Reflections on a Transpersonal Journey

Reflections on a  Transpersonal Journey - as written by Deirdre Hanna

This poem by my favourite poet Mary Oliver led me to the following life reflection I’d like to share with you.

Reflections on my ‘….  one wild and precious life.’

An Ongoing Transpersonal Journey

The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean…the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
The one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
Who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down…
Who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
Into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
How to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
Which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
- Mary Oliver

When I was a child I thought as a child and I knew how to pay attention and how to kneel, be idle and blessed. The sacrament of the moment was enough prayer to feel grace-filled and a part of God’s creation. I was a questing, questioning child and also fearful of the enormity of the world, and my smallness in it. Whether the fear is an adult perception of that child or whether I felt that fear, I don’t know. Maybe it was awe that I felt and the fear was a cultural and social creation from overlays derived from my family of origin and my time and birth place in the historical post-war world. Certainly I was aware throughout my teenage years of death and my finiteness and mortality and would often talk about it at breakfast at Teacher’s College. I would point out that we were one meal closer to death, which didn’t endear me to my peers and I was bewildered and without spiritual guidance in this liminal landscape of death awareness. It seemed to me that all things were insubstantial and would die too soon. I was filled with an existential angst and aching nostalgia for the passing of every second of time.

Looking back, what seemed to be an uncomfortable process at the time has unfolded into a path that has been guiding me, learning me and teaching me. It seems that always and in all ways I have been planning what to do to suck every bit of marrow out of my ‘one wild and precious life.’ Sometimes the reading and studying and planning led to the exclusion of being present to my actual physical being-ness in each moment of living. Secondly this pattern seems to be linked to my life myth which has been one of awareness of death and loss and the brevity of life and the infinity of the Spirit world.

Now in mid-life I am attempting to re-live and re-create that precious childhood space where a grasshopper can totally absorb me and I can become as the grasshopper, uncomplicated, free and with an ability to be both in and to let go of the moment. As I reflect on life I know that, like a spiral, this will be from a new place of awareness and clear vision where all that has been experienced can be accepted and acceptable. In mid-life there is a poignancy to seeing, being and becoming and a continuing awareness, albeit from a different worldview, that all of creation’s treasures - including life - will have to be relinquished. Working with adults and children who are dying brings this insight home daily. I am also acutely aware that my quest to live as fully as I can with my one wild and precious life has presented as a certain impatience for the future and prevented me from being more available to myself with patience and joy in the present. A re-turn to finding the divine in the simple and uncomplicated events of every moment of life are conversion events, like the awareness of a meal lovingly prepared at Dadirri, or a tiny child’s arm around my neck while watching fireworks on New Year’s Eve. So here I am sharing my story in this universe which is so full of glory, living the journey and being pruned, patterned and ever called forth and some of my experiences that are being integrated and en-joyed.

There is an Indian proverb or axiom that says that everyone is a house with four rooms, a physical, a mental, an emotional, and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time but, unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person. — Rumer Godden in A House with Four Rooms

Here are some ways I keep my rooms ‘aired’.

