Anniversary

Today is the one-year anniversary of The Third Eve. I’m grateful for every single one of the community of bloggers I’ve come to know and love through the simple act of writing. You’ve enriched my life and enlightened me; thank you.

illu2 by you.

Quaternity

I started blogging because I had gotten out of the habit of writing. It seems that, having been published, I suddenly realized that I could be published and that the writing of books might be endless and illu8 by you.meaningless. I also noticed some of my long-time friends and colleagues who write burning out as writers. I feared that writing might become for me what it was to them, a chore. All this, combined with real-life demands, stressors, and griefs, led to a long winter during which I did little else but suffer deep down inside.

During that sabbatical, I continued to read and to try and grow as a person. Something I read-probably Jung-started me thinking about four, the number of completion in numerous spiritual traditions. I kept thinking about how the Christian Trinity is three: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Three, an incomplete number. Why, I wondered, would God use a doctrine of incompletion? A trinity couldn’t be complete.

Then one day I realized that the Fall happened, in effect, to God too. Humanity’s separation from our source, by whatever name one wants to call it, was a loss not only to the separated, but also to the source from illu4 by you.whom we were separated. And so, as the Christian Myth goes, we needed our Bridegroom to fetch us back, even at the price of His own life. The most ancient stories, myths, and fables are replete with tales of the descent into the underworld and subsequent apotheosis of the hero, who returns to the land of the living with whatever treasure will save his people.

The thing is that not only did we need our Bridegroom to fetch us, but he needed us to be fetched. No Bride, no Bridegroom. We are the fourth member of the godhead, the Eve who completes the picture. Mary, the second Eve, represents all that we should be but are not, until we Become. And so I thought of The Third Eve, the metaphor of ultimate completion.

Writing as Love

My goal became to write regularly about the art and discipline of becoming whole. Becoming a real writer is illu3 by you.much the same as becoming a real person: it takes inspiration and work. Most of us repress the habits that lead to wholeness, thus resisting our very selves. We lead lives of quiet desperation because we never realize our Selves. And yet we use the same energetic habits that might have propelled us forward in our journey to accomplish other, less meaningful ends, instead.

Repression is the act of shutting our inner eyes in order to avoid the suffering of discipline. Repression always calls forth a compensatory activity of the unconscious which will, through the illu5 by you.back door, force upon us the very thing we are trying to repress. The alternative is conscious discipline: trying to plan, direct or curb our acts, or renouncing them altogether, should that be required. Such losses can be borne and are eminently human, if we will but muster the courage to go down the lonely path. Most of us will not.

The point of becoming conscious, of working on ourselves so that we’re aware of ourselves, is to allow what has been repressed to emerge so that we can consciously experience it. Once we’re awake to it, we may have to restrain its destructive aspects and put it under our conscious discipline. This is hard work, and every power in the world seems poised to thwart the pilgrim attempting to become, and remain, conscious.

Because of the difficulty inherent in becoming conscious, the first thing we often try to do when gripped by an unconscious force is to try and repress it. If we can’t manage to repress this force, then the next thing we try to do is act it out. But this is messy, because we act out on other people, and then we have to take responsibility for our actions anyway. A more helpful choice is to take the emotion we feel inward for reflection, so that we will better understand ourselves. Understanding that our reactions are entirely our own, belonging to us and not anyone else’s fault helps us to make our best conscious decision in the moment. Such decisions are based on an awareness that a force is active within us. We can choose to allow that force to influence us by using it creatively, or we may choose to sidestep the force and take actions not based on the emotional force, but based on principle. Or we may choose some combination of these; but the actions of a conscious person are consciously arrived at.

Most of us spend hours every day doing some discipline that requires time, attention, motivation, and reflection-the same disciplines required of the writer. We’ll spend hours on a hobby, or hours doing needful work, but we won’t spend it at our craft. We arrive at the next step of the personal journey and recoil from it, refusing to go deeper. Instead, we go deeper into other activities that are sometimes good and worthy, and other times worthless, leading nowhere. We do this to avoid the suffering of the lonely, even monastic, writer, experiencing instead the suffering of meaninglessness and self-abandonment.

