Trauma and rock bottom

Trauma and rock bottom both involve immediate fear of death.

The alcoholic goes on drinking, and pretending about it to themselves, being enabled by relatives or colleagues, until some immediate threat emerges which they can only escape by not drinking. Perhaps their enabler gives up, or something else changes in their world. Then their illusions are stripped away, they begin supporting themselves rather than relying on others, and they experience it as freedom. They do what they need to do. Not drinking is hard, but drinking is impossible.

I heard about this phenomenon and wondered if it would ever happen to me. How bad did it have to get, before I started doing what I ought to do? I rely on others, and want that to continue. As I wrestled with emotion, fear, suppression and internal conflict, I had this ideal of the whole human, stripped of illusion, acting rationally for its highest good. I wondered if anything would make me like that.

What gets in the way is trauma, also an immediate fear of death. There are different traumas, but the small child needs unconditional love, which upholds a precarious sense of safety. Whatever happens I will be fed and kept warm so I can survive. Then the child loses that sense and is terrified. Perhaps a parent dies, or they are separated. In my case my mother could not accept me as I am, and needed me to be otherwise.

I am back considering this. I know I was traumatised. I realised that it did not matter whether I suffered pressure no human being could possibly withstand, or was too-

Oh, this is hard to write, even now I know it. Was too fragile, was useless to begin with, stubbed my toe once and that broke me. I suffered pressure strong enough to break me. In my forties I said, “The monster will get me”- a small child expression of a nameless fear of death which still controlled me. I was bringing it into consciousness for the first time. I was aware there was a fear which affected me, was beginning to be aware of how it affected me, rather than merely being unconsciously affected by it.

A fear of death which I was not conscious of, would have thought was ridiculous and impossible, made me cling to particular illusions and ways of being. However bad my life got, the bracing shock of rock bottom, which would get me firing on all cylinders, all parts of me pulling together, never happened because the fear of death had already forced me onto a different path.

I am not a child any more, I said. I am not dependent on my parents. If The Monster devouring me is my mother withdrawing love, it should not affect me now. It is ridiculous. I could not accept that it ruled my life.

I know myself better, now. I have an understanding of my strengths from observing my responses, and, well, some self-respect, actually. It took more to break me than stubbing my toe. And the break was so fundamental that it still affects me.

On top of God within, the trauma grafted on a set of particular responses to the world which were, to my conscious self, the only possible ones. I was strongly motivated to respond as programmed, in order to survive. Then I lost motivation. Those responses are not the way to survive. Or, I can survive without them, though at a level that being created by trauma, the tamed self, found unpleasant. My inner conflicts reached a static equilibrium. I stopped.

And there have always been things I loved, found worthwhile, pursued. I am busily constructing from them a self-concept, an understanding of who I am, which the tamed self attacks, trying to ridicule and undermine it. Self-acceptance grows, and the ridicule ceases to work. From past experience it seems that there will be things I love and pursue, and even possible that from them I will construct a life worth living. Or, that my recovery is the point.

I will my own good. That has led me into trauma responses, to survive, and now leads me into self-respect for the untamed self beneath, which said No. It says what it can. My conscious self is listening, though the traumatised, tamed self is noisy.

There are adult traumas- the soldier seeing his fellows die under enemy fire which he cannot see how he can avoid is traumatised, and some might protect the word from me. These soldiers are traumatised, I should not diminish their experience by pretending to it. That is echoed by the tamed self which says, of course I am not traumatised, how could I be. It clings to its illusions. Refuting the illusions takes patient work, and constant repetition.

Hope, beauty, and God Within

I need a source of hope, and wondered if I might find it in beauty.

I have slept in the same bed every night since January 2020. I have not gone on a bus since about March 2020. I see people almost every day on Zoom, and often can be heard on it, saying what I believe, showing who I am, and being affirmed for that. Perhaps this is why I value the blog so much, as I am heard there. I want to be seen. I want to be heard.

If I know I am valued, it has to be by myself. I noticed when I transitioned that I got a lot of love and acceptance from colleagues and the Quaker meeting, and yet when someone was rude in the street it affected me for days. I realised that the rejection of some random stranger meant more to me because it was echoed in myself. I had to create my own self-acceptance before that of others meant anything to me. This may be ABdP Johnson’s superpower: an invincible sense of his own worth, which survives all the condemnation of others, and all the damage he does.

