Returning to London from an austere week of silence in Gaia House Devon. I’m trekking back through the city in a snow storm. It’s a soft transition back into the metropolis. Ursula Le Guin’s words from The Dispossessed are with me on the walk:
“Those who build walls are their own prisoners. I’m going to go fulfil my proper function in the social organism. I’m going to go unbuild walls.”
What a process it is going deep into soma and that endless inner space, and then in a few hours folding it all within to return to city-life in more of a semblance of “human” form. The days of silence were hard: becoming aware of limits, of falsenesses, of the distortions of habitual behaviours, owning waves of anger, grief, annoyance… When I could let go the repetitive thoughts and feelings of concern, the inner world reveals itself: vast and clear, so mysteriously mundane, so loyal in being there and ready to heal what’s got broken up, like a friend worthy of faith.
In the evenings we walked back and forth in a room under the unwavering gaze of a human skull: a full body skeleton arranged in a lotus position who presided over the walking room, surrounded by thick waxy green plants in pots.
Much of what I learnt was utterly simple: simple lessons on navigating energy and time and truth. The walking practice grows capacity to welcome passing phases of boredom and discomfort, make room for the darkness as well as the light. In silence you just keep turning towards it all. It is not a complete process, we can always go deeper. The process of laying down illusions is life-long.
The last morning I got up before dawn and walked out into the darkness not expecting anything except a bracing frost. And yet I’d only gone a few steps before I saw stars blazing through the branches of an old oak. The tree, illuminated and sparkling, held another kind of life: a hyper-real vital being growing out of the ground of the Universe. I felt relief and a quiet sense of remembrance like a river moving inside me. Not fireworks. Just a quiet sense of flow.
Coming home I have growing curiosity about how we meet the social organism. There’s fresh inspiration to get to work and see my daughter. It feels like the mysteries of our interior depths has this natural function of compelling us into the world: to create and destroy in reciprocity. To tear down the false walls and create what’s missing, and to change through the experience of being with others. And then to return into silence again.
The snow is falling. It is so soft, so gentle, so freezing the hell out of those who have no shelter tonight. This beauty mixed up with the harshness of human life. Staying awake to it all is hard and necessary.