Monday, October 22, 2012

Ourselves Alone


Thank you all for a very interesting and insightful weekend of thoughts.  It is wonderful to be greeted by such a lively and earnest conversation.

When I wondered aloud about the unbelievability of Innermost House and invited you to wonder with me, I had a feeling in the back of my mind.  I have observed how near some of you are to entering the experiment of the Innermost Life, and I am aware how little help I can be.  


I am speaking and writing at all now because I wish to be of some use to those who feel a little of the frustration and lostness I have felt.  But I am not an expert in anything.  I have only the example of Innermost House to offer. 


And an example is no help to anyone if it is unbelievable.  My experience of giving talks has taught me that Innermost House is always a little unbelievable to some people.  I have a feeling that if I could just understand the nature of the unbelievability, it might unlock some key to making use of my experience.


I know what it is like to be crippled by disbelief.  I have never been able to believe in the world, and it has prevented me from taking the first step toward gaining a place in it.  But I more than believe in the Innermost Life.  I live it.  It is me. 


Every one of your comments is helpful to me, every one an insight.  I want to begin at the beginning and, through the course of the week, address you each in turn as best I can.


Ember you begin with a suggestion I have encountered before in the form of a certain doubt that anyone could live as we do all the time without getting restless or tired of each other.  Pam you frankly confess you would find such a life pretty stressful!  This is a perfect beginning.


I have my own confession to make.  In thirty years I have never been bored in my husband's company for five minutes.  In the company of others I sometimes become so restless I could cry.  But not when my husband and I are alone.  That did not come with Innermost House, but has been the character of our relationship always.


Now, even I know that is very unusual, not because it feels unusual—it feels perfectly normal to me—but because so many people have remarked over so many years that we are really like two halves of one whole person.  Even strangers remark on it.


If it helps to know this, I never felt at peace with the otherness of anyone in my life before I met Michael.  I had accepted that it would never happen by then. Otherness was the problem, and it was everywhere.  I was so alone for so long that when Michael came into my life I hardly struggled to maintain my "self" in our relationship, and for his part he never gave me occasion to.  Almost immediately I became "us" and could at last relax into unity.


The idea of "being my own person" makes no sense to my feelings at all.  To be my own person would first mean to become a person, which for me would ruin everything.  I don't like being a person.  If either my husband or I were to become our own separate persons we would not have the marriage we have always had.  We are "our own person."


I never thought of it quite this way before.  Pam you speak of reading and writing and walking in the woods as things you would choose to do alone.  These are the very things we do alone together.  When we read aloud it is much more like one person reading to themselves than like two people reading separately in one room.  When we write it is the same.  And we never take a walk except together.  Always arm in arm or hand in hand.


I know that many of you are serious thinkers and meditators.  But the beating heart of our relationship is our married Conversation, and that is much more like a solitary contemplative person thinking or meditating inwardly than it is like any two people conversing that I know.


So you make me realize that it is misleading to speak of my husband and me as a couple.   We are unbelievable as a couple because we are not a couple.  I wouldn't believe it myself. 


It is much more true and I think also more useful just to pass over my unavoidable mention of my husband from time to time as a peculiarity of speech.  Think of us together as yourself alone and make what you will of us. Of me I mean, I suppose. 


As for boredom, Ember you very rightly understand what I have heard many times.  Once years ago a young mother, weary for a moment of her too-numerous and inexhaustible children, said she would like to live as I do, only..."What do you do all day?"  I answered her as best I could.  She paused for a long moment, then said, "I think I'll have another baby!"  


Pam you speak of a period of adjustment.  I think that is a key.  I have never found the Innermost Life boring or uncomfortable, but then I'm stuck on the other side of the line.  If I may say so, it is much, much more interesting in fact than it is in prospect, for a day or for a year.  


I do not mean to say that a little time might not be required.  I only mean that once you are there, once you have grown accustomed to the woodland sounds and low light and timeless time, it is endlessly interesting.  

If there is anything at all to share in this, I think it is not the hope of getting along with each other, but the prospect of getting along with ourselves.  That to me is where the Conversation really begins—within ourselves alone.  And the solitary Conversation of inward thought is why I am never bored and never tired all day and night at Innermost House.



15 comments:

  1. :0) Wonderful post. I am so delighting in your thinking, the expression of your unique mind and soul. Such a joy. Not a divertissement but a cool clear spring, like the streams in the birch woods high up in the hills. Thank you.

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  3. Diana,

    Let me express my continued gratitude for exploring all of this deep personal territory with us. You are a beautiful rare resource--like a unique bird thought extinct that has been rediscovered. Currently, I know of nowhere else to engage in a living conversation that parses this spectrum of life without having to join a monastic community.

    After some contemplation and reading this post, a few more things come to mind.

    Your union with Michael is believable. You're lucky, blessed, but it is believable. I'm sold after that narrative.

