Tag Archives: acceptance

Our Souls at Night – Kent Haruf – talking in the dark

In my last post I touched upon the half-imagined essence shining through a work in progress – via incubation, the search for one’s language (in whatever form,) through the heart. This kind of search is bound to involve deep personal experiences, be it related to an outer or inner place, as the myth of one’s existential journey, which, when authentically communicated and shared tends to assume universal significance.

Kent Haruf –  (Feb 1943 – Nov 2014,) a humble, kind and unbiased writer, developed a powerful language. He shaped words until the essence of his characters stood clear – endearingly visible through sparse dialogues, exposing silent inner dramas all the more. The way I see it, his characters are letting sorrow be – a pragmatic yin approach that helps one to move along with the relentless forwarding force of life.

It is high art that sketches a story with modest words that slip right into the reader’s heart.

‘Our Souls at Night,’ is Kent Haruf’s last novel, published after his death. The story opens with possibilities: “And then there was the day Addie Moore made a call on Louis Waters.”  The courageous elderly Addie propositions Louis, a neighbour, widowed like herself, to share her bed during lonely nights. She scarcely knows the man, but acts intuitively on her need for companionship.

Talking in the dark, their hands occasionally touching, Louise and Addie come to value their fragile pact. Even Addie’s abandoned visiting grandson is wooed by the loving regard between his grandmother and her new friend, and their tolerance and tender concern for him, which is, the way I read it, the initiation of a small boy into the wisdom of respect. While the petty gossip of townsfolk adds to the fun of their social transgression and strengthen the closeness they’re forging, the jealous objections of Louis’s daughter and Addie’s son are truly hurtful, and in the end decisive.

Making less use of the environmental atmosphere that sparkles in earlier books;  this last story keenly sharpens on the inner sanctuary of lonely people.

The backdrop to these novels about ordinary fates is the sleepy fictional town ‘Holt’ on the high plains of Colorado, which embodies the writer’s reclusive childhood.

In an essay published in the Granta magazine, Haruf movingly shares about his difficult early life, and how it advantaged him later on – follow this link, it’s worthwhile …  – The Making of a Writer.

… ‘Years of unhappiness and isolation and living inwardly to myself have helped me to be more aware of others and to pay closer attention to what others around me are feeling. Which are good things if you are trying to learn how to write fiction about characters you care about and love’ …

And he has a message for fellow writers …

… ‘You have to believe in yourself despite the evidence. I felt as though I had a little flame of talent, not a big talent, but a little pilot-light-sized flame of talent, and I had to tend to it regularly, religiously, with care and discipline, like a kind of monk or acolyte, and not to ever let the little flame go out.’ …

Le Guin wrote that Haruf’s “courage and achievement in exploring ordinary forms of love – the enduring frustration, the long cost of loyalty, the comfort of daily affection – are unsurpassed by anything I know in contemporary fiction”.

Kent Haruf’s novels will certainly enrich your reading list during the coming festive day.

And, my wishful thinking, have a sneak at my mythical quest: Course of Mirrors, to be followed by its  immersive sequel, Shapers. Funds allowing, please consider supporting my efforts at Patreon

Related … don’t miss this short video about the most compelling story of a woman who found a language for her myth – think of incubation, cocoon, deep, deep desire to protect …

The blue-highlighted links in this post will open new pages – so you won’t lose this page. Thank you for reading.

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… meeting the other …

None but nature could have written a better curriculum for becoming human …

 

Attend for a moment to you breathing. If you’re aware of heaviness in any part of your body, breathe the colour of water under a blue sky into that part and let the tension drift into the earth with the out-breath.

In your mind’s eye, find yourself in a meadow, abundant with scented wild flowers. Nearby is the outcrop of a mountain and a welcoming dry cave stirs your curiosity. Entering the cave, you find a spacious passage from which comes a luminous glow. All of a sudden you’re walking on air, and – like a feather on a breeze – you’re floating, floating gently downward into velvety twilight. In your heart you know you’re guided towards a special encounter.

A waft of fresh air brushes your skin. You find yourself standing in a soft beam of light from high above at the centre of a dome-shaped cavern. The circular wall of the dome has tunnels that lead in all directions. You must choose one. Be patient.

White Window, St Cathrine's Chapel - more lowresWithin your reach sits a small bronze bell. Lift the bell and give it a slight nudge. As the clear sound of the bell reverberates in your heart, you’re drawn to one particular tunnel and you know this is the one to follow.

Warm air greets you with otherworldly scents, the crystal walls of the passage glimmer. Soon brightness appears ahead, momentarily blinding. You step forward and slowly make out a landscape of rolling hills with the sun reflecting in a silver stream that meanders towards a distant sea. 

Close by, you notice a strong presence under a solitary tree and feel your heart chime in perfect harmony with the presence. A near transparent human form steps out and mirrors your innermost being. Eyes, radiating love and acceptance, completely affirm you. For an instant you are – you are natural mind, pure consciousness.

A soft voice says: Where is the other?

Pondering the question, a shrouded figure moves, from hiding behind your back, boldly into view. It is a repulsive creature and you want to shush it away.

Greetings to your other, the soft voice of your essence says. Then you realise what the apparition represents, everything you reject and prefer to keep hidden from your consciousness, all you find objectionable, embarrassing and unacceptable in others, and in yourself.

Understanding happens. By denying your inferior being you are also ruled by its whims. And realisation comes – of your body’s wisdom, and of knowledge gained from human frailty you were too proud to value. You see with fresh eyes  and extend the very love and acceptance you absorbed from your essence. The other straightens, lightens. There’s a new respect, an affirmation, a softening.