Airing the Physical Room

From early childhood, or for as long as I can remember, I believe that I was aware of a higher presence, a rumour of angels, saints and the invisible ones to whom I could relate more easily than my large noisy family. The invisible ones were a refuge and a strength and I was able to drift toward their peace and leave my body when I needed space. Ken Wilber calls this aspect of spirituality that children experience ‘trailing clouds of glory’ where the ‘soul’ dimension is present in the early years but fades as egoic development evolves and then eventually represses. A major learning for me now is to return to my body and access transpersonal experiences by embracing and including them as a permanent part of life in the physical dimension. I have no regrets about any part of my life journey as every incident, every process has been a stepping stone on the great river and I am grateful that I learned very early that spiritual places and the spirit world existed. Now as an adult, I am re-learning lessons that most children took in their stride as part of their natural development. I was very clumsy as a child, bad at sport, uncoordinated and shy about my body. Movement and physical education was something that I hated and I yearned to learn ballet but mother was told that I was like a ‘baby elephant’ and so I was withdrawn from dance classes. I can remember reading Noel Streatfield’s Ballet Shoes and devoured any ballet books about Sadler’s Wells. In my imagination and my daydreams how I danced! I clicked castanets in my wild skirt swirling Spanish dancing dreams and I rivalled Anna Pavlova in Giselle and Swan Lake. I did not dance again until the ATIA Retreat in June 2001! This was an energy filled life giving gift for me, once I let go the fear of not ‘getting the steps right’ and encouraged to just move, I found that there was such freedom and joy in movement and music that I believe I danced for hours! The feminine energy in the room was maybe the ingredient needed to call forth divine energy from every cell in my body. The art experiences also drew forth Shakti’s presence and the integration of movement and art in the retreat was a healing experience. In the past year I have been able to lead the Transformers Group on a Friday night in body awareness, the body scan and in the Kata. I am now more comfortable in my body in front of other people. At a dinner dance I went to recently I was very happy dancing alone or with other women. It may have been the champagne, but certainly I had less inhibitions than in the past. I notice that I still prefer to be on the edge of groups and sit quietly out of the way if I am late, it takes more energy to walk through the middle of a crowded room than so I try to arrive early, although the universe has conspired lately to help me be creating lateness! I still have some way to go to owning my being and claiming my physical space in the universe and yet I am more patient with that.

I understand that in the transpersonal there are no final breakthroughs, just moment by moment creative colourful break-ins of divine moments - of ‘ah’ here I am insights. This I experienced and it has been a sweet gift and has been sustained. At times I dance alone in my kitchen with the same free wild energy, so I know that this comes from within and is now part of me that can be called forth. The invisible ones and the saints are well and dwelling within and dancing with joy. I wonder how many angels can dance on the point of a body’s cell?

To maintain wellness I use, without fail - and even in the desert - a daily practice of Yoga called the Kata including ‘salute to the sun’, derived from George Leonard and Michael Murphy’s book, The Life We Are Given. An avid reader I make good use of my books usually developing them into programs which can be taught through St Clare Centre for Health and Spirituality and which I can continue to learn from.

I also walk every day alongside the vast expanse of water beside which I live. I use a form of prayer walking using breath and a mantra called The Jesus Prayer, breathing in Lord Jesus Christ on the in-breath and Have Mercy on me on the out-breath. After the retreat in June I added the chant Om Bhur Buva Svaha each day on my walk.

Missing out on my walk leaves me feeling dry and dusty within, as it is my prayer and contemplative time and keeps me centred and watered from the wellspring of peace before the start of a busy day and seems to keep my energy high throughout. I add an additional contemplative practice to my walking which is derived from an old spiritual exercise ACTS – A for adoration, recalling the awe and wonder I feel for the Creator Spirit, C for contrition, recalling moments of missing the mark of wholeness, T for Thanksgiving and gratefulness for every passing moment, and S for supplication. I have noticed that my prayers of supplication have stopped being quite so ego-centred and are now more supplications of letting be, letting go and asking the Creator to simply be present in wholeness to the person or event toward whom my prayers are oriented. What a load this takes from me! In running a large organisation I have often tried to ‘fix things’. I can now more readily let go and let God. This has been a major break-in over this past year.

Airing the Spiritul Room

Religion or Spirituality - Head or Heart?

An Anglican by baptism, I had a Methodist Sunday School background and a confused understanding of God resulting from lurid bible stories of hellfire and damnation. Using Wilber’s stages of spiritual consciousness development I can see now that this was a normal developmental mythic understanding of God. The lack of spiritual direction, however, and the lack of priests in my church who had themselves grown beyond this stage hampered my own spiritual development for many years.

In my adolescent years I used to ride my bike alone to church on Sundays and was confirmed in the Anglican church. I loved the sanctuary that it provided within its cool grey stones, but I daydreamed and drifted through the sermons and stultifying boredom of a rigid Protestant litany and dreary morbid hymns about wretchedness and sin. I drifted into the Catholic Church with a boyfriend when I was at Teacher’s College and enjoyed the ritual and colour, but was depressed by the gloom of the Cathedral and the proselytising priest. This I’m sure contributed to my existential angst. There was no confession I could go to for spiritual direction, as in those days I wasn’t even supposed to be in a Catholic Church and they certainly weren’t allowed to set foot in mine. In a very deep sense I also believed that I needed to ‘confess’ my lack of wholeness, yet I now understand that to be a process than mystics and saints alike identify in their spiritual lives.