My hope was that I could come wholly into the present moment through perception, with feelings through my fingertips as I touched whatever I could, in the beauty of the park, its trees and birds. I would simply be me in my perception, relating directly to the world. Relating to beauty and feeling delight I would gain a sense of self. This is who I am, the being that loves this.

On Friday 4th I met J, who told me some of the bad management and bullying of the office she is leaving. Even Paul, the most equable and self-effacing of men, had made a complaint. This brought to mind my troubles in various offices over ten years, which though they ended ten years ago feel as alive, as I type, as they did then. Further psychotherapy is a possibility.

On Monday 30th, in worship, it seemed to me that I had to let go of any desire for an outcome from the Yearly Meeting on gender. What was required of me was Love, including for “gender-critical” Quakers; and faith, trust in the process of worshipful discernment. This seemed like spiritual preparation, and letting go seemed like being better attuned to reality. Perhaps they were.

On Tuesday evening in worship I felt rage and terror, my old emotions. The thought came to me,

I have a right to exist.

I felt that “the iron enters into my soul”. That is from the 1662 prayer book rendering of Psalm 105:18, and is not the usual translation. I find it evocative, as a double meaning- iron cutting the soul, or infusing and strengthening it.

While the anti-trans campaigners have a rigid refusal of sympathy to trans women- women’s needs, reality and bodies should not be subordinated to “men’s feelings”, they say- my feelings matter.

If it is a matter of my feelings, it is the difference between expressing who I am freely and being forced into a mask, a pretence, an act, a falsehood, and the desolation I would feel at that falsehood.

I have blogged a lot. My fascination with blog statistics comes from my hunger to be seen and heard. And I grow sick of it, indeed of all social media. Of twenty posts in May, Google lists only seven of them: if you search for a direct quote from the others, Google will draw a blank. It is not a way to be seen. And, the anti-trans campaigning is fierce. If I check a trans facebook group, I am likely to see rigid, hateful articles by transphobes shared, to show how commonplace and orthodox anti-trans arguments are in Britain, and defiant, angry, or miserable comments after. It makes me ill. If that transphobe wins her case at the Employment Appeal Tribunal, I would have critiqued the judgment, but feel no appetite to. Though, if she wins, it will advance the Equality Act, protecting beliefs even if they are disgusting and irrational. The question of how acting on belief might be protected would remain open.

So I may not blog so much. Advices and Queries tells me that if I “cherish that of God within” me, “the healing power of God’s love” will “grow in [me] and guide” me. This is my working theory on what “that of God in me” might mean, and what might get in the way of me hearing it.

What stops me hearing it is my judgment of what it ought to say, based on introjects and learned morality. That of God in me is that which I locked away and silenced, which began to emerge in February 1999, my feminine self that feels rage and terror at assertions that I should present male. It is that in me which is burned out by work, so that I could no more go into my old office and attempt a PIP or UC appeal than I could call myself John again.

The closest thing to ego in me is denial that I am burned out at all, and a belief that I could go back to work if I had to, sustained by as rigid a denial as that which I needed to present male. It is that which drives me on to work harder than I can at exercise, and creates misery at my judgment on my own inadequacy.

I could not see God in me, for how can I see what I think of as wholly inadequate and call it God? I am delighted today to come across the concept of Theopaschism, belief in a God who suffers, indeed a God who suffers for me. I must dive to the depths of the suffering in order to fully experience the delight.

So, this month. Less blogging, probably. Time spent consciously seeking out delight in beauty. Acknowledging the misery, weakness, anguish, rage and terror. I am still seeking out health, power, strength, effectiveness, as always, but seeking them through what I have seen as weakness, for in my weakness is my strength.

Omniphobia

Why should good news make me miserable?

It’s excellent news. It means I am safe, for now; but not that I am safe permanently, which is an impossibility. If I want to be safe forever, I will be forever disappointed, and that is why I am miserable. So I step outside that, see it is not rational, ask what I can do about it.

Cognitive behavioural ideas would have me tell myself, rationally, that I am safe for two months, and even can be comfortable. It’s a rolling two months, as far as I can see: something bad might happen, but I would be more or less ok for a bit after that. I am still not cheered up. I noted in the nineties that I did not care much beyond two months, so the question “Where do you see yourself in five years’ time” bamboozled me, but it does not make me happy now.