Turn and look again into the deep compassionate eyes of your essence, absorb this capacity for tolerance in your heart, allow the healing.

Then bow to your essence and return the way you came. Give a nod of acknowledgement to your other, so the shrouded figure won’t slink behind, become resentful and trip you up. Let it walk in view, accepted, even with gratitude for its imperfections and its treasures.

*    *    *

Continuing from my last two posts, this is further classic theme for an inner journey, usually adjusted to the context in which it is used. I kept the narrative short and succinct. Even if you don’t enter the journey experientially, alone, or read to by friend, and allow your own images to emerge, the scenario might spark reflections, and drawings or writings for your diary or chapbook.

It’s humbling to recognise our flaws and the blame we assign to others, and yet, no matter how many veils are falling from our eyes, there’ll always be more projections to be owned, more grudges to let go of, more misunderstandings to tolerate, more hurts to absolve, and more to be embodied of what feeds us from dark roots. Our struggles with conflict and contradiction polish the heart, feed our imagination and create our realities. None but nature could have written a better curriculum for becoming human.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NrAGJEMnHE          Marie Louise von Franz – The Way of the Dream 2.1 – Our Shadow Knows

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. – C G Jung, CW 13: Alchemical Studies. P.335

Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. At all counts, it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions. – C G Jung

If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. – H W Longfellow

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… the child in us …

Close your eyes and imagine standing on a beach … warm sand under your bare feet – a light sea breeze brushing your skin – gulls sailing above the sparkling crests of waves. Breathe a while, to the rhythm of the surf lapping at the shore – in – out – in – out – in – out – and let your eyes rest on the silver skyline.

There is nobody here but you – and a visitor – a child you invite to appear as it will.

At what distance does the little person appear?

Observe its posture, age, gender?

What do you sense about it?

Does it look at you, or not?

Is it curious, shy, withdrawn?

Notice your thoughts and feelings, don’t draw conclusions – do nothing.

Sense the realm of consciousness this little person lives in, and still your mind. If the child plays with shells do the same, remaining where you are. If the child skips along the surf, wait. If it takes one step towards you, wait. If it turns its back on you or walks away, sit down and wait. All the while communicate silently – I’m here as a friend.

Yeshen in Surf, colour - lowresHe or she may come close – or not – play with you – or not. Be patient. This little one represents your essence and must be free to approach the strange adult you’ve become as it chooses and when it’s ready. Maybe next time. Don’t over-act. Even if the child is friendly, keep in mind it may try to please your expectations. Remain calm, interested, approachable.

*    *    *

Visiting an imaginary coastline, metaphorically a boundary between the conscious and the less conscious psyche, brings insights even if no images emerge. Try and silence your usual thinking process. Enter the scene as in a daydream, or have a friend slowly read the text.

Insights change from day to day, according to mood. You could experience joy, get a glimpse of what’s important in your life, or be prompted to engage in frank reflections – a valuable process, helping us to develop empathy.

For example, if sadness or pain knock at the sight of this child, ask yourself … have guardians chided your curiosity and strong spirit, or humiliated your weakness and poor confidence? As a result your own adult may have unwittingly come to reject your child as unworthy, regarding it as ungrateful, stubborn, nagging, or awkward with the shame of buried secrets?  Consider – fear of abandonment, punishment or guilt about early fantasies may compel children to please grown ups in order to cope and emotionally survive. The legacy could be a distrust one’s own feelings. Signals received as pain, or love, might equally overwhelm.

Next time you hear a baby or toddler screams, let’s say, in a supermarket, observe what happens in your body, and watch other shoppers. It grates at our nerves at best, and can trigger physically embedded memories of helplessness, and sometimes more. Good to remember when we  judge people who shout and act irrationally. There are behavioural therapies to desensitize triggers that threaten to overwhelm people with rage. Then again, active imagination is more deeply transforming, and the symbolic expression of complex emotions (see later) frees energy and meaning, making a difference to our collective state of consciousness.

If some of these reflections ring true,  return to the imaginary shore as long as it takes to earn the trust of your child. Your adult’s task is simply to be present, reflect, and allow the younger being to initiate communication.

In daily life, begin to set aside pockets of time for that little person in you, encourage a symbolic process, without pressure, to write or draw about early joys, pains, hurts or dark thoughts, like having hated a parent, or once wished someone to drop dead. Children have such fleeting fantasies when they feel threatened and powerless. It’s normal. Holding on to self blame is the problem.

Suffering brought to consciousness lifts the spell of self blame. Despite appearances of confidence and adult bravado, the child in us is often anxious. Deep down may linger legitimate anger, and, deeper still, sadness and the longing for a precious moment of total acceptance. We call it love. It takes time to soften hearts.

Imagination serves multiple roles. It can draw us into habitual loops of negativity and self harm, or stimulate insights and enhance creativity. Artists know this. Imagination can also heal psychic wounds frequently handed down through generations. The healing aspect is especially powerful when employed consciously. Jung called it ‘Active Imagination.’

In this way, every imaginary journeys can be followed up by freeing condensed energy and meaning – symbolically – through drawing, painting, writing, movement, music or play, allowing what wants to emerge, be it forgotten wonders, or burdens, like unacknowledged anger a child had no means to express in early life.

And most significantly, nurturing a trusting relationship and rapport with our younger being invites the Beloved – our essence – and with it the light of intuition and inner guidance.

‘Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.’  ― Rumi –

Perhaps all the dragons of our lives
are princesses who are only waiting to
see us once, beautiful and brave.
Perhaps everything terrible is in
Its deepest being something
that needs our love.               
— Rainer Maria Rilke –

 

The imagery above is in continuation of my last post ‘journey into mystery.’

https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/journey-into-mystery/

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