Despite the church, I knew that Jesus was a very real presence in my life and the search went on. Books became my only adequate spiritual guides from those who had gone before me. John V. Taylor’s book The Go-Between-God has long been a source of inspiration in my life. It has been my lectio divina for many years and never fails to touch my heart and allow God to enter. It has fallen into many parts, is worn, yellowing and dog-eared, and when I feel most alone and dry, this book is my spiritual guide through times of darkness.

Reflecting on the lack of joy I find in the church and amongst many clergy and the difference in the joyful presence I experienced at Dadirri in June, I looked up this passage. “Most really believing Christians are more scrupulous, patient and personally caring than others, both among their neighbours and in the church organizations, more unselfish too, perhaps, though that is much harder to weigh. Many are very dedicated people but fewer seem to be deeply joyful.” Nietzsche noticed this also in his challenge to Christianity: ‘His disciples will have to look more saved if I am to believe in their Saviour.’

Lack of enthusiasm seems rife in the church, especially in worship. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, gave some very specific instructions for singing: ‘Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength.’ For me there are too many half dead or half asleep people in church whether they sing or not (and most don’t!) I found a new voice, a new enthusiasm and more joyful way to experience God in Dadirri.

Moments of encounter in relationships with others and with nature have been more vividly present in my life over the past year. For some years I have been experiencing the ‘dark night of the soul’ where God, joy, and delight seemed absent and yet I was content to let this be, knowing that it was a part of the spiritual journey. The experience didn’t prevent me from being a good spiritual director, but rather allowed me to acknowledge the darkness of others in a deeper way, and I did not lose my sense of humour. However there was an unexpected encounter with the numinous that I had not been seeking. I followed my intuition to go to the retreat, not knowing why, as I had made other ‘plans’ for my study and work future. Something mysterious lured me and I was indeed surprised by joy of falling in love with Spirit.

Along with Matthew Fox, who says we must fall in love a hundred times a day, Taylor says we are falling in love at every turn of the road, with a fold in the hills, the mist over the lake, the stars tangled in bare branches, the yellow chair in the sunlight, an old song at the peasant’s fireside, a new though flashing from the pages of a book, a lined face on a hospital pillow…

These moments of encounter, whether with a grasshopper, a pattern swirling free amongst the clouds, a Moreton Bay Fig, lorikeets flirting, a dog diving into a golden puddle in the sunset river, risotto cooked with love and eaten in communion, a glass of wine and loaf of bread, a small child’s arm twisted in my hair and around my neck have commanded my attention more sharply. Paradoxically they have also been more blurred and fuzzy over the past year and I have felt more expansive. There has been a charged intensity flowing through my life which points to a greater reality in and behind the world. Sophy Burnham in her book The Ecstatic Journey says that mystical and spiritual encounters ‘always lead to joy and heightened or expanded energy, to increased compassion for others and deepening capacity to love.’ This has certainly been my experience.

On one of my walking meditations during a Transpersonal Retreat, I noticed a frail elderly woman, walking very slowly. I was immediately aware of a recent trip to visit my father and mentioned it in the session and to my walking companion. I had not noticed that father was walking more slowly after an illness and I was shocked when he turned back, and said “I can’t keep up with you.” It was two months later that I experienced the grief brought to mind by the elderly woman. I felt deep compassion for my father and sadness for myself that a letting go process was beginning. Compassion is growing, and sometimes where I least expect it. It has been too easy for me to be present to the neighbour I don’t know in hospice work and forget those closest to me.

