Monday, September 10, 2012

Before Remembering

"I lean backward with all my nature toward something I remember before remembering."  

Ember and Julie, Al and Pam, you each in your own way would like to know what it is that I remember, for perhaps you remember something too.  And Maria, welcome, I am so happy you are here.  I see that you too remember.

It is a strange thing, this remembering.  Whatever I possess of that something belongs I think to a dimension parallel to memory.  It is more like an early morning atmosphere through which I see the succeeding hours of the day, which causes some perfectly ordinary things to appear quite extraordinary, and other equally ordinary things to recede into obscurity and confusion. 

It is almost as if memory were born in me with the loss of what lies before remembering.  Until I met Michael, all my memories were of waking up to a sense of something missing, of seeing it missing in my mother's face, of hearing it missing in my teachers' voices, of living with it missing in my home and with my friends and out in the world.

That sense of loss kept me from forming any really normal relations with family or at school, or later with studies or at work.  I knew when I was still a child that I did not want children, because I associated children with that loss.  As I grew up I didn't have any ambition for a career because I associated success with that loss.  I was asked why I never smiled.  I was told that no one would ever marry me, I have no doubt for the same reason.

It was only years later that I learned from my mother the story of my beginnings.  I was her first child.  As an infant I was almost unnaturally happy.  I slept unusually much even for a baby, and when I woke I never cried.  I was never lonely and I was never angry.  My mother was constantly checking on me because she said I would happily lie awake for hours without making a sound. 

Then before the age of memory, something happened suddenly in my family, and it changed everything.  It happened so suddenly that I awoke with a kind of start from my waking dream.  I woke too fast, and it made ordinary life permanently unacceptable to me.  I have never accepted the change.
When I met my husband I had lived for as long as I could remember a life of resistance that defined me.  I resisted everyone and everything as reminders of that loss of a world before remembering.  But from the first he did not see my sense of loss as a disability.  I thought everything was backwards and upside down and so completely incomprehensible I could not even begin to think my way around it.  And he thought I was right. 

He saw something I could not seean experience of life preserved precisely by all the resistance that I thought defined who I was.  Somehow he saw in me the beginning paused in midstep, almost in midbreath, still unmixed with the world.  I think that is what he loved in me, and through him I began to love it too.

Michael says I am like a cake started with a rich cream of butter and eggs, but to which too much flour was added much too fast, so that the moist beginning and the dry substance never mixed.  It won't win any baking contests, but it preserves the beginning at the bottom of the bowl for other possibilities.

And he helped me carefully gather up that beginning again.  It would not be the same of course, and I did not want it to be.  I was not a baby anymore but a grown woman with a woman's needs.  But it was more as if that beginning had needs through me than I had needs myself.  It was the early atmosphere through which I saw things that made for the extraordinary shimmering I sometimes glimpsed, and what shimmered told us which way to look and how to live.

I can hardly say how slowly we moved our way toward living in that world of shimmering.  We suffered a thousand disappointments and confusions along the way.  It was very often very difficult.  I am sorry to say I did not make it easier for my husband.  I took the negative way from place to place"not this, not that."  I was either all the way in or all the way out, and in the world I was mostly out.  But it was all that mattered to us, and gradually I awoke again to that life before remembering.  All I knew before was that something in everything was missing.  It isn't missing to me anymore. 

In a way I feel I should stop here.  I can say only a little of what it is to me positively, though I have lived it now for many years.  Our life of married Conversation in Innermost House embodies it for me in every way, and perhaps that embodiment speaks most clearly.  For the only spirit I know forever seeks embodiment.  I am no more content with what lies wholly beyond me than with what lies only within me.  It is and is not above me.  It is and is not within methough I feel a harmony between the above and within.  It is among us.  I am amidst it.   

The world I remember before remembering is present to me in this world, but inward of it.  It reconstitutes the world I know outside, but turns it right side up and outside in.  Every abiding thing is there, but translucently.  It is fragile for it has form.   But its forms are infused with an inward life that is not wholly contained by boundaries.  I see this everywhere in the inward world, that light falls not so much upon things as it glows within them.  To me every surface and every object in Innermost House is alive from within.

I'm sorry if I haven't answered this satisfactorily.  You have asked very good questions about the material nature of Innermost House, and I want to try to answer them in the comments this week.  Perhaps that will help.  They are important questions, for to me the world of light is to be sought amidst embodied nature.  I know there have been long ages when the light we sought was the light that shone above us and beyond us.  But I seek the light among us.



