Saturday, February 13, 2010

A secret turning in us
makes the universe turn.
Head unaware of feet,
and feet head. Neither cares.
They keep turning

~ Rumi

In my work with couples, I teach them how to listen, using an exercise derived from Jung’s concept of the imago. Sometimes I refer to this exercise as a mirroring exercise when in fact it is a listening exercise.

I discovered the word “otology” this past week, the science of hearing. I was struck at how close it is to the word “ontology”, the study of being. In French, the word understanding is translated as “entendement”, as hearing versus, say, “illumination” or enlightenment.

When we listen, we are present in a way that mirrors without seeing. It is mirroring with our inner ear turned to the other while also inwardly attuned to the mystery of ourselves. We go through the spiral corridor of being when we go through the door of listening.

The turning leads to vertigo and a kind of madness from being decentralized. How difficult it is to hear someone in their own words and not your own! In the Sufic tradition, to turn toward the other is to be attuned to the divine and is the essence of the spiritual quest. Whirling is a door (“dervish”) to awakening, and “tarab”, the root of the word turn and troubadour, means transport of joy in Arabic.

To see on the other hand can be violent like the dawn, as a floodlight scattering shadows and breaking silhouettes. We talk about stealing a glance and, indeed, there is something akin to theft when you shine light directly on the mystery of being. It is perhaps for this reason that looking is punished so often in Greek myths.

“Tell me what love is,” Eros begged hell’s queen. “My mother won’t say.”
“First you have to learn to die,” Persephone told him.

Eros is wounded by Psyche’s gaze and pierces himself with love’s arrow, warning Psyche not to look at him again lest one of them dies. She disobeys, and they are separated.

Orpheus had a similar fate when he went to rescue Eurydice from hell. He looked back at her too soon and she slipped away at the threshold of life.

Semele, the mother of Dionysus, went up in flames when she stared at Zeus.

We want freedom from the darkness, and union with the other. But love is being yoked to separateness, losing our heads to hear the voice of the beloved in our broken hearts.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Look at the flowers, so faithful to what is earthly,
To whom we lend fate from the border of fate.
And if they are sad about how they must wither and die,
perhaps it is our vocation to be their regret
Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus (XIV)

We talk about “survivors” of abuse instead of “victims”, because the former seems to buttress the empowerment we believe to be vital to healing.

But who exactly survives abuse? Surely not the same one as before.

Abuse cleaves us from our power. Victims know this. Retribution tries to redress the imbalance, but it cannot. Not because it heaps wrong upon wrong but because integrity, once broken, cannot be restored. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men…

Healing arises in knowing that emotional pain bears witness against the violation, not as a call to avenge it, but as the heart’s regret, grieving transgressions.

Wholeness cannot be taken away because we are woven into something of which we cannot be dispossessed: the web of being that connects us all by its invisible threads.

Healing dissolves pain into this, like salt into water.