Monday, September 24, 2012

Close Quarters

Welcome Bri, I too was a long time in finding other people like me.  Vicki, it is so nice to see you here.  And Fr. Will, it is such a pleasure to hear from you again.  Yes I remember that sad time, Tammy, and your brother and sister-in-law.  I'm glad you are better now.

Leah and Pam, last week you asked a very important question.  I have been asked it many times by earnest seekers of the innermost life.  You want to know what it is that makes the difference for me at Innermost House, and whether I am able to maintain that difference out in the world. 

Leah you wrote, "Are you suggesting that once we each manage to eliminate the other stresses in our lives that we will be open to seeing others as part of ourselves and being better able to welcome them in our lives? I ask these questions because I am wondering about the statement about "drawing our quarters close enough.." Was this house so much smaller and efficient and ideal to be "enough"? Is it really about drawing the quarters close enough around you or more just finding a way to eliminate your stresses including more control of your home life and the amount of interaction with people so that when people were around it was because they were invited and were there only for a short time?"  

I don't think I'm quite suggesting anything!  But perhaps I can say a little about what makes the difference for me.  The answer really is bothit is eliminating from my home the chaos of the modern world, and it is drawing my home close enough around me that it changes in nature.

Innermost House is born of my marriage.  It is one nature born of two natures. From me it inherits all of its emptiness—all the ways it eliminates the chaotic manyness of a world that I find meaningless and incomprehensible.  If I were somehow its single parent, then it would be an empty white room, and that is actually what I used to dream of as a confused and unhappy girl.  Just emptiness.

From my husband it inherits all its fullness, its ordered completeness. Everything in Innermost House is present because of him, and because of him the hundreds of objects in the house are not many things but one thing together.  They are like the pieces of a perfectly calibrated clock—just separate pieces when they are spread out on a table, but the moment they are drawn close enough together in the right relation, suddenly the gears mesh and they are not separate pieces anymore, but one working timepiece.  Everyone seems to see that quality in the house, whatever their feelings about it.  

And what is true of the house itself is true of every individual object in it.  Pam and Ember have observed the way that, even in photographs, each individual object seems to carry its own emptiness around with it.  How this can be is a mystery to me, but that it is so is confirmed by all my experience.  It is as though every object and aspect of the house shares in one genetic nature.

Innermost House is the smallest of our many small homes through the years, but it is not just the smallness that makes the difference.  Smallness eliminates largeness and littleness eliminates muchness, but in themselves I see now they could never have satisfied me. 

In some ways the tensions of life in the world that had accumulated in me actually increased during our early months in Innermost House.  I think without the house I could never have resolved those tensions.  Innermost House was not just an escape from outer things, it was a confrontation with inner things.  And it was the intimacy of life in the house that resolved those inner things at last into union. 

"Drawing our quarters close enough" was both a matter of elimination and addition, of emptiness and fullness.  It was their marriage that made Innermost House, and to me that is what makes the difference.  It is not enough to eliminate stresses.  Other people are not other to me in Innermost House because there they become part of the union.

Pam, you ask whether I am able to maintain that oneness out in the world now. It is a very great question, and trying to answer Leah's question has helped me make a beginning.  My answer is not quite the same now as it would have been six months ago.  I would like to address your question next time. 


  1. diana. your words have such a calm grace. i needed to hear them today. i have what is called erratic malignant hypertension by my doctor. it simply means uncontrolled and it can spike to extremely dangerous levels that could cause stroke or death. has little to do with externals, though i eat compassionately as a vegetarian and use little sodium. i do take medication for it. which is keeping it to a high norm. at least for me it's fairly normal.
    what i've found is that of course, it helps to stay calm. how do you insulate yourself from the
    knowing or hearing about the world's chaos right now? it seems friends or family members aren't as affected by it as i am. i am a person of peace. and it literally causes me pain.
    until you find your new innermost house. . . do you feel that your space is now 'around' you as the little house in the woods was? my house is not in a place that nurtures my soul. i must nurture it myself just by going within. would you be able to stay removed from the world if you were alone?
    i'm a widow. moving now is something i would love to do. but now my brother has lost his wife to the cancer and i stay in this town because of him and my love for him. it's enough.
    sorry. i am rambling i see! not sure if i've even made clear what i was trying to ask!
    love to you diana.

