Images: Doorways to deeper life
We have an amazing capacity to transcend our ordinary and everyday awareness so as to encounter the deeper rhythms and flows of our lives. Faith guides and companions have a wonderful opportunity to encourage pilgrims to be attentive to the deeper life that the Holy Spirit is stirring at the edges of their conscious awareness, inviting them to bring it into the light. The images and brief observations below are included to heighten our awareness of the many different ways that doorways are opened and invitations offered for us to engage with deeper life.
Guided by tears
The pilgrim did not come to companioning with the expressed intention of dealing with her inner division, but she was feeling very down, tearful, not sleeping well, experiencing a loss of identity, and lacking a sense of at-home-ness in her immediate world of family, work, friendships and church.
When the pilgrim was asked what it might be important for to attend to, she replied: “I don’t really know.” After a long pause she continued tearfully, “Only as I sit here, my tears are starting to flow.”
“Can you take a moment just to notice your tears as they begin to flow?” the guide asked, as an invitation for her to look inwards.This was very different from asking if she knew where the tears were coming from.The tears, drawn from a little brook that bubbled close by her inner dwelling, became the guide. She began to name and attend to some deeper feelings, subtle signposts along a pathway to the entry hall of her inner house.
Tears, feelings, emotions, and body responses, when acknowledged and gently attended to, can guide us inward, towards the more spacious and integrated places of the heart. Being attentive to her tears opened the pilgrim to honour her story thread as it unwound before her. The metaphor of house was her own discovery, and even though her dwelling appeared dark and foreboding, she resolved to explore further.
The pilgrim needed a guide to lead her across the threshold into her inner darkness. This personal solidarity gave her the courage to bypass the sentries—the sentries of fear—she had placed on guard so many years before. Up to this point she had believed that what was on the other side was dark, shameful, sad, brimming over with pain and fear. Painful as it was, she began to engage with the buried half of her life, where she experienced a transforming touch and moved forward with a greater sense of wholeness. For this pilgrim, who had come burdened and troubled, was the experience of Jesus’ rest for her soul. She knew this was to be an ongoing journey.
Meeting sorrow face-to-face
In her dark hole, the pilgrim came face-to-face with her own inner emptiness and began to experience excruciating aloneness, grief and disconcerting anger. When she finally allowed a companion to journey with her into this dark place, her guide encouraged her to be attentive to her grief. As the pilgrim began to speak about her anger and grief, her guide listened intently. After she paused, the guide said: “I wonder if you might go back to when you spoke of how your anger was beginning to bubble through. What was it like for you when you noticed it bubble through?”
This question enabled the pilgrim to become an active observer of her inner experience. Rather than feeling worried and preoccupied, she moved toward the more spacious place of her heart, where she could witness her anger and, later, her deep sorrow. This was a long and painful journey with her guide walking in solidarity alongside her, even a little behind, but never in front. (Reflected Love, 68).
Light penetrates darkness
Pilgrim: (Tears filled David’s eyes). There is nothing left for me to live for, nothing.
Guide: Nothing left for you to live for. (Long silence). What are you noticing now, David?
Pilgrim: I’m in a very dark place. There is no light. I’m completely alone. It is very cold. I just don’t know what to do.
Guide: You’re in a dark place. There is no light. You are completely alone. It is cold. And you are saying you don’t know what to do.
David felt strangely comforted in hearing his experience echoed back to him. As the guide encouraged him to be attentive to the dark, cold place he was in, David began to notice a glow of light. As he moved to explore it, he told his guide that this light contained some warmth.
Guide: What is that warm light inviting you to, David?
Pilgrim: To reach out!
Guide: As you reach out, David, what do you notice?
Pilgrim: I don’t see anything different, but I hear Jesus’ word, “Come.”
Guide: You hear Jesus’ invitation to come. At the point when there was nothing left to live for, David heard this word of invitation, and in an instant, he felt a flow of warmth through his body as a breeze stirred the curtains and caressed his cheeks. (Reflected Love, 99 – 100).
The cry of the lost child
The cry of the lost child led pilgrim and guide to an inner cavern, where the pilgrim came face to face with this little boy, who had grown up believing that he could only gain the love and approval of his parents through his hard work and achievements. By being gently attentive to his child persona, the adult pilgrim transcended everyday ordinary awareness and re-entered and re-experienced critical childhood events. He said later it was like watching a video playing out his real-life drama on an inner screen.
Such latent capacity of his active and believing imagination, enlivened by the Holy Spirit, enabled this pilgrim to access deeper realms of his person and to cross a threshold from ordinary awareness into profound knowing. The guide, in cooperation with the Holy Spirit—indeed the true guide—held the encounter sacred, enabling the pilgrim to remain focussed, open, and trustful of what is being revealed, safe to venture on a path less travelled.