Refusing the Call

One year, my friend Faye became convinced that the next leg of her hero’s journey required her to sleep for five years. This is the command that Spirit kept giving: sleep for five years. She had come out of an adult illu1 by you.lifetime of clinical depression and was bubbling over with energy and ability: why sleep? She knew that sleeping, for her, meant going down into the depths of the unconscious, doing the belly of the whale. But she refused to do it. She finished her degree, she puttered around at teaching yoga and Bible studies. She decided she was a healer and began to see clients even though she was not trained for it, much. She went on cruises, she taught Sunday School, she shopped, and she had lunches with friends. She did everything but what she had been called to do, which was to go down into the depths of her self and sleep for five years. Sleep is dreaming, and sleep is healing; it is the underworld and it is the unconscious.

When I saw what my friend became by refusing her call, I felt disturbed. I wondered at her refusal, even though I understood why someone who had been paralyzed by depression might react against “sleep” by doing everything under the sun except live a solitary life and court the Real Self in its native land, the unconscious. I caught myself having strong feelings about her refusal, through them conveniently side-stepping responsibility for my own refusals. I became very much afraid of refusing my own call, and saw that I had, in fact, already been refusing it through unmitigated middle-aged developmental suffering, which had kept me from the real suffering required by my own solitary path. And so it was that choosing to face the blank page and write my 1500-2000 words a day became an act of obedience, and ultimately of love, for the one person I struggled with most in this world, which was me. Choosing to answer the call to write such humble offerings in a medium I did not respect, and which seemed worthless to a “real writer,” whose Holy Grail is Publication (Hallowed Be Thy Name), felt like failure. But it acted like God.

Novitiate

Happy anniversary to me. I went into a tomb, I was swallowed by a great whale, I was shipwrecked and cast illu11 by you.into the tossing waves of the sea, and cast ashore outside the thick, high walls of a cloister. Today marks the first day of my novitiate, for I am committed to three acts a day for the next year: prayerfully invoking the mercy and aid of God, writing daily, and honoring the ancestors through reading. The book in my hand, the keyboard, and the blank page will be the leather belt, the sandals, and the the prayer rope of the novice.

What, I wonder, are your emblems of Becoming? To what novitiate are you called, friend? To what have you closed your eyes, so as to avoid the suffering of μοναχός, monachos, the monk, literally, the alone one? You’ve heard the voice of your Bridegroom, calling, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come along!” (Song of Solomon 2:10). How did you respond? To what daily habits have you fled to avoid the suffering of loneliness?  To what postulancy are you called in the coming year?

How, and with what, will you answer?

15 responses

  1. Eve, after reading this post, I feel alarmed. I know that I should have answers to the questions, and I believe they are just out of reach because I am not ready to face them. I’m too lazy and too self-centered.

    I must let the words you wrote do their work. I will let you know what happens.

    Congratulations on your anniversary.

  2. What interesting responses we have here. I think I see a similar thread running through, the thread of what we do when we are required to side-step our convictions, whether they are just blossoming or in full bloom. Heni is going through this; Deb is going through it; I too am going through it (in a parenting area, which I’ll blog about today). It’s hard work, living if we’re growing.

    And, David and Irene, you’ve made me consider what differences there are between being alone and being lonely. I’ve rarely been alone for the past 25+ years, due to my large family size and my being the mother. But I have often felt lonely over the past 8 years. So there’s a difference for me that doesn’t depend on having people around, even people who love me and whom I deeply love, and people with whom I’m intimate. We have a close-knit family of mostly awake people. And yet I often have felt lonely. So I’ll be thinking about this and see what I can find out. Thank you for responding and helping me to sort myself out, just by your comments.

  3. I want to become a street nurse but I’m busy taking a dialysis course. Why? Last week I was doing something with a machine, shutting off an alarm and a thought popped into my head, “I don’t want to do this.”, which I immediately quelled.

    How can I not do this? I need a job to support myself. I made a commitment to my boss to finish this training, which is costly, and come work for her. A large part of my mixed emotions is not following through on something that I said I would do, even if I don’t like what I’m doing.

    It’s not that I dislike dialysis nursing but I find the focus is on the machine and not on the patient but maybe that’s just because it’s all new. I don’t know.

    I do know that I miss my time for daily reflection. I’m trying to do it on the fly now and it doesn’t feel as good.

