Monday, September 17, 2012

A Place To Be Free


Elizabeth asks, "All my life i have felt like a strange creature never really getting the society I live in with its obsession with work and status. I have moved around a bit and always gravitated towards towns with an alternative community in the hope that I would find a place to be free. What I am learning is that no matter how creative and free thinking the community is the pressures of our society just keep pushing in. The question is I guess how to live with honouring my true nature without the support of the society I live in or even that of a partner? I know this is very broad but we are not islands and to feel loved and accepted is part of human nature. I can play along to a degree and do what I have to do to pay the bills etc but I long to live according to my own calling too."

You ask a very important question Elizabeth, one with which I have struggled all my life.  You asked another question last month, about tuning out surface chatter and thinking with depth again.  To me these questions are related.

I too have moved a good deal, and perhaps we moved for the same reason.  When you find yourself in an uncomfortable position it is natural to want to move.  I find that the world today often puts the inner person in an uncomfortable position.  We all have different experiences, and I cannot see beyond the horizon of my own life.  But perhaps we share one discomfort.  I can try to say what has made the difference for me.

When I was young I had no companions who I felt shared my nature.  I was always the "naive" one, the one who didn't like to have fun.  I simply didn't find the same things enjoyable that others did, and living as I was brought up to do, I had a hard time enjoying life at all.  I always felt like a stranger.  I do not think that others who easily feel at home in the world can understand how hard it is for some of us just to keep trying to breathe.

All of that changed for me when I met my husband.  I know that many of us have no choice but to confront the mystery of our lives alone.  Still in some sense we are born for each other, and even Michael and I have need of some society.  And we have done some things again and again through the years to satisfy that need.

We have always begun with a room.  I know that sounds unimportant and even contrary to the problem of our isolation, but for us it has always been our beginning.  A room of our own is a way of accepting our isolation.  It is a way of ceasing to struggle against it.  It is the beginning of making something of it.

What we made of it is a new relationship to life.  A room of your own into which you allow nothing and no one not of your choosing is a kind of fresh start.  It is inspiring and invigorating to make the world new.  There are certain things I need unavoidably, things like heat and light and cool, like water and food, like silence and words and emptiness and images.  I cannot do without these things, but I have the power of choice in what form I let them into my room.  And we have chosen, over and over again.

From the beginning we have chosen to make real friends of books.  This is something I learned from my husband, to whom the classic authors are almost supernaturally alive.  And they have come to life for me.  I always loved books, but I used to escape into them.  Michael taught me to converse with them instead, to make living friends of them, as much of flesh and blood as any other friend.  The best books you can befriend and love may go a long way toward silencing the world's chatter and opening a path to deeper and more satisfying thoughts.

And so even with light and heat and cool.  Once a room has walls it has possibilities.  I can choose to befriend the light that enters the room.  I can choose the warmth, I can choose the cool.  If I cannot have it on the terms that to me are genuine and whole and healing, then I can choose to go without.  I have at least the power to choose my own darkness.  I can choose the cold if I cannot have the fire I have needed for a hundred thousand human generations.  Walls make a room, and a room is for choosing.

I suppose I am a little stubborn.  Perhaps you have to be today.   But walls bear so much of the work of stubbornness that withinside your room you can almost relax.  You simply stand at the door and say, Yes or No to every applicant for admission.   You have to do more than that of course, for you also have a life outside your room, a life devoted in some part to recruiting applicants.  But once you have a room you have a choice; that has been the important thing to me.

The walls of my room permit the power and meaning of my choices to accumulate, over years and from room to room.  It separates the very best choices I have made from all the other, perhaps more careless or less wakeful choices.  And it keeps those choices, like a society of friends, living and moving together. 

I have made real friends of fires and books and bowls and pictures.  I look forward to seeing them at the end of the day or with the coming season.  They are real participants in a living Conversation that has some of its substance in ageless words, some in material silence. 

Michael and I have always tried to have such a room in our life, and it has usually been our living room.  Oftentimes it has been our only room.  But to us it has been a sanctuary, a respite from the world and its endless and purposeless distractions, a withdrawing place of reason and depth and love and sweetness.

There is something more, a very great something.  The friendships we have cultivated in the isolation of our rooms have not led us from but toward a fuller connection with other people, with friends and family and strangers. 

Once we have come home to ourselves, we find other people much more willing to come home to us.  It is almost as if such a room, once well occupied by the soul that does the real choosing, exerts a kind of magnetic pull on the soul in other people.  We do not need to teach them how to behave or what to value, the room teaches them for us.  If a guest truly cannot see us in our room, they are not likely to be the friend we are awaiting.

