Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Beyond Me

How important is a place like Innermost House to having a rich inner life and deep conversations, and how much - once we learn how - can these be enjoyed no matter where we are? Can time substitute for place? Some set aside sacred places, others set aside sacred time. I think taking a sabbath from this crazy world is in some ways like going to beautiful place.       
~ Al Mollitor

That is a very large question.  I cannot find a place to stand in my mind outside of it.  I think it is only within my reach from inside.  Perhaps I can talk about how it feels to me from withinside my own life.

For me bodily experience has always been necessary.  Not at every moment, but somewhere in my life at all times.  My husband and I have occupied a long and varied succession of houses over many years, and somehow we have always found a way to have that place of experience. 

All of my life I have been guided by a feeling.  I would say it is like a memory, but it is more present than a memory.  It is more a kind of enclosing dream through which I see and hear everything that lies beyond it.  I cannot see apart from it.  I cannot see around it. 

It has been a source of great joy and much suffering to me.  From even before I entered school it held the world away from me at a distance of incomprehension and confusion.   I could make nothing of the world then, and I can make little of it now.  

I cannot understand with an answering instinct why things are the way they appear to be.  I don't know why people want what they want, or say what they say, or do what they do.  But the incomprehension goes both ways.  Through all the years of my childhood and youth I heard one thing most of all from well-meaning adults and friends, "What is wrong with you?"

My husband was the first person who did not think anything was wrong with me.  He shared the same dream, but in him somehow it was different.  What was weakness in me was strength in him.  What was stubbornness in me was reasonableness in him.  What was like memory in me was in him something more like a kind of clear-eyed and determined imagination.  

Our many moves together were searchings.  We sought with the feelings we shared, but also with the reason I reflect from him.  We shared everything.  Most of all we shared a common hunger that was too desperate to be satisfied with names or appearances.

We were searching for a kind of living unity of things.  Our many moves were a way of remaking the whole of our life again and againthe whole of our communal, social, public, private, commercial, cultural, material, intellectual, marital and domestic relation.  With every move that whole grew denser and warmer and more nearly alive. 

I have never really been able to identify with time.  I learned history in school, but it seemed unreal to me.  In our very early days together my husband observed that I do not "believe in time."  To me ordinary time is part of the mystery of the world.

But time had something to do with what we were seeking.  We always sought for ways of living where place "enclosed" time, if I may put it that way.  Place separate from time is a lifeless object to me.  Time unbounded by place is time run wild.  

The strange thing is that our feelings for that something led us into greater and greater intimacy with the past.  Our first trips to Europe, and especially to Paris and Oxford and Cambridge, changed my life forever.  For the first time I felt at home in the world.  I was at home in a past that was all present to me.

There was unity in the heart of those places, that is what made the difference.  A unity of mind and body, of inner and outer.  A unity of time and place.

I have never been able to separate time from place.  This is hard for me to understand or explain, but it is my lifelong experience.  To me their separation marks the world that lies beyond the atmosphere I occupy.  It is the thing I cannot identify with or understand.

The Conversation has never ceased for us, not for a day, not from our very first night.  And it has continually gained strength with our enlarging experience.  But it changes in character with the places we live.  Sometimes it assimilates our joy and unity of circumstance.  Sometimes it focuses disunity and suffering. 

So for me the answer is as it has always been.  I can make no use of places or times or inward or outward riches.  They all lay beyond my reach.  The only air I can breathe is their unity.

Sometime soon I want to try and talk about some of the ways we have found of making places of unity outside the woods in the world.


  1. Thank you, Diana...I am grateful to follow your journey through time and place..I feel some similar feelings in regards to the unity of the two. What I do identify with most is that memory of people asking what is wrong with you. I too, had that experience as a child and still to this day as an adult, and at times I relish the idea of being left of center, and not being engaged in all the minutiae that grabs people today. I have always felt that I do not belong living in this age but that I was meant to live in a time a hundred or so years ago. I have never felt part of what society seems to value today. My husband and I have recently made the decision to move on from where we are now living to Vermont, and now that it is out there and we have made that decision, it is as if a major shift has taken place, like after all these years together, we both can finally exhale. It is an exciting timeand the prospect to follow a call that I know and hae always known is the right one fills me with such joy. We both have lived and have learned well from each other, but around the corner is the true, authentic life we have been searching for.

