stalking the numinous niche

This confession was originally posted on my blog this unlit light in 2011.  Recently I’ve been reminded about the little cache of my writing that quietly rests over on that blog and it’s been suggested that I share some snippets here for readers.  I figured that when the time was ripe to do so, I’d get a prompt.

It came a few days ago, over lunch with a couple of dear friends.  We were talking about the way humans seem compelled to “find their tribe.”  To join forces with those of like mind, to feel a sense of belonging and validation.  I had to admit that I’d never found a tribe or group that didn’t end up either disappointing me, or spitting me out for disappointing them.  If I had a tribe it would be in the league of the Rank Outsiders, the Solo Fliers, the Holy Rejects.

The conversation got me reminiscing about my mid-life preoccupation with finding where I fit.  It wasn’t so much about finding a tribe as finding my so-called niche.  It went on for the first half of my life and only disappeared (taking the need for company with it) when the split between the niche-less one and her experience zipped itself up. It had a lot to do with acknowledging what she loved to do (play with colour, texture, visual language), because in that encounter she unfailingly disappeared into the unknowable: into her numinous niche.

I have no idea how it happened. Love has a mind of its own; it slowly seeped out of the studio and spread itself at her feet.  Her niche turned out to be nothing more nor less than the full monty life movie, otherwise known as… S U C H N E S S – to the [n]


 

Lawrence Carroll, Untitled, 2015

 

My Niche is The Unknowable – April 22, 2011

About thirty years ago I confessed to a kindly iridologist that I felt I had failed to find my ‘niche’ in life.  He peered into my bright blue eye-maps and remarked that it was strange, because everything he could read there indicated that I was a highly capable person who could find a niche in many avenues of expertise.

It worried me, that feeling of being niche-less.  I was in awe of those who seemed, from a young age, to know exactly what they wished to do in the world and set about achieving it.  And it wasn’t helped by those who knew the potential here and kept asking when I was going to fully explore (exploit?) it.  I was in my mid 40s and still wondering what I would be when I grew up.

I had all the right tools: a reasonably sane brain, a good education, some skills as an educator as well as in the area of art and design, but my life-path seemed like a meandering groping from one neti-neti to the next.

I tried being a teacher, a broadcaster, a fashion designer, a wife, a lover, a wandering yogini, a ‘professional’ artist.  All those niches ultimately failed to fit. The role that held the most promise was that of the artist, but the funny thing was that whenever the flow of genuine creating was going on in the studio, I wasn’t there.  I mean, ‘artist-me’ was AWOL.  In its place there was a spacious, ownerless activity unrelated to all my small ideas of what should be happening.  And the moment the ‘artist-me’ tried to examine this mysterious activity it would vaporize.  It was ungraspable and unknowable.

Later I would find a philosophy that made sense of this mystery – it is spoken about by sages and artists alike as the movement of pure nondual Awareness. But back then it was a total enigma to me; it put the fire under a lifetime’s exploration of creativity. And it eventually delivered me to the niche I had given up any hope of finding.

My niche turned out to be that ineffable intimate Awareness itself.  And the amazing thing is that it always had been!  It had been my preoccupation for decades, yet I had failed to recognize that it was a valid contender for the niche stakes.  I had conceptualised the niche-notion, irrevocably keeping it at arm’s length and ensuring the survival of a niche-less seeker trapped in time.  Truly, I can be quite slow

When the penny dropped, a lifetime’s worth of seemingly incoherent bits of ridiculousness fell into place.  I fell about laughing like a lunatic.  The absurdity and awesomeness of it!  The beauty and simplicity and grace of it!

Like … landing on a bed of rose petals … sinking into their silken perfume … resting, at last … knowing that this simple at-one-ment always runs below the surface of experience, ALL experience … knowing that you never have to leave … even if it were possible!

– miriam louisa
(With minor editing to accomodate a further seven years’ worth of lightbulb moments.)


Artwork: Lawrence Carroll Untitled, 2015
Artificial flowers, pigment, stain, housepaint, dust
7,5 x 218 x 185 cm


on turning seventy three

 

alone in my hut

[no one here to invent me]

eyeballing emptiness

 

Rainbow Lorikeet hovering by Trevor Andersen

 

Seventy three missions

around the sun and not

one thing of worldly value

to show for it.

 

No savvy safety-nets:

investment portfolios, insurance policies,

plans A, B and C.  I walk the way

of not-knowing and wonderment.

 

Lofty notions of enlightenment, bliss,

exalted understanding have no buyer here;

I’ll take this uninvited, serene,

free and priceless fulfilment.

 

See, today I heard the air sing

as it danced through the rainbow wings

of a Lorikeet suspended

in space.

 

Today I watched cumulonimbus

massing in the west, those

sculpted edges alive with flaming gold

as the sun went down.

 

Tonight, as dusk fell

bringing cool relief to the sweating forest

I giddily inhaled a draught

laden with night-scented Jessamine.

 

And it is enough. Whatever may lie ahead

for this beloved bag of bones

the simple sensuous joy of being Presence

 

is enough.

 


Rainbow Lorikeet hovering. Photograph by Trevor Andersen.


wholly whole and holy

ma deva padma - existence

 

So.  Here we are.  Sitting upon our lotus-leaf

pondering the paradox

that there is no inner and outer to this experience

of exist-ing.