Then I delve into desire and possibility. The idea of permanent safety might have come from childhood. Or, it is my need for complete control. That, my perfectionism, and the fear, are the unholy trinity which has made me retreat into my flat. It really is Omniphobia, fear of everything. CBT would answer the perfectionism too, it’s black and white thinking, finding things black, dreadful, because they are not Good, and impossibly good. Nothing bad can happen to me when I am dead, I think, grimly, and before then there are continual surprises.

The good news really made me miserable. It plunged me into sorrow and pain. The emotional burden is very deep, and does not simply disappear when I consider the concept of black and white thinking.

Staying in my house and not going out because of fear is a sign of sickness. I deal with it in two ways, both sick. One is to castigate myself for being so weak and useless, which worked at one time and not now. Now, it just makes me feel even less motivation to go out. It is as if I am in a sulk, but one usually sulks to have an effect on someone else, and I sulk to disempower my own inner nag, or gaslighter.

The other is to suppress my feeling below consciousness. It is normally a weight, making action difficult, rather than a hideous sensation making me want to curl up in a ball. So, bringing it into consciousness might help me process it.

One thing I do, is analyse like this. I have Omniphobia. It paralyses me. I have a huge burden of sadness. I have a trauma response, where I cannot attain the control I would need to feel safe enough, because I crave complete control. So the good news making me miserable, which is counterintuitive, is a good thing, because it helps me analyse, brings the sadness to consciousness where I might process it, and may move me along.

The Quaker concept of the inner light and my idea of the Real Me- and my understanding of psychological research is that there is no unchanging core to any human being, and our statements of that core change with time. That is, I am confused about this. But my sense is that it is my inner light, or Real Me, that sulks, that is traumatised, that says No because the gaslighter is whipping it too hard, and that if “I”- the organism, of which consciousness is only a part, which somehow contains an Inner Light, the Gaslighter, and also something that can untwist and liberate or assess and mediate-

no, too confused entirely-

I believe health is possible. Consider this evergreen, which was nearly strangled by creepers, and which is deformed, with bare arms where further branches and needles should be; yet now I pull away the creepers regularly, it is growing back.

I am deformed. I grew round the restrictions, in order to survive, and they twisted me. Revirescabo.

Looking forward

It is risky speculating on what personal growth will look like. What I anticipate gets in the way of what will actually happen, because my conception of good does not fit what is really good, and can get in the way of perception. But there are things I know, now, and ideas I have- a bit like the Drake equation, all the variables we would need to know.

There is the defended self, the undefended self, the path or gateway between, the barrier, the defences. I have various names for the undefended self, each of which makes me see it differently: Real me, Organismic self, Inner light. There are other names: what about “Inner child”?

Or “The muse”. My Two souls poem pictured something I still have not realised. Lemn Sissay writes of composing as a teenager, “I had written poetry in earlier childhood but this was me and me alone, channelling something bigger than me that proved I wasn’t alone. The proof was there on the paper. The evidence. I was alive.”

I might say, I am one of unclean words and of a people of unclean words, and how can I find Reality with words? Well, give the words to Reality. But that Two Souls poem frightened me. I would have to transition, and I did not think I could. Twenty years later I am still catching up.


An answer to words is wei wu wei, do without doing, effortless action, moving naturally without conscious judgment and doing what needs to be done, in the moment and not in past and future. Then the blockage is my judgment and lack of trust, my need to second-guess myself. Mary Lutyens wrote of Krishnamurti, “K lost his memory of the past almost entirely. This was consistent with his teaching that memory, except for practical purposes, is a weight that should not be carried over from one day to the next.”

What blocks me from it? Fear of The Monster, of death, but that only says how great the fear is rather than what I feel might actually happen. There are also little fears, of not understanding, or being left out, humiliation, getting things wrong, anything I fear. There is the harsh inner critic, which claims my feelings are not genuine, and my motives are cowardly and self-serving in the most ridiculous, self-defeating way.

Asking “What do I feel, now?” may help me through. Part of the problem is denying or suppressing feelings, or my loss of understanding of what the feeling is. Until last autumn I would never have thought myself anxious. Recognising the effects of my anxiety may be liberating in the long run. That suppression, called “defences”, may be better seen as introjects. They defend me from no real threat. Lemn Sissay again:

A foster child will expose the cracks in the familial veneer. Insomuch as the foster child is a cipher to the dysfunction of a family and also a seer. But the responsibility is too great for a child and so he finds himself manipulated and blamed for what he exposes by the simple virtue of innocence. The wrath this innocence incurs is deep and dark.