  1. "I know there have been long ages when the light we sought was the light that shone above us and beyond us. But I seek the light among us."

    What you say here reminds me so startlingly vividly of the prologue to John's Gospel:
    "In him was life; and the life was the light of men.And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not...That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world...And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace."

    Reminds me also of the first letter of John:
    "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life."

    The embodiment of light is for me, too, the guide I look for. And the quality and nature of a person's light, which I take for an indication of how things are with them.

    This that you said:
    "It was the early atmosphere through which I saw things that made for the extraordinary shimmering I sometimes glimpsed, and what shimmered told us which way to look and how to live."
    I love this!

  2. "Before the age of memory" caught my attention. As a rule, our memories don't go so far back, though we all differ with that - my middle daughter reliably remembers some of her babyhood, to our amazement.
    Our youngest, however, doesn't have such early memories, though we wish she did. A doll of a baby, very contented, at some point she must have taken fright or been "awoken too fast", though we know of no outside source for this, and for many years of her childhood had great difficulty communicating with the world outside our closest family. She would not look at another adult, not even her grandparents, or speak to them, yet at home she was the family clown. If I left her with a friend with other children her age, she would stand rooted to the spot for 2 hours, not even willing to take her coat off, until I returned. I felt cruel, but sometimes I had no choice but to know she was in good hands for a short while! Interestingly, she always reacted dutifully to kindergarten and school teachers if necessary, though she would never put her hand up in class or offer information and this left some of her teachers very perplexed. Fortunately, as she has grown older, this selective mutism has retreated and she has gained enormously in confidence, particularly as a teenager and is now no shyer than any other 17 year old, as she embarks on her vocational training as a dressmaker - yet she cannot explain what happened in her very early youth (under 18 mths) to make her close up. Fascinating.

    1. Thank you for sharing this, Mel. It must have been very difficult to watch someone you love so much feel so disconnected from the rest of her world. I'm so glad that she adapted to others and can now interact with the world around her in a more confident way, though what a shame that she cannot remember her 'time before memory'.

  3. That is very interesting Diana. I think a part of me can relate to what you are saying. The whole area of memory and early experience can be very difficult to depict faithfully, I think. You are so expressive though and brave to say all that.
    I think, because you have Michael, you have had to find ways of putting very private experiences into words or pictures, that many of us have maybe never even tried to explain or have never needed to see in ourselves. (Sorry, I'm struggling with my grammar here.) But you also obviously have a gift invested in you. Thank you for finding words and for sharing with us. I think it must be quite costly to do so.

    1. I agree with you, Katrina. How costly it must to try and explain herself for our sakes. And how costly for us also, had we not found such a kind reception here at Innermost House and this real Conversation. Such grace for all.

  4. Diana, in rereading your post I suddenly recalled that very early on in my relationship with my Guru (in the early 90's) I had written her a letter in which I described how I hadn't wanted to be born (I was a breech birth and had to be dragged out of my mother's womb!) and how as a child I nearly drowned three times (talk about the drop wanting to merge back into the ocean!). I told her that I had lived my life up until that point in a subtle resistance to being on earth, as though I was like a teenager saying defiantly to a parent who was making me go to a boring family party "You can make me go, but you can't make me like it!" She wrote back to say that everything I had written was true. It was painful to feel that I had somehow been abandoned by God who had made me return to earth in a human birth and then left me with an inexpressible longing that felt like a part of me was missing. It took many years of self-inquiry and the energetic release of trapped emotions to finally come to a place of acceptance and surrender in which I felt my inner wholeness and once again trusted that the deepest part of me was intimately known and loved. And then, about six years ago I went through a startling period of total contentment in which my past ceased to exist (I couldn't even remember most of my earlier life; I'd just see a milky white screen in my mind's eye when I tried to recall something that had occurred even as recently as the prior week) and the pull of the imagined future held no allure. There was just this incredible inner state of 'being' that felt joyful, at ease, and in perfect balance with everything in life just as it was. It was like being in timeless animation that felt alive and vibrant but motionless at the same time. This state lasted for about three years and then gradually, over a time span of another three years, this state of sated bliss receded and I reverted back to my old 'normal' way of perception. I have longed to go back to that incredible state ever since. I did nothing to 'achieve' this state--it was a gift of grace--and so I can only reconcile myself to the inadequacy of my inability to consciously recapture that constant state of Witness Consciousness that had no 'me' attached to it. What I experienced feels to me like it was just a small taste of what YOU have recaptured in your own life and since what I experienced was so glorious, I'm very happy for you that you found your way back to your time before remembering and have had Michael at your side to be your companion and helpmate. Thank you for giving us a glimpse of your inner way of being. It's very beautiful and holy and is the substance of who we all are if only we could remember, too...

