Resting in Presence

I sat in my easy chair, feet propped up on the stool. It is such a comfortable place to be. When I bought new furniture after Bob died, I made sure that each place in the great room was comfortable. I had had enough couches and chairs that didn’t work for me.

As I sat there, the thought came to me that this is the waking dream. We have all heard that; but now I tried to get the “feel” of it. I noticed that there was only so much energy I had before I once again lapsed into the mind. The mind knows nothing but itself. It rolls on relentlessly, chasing its tail, thinking that it has “something to do.”

Man cannot do; this is the essential teaching of the Work began by G. I. Gurdjieff. Everything is simply happening in the only way it can happen. To speak personally, two in my family died of cancer; there are only two left. My mind attacks this perceived problem on a daily basis. It restlessly ruminates: “One of us will be the sole survivor. How sad.” And so the mind tries to outrun the problem and of course it never can. This is why awakening to the dilemma is so vital.

How do we accumulate energy to work on ourselves? The only way I have found that works is to enter the silence off and on during any given day. The silence is where the past and future go to die and that offers us a deep relief.

Now I am typing this note to you. Some will nod in agreement, thinking “That’s true. That’s true. I can’t stay awake for very long.”

This fog follows us all day long. It makes us fall into pits of blame, resentment, envy, self-pity, annoyance, complaining. The only way out is through. As Raynor Johnson wrote about the path, “There is light and shadow all the way.”

Few of us are truly on the journey of awakening. Why? Because it leads to our psychic death and that scares the hell out of us. But life at best is scary. Throw out the positive thinking books. Cling only to the silence of now. God has your back. He wrote the book. All we have to do is keep reading it.

Vicki Woodyard

The Tincture of Truth

I sat in a state of gloom, knowing that I would be unable to work myself out of it. It would stay as long as it stayed. There was no use in fighting it.

I looked around my prison cell with clouded eye. Everything pointed me in the direction of the past.

The voice in my head begin to yammer away at me, saying the same old things. It was a recorded message required by law. It went something like this. “Things will not get any better. No one loves you; they just pretend to love you to get something from you. And you, well, you do the same.”

The gloom grew as I gave into the fatal fog of the forehead. It all resided there in the cranium, the skull, the place where Jesus died. I knew it well.

Hours, days and years seemed to pass in this hell-hole of myself. People came and went and things happened. I was not moved to do anything but allow the gloom to glom onto me.

Seasons came unmarked by anything but anger. No visitor dared approach me; it was not their time.

Have you ever felt a despair so firm it would not yield?

Are you wondering how I rose from this grave? It began with me noticing a small blue bottle crammed in among the thousand things on my mantel. Days went by and I sat regarding it. Finally I drug myself from the fog and walked to the mantel and took the bottle down.

“Tincture of Truth.” That is what it said in a barely readable type. “Apply where needed.”
I wasn’t sure there was anything left in the bottle and I wondered who had put it there. I don’t remember buying it.

I took off the top; this took some time. I was afraid that I would break the bottle. I smelled a fragrance unknown to me but the bottle was empty. I sat there in futility, just inhaling the bit of aroma that was left in the bottle.

With nothing left to do, I sat there, bottle in hand, wanting to know what the tincture of truth had been. It seems there had been a cure and that now there was none.

More days passed. I begin to cry. This went on for weeks. I was mourning not only my broken life but the dried up source of healing. I slept little and my body was nothing but bones. My chair had cracked leather and there was dust everywhere. I cried until there were no tears left.

That was when the tincture began its work. Silently and purposefully it had gone to work. My tears had reconstituted its potency. Astounded, I began to feel more and more life creep back into my body. I would not call this rebirth but it was new life. A new life given me by my own sorrow put to use.

That was the magic formula I had overlooked. The truth of my body was that it needed to cry its tears of despair before it could begin its sacred work of love. Where once my sorrow had no purpose, now it flowered like the lilies of the field. The seeds would yield crops of peace for me. All I had to do was remember the truth. It is not given until you are ready to mourn your losses and let God do the rest.

I will end this tale here and now, for there is no other place.

Vicki Woodyard

An Insistence on the Sorrow

Here I am, consciously cut off from social media. What a deep relief to be able to write that to the few who truly care about awakening. I am not talking about online awakening but about something far more vital.

I have eaten my cereal and drunk my chai. I have sat in silence until I felt I had something worthwhile to turn into a note to you. This note is about reality.

Reality arises from sorrow and from nowhere else. Jesus was “a man of sorrows.” I, too, can stand on that ground where lilies grow. Where tears irrigate the desert and thorns pierce the flesh. It is an inescapable part of the life/death continuum in which we live.

But there is another place where the opposites cease to control us. When all of the questions have dried up in your throat and you feel the freedom of your constriction—you taste freedom on your tongue.

The tongue that used to blame now praises. To quote Leonard Cohen, “the broken hallelujah” is as meaningful as it gets.

Follow me into the desert and be tempted by the devil of your own ego. It is a hurricane-force designed to empty you of all you held so dear. Your own power cord is cut and you are now in deep darkness. And it is more than okay, for the light was artificial.

Now you just wonder what comes next. That is where I am now.