That “simple virtue of innocence”. “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

I judge the Real Me as bad, foolish, unsophisticated though when it manifests, as when I know that I am telling the truth with my whole being, like giving ministry. Then I experience the undefended self, but it seems I might- go deeper.

There is how I feel about my experience: I have the feeling it might be digested, processed, accepted. I have told of past events and felt the same thing I felt at the time, and seen others like that, and it is being trapped in the past by unprocessed experience. The Dalai Lama talks of “emotional disarmament” to heal conflict.

When I realised I was on a spiritual journey, I wanted to stop feeling anger and fear, and when I realised that it seemed impractical: and now I stop resisting anger and fear. Jamie Catto said, “If I could answer the question ‘what’s wrong with me?’ I would not have to feel this feeling any more.” Then I read, and he said “So gifted”, and I note it down because it pleases me and I want to imbibe all the sweetness from the comment.

In minstry, someone spoke of “The unbearable beauty of the holy Source”. And later in the week in worship I felt horror and wonder, as my joys and sorrows are too great for me to bear. “It is so much!” I thought, and felt my body relaxing, then getting tense again.

There is the Deathless land, where we let go of these things. I may not dwell there yet, but the glimpses nourish, and I hunger for it.

What is the ego?

The ego acts as a regent, ruling until the human person reaches sufficient maturity to rule alone. Then the ego becomes a wise counsellor, the Grand Visier or Lord President of the Secret Council, advising the inner light on its actions, though movement and repose increasingly come from the real self or inner light.

In the Real Me is my playfulness, creativity, intensity, Love, Joy, sexuality, gentleness- I am soft, gentle, peaceful- perception of beauty, spirituality, and

Life.

Here is everything that stimulates, delights, excites or motivates me. Here also is the Sulk- if the ego becomes a tyrant, the Real me becomes a grumpy teenager; and possibly any addictions, where I seek a brief dopamine hit if oppressed by circumstances, Tyrant-ego or the Monster. I hurt: the Real Me is where my deep sadness is.

Trans Gurus write, She is not in you, she is you. She is not weak, she is holding you together. She is waiting patiently. Let go and be you.

I called the monster Sulley, but that was a mistake. The monster exists still, submerged in the unconscious, able to hurt. There is my disproportionate self-doubt, my internalised transphobia, that which condemns and hates myself, old fear, misery, possibly addiction, suicidal ideation, the rage and terror directed against myself, and death.

What could be in a good ego, a good adviser recognising its subordination to the Real self or inner light? An urge to self-improvement, and consideration of where efforts to self-improvement might be usefully directed, perhaps. A more reflective, responsive “What will people think?” Consideration of past and future, which I do not seem to do well.

It is that image: I was in a dark, dingy corridor, with doors off it. Looking through the doors was overwhelming, with light colour and movement I could not fathom, and terrifying. Yet as I moved along the corridor it got darker and more constricting. The Monster is that corridor, and the Real me is through one of the doors into life and freedom. I thought it was in St Paul, but it’s Deuteronomy 30:19: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.”

It is tempting to view the US election in apocalyptic terms. If Trump wins, the 2024 election may not happen, or will not be an election in the sense we are accustomed to. The comments sections of the papers I favour are full of such misery, and I am likely to fall into the wailing and gnashing of teeth. For example:

The disastrous President Trump
On America, he takes a dump
Taken in by his lies
our democracy dies
or we flee from his covid death slump.

That is cleverly expressed, but it buys into the apocalypticism of the Republican convention. These people are asserting that if the Radical Democrats gain power they will not be safe in their homes. That level of fear and anger does democracy no good. It is a white privilege thing to imagine that democracy was working in 2016, or 2012: lots of Black people could not vote, then, or found their choices curtailed.

I want to turn away from that kind of misery, and the communal indulgence in it that is comment threads. I am pleased with the 45 upvotes my limerick got, but slightly queasy. I need a balance between keeping abreast of current events, and getting sucked into a storm of misery.

It is better to pay attention to possibilities, opportunities, and hope, than blackness. Again Philippians: “whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” I must keep returning to that verse.

Self-knowledge, accepted or declined

My name is Clare, and I am agoraphobic.

