Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Narrows of Emergence

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Some seed in me,
Some troublous birth,
Like an awkward awakening,
Stirs into life.

Terrible and instinctive
It touches my guts.

I fear and resist it,
Crouch down on my norms, a man's
Patent assurances.

I don't know its nature.
I have no term for it.
I cannot see its shape.

But, there, inscrutable,
Just underground,
Is the long-avoided latency.

Like the mushrooms in the oak wood,
Where the high-sloped mountain
Benches the sea,

When the faint rains of November
Damp down the duff,
Wakening their spores--

Like them,
Gross, thick and compelling,
What I fear and desire
Pokes up its head.

From Man-Fate, William Everson
This poem is from a book that I always think of as The Narrows of Birth, one of the central poems in the sequence. The whole book documents the author's struggle with leaving the Dominican order for the love of a woman. But it also documents the emergence of a new stage in the author's life.

This is all a very convuluted way into my assertion that I am struggling with a similar emergence in my own life, although along a different series of developmental lines. And things have recently come undone.

When Kira and I went to Zion over the 4th of July weekend, I seemed to have allowed myself to get really unplugged from my normal life. I even skipped a day of blogging here, which is terribly unusual. In fact, I didn't even want to blog. I know . . . sheer madness.

But what really pushed me out of the groove my life seemed to be grounded in was a hike into The Narrows at Zion National Park. Each time I think of that hike or look at the pictures, I am again reminded of an Everson poem, from The Narrows section of Man-Fate:
Something lives on that the heart can't help,
Something below the proud flesh of that bruise:
A hunger for God and nothing but God
This world cannot fill.

Neither wife nor child nor fame nor fortune.

The brute thirst for the absolute,
The apotheosis of desire
In the guts of God.

~ From "The Challenge"
There is something incredibly mythical about entering a slot canyon where the rock walls block the sun, where one is mostly in water that is sometimes chest deep -- water that is a very tepid 60-65 degrees (f). Combine that with the hypnotic sound of running water, the near vertigo that is engendered when one looks into the oncoming current while crossing a rapids, and the rapid heartbeat from exertion, and the conditions are ripe for quieting the rational mind and allowing more nonlinear aspects of consciousness to emerge.

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It was like entering the womb of the Goddess.

I couldn't really talk about the experience until now, and I still struggle to find the right words. Entering that canyon, in a way that I can't fully articulate, was like re-entering the womb -- but on a bigger scale. It wasn't like a personal rebirth of my little, fragile ego. It was more mythic, more intuitive, more soul-level -- all of which does nothing to tell you what it felt like in a way you might make sense of -- and it left me feeling like I had been gifted with an experience that will forever change who I am.

Pretty effusive for a nature hike, eh? No, there were no substances involved, in case you're wondering. But damn, wouldn't that have been interesting.

But I digress.

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As hard and masculine as rock walls seem in my mind, the curves and contours felt very feminine to me, as did the earth-tone colors and the lush plant life that grew out of the rocks. And of course, water has been associated with the feminine -- and with the unconscious mind -- for probably as long as humans have been aware of either.

Something about that experience in the canyon has unsettled me, left me unable to re-enter the comfortable groove of my life. And I don't want to get back into the groove. Some need both essential and frightening has been activated, and while I can try to repress it, as I have done since I have been back, I can't escape myself.

So here I am getting all introspective and sensitive. Funny thing is that being introspective and sensitive is part of what wants to emerge, I think. In my daily life I am so detached and aloof from things -- having to wear my "trainer mask" to deal with SAD (social anxiety disorder) creates a distance that isn't very healthy. When Kira and I are alone on vacation, I can put down the mask and be more involved in my own life.

I want more of that feeling.

The bottom line is that parts of me that are underdeveloped are demanding some attention -- and they're being damn insistent about it. I go through these periodic phases where a whole bunch of stuff that has been happening beneath the surface emerges all at once and wants to be integrated. These have gotten more frequent, and therefore more challenging, since Kira and I become partners.

This would seem to be one of those times. As rough as this feels sometimes, I cultivate these times through my integral practice. No one to blame but me, I guess, and that's no fun.

So that's the nutshell version of what I think is going on. There may be more of this to come, since it seems I am all too willing to share my process with the world.

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