  2. The living unity of things . . . one of the oldest English greetings, from which come the greeting "Hello!" and "Hallo!" is the phrase: "Wes hal!" It means "Be thou whole". To be "well" is similarly rooted - wellness is wholeness.
    And in His ministry of healing, Jesus would describe those he healed as being "made whole". Integrity, wellness, reconciliation - these are the work of the soul. One of the epistles of the New Testament says this of Jesus: "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven".
    It is part of the wholeness of things that Christ died on a cross, for not only did He thereby create a crossing - a unity and intercourse between death and life - but the cross is sometimes referred to as "the Tree".
    And all trees have this function of being crossing places uniting energies. Roots balancing branches like a pair of lungs, one in the dark earth the other in the light air, the transpiration of trees balancing carbon dioxide with oxygen, balancing moisture between air and earth, balancing light and shade, holding the earth steady - all these express in the material universe (if there is such a thing) the spiritual work of the sacred Tree of Christ's great achievement of reconciliation, which holds all things together in one living whole coursing through the beating heart of His love.
    I apologise if this sounds complicated.

    1. Lovely commentary! Thanks, Ember.

    2. Thanks so much for writing that, Ember! xx

  3. Diana, you wrote: "I have never been able to separate time from place." You have intimated also that your life experience is very bodily oriented as well. This is what I am hearing from your words; please let me know how I'm not understanding what you mean: I'm hearing from you that time cannot exist OUTSIDE of place because the only opportunity we have in which to experience time is right where we are, and that to truly experience the present moment one needs to be anchored in the body which is the primary place of beingness/sensory awareness. Place/body awareness is essential in experiencing time(obviously the present moment only) because any other concept of time is merely ideation--either a memory, an imagining, or a discursive interpretation of the reality of any moment. The BODY is the primary experiencer of time and not the mind, so the body is an inseparable 'part' of place, and when place is experienced, time is experienced as well. Oh my, that sounds very convoluted, but it's the best I can do...

  4. Our lovely IH volunteer "Louis Rukeseyer" asked me to cut and paste this comment I made on the Facebook page about your latest blog entry, Diana, so here it is:

    "Oh my, I really have to sit with this latest blog entry before I can even begin to comment (if I ever WILL be able to!!). This is really deep and mystical and beyond thought. It's as though in order to understand what Diana is saying I have to enter into the space of her body and see the world through her eyes and heart in order to get a small sense of her consciousness of time and place. I can't even begin to imagine what it must have been like for her as a small child who could not fit into the time/space continuum of ego-based interactions. It would be easy to think that it must have been very lonely for her in so many ways, and yet if she felt from early childhood that everything was one whole thing, then how could she ever be lonely in the deepest sense? That alone would be confusing to most people! Her life with Michael who shares a common perspective is a blessed miracle--how incredible that they found each other in the midst of the millions of people in this world. It reminds me of one of the final scenes in Pretty Woman when Edward (Richard Gere) asks Vivian (Julia Roberts) what the princess would do if the prince came to rescue her from the tower prison. Her reply: She would rescue him right back!"

    1. I loved this today, Pam. I'm glad you put it here too. x

  5. Walt Whitman wrote: "One world is aware, and by far the largest to me, and that is myself." That is as close to describing my own experience that I have ever come, as I was the odd one out in my childhood also. When others say "One day at a time", I can only reply "It's all the same day". I mean, right? At the end of my life, my life will have been ONE EVENT, I think. A seamless garment, if you will. (I know, again with the seamless garment...it's a theme with me.)

    I don't know, really, if anyone thought anything was wrong with me, but I'm sure I always thought there must be. I wasn't like anyone else, that's for sure. I was the oldest of five children at our house and, of course, things were hectic there. But, here is the thing: I got excellent grades at school, so the assumption was that at least, thank God, Julie is ok. But I wasn't, really. Just because I was good at something didn't mean I saw any relevance in it. Nothing seemed to me to have any solid relevance to anything else, frankly, even if I did get it all down pat. That one thing just happened to come easily enough to me. It was exactly as you have written today, Diana. All of these things marked the world lying beyond the atmosphere I occupied...I was one anxious kid. I could no more wish to be like the other kids than they would want to be like me, I'm sure. I am an extreme exasperation to all, to this very day, I'm afraid. However I am not, myself, exasperated by much.