Slowly through the years I have come to accept and even rejoice in a world that seems to me to have lost all its senses.  For it is that world and our relationship to it that opened for us a path into the soul.  I think just fifty years ago Innermost House would have been impossible, because it was just a little less necessary then.  

Now it grows more necessary every day, and as it grows more necessary, so I believe it grows more possible.  It is a house for all who would live in the soul.


32 comments:

  1. You have eloquently said these words for me! Thank you Diana. I understand you perfectly and this post resonates with me exactly. I will take some time to let these words sit with me.

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  2. Diana, that is a wonderful post. Thanks so much for writing it. xx

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  3. "The walls of my room permit the power and meaning of my choices to accumulate, over years and from room to room. It separates the very best choices I have made from all the other, perhaps more careless or less wakeful choices. And it keeps those choices, like a society of friends, living and moving together."

    We are building "walls" right here, on the website. By sharing our thoughts, our thinking become deeper, less superficial. They are real thought-out thoughts. And they prompt us to do more deep thinking. Each post has nuggets of pure light that produce those "aha" moments. We come here for the "tribal meeting around the fire" and then are more able to appreciate and reconstruct, if necessary, our own walls.

    Thanks, Diana

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  4. Thank you so much for this Diana. I remember a while back on the FB page talking about having a room or space or our own and this post has taken that conversation to a much deeper level for me. After many years of craving my own room I have a bedroom to my self with a little box room off it and that has made all the difference. I love what you say about choice and the walls forming the boundaries to what comes in. I need this so much in order to stay sane but have always worried that one day I would choose to stay in my quite space shunning what lay outside. Your words are really comforting and i will be looking at my books with new eyes from now on. I think children are our great teachers here, I know mine have created havens for themselves in their bedrooms where they can spend hours happy in their own company. I have also seen the same repines from friends when they come and visit me in my funny little house, people either love it or find it unnerving for some reason. Needless to say the ones that love it become real solid friends.

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    1. Elizabeth, would you be willing to post a pic of your house? Picures always help me know better,

      I have a funny little house, too. You can see it on my blog:

      http://sherry-simpleandreal.blogspot.com/ It is one of the first posts.

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    2. What a great point you've made, Elizabeth. We adults can be so obtuse at times. You've pointed out that even children instinctively know to make havens and hideouts for themselves. Somehow as grown-ups we've managed to lose our way. We must become like little children in order to enter the kingdom. Wow.

      Now. As for worrying that you might one day choose to shut yourself away and shun the outside world...well, so what if you did? I don't think it would harm you or anyone else. There is a difference between shunning "the world" and shunning the world after all. I love what Diana has said today. I am stunned to realize the truth of it. So perhaps, when you go into your sweet room and make your choices you end up by magnetizing a beautiful world to yourself. I hope so, Elizabeth, I think you deserve it.

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    3. I'd love to hear more about your funny little house, Elizabeth.

      Sherry, yours looks very tidy, comfortable, and not too big.

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    4. I live in an old settlers cottage which is about 110 years old and within it is an even older slab hut with hand split shingle roof that they've sort of built over. It is a humble place that had the same family in it for over a century they may have even built the original cottage. The last old man of that family died here about 6 years ago at 96 and a builder bought it to knock down and build flats but old sally (our name for the house) wasn't having any of that. He went broke and was getting desperate to sell but nobody want her till I came along with the kids and we all said 'ahh, it's our house'. The old girl is a bit worse for wear but we love her and one day I'll have the $$$ to give her some TLC.

      Would put up a photo but not sure how to on this maybe on the FB page would be easier?

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  6. "Once we have come home to ourselves, we find other people much more willing to come home to us. It is almost as if such a room, once well occupied by the soul that does the real choosing, exerts a kind of magnetic pull on the soul in other people."

    Yes, I have suspected as much, Diana, and this truth is borne out in Innermost House. I've struggled, in a way, with explaining this concept to the people around me. Thank you for putting it into words. Once the power and meaning of my choices and my own soul have occupied my tiny abode, I can see other people wanting to visit much more than they do now. It is almost as if, by isolating myself, I'll be bringing the wider world to myself. "Let's go see what that nut is doing away out there..." I'll enjoy a fuller connection, as you say. Thank you again.

    I've included another quotation by Henri Nouwen that rather puts me in mind of this too. “Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure.”
    ― Henri J.M. Nouwen



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    1. beautiful quote Julie just when i thought I'd reached quote saturation level.

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  7. Thank you. That is very helpful to me. I'm halfway through sectioning off an area of a room for myself. I feel encouraged to continue with the project now. Also, I can better understand what happened to make me lose my sense of place, when I allowed some people into my home, who tried to counsel me but made things ten times worse and how having this peaceful sectioned off area will help (and is already helping a bit) while I deal with the chaos in the rest of the room and house.

