becoming human

To be human is to become visible while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others- David Whyte

i recently learned of the ancient symbol, the mandorla, which consists of an almond-shaped space created by two intersecting circles. to me it feels like that thin space the celts speak of, where spirit crosses over the veil and is suddenly visible.  standing in this place, we can more fully witness and experience the communion between spirit and flesh that always exists but which we often cannot see or feel. it is at this point of intersection, which at times may feel quite small, and at others, as if there is no place where we can step where we are not standing fully in that place of union, that the rent of duality is mended.   i experience this junction as a place of full aliveness, but  i also know it as an intensely creative space, a place of conception, pregnancy and birth. indeed the almond contour itself might easily be perceived as a vulva.

we played with mandorla images a few weeks ago at the mid-winter retreat, in order to attend more closely to that particular mid-winter intersection between stillness and movement, between the void and the manifest, between silence and song that is the first week of february.   i felt the intersection that day as a place of teeming potential where emptiness breaks into abundance, you know, like those complete vacuums into which suddenly there appear particles of matter that the physicists wonder about. yet even this description leaves one with the illusion of a before and after, or an either/or, when in truth the experience when straddling these 2 worlds is one of both/and. both empty and full at once.

last weekend i drew a mandorla of my own.  in one of the circles, the red one, the color of earth,  i found myself writing the words, ego*, shape, desire, fear, striving, emptiness, purpose, who am i – so clearly the space where i stand in my longing today. into the second circle, the blue one, the color of sky,  i wrote the words, Love, I am, mystery, all is well, peace, joy, bliss and the divine- clearly the space where i stand always, acknowledged or not, beneath my surface tension.   i then filled in those circles and colored over the words with the pastels, overlapping the colors red and blue at the place of union.  i think i had hoped that the center almond-shaped overlap would turn purple for me; instead it was a subtler shade of mauve, pink perhaps.

when i turned the mandorla on its end, placing the blue orb beneath the red one, where i felt it belonged, suddenly, that once-sky-blue space felt like water– birthing waters, lady of the lake waters, waters supporting the continents, crone waters. almost at once, the earthiness of me seeped into the blue, sending down roots to drink deeply, hold firmly. it is odd to think of oneself as rooted in water (ungrounded?), but these roots felt familiar and secure, like something well-known and trusted.  at the same time, in the ‘opposite’ circle, the edge of the mauve almond unfurled, like the lip of a balloon, a cervix, or a navel, spilling blue into the red like a fountain. it was, in truth, more like an explosion than a spilling perse, ejaculatory almost.

it is to that point of opening and outpouring in the mandorla that i am drawn.  it feels like such a tender place that i know this is a place i must pray, this place of both love-making and birth, where that which is divine spills into the me that is my unique shape in this place.  my prayer has perhaps dwelt for far too long in that deep underground source of my being, the vast all is well where my roots are so well-established.  yes, blue, the place of deep ocean peace, is where i have tended to go when i sit with Love, and perhaps i needed that ‘grounding’ in ‘all is well Being’ before i could securely explore my ‘yes’ to my specific, authentic way of being and carrying gift.  it seems clear to me that the invitation today is not to go underwater, but to spend time praying red, earth, my nature, the grounded mary-and-jesus space in me.  i am embodied, incarnate, after all, and if my striving-for, desire for meaning, and empty places are ever to find their true shape, i must tend to that place where the divine is yearning to spill itself into my life, right in the center of my very own longing , right in the midst of my earthiness.

today, i pulled a book from my shelf by bill plotkin, entitled Soulcraft, a book that’s been waiting for me to show up.  plotkin puts into words the message contained in my  mandorla.  he would label my circles as spirit (blue, Oneness) and soul (red, one-ness) . his claim is that our religions and spiritualities and contemplative practices dwell mainly with establishing a connection with Spirit and miss the cooresponding  need to establish a connection with Soul.  so, many of us are leading those quiet lives of desperation, of which thoreau spoke to me yesterday, their song unsung.  plotkin’s life work is about addressing the needs of the soul to express its unique gift (shape) in the world, the specific ‘why am i here?’ whose roots draw and rest in the greater Why Am I Here. His opening words struck me….

                We long to discover the secrets and mysteries of our individual lives, to find our own unique way of belonging to the world, to recover the never-before-seen treasure we were born to bring to our communities. To carry this treasure to others is half of our spiritual longing. The other half is to experience our oneness with the universe, with all of creation. While embracing and integrating both halves of the spiritual life, Soulcraft specifically addresses our yearning for individual personal meaning and a way to contribute to life, a yearning that pulls us toward the heart of the world, into our wild nature and the dark earth of our deepest desires.

                Alongside our greatest longing lives an equally great terror of finding the very thing we seek. Somehow we know that doing so will shake up our lives, our sense of security, change our relationship to everything we hold as familiar and dear. but we also suspect that saying ‘no’ to our deepest desires will mean self-imprisonment in a life too small. And a far off voice within insists that the never-before-seen treasure is well worth any sacrifices and difficulty in recovering it………

suddenly i feel like the woman in the song ‘killing me softly’ who shows up to hear the musician ‘singing my life with his words’. 

* as an fyi, i do not use the word ego as a dirty word, but rather the vehicle through which my soul might express itself

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