A second great spiritual director and influence in my life has been the spirit of Anthony de Mello and I have used all his books as bed-time reading, study and as a teaching aid over the past twenty years. From his book Awakening: Conversations with the Master: ‘The Master has no patience for religious people who are proud of their beliefs, because holiness, in his eyes, is unselfconscious. He is allergic to ideologies and to theology. Instead he proclaims heart progress as the only true progress. The Master shocks sanctimonious people by saying: ‘You are not ready to 'fight' evil until you are able to see the good it does.’ De Mello’s voice has been a wake-up call to me in the light of the September 11 attack on America. It is too easy to assume that evil hides out in a cave in Afghanistan. Ken Wilber’s works, particularly his ‘Deconstruction of the World Trade Centre’ has shed much light on the attacks and I have been studying his theories to understand that Bin Laden is coming from a worldview that is ‘red’ and cannot see outside it. This is an intellectual understanding so as well I have been doing The Work of Byron Katie daily to withdraw my own projections. I am a truly hopeful person and believe like Julian of Norwich that ‘all will be well and all manner of things will be well.’ This does not detract from my compassion for those affected but I do not anguish over it or dwell on the media reports of violence. I have been able to integrate this ‘head’ knowledge into experiential worship and spirituality exercises for the wider community including loving kindness meditations.

A major learning from a spiritual perspective has been my awareness that as an Anglican Chaplain, I can slip into being a nice “Christian,” forgetting my own needs, attempting to placate all (often leaving myself out of the equation) and can fall into an addiction of workaholism and lack of time to attend to my inner houses. This, more than anything, creates a lack of energy and joy, as does becoming involved in projects where my natural gifts are not being used. Once again my love for poetry has introduced me to timeless spiritual truths, such as these insights from Rumi:

Don’t turn your head. Keep looking
at the bandaged place. That’s where
the light enters you.
And don’t believe for a moment that you’re healing yourself.

Similarly and unlike many Christians, Rumi did not ignore or repress what he called “the dragon” of our appetites.

To change,
a person must face
the dragon of his appetites
with another dragon,
the life energy
of the soul.

The past year has included many more hours of spiritual direction which has helped me listen again to the call of God in my vocation, the life energy of my soul through Jesus’ life, which was one of love for the sick, the poor, the disabled and the oppressed – including the children. This re-orienting has helped me integrate the whole of my life in God into the world in which I live. One of my spiritual directors raised my awareness by pointing out that I often externalise God and slip into a world where I try to ‘comply’ with ‘health professionals,’ rather than being centred in Jesus and his prophetic voice. He reminds me that God is most present at a Sunday lunch, over a glass of red wine and an argument about politics. Ah then I remembered the God-ness in glasses of red wine, airline tickets, the curl of smoke from a cigarette in a city street and in silence.

I originally set out to follow the law of love and prophetic voice of crying out against unjust systems. Lately I have been losing this voice because of concern about what people might think. Originally I was very blunt and outspoken with other clergy and one of the chaplains at the hospital actually left because I, a woman, was working as an ecumenical chaplain on ‘his territory.’ I was quite arrogant myself, I now realize, as he was exactly where he was meant to be and doing what he had to do according to his mythological and blue meme understanding. I think I must have felt some guilt however and narcissistic belief that I was responsible for his actions, and now I am becoming more compassionate to those who are at different faith stages and worldviews whilst trying to hold to my integrity and my unique voiceMy spiritual direction has been a re-call to me, and a regaining of confidence in that call. Once again I had to make the time for soul friendship and it would have been too easy to slip into not thinking I can walk this journey on my own. Many of my theological subjects have been very left-brained oriented as opposed to the Transpersonal which is more experiential, life and Spirit centred. Regular spiritual direction is a blessing and a gift of grace.

Recently in a session with my second spiritual director, a soul friend who is also studying Creation Spirituality, I felt totally exhausted and lacking in energy. My voice was low and I said I felt like ‘death,’ and following my process she had me lie on the floor as if I were dead. I went into a meditative space of floating and ‘deadness’ and then was in a coffin and saw a bell. Following the image I remembered that in the Victorian era people were afraid of being buried alive and were buried with a rope in the coffin that was attached to a bell above ground so that if they awoke they could ring it - thus alerting people to their aliveness. Then I saw many bells in my vision and spoke aloud the Leonard Cohen poem:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering,
There’s a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in.

Then both she and I both rolled on the ground laughing –‘ I’m not dead yet,’ I cried. I had forgotten that I sometimes just need to take a break – take time out and particularly stop ‘trying to get it right,’ – whatever ‘it’ is in the moment and to stop trying for perfection. I have difficulty remembering this in rushing pre-Christmas weeks. I often forget the reason for Advent: that the cycle of life involves remembering over and over again the ‘wholeness’ of the tiny child who symbolically comes amongst us eternally as a reminder of our powerlessness and vulnerability, helplessness and need for care and love.

This is maybe my biggest lesson - to take time to integrate, to enjoy the journey, to be present in the space that I am already in and to be authentically who I am in all my being.

To put it another way as Lawrence Kushner says in Invisible Lines of Connection: ‘So that's what it's all about! You put your whole self in, you take your whole self out; you put your whole self in and you shake it all about. The idea is that by doing whatever you're doing with all of you, you can then take all of you out. The trick is how to do both.’

My great challenge is to be fully present in my service, my work, my relationships, my hobbies, my life, and not to lose sight of the larger picture of the River of Life which is flowing me - back to the child of God I will always be.

Airing the Emotional Room

I have been and am truly blessed that I have been surrounded without and within by the unseen ones and guided toward a creative ministry in the area of grief and loss, death and dying. The old childhood shadow has faithfully danced its patterns in the rooms of my life over the years. This has not been without pain, but I can see now that the pain was a guide and a calling as well, leading me toward wholeness. In the past when I felt depressed I felt that there needed to be something done to get over it or to cover it over. Usually this resulted in more busy-ness and less time to reflect Now, I believe that it is only by going into the depths and experiencing them, that I can come out with renewed energy and a continuing wellspring of love and compassion to share. I am enjoying my life and my being open to continuing personal transformation and it is exciting and challenging. Once when my daughter had flown back to her home after visiting me, I felt completely exhausted. I went to clean her room and realised I was grieving. Even as I reminded myself it was only a small loss, and that many others had greater losses, including the families of those who died on September 11, I knew I needed to honour my own feelings, so I sat in her room and allowed myself to experience the emptiness and the loss and cried for myself and all mothers who lose children, and then I wrote her a letter of love and appreciation.

I notice that it is important for me to grieve even small losses. On my trip to Dadirri last year I left in the plane a water bottle from, given to me by my son’s ex-girlfriend. I was absolutely devastated and hassled the air hostesses unnecessarily and it was only a bottle. It was during the quiet of a transpersonal retreat that I was able to work through the pain of losing her, her loveliness and her sweet and gentle nature. I had not merely lost a water bottle, I had lost an unborn future. Staying in the moment and noticing my body, mind, and spiritual pain is a mindfulness process that I am growing into. 

I also lost a chicken carcass on a retreat that I wanted to make stock with and my reactions were more suited to a greater grief.  I went through the usual grieving, denying, searching, yearning and pining motions by futilely opening and closing the fridge door. I was reminded that it was the essence of the chicken bones I was grieving for – the richness of the stock and the food that I wanted to give as a gift  to my community depended on that chicken. Or so my story went. Finally  the risotto got made without dead bones, my joy was just as great, and the chicken was found hiding in the fridge many days later having given me the lesson I needed.

A very big lesson for me involves accepting change, surrender, loss and letting go, the many small and great deaths in life which must occur before the birth of new life and joy – in other words, if I want transformation I need to learn continually to accept change. I have a tendency to be the ‘too good mother’ which I learned at age 6 when my twin brothers were born. My mother went into decline and I took over her role, becoming too responsible at too early an age. This has created a tendency toward co-dependency and rescuing, and yet has also been a life gift and helped create the hospice and Paradise Kids.

Matthew Fox says that when he is deeply in love the reality of death hits him the hardest: ‘To be in love is to want never to lose the beloved’. Rabbi Earl Grollman says it beautifully: ‘Grief is love not wanting to let go.’ I can strongly identify with both statements especially with regard to my children as I fell passionately in love with them all. When my youngest son was born, I had a mystical experience under an anaesthetic in which the entire secrets of the universe were revealed. Since then my spiritual journey has been even more expansive and yet poignantly connected to that birth. I can remember crying and saying to the nurse when he was three days old that “he would never be three days old again.” To me that was an astonishing reminder of the fragility and swiftness of life and its brevity, to her I was simply ‘morbidly post-natally depressed.’ That experience more than any other has been deeply connected to my re-awakening of finitude, the passing of time and of everything, the brevity of this life and the sweet sadness of every passing second.

When asking myself the questions What is important in my life, What is learning me, Teaching me, Leading me,? I find in mindful meditations that my thoughts continually drift to food. What will I cook for dinner? Who will be there? and then I realise that the nurturing mother role is still very strong. When I go away from home I cook and leave enough food behind for the neighbourhood. When I arrive at my daughters’ I cook.  I also love it. My grandmother was a chef and I always wanted to own a restaurant and have done wedding catering for family members and gave wonderful parties throughout my children’s growing years. These are gifts as well and it is important to remember this, and just be aware that it is the not wanting to let go of this ‘nurturing mothering,’ role that I need to acknowledge and surrender to. Awareness is growing and my dreams are my guides to shadows that need more light and bigger edges I need to go over to integrate secondary processes.

Letting go of my children is one of my greatest life challenges. This was brought home to me very clearly in a recent dream where I watched a small child running and falling down and then reaching its arms up to be helped. I watched and realised I hadn’t taught the child to be independent. The dream was also about my own inner child and there is more work, wonderfully mysterious unfolding work to be done there. In another dream I took my son by the hand to the toilet, he was about four and then I realised he was taller than me. So sometimes my dreams are not very subtle. Ah….letting go - such a sweet sorrow. Paradoxically and fuzzily there is also holding on to the things and experiences that bring joy and new life and creativity and vitality and letting go of the guilt of not letting go.

Oh, only for so short a while you
Have loaned us to each other,
Because we take form in your act
Of drawing us,
And we take life in your painting us,
And we breathe in your singing us.
But only for so short a while
Have you loaned us to each other.
(Aztec Indian prayer)

Another loss, and an unexpected source of grief has been my failing eyesight. The pattern of my childhood, retiring to bed very early as an escape and reading - often by torchlight - which transported me to places far beyond ideas of right and wrong, continued. Over the past ten years my eyes have aged and I have to wear glasses to read, which means that lying on my side with my head against the pillow has been difficult as glasses bump, nudge, pinch and fall off! A small grief surely and yet a letting go of the youthful bliss of easy access to words and a sadness for sense of sight so taken for granted. I worked for a while as a personal assistant to a man blind from birth and now I have far more compassion for him, through my own experience (which is my learning way of course,) than when I was leading him around. I lose my glasses constantly as I can’t see to walk when I have them on so I have pairs lying all over the house and then forget to take them out and I can’t read labels in the supermarket – being the food addict that I am I have to read the small print on everything – Potassium? Salt? Vitamins? Are they all there in the correct order? So it is a long process caring for health in a supermarket.  I have found myself angry without justification until I realised that my eyesight was so much apart of my being and my wholeness I was not gracious about it abandoning me. Once again I have had to learn the lesson and pattern of grief, that anger and tears are acceptable even for the loss of something natural – failing eyesight, and yet saying goodbye to such a precious part of my senses has been so hard. What has been gained has been an ‘Oh well, who knows if this is good or bad’ when there are times of waiting without a book and therefore a chance to see with an inner clearer vision, and more time to meditate to be present to myself and to others. My mother has very little vision left and when I asked her what she was doing one day she said, ‘just sitting in the dark.’ I felt so sad for her yet on reflection this is my sadness and there is work for me to do to ‘sit in the dark’ and let go of words – her time of life is ripe for wisdom and reflection and all is well and I am preparing for my own time of ‘sitting.’ Once again my compassion is growing and expanding as I am becoming and growing closer to the Divine. A favourite quote of mine is from Rilke: The purpose of life is to grow and to grow and to grow until we die ripe into God. This to me is the essence and the fruit of the transpersonal.

Paradoxically, whilst identifying with being a very super-responsible mother there was the other side that hated being confined to a suburban lifestyle. This yearning kept me moving, improving myself and the world, expanding my horizons and leaving homes, taking risks and moving on when stultifying boredom of being a suburban housewife and mother might have kept me from living life to the full. Even now I go past houses and ‘see’ inside them and seem to ‘know’ the life experiences happening there and I know I could never have been content with an ordinary existence. Many of my clients are experiencing the same feelings and they find it helpful to know that they may have ‘world-workers’ in them to expand their horizons. There is a lure that is constantly drawing me on to wholeness and God that moved me beyond cultural ideas of rightness and wrongness. Writer Ellen Bass says that every living creature wants to become itself: the tadpole into the frog, the chrysalis into the butterfly, a damaged human being into a whole one. That is spirituality.

Sometimes I rail against being different, I struggle to deny my gifts and my unique voice and then I remember Rumi’s poem about awakening after death to find that the judgement will come from not having lived life to the full and used all of life’s gifts:

Then you will turn to the right looking to the prophets
For help, as though to say,
I am stuck in the mud of my life.
Help me out of this!……….Rumi

Well, I guess I will never be able to say I was stuck in the mud of my life as over the years I helped myself and was helped by the unseen cloud of witnesses - out of the mud.

Once again Wilber’s works have been so helpful to me in tracing the stages of my consciousness and spiritual development and setting me free from guilt about being ‘different.’ “One discovers that destiny can be directed,” Anais Nin writes, “that one does not have to remain in bondage to the first wax imprint made on childhood sensibilities. Once the deforming mirror has been smashed, there is a possibility of wholeness.”

Over the years I have done a lot of workshops, reading, meditation and journalling on issues such as “What do I want in life?” “What are my desires?” “What gives me joy?” “What is my unique contribution?” “What is my body trying to tell me?” I found it difficult to find a therapist or a member of the clergy with a broad enough spirituality to allow me to accept myself as I am. There have been too few spiritual directors within the Christian church to help me find that the ground of my being is God and to remind me that I am in a process of becoming divine and that all parts of me are acceptable even as they constantly change with different stages of the journey. Once again the unseen ones guided me to a Church where the Priest was a Jungian Analyst and extreme liberal theologian and my present clinical supervisor is a Jungian therapist and process oriented psychologist. My continuing life lesson is to drop expectations of who I ‘should’ be and to learn awareness of and to appreciate, accept and be content with the present moment of the steps of the journey that are carrying me now. I am also constantly amazed at the wonderful synchronicities that fill my life and the web-like connections that weave the universe.

For many years I had difficulty with anger as it was totally forbidden in my upbringing unless it leaked out in mother’s sulks or father’s explosions of rage at my brothers. Neatly I have managed to combine both in relationships over the years. Becoming more independent recently and more my own person has freed me to express myself in ways that are becoming more socially acceptable and I have had some wonderful friends over the years who encouraged or tolerated my anger and saw it as a feisty and fun part. I have been angry over just about everything from McDonalds to the crucifixion, but I am learning discernment and to write more about my feelings rather than let them build up and explode, and especially to use art as an expression.

Working with Paradise Kids has been an enlightening and freeing experience as I usually ‘get’ the child who is the ‘me’ that I was, and I have to relive her all over again, including appropriate ways to deal with anger. Righteous anger has also been a gift and fuelled my battle with the Health System and many Health Ministers to get funding for Palliative care, from nothing - absolutely not one cent from them to the financial aid we get now to keep the hospice going. I am learning to love all the parts of me. When I travel I love to be alone in my room with some wonderful book, a glass of wine and a piece of brie. I look at this new part of me and see how far along the journey I have come, from being engaged at 19 because it was expected of me, to being engaged with myself and to myself now for the first time. This has been a difficult journey both because of my culture and family expectations and also because from the church’s perspective I am difficult to place. When I went for ordination many years ago the Archbishop asked me to wait a year to look after my husband and children. I thought it was a particularly paternalistic request and started a hospice instead.

The following poem is one of my favourites and I am attempting to live this out and also to be present to others in relationship.

Love after Love
The time will come
When, with elation,
You will greet yourself arriving
At your own door, in your own mirror,
And each will smile at the other’s welcome
And say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
To itself, to the stranger who has loved you
All your life, whom you have ignored
For another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
The photographs, the desperate notes,
Peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.    
Derek Walcott, 1994

However the above poem only touches on one of Wilber’s quadrants of wholeness, the individual internal , and I believe that through love of self, love becomes political and oriented toward second tier consciousness and love for service for the purpose of transformation of the world. I believe that the world’s greatest needs can be addressed through personal transformation and through finding the essence of freedom and joy within that then flows out in compassion - lifting all to freedom - and is so much more than grim ‘Christian’ duty as this following poem suggests.

