The Presence of Spirit — Center for Action and Contemplation

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The Presence of Spirit

Liminal Space

The Presence of Spirit
Monday, April 27, 2020

Many things can bring us to the “threshold” of our ordinary ways of thinking and behaving, but even good rituals are merely “stand-ins” until Reality itself, often in the form of great love or great suffering, steps in and changes us forever. My friend Paula D’Arcy, with whom I have taught many times over the years, lost her husband and young daughter in a tragic car accident while she was pregnant with their second child. This story from Paula reveals how liminal moments can occur at any time.

One afternoon, my heart breaking, I began sorting through the clothes my daughter Sarah would never wear. A dress lay across my lap, a little piece of white cotton. It evoked one more moment . . . of bitter tears and confused disbelief. . . . Life was not supposed to turn out this way. . . .

It was such an innocent and common thing—a child’s garment. Yet even as it broke my heart, that dress became an opening; the soft cotton tore at me from within and began to empty me.

You are not the only heartbroken parent in the world, it said. The pain of loss is not yours alone. Disappointment is the human condition. I continued to stare at the cotton and lace, but something had shifted. The dress was somehow connecting me to the texture and mystery of greater things . . .

Without fully understanding why, I began to soften. I saw life’s contour, its density and its brilliance, just as it is, nothing more. . . . I saw how I’d been caught in a script of my own creation and . . . was totally caught up in my own world—my emotions, my wants, and my needs. . . . Now it was simply my time—my turn to know the darkness and discover whether or not I was brave enough to accept the human journey and find a way through. . . .

I slowly began to see that within the cells of every living thing is the same essence—the presence of spirit. The heart of our journey is to awaken to this spirit within. . . .

Hardly anything turns out the way you expected it to, and you’re frequently ready to write life off as too paradoxical and too difficult to endure. Then some indescribable light fights its way through the impenetrable dark—an unpredictable, unimportant, runaway moment that lights up everything you’ve been unable to see until then. That light removes all the shoulds and oughts, all the illusions about fairness. You enter liminal space . . . In that space you take your first script [or what I call your false or separate self], the one that weighs five hundred pounds, the script that was cutting into your heart all along, bleeding you to death but you didn’t realize the wound or its seriousness—and you simply let it go.

Paula D’Arcy, Waking Up To This Day: Seeing the Beauty Right Before Us (Orbis Books: 2009), 51–52, 53, 55.

Image credit: The Swan (No. 17) (detail), Hilma af Klint, 1915, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Do we know that within each one of us is the unspeakably beautiful beat of the Sacred? Do we know that we can honor that Sacredness in one another and in everything that has being? And do we know that this combination—growing in awareness that we are bearers of Presence, along with a faithful commitment to honor that Presence in one another and the earth—holds the key to transformation in our world? —John Philip Newell
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