Saturday, 30 January 2016

Wake Now My Senses To Hear Life's Call

“i thank You God for most this amazing day” by ee cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing day:
for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky;
and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today, and this is the sun's birthday;
this is the birth day of life and love and wings:
and of the gay great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing breathing any
--lifted from the no of all nothing—
human merely being doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake
And now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

I was out walking the other day, when I once again experienced what is voiced so beautifully in the words above by e e cummings; once again the ears of my ears had awoken and the eyes of my eyes had opened to something new. In fact it felt as though all my senses had opened like they had never opened before.

Now one of the reasons for this was that I had just had my ears cleared. I had for weeks been suffering quite badly with my hearing and at last the treatment had worked and I could hear clearly once again. I had also in recent times had trouble with my voice, I felt like I had lost my voice somewhat. Thankfully this seems to have been resolved. I have, as I have many times, re-found my voice. The changes in my voice had been due to the weight loss over the last few months. So many of the physical aspects of my being have changed and this has taken some re-adjustment in my living and being. I feel I can hear in a new way and I can speak once again. I have also noticed other changes in all my senses, including what they call the sixth sense…My senses have been awakened as I have heard life’s call.

Now as I was walking I noticed I could hear many new bird songs and just as I looked up and noticed birds, I had not paid attention to before, a smell filled my nostrils that reawakened a childhood memory. My mind turned to a time, during my childhood, when I would have been about 11. The smell reminded me of working in my dad’s butchers shop and of making sausages and beef burgers, a job I used to delight in doing. I smiled as I waked and as I did lots of other memories came flooding back into my current consciousness. Memories that only brought joy and happiness at this moment, but ones that have in past brought tears and pain to my experiences. Memory, or at least the way I remember has changed so much over time.

They say that you cannot re-write history and that you cannot change the past. I am not convinced by this. I have noticed that as time has gone by so much of my life, or at least how I remember my life has changed. Now don’t get me wrong it’s not that the events have changed, just how I remember them. The darkness and the pain is still there, only now it is the correct proportion. Today the difficult memories are surrounded and filled by the joy and the love that was always there too.

Memory is a fascinating thing and I do believe it is connected to way we experience life currently. I suspect that it is connected to our senses and how awake they are to our current experiences. Just as the way that we feel about our past influences, impacts on, our current lives. Therefore it was no surprise that the opening of my senses brought a new experience of my past.

Now the sense of smell has long been connected to memory. Neuro-science suggests that upon detecting a smell the olfactory neurones in the upper part of the nose generate an impulse which is passed to the brain along the olfactory nerve. The part of the brain this arrives at first is called the olfactory bulb, which processes the signal and then passes information about the smell to other areas closely connected to it, collectively known as the limbic system.

The limbic system comprises a set of structures within the brain that are regarded  as playing a major role in controlling mood, memory, behaviour and emotion. This affects areas of what is often referred to as “the old brain”, so called as they were present within the brains of the very first mammals. It is suggested that those with full olfactory function may be able to think of smells that evoke particular memories and that this can happen spontaneously. This is exactly what happened to me while out walking the other day, as I felt my senses had reawakened, once again, as long forgotten memories came alive in my current consciousness. 

Wake now my senses, let me hear life’s call.

Just as how I experience the present moment effects how I remember the past, I also believe it is important to understand that how I remember impacts on how I experience the present moment and also how I experience the future. As I look at times in my own spiritual journey I regret my attempts to reject my past. I now know that to truly bring the moment alive, rather than to just passively live in the moment, I must bring the experience of my whole life into my experience of my living and being right here and right now. That includes those memories that cause pain and distress. Attempting to fully let go of them is neither healthy nor possible.