    Thanks for making me think. I’m keeping so busy I’m not thinking about what I need to think about which is why do I do the things that I do. Why do I get so defensive when criticism is offered? Why do I judge so much? How can I change that? And a thousand other questions that I’m too busy to attend to right now which also makes me irritated. I was making progress, learning to understand myself and accept my imperfect self and I feel as though I’ve stalled again, too busy to finish what I started two years ago.

  4. Eve, when I read those words I quoted from you earlier, my reaction was to feel incredulous and horrified that I would deserve such love. The thought of it pierced me, because it meant that someone had seen me completely through, and still had their hand out. From that I still turn away, despite wanting to reach out. I feel at once the desire to answer that call, and somehow a shame or embarrassment that I should want it so badly on some level. I haven’t worked out how to resolve that one yet, but now I’m trying not to turn away. I think I might be a bit frozen to the spot, as it were, staring like a startled doe! I’d like to approach it on a creative level through the imagery in my work, but even there I can feel myself being judgmental and selective in a negative and fearful way. There’s the work, I guess.

    About loneliness: well that’s something I have been very familiar with all my life. Its what drove me to find meaning from an early age. I was always isolated as a child, and moved schools too often. I’d just start to connect with someone, and I was moved away. I was always too shy. I didn’t know how to be a friend. But now and over the last ten years, I learned how nice it is to be alone, and also how nice it is to have a few friends. And I haven’t felt lonely for a long time – but that could be the keeping busy thing. I’m always obsessing about ideas for new work, or plans for the garden. It does seem, though, that the deep despair I grew up with is gone.

    I believe Life, like Art, should be about process. The best thing is that the opportunities to rediscover this are always there – thankfully.

    And lastly, I am going to take your advice about approaching people. I love “…you are fearfully and wonderfully made.” It feels empowering to both sides when I imagine saying it. Thank you.

  5. Eve, I am feeling very full (ha! I almost typed “fool” there) right now of practical, mundane things right now–a house full of boxes to be unpacked, getting used to a new and more full schedule each day with school and work and home. Nothing that seems very high or spiritual. And I know that the mundane is spiritual, but I’m just not feeling it.

    What I’m feeling is shame and despair over money, fear and despair over the schools my children are attending (long story). I feel like I have some things calling to me (my editing work; writing my craft book; learning new crafts; fixing our finances so we can buy a house) but they are still off in the distance a ways, and I’m still making my way across the slough of despond before I can start climbing those mountains.

    I’m also feeling a bit like I’ve been cast into a wilderness: living in a new, unfamiliar place, no longer surrounded by people with similar interests or desires. I feel like my kids are being exposed to the exact opposite of what I want for them (TV, computers, predetermined characters instead of imaginative images, etc.) instead of being in the nurturing place we had in New York.

    So, much as I would love to answer your wonderful question about my novitiate, I just don’t think I’m there right now. I have no daily habits, no practices to support me. Everything has been tossed in the air and mixed up and left to spin in the wind.

  6. That is a very interesting response, Eve, in so many ways. For myself, I often feel lost or somehow like a failure because I never do have large goals, expectations, or any outcome attachment to anything I do (except insofar as I expect that I will do the best I can at it). My life has always been about the next little thing, when I can see it. I have always felt that I am somehow living backwards … most people I know have a goal that remains A Goal, but it is often enshrined in some cloud-cuckoo-land and they never get there, often because getting there requires mundane dailiness that doesn’t seem worthwhile. On the other hand, I seem to myself to be in a constant state of completing small steps, and having no idea where I’m going, except that every now and then I’ll look back over my shoulder and think, “Oh, I guess I accomplished fill in the blank. When did that happen? Hmmm,” at which point I continue doing whatever I’m doing now.

    I don’t know whether it’s a human thing, or an American thing, or what kind of a thing it is to feel that without a definite goal, we’re not getting anywhere. It’s an idea that’s been hammered into my head ever since I was a little kid. What do you want to be when you grow up? What’s your purpose? What’s your dream? What’s your goal? What are you going to do? And people sort of (well, not sort of — they absolutely) react to me as though there’s something wrong with me when I say something along the lines of “I don’t have one,” or “I don’t know; I guess I’ll see what happens,” or “I think my goal is to be in less pain someday.”