I attend several zoom groups a week where speaking authentically is valued, and wearing a mask is pointless. Making this AA-like declaration- actually I said I am “a functional agoraphobic” but now would drop the adjective- helps me. I admit it to others, and thereby admit it to myself. It is now part of my self-understanding.

Then on Monday I needed to go to Swanston, and sat, and didn’t. I could go on Wednesday, I thought. Aye, right. I would just put it off again. I still could not motivate myself to go. I had a shower, had a cry about getting kicked out of local Quakers in January, and then wanted to write. I wrote my pronouns poem straight out, and changed two words. It got 33 likes, seven hearts, nine cares and one cry.

Then I joined a zoom with a professional musician and an aspiring singer/songwriter, who both loved it. I was in heaven. Profoundly affirmed, I cycled into Swanston.

I would need an enabler to buy groceries, etc, to be a perfect agoraphobic.

A pitfall around spiritual lessons is that I can imagine I have learned them once I acknowledge their truth, and thereby avoid the hard work of taking them into my heart, but also any benefit they might bring. And, it seems to me that admitting I am agoraphobic has dented my agoraphobia. I find agoraphobia shameful, and I dealt with the shame by denial. How else? The pretence, “Of course I could go out if I wanted to,” would not fool anyone else who cared enough to form a view, and it did not really fool me, but accepting the word makes the idea concrete for me. It feels like a positive step.

It is frightening- what can I do about it? All this stuff seems insurmountable! And positive, as I am making progress. “What do I feel, now?” is a good question. I should ask myself that more often. Now I am enjoying the writing and analysis even if it is tiring. I don’t want to excuse agoraphobia. I know the reasons, but what to do about it now is more important.

Do you want to cure it?

Not necessarily. Going out, I would not necessarily be in a more comfortable position. I would like more control of it. How to control it I don’t know. Admitting I do not want to go out mitigates it.

Two years ago I identified fully with the “ego” that needs to cajole the Real Self into action. Now I identify with the Real Self. What might remain in the “ego”? The outdated “what will people think?” I inherited from my mother may have been jettisoned.

All this is in one brain, but it might be worthwhile developing Captain Sensible. The Captain thinks about things like “What will people think?” He knows that people think a lot of different things, most not centred on me, and some things disgust or delight some people. It is my own judgment I want to develop, not what I inherited, or adopted in a panic as a child. I would try to see real people, rather than my inflexible condemning judgment, and the hacks I used to get round it, finding things forgiveable where others might not.

Captain Sensible might consider medium term plans, leaving the Real Self to sing. That part of me which seeks self-improvement is only a bad thing when it starts beating me and screaming at me to Go Faster, however hard I am working. That would be a healthier ego, in balance with the Real Me.

Where’s the monster?

The image that comes to mind is of Sulley from Monsters Inc, an unfrightening monster who much preferred provoking laughter. Sulley becomes friendly and caring in the film. Again, I don’t want to imagine I have done the spiritual work if I haven’t, and The Monster could be biding its time, but right now it feels defanged, like the Woodlouse. The monster’s power resided in an ego it could terrify, that would slam the door on the Real Me and hide me in the dark.

Slamming the door is an extended metaphor. I don’t want to rely on it as a perfect map. “Fightings and fears, within, without” are not so easily overcome. Yet the monster seems less powerful.

It did not want me to be-
it is hard to get the word out. There are inner voices challenging that. I want to notice when I can’t say something, and overcome the refusal. The word is “feminine”. The inner voices say “feminine” is not a coherent concept. It means something to me. Possibly those inner voices still resist that.

Then the monster would be diffused. I would not panic and shut down-

yes. “I”. There is one brain.

I would not panic and shut down, but might still avoid places my old programming finds dangerous, which could be liberating.

And then, there’s the actual experience of other people, like getting bullied at Newport. I have told this story without weeping before. Now I want to get it out in limited time, and remember other details of the chaos of it, and weep. And I can say “I was bullied” without The Evidence, those facts that show it was bullying and not reasonable management of a recalcitrant worker- and I have to tell The Evidence as well.

I have really bad experiences of other people, over and over again, and great distress thinking of them or my situation now.

God and The Monster

I faced the Monster, which frightens me more than anything. It did not kill me.

