inner space

The cost of simplicity is not less than everything.” – Anthony Blake, playing with T.S. Eliot’s “The Four Quartets”.  (Chew on that for a little while if you like.  I am.)wowee

That’s what he said last weekend.  I only attended a couple hours of the seminar.  This is one of the snippets that was given, and received.

If you have, like me, exposed your mind into the workings of Anthroposophy, then you understand how thick reading material can be.  It’s not easy reading.  The works are G.I. Gurdjieff are similarly dense literary material.  Similarly rare, somewhat strange, and esoteric.  Similarly profound in possibility.

I only dipped my toes in, last weekend.  It was an interesting dip.  I came away with some thoughts I hadn’t had before.

The esoteric, the inner teachings, workings, wisdom of any and all paths, necessitate a certain amount of internal space.  There were spaces between Anthony Blake’s words.  He could have elaborated on many points, but didn’t.  There was space, quietness, in the music that accompanied the event.  Spaces for the words that aren’t being said.  Spaces for thoughts.  Spaces for experiences that might not express themselves in thought or word.  And more than just the space itself is the invitation to explore it.

Inner space is a constant.  We may not know it, or feel it.  We may ignore it all together.  But even in the thick of the things of life, there is space inside of us, and we have an choice about how to use it.  We have the choice to be conscious.family canada pumpkin 2

Being aware of our inner space opens us up to amazing opportunity.  It may not be an easy opportunity.  It may sometimes, or often, be very difficult.  Staying awake to the fact of our inner space may lead us to see uncomfortable things about ourselves and the world around us.  But it also opens us to experience the miracles of everyday existence.swirl

Life is fast.  It flies by, and it is sometimes easier to not pay attention to the details, not to connect to ourselves and our fellow people as it goes.  Engaging our sense of inner spaciousness gives us more tools for engaging with our world – outer space, if you will, which certainly includes everything from the dust bunnies in our closets to the far reaches of the Universe.  It looks to me like the people who have lived well and pass out of this life in peace and without regrets are people who have integrated their inner and outer spaces.  They live fully, love fully, share freely and enjoy the fleeting waking moments of this precious opportunity to be alive.

All paths of esoteric spiritual thought are concerned with this inner space.  The word esoteric itself is from the Greek eso, meaning within.  But that doesn’t mean you have to join a secret metaphysical society to be aware of your inner space.  So many “secrets” are right out in the open.  A deep slow breath in the open air, under a warm sun.  What does it do to your senses, your mine, your heart?  How secret is that?

NGC 4639 is a beautiful example of a type of galaxy known as a barred spiral. It lies over 70 million light-years away in the constellation of Virgo and is one of about 1500 galaxies that make up the Virgo Cluster. In this image, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, one can clearly see the bar running through the bright, round core of the galaxy. Bars are found in around two thirds of spiral galaxies, and are thought to be a natural phase in their evolution. The galaxy’s spiral arms are sprinkled with bright regions of active star formation. Each of these tiny jewels is actually several hundred light-years across and contains hundreds or thousands of newly formed stars. But NGC 4639 also conceals a dark secret in its core — a massive black hole that is consuming the surrounding gas. This is known as an active galactic nucleus (AGN), and is revealed by characteristic features in the spectrum of light from the galaxy and by X-rays produced close to the black hole as the hot gas plunges towards it. Most galaxies are thought to contain a black hole at the centre. NGC 4639 is in fact a very weak example of an AGN, demonstrating that AGNs exist over a large range of activity, from galaxies like NGC 4639 to distant quasars, where the parent galaxy is almost completely dominated by the emissions from the AGN.

NGC 4639 is a beautiful example of a type of galaxy known as a barred spiral. Thanks Hubble!

There are worlds within you, within each of us.  Galaxies.  Ecosystems.  Fertile garden beds, pastures, and deep forests.   Lightness, and darkness too.  It only takes a moment to turn your attention there.  You may not even have to stop what you are doing.  But turning your attention that way will probably change the way you are doing whatever that is.  Letting yourself live and work in this world, with a living connection to the inner world….

I think we were born to do that.moth to the flame

necessary contrast

lightTo be perfectly earnest, the long strings of short, dark days are difficult for me.  When the sun shows its beautiful face over the hill in the morning (as it is today), my outlook changes completely, and mostly for the better.

What I am remembering now is that I wouldn’t feel nearly so dearly about that sunshine if it wasn’t for all those dark days.

It’s obvious, but not always easy to remember.  Kind of like the golden rule, or the importance of love and compassion.  No rain, no rainbow.