  5. Diana, this is out of context for today's post by you, but Louis R. asked me to repost this comment I made on Facebook on 9/1 that listed some of the questions I had about IH's construction. Here it is:

    Oh, dear, I just lost a very long post because Facebook froze up on me, so here I go again! I, too, would love to hear from the guys out there who are interested in IH from the more practical perspective of small house design and construction. I’m in awe of people who know how to build things and I’d love to hear more about how they feel about what they have discovered about their own building styles and their inner focus while they work as they have learned more about the philosophy behind the construction of IH. From Diana I would be interested in learning more about the following things:
    • how she and Michael planned the construction of IH. Did they use an architect to help them draw up the plans so they knew what kind of materials to buy and how much?
    • The dimensions of the kitchen, bathroom and office.
    • How they managed the plumbing in the bathroom for the toilet and shower head. Is it a composting toilet?
    • Whether the chests in the main room are antiques.
    • Whether the kitchen cupboards were custom-made. (It looks like they might have been because the depth of the countertop doesn’t look like a standard size
    • What’s on the wall directly behind where Diana sat at the desk
    • How long it took for the actual construction of IH
    • Whether the floor got cold in the winter
    • Whether they stored their out-of-season clothing in the outside shed or in Michael’s tailoring studio
    • Where they got the terrific standing candlestick holder next to the chair (it looks like it came from a church)
    • Whether they would like to replicate IH somewhere else or start with a new design, perhaps to better accommodate them as they age (I’m thinkin’ stairs instead of a ladder here!)
    • How Michael proposed to Diana and what their wedding ceremony was like
    • How it was like for Diana as a teenager trying to cope both with puberty and with being so very different from other teenagers
    As you can see, there’s no end to the fun things my mind can dream up if asked!

    1. Oh, I have another question too. Diana, how have you transported the ashes when you've gone away from Innermost House--and how are they put back into a new fireplace. Do you put them in layer by layer and pat them down? (I want to save my ashes this year.) Thanks so much for your advise on this.

    2. I wondered if Diana carried the flame from the fireplace from one home to the next to express the continuity of IH.

  6. This amazes me Diana. And the things our friends have had to say today amaze me also. It has, perhaps, taken me most of the day, but I think I'm realizing something about my own remembering because of all of your words--and of course I knew it already, I just didn't know I knew it.

    It really wasn't until I was in my early fifties that I could tell you much about my childhood beyond the vital statistics. Before that, I had very few hilarious stories to tell about when I was a kid. It's like I wasn't even there, you know?

    You said: "It was the early atmosphere through which I saw things that made for the extraordinary shimmering I sometimes glimpsed, and what shimmered told us which way to look and how to live." And there it was. The shimmering. I followed it as a child, and even had a friend there, in the shimmering. He always LAUGHED and I know I was never really an unhappy child ever, though like you, I seemingly had to be "told" to smile. I clammed up to defend my little self. But I think I was merely intensely focused upon and informed by the shimmering world of my inner experience. To this day, if I'm doing something and you want my attention, you must touch me. I won't know you're speaking to me otherwise.

    Then you said: "I am no more content with what lies wholly beyond me than with what lies only within me. It is and is not above me. It is and is not within me—though I feel a harmony between the above and within. It is among us. I am amidst it." This almost ties it up with a bow for me and serves perhaps as an explanation for my refractory stubbornness about all things pertaining to the un-shimmering aspects of what is called "real life". My memory is not of the past. I am AMIDST it! Of course I am. A short breeze blows the thin curtain to the side sometimes and there something shimmers and my friend laughs. (And the crickets chirp, Ember!) The light remains always among us, showing us which way to look and how to live.

    Yes, I too thought that there was something in everything that was missing, but I see that many of us here have simply clung to that one needful, shimmering, and simple thing that we came to this planet with. Little else is amusing against it's light because we remember.

