“One does not discover new land without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time”
It is 530 am: birds are singing their hearts out in the park near our home. I can hear the river running. It’s been a wonderfully warm, sunny summer in Glasgow. Usually the rain capital of Scotland, we are being granted heat and warmth for what promises to be a joyous, welcoming Commonwealth Games here in the city.
I feel vital, alive, engaged – full of gratitude for my sense of well-being. So my wish is that those of you out there currently going through dark times may take heart from what I write today. Life has its profound rhythms and cycles, which at times clash brutally with how the Ego thinks it should be.
Going through my “night sea journey”, to use Jung’s terminology, took seven long years. I have referred to this 2001-8 period in several different articles on “Writing from the Twelfth House” : check out ‘Just let me get old, ok?’ if you wish to find out more.
At several points I very nearly drowned – symbolically speaking –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, but which I cannot name. 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.
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! 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 , along with a profound sense of gratitude that my 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. 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. I have been back at work now, part-time, for over two years. But I’m still writing!
700 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
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