Embodied Intimacy, Transformative Inquiry, Creative Emergence

The Great Affair ~ The Love Affair with Life

Posted by on Nov 6, 2019 in Featured Writing, Lifeletters & Articles | 0 comments

The Great Affair ~ The Love Affair with Life

The love affair with life is not an easy one these days. Each day we witness shock, fear, rage, heartbreak, moving like waves through our collective landscape. Deep traumas are being triggered as we confront the depths of our brokenness, the full spectrum of the global catastrophe. What has been untended, ignored and cast aside clamours for attention, for care, for a deep living wisdom that is not easy to access. Who can carry on right now, whistling a happy tune, hoping that things will turn out well?

Something else is being asked of us, and it’s not so easy to discern what it is.
As John Lennon said it in his song How?

“How can I go forward when I don’t know which way I’m facing?
How can I go forward when I don’t know which way to turn?
How can I go forward into something I’m not sure of?
Oh no, oh no
How can I have feeling when I don’t know if it’s a feeling?
How can I feel something if I just don’t know how to feel?
How can I have feelings when my feelings have always been denied?
Oh no, oh no..”

Over the last troubled while, I have been moved to explore more thoroughly what our deeper resources are. Resources come in all kinds of forms and flavours, and are found in different places. They can come to us from other people, from animals, from nature, from the invisible realms. A woman once told me that her deepest resource, when she was terribly afraid, was the sound of her dog, breathing. A large part of our human development is about learning how to reach out for these resources in a healthy way, and having reached out, to find out how to really receive them, take them in. This is a big journey for most of us. It happens in the body, deep in our tissues. This is not philosophy.

There are other resources that come from within, that we can discover, nourish and cultivate in our own being. Being in the company of a human being who embodies these capacities can help a lot. But no-one can install these qualities in us—we cannot find them through an App or an implant. They are alive, mysterious, unpredictable.

I call these qualities and capacities our unbroken resources, because we always have access to them, in a way we may not have access to people, places and organizations. They are innate, they belong to us, we are born with them. Every child, unless he or she has been deeply traumatized, and sometimes even then, displays some of these beautiful resources. Until they are submerged and displaced during the harsh process of our cultural conditioning.

One of the resources I have come to cherish most deeply is curiosity. Another very simple name for this capacity is interest. And the form it often takes is inquiry—a question, a wondering. Inquiry is formless at its source. When it takes form, it has a thousand different faces. I can be curious about anything. My inquiry can turn in any direction. Something very liberating and healing can open in us when inquiry dares to move in new directions, into territory that has not yet been touched by the flame of curiosity.

I call it a flame because it feels like that. When I’ve asked others about it, they have also experienced it as something warm, alive, and strangely caring. Very often it lives in the heart. We can even be curious about inquiry itself, if we step back a little and look at what it is. There’s an openness, a humility that comes over us, whenever we are profoundly interested in something. When that interest is sustained, it has an impact that ripples out to contain more and more: the one who is curious, and also whomever or whatever is being gazed upon in this way. Or listened to. Or felt.

Imagine the interest a mother has in her baby, as she holds it in her arms. Or the curiosity that new lovers have for one another. That’s an aspect of love most of us have known: how it was in the beginning, when we could never discover enough about our beloved. The interest, the curiosity was endless. And then it happens: knowing takes over, habit takes over, and something precious is lost.

When we are struggling, when we are heartbroken, when we feel lost or trapped, it’s not easy to be curious about our experience, about what is going on. To cultivate curiosity at these times can feel unnatural, impossible. We want answers, we want relief. Curiosity feels like an imposter, and an irrelevant one. Until we try it. Until something shifts inside us, and allows the energy of curiosity to move, like a little stream. Maybe just a drop. A tiny drop of light. When we turn towards ourselves in this way, or towards another, we enter a strange terrain. Inside our curiosity is tenderness, respect, and gentleness. To be curious is to be open, transparent, willing to receive, to listen, to soften, to yield to whatever is revealed.

If we are only looking for an answer, then we can easily grab what we discover, the way a child grabs a toy. The flame of our curiosity dies down. As we receive the answer, the discovery, the insight, the knowledge, we may be able to digest it, without fixation, without landing and making a permanent home in that place. No answer, no discovery is final. Sooner or later, it will turn to dust in our hands, and we will feel the flame of curiosity begin to burn in our hearts again.

When we share our curiosity with each other, we can go on a beautiful journey together, if we are not trying to reach a fixed place, solid land. Curiosity is a river, juicy and alive; and we have no idea where it will take us. One day, many years ago, I heard a man who loved curiosity speak of his work, which was engaging in inquiry with men in maximum security prisons.
“Aren’t you afraid when you are working with such violent men?” someone asked him.
“No.” he said.
“Why not?” he was asked
“Because of the nature of our work together,” he said. “There’s no violence in inquiry. It is innocent at the core.”

There’s no violence, but there is daring, there is risk and there is deep aliveness. In this most uncertain and unstable of times, I notice a longing in my heart: that we can learn to be more and more curious, and to sustain that curiosity, in places where we might have been unwilling or unable to light that flame, until now.

“The great affair, the love affair with life,
is to live as variously as possible,
to groom one’s curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred,
climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun-struck hills every day.

Where there is no risk, the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding,
and, despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles, and detours,
life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length.

It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery,
but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.”

Diane Ackerman ~The Great Affair

with love,

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