I am in the cabin. It is late by my ordinary standards but it is still dark, and it feels more dark because I am alone. No one is in the house. No one is on their way here. No one is coming later. No one is spending the night. No one will be here when I get up in the morning. I have a day. More than 24 hours. Possibly a time span greater than 48 hours. My husband has gone hunting. Once or twice a year this happens where I get not just time, but the whole house, to myself. I’m guessing most women secretly love it. A few have told me so. The most recent one got a wild look in her eyes and did a little dance. Me? I’ve been taking it a little easier lately. I had no big work plans. But still I wondered: Will I make something of it? Will I hunker down and make a start at something? I cannot decide, and yet I will. I will start something just by being here, and I know it. My plotting, my fantasizing in life, is how to get here, not what to do once I’m here. The “what to do” takes care of itself. I think this is because I love being alone.
Do you realize that many people don’t? I read an article from the Washington Post a few months ago that noted a study appearing in Science that showed a quarter of women and two thirds of men would rather have electric shock than spend time with themselves.
I can’t claim to understand people who don’t like time alone, but I do know a few. Our different ways of experiencing ourselves and life makes us fascinating and often complimentary to each other. Yet it’s only fair that I share my love of quiet because I know it affects how I see and feel what is there in A Course of Love. I see it, you might say, my way, with my nature (as each of us do). I find the words that feed my desire for solitary reflection, words that speak of dwelling and devotion, of memory and prayer, imagination and ideas, but especially that of experience, a word that pretty much encompasses all of it. When embracing the inner life spiritually, we are guided to the “center of ourselves” which is decidedly not a point just above the belly button. That “center,” like my “soul” is something I have to imagine. I cannot see love, but I can experience it. Imagination and experience—two feeling states that call us to awareness. I can only say that for myself, it is when I feel somewhat liberated from my busy life, somewhat liberated from the culture, that I feel that I am ready for the new. Don’t know what that’s going to be but I’m here and present and open to it.
In my audio receiving/reading, I have now recorded past Chapter 20, which is my favorite and the loveliest of the Course, but which I’ll have to return to since I was trying so hard to make it a particularly lovely reading, that it became the worst one I did! (Could this be the biggest message of this Course? Quit with the effort, the earnest trying to do it right?) It is amazing to me that it is as clear in audio as it is writing: Trying hard just reaches right in and zaps all the naturalness out of us and the energy out of whatever we’re trying to do. I think even if I got it perfect it would be perfectly unnaturally and dull as an ironing board is flat. Anyway, it is in Chapter 20 that Jesus speaks of the imaginal, a mention that has intrigued me for at least two years. Before that, I had not caught the meaning of the word imaginal. Now, I have enough understanding to know that the imaginal realm is greater than imagination. It explains a lot about A Course of Love, or it does to me. It explains a feeling I continually have that what I’ve gained is more than what is “in the book,” and it gives me understanding about the way the ego simply loses power as we are affected by that more. It is as if the “method” of this Course is so astoundingly different, that we don’t realize what is happening as we innocently or avidly go about our reading.
The noted psychologist and writer James Hillman calls imaginative activity, “Both play and work, entering and being entered,” and says that “as the images gain in substance and independence the ego’s strength and autocracy tends to dissolve. …The extraordinary fact of the imagination is just that it is truly extraordinary no matter how known, it is always able to surprise, shock, horrify, or break into ravishing beauty. The distinctions we make when exploring it can never be from known vantage points; rather the experience of imagination shatters these vantage points. The best test of authenticity concerning our disciplines of exploring the imaginal is that the habitual ego senses itself at a loss ….” (Re-Visioning Psychology)
What happens to the ego? It loses its footing. And as it does, it is easier to realize that by going where it cannot tread, our feet find new freedoms.