I have felt some understanding and realisations deepening over past weeks with all the reading and contemplating I have been engaged with it is that it is through our pain that we are all connected and that through our pain we connect to a deeper spiritual place. Our joy can connect us too, and there can be a kind of mysterious joy in allowing our pain just to be what it is, so hard to describe in words but felt so deeply in the cells of our body and the marrow of our bones.
I am a strong believer in archetypes and astrology. Its not purely a head knowledge I feel the energies as planetary energies shift and powerful archetypes are energised and I have watched these forces move through my own life and the deeper understandings I gained help me contain things. I was discussing archetypes with my therapist yesterday and asking her about them. They represent universal, collective human experiences that we all undergo and this mirrors what Buddhist teachers say that pain and loss and change are all a part of our human experience, and that it is through developing the capacities of compassion and openness that we build a bridge to each other and to our own hearts. It is something that Christine Neff focuses on in her book on Self Compassion as one of the three aspects of that state. When we find compassion and depth through our suffering we can extend that to others and recognise our common humanity.
With all the struggle and strife in the world and with the big earth changes going on at present one thing I am noticing is this. That a rebirth of love is trying to take place on this planet. We all have our little part to play in being honest and opening up to express our truth and work towards not negating our darker shadowy sides but rather embracing them to bring them to light. When we find a way to express even our darkest thoughts they have a way of being in the world and no longer are held so much under that cover of darkness and then those who also feel covered in the very human darknesses we can all know at one time or another feel less alone.
My experience is that the dark night of the soul is a very powerful experience. Many, many of us undergo it. I am thinking about it again after sharing a lot from Robert Romanyshyn’s book on grief in which he shares of his own dark night of sadness and grief following the sudden death of his wife. In the beautiful chapter on Mourning that I quoted a little from yesterday he shares about two things that touched me deeply. The first is how he lived through a deep experience and encounter with the Orphan archetype. In this experience he felt not only his personal but also a deeply cosmic aloneness, but mysteriously it was through this that he connected to nature and to other primal energies.
The second thing that touched me so deeply yesterday and moved me to tears was how he shared that in and through his grief and mourning process he connected so deeply and was comforted by animals. He visited a zoo one day where he engaged deeply with the eyes and consciousness of a silver back gorilla. During their encouner Robert threw the gorilla an orange on a whim and instead of taking it to eat in the corner, the gorilla threw it back over the fence to him. Robert threw the orange back to the gorilla and so it went on for several rounds until a harsh voice cried out “don’t feed the animals”. This broke their magical connection and the gorilla retreated with the orange to the end of his cage. What Robert writes towards the end of sharing all this moved me so deeply :
I left the zoo and walked out into the city. The cold, dark, winter afternoon did little to cheer the sadness I felt at having left the gorilla inside. I was different, changed by that encounter and even more lonely in the midst of the crowded city. The gorilla had suspended his appetite for a moment. For the sake of an encounter, he had bridged the immense gap between our worlds. In his gesture of tossing the orange back to me, he had reached out his hand across an emptiness so vast as to be beyond measure. Together we had built a tremulous bridge of gestures, and for a brief time we stood on opposite sides of that bridge, connected in a way that seemed to acknowledge in each other a lost kinship. Even to this day, I know that I will I know thatI will never forget the eyes of my winter companion on that day of long ago. He had greeted me, and as strange as it might sound, I felt so grateful for that recongition. But I also felt how far I had come, and howI knew with a deep feeling of sadness that we would remain forever more on opposite side of this bridge, and that at the best moments of my life, I would be able only to stop and linger and turn around to see, once again, what was left behind. I knew that, and I knew too, that what I saw before the spell was broken was his sadness for me.
For some reason those final words undo me. So much of our pain of grief or during the dark night can lie in a failure of the human world’s sensitivity to the deep level of our pain and distress we feel so unseen and unknown and often rejected when others find our pain ‘too much’. I have felt recognised in very similar ways my own dog, Jasper when his deep limpid pools of eyes look at me with the same deep sadness and recognition at times and also undone by the way when I am really struggling or sad with repressed pain or sadness he will come and sit patiently by my side, just to be with me while I cry. That simple gesture of care and concern undoes me in a way I cannot fully explain. It fills an empty vacancy in both my heart and soul when I feel so very far from human aid and care. At these times I am in the orphaned state, it is a kind of deep spiritual orphanness that I am feeling, and I cannot help but feel that Jasper understands just like the gorilla did. Do animals feel compassion for us humans who can be so lost sometimes, driven so far from nature and deeper connection? I believe they do.
I want to share more about the Orphan later as I work through Romanyshn’s book. I am only half way through that chapter because I feel that Orphans do connect with other Orphans. We recognise each other implicitly, those of us who have known that deep soul abandonment or betrayal of the world connect and we know the profound emptiness that can come from pain, many of us also resonate deeply with and connect with the profoundly spiritual in nature and animals.
It is through sharing about this with each other that we can and do connect and in a small way bridge that deeper disconnection that hounds us. In this way I feel that for all our suffering in some way we are far richer than those who at this time in the world would rather turn a blind eye towards deeper truths, pains, losses and abandonments.
The zookeeper put paid to the beautiful exchange between Robert R and the gorilla on that afternoon with a few words, putting the focus on human ‘rules’ and it was sad for both of them. We do have the gift of both animals and nature to help us in our abandonment, orphanhood and the deep isolation we undergo after losses or during the dark night. We can use these gifts to deepen our isolation into a richer soulful solitude through which we can connect both to the heart and soul of our inner worlds, of the universe and of each other.