    Philosophy profs get really hung up defining terms and setting premises at the beginning of their arguments/conversations. I think part of my problem is that Innermost House and Innermost Life have been used interchangeably. Now that you are back in the World (as you call it--which I want to address) I think it might be helpful to be careful to delineate between the two.

    This is going to be loose--but I am just going to sketch what I mean. You seem to use the "World" roughly to mean secular vs. the spiritual environment of Innermost House.

    The problem here for me comes from a previous post where I argued that you didn't really seem to think you were on a spiritual path that was disconnected from IH. Now that you are in the World I presume you are still living spiritually--which I suppose what is now being called the Innermost Life. [And this Innermost Life appears to me to resemble a dogma free Christian Mysticism/Buddhism/Modern Spiritualism in practice]

    And here is where I hit a point of unbelievability. You often tell us how much the World jolts your equanimity, your Innermost Life (IL). But now you are living in the World, so I am confused as to how that works for you?
    I want to believe you were fortified after your time at IH.

    I have been cultivating an Innermost Life for many years. It is difficult in the World. Hence, one of many reasons I seek Innermost House. But whether I attain IH or not, I find maintaining as much Innermost Life as possible most important because I require it regardless.

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    1. Very well said, D.B. I also hope to be fortified in some way by entering into an Innermost Life.

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  4. I hope I don't offend, really I do, but the oneness that you speak of, Diana really worries me. I do understand it because I have lived it with my late husband to a certain degree. But, inevitably, the two of you will part. I know how excruciating that is. How do you prepare for it? Personally I had been subconciously preparing myself for quite a few years because I knew that my husband would experience a premature death, there were too many strikes against him. Even with all of the "affairs in order", the tearing away was almost unbearable. I have to function in this world to a certain degree in order to survive.

    Yes, I know that I am borrowing trouble and certainly don't want to cause you any dispair, but this is something that I have wanted to ask pretty much from the first. Is this something that you have considered much?

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    1. My wife told me that when one of us dies, she was moving to Paris.

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    2. Al, my husband knows that "when one us us dies" I am building a bitty off-grid house and taking up the practice of silence. My own days are as numbered as anybody else's, right? It will be difficult enough without knowing what to do when he is gone.
      My brother and his wife enjoyed a marriage like the Lorences have. You never saw one without the other. When he died, she moved to Hawaii, and there she walks the beaches alone sorting out her world. It has been almost two years, and she feels she still doesn't know what to do with herself. But what she is doing with herself is perfectly fine and normal and there is no hurry, after all. I ought to pay her a visit, and she ought to come see me too.

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  5. I was wondering too Diana. I do not understand the oneness you speak of. It sounds like you gave up your identity, What does this mean, are you not different from each other? That would be scary to me. I am happy with my husband, we love and we fight, we live together but there is also the need to be alone. Our wedding rings have two colors, symbol for our personalities. I wonder if I could ever experience the closeness you have described, we are best friends, but 24 hrs a day ?

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  6. Diana, what an interesting glimpse into the relationship of two as One! I suspect that you and Michael are at the same level of identification as the one Self of all, and so therefore there is no sense of separation or difference between the two of you. In fact, because there is only the One in both of your perspectives, there can't be a relationship between two people but only with oneself (AS the Self) present in and as two bodies. In contrast, perhaps, when you are with people who do not rest in the Witness Consciousness of the Self which has no separate identification with 'personhood', and they, in contrast, still believe in 'self' and 'other', then they may feel more heard and understood by YOU, than you feel by THEM. In your body you are an orange, for example, and other people are apples, and though YOU perhaps simply see 'fruit' when you look at both yourself and another because you've identified with the energy of the fruit and not the unique tastes and form, the other person still sees the difference between an apple and an orange. That confusion in perspective would make me feel restless too!

    You wrote: "The idea of "being my own person" makes no sense to my feelings at all. To be my own person would first mean to become a person, which for me would ruin everything. I don't like being a person." This makes perfect sense to me. After all, why would you want to revert back to a limited identification with a personality and a body when your inner awareness has expanded far beyond those artificial boundaries? I had an experience once at my Guru's ashram (monastery) where I was looking out over a mountainside dotted with gorgeous lush trees and all of a sudden I said to myself in wonder "I'm so beautiful!" because in that instant I WAS the trees. I saw my own self AS the trees as though I was looking at myself in a mirror and the trees were my own reflection. I had stepped out of my usual limited identification as Pam in this particular body and recognized myself to be the formless energy in every single thing around me. It was an amazing experience that I'll never forget because it taught me that everything IS me (as the Self) and I am alone in my oneness. Perhaps this recognition of and identification with only One Self that is the foundation of all there is, is what you are referring to when you wrote: "If there is anything at all to share in this, I think it is not the hope of getting along with each other, but the prospect of getting along with ourselves. That to me is where the Conversation really begins—within ourselves alone." In the Conversation, the thoughts, the spoken words, the people dialoguing--all are merely expressions of that one Self arising from the same stillpoint. (Gosh, this is a hard concept to put into words!)

