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 into the everyday encounter with all-that-shows up. The niche I had imagined to be my ‘place’ was none other than this numinous now.
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