Opening the ground

I GREW UP as the child of a single parent, outside of any formal religion. My mother, a painter and sculptor, was an early example of someone who might today refer to themselves as spiritual, but not religious. Before I turned five, I contracted meningitis, and spent what would have been my first year of school slowly recovering. I spent some of the most peaceful and untroubled hours of my life lying on a rug by the old apple trees in the orchard at the back of our house, under the endless vault of the open sky, listening to distant aircraft passing high overhead, or on a flaking stone bench on the patio, watching the little velvety red mites scampering in the sunlight. Time was unlike anything I’d known before, an open ground of appearing, empty of thought, mostly, but fertile with becoming.

In those long months I had no name for this clear, undimensioned place, and I don’t suppose it would have occurred to me to ask anyone what, or where, it might be. I just was, and was where I was. In many ways, the years since have been a journey back.

Daishin Morgan remarks,

A theme I return to again and again is to just do the work that comes to you. Such an attitude is open-ended in the way that life itself is open. If you give yourself to the way, the way appears and that way is always changing.

(Morgan, Daishin. Sitting Buddha. Throssel Hole Press. Kindle Edition.)

My way has changed and evolved decade by decade – sometimes year by year – and yet this open ground of unknowing has somehow served, paradoxically almost, as a guide star in often dark skies. Eve Baker once wrote:

The desert to which the solitary is called is not a place, but something that must be there below the surface of ordinary human existence. It is nowhere, a place of thirst…

The disciplines of solitude will be different for everyone. Maintaining an inner cell of quiet will be a greater struggle for the person with family obligations or for those whose life involves working closely with other people… It is like having a compass in one’s hand, pointing to the true north. The busyness of life will swing the needle, but it will return again to the same direction.

This new blog takes up where my previous blog, The Mercy Blog, left off. I hope that at least some of that blog’s readers may follow me here. I’ll do my best to keep notes along the way.