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    1. Pam, this is a very clear and thoughtful explanation and I have had the same experience as you in a temple. It was a wonderful experience and sensation to be one with all that surrounded me, the people, the statues and even the carpets on the floor. I couldn't stay there for long, you see, as soon as I was aware of this situation it was gone. So could it be that one could develop very slowly from being one with your self to being one with others? It is what I am looking for but so hard to achieve.

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    2. Yes, Pam, a very clear and thoughtful explanation. It took a lot of them, but I do believe you've managed to put it into words for us. Thank you.

      I tend to go traipsing through the world in the same "person-less" state as Diana does, at all times. To quote her again, "The idea of "being my own person" makes no sense to my feelings at all. To be my own person would first mean to become a person, which for me would ruin everything. I don't like being a person." For me, the idea of "personhood" seems to be thrust upon me from other "persons" needing to take the "allness" and cram some of it into a pigeonhole and say "There is Julie".--You know, to unnecessarily define me as "Somebody". I'm uncomfortable with this. "Julie is smart." "What a dip-stick." "Great housekeeper." "Spiritual" "Fine nurse." "Hot." "Lazy!" "Too thin" "Too fat." "So sweet." "What a B." and naturally: "How ODD!"...WHA??????

      The Oneness is perforated to bits. Put through a potato masher. It is not even possible to be a "person" in this world without having to be many, many "people", and Diana is right; it ruins everything. Is this necessary? God is All, yet even God is defined as a different "person" by whomever is looking at Him (...er /her haha). Even God cannot catch a break here. He is God alone. We are our so-called "selves" alone.

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    3. Pam, that is a wonderful explanation. I had experienced period of total bliss a few years ago. It lasted a couple of hours and was life changing. I truly felt one with everyone and everything around me and could not keep the smile off my face. During this time I did not care if the phone rang or what people said to me -- it was all absolutely wonderful. I have to say, however, I don't think it really mattered if I was in my husband's company or sitting with a complete stranger. The 'other' was a part of me.. but neither necessary nor foreign. This is what makes me question whether Diana and Michael are two people who have transcended the separateness that the rest of us experience. Is it possible they are simply two people with exactly the same interests and habits? Could they have developed a workable relationship as ideal spouses and best friends?

      Two people who share the same lifestyle, interests and goals would certainly be inclined to motivate each other in their mutual quests for an ideal lifestyle, and are, I believe more likely to achieve their goals. The rest of us (and I am generalizing) will spend many more years finding ourselves while we juggle our other responsibilities and our time catering to the diverse interests of other family members and friends. Our own ideas and interests are not as supported and therefore we may self-sacrifice to maintain order and a level of general satisfaction in our 'group'.

      In summary, I think the Lorences may simply be one of those ideal couples that we occasionally hear about. Unfortunately, until I experience it myself, it will likely remain a fable to me :(

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  7. I would like to bring the discussion back to the Conversation. If we could hear more about what the Lorences like to discuss, we may have a better understanding of their 'oneness'. Diana mentioned in a previous post that they would sometimes wake each the other up if he/she fell asleep during an important discussion in order to completely sort it out before bedtime. Were they talking about world issues? Or weighing the pros and cons concerning the different types of wool and whether to include a small percentage of other fibers in their clothing? Discussions about house design? Disagreements about the underlying meaning in some poetry they shared? Whether to allow a vase with flowers in the house? (I am being a little facetious here, with no malicious intent)

    What exactly do they talk all afternoon and evening.. and sometimes night.. about??

    I have this Utopian idea of two people who are like twins -- a perfect match of each other and for each other -- being able to almost read each other's minds and finish each other's sentences. Couple who have been together a long time often start doing these things and even start looking alike, to some degree!! (Haha)

    So the Lorences, who seem to have many lifestyle and logistical conclusions worked out at this stage in their marriage and life(lives), what issues would they have that would require so much time for discussion? I would have thought the only remaining 'big' topic would be spiritual and esoteric type issues, really getting to the meaning of life.. but Diana has shared that they really don't have a spiritual practice so I am mystified!!

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  8. Leah, I asked Diana this same question in an earlier posting but she didn't comment on it. I, too, would like to know what the Lorence's talk about, esp. since silence is such an important and central aspect of their days. I must confess that usually in my house I tend to be pretty noncommunicative, not because I'm trying to avoid speaking but because I rarely find anything to talk about that is more interesting or edifying than remaining silent, with my mind at rest. My husband and I have different reading interests and for the most part, if I AM mulling over a philosophical idea or a personal or spiritual insight I usually just figure it out for myself and leave it at that. I don't typically feel the need to share my thoughts. And, to be honest, I'd much rather have a quiet mind than one that's going on and on nonstop pondering stuff that in the end doesn't add a whit of difference to the grand scheme of my daily life. So, yes, I, too would love to know what the Lorence's talk about.

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