Sunday, October 14, 2012

Harvest



I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing. 

T. S. Eliot - from his “Four quartets”

HARVEST 

This will be my most personal post, and my timing for posting it is motivated by this month being not only breast cancer awareness month, but also the month traditionally associated with harvest time. But why link these two apparently unrelated events?

Recently I celebrated my 65th birthday, which for me personally happens to be quite an achievement. Twice in the short period of just six years my body fought a battle with breast cancer. People who know this about me tend to say to me: "You are a survivor". But I never know how to react to such a self-evident truth other than with a silent nod of the head.
How can one react, when there are all kinds of dying?
My body might successfully have resisted the insidious attacks upon it, but the soul has its own natural rhythms of healing. It was my spirit, and my inner space – the one of which mystics speak - which became wounded and frozen. This is something which manifests itself on an inner field of battle: a field of dull half-light and raw uncertainty. Even God and the angels seemed to withdraw themselves, leaving me to wander through this darkest twilight and waste land, apparently alone.

In my groping in the dark, every faint light on the way turned out to be a false guide, and I was like a bird that flew against a window time and time again. My piano which normally would console me fell silent, and the deep and giving well from which I drew the inspiration for my stories turned dry. I was grieving for them both, my creative companions. At the same time I felt abandoned by them. First God, then my music and my writing?

I blamed the chemotherapies. The icy-coldness of the toxic orange fluid which had been pumped into my veins, must have reached my spirit. I felt frozen, both inside and out. In that frozen state I surrendered to what my soul so clearly was going through. So I kept walking through this barren land. For almost eight long years.

I heard a voice: "you have to die deeper still", and another: "you have to trust deeper still".

But something else was asking for attention too.  It knocked politely at my door, pleading to be allowed in. What was it? I did not recognize the visitor. In a most gentle way this presence spoke to me through the words of a dear friend: "you must  pour compassion into yourself and console yourself. If you bring that kind of light to your soul and to its wounded places, you can affect incredible inner healing. In doing so you actually start to sense that the one who is giving consolation and compassion is much deeper than the entity you are consoling."

Compassion was the sustenance for the soul to take the final steps through the barren land.


Every living soul on this earth, whether in physical or in spiritual despair or distress, is walking this road at some stage in his or her life. And it is up to each and every one of us to break through that hidden isolation and take that one step nearer to the Truth.

When at last I was able to ‘unfreeze’, I began, gently and cautiously, to draw in the threads of life around me once more. Step by faltering step the process went, and setbacks there were aplenty. But this time there were helping hands, nearby and from far across the oceans, which encouraged me to ground myself in the circle of life once more. Gradually I acquired new vigor, and I could feel the love of my loved ones and friends revitalizing my being.

Now I anchor myself in this silent, unknowable mystery called life, with the deep and reverent sense which comes when one feels oneself drawing ever closer to the mystery. And the link with harvest time? I am beginning the harvest years of my life, not just in terms of my age, but in the accumulated experience of all that has gone before, and the awareness that while we cannot hope to understand all the things which happen to us, we nevertheless can give them a place, knowing that the most precious harvest is that of Compassion for the soul's silent yearning.  




Top painting: Elvira Amrhein

8 comments:

  1. Emma's powerful story has left me speechless! It has also touched me deeply and I feel that her story sheds a light into my life, and perhaps for many others who also read her story who are struggling with their own brand of darkness.

    Sometimes in a story there is a moment where suddenly one recognizes a deeper truth, and experiences a realization that radically alters our perception of the world, and ourselves. Here Emma has shared with us the story of her journey into the darkest night and in the depth of darkness itself something from within started to open. A light that she discovered was more inherently herself than the darkness surrounding her. In this light was compassion.

    She states, "Compassion was the sustenance for the soul to take the final steps through the barren land.... Every living soul on this earth, whether in physical or in spiritual despair or distress, is walking this road at some stage in his or her life. And it is up to each and every one of us to break through that hidden isolation and take that one step nearer to the Truth."

    Emma further states, "Now I anchor myself in this silent, unknowable mystery called life, with the deep and reverent sense which comes when one feels oneself drawing ever closer to the mystery." She associates this wisdom to the harvest time one's life.

    Emma expresses something ineffable, a divine wisdom that is beyond any religion, philosophy, dogma or spiritual path. It reaches out to touch us at the deepest existential level.

    The paintings are beautiful. The "angel" painting by Elvira Amrhein is stunning. It is other worldly and yet very human. And the butterfly symbolizes rebirth.

    Thank you for sharing your life and your inner discovery that is both intimate and yet so universal - and in doing so we are all made richer.

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  2. Dear Joseph, I want to express my deepest gratitude for your own role in raising awareness of all these issues which are so precious.
    Your recognition and insights help us all.

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  3. Mooi dat (en hoe!) je jouw ervaringen met die ondermijnende ziekte verwoordt en deelt moe'r. Proud of you.
    Rik

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  4. Lieve zoon, het delen van ons persoonlijke verhaal, onze ervaringen van verlies of ziekte, is voor velen een belangrijk onderdeel van het genezingsproces gebleken. Ik ben dan ook dankbaar dat ik dit op deze wijze met jou mocht delen.

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  5. This precious time of harvest, this most precious harvest itself is what our souls long for, each one. Our hearts ache to be known, to be heard, to be loved with gentle compassion. I bow, in reverence to you and your journey here. I am honoured to share space in this dimension with a soul such as yours dear Emma.

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    1. Your response to my own journey touches me deeply,.... your words are music to my soul, dear Joss.

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  6. My life has brought me to the point that you write a about so eloquently, Emma, albeit by a different route. Loving the thought that these are our 'harvest years' - my husband likes to call them our 'golden years' but sometimes physical and emotional pain can tarnish that image for me. From now on I'll focus on reaping the benefits and rewards of my incredible life experiences. Thank you for an uplifting post and to my blog~buddy Joss Burnell for posting the link! :)

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    1. Thank you for sharing your own response to my story which is much appreciated, wightrabbit.

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