Not only is the fabric of our being

felted from the Primordial Awareness we can’t

escape,

but every appearance we consider

‘other’

is similarly ex-pressed from that source.

And if there’s no inside/outside,

no this/that

no me/other

it means this:

there’s nowhere to hide

 

We love to think that our quiet denial

of the pain too unspeakable to countenance,

is safely hidden from view.

 

Or, and this is more common,

we are no longer aware of it

as it vibrates below the limn

of our consciousness.

 

Perhaps we stitch together satisfying stories about

our awakened understanding.

(Or the absence thereof.)

Yet in moments of self-honesty we can see:

our scars go before us

laying out the trajectory of our lives.

 

Every stitch in the tapestry

of our magnificent ‘me’

is displayed across the cosmos.

 

All is known.

Because there’s nowhere for anything

to hide.

 

This is exquisite.

It’s a realisation that throws open the possibility

that the wound we have spent a lifetime

avoiding, can become the catalyst

for an unimaginable new View.

 

How come?

 

No inside/outside, remember?

No separation, remember?

Only One immeasurable inconceivable Whole is happening.

It’s like an eyeless eye.

 

It

knows Itself

intimately, lovingly

in all the discarded, denied details

of our every wound,

every misdeed and regret,

every choked-back emotion,

every failure to love…

 

and still It loves us

nourishes

holds

and

lives us

 

so

 

how could we not be safe?

we can come out

we can stand up

we can own up

we can shine

 

wholly whole and holy

 


 

Sorry to shout.   But this matters.  Evidence of unintegrated primal pain is displayed for all to see across our world at this time.  Imagine what the scene would be like if emotionally mature grown-ups were carrying the best interests of humanity forward, rather than beings frozen at the age of three?  This is probably as close as I will ever come to making a political statement.

 


Image copyright Ma Deva Padma, Existence, from the Osho Zen Tarot


breathing with the lake

Here I am.
Sitting in Paradise
breathing.
Breathing the tide of clarity – in it comes
crystal-clear, out it goes,
often muddied by mind –
and I smile as this lifestream flows on
saturating each sensation, yet
paying no heed;
never cocking an eyebrow or casting a vote,
only ever reminding me:
Here I am
I-without-name-or-boundary
here and now
as This, and This and This.


The current version of Paradise finds me staying in a place of great beauty, beside a large lake. This entire year has unfolded as a series of deep retreats. It is a time for, and of, integration. Health issues are being lovingly tended and their emotional causality explored. It’s both harrowing and heart-swelling: Grace delivers whatever is needed, reminding me I signed up for the Full Monty.

Apropos of nothing (I never go fishing) these three small poems landed in my net:


Miriam Louisa Simons, Lake Macquarie, dawn

 

breathing with the lake

I am

Monet-mind beside the Seine

 

 

black swans glide by, curious:

pounding the lakeside path

a rainbow!

 

 

fog hiding the lake

one solitary oarsman

rows through melting space

 


Photograph taken from my zafu.


pop goes the poseur

Three mid-winter haiku.

 

Rengetsu - Uji River Teapot Scroll ca1840

 

xxxv

winter in my hut

drafts shivering the rainbows

I sit with my tea

 

xxxvi

thoughts and thinker? wrong

thoughts-thinker-thinking: all one!

pop goes the poseur

 

xxxvii

zafu guru says

two thoughts cannot co-exist

I dive in the gap

 


Painting by RengetsuUji River Teapot Scroll

Source – The Rengetsu Circle


this wild and precious life

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

– Mary Oliver

 

Kano Motonobu - Zen Patriarch Xiangyen Zhixian Sweeping with a Broom

 

after decades of wondering what I’d be
when I grew up,
what I’d do when I found my ‘real’ work,
what I’d contribute to life that might be of worth,
I tossed the questions to the stars
and gave up

is this typical I wonder?
a symptom of seniorhood?
or does it eventually occur to everyone
that while life is unbearably precious
and untameably wild
it isn’t yours or mine nor ever was

so with hair gone silver and eyes a-twinkle,
I whisper to the beloved poet:
this wild and precious life was never mine to map;
it always had its own agenda, dancing itself
across infinite webs of thought and feeling,
back to its own vibrant womb

and the role it gave itself as miriam
was that of sweeper of the space,
one who clears the mind-droppings, ensuring
no concealment of that fierce Grace
shining, shining through the world’s sorrow and joy
(and the sweeper’s too)

 

And what will Life do I wonder, with its one wild and precious You?

 


Image: Kano Motonobu –  Zen Patriarch Xiangyen Zhixian Sweeping with a Broom (detail)
Muromachi period 1336-1868.  Ink and color on paper.


 

early this morning

 

Miriam Louisa Simons - Stained Glass Morning, Missa Gaia Series

 

p e a c e

palpable as the presence of a Presence

yet utterly ineffable

a benediction without diction

beyond the grope of thought

a blessedness without symbol

not experienced as other but

immanent

– inescapably so –

oh!

 

silence

 

immaculate all-adoring silence

 


Image: Miriam Louisa Simons – detail, Stained Glass Morning
Missa Gaia Series,
1987-88. Painting on silk, stitching.
Private Collection, Auckland New Zealand

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