Wellsprings.

One of the things I love is to pick the brains of creative people. Nerdy, yes – but I long ago decided that nerdy is cool.

I was talking to my oldest friend who is one of the most incredible people I know: she’s a talented artist, and creativity flows out of her like light; her intuition and spirituality naturally shine out of her. She’s an inspiration, creatively and spiritually and intellectually and simply in who she is, and amazingly, she’s my friend.

Anyway, we were talking about creativity, and I asked her where she feels that her ideas come from. Her answer: there’s a wellspring within each of us, something we can all access. It all comes from the same Source.

And here’s an interesting thing: as I’ve been learning about prayer and meditation, and delving, even slightly, into spirituality and meditation, I’ve discovered the very beginning of learning to delve down into the depths of my self, below thought. I have no idea what it’s like under the sea while a storm’s going on, but I imagine that there’s a sense of stillness beneath the tumult (I’m prepared to be proven wrong on this; it would be very interesting, and I am a nerd, after all). It’s that stillness, beneath the tempest of my daily thoughts, that I seek.

I’m learning – haltingly, stumblingly – to move beneath the chatter of the everyday, and dwell and be within my self. I’m learning that it’s within the depths of my self that Spirit dwells, and from where Spirit reaches out to Itself in what becomes prayer. It’s within my innermost being that I discover Spirit, the Source of my being, the genesis of my Creation, and, apparently, the origin of my creativity.

It’s why, despite the difficulties, I need to continue – hesitant, stumbling – on this journey of learning to meditate, of learning to pray. I need to learn – or re-learn – to be safe within my spirituality. To be cradled within the love of the Creator of compassion, the Source of love. I have to trust that my self holds not only the wellspring of creativity, but the wellspring of the Creator. I have to trust my self, and I have to trust the Creator.

It’ll make me a better writer, and it’ll make me a better person, but more than that – it will make me a whole person.

I’m not going back to being half a person.

A boring blog post, and inter-species love.

I’m tired and on the edge of grumpy, because one of the really shitty things about living with PTSD is its unpredictability, and last night was a tossing-and-turning, sleeplessness-followed-by-quiet-horrible-nightmares sort of night. Which is funny (funny-strange, that is; not funny-amusing) because I had a perfectly ok day and a pleasant, peaceful evening and when I went to bed I felt reasonably at peace with the world.

And then the insomnia came, and then the nightmares.

It seems a contradiction to have both insomnia and nightmares in the same night. And it hardly seems fair.

But that’s the way the cheese crumbles.

Right now, though, I’m sitting at my desk in a quiet house (one of the joys of living in the country is the utter silence. It forms its own sort of music), wearing spotted pyjamas and woollen sleep-socks, and I’m typing this and watching my cat quietly munch her way through a bowl of cat biscuits (she carefully avoids the green ones. I haven’t quite got to the bottom of why). I know that odds are, when she’s finished her snack, she’ll come and sit on my lap, and she’ll purr and put her warm, soft head under my chin, and I’ll kiss her head between her ears (I’m sure that spot on a cat was designed specifically for humans to kiss), and she’ll hum with contentment and feel cherished, and I’ll know that she loves me, and I love her, and in that interaction the very Creator of love will be present, and alive.

And I’ll (hopefully) sleep knowing that because of this warm, solid scrap of being, there is a little more love in the world, and that despite our differences, we can communicate and share that love, and that where love is, there also is God.

And that’s it, really.

Light in a circle of hell.

I’ve spent the day (for work, I hasten to add) at the Magistrates’ Court which serves my local area. Tomorrow, I think I’d rather spend the day in the first circle of hell. Or any circle of hell, really.

Unless a Magistrates’ Court is in fact one of the circles of hell.

These are some things I witnessed:

  • men wearing open-collared shirts and stiff new suit trousers and Converse runners and bad tattoos, their bravado as ill-fitting as the formality of their court attire.
  • women thinned and wizened and aged before their time by hard living and alcohol and weed and too many children and not enough money and the weight of the world on their skin-clad shoulders.
  • a young woman, huddled into her defendant boyfriend, shoulders hunched against the over-heated stuffiness of the air-conditioning and her face tight with tension. She kept touching his hand in her lap, as though to remind herself that he was still there.
  • a conversation between a defendant and his solicitor – “How can I explain to the judge why you did that? You just lost control? And you regret it now, of course?” – while his mother watched anxiously in her best clothes, twisting the strap of her green leather-look handbag around and around in her fingers. Later I watched her coming out of one of the courtrooms, alone but for the solicitor. “Six months,” she kept saying, as though that would somehow force this new reality of her life to make sense. “Well, it was a serious offence,” he said gently, and his face was tired and his eyes were sad.
  • a child, a little girl, barely more than four, playing quietly in the waiting area while her mother waited to have her own charges heard. (“What am I looking at? Four to eight months? Jesus, can’t you get me off?”) She alone of all of us was an innocent, untouched by the world’s darkness, looking people in the eye – the most alive creature in that place – and yet when her mother’s frustration erupted in a push that cracked the little girl’s head against the wooden doorframe, she was completely unperturbed by the sudden and – to her – unprovoked assault. Already, this little being is impervious to the violence which will almost certainly mar her life.

I left the courthouse reeking, in my mind, of the stench of human misery, human despair, which clung to my skin. Now, after a hard workout and a shower and a glass of juice and Beethoven’s first symphony on the CD player, I’m trying to remind myself that there’s light in all the darkness I saw today. The gentle, tired sadness of the solicitor and the innocence of the child, the love of the mother and the girlfriend, whatever idealism or determination which keeps the Legal Aid solicitors at their battered formica tables in the windowless, unadorned room they’re allocated. And there’s light in the fact that each of those human souls trapped in that place – whether they left under their own steam or in the back of a prisoner transport van – is a sacred manifestation of the Divine, loved beyond their capacity to understand by a Creator they may never know, but Which holds them, passionately, in the safety of Its arms.

And there it is. That’s the light in the darkness I was looking for.

Loss, and finding, of sanctity.

Intuition is a funny thing. I was asked by my sexual assault counsellor today to name, without thinking, what it was that my ex took from me in ten years of violence and abuse, and the thing that came to mind was this: sanctity.

Every being is holy; ever soul is sacred, created in the image of the Creator. Every creature – the cat on my lap as I type this, the spider I took outside in a water glass today, each human being with whom I share this planet – is a manifestation of the Divine. I am a manifestation of the Divine: my soul, like billions of other souls with whom I share life, is sacred. Sanctified.

If you deny the sanctity of something holy, though, if you deface it and sully it and treat it in ways which reject its divinity – well, mud sticks, and eventually that thing relinquishes its beauty, its being, its holiness. The divine becomes soiled and impure, and while the Creator never loses sight of the beauty of Its creations, the creations themselves can easily lose sight of the consecrated nature of their own being.

Ten years of abuse – of beatings, of fear, of rape; of hearing, day after day, of my own worthlessness – resulted in my forgetting the sacred nature of my own soul. I lost sight, in those years of darkness, of my own existence as a creature of the Creator, loved, a part of the unfolding of that very Creator in the universe. As well as innocence, and safety, and almost life itself, that’s what was taken from me: the knowledge of my own sanctity.

That’s changing now. Each step I take away from that darkness is a step towards strength; each decision I make in the still-new miracle of freedom is a re-assertion of my own worth, of the beauty of my soul, of my own right to existence and to the space I take up in the world. Every memory of the events of the last ten years which re-surfaces in my mind (and there are thousands) is an assertion of my right – as a creature of the Creator – to live in safety as the sacred creation I am.

I tried to think of some sharp, snappy ending to this blog, but I’m tired (I’m always tired after counselling appointments) and I can’t think of anything. Other than the prayer that the souls of all living beings – from human to cat to spider and everything in between – might held, in respect and worth, as the divine manifestations they are.

 

Water, fish, and the Spirit’s yearning.

“I don’t pray,” said my spiritual director once. Before I had time to do more than blink at the incongruency of a sister of Saint Joseph stating so emphatically that she doesn’t do one of the central tenets of our faith, she continued: “the Spirit within me prays and reaches out to Itself”.

I’m struggling to get back into my spiritual practice because it’s fallen off the radar – partly because I’ve been busy, but partly because I’ve made my busyness into a barrier to something that’s vital, and lifegiving, and hard, and sometimes painful, and sometimes frightening. There was a (short) while, though, where my spiritual practice was an integral part of each day. And that time was, in a way I can’t quite put my finger on, different.

Sitting quietly one day in prayerful meditation (or as close to it as my constantly-whirring mind can get), I found the name of an old friend rising to my consciousness. This happened over several days and I found myself, strange as it seems, drawn to praying for her. I found out several weeks later that she’d been unwell at the time, struck down by a virulent virus that laid her low for weeks. Why did the name of someone I hadn’t spoken to or thought of for quite some time come to the forefront of my mind during those times of prayer? The Spirit reaching out to Itself, indeed.

