Monthly Archives: May 2012

After the Night Sea Journey….

“One does not discover new land

without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time”

Andre Gide

Going through my 2001-8  “night sea journey”, to use Jung‘s terminology, took seven long years:  a nightmare experience of very slow recovery from total burnout triggered by a year-long family crisis. At several points I very nearly drowned, in darkness without any apparent navigation points. But the steadfast love of those closest held my head just above the cold dark sea, and I called for aid to that level which I have learned to trust. Every time, my call was answered, one way or another.

Every time, the deepest message was  Hold on. Try not to be afraid. Be patient. This is necessary – but it will pass. You will be all right.’

And I am all right, all right and deeply enriched.

Night Sea Journey

Night Sea Journey

http://www.flickr.com/photos/magnusvk/166233536

Perspective on a prolonged ordeal which removed me from the world shifted and changed as the journey went on. I reached the heart of my own darkness, understood it, accepted how my life had been both blighted and enriched by conditions in place from the beginning. Quite quickly after that act of acceptance, I returned to being well again.

I recognise now that a lengthy retreat from the world was requisite for the kind of person I am – it is not necessary for most people to go through a mid-life summing up of such drastic dimensions, thank goodness! Having practised as an astrologer for nearly twenty years by the time of my collapse, I could see from my horoscope, when I was well enough and brave enough to reflect on it again, that periodic bouts of retreat seem to be part of my necessity. One of the great advantages to being an older person is that one has several decades to look back on, in attempting to make sense of one’s own patterns.

Gradually regaining the strength, energy and inclination to lead a “normal” life again, along with a profound sense of gratitude that good health has returned, I am left awestruck at the sheer power, depth and mystery of the human psyche. The sense I already had of being woven into a meaningful cosmos – tiny thread though I am – has been amplified and deepened by many of the experiences I had whilst on my ‘night sea journey’. These experiences certainly challenged my rational, sceptical self. They are all recorded. The added perspective gained by wide reading in spirituality, religion, mysticism, science and cosmology enables me to sum up what I now believe in one sentence:

We live in a meaningful, multi-dimensional cosmos where anything is possible.

The last couple of years of the retreat were spent in a state which I recognised from before, which one might call liminal: not quite having emerged from one life phase, not quite having entered another. This felt uncomfortable and frustrating at one level. But at another, it offered an opportunity to practise the art of trusting to the unfolding process of life, or Spirit’s call, to put it another way; knowing that, in due course, the shape of the next phase would become more clearly defined, the time to take action become evident. As indeed it has.

Having spent four years on the Web runningWriting from the Twelfth House”, then a year as a part-time university student  – something I will continue for the sheer pleasure of learning  –  I have now just completed a two-month process of re-contextualising my former professional life. I’m happy being a writer, a teacher, an astrologer and a counsellor/mentor.  It feels good to be reaching into a lifetime of experience, to offer what modest help I can to fellow pilgrims along the road.

So – I feel full, happy,  grateful, sitting writing this post tonight in my adopted home town of Glasgow in Scotland. After months and months of interminable cold and rain, summer has at last arrived. It is a clear, balmy summer’s eve with just  a hint of a cooling breeze. We live high up, overlooking the Botanic Gardens and the river below. Leaves are rustling faintly; I can just hear the river’s flow. Luminous against the darkening blue sky, the delicate sickle of a Gemini new moon beguiles me.  I will keep on writing, of course….

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750 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Where is ‘elsewhere’?

‘The human comedy doesn’t attract me enough. I am not entirely of this world….I am from elsewhere. And it is worth finding this elsewhere beyond the walls. But where is it?’

The pull of elsewhere has dominated my life. As a child, lying tucked up cosy and warm in bed, listening to the wind beyond our walls tearing the world apart, I used to luxuriate in the contrast between in here and out there – and wonder where the Power came from to cause the winds to rage, and the sea to beat endlessly against the coastline of my native island.

The Big 'Why?'

The Big ‘Why?

