Tag Archives: threshold

Year of Self Compassion #5 Being held and carried

The feeling of being carried and my hand being held continues, cries and sobs are heard. And let’s be clear there is a difference between crying and sobbing. A cry is an acute response, while a sob is chronic – an ache that seems to go on and on.

In this year of self-compassion there is a lot more crying and sobbing than I have done for a long time … and it is not all grief. It is also release, the pressure valve being discharged and letting off steam turned to tears. It is also coming to terms with reality, a veil being lifted to see what was hidden and facing facts. Reality isn’t all its cracked up to be (and I am convinced the way we remember is one of nature’s ways of showing compassion towards us, only revealing what we can handle one bit at a time). Memory does play tricks on us and I am having lots of flashbacks to times gone by and reconstructing what was going on with a new lens, or sometimes with no lens at all, just seeing facts. It is possible to have more than one memory, more than one reality, we all live on multi-planes as we go about our lives on this planet.

As a child I loved (and I still love) science fiction and I used to imagine that we were living in a multi-verse – things happening in different dimensions at the same time all around us – even though we couldn’t see them such is the creative power of time and molecules. This is a common experience. In my multi-verse, time was the same in each place, but it was different configurations of people, places and creatures. Time being the foundation holding all the verses together even though they were parallel universes – a bit like Dr Who in the Tardis having a Groundhog day in many worlds. I haven’t thought about this idea for a very long time, maybe half a century, but it has returned to me in this Year of Self Compassion, offering me a way of seeing and understanding what is going on in my life with the familiarity of the world clock (my constant companion when I was working internationally for five years). It was perhaps my first exposure to the idea of liminal space and time.

Going under each lintel and over each threshold to new places, new beginnings you cannot cross on your own, you are carried. The tears open the door, which needs to be open to before you can go through. The ancestors, the angels, guardians, witnesses, escorts – all carrying me. Such a powerful realisation of being held and that old familiar experience of moving on and holding still.

Having had a couple of falls recently and feeling very unsteady on my feet and being ungrounded may well have been the invitation to be held and to be carried. To being lifted over a threshold to come to a new place, to not let my feet touch the ground. This is in contrast to the horrific origins of women being carried over the threshold of the new home on their wedding day. (This tradition dates back to Roman times where soldiers abducted and raped the women and carried them off against their will as reflected in the mythological Rape of the Sabine Women.) In my version of being carried over a threshold at this time, I am not touching the ground, it will be there for me more solid when I am ready to cross it and go out into the world having been in a new place. This is a constant renewal as you are never the same going in as coming out. But this post it is about being carried and recognising and naming the experience, honouring and acknowledging the invisible help.

The safety net offered by those closest to us who turn up over and over again invited and uninvited intuitively knowing when the moment is to step in and hold up with no fuss, no show and no comment is how I know I am being carried and held. Being held, banishes loneliness and being carried, reduces the chances of stumbling and falling.

I am overwhelmed by the visible and invisible acts happening in real time to get me over thresholds. In the new places, where the ground is less likely to go from under me, I can face the facts of parallel universes and move on while holding still.


In the garden at Glenstal Abbey

Writing Challenge Threshold

Dear Sor Juana,

I have accepted a challenge of writing a thousand words a day for the month of June and invited people to send me topics they would like me to write about. Opening up the space for others to shape has revealed the topics people want to read about and ones they might like to hear my thoughts on.  There are some themes emerging around economies of trust and hope and the transactional relationships of giving and taking in the personal and public dimensions. I have been reminded of a short essay wrote long ago (1993) on an alternative future for ethics and economics for Catholics in Coalition for Justice and Peace (the 90s were a time for such things and it was an extract from my Masters thesis).  Inviting topics from others has me now on the cusp of many conversations and reflecting on how conversations begin.

How do you begin a conversation? With an introduction, a casual greeting, a question? How ever it starts, there is always an opening, the creation of a space or a gap to allow access or a passageway through to the next space. We may not always know what we will find on the other side and there are times we all prevaricate over the opening of conversations we may not want to have.

The threshold, the place we find ourselves just before the opening where we might catch our breath, is our launching pad. The qualities of that place provide the foundations for what is to come next and as we step off, if they are loose and fragile they may not serve us well as we begin a conversation. The solidity of the ground beneath the feet of the conversation is a very real factor in how we move forward. The higher the trust the more solid the threshold and in turn the deeper the conversation.

I have written before on the poetry of David Whyte and even included his poem The Opening of Eyes previously and on the eve of his visit to my country I am trusting his opening to Australia will illicit his muse and poems from this landscape will emerge. When I met him a couple of years ago, in Ireland, it was the landscape and the music that opened me up in a new way and despite the essays and poems of his I had loved for a couple of decades, nothing prepared me for the place and its capacity to teach me. The joy of stumbling on the Burren and the echo of The Beatitudes melting into fog, are fused onto my threshold for the continuous conversation with the Divine.

Staying open and stepping off from a stable threshold supports this pilgrim. So as I get ready for my writing challenge, I give thanks for those who have sent me topics on which to write and treat their suggestions as solid ground from which to open every door, and in doing so, accept all the topics that have offered up to me.

The Opening of Eyes

That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.

It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.

It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.

— David Whyte
from Songs for Coming Home
©1984 Many Rivers Press

David Whyte and I in Ballyvaughan June 2013

David Whyte and I in Ballyvaughan June 2013