Now, though, my spirituality and my spiritual practice have fallen off the radar – and while I’m permeated and surrounded and underpinned by the Source of my being, I’ve lost that sense of mindfulness of it. I’m the fish that swims around happily inside his tank, entirely and blissfully unaware of the water that suspends and sustains him. Which is fine – he is no less supported and sustained for his oblivion – but the difference is that the water which supports him is not yearning for him to reach out to it, to open himself to it. The water which supports him does not also dwell within him, waiting as the Sacred does in us to be, to quote Michael Mayne, “released into expression”.

The Spirit within me yearns to be sought, and drawn upon. Despite my own questions around my worth, my value, the Creator yearns for connection with me, Its creature. And despite my fear, the creature longs for the Creator.

All of which means I have to do something. Like the fish, I will be no more or less sustained and supported because of my consciousness of that fact: nothing, actually, will change.

And yet, everything will change.

Ash Wednesday.

We are drawn from the substance of the world. We are nothing more than atoms, fragments of universe, brought together to form a human being and given anima, given soul, by the Creator who Itself is both of and in the same substance of the world from which we are drawn. We are nothing, and yet we are everything. We are the merest fragments of a universe whose size and complexity overwhelms; and yet we are held, intimately and lovingly, by the Creator of that very universe.

We are dust, and to dust we shall return.

It’s both humbling and liberating. Yes: after a moment of time we will leave the earth – hopefully a little better than we found it – and what’s left of our bodies will be absorbed into the earth, and what’s left of our souls will fade to memory. Ash Wednesday reminds us of our own fragility: the transience of a life held in the hand of the Infinite, the Immortal.

And yet, in reminding us that we are dust, and to dust we shall return, Ash Wednesday also reminds us that we are of God, and to God we shall return. We are creations, and to the Creator we shall return. We are of the Sacred, and to the Sacred we shall return. This time we have here on earth is temporary: one day we will be called Home, and in returning to dust, we shall return to our Source.

Now we are in Lent: a time of stripping back, of returning to simplicity, of reminding ourselves of what we cannot live without, and of what we do not need. In Lent we remind ourselves of the essence of who we are: creatures of the Creator, nothingness given form, dust given anima. All of the same substance, we are held, and connected, and loved.

Remember we are dust, and to dust we shall return.

Feeling not quite right, and creation.

This is the thing about being just a little bit not quite right these last few weeks: I feel like I’ve lost my creativity.

I haven’t, of course. I’m being a bit of a drama queen. I’ll accept that. Which in itself is probably not helping, because now I’m grumpy with myself about being a drama queen as well as everything else. Honestly, humans are such inconveniently complex creatures sometimes!

But the reality is that I’ve struggled this last few weeks to be a creative being. Despite the beauty of the world around me, the wealth of resources and inspirations, I’ve struggled to write so much as a Haiku. My journal and writer’s notebook have been carried around in my shoulder bag as usual (I’m still not quite able to trust that I can safely leave them on my desk at home without danger of them being violated and their contents used against me; I feel insecure without them in my possession at all times), but they’ve been crying out in silent, abandoned reproach. I’ve had the opportunity to do some writing – opportunity, but, apparently, not capacity. The words simply aren’t there. The thoughts aren’t there. It’s like wading through treacle.

And then someone said to me, out of the blue, “May God bless your creations”. Not, may God bless His creations, or may God bless Creation itself, but may God bless my creations. Naomi’s creations. And that was my very small ah-ha! moment for the day. Because the Creator created me to be creative. And while I struggle with the idea that anything I can create is worth anything at all, I am also aware that to refuse to be a creative being is to go against my creation. Against my Creator. And so (I think) it follows logically that the Creator wants me to be creative. That the Creator blesses my creativity. All I have to do is show up for it. Put pen to paper, fingers to laptop keyboard. Raise my voice in song, even if I do have to keep my fingers mentally crossed in the blind hope that my pitch isn’t entirely off the reserve. Trust that I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing. And that when, like now, it’s hard – when at times it seems impossible – that’s ok too. I’ll keep showing up at the keyboard, I’ll keep sitting at my desk, I’ll keep surrounding myself with music and words. And a lot of what I produce will be rubbish and some will be worth something (I hope!) but the important thing is not the outcome – it’s the process. It’s the fact that I’m doing what I was created to do: creating.