In August 1977, I crossed the threshold, the portal to an intense liberation.
Since that time I had never encountered a story that showed me I am one of many to have been smelted in a furnace of the heart and to have survived the ordeal of refinement by burning. I surely am not alone!
Since that time, I have described only to certain close friends how, over a few days and nights, the layers of self peeled away in pain and incomprehension.
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I remember walking along Exhibition Road, London and instead of the usual bland, blanked off faces of people walking past me, I became acutely aware of reading the reality of each person’s spirit in the expression on every face.
I saw many were contorted and consumed by loathing.
I saw some who were almost completely lacking in hope.
Some were intensely unhappy, as if their next facial expression was to be The Scream, ‘that’ painting by Edvard Munch. Very possibly I was visualising my own projections.
The old assumptions began to drop away from me, as if recent ghosts of my own identity were drifting off, abandoning me in ones and twos.
The assumptions of who I am are like those straight and rooted tracks on which I automatically rely for my next blink, step, next thought, next breath. I and all of us do depend on lifetime timeline assumptions without giving them a second thought. We never call them into question, unless we perceive extreme danger from an external threat or sudden inescapable challenge.
Whatever it was that had begun to move, my self-belief was evaporating, and I found myself left with fewer and fewer safe assumptions about who I was.
My friends who are my familiar friends inside of me were hurrying away somewhere else, not staying to see what happens next.
In quite a short time, as if I had no power to control the processes my spirit was undergoing, I shed my few and flimsy onion-skin layers of self-belief, until I reached a point of maximum intimacy, where the core of my being lay exposed like a small pool of white-hot molten metal resting in the base of an unmovable immutable crucible. It was painful, like active nettle-stings, but it was endurable.
I was drawn to rural isolation as the best and least threatening setting in which to preserve what I had left of me. I had no clues, no map to follow in this descent.
I bought rail and ferry tickets to Cork. I asked for bus timetables at the central London Bord Fáilte. I set out with a rigid metal frame grey canvas rucksack.
I travelled from London to County Tipperary, Ireland for a summer holiday. I knew very well I couldn’t escape from myself. But I came to rural Ireland to find a green of peace in August, because I had become afraid for my sanity. I presumed something was going to happen to me. It seemed important to give my undistracted attention to whatever it was going to be.
My next memory is of getting off the bus at the quiet stop called Cahir Cross. I walked along a reassuringly peaceful road, and I checked in to my family run guesthouse.
For safety, or rather, for self-preservation, I stayed indoors. I sat in my B&B room. I remember a pot of tea and a kindness of biscuits. I was as unprotected, fragile, brittle, as a soft bodied insect.
If I should step outside, or if I were to add to my sensory input in howsoever small a way, I might go off the edge like an untethered astronaut – lost in a mild but unending emptiness.
With a new morning, a brightly sunlit summer morning, stasis came.
Here was a still point where nothing more could happen to me. I was at the bottom of the descent, but I was not finished off.
The pain was no longer inside of me. It was not there. I remember silence.
I weep today and every time, as I recall the beauty of that silence. This silence was brand new. It was much louder inside than outside.
Silence indescribable, solid to the timid touch, had replaced pain and the frequent cramping presence of adrenaline.
I could breathe again. I could hear my breathing. I looked outwards. The yellow corn was growing gold and ripely in the small square field beyond the house. The field of gold glowed unpretentiously just outside my window. No wind moved the corn stalks baking under the blue sky.
Every ear of corn still stands there, warm in the midday heat and unmoving in my mind’s eye.
I felt an amazing, delicate, intense pleasure at seeing my host family around me, simply and quietly going about their day. I hardly dared move in case this most ordinary sweetness should crackle and dissolve.
My host family’s silent, but tangible normality was my personal reassurance. Their wordless presence was as loud as if I were being publicly baptised at the centre of a crowd.
I was filled with a soft bliss, like a person drinking after a long thirst.
The words of my drink were these:
“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” [Julian of Norwich]
One thing I knew with great certainty and I would forever carry with me, that however long I live, whatever the severity of the test, I would always be able to survive.
And so I packed my rucksack to return home to the world of work and to continue with a new relationship which would culminate two years later in marriage, a new home and a family.
My awakened heart burns golden consuming nothing – in sickness and in health – from the centre to the outermost edge.
And this is the mantra I composed to celebrate the awakening:
Love is the answer
no question exists
I do nothing to light the way.
The way is lit.
The way is inexpressibly beautiful always
~ Love is present EveryNow