In psychotherapy, I said how I had felt after last week- tired and upset at first, but then really wonderful, loose, delighting in my body, happy, on Sunday after rising at six to go cycling and miss the 30° midday heat. Let us go at it. There is that “joyful, playful child” which I give strongly positive names, such as “Real me,” and which seems to hold almost all of my power of self-motivation, even if it can only resist things my rational self thinks I ought to do. It feels feminine. There is a more masculine protector whose way of protection is to suppress: to get her to be quiet and sensible. I feel that Real me might be useful in life situations. For example in the Employment Tribunal, in cross examination, I feel she could be useful if I found an opening to eviscerate and humiliate someone.

We agree to bring her out to play. I do not play long. She is charming, winsome I think, but that is only her most oft-shown face. There is hurt here. And I lean forward, ready to play, to create, to explore together but can’t say something.

It’s like Emo Philips’ joke. My parents told me never to go near the cellar door, but when I was six I was alone, the door was unlocked, and I opened it. I saw wonderous things! Trees, grass, the sky!

The masculine protector wants to shut the cellar door on the Child. It is the only way to be safe. The masculine protector will be good, obey the rules, and be safe. This is an immature technique I use in adulthood: find out the rules, follow the rules, because it gives me a sense of safety.

In fact it’s like a trapdoor. The Child wants to be charming, I promise I’ll be good, because otherwise the protector will shut the trapdoor which is the only source of light in my cellar, or bottle-dungeon, and just be good, quiet, watchful, himself.

Then comes the judgment.

I had a perfectly ordinary childhood!

What are you making up now?

So I shout it at Linda, quite out of control, enraged. There’s another reason why doing this by video is safer: I can show my full rage.

I pause to write this down. “Judgment- PERfectly ordinary childhood.

Half way through I decide to minimise it. It is the Elephant and the Woodlouse- imagine an elephant carrying a generator and two vast loudspeakers, and the judgment is deafening. Now imagine a woodlouse, with proportionately smaller speakers. It also walks towards me, and I notice this strange high pitched noise. I lean in to hear what it might be, interested. The malice is the same, but it is less powerful.

The malice is directed at myself. How can I be suppressing my true self, when my childhood was caring and nourishing, enabling me to be fully normal? That’s its main idea. Stop whining! Stop pretending! Stop fantasising!

Oh, I would like to terrify people! I would like my anger to be effective, usefully directed outwards, not just inwards at myself. I would like to know that Child was safe to enter the world, and be herself in the world.

I thought a long time ago, whether I have gone through something no human could go through without being crushed, or whether I just stubbed my toe once, I am where I am. It becomes clearer to me that I have gone through traumatic experiences, some while too young to remember them, and the Monster is lying to me. I would like the Child and the masculine protector to reconcile, and even the Monster, to tame Kerberos so he eats out of my hand, and only barks at others when I tell him to.

More than ten years ago I thought The Monster will get me, and I now see the monster more clearly.

There is something in my room, and I write a poem to it.

I hate you as much as I have ever hated anyone.
I want you dead.
Your touch makes my skin crawl.
Your noise is worse than tinnitus.
Your constant motion baffles and immiserates me.
I want you to feed the birds,
yet one of you drives me to distraction.

I surprised myself today (Tuesday). Previously the Real Me has been only sweet and lovely, playful and joyful. Today she showed her teeth. If that is to be my main self, it cannot be without dark emotion.

On Tuesday evening, with Canada Yearly Meeting annual sessions, which I joined by Zoom, I named the Real Self and the protector slamming the trapdoor. This is a childish self-protection mechanism, I said. When I became an adult, I shall put away childish things.

On Wednesday 12th, I was reading Mysticism and Resistance by Dorothee Sölle. The “Resistance” in the title refers to political action; I am only on the second chapter, on mysticism, on stepping out of the ego or petty self into God. I could not read it. Where is God in this scheme, the real me, the masculine protector, the monster? With Pendle Hill worship sharing, the question was, “Are you ready to respond to any concern God may lay upon you, large or small?” How could I respond? No, my hands are full at the moment?

First, I thought, this is my Concern, that I am working on. Then I identified the Real Me as the inner light. The more I speak from God and act from God, the more confident I become in so speaking and acting.

This is the end of my mysticism, to become fully that real me. A Friend wrote, “I hear you opening yourself to let God think through you, and see through you, and also, I sense, feel through you, as you lay your ego aside in worship.”

