Monthly Archives: September 2012

Telling the earth how you feel

This really inspires me; what a powerful act!  Em Strang shares a deep moment at this year’s Uncivilisation gathering in the UK:

One of the highlights of the weekend for me was Tom Hirons’ rites of passage workshop. After talking about his own experience of a wilderness rite of passage and introducing the ideas behind it, Tom sent us off into the woods for half an hour. We were asked to choose between two ‘tasks’: either to walk through the woods praying (silently or out loud) or to dig a hole the size and shape of your face, about 6 inches deep in the earth; to lie down with your face in the hole and scream. ‘Whichever of the tasks is more challenging to you,’ he said, ‘choose that one.’ I chose the hole. What a strange, ridiculous, hilarious, powerful, emotionally overwhelming thing to do! It took me a while to lie down. I felt self-conscious and daft. Someone had followed me into the thicket. I spent a few minutes making the hole a ‘more perfect’ shape. But when I lay down on the earth and screamed into the hole I’d made, I almost immediately ‘lost’ my sense of self. All around me in the woods, other men and women were howling and screaming into small, earthy holes. More than anything else, I wished that everyone in the world would give themselves permission to do this, to let go, to express themselves at a most fundamental level. It sounds unlikely, downright odd even, but screaming into the earth opened in me a profound sense of compassion. After a while, I realised I wasn’t screaming but making a kind of whale-song and my lungs seemed to have quadrupled their capacity; I could hold a sound for what seemed like minutes.

Anyone who hasn’t done this, or something similarly wild and strange, might be tempted to reject it as hippie nonsense. All I’d say is, try it for yourself and see; or better still, sign up to one of Tom’s workshops. I heard that one man had scribbled a sign on a piece of paper and laid it next to him while he howled: ‘I’m OK!’

For more about the weekend: Charlotte Du Cann shares a richly woven “postcard from the woods” about the festival, and here’s a recollection with images from Jeppe. Below, an image by Jeppe, Funeral for a Species:


Beneath your chosen path

EecummingsNewMoonWEBWhen the garden of your unchosen lives has enough space to breathe beneath your chosen path, your life enjoys a vitality and a sense of creative tension. Rilke refers to this as “the repository of unlived things.”  You know that you have not compromised the immensity that you carry, and in which you participate. You have not avoided the call of commitment; yet you hold your loyalty to your chosen path in such a way as to be true to the blessings and dangers of life’s passionate sacramentality.

No life is single. Around and beneath each life is the living presence of these adjacencies. Often, it is not the fact of our choosing that is vital, but rather the way we hold that choice. In so far as we can, we should ensure that our chosen path is not a flight from complexity. If we opt for complacency, we exclude ourselves from the adventure of being human. Where all danger is neutralized, nothing can ever grow.

To keep the borders of choice porous demands critical vigilance and affective hospitality. To live in such a way invites risk and engages complexity. Life cannot be neatly compartmentalized. Once the psyche is engaged with such invitation and courage, it is no longer possible to practice tidy psychological housekeeping. To keep one’s views and convictions permeable is to risk the intake of new possibility, which can lead to awkward change. Yet the integrity of growth demands such courage and vulnerability from us; otherwise the tissues of our sensibility atrophy and we become trapped behind the same predictable mask of behavior.

~ John O’Donohue
from Eternal Echoes

This entry comes to us courtesy of Dean Keller at The Beauty We Love,
one of the online repositories of insight that I visit on a regular basis 

Image: e.e. cummings, New Moon

The Real Work

Wendell berryIt may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Wendell Berry, from Standing by Words, 1983

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