Sunday morning I woke up contemplating the process of grief. Thoughts of former loves constantly fill my mind. When I look back, I can see how my passage through their lives, brief as it was, was only a blip on their screen, one notch among many, but for me, it was life changing. Why do I feel so compelled to make sure that I do not attach greater significance to them than they to me? I know what it feels like when someone bonds with me when they hardly know me, or I hardly know them, tugging on my hem begging me to fill the shoes of their fantasy partner. They do not see me, not really, yet they go on puppeting me in their imagination, carrying on a relationship that doesn’t really exist. I never want to do that to someone else, but the loves who have graced my life touched me deeply.
I want to see them. I want to fill my awareness with them and let none of it cast so much as a shadow on their skin. I want to breath in the lavender of Provence without stepping foot in it. I want to let my eyes grow wide before the field of sunflowers in Aix En without bumping into them. I want to watch the glistening Mediterranean cast royal blue and emerald reflections on my cheeks without dipping my toe into the water.
The Rivierra. I want nothing more than to sit in its presence and fully behold it, from the perfect ochre coves to the unkempt alleys, from warm currents along stone beaches, the waves noticeably soft due to the lack of sand, to the breezes that are too cold. There are those moments when everything comes together, like making love on a nude beach at night under an enormous, hot pink moon, my knees sinking into soft sand. Then there are moments of getting lost on the back roads, wasting an hour looking for a restaurant, or spending too much money on parking. They are all… perfect. Even when the fish are nibbling. Especially when the fish are nibbling.
Someday I will visit France again, but for now, I hold it gently in my mind. I miss France, but France is full of people who love it.
Feeling my heart drifting into sweet mourning, my mind turned to the task of moving on.
In the New Age paradigm, one way to relieve emotional ties to lost loves is to “cut the cords.” You imagine gathering together all the cords of energy that link you to them and cutting through them with a sword. Variations on the imagery abound, but the general idea is that, once you cut the cords, they are gone from you. I cannot help but think this resembles exile. I understand release, but there is something too absolute about cutting cords, something that defies the underlying connections that we can never hope to cut.
I seem to fall in love and never fall out of it. I meet someone, and that’s it, the surprise is ruined. I pulled off the ribbon and opened the package and discovered them, and now I will always know that they exist in the universe. They can never fit back in. Can cutting cords make me innocent again?
All of these thoughts were in my mind while I was holding my book, Old Man Basking in the Sun, by Longchenpa. I prayed for understanding and opened to a random paragraph. Where my finger landed, it read:
Never cutting the cord of compassion,
nor breaking the two-way flow of affection,
master and student remain connected.
My heart dilated. The words were a revelation. In the New Age paradigm, when you “cut the cords,” you cut all of them. There is no concept of retaining some. Perhaps not all cords are equal. The cord of compassion, for instance, is one we should never cut.
In the metaphor of cutting cords, it would be easy to get carried away and begin reasoning according to the metaphor instead of seeing things as they are. Metaphors can quickly become toy building blocks, just something to play around with. Then we lose the original insight, the connection with the real. Insights must remain joined with their corresponding direct perceptions, or they become useless intellectual objects that cloud the sky. Here, the seed of understanding lies in the idea that there is a cord of compassion. The insight points me to the cord itself, the idea of a cord disappears, end of story. And anyway, there was never anything to cut.
The Path of Exile
How many of us lose our compassion when we “cut the cords,” mistaking the cold shoulder for freedom and release? I know what it is like to be on the receiving end of that, and it hurts terribly.
But I cannot complain. I knew profound solitude was what I needed, and I realized that I was encouraging it on some level. Actually, I was completely conscious of it. I knew it was needed, knew it was coming, and knew I was choosing it. I only wish I had been more honest with myself instead of throwing tantrums.
Last week, someone I had only once met returned a book I loaned to him and included another book as a gift, Teachings of Rumi, by Andrew Harvey. In Turkey, he said, they have a tradition. If a neighbor gives you a plate of food, you return the plate full. Ironically, I had just done the same thing for a former love. I replaced one book and included two books on France.
I opened to a random page in Teachings of Rumi, and what I read spoke to me:
Peace After Long Exile
Each moment my new joy whispered in my ear,
“I will afflict you, but don’t grow sad.
I will make you miserable and weeping,
To hide you from the eyes of the wicked.
I will make you bitter with grief,
So the Evil Eye will be swerved from your face.
You’re not someone who can buy and possess me;
You’re my slave prostrate before My Providence.
You hunt for tricks to be able to attain me:
You’re as powerless to leave as to find Me;
In your grief you ache for a way to come to Me;
Last night, I heard your sighs fill the world.
Even in this waiting, I could, if I want,
Make you enter and show you the Path,
And free you from the whirlwind of time
And place your hands on the treasure of Union.
But the sweetness of the Place of Peace
Is proportionate to the pain of the journey.
You’ll only enjoy the city and your relations
After enduring all the griefs and ordeals of exile.”
“As powerless to leave as to find Me.” I like that line. It captures the grief process well. I cannot return to France, and yet I cannot forget it, ever. Grief is a beautiful experience. It shows us that although our physical interactions are fleeting, our oneness is real and eternal.
My hands are on the treasure of Union, but my journey is not over. Someday soon this period of exile will come to an end. That will be interesting. In the meantime, I’m happy.