Wednesday afternoon I joined Canada Yearly Meeting annual sessions, online. I was part of a worship sharing group on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the second question we addressed was, “How has the spirit been with thee since last we met?” I feel abashed. I know the depth of the claim I am making, that I can speak directly from God or Spirit in conversation as well as ministry, and I want to make it. I remember Liz saying a better translation is “I Am is the way, the truth and the life.” The ego, which seeks to guard me and make sure I appear well is like filthy rags which do not cover me or keep me warm, like Isaiah’s dry, cracked cisterns without water. Ego is worthless. God speaks and acts through me, as an atheist materialist.

One says she is Spirit until she stops and distances herself from it. Being nondual, we allow the unfolding and are part of it. We join in the dance.

Bearable anguish

I was speaking from my feminine self. It is delightful, and also frightening. I feel vulnerable. There have been moments when my voice goes into a higher register and I say something I know with my whole heart. At last, my mask slips. It is an iron mask, put on to protect me, now constricting and rubbing at me.

Speak from your heart, said Menis, and you speak directly to the hearts of others. It is the most direct way to touch someone apart from a kiss. Five years later, I speak from my heart. I spoke at Jamie’s zoom workshop, and then his zoom get-together, where I said the government’s threats to trans people frightened me. And I felt the love:

You’re also warm and wonderful
I feel like I want to give you a huge long hug Abigail xxxx
I love those words, I am scared…I am mostly harmless. : ) A poem could come from that…..Your voice is so important. Don’t give up hope. Be the poet that you are and spread yourself into other people’s lives. Get writing girl!!!
Sending long, warm hugs m’luv xxx
Really feeling that Abigail ❤
🧡💛💛Love you Abigail
Big Love Abigail ❤

And I spoke at the racism zoom. “I want to move from guilt and embarrassment to action”. I don’t know precisely what the mask is- ego, or the sense of “What will people think?” I know there are feelings around taking it off, fear, which I don’t want to feel so I don’t even consider taking it off. And then I pass through the fear and talk from my heart and people hear me and value me.

I loved the zoom Quaker worship on Sunday. Some people sat outside the meeting house under a mulberry tree, some people joined by zoom, and I sat with my eyes closed listening to the birdsong. I wanted to be at the meeting house.

I am not alone at home. I have all these books, magazines and sites on my computer, which give me a war. There is always something to react to, so I am in the reaction, much of which is habitual, rather than in simple wordless perception which is generally delightful. I look up, and consider my curtains. I find the colour glorious, this soft, gentle green.

The simple wordless perception is delightful, I think, then in comes the challenge: what about cycling uphill when too hot? I have wanted to cycle that thirteen miles, but not enough actually to go. What weighs against it is fear of perception, of being with my actual feelings, or with truth, manifested as fear of going uphill when too hot.

Pure happiness rarely gets through my defences, and when it did my first thought was all things will pass. Momentarily happy now, considering those curtains, then considering where I am now, worrying, questioning, comes in immediately.

It is anguish.

The anguish is bearable because I am worthy. Happiness and anguish co-exist. They may be separate brain circuits firing off at the same time. I feel a passionate desire to understand which may be different from my usual desire to keep in control. It could be a desire to see truth in all its complexity and to understand for its own sake.

Reading of that Quaker meeting’s racism, in 1948, and then discussing it, I felt embarrassment and a deep desire not to exaggerate the racism, to be clear about its precise bounds, which is difficult when I cannot remember the details of the paragraph in which I read about it, and in any event that paragraph is a secondary source and the writer of the primary source might not have been there. Layers and layers of fog, and my embarrassment and discomfort, white guilt, and a desire not to accuse that pastor of any more than my knowledge clearly supports. Or, cut through the white guilt, let go of my shame and embarrassment, and just be clear. They were racist. This is bad.

It feels the same way as taking off the mask and speaking with my female voice.

Quakers can be gentle. We rarely say something is wrong- only when called to stand against it. We exhibit polite interest, and of an idea which is clearly wrong, guarded neutrality. I may refuse to do something to support another when I don’t see that it is right, but may investigate to see the good in their position. We don’t directly confront unless we can’t avoid it. That makes it difficult when someone is suffering the ongoing emotional pain of discrimination, anti-trans, racist, sexist, against disabled people, whatever- and others just don’t see it. There is the general perception that Equality in the UK is pretty much alright, and Quakers share this. My guarded neutrality in me, with inquisitiveness- what is going on here?- it is a virtue in me, but it can get in my way if I expect it from another, perhaps another who is howling in pain.

Possibly the embarrassment I see on a wife’s face when the husband stands to minister is similar. Breaