Monday, October 11, 2010
By Jude Rittenhouse
Late today, light’s long fingers—penetrating a wicker chair—made a short-lived lace on a forest green cushion: a briefly flickering legend that will never be precisely repeated and will not be seen by anyone other than me. Like every other piece of creation, we humans explore, discover, penetrate and become the unique mix of being that unfolds from our gifts and our particular journey. We are not unlike that lace of light or another tableaux I noticed on the evening when summer gave way to fall. I looked out my window and wrote:
Tonight I am summer; tomorrow
I will be fall, said moonlight
to its lover, ocean, who replied:
I am darkness
until your fingers
or sun’s strong hands stroke me
into paths and swaths
of singing fire. You and I, we both
know the coldness
separate, unreflected. Though, together,
fevers of seasons: changing
ourselves with each other. Apart
we still reach:
gravity toward water, mist
toward sky, tides toward shore. Earth:
the single body
where your flow and mine
can combine in this vagabond shining.
This separate togetherness, this nondual duality is reflected by foundational Kabbalistic awarenesses in the Tree of Life: relationship is the foundation of everything and receiving is what we are made for. In Kabbalistic creation stories, the first emanation resulted in a shattering of the Tree—the sephirot (containers) were out of relationship with each other and unable to hold the light. In the second emanation, the sephirot were in relationship and able to receive and bear the light without shattering.
Though I’m grossly oversimplifying some very rich and dense images and meanings, this story is every story—the story of each of us who was, initially, not fully received and so continues searching for that second opportunity. Of course, the deepest healing comes when we learn to do that for ourselves—receive the truth of what is—and we learn best through experience. Experience is a most profound and enduring teacher.
I keep thinking of the story about a group of wise men in a pitch-black room with an elephant: they’re all feeling a different part of this enormous being and, when they come out of the room to discuss what an elephant is, they all have different versions. The one who touched the tusk believed elephants are hard and smooth, the one feeling a leg was certain they must be like tree trunks, and so forth. Too often, we humans focus on one part of the elephant, believing it to be the whole. Being in relationship, being able to fully receive—these are the foundations.
Words are such odd things. They try so hard to say what is ineffable and, in the process, they tend to miss conveying the eyes of the elephant, or it’s warm breath and quiet heart. While it’s difficult to learn to trust the unknown and reside there, knowing doesn’t leave room for truth. Truth can only find its way into being through an impeccable being with—a companioning that can bear all the unknowable things conveyed by those wise eyes, that eerie breath and eternal pulsation.
Lately, I’ve been reading once again about the existential focus on death and meaning (I say “once again” because Sartre, Gide, and other such writers intrigued me in the early 1970’s). Several of my former Nondual Healing classmates recently attended a weekend workshop on death. While speaking with one of them last Friday, our conversation touched on something I’ve witnessed and experienced: the dying process, when given a container that can bear it, illuminates and heightens the life process. That is, dying can show us what life longs to be: a constant flow that carries us, when we allow it, to extreme states of being. If only more of us could bear these extremes, maybe our world could come closer to being what it longs to be. I’m reminded again of the many reasons I’m grateful for my near-death experience a year ago.
Last weekend brought further synchronistic illuminations on this strange and amazing journey. My love and I began the day with a stop at the town dump to recycle a 1973 black & white TV and a heavy vacuum cleaner (of similar age)—both given to me by my mother who is in the final stage of Alzheimer’s. After this letting go (which brought up waves of loss that I gratefully allowed to pass through), we drove toward the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Massachusetts. En route, we heard a recording of Emily Dickinson’s poem (#290 about the aurora borealis), which ends: “My Splendors, are Menagerie –/ But their Completeless Show/ Will entertain the Centuries/ When I, am long ago,/ An Island in dishonored Grass –/ Whom none but Beetles – know.”
Our drive along winding, wooded roads immersed us in the gypsy-colored glories of early fall—which will only briefly precede the trees standing naked in winter’s cold. Once at the museum, we discovered that a current indoor exhibit is Leonardo Drew’s installation “Existed.” His work evokes the depth of human concerns with time, existence, letting go, and the search for continuation.
At times like this, when everything conspires to strip away masks and veils, leaving me vulnerable to the truth of life in physical form, even though words lose their usefulness, I turn to them:
cannot know or learn or see
what I alone have been, am,
will be. This particular journey
is mine to create, discover, breathe.
Breathing, we become one: sharing
with air, water, cardinals, coyotes,
hibernating snakes curled at the base
of sudden orange-red maple trees.
Together we create this briefness
of being—this continuing
transformation. This noticing
of our aloneness within a tapestry
of togetherness. Here, alone
together, life and death keep
teaching the truth about being.
Jude Rittenhouse has received a Writer’s Grant from the Vermont Studio Center, a first place short story award, and various poetry awards. In addition to her holistic practice, Integrated Healing Services, Jude teaches at conferences, retreats, schools, hospitals, alternative health centers, and domestic violence shelters. She is also an inspirational speaker and presenter for literary audiences, cancer survivors, spiritual gatherings, high school and college students, and other groups. In all of her endeavors, she strives to empower others as they explore their unique journeys toward wholeness.
To learn more about her holistic practice or to inquire about her poetry chapbook, Living In Skin, contact: Jude@JudeRittenhouse.com or call (401) 348-8079 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting
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