'New Blossoms of me' - the return of change and growth
Somehow I've ended up in a profession - like my old one of priest - where change, hope, conversion, renewal, resurrection - all play a central role. Folk come into therapy looking for transformation because how they are living, at some deep level, just isn't working for them anymore. They long to feel alive and hopeful and joyful again - or perhaps for the first time. We can be married to unhappiness and just 'getting by' a long time and hardly know it.
Here in the UK, as of today November 3, we are just a day or so away from another national lockdown. And of course there is the election in the US happening right now ... where are the grounds for hope and change in the midst of such events? Well, Biden might win (and I hope he does), and a vaccine might just be around the corner. But here's the thing: we will move through these crises and onto new ones ... and so on until we're no longer here at all to puzzle out how we get out of crises or how we find our own personal path through the challenges of our lives. The more I move towards Buddhism the more its present moment approach to living strikes me as just plain common sense. Here - before it turns into a there - is where we might make a change, feel our way towards experiencing a Will and a Choicefulness in us which says: habit would dictate I do/go/feel X - but No damn it, not this time! Stuckness, stasis, regret, living in the past; these are emotional states of the most ruminative and debilitating sort. So why not stop digging? Why not try 'to fake it until you make it'? Why not speak different words, get up at a different time, watch a different TV programme, sit in silence for 5 minutes rather than run to distraction; anything to jam the system of determinism and the ruts of deep neural pathways deep inside your brain. And then wait and feel the impact. Your free will, your ability to re-create yourself is not as numb and frozen as you had feared. And in acting differently we feel and think differently.
The Buddhist in me may be rising, but the Christian lives on as a ghost and an echo. And it leads me to read religious verse of the kind DH Lawrence writes - heretical, strange but such truthful verse! In his heart-sore poem 'Shadows' he writes about the need to sit and acknowledge the autumnal moments of the soul, the winter of the spirit. But not, never, to stay there nursing and growing our despair but to actively look for, to anticipate, to lean towards the little and vulnerable moments of hope and change in us - which will come and can be found because we are made for movement, for new versions of ourselves.
And if tonight my soul may find her peace in sleep, and sink in good oblivion, and in the morning wake like a new-opened flower then I have been dipped again in God, and new-created.
And if, as weeks go round, in the dark of the moon my spirit darkens and goes out, and soft strange gloom pervades my movements and my thoughts and words then I shall know that I am walking still with God, we are close together now the moon’s in shadow.
And if, as autumn deepens and darkens I feel the pain of falling leaves, and stems that break in storms and trouble and dissolution and distress and then the softness of deep shadows folding, folding around my soul and spirit, around my lips so sweet, like a swoon, or more like the drowse of a low, sad song singing darker than the nightingale, on, on to the solstice and the silence of short days, the silence of the year, the shadow, then I shall know that my life is moving still with the dark earth, and drenched with the deep oblivion of earth’s lapse and renewal.
And if, in the changing phases of man’s life I fall in sickness and in misery my wrists seem broken and my heart seems dead and strength is gone, and my life is only the leavings of a life:
and still, among it all, snatches of lovely oblivion, and snatches of renewal odd, wintry flowers upon the withered stem, yet new, strange flowers such as my life has not brought forth before, new blossoms of me
then I must know that still I am in the hands of the unknown God, he is breaking me down to his own oblivion to send me forth on a new morning, a new man.