Who is She?
Who is she,
neither male nor female,
maker of all things,
only glimpsed or hinted
source of life and gender?
She is God,
mother, sister, lover;
in her love we wake,
move and grow, are daunted,
triumph and surrender.
Who is she,
mothering her people,
teaching them to walk,
lifting weary toddlers,
bending down to feed them?
She is Love,
crying in a stable,
teaching from a boat,
friendly with the lepers,
bound for crucifixion.
Who is She,
sparkle in the rapids,
coolness of the well,
living power of Jesus
flowing from the Scriptures?
She is Life,
water, wind and laughter,
calm, yet never still,
swiftly moving Spirit,
singing in the changes.
Why is she?
mother of all nature,
dying to give birth,
gasping yet exulting
to a new creation?
She is Hope,
never tired of loving,
filling all with worth,
glad of our achieving,
lifting all to freedom.
- Brian Wren

Once the patterns and dances of life have been revisited and re-created so that the damaging flaws of brokenness from childhood are healed, and the steadfastness flowing from this integrity has moved to a service of liberation and love for all humans, then Rumi’s insight can be seen clearly without the dross of society’s smudging:

Out there

beyond ideas of rightness and wrongness

there’s a field,

I’ll meet you there.

Airing the Mental Room

One of the great examples of personal transformation is St Paul. He suggests, “Be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” (Romans 12: 2) Spiritual traditions have always emphasised study and the benefits of being a lifelong learner through reading sacred texts and other sources of inspiration that depth you and take you wider into the world. Spiritual traditions also emphasise the Sabbath or the time needed to reflect on the reading, to integrate and to be leisurely.

As I glanced around my home the other day I noticed my walls and walls of books. Books have been a continuing pattern in my life, as they have been my guides, companions, teachers, lectio divina, spiritual wisdom, and friends. From earliest childhood I read of the saints and mystics and the close connection between animals and humans and today I am still surrounded by books on Saints, Near Death Experiences, Spirituality, Theology, Wellness, Meditation, Transpersonal Psychology, and all subjects pertaining to the spiritual dimensions of life. A great teacher of mine is Ken Wilber and he keeps my mind alert and questioning and every couple of weeks more and more of his insights are coming through on that wonderful expansive source of knowledge – the internet! His belief is that spirituality can be approached through image and metaphor, through rational and academic discourse (my preferred way) and through direct practice and realization. The transpersonal approach has honoured all these practices and I sense a movement within myself from being more concerned with the contents of my mind to a more integral approach based on experiential evidence of Spirit in nature, in relationships, in energy and joy and in love. None of this was considered relevant in my Theology Degree.

Rumi warned us that we will be judged by how we respond to the blessings of creation and indeed of our flesh with its senses:

On Resurrection Day
God will say,
“What did you do with the strength and the energy
that your food gave you
on Earth?
How did you use your eyes?
What did you make with your five senses
while they were dimming and playing out?
I gave you hands and feet as tools
for preparing the ground for planting
Did you, in the health I gave,
do the ploughing?

Through all the seasons of my life my mind has been patterned by seeking deeper and broader meanings in everything. Through Scripture, poetry, books and movies I have sought wisdom and the divine. I have taken my role models from myths and legends and childhood books and embraced those parts that drew me out of the bland and the dull into the landscape of love. At the moment I am embracing the part of me that is represented by Vianne in the movie Chocolat. One of the wild ones, her search is mine also, for more spacious and loving places to move me out of the ordinary into ecstasy and hospitality to my community. So the breath of Spirit is moving me as the North Wind moved Vianne, and I am growing larger and larger into the Ruach experience of the One Taste of the spacious and loving places within as well as all around.

And I am learning… learning… learning… through this life - through all my senses – through walking through the many rooms of the mansion of my soul that:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves…
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination,
Calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
Over and over announcing your place
In the family of things……….Mary Oliver.

And that my life is indeed like a guest house with many arrivals in every room, sent by the invisible ones, bringing new delights as gifts on this journey of becoming fully human and fully divine.

The Guest House
This being human is a guest-house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of its furniture,
Still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
For some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
Meet them at the door laughing,
And invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
Because each has been sent as a guide from beyond…….Rumi

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