    Your last paragraph made me look quite differently at something I have always regretted about my life … the fact that because I had literally no friends until I was ninteen years old, I have had to very painfully acquire friend-making skills as an adult. And because of that, I am incredibly fussy about whom I accept as a friend. I don’t have the emotional or spiritual energy to waste on anyone who doesn’t really get me. There are few people in my life whom I would call friends, but they’re all real friends. I am so accustomed to being lonely that I can’t really imagine any other way of life. It’s upsetting and depressing sometimes, but I’ve recently come to realize that the fact of my being used to it prevents me from making certain types of mistakes. I’m not going to distract myself from my life with an inappropriate relationship due to fear of being alone; nor will I make unhealthy friends due to that fear. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have the fear … I do. But whatever knowledge I have of myself is so hard-won that I am unwilling to allow anyone to distract me from it, or try to compromise it. I’d rather be alone with my uncomfortable Self than lose sight of it. I won’t know what to do with it if I don’t keep engaging it. And if I have to turn off that engagement to be around unsuitable people … well, that seems to me a tragic waste of all the hard work I did to find it in the first place. And I am, above all else, a pragmatist who despises waste. 🙂

  7. Irene, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one” also moves me deeply. When I think of those words I know I’m loved. I am so wonderful and beautiful. But then I forget them and I forget everything. I forget that every person is divinely loved, beautiful, and wanted. I forget that I am, too. And in that forgetfulness there I go: into unconsciousness.

    I have a practice over the past few years that’s been growing on me and growing me as a deeper person. I try to begin every encounter I have with another person by sending this thought to that person: “I love you. God loves you, and you are fearfully and wonderfully made.” I find if I don’t think this before engaging my spirit, soul and mouth, I always err. If I do think it or invoke it or pray it, my heart turns to mushy love.

    Anyway, back to “Arise… come away with me.” I wonder how much of my frequent desire to escape, and how much of the typical human impulse to run away screaming (or just run away) is a repression of that deep spiritual longing to answer the divine call and the deepest call of our real selves?

  8. Alida, I’m glad that popped out at you, the emblems of becoming. I had been thinking about what monks and religious are given when they enter a monastery: a belt, sandals, a prayer rope. That’s all. What do those things mean? For what are they used?

    In the Eastern Orthodox churches, the prayer they are given to pray on their beads is so simple. It moves me to tears, the “Jesus prayer.” I wonder at this, that people going into this alone way of life have so few trappings, and yet these are the most profound tools. A belt. Sandals. Prayer beads.

    And me, with all my gadgets and brand names and stuff, with not an nth degree of the depth of spirit these religious eventually may attain due to their practice. It gives me pause.

    I know a few years ago that my emblems were different. Sometimes they have been school books I used to teach my children. Sometimes my emblem was one thing, sometimes another. But there’s always a tool, or maybe a few things, that God uses in our lives as we use them.

  9. David, I don’t really know much; I just sometimes have insights into myself after long bits of time of bumbling around in the dark; and then I am able to write about them and seem brilliant. The insight is brilliant; the one having it isn’t, so much. I’m working at this writing craft and becoming better at writing about what’s meaningful to me, getting to the heart of it.

    But I’ll tell you, even though I know something about what I should be doing, I have zero energy invested in any imagined or real outcome. That probably sounds weird. But I’ve been carrying around an attitude of “what’s the use?” for some time now. “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity,” as the preacher of Ecclesiastes complained. This is how I see things. Or, as my son asked at age five, “What’s the point?”

    I remember times of having no path and no way to go along, and thinking that if only I had a path, everything would be better. A path leads to a goal, right? Then I’d have a goal and all would be peachy. Well, that’s not how it’s worked. I’ve had and reached goals and they weren’t all that. Lately I’ve been thinking it’s about the process, and about just living and being in this world, and about the way of being. It’s about my attitude, what thoughts I hold, what stories I tell myself and others, whether I’m examining these things and whether they are even true. It feels lonely. Everything I know as a depth psychologist teaches me that this is the best kind of normal for someone on a journey of self discovery and actualization. But even that seems so often like a fairy tale to me.

    I have felt very lonely and alone and isolated for the past eight years. My daughter’s death and my awakening in those parts that were awakened by her suffering and death changed me profoundly by returning me to my self and knitting my heart to God’s intimately. I couldn’t go back. I didn’t know how to go forward. So I sat and waited and was miserable although I know I didn’t seem so outwardly. I simply felt pregnant with sorrow and loneliness and I just continued to gestate that.

