds race across
the new-blue sky
casting shadow spells
or float in the emerging reflective stillness.

Clouds on ice and water

Beneath all is the constancy of water
and a process of transformation
without beginning or end.

Water is the true stuff of life,
but life is all transformation!

 

My inner transformation,
in this body that is more than 60% water,
is similarly complex.

There is much that goes unseen.
Just when it seems the ice is melting,
something inside rigidifies once more.

There are moments of unexpected joy and light,
but also times of constriction and the flood of overwhelm.

The lake reminds me that 
all is unfolding, in its own time,
exactly as it should.

As I embrace my own transitions,
may I remember that this moment is all that I have,
is all that I am or need to be.
Let me inhabit it fully,
wrap it round me like silk
then allow it to slip away . . .

Lake in transition

Transitions in the seasons of the soul

I think there are multiple layers to the manifestation of inner seasons.

The internal season

On occasion in the past I have been very conscious of a specific internal season, particularly of winters of the soul as times of dormancy, retreat, grieving even. This is one layer and, from this perspective, I see myself now as in a transition from a winter that has been a time of  mystery, of deep and subtle transformation, of stillness and silence, of hidden growth requiring patience and faith. 

What has been interesting is that, in paying attention to the shift in nature these last weeks, I sense that it is not some human failing that we rarely transition smoothly; if this is the path nature takes then it seems to me that the two-steps forward one-step back dance is an inherent aspect of the character of change.

Thaw - land steepingI see the land, still frozen, steeping in the thaw water that it is not yet ready to absorb, grungy, muddy, yet with hints of the possibility of spring. And I realize that I am content to live this within my own transition, to steep in a flood of insights that I am not yet fully able to soak up. I see the lake existing as thick white ice, clear glass and sparkling open water simultaneously and something inside me whispers ‘yes!’ in affirmation and recognition.  In focusing on the subtleties and nuances of this time between winter and spring, I am newly comfortable in my own space of between.

Water in three states - between seasons

Carrying all the seasons within

At another level, I am aware that I carry all the seasons within me, and can draw on the riches of each as I need or choose at any given time.

The turning of the year

Finally, there is the part of me that responds to the turning of the year, increasingly delighting in the changing rhythms that inform my living in both the exterior and interior worlds.

As winter leaves the lake . . .

 

Now, in this time of increasing intimacy with both the natural and the inner world, each season, each new manifestation, each day of brilliant sunshine or unrelenting rain, each moment, is becoming equally precious. This is becoming almost as true for the seasons of the soul as those of the year’s turning. I try to sit with each, knowing that all things pass.

 

Not ‘still’ winter – perhaps the deepest transformation

When I look out at the white expanse of frozen lake, I no longer see winter as a small death, a time of darkness, a pause for breath.

I see a continual and wondrous process of transformation!

Ice is not static, but constantly changing.

In early winter’s deep cold, it was confusing that, this year, the ice seemed slower to come in. But with the cold came blankets of snow.

Each rock or dock intruding into the ice creates its own disruption.

Sometimes there is just whiteness, sometimes pools of lavender; sometimes the smoke that isn’t smoke billows around the islands. There are times of diamond brightness. Sometimes the world disappears.

Even in the heart of winter, somewhere, unseen, life goes on beneath the surface, even if I only know this by the presence in spring of turtles, frogs and fish.

The slow seeping of water bubbling out of the ground seeks its way through the ice creating a path – or a fault line?

A fallen oak leaf, absorbing light rather than reflecting it like the white surface that surrounds it, carves out space around itself.

 

What astonishes me is not just the overt shift from the fluidity of water to the apparent solidity of ice; nor is it the the purity and clarity of unbroken white, the illusion of stillness.

It is the awareness of a profound process of constantly occurring change.

Perhaps winter’s is the deepest transformation of all.

 
Snow-down

Snow Meditation 

Snow falls silently as large crystals,
each, unimaginably, different, unique;
remains like goose-down,
softly blowing.

With thaw, the feathers congeal.

Freeze creates of them
a crisp shell,
hard and resonant.

Then, nothing.

March 2018

Dancing down the drive to snow music

Snow music
 
Ice crust

My feet 
find a beat
on the drum-tight shell
of ice-topped snow;

a crisp rattle,
then a tinkling, skittering
whisper of melody.

And I dance –
to the song that I hear
and to hear the music
of my dance!

February 13, 2018

 

Yes, for the last two days I have been dancing joyfully down our drive, delighting in the crispness of the air and beneath my feet and the unfamiliar soundscape!