In The Conversation

My client is sinking into the slow abyss of apathy. A year after the dissolution of her fifteen-year marriage, her heart is broken and she sees little reason to engage in the conversation with life. She has banked down into a beautifully self-indulgent spiral: she denies herself self-care and creativity, she has little desire to contribute to her once meaningful vocation, she cannot allow herself to accept the generous love from her new partner, she sees no reason for lavishly loving herself and has very little hope for the future. 

In her self-pity and self-recrimination she knows that she is on the cusp: She has the choice of turning back or descending further into a self-gratifying exile in which her future identity will be predicated on her ability to explicate and identify all the future ways she’ll be let down, rejected, hurt or abandoned, and all the ways she’ll fail, let others down or not measure up.

 

She holds a paradoxical recognition that she has the power to descend or ascend. She can decide which conversation she chooses to engage with.

You see, I want a lot
Maybe I want it all;
The darkness of each endless fall,
The shimmering light of each ascent.
— Rilke, Book of Hours

We share the same power - to descend or ascend. When we believe we have failed ourselves, or failed others, we cannot see the benevolence in life. We scrutinize our actions and decisions with a desperate need to understand where we went wrong so we can fix the situation or prevent a future loss, and in so doing, we unintentionally exile ourselves from joy, love and new beginnings. 

 

The desire to exit the conversation with life is a universal theme when the life we’re living disappoints, maims or lets us down.

 

And yet, experiencing loss is why we’re here. Loss is the soul-searing catalyst that burns like fire in our heart. Loss invites a numinous awakening to our soul's purpose - the bright and indescribable gift we bring to the world. Our soul's great need is what we're here on Earth to discover. We were born to hold a particular conversation with life that no other individual can hold because of our unique personality + lived experiences: our strengths, passions, talents, villainies, victories, setbacks, losses and triumphs. When we exit the conversation with life, we are denying our soul's growth and becoming. 

 


William Shakespeare captured himself on this very same cusp of exile as he was working with a breaking new technology called playwriting. There is a marvelous moment in his sonnet where he is about to descend into despair and despising, then he turns back to change his reverent and vital conversation with life:

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
— William Shakespeare, Sonnet 29

We have all experienced the pivotal moment when our disappointment in life leads us to the cusp of almost despising, “Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising” when we believe that life has turned against us -- has besieged us. At this point we can sink into the spiral of descent, a self-gratifying exile, or we can draw back and turn our conversation.

“Haply I think on thee” was multi contextual for Shakespeare and so it is for us. 'Thee' is the dark lover, the beloved, the sacred partner, but thee is also one’s vocation, our meaningful work and the deep interior 'thee' of our soul.

Thee for my client is the deep interior work of her soul - a turning inward toward her true nature and rekindling the love with and from the divine self that has never left her, so like the lark she will sing. "(Like to the lark at break of day arising | From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate."

The lark of Shakespeare’s sonnet is the Northern England Lark, a tiny bird that lives in immense horizons on the moors. She is a creature of the open sky with a vertical flight and an enormous voice that can fill the whole landscape. When a lark takes flight, she sings her song of jubilation.

 

The collective noun for a group of larks is an exaltation. They are an exaltation taking flight in a collective song of hope, joy and new beginnings without doubt that their lives are purpose-driven, seen and held in love and belonging.


We too, in hearing the song of our heart, the lark of our soul, can turn our own conversation, “For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings” and see the benevolence, beauty and necessity that each loss brings. We can celebrate in exaltation the joy of loving, the rapture in living and the expanse of losing. To love is to lose. You will say goodbye to others. They will say goodbye to you. Knowing this allows space for a more compassionate and understanding acceptance of what it means to be human.

Let us take flight each time we love and fly higher again in exaltation when our love becomes loss.

 

In this new conversation with life we expand, and the losses that have hurt or maimed us have a larger landscape in which to live. We open ourselves wide enough to hold whatever losses are necessary to live out our one unique and precious life. We aerate the soil of our inner landscape and in so doing embody a deeper knowing that each loss is absolutely necessary for our growth and eventually blossoming. We would never come to the full recognition and flowering of our gifts without the understanding that we are part of this long, inexorable farewell that every human being participates in. Loss is life. Life is loss.


When we embody this numinous knowing, when we hear our soul’s song, when we take flight and engage in the sacred conversation with life, we love like we’ve never been hurt, dance like no one is watching, live without fear of loss, and in this gracious and essential dynamic dance bring our whole heart, voice and vocation to the world. We engage in a compassionate, hopeful conversation with ourselves, and from this place of luminosity share ourselves from a larger, more benevolent context with the world.

 

Our new conversation with life -- whatever pattern we are trying to break, or whatever desire we're trying to create -- will shimmer inside us when we keep our eyes on a star in the horizon. The etymology of desire means of the stars. When we say we have a desire, we are saying that we are keeping the stars in sight: we have something we are following, an internal gravitational field, a heat source that warms our souls and draws us near.


Whatever your conversation is, listen and engage. For it has a particular coloration and tonality that no other human being shares nor has ever shared since the beginning of human recorded time. Your conversation is utterly unique; this incarnation, in this threshold, with the qualities, difficulties and virtues you bring forth have never been bound with this thread before.

May you take flight.

May you follow your star.

May you hear the lark's song.

May you engage with your desires in the conversation with your one life. 


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The Song Of The Lark

The song begins and the eyes are lifted
but the sickle points toward the ground,
its downward curve forgotten in the song she hears,
while over the dark wood, rising or falling,
the sun lifts on cool air, the small body of a singing lark.

The song falls, the eyes raise, the mouth opens
and her bare feet on the earth have stopped.

Whoever listens in this silence, as she listens,
will also stand opened, thoughtless, frightened
by the joy she feels, the pathway in the field
branching to a hundred more, no one has explored.

What is called in her rises from the ground
and is found in her body,
what she is given is secret even from her.

This silence is the seed in her
of everything she is
and falling through her body
to the ground from which she comes,
it finds a hidden place to grow
and rises, and flowers, in old wild places,
where the dark-edged sickle cannot go.
— David Whyte, Songs for Coming Home