When I wrote “When Nothing Happens” and circulated it to all of you, I had no idea what kind of a reaction it would generate. I received many personal notes telling me of the waiting place, the ‘nothing is happening’ place. Some shared a sad story about a friend, some were resigned, some impatient. Everyone, though, was in pain.
It made me wonder about this special type of pain, the pain of changing, of waiting for something to happen. What is this unique kind of suffering that is relevant to the process of becoming who we really are? By now you know from the previous post, that the word ‘waiting’ is a misnomer. You’re not really waiting; so much is happening underneath the surface, while outside in the day-to-day world, nothing is changed. The dissonance of these two colliding worlds, the inside and the outside, I suspect is at cause of this seering pain.
There is a lot of information out there about the unfolding self. Much of it though is scattered about, strewn across disciplines like anthropology, psychology, archaic religions, ecology, social science, and even engineering and of course physics. Almost as if by some great invisible force, it dares us to seek it, find it and to learn. My Celtic ancestry tells me to search for the answer in my surroundings, in nature, in dreams, books, anywhere, in discussion with Elders and teachers. Everywhere. And this is what I found.
I woke up this morning with the tail end of a dream flitting around the edges of my psyche in those dazzling seconds before coming awake. It was just an image. And, it was also a feeling. The visual image was of my body, as the very topmost surface, so close it could be my skin but isn’t, is being peeled away. Ouch, more than ouch! And not the pain of a sunburn, the feeling was more like the raw pain of a very sticky full body band-aid being peeled off my hair and skin.
At first I didn’t know what it meant or that it was even remotely an answer to my question. I was reading the book, Original Wisdom, and the author was describing the first moments of his own changing, when he first started to really become his true self. A scientist, working in the field in a remote location, he had just learned that there is a way to ‘know’ things in the world, know them without knowing how you know them. His scientific mind had utter contempt for this idea, to say nothing of his society’s viewpoint which was to label it insane, primitive, and idiotic. And yet, there it was; a radical event he had just seen for himself, proof that was irrefutable. Everything he believed to that point now needed to be completely re-written. No, not even re-written, thrown out entirely because the old canvas would always try to bleed through. So a blank slate! What was needed was a blank slate, a new canvas to write a new blueprint about how he knows the world to be.
As I read the next few pages, he does something fascinating. He goes into this new place, fully immersing himself, seeking to engage it, and to know it. To the untrained eye, the story is just a long, long walk in the forest, without water, seemingly aimless, and really exhausting. No big deal, a reader may think, and at first so did I. However if you look beyond the surface of the story, see beyond the words to the direct experience of it, what he relates is the peeling away! His mind is screaming at him the whole time; he is filled with doubt, resistance, and fear. His mind and all of his senses were slowly being stripped of a long running program, and at the moment he surrenders the mental warfare, he has clarity, he can see through. This is what is happening when ‘nothing is happening!’
Most of you reading this would probably never have occasion to read Original Wisdom, or The Hero with a Thousand Faces, orThe Book: Society’s Taboo Against Knowing Who You Really Are or The Way of the Sacred Pipe. If you have, then use them. If you haven’t, here’s the cheat sheet:
The connection between that scientist’s story and you is the anatomy of waiting for something to happen. It is the pain of your situation, as you seek change and are waiting for it, for something to shift, or stop, or start. If your mind is doing the talking, you haven’t surrendered yet, you’re still walking in that forest. Your mind is walking with you, probably abusing you, criticizing you, challenging you at every turn. This is why the ‘waiting’ is so painful, because your critical mind is fighting for its life. “This is stupid.” “Why don’t you just…” “You can’t just …” “Only crazy people would …” “You’re no good…this won’t work…you’ll be found out…what a fool.” “What happens if…” “Do you really know what you’re doing?” “People will think you’re crazy.” Stop. Exhale.
Something IS happening when nothing appears to be happening. You’re getting a full body scraping from tip to toe, peeling back and away all the layers and layers and layers of useless rules and stories, and it hurts. A lot!!! And there are no Elders left to tell you what is happening, that your heart is coming awake, that it will be okay, that this is a good thing, that you are walking your path, and to keep going.
Keep going. Find support in friends, in community. Engage directly with the ‘waiting.’ Go out in nature and stay awhile, engage with the pain, dance with it. Dance with your inner experience,instead of waging war where the battle isn’t - on the outside – go where the battle is – go to the heart of the matter.
In the Celtic tradition, there is a deep knowing of hospitality to self and others. Whenever anyone comes inside, into the heart of the matter, we say: Welcome home.