I love the way that John O’Donohue expressed the importance of memory and remembering in living a fully present live. In “Eternal Echoes” he wrote
“Memory is the place where our vanished days secretly gather. Memory rescues experience from total disappearance. The kingdom of memory is full of the ruins of presence. It is astonishing how faithful experience actually is; how it never vanishes completely. Experience leaves deep traces in us. It is surprising that years after something has happened to you the needle of thought can hit some groove in the mind, and music of a long vanished event can rise in your soul as fresh and vital as the evening it happened. Memory provides such shelter and continuity of identity. Memory is also fascinating because it is an indirect and latent presence in one's mind. The past seems to be gone and absent. Yet the grooves in the mind hold the traces and vestiga of everything that has ever happened to us. Nothing is ever lost or forgotten. In a culture addicted to the instant, there is a great amnesia. Yet it is only through the act of remembrance, literally re-membering, that we can come to poise, integrity, and courage. Amnesia clogs the inner compass and makes the mind homeless. Amnesia makes the sense of absence intense and haunted. We need to retrieve the activity of remembering, for it is here that we are rooted and gathered.”

Sometimes memory can become blocked up in our bodies too. I noticed the other day, while experiencing a deep tissue massage, memories come out of my being as I entered a place of deep meditation and transcendence. It brought to mind the following, taken from “A Walk Between Heaven and Earth” by Burghild Nina Holzer

"From time to time a friend comes to my house to give me a massage. I have decided that “massage” is a very inappropriate word for it. I decided this should be called “listening to the flesh.” She touches my body, and in each place she touches, the body has stored pain and joy, memories, knowledge of many kinds. And I begin to listen – to my arm, my shoulder, my belly, the soles of my feet, my tongue, my uterus.

I begin to walk in the landscape of my body, the landscape of my flesh. And I begin to write the autobiography of my flesh.

Perhaps my toe wants to tell me a story about my childhood, of the slimy places it touched, the sharp-edged stones, of the times when it still reached my mouth, toe or thumb being equally good.

Perhaps my womb wants to cry the story of the child I lost, of what wanted to be formed and what slipped out into darkness before it could be held securely by the arms near the heart.

Maybe my throat wants to tell me of all the songs held back. Held back in fear, or in doubt, or in anger, all the songs that the heart already knows but that I have not voiced. Perhaps I need to walk in that place, down my throat to my vocal cords."

All this brought to mind a favourite Bible passage from Mark’s Gospel (Ch7 vv 31-37) of Jesus healing a deaf mute man. I once heard Rev Bill Darlison preach on this. He believed that the passage and this particular section of Mark’s Gospel is attempting to teach us of the need to live more open and connected lives. He pointed out that the author is trying to make us listen by using a clever linguistic aid. In the account he states that Jesus says the Arameaic word Ephphatha as he heals the man. This is perhaps not so strange on the surface as this is certainly the language that Jesus would have spoken. What is strange though is that this is inconsistent with the rest of the Gospel which was originally written in Greek. Bill says that this is a deliberate ploy to make we who are listening to the account pay attention, because something really important is being taught here. In a published version of the address Bill states that:

“The word Ephphatha means ‘Open up!’ What Jesus is saying to this deaf man is the Gospel’s message to you and me. This man was suffering from a physical deafness; we are suffering from spiritual deafness. Our ears are closed to the entreaties of those who live in foreign countries, whose skin colour is different from our own, whose way of life does not correspond with ours. We are deaf to the words even of those who live in close proximity to us, but whose traditions are different from ours. We don’t hear what they are saying, and so our opinions about them and their customs are garbled and worthless...It’s a shocking reminder of our own refusal to listen attentively to the unfamiliar voices. It is only when we are prepared to open up that our prejudices can be eroded; and only then that the impediment in our speech will be removed and our opinions will be worth listening to. We have to break the shell of our own tribalism and exclusiveness.”

(now the ears of my ears awake And now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

I have come to believe that in order to live fully awake, mentally, physically and spiritually requires one to be awake to all that is, all that has been and all that has ever been. It is of no use just merely living in the present, in a passive sense, to merely be the observer. The spiritual life is one of engagement. Of being fully alive and I believe to be fully engaged and alive to what is occurring right here we also need to be awake to all that has been too and to therefore give ourselves fully to what is yet to come.

This requires us to have all our sense fully awake and fully engaged, to use all our senses, including the sixth sense. In so doing we will be able to live fully engaged and meaningful lives.

We need to awaken all our senses and thus not only hear life’s call,  but to also respond to it…


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