  2. This is my fabvorite picture of IH. It feels so cozy, with "book friends" all around. I can see myself using a space like that a lot! I would feel like I had "drawn my quarters around me".

    But over the space of this Conversation, I have learned that IH has to be an extention of our IS (innermost souls). This we have access to at all times. We cannot always control our living situations, so we must to our best to make them work for us in whatever way that might be. In fact it won't work at all if we have not found peace with our inner selves. I think that we are wasting our time if we don't really know what speaks to us yet.

    Including myself, why is this so hard for us to do? What is the roadblock?
    Are we allowing our past to hold us back, are we afraid of the future? Of course, that means we are standing "in today". I know that we have over and over stated that today is all we have (for sure). But there will probably be a future for most of us.

    I should probably just remove this post because I think I am speaking out of too much emotion and not enough reason? I am so weary of tying up loose ends in order to start my new IH life. But, then again, I am free to do so!

    Sorry, I needed to get that out, I guess!

    1. Sherry, I think that is the main factor for most of us here--being free to do so.

    2. Thanks, Julie, You have a new profile picture, I see. I like it!

  3. "In some ways the tensions of life in the world that had accumulated in me actually increased during our early months in Innermost House. I think without the house I could never have resolved those tensions. Innermost House was not just an escape from outer things, it was a confrontation with inner things. And it was the intimacy of life in the house that resolved those inner things at last into union."

    Diana, you have addressed the very thing that, lately, I have begun to be concerned about. After all of the things I have been through already, and the things I have yet to go through; the grief associated with it, and the considerable EFFORT that will be expended in building the little house, it really is unlikely that I will move into my new life and immediately have the ability to devote myself fully to prayer as I would like. Will I even be able to SIT STILL at first? Will I able to perform even household tasks without feeling that I am being watched and silently criticized? Will I sleep AT ALL at night, at first? No matter how devoted I am to what I believe to be my true calling, and no matter how much I have already prepared myself, obviously I will still have to adjust. I will have to SETTLE DOWN! My inner things will have to be resolved. Having, finally, a real opportunity to resolve them, these things will probably come at me very fast and very hard. It would have been foolhardy of me not to think so. I'm glad you brought this up in the Conversation, for everyone's sake.

    1. Julie, dear, it is like hitting a brick wall at about 100mph!

    2. 100mpg? Holy cow. There will be little possibility of being forearmed in that case. I can only fasten my seat belt.

    3. One day at a time is all you (or any of us) can do...

    4. Aww Sherry, that sounds like a pretty violent experience. I hope grace is gathering you up.

  4. I'm trying to work out how to get my profile picture on here

    1. Yes, we are just blobs! I don't have any of those accounts to log into either...

  5. my question above, diana, was i think . . . when the world is too much with me. even though i posed the question poorly . . . i read something today that i think is what you teach us also, simply by your way of life.
    it's from eckhart tolle's book 'the power of now.' which i had never read.
    "having gone beyond the mind-made opposites, you become like a deep lake.
    the outer situation of your life and whatever happens there is the surface of the lake. sometimes calm, sometimes windy and rough, according to the cycles and seasons. deep down, however, the lake is always undisturbed.
    you are the whole lake.
    not just the surface, and you are in touch with your own depth, which remains absolutely still. you don't resist change by mentally clinging to any situation. your inner peace does not depend on it.
    you abide in Being. unchanging, timeless, deathless - and you are no longer dependent for fulfillment or happiness on the outer world of constantly fluctuating forms. there will be no need to attach yourself to any of it."
    and that to me, is what innermost house is all about charlie brown.
    i'm sorry. this is way too long. i won't do it again!
    but it was helpful to me and i wanted to share it with you.