Vicki Woodyard

A Poem by William Butler Yeats

Last night I had a dream of holding a red leather bound book by Yeats. So I googled Yeats and found this poem which says, “Take down this book…” and so here is the poem in which it is found.

When You are Old

When you are old and gray and full of sleep
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true;
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face.

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead,
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Stay in the Conversation

After I wrote “Son Shine,” someone commented, “Stay in the conversation.” Hmmm. What does that mean but to stay connected to what is real and immediate? Someone else wrote: “We are the sanctuary, the healing place.”

Last night I had a deep dream. I was carrying my baby boy, who was blind. He was quite heavy and I got lost and took shelter with a young woman who had a large family of young children. Their living conditions were primitive. She had no phone, but she found a woman who could take us home but in the dream we ended up in the family of an eccentric man who dressed and lived as if from a crude and earlier time. His methods were strange and I understood I might learn from him if I returned.

I told him my son could sing in a very powerful voice. When I told him my son was blind, he was surprised that I had not questioned the diagnosis. He showed my son some things that would stimulate his other senses, such as touch and hearing. My husband came to get us and was introduced to the man and he liked him immediately.

At the end of the dream some sort of party was happening and a number of things passed through my hands but the one that moved me was a red leather bound volume of Yeats. As I begin to turn its pages, I began to weep. In waking life I have never had the slightest interest in Yeats.

This dream came from the depths rather than from the heights. It was a conversation between parts of myself I have no knowledge of. I am glad there are deeper and deeper layers to explore.

Vicki Woodyard

Son Shine

I struggle with the fact that there are only two of us left out of a family of four. My son was raised in a family stricken by grief. At seven, he was told his younger sister was going to St. Jude’s. We had to fly to Memphis monthly for her treatments. He was farmed out to friends and was picked up as soon as we returned. The saddest thing he ever said to me was that sometimes we forgot to feed him. Now this was his memory and so it is true. But I never recall doing that. But here must have been a few times when we got home late and assumed the people he was with had fed him! His sister died when he was eleven and years of muted living followed that.

He and I dealt with the loss of his sister and father by staying angry with each other, although neither of us caused the situation. Under the anger was such explosive grief that we felt it must be suppressed.

So you will appreciate what I say next. For about five years now we are finding peace in our relationship. Yesterday I said to him, “If you’re not doing anything today, would you mind driving me to take a pair of readers back to the pharmacy? He said, “No, just let me know when you want to go.”

It was a beautiful September day. After the drugstore return, I said, “Let’s walk down to the deli and get a bite to eat.” We sat there eating and enjoying people-watching. Then I suggested we drive down Peachtree Road a bit to another shopping center where I could pop in a few shops.

There is an old variety store there and we had fun just poking around the aisles. They carry every conceivable thing a store like that should carry. We stood reading hilariously sarcastic things on everything from mugs to magnets. “Look,” I said, “Bacon bandaids, mustache bandaids….”

Then we wandered down to the hardware store where I got a cork mat to put under a pot in the kitchen. I wanted a small broom but didn’t find one. Then we went to Baskin-Robbins and had ice cream. He drove me past his best friend’s house on the way home. The neighborhoods are lovely in that part of town. We marveled at the old homes with their meticulous lawns. I marveled at how our relationship has changed. We don’t speak of it often, but it points to the fact that good things come in small packages. This day was one of those.

Vicki Woodyard

Practicing the Art of the Heart

“Behold the gates of mercy, in arbitrary space, and none of us deserving the cruelty or the grace, o solitude of longing where love has been confined, come healing of the body, come healing of the mind.”~Leonard Cohen, “Come Healing”

When my writing began, it arose from a tortured heart. I beat out the rhythm with a fierce grace that came from a higher level than the mind. It stormed about on the page and brought many readers to a state of grace themselves. I don’t know how or why it happened that way, but occasionally it still does.

The angels were accompanying me, dipping their white wings in the blood of the lamb. My child lay in a white coffin in the town where I was born. I could not even visit her grave. And so I continued to write.

I wrote behind a wall of words; it kept people away from me and I felt safer that way. Tears rained down around me and the day was dark as night. I truly wanted to be a good soldier. And so I became somewhat hardened in my persona. I could be quite fearful in my rejection of people. I had nothing to give them and yet the writing arose from a place of healing.

I am still writing but not on social media. The angels write through me and for me and I have no idea what will happen next in my life. I have nightmares and am glad to wake up. I have daymares, too, until I remember that I don’t belong here. Never have, never will. Only by knowing that can I bring myself to a place of healing. “In my father’s house there are many mansions.”

I read this morning about a dancer who wanted to dance to a Leonard Cohen song but did not have the rights to his music. So she will be dancing the routine in silence. I, for one, think it will carry more power and love that way. Those who love his music will weep in silence as they witness her dance.

Life is quite powerful even when the music is seemingly silenced. I haven not heard the laughter of my daughter or felt the presence of my husband’s endless strength, but my silent dance of words can carry the aroma as if they were bending over the keyboard.

My little girl took ballet herself. Her teacher taught her to bow to both the downstairs audience and then upwards to the balcony. This was called reverence. I like that idea. Love must have no boundaries. With music or silence, with absence or presence, the dance of life goes on.

Vicki Woodyard