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    1. Good for you, Katrina. My own house at this time consists of only two large rooms--one up and one down. Now that my husband is home all of the time time now, I can hardly commandeer fully HALF of the house. But I do have my little spot next to the creek under the clothesline. It will do. I'm so glad you've found your spot.

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    2. Katrina, make you space and make it YOURS. I live in a small house, but I still want a certain spot that everyone knows is mine. I want a place to keep my latest project out so I can just sit and start right in without having to get everything out and put it up every single time. I want a comfy chair and a good light, a wonderful scented candle and a wonderful cup of something to drink. I don't know what your space is going to be like, but I am sure you will make it wonderful.

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    3. Lord. I have just today realized that I do have a spot in the house. There is a little nook in the loft built exactly like the one our Pam posted on her facebook page the other night (but the little window is higher than that one...) Anyway, I "blew up" a little bed and put it there during the time I was working because I wasn't getting any sleep with my husband's violent coughing. I've slept there ever since. It is open to the rest of the loft, but I just noticed this morning that my husband NEVER walks into it. He never goes there even to open the window. So the little spot has learned a power all its own. It really is mine.

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    4. Do you think that maybe your nook space doesn't feel airy enough on some energetic level to your husband who's having so much trouble breathing? Perhaps it feels claustrophobic to him because it makes him conscious of his airways becoming tighter or it makes him aware of his life getting smaller and smaller and more confining.

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    5. Well Pam, that's possible. The ceiling there is lower. He just calls it "your part", you know? I'm going to try inviting him over there with me and see what response I get.

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  8. We don't move much. We've been in the same home for nearly 26 years. While it's fun to fantasize about living elsewhere (Like northern California!) we have a lot holding us in place. That's not so bad, though, because I like a sense of what might be thought of as deep ecology; I like to know a place well and have a sense of my own history in it as I move about. We just remodeled our kitchen for the second time in 25 years, and while I was a little melancholy ripping out work I did decades ago and wondering where the years went, it was fun discovering a note I had written inside one of the walls so long ago.

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    1. My goodness, Al, I cannot imagine being somewhere for 25 years. The longest I have lived in one place is about 4 years. I have always felt like I was a kind of caretaker in the places I lived, so I didn't get too attached. But I plan to stay put now because I just feel like it is time. What did the note say???:)

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  9. FOR PETE'S SAKE!!! Tammy Strobel has high-jacked the title of my future book: "You Can Buy Happiness (and It's Cheap)". Help me think of another one. By the way, "Walden" has been used too. Ha ha. It's to be about my experience of living elegantly on $5000 a year...

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    1. OOh, that sounds like a great book to write and read! Titles? Hmm....How about "Living Small and Lovin' it" or "Quality Trumps Quantity: A Guide to Conscious Living on Less"... No matter what the title ends of being, I know it will be great because you're a terrific writer with a wry sense of humor and a great eye for detail and nuance.

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    2. Sign me up for a copy, whatever the title. How about: "The Inexpensive Life of Luxury."

      I will enjoy hearing more of your inspirational message.

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    3. I have written these down! Of course I am going to have to get to living my dream so I'll have something to write about...

      This just in: For once my husband seemed amenable to hearing about my plans--the tiny house, the lifestyle, and possibly writing a book. I showed him my little plans while I had his attention too. After 12 years of pooh-poohing everything that I have said and done, he said he thought it was awesome and that I am smart. Well I'll be dipped in spit and rolled in cracker crumbs! This is an epic FIRST! "Someone" has been praying for me.

      I always awake to the words of some song that has gotten itself stuck in my head through the night. Here is today's song. My Mom used to sing it to me when I was a little squirt: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKNtP1zOVHw Have a listen, if you like.

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  10. Dear Diana, Your post was so rich with ideas that I need to just kind of delineate my thoughts on each of your sentences that struck a chord in me.

    First, you wrote: “When you find yourself in an uncomfortable position it is natural to want to move.” That IS the human tendency, isn’t it, that instinctive need to avoid pain? I spent much of my early life doing just that with a single-minded vengeance, and found in retrospect when I reached forty, that I had skimmed the surface of most of my life so I wouldn’t have to experience the suffering that is part and parcel of failed dreams, disillusionment, battered feelings, social failure, abandonment, anxiety, shame, guilt and fear. I wasted so much time avoiding life that as a result, I can see how in many ways I was not even ‘here’ by not truly occupying my body and psyche. It’s much tougher to stand firm in the face of discomfort and keep my mind and reactive tendencies still so that my heart can open, and open more, and open even further. However, it is this very process of learning to open to pain or an uncomfortable position that is teaching me that Life as an Absolute is priceless, no matter what form it takes. I don’t want to die feeling like I forgot to unwrap the gift that was my life because I didn’t want to ruin the pretty wrapping.