    I have also, like you, resisted what is passing for success these days and associated it with great loss and waste. It seems to me that everyone is throwing themselves away with it all. Indeed, this has not made me a wealthy person in this world and I am soon to be set adrift in it. Shall I let go of my one needful thing--the thing that has cared for me all of my days? Or shall I laugh with my friend? It seems I may already be a ROARING success at whatever the heck in this world I am. Boob though I may be...

  7. I have sometimes questioned whether my memories are real or not. Was I really remembering something, or was I remembering a story I heard about myself. Or was it a photograph I saw of when I was very young and I have imagined a story around it. Or is it a combination of all this. I have a photo of myself on a tricycle with my great uncle behind me. I thought I would be too young to remember this time. But the things I remember are the physical - of him pressing his fingers on my head, and of me trying to pedal fast to get away from him! You can't get that from a photo.

    My son, who is now 10, when he was younger, used to say the most profound things, and ask really profound questions. My husband thought that he was a born philosopher! But I can't remember him doing it recently. Has he grown out of something, some connection to the bigger picture?

  8. After reading these accounts of childhood by Diane, MelD, Julie, and the rest, I'm seeing something here. We seem always to assume that children come into the world as "blank slates" to be filled. This is clearly not the case. I know that my own sons came along knowing at least a million things each--that I never taught them and that I didn't even know myself. In fact, other than the practical aspects of putting one foot in front of the other, reading, writing, and arithmetic...there was VERY LITTLE left for me to teach them. They even already knew how to pray. And so did we, when we arrived. Perhaps we meddle entirely too much with children.

    1. I agree, Julie. Just as the young bird innately knows how to build a nest without instruction, humans enter life with profound knowledge we just need to gain awareness of.

  9. These accounts are remarkable. I have two friends that have "cradle memories". I remember once while it therapy my therapist asked me to go back to my 3 y/o self and let her know how/what I felt. During the week I had a dream and I was a very small girl, pretty like a little doll with a full skirted dress on (50's era) and I was in the back of our van lying dead. So the next time I saw her I told her that my 3 y/o was dead. I don't remember a lot of things before I was 5-6. I have always wondered why. I am led to think that I am suppressing something that I, at least, thought was too horrible to remember. (I know that is physco babble to a certain extent). That is just about the first thing that therapists try to get into "were you abused as a child? You have all the signs." Well, I don't remember any such thing. Who knows? Those were definately the "hush/hush" days, but my mother denies any knowledge of it and I would think at our age, she would surely tell me. I guess something like this would explain a life of sadness, but I have no memories at all. Nor do I have a good sense of self. (not as is self worth, but who I am searching for)

    Back to the post: I think that these accounts are totally fascinating! I know it must have made for a difficult life, tho. I know that I have pretty much sheltered myself from the "real world" because it scares me to a certain extent. I don't like the noise, smells, busyness, everyday discussions, etc. Diana you are a very strong woman to have come this far and be willing to share. It really means a lot for a person to be able to open themselves like a book for all to see. For years, I kept my book tightly closed! Through people like all of you, I feel safe and able to let go a bit at a time.

    I do wonder what causes some people to be enabled to have these memories and totally views of life that are different than the norm (whatever normal is supposed to be.


    1. Wow, Sherry. That is a really remarkable accounting. I wonder if you'll ever know the facts of it. Most intriguing.

      I don't think I was exactly afraid of the real world as a kid so much as it just failed to capture my attention. I had little interest in it. I usually think I look sort of "not present" in childhood photographs of me. Not quite solid or something.

  10. My youngest son remembered things that happened in our household while I was pregnant with him. While I insisted that he wasn't even born yet, he knew all of the details--what happened, who was there, and once, what his big brother had on that day...

    1. That's so amazing, Julie! Have your children exhibited any psychic abilities at their current age?

    2. No. Not that I am aware of, Pam. Not at all. But the older one was always "remembering" things that hadn't happened "Do you remember that time when Dad said (this) and you got so upset and we got to have strawberry shortcake for supper? Remember?", I don't know what you're talking about... But within the week, Dad waltzed through the front door and said that, and I was shook up, and there was nothing in the house to serve for supper but strawberry shortcake that night. Shortcake suppers became a tradition at our house during strawberry season after that-since he was evidently so impressed by it that he remembered it before it even happened...

  11. Diana, you said that something happened before the age of memory that changed everything. Is there not someone in your family that can tell you about it? Or is it something that you would prefer not to discuss?


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