    Thank you for being able to describe yourself so clearly to us, Diana. You are helping me to get the gunk off of my mirror, you see. Not that I am much for mirrors.

    There is one more wonderful thing I want to repeat here that our Celeste wrote as a reply yesterday in reference to something I said about the making of the tea. She quoted Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who was quoting Charles Morgan. It fit so well there, and it fits here too. Well, it fits everywhere! I have pondered it all day today: "...the stilling of the soul within the activities of the mind and body so that it might be as still as the axis of a revolving wheel is still." Diana's description of her tea preparation made me feel as if nothing else was happening anywhere..and never had. So, at least, thank God, Julie is ok. It is all one day and all one world, after all!

  6. Oh, Julie, when you wrote " I am an extreme exasperation to all, to this very day, I'm afraid. However I am not, myself, exasperated by much." I had to laugh because I'm that way to my family and coworkers and friends too! My kids just don't get that I really DO listen to them in the moment but then rarely hang on to what they have said past that moment unless I'm required to do something later with what they have told me. I can repeat back to them verbatim what they have just said to me and can offer my opinion or suggestions or sympathy if needed, but then I just let the words go if it's just idle chit chat. I mean, how important is it for me to remember the names of their childhood friends from grade school or when they were sick with an illness they have since recovered from or what they said to their husbands two years ago when they had a fight? My goodness, I have a hard time remembering what I had for breakfast yesterday! I just don't hang ont to anything that isn't immediately relevant to my life in this moment. And I love what you said about your life being one seamless event--it's all of one thing, and on my death bed I don't think I'll be trying to remember singular events as much as feeling the overall sense of what my life had been like and how blessed I was to have been born.

    As for feeling out of place or just left of center (as LaureL described), I know that I felt that way for most of my youth. It was only when I came home to my own Self and learned to truly love myself AS the love I felt, that I stopped thinking that the 'center' was somewhere outside of myself from which I was being excluded. When I loved myself as Love and saw that this same love was all around me I knew that I would always be 'at home' no matter where I went or who I was with.

  7. While I won't pretend that I fully understand this, thank you, Diana, for helping us in our attempts to understand your view of the world. This makes me think of the reading I've been doing lately about mindfulness and living in the moment. Like many of us, I spend too much time fretting over the past and worrying about the future and not enough time appreciating the present.

    Someone once asked a group the age-old question: "If you could be anywhere you wanted, where would you be?" While most answered with their favorite vacation spot or some exotic locale, one wise woman answered "Now."

    I think of you a someone who is so totally in the present moment that the only place and time that exists for you is the here and now. By living in a beautiful place like Innermost House, you were not burdened by the distractions that plague the rest of us. Your mind was clear and able to focus on only those things that truly matter.

    There are times when I'm walking on a local wooded hilltop - usually on clear, cool, dry days - when the light filtering through the trees to the forest floor is so clear and bright that I call it "clean light." It seems I can see everything clearly, as it was meant to be seen. I feel as though there is a message right there in plain sight, if only I knew what I was looking for.

    1. When someone is driving me down the road and the sun is shining through the trees, I like to close my eyes and let the sunlight flash and blink on my eyelids. I pretend it's a message from Home, from The One Who Loves Me. And even though I don't understand the language of light, I just settle in and let the "transmission" imprint itself in me somewhere...Who knows, Al?

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  9. Finally! Someone I can identify with and not feel alone. All my 63 years have been a series of, "what is wrong with her; why so reclusive?" As an artist, I have found I can't create without being "alone". I have to "feel" what I am about to create.

    Finding my husband in our mid years was the best thing to happen to me. As a fellow artist he can understand me even though he does not need to be alone to create and even thrives with people around him at those times.

    Living the simple, life has always made us the happiest. Small home, but lot's of land around us makes me feel safe and secure. It makes me happy after much misery and heartache in my childhood till my late 30's. I will hopefully live out the rest of my life here with my soul mate and love.

    You are a great inspiration to many and I am so glad I happened upon you on one of the tiny/small house websites I am on. All blessings to you and your wonderful husband!


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