    Then, last year, I was given a task: write a blog. It seemed so stupid. Truly stupid and silly and worthless. But I’d seen what happened to other people who judge their tasks as stupid etc. and I didn’t want to end up like those people–some of my former clients, some friends, some family members, some acquaintances. Examples abound. So I did the task. And one year later, I’m so glad I did. I don’t feel stupid or silly and I’ve been so blessed as to have my heart FILLED UP with the fondness and love I feel for strangers like you. It’s been amazing, and I’ve only just begun.

    So by faith I’m proceeding with this next set of tasks. I feel stupid and silly even writing about them, but writing about them and speaking them will hold me accountable. I don’t expect to write anything I will publish. I have no goal other than to do what I’m supposed to do.

    So my question to you, David, is: To what practice are you called? When was the last time you asked what you were supposed to be doing? I don’t mean the big picture, I mean the small little piece of the puzzle that you can do. What one thing was the last thing you knew you were supposed to occupy yourself with, and did you do it? Did you start it, and then abandon it because you judged it or had some expectation or outcome attached to it? Did you see your task through to completion, til when you knew it was finished?

    I’m talking about what your practice is in the Buddhist sense, or put like Brother Lawrence, the Christian mystic, says: are you washing your pots and pans? What daily, mundane tasks are you supposed to be doing? Are you doing them with mindfulness?

    I actually do not know what my real “call” is in life, even to this day, even at my somewhat advanced age. We all think we’re supposed to know that, and have one. I really don’t think so. I think we’re put here to love. Love is a way of life, not an arrival point. We never really become perfect at it, most of us. So there’s always farther to go. But most of us aren’t satisfied with being more loving; so we go get stuff and we achieve things and then much later wonder why we’re so empty and lonely.

    Right now I guess you’d say I’m learning to be alone inwardly, though surrounded by loved ones, and to love being lonely because I deeply love myself and am carried away inwardly in this Divine love affair. That’s all I really keep turning my inner eye toward: the Divine, the eternal, the universal, oneness. Everything else is perishing.

    That’s how I see it today, anyway.

    Let’s talk more about lonely. I have felt so ashamed of feeling and being lonely and of purging myself of shallow ‘friends.’ I’ve felt more lame and less whole because of the way I let people prop me up. And I’m a so-called “healthy” person! LOL! Wow. I have a lot I’d like to write about it, but I feel some shame and embarrassment over it too, so I thank you for just admitting so candidly that you too have felt or feel lonely. It seems damning, but there it is. Thank you so much, oddly enough you’ve given me courage.

  10. You always write so wonderfully. This ‘what is my calling’ question is one that I am struggling with, and have been for a while. I will push on and hopefully listen and come out on the other side of struggle as happy as you.

  11. Happy Anniversary Eve!
    I too have been reading and re-reading what you’ve posted today, and writing pages and pages just to absorb your comments and all those wonderful and thought-provoking questions.

    When you quoted “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come along!” (Song of Solomon 2:10) – well, that just started a flood of words, and tears, and feelings. Your writing for me is so visual, it leads me to feel very connected with you, the journey, and my self.

    I hope, during the year to come, to hopefully be more conscious, if I am not too afraid. I will search through my dreams, my reading and painting, and I look forward to walking here with you over the next year.

  12. “What, I wonder are your emblems of Becoming?”

    Wow! You’ll never know how profound that question is for me today. Exactly what I needed.

    Thank you, as always your timing is impeccable.
    Beautifully written.

  13. I’ve read this really remarkable piece of writing ten times now, and still have the same thought, which is that although you may have resisted it, you are very fortunate to know in what direction your required suffering lay. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that I will never have even the smallest idea of what I’m supposed to be doing while I’m here. I’m pretty sure that if I knew, I’d try to do it, or at least admit that I was deliberately avoiding it.

    There are certainly things in my life that I do while full of fear that they will cause me to be even more alone than I already am. And they do cause that suffering. I don’t think I fully understand why I do them anyway; none of them are easy things. I think I’d feel a lot better about the whole thing if I did in fact have a teensy idea that I was going in some useful direction, rather than torturing myself for no reason. Even if the path is hard, and the end destination too terrible (in the literal sense of the word) to conceive … there’s great value in really knowing that there’s a path.

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