    1. Great quote! Thanks for posting it here. I love Tolle's writing. Like Diana's writing, its simplicity holds profound wisdom like the ancient Eastern sutras of pithy sentences that contain volumes of insight in just a few words.

  6. When I read your post last night, Diana, my first thought to write was: "...and now it feels like we are getting to the heart of the matter!

    I resisted the urge to post that response because I doubted that it was helpful to the Conversation, but now, after seeing the above comments and the soul searching they portray, I have to express the following.

    Diana, your words and this Conversation are transformational. I personally feel a huge shift in my own awareness since joining this group and I feel compelled to share that. Thank you!

    You wrote about how eliminating "much-ness" helped you get closer to understanding what inner work you needed to to. Through much of my life I have been admonished for often getting rid of things that I did not use at that time... sometimes things I needed again later and then repurchased :) This 'purging' and simplifying of my possessions and lifestyle has accelerated in recent years and I now understand why it needs to be so.

    In massage therapy school we were taught a (non-medical.. but very meaningful) term: 'circling the dragon', which means slowly working on the tissue around the main problem spot to free up those areas and prepare the main focal point (the 'dragon') for the work that it needs. And very importantly, to allow the host time to feel ready to let go of the tension held in these areas.

    Right now I am 'circling the dragon' and feel myself getting very close to confronting the inner tensions that I have enshrouded. This is probably where the real work begins, but it is a relief nonetheless.

  7. tammy j, welcome! I really appreciated the section from Eckhart Tolle. I have tried and tried to read his work and just get frustrated. I think I was not at the right spot in my life maybe?

    And Leah, "circling the dragon"! I feel queasy when I get too close to the dragon. I don't know why. I know what I want, but it somehow scares me!

    1. reading your comments in the archives took me back sherry.
      i lost my darling husband to throat cancer when i had just turned 34 and he was 43. i have never re-married.
      there truly is i think, such a thing as a soulmate. and he was mine.
      i have been on a long journey of self discovery, searching and trying to live in the present. this little community is nourishing, as is everything about diana and michael!
      i sometimes find difficulty understanding the more abstract type of talking, but at the same time i find it so restful and
      beautiful. like an abstract painting that you find speaks just to you, without definite form and containment.
      thanks for the welcome.

  8. I wrote a long post this morning and inadvertently hit a wrong key and it all disappeared! So, here it goes again.

    Diana, you wrote: "In some ways the tensions of life in the world that had accumulated in me actually increased during our early months in Innermost House. I think without the house I could never have resolved those tensions. Innermost House was not just an escape from outer things, it was a confrontation with inner things. And it was the intimacy of life in the house that resolved those inner things at last into union."

    I showed the video of IH today to a coworker who loved the house but who told me that he could never live in a space like that because he wouldn't be able to escape from his thoughts. I replied that the gift IH offers is EXACTLY that--the potential, like that of meditation, to allow all the emotional dross to come to the surface to be re-experienced in the body, mind and heart and then dissolved so that all that remains is the awareness of THAT which is beyond thought and form, but also contains thought and form. It is the marriage of emptiness and fullness as two sides of the same coin. Your comment reminded me of the story of an older monk telling a brand new monk that he should make friends with his cell (room) because his cell would teach him everything about himself and his relationship with the Divine that he would ever need to know in his life as a monastic. I found in my own life that it was only when I stopped running from my life and began to stand open and undefended in the face of disquiet that I rediscovered my life's sweetness amidst the detritus of the pain, fear and anxiety from the past that I had repressed.

    1. How glad I am that you went to the trouble to re-post this after losing it Pam. You've made my day.

    2. Making friends with your room ... that is something I am beginning to understand, Thank you for sharing.

    3. I agree with Julie, thanks so much for taking the trouble of re-writing. There's a real gem. Perhaps those of us who love IH are the ones who want to be willing to be present to ourselves - just starting to try it out and seeing what happens.


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