It’s hardly surprising my notebook of insights and reflections for this past month contains very little, the focus of my energy having been with processing Jeanne’s passing on and then preparing for her funeral. A mutual friend of ours told me last night that she “saw” Jeanne recently in a red tracksuit, I love that image – she who was so disabled latterly by neuropathy looked as if she was about to go running! I am relieved that she is no longer suffering, and I felt honoured to offer a reflection on our friendship at the funeral.
As the NHS haven’t a clue about recovery from Lyme disease, I see a complementary practitioner, who said to me at our last session recently “What HAVE you been doing?!” I told him about Jeanne, all that I’d been through and involved with. In some ways it was a relief that his diagnosis confirmed what I knew – that my energy levels had deteriorated significantly since I’d last seen him. He gave me a stern talking to about prioritising activities into A, B and C, focussing on the “As” – much easier said than done I have to say.
In a parallel universe life on the river Dart has been full to bursting with new life. The trees breaking out into that vibrant almost neon green, filling every available space, the ransoms a carpet of pungent white flowers in the woods and along the paths campions a riot of pink. The most precious experience on my early morning walks with Selkie was watching a pair of juvenile dippers being encouraged by an adult to take flight along the river. Early morning isn’t the best for photos, but I offer them as a unique moment of life on the river bank. Later on I saw a female goosander with 4 large young two days running. In the world around me, everything is vibrant, blossoming, burgeoning, growing.
Meanwhile in the world inside me, I still wonder “why me, why this, why now?” on a daily basis. I have written before about the profoundly numinous experience I had reflecting on Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, during the first part of the 30 day retreat in Scotland at the end of which I had the fateful tick bite. The other day I was out early on the river bank with Selkie, asking this question yet again. This time an answer came, “It’s your desert experience”. And I remembered then, that after Jesus’ baptism, he immediately went into the desert.
In my sparse journal this past month I made a note of one particular daily meditation from Richard Rohr in which he’s talking about “radical transformation”. He quotes Ken Wilber “Religion itself has always performed two very important, but very different, functions. One, it acts as a way of creating meaning for the separate self…” Rohr says, “This is good and needed… You have to have a self to move beyond the self….But most religion stops at this first function, simply giving you a positive self-image and identity…”
Wilber goes on “But two, religion has also served.. the function of radical transformation and liberation. This function does not fortify the separate self, but utterly shatters it … in short, a radical… transformation at the deepest seat of consciousness itself.” Rohr says, “This is true religious conversion. The experience occurs when God or life destabilises your private ego, usually through some form of suffering. It will feel like dying, because it is the death of the false self. The small separate self is shattered, and your True Self is revealed. The True Self is about right relationship, not requirements.”
I always felt that the “conversion” I experienced as a teenager set me on a collision course with Christianity, I simply couldn’t meet up to the “requirements” I felt obliged to impose on myself. Now, 40 years on, I believe this particular life experience is there to nudge me into this second stage. Perhaps like the Israelites, I’ve needed all that time to come to terms with my ego’s limitations.
Ah well, there’s a few years to go yet….