It would take me a long time beyond childhood to understand and accept that my obsession with the big “Why?”, from the moment I opened my eyes to the world,  is not the norm for most of humanity. Sensibly, they just want a quiet uncomplicated life.

Apart from my maternal grandfather, a loving and very broad-minded Christian  ‘remember, child: whatever our race, colour or creed we are all God’s children’ – nobody knew what went on in my head and heart throughout my entire childhood.

There is no such thing as one biography of a life.

 Your perspective changes with the passage of time and the way life’s inevitable challenges are dealt with. You rewrite your own history in your head all the time, mostly without realising it. For example, I never understood the full extent of elsewhere’s pull until my mid-life descent into and return from the Underworld, a period which lasted seven years – undoubtedly the most difficult and the richest time of my whole life. I feel in better relation now to that mysterious elsewhere than I have ever been !

To me, elsewhere is the vast wave of which everything – universe, cosmos, galaxies, planets, Earth, all life forms – is a droplet. We arise from elsewhereand that is where we return. Call it the quantum vacuum, the Zero Point Field, God, Buddha, Krishna, the Ground of our being, the Source, the One: the name we give it does not matter.

 I have also learned that elsewhere is not somewhere else. It is here, present, now, everywhere – always.

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(headline quote is from Eugene Ionesco:quoted in Philip Yancey’s “Reaching for the Invisible God” p25)

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400 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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On toads, work – and writing….

The poet Philip Larkin memorably asked : “Why should I let the toad work Squat on my life?”

That toad –WRITING – has squatted on my life more or less since I was born. The golden thread of consistent attachment to writing, or writing’s consistent attachment to ME, has run through the whole of my life. I have always been true to it, in my fashion, during the promiscuous twists and turns of my vocational quest.

Anne and Friend compose the latest blog post....

Anne and Friend compose the latest blog post….

At school, whilst other kids seemed to dread their composition ink exercises, I looked forward to mine. It was an opportunity to channel into focused black and white the swirling imaginative colours which whirled round my young brain, fed by my six library books a week habit. I read anything and everything.

This voracity had its downside. Victorian novelist H Rider Haggard’s myth-steeped descriptions of his characters’ adventures in Africa last century fascinated me. But da Silva, the Dutch explorer whose frozen body was found centuries after his death in a cave high up Mt. Kilimanjaro, transferred himself from King Solomon’s Mines to the wardrobe in my bedroom, on and off, for a couple of years. Getting to sleep was no mean feat with an imagination like mine!

My ‘real’ life – eating, sleeping, going to school – was incidental to my inner life which was full of the really interesting questions:

“Why are we alive, where do we go after death, do we live on several planes of existence at once, what is happening in other galaxies, if there are x million Catholics and even more Buddhists and Hindus, how come they are all Wrong and Damned and a few thousand members of the Free Church of Scotland are Right and Saved?

What would happen if you unwrapped an Egyptian mummy? I wonder if I could make a shrunken head like the Jivaro people? Why did people paint pictures on cave walls thousands of years ago? “

These issues, fed by reading, preoccupied me for years. I must have written about them, and my essays were often commended. However, attempts on leaving school to obtain my childhood exercise books were met with a bureaucratic “No”  .

During my twenties, spent in further education teaching, I  had a ‘Personally Speaking’ column in a well-known provincial Scottish island newspaper, a copy of which I was reliably informed went to the British Embassy in Peking in China every week.

I also wrote for the local paper in a small industrial town in West Lothian, Scotland, where I had my first English lecturing job in the local technical college. ‘How I was left on the shelf – and found true happiness’ was my contribution to the West Lothian Couriers Spring Brides Feature one year. “Couldn’t you have been a bit more romantic ?” was the Editor’s only comment.

Harrowed in my mid twenties by the realisation that time was speeding on apace without my having yet written an autobiography, I then began the first of what were to be many bouts of journal-keeping…….and so the writing went – on, and on, in a dazzling variety of contexts for the next several decades…..

Any writers out there with amusing writing anecdotes? Do leave them in a comment!

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550 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page