Monday, 22 June 2009

Stepping Off 2

So those were the readings and thinkings that directed me to where I am now. There have been other influences too – principally the big life and family traumas that raged around like bad weather for a decade and are starting to die away now. The thunder of those storms has died away to a distant rumble now, and the rains are relatively half-hearted; but I live with the after-math: a weariness and wariness that need solitude and space.

But the family troubles are not the essential motivating factor; they just increase the pressure of an imperative already present: the yearning for simplicity.

I am aware that there are people who uproot from family ties, leaving behind their spouse and going into the wilderness. I feel such a strong imperative to move further up the mountain; and along with that, a sense of things slipping through my fingers – that I no longer have a grip on the comings and goings and doings of human society. I have lost the will to please and compete, to cope with confrontation and negotiation. My desire is to live and let live, and to build a vision of peace: peace in oneself, peace in the world. To sow the seeds of peace and kindness and wisdom that will nourish and protect the earth and the creatures of earth. But I still have responsibilities: I am a wife, a daughter, a mother, a grandmother, a sister – and those silver threads join to my soul and are not meant to be cut.

In the Hindu system of religious philosophy, there are 4 stages of life:
1) Brahmacharya ashrama: the years when a child is at school, developing, learning and preparing to take responsibility and make a contribution (approximately). A time for study and preparation of the soul/self.
2) Grhastha ashrama: the householder. A time for consolidating material security and prosperity. A time of familial and community responsibility. This period of life is associated traditionally with marriage and raising a family.
3) Vanaprastha ashrama: the forest-dweller or hermit, living in semi-retirement at the edge of the family estate; separate from the family, but available to support and advise as the younger generation, now adult, take on the responsibilities of the Householder. The days are spent thinking, learning, reading, meditating, praying. This period of life is characterised by simplicity and withdrawal from worldliness.
4) Sannyasa ashrama: when life in the world and family ties are renounced for the purpose of attaining enlightenment. Sannyasis take vows of renunciation, and leave everything behind them.

I think I have come to the third stage. I am not ready to forsake my family; but I am no longer of use as a Householder – literally, the person who holds the house; holds it together, has a hand on all the business, notices, plans, remembers, keeps the peace, offers the solutions. I hope I gave my best to doing that, in its time: but it has left me now.

As long as I live I would like my presence in the world to be a source of encouragement, healing, hope and peace to the ones God gave me to care for in this world. But I am no longer capable of managing anything.

So I have made my nest in a potting shed under a plum tree in the garden of the house Badger and I bought in Aylesbury. I am happy to come into the house and clean, and to sleep at night with my dear Badger; but for myself the house is too solid and central now. My potting shed is called the Palace Flophouse (after John Steinbeck and Cannery Row). It is where I write and think and read and pray and spend my days, when I am not with the tribe down by the edge of the sea, in Hastings.

Namaste to my sister, my nephews, my aged mother and father, my daughters, my husband, my grandchild. Namaste; peace be with them, joy be their portion, contentment to their souls. There is a kind of regret that I could not keep the Householder thing going a little longer – to make a practical and financial contribution, to be a real support to them. But the forest time, the third age, has come.

There is also a Hindu word vyragya, that is about becoming dispassionate - drying up, really - and I feel that relates to this disturbing sense I have of not loving. As though the self, the connectedness and involvement of the self is atrophying. It occurs the me that this may be an opportunity to become a quiet, dry channel along which the compassionate love of God may flow; loving-kindness. I hope that may be so.

In general terms, because life (even my life!) is not simply about me, there is an ecological dimension to this. The house in Aylesbury where Badger and I are based, is home not only to us but to our two lodgers. The four of us therefore live individual but interwoven lives.

I was interested to read on the Resources for Life website, about the Mobile Hermitage (a version of Tumbleweed I think), this paragraph:
Despite its name, the Mobile Hermitage is designed to be part of a community of tiny houses. Interdependent freestanding small houses are very economical to build and maintain. By sharing common resources such as laundry, lavatory facilities, bath house, large kitchen, and activity center, a greater sense of community is established, and significant savings can be achieved.
Aside of my own navel-gazing, such a concept is central in my own my vision of simplicity: to share more, annex less, and decrease the demands one makes of the earth's resources; spend less money, increase freedom and flexibility - creating an opportunity for Stepping Off.


Buzzfloyd said...

I think the Hindu ideas are interesting and helpful. I also think that the way you feel is a natural response to the things you have been through. We have talked in the past about Mother Teresa and the way she felt being what would normally be diagnosed as depression. When you talk about things like not loving, that sounds like a classic description of depression to me. Can't write any more now, tho - baby screaming.

Buzzfloyd said...

Came back to add this -
A phrase that keeps returning to my mind recently is, "But here we have no abiding city." This reminds me of you. But I wonder, is the imagining of heaven as a celestial city alien to you? How would you prefer to imagine heaven?

Pen Wilcock said...

Heh - you are quite right.

I wrote a poem - a long time ago now, back in very early 1980s - about this. The vision of the book of Revelation, of the celestial city all glittering with jewels, always day and never night, where every tear was wiped away.

I thought it sounded appalling: no sunsets, no dusk, no stars - everything hard and shiny.

I cannot remember the Light World any more. I am only remembering remembering it now: but I have hung on to it, knowing it is there and that it is my home. It feels imperative to me not to put down roots here, because I feel that if I did, if I forgot to the extent that I turned my face to this world instead of the Light World, then I would have lost the most precious thing there is.

But it is the world, not the earth, which is the delusion. The earth is alive and holy, and reminds us everywhere we turn of the Light of God.

Tony Collins said...

Just been on the Mobile Hermitage site to look at the splendid little house again ... and was horrified to see that the thing is towed behind a 7.3 litre diesel truck - in other words a serious gas guzzler. Felt quite disillusioned. Even if he leaves the Hermitage where it is most of the time, what is he doing owning such a thing?