    Next you wrote: “I have always felt like a stranger.” Now, I totally get that the reason you felt that way was because you perceived the world from a much different vibrational level than that of your peers, and that this didn’t have anything to do with your NOT knowing yourself, but rather about being able to see past the illusion that the world had something ‘out there’ that could fill up any empty spaces within, or that there was even a separate ‘person’ for whom this could be accomplished. However, for 99.9% of the world’s population, I would posit that most people subconsciously feel like a stranger not only to themselves but also within their relationships with others, even though it may not appear that way on the surface. Until one learns to keep his/her attention focused inside even as they go about interacting with others, the game of hide and seek with the Self will continue and there will always be a subtle, uncomfortable feeling that one is a stranger in a strange land.

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    1. Diana, this is a continuation of the above post. My comments were too long and could not be published all together:

      Then you wrote: “A room of our own is a way of accepting our isolation. It is a way of ceasing to struggle against it.” My immediate thought when I read this was that we experience our birth and death alone and that we experience life alone since no one can occupy our bodies with us or feel things as we do in exactly the same nuanced way. Though we may surround ourselves with companionship to protect ourselves from feeling our aloneness, ultimately, at the deepest level, we each ARE an island, entire unto ourselves. I’ve often wondered, for instance, if another person has the same taste of an apple as I do. What if their tastebuds are more sensitive than mine, or if they have anaerobic bacteria coating their tongue that distorts the flavor? My experience of an apple is my own and I'm only surmising that others taste things as I do, but can never be sure that this is true. I am alone in my experience, just as I am alone in the isolation of my own body, emotions, and thoughts. Nobody will ever be a perfect clone of me and this is the existential isolation of ‘being’ that each of us must come to terms with and cease to struggle against, though we may not even realize that we have this unconscious struggle going on inside.

      You also wrote: “I have at least the power to choose my own darkness.” This made me think about the conscious choice we must make to explore our own shadow self and bring the unspoken of parts of ourselves into the light of love, understanding, forgiveness and acceptance, so that we can feel the wholeness of Life as it is expressing Itself through us.

      Finally, you wrote: “Once you have a room you have a choice.” This sentence made me think of the kinds of questions I might ask myself as I create a home that is alive with the ‘quality that has no name’. I thought that these questions might be useful to explore in order to deliberately choose to create an environment that will accommodate my deepest needs:
      What makes me feel safe?
      What make me feel whole?
      What makes me feel uplifted spiritually and mentally?
      What makes me feel nurtured emotionally?
      What makes me feel grounded in my bodily experience?
      What makes me feel connected to the rest of humanity?
      What makes me feel my own love for myself?

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    2. Pam, you have eloquently written many of the ideas I was thinking but did not know how to explain. Thank you!

      We certainly are alone. At least we can learn from each other's experiences both here and in the world. I am always noticing my own level of dependence on others; whether that be dependence on them in relationships or otherwise.

      Diana has shared that she and Michael are like one person. They, as a unit, seem to be very dependent upon each other and together have accomplished much. Sometimes I think I would like to have that type of connection with someone... and other times it is scary to think of being that dependent on, and attached to someone else, in this life where there really is no 'forever'.

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    3. Leah, if Diana and Michael are like one person it is probable that they have passed through the veil of ego and are seeing through the same eyes of the Self. They may very well be a part of the .1% of the population who have become Self-actualized and recognize that not only are they not islands unto themselves, they have actually dissolved into the 'ground of being' that is all and nothing at the same time. At least that would be my best guess (and hope for us all!)

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  11. Diana, I thought that what you wrote about the walls of your room permitting the power and meaning of your choices to accumulate so that those choices become like a society of friends living and moving together, is really at the crux of all conscious living. In order to make our choices manifest our highest wishes for ourselves, we need to lead a life of congruence in which what we SAY we want is actually the driving force behind all the choices we make. Without that conscious intention directing and guiding the flow of our actions, we are merely daydreaming. Developing inner and outer congruence takes time to contemplate and to precisely delineate so that we don't get stuck in acting out of old, non-productive ways. We have to take the time to envision what our life would look, feel and move like in order to actualize our dream, and then manage to keep that roadmap in our mind and heart as we choose our habits, our beliefs and opinions, our emotional states, etc. This requires a great deal of slowing down so that we have the time to make a considered choice of what to let in and what to let go of right in the moment of choosing. You have expressed this so well in your earlier posts and it is a challenge worth attempting.

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