The light and beauty that we create, inside ourselves (hopefully) and around our homes with the holidays is so precious in part (I believe) because it is placed right smack in the midst of the darkest days of the year.  The contrast helps make the light shine brighter.

And so it is, that the work of cleaning up the rocks and sludge that darken our hearts is best done with eyes open.  Not so that we hold onto those things that dim our inner lights, but so that we appreciate how much brighter that light shines without them.  So much brighter, but we will have to get our hands dirty, apply some internal elbow grease, to get there.

This is why I remind myself (here, with you) to remember again and again to be grateful for the darkness that helped me to see the light.

After all, what do we long for in the hot bright dog days of summer?  Shade, shadow, sunset, and cool stars.

Without these fluctuations, these stark contrasts, these works (constant works) of keeping the heart light clean and clear, the fountain of life would be a shallow tepid pool and the light of the heart would be dim.

Dim lights cast few shadows, but also give little warmth.  By that pool there might be fewer tears to shed, but there would be less laughter as well.

shadows

four-oh

Decades.  Big round counts of ten.  Natural for us to notice, perhaps on account of our similarly numbered fingers and toes.planted

I remember being so excited to turn ten.  Two digits.

As the years have wound on, I’ve begun to take notice of more than the cakes (though the cakes are still great fun, maybe even more fun since I can make them myself).  Sometime in my twenties, I started making annual inventories around birthday times.  What happened in the last year’s go-round?  Where have I been?  What’s changed?

Anyone who knows me much, or follows this blog closely, might have picked up on the fact that it’s been a helluva year in my life.  Two of the four people who raised me as parents have died, as well as a few more friends near and far.  I’ve carried responsibility around the process of one of those deaths, and it has been a far less than easy process.  The experiences, altogether, have been a fairly big shake-up of my world view and life in general.

But I’m still pretty psyched to be where and who I am.  Forty years is beginning to sound and feel like the middle of my life.  I am feeling the heft of myself as a somewhat more substantial person.  No longer so young, uncertain, inexperienced.  Still able, willing, strong, and more stable than I ever was before, just seasoned now by a few more trips around the sun.bday3

There’s enough of life’s road behind me to gain at least a little perspective about where I come from, and the road ahead, though it is still flexible, has more form now too.  That youthful desire to understand and KNOW EVERYTHING has faded into a more gentle curiosity.  What a relief to find that I still grow, learn, progress without those flames licking my heals.  I may have lines around my eyes now, but I’m grateful to have left adolescence and early adulthood behind.

This past year, I began to witness more clearly in myself and those around me the workings of this mid-life transition.  As the dreams of our younger years are realized, they become much less dreamy.  Sometimes they dissolve altogether, leaving muddy puddles of regret, or weedy patches of disappointment.  Sometimes they never precipitate at all, and whole new realities sprout around us without warning.  The person we married ten years ago isn’t the same one we’re sharing a home with now.  I recognize myself in that ten year old girl thirty years ago, but only from deep down inside.  We all change.  It won’t necessarily be easy, but it can be very good.bday2

And, the longer we live, the more people around us pass away from living.  Surviving those deaths changes the way we carry on, and helps us get a grip on the fact of mortality.  Sometimes the air around me seems thicker with the presences of the people who have gone on, whose memories and presence linger in mine.  That thickness of the atmosphere is cumulative, and more tangible when I visit my grandfather, and others in their upper years.  Some carry it hard and heavy, and others with sweetness, but it looks like a natural part of the maturation process.

I guess that’s what I’m exploring here.  Maturity. Some qualities of maturity, in my opinion include: an open-eyed acceptance of the way things are, an un-shirking attitude toward whatever work is at hand, and staying power for the variable courses of family and community life, for starters.  I’m not claiming to be a perfectly mature person, or defining when maturity begins or should begin. Far from it.  I really feel like I’ve just begun to lay eyes on the fact of its existence.  But I can feel and see, from here, that maturity, in all its outward and inward characteristics, is no cause for fear or shame.  It is strong, and beautiful, and necessary in its strength and beauty.

In the larger world of our wild mammalian kin, gray and white hair are indications of a creature who has reached an age not of frailty, but of full power and strength.  Makes sense to me.  I got a few white hairs while I was traveling the world in my twenties.  But raising children gave me more, and the past year has really accelerated the silver streak.  And those things that have contributed most to the whiteness of my head have also contributed to the wisdom of my heart.  No complaints there.

I am still a little vain.  Sometimes the lines on my face and white streaks in my hair bug me.  When I brush my hair back, and Lulah exclaims “Oh Mama, I can see all the white that way!”, I used to brush at a different angle.  But more and more, I can smile in return and say, “That’s just OK.”

It is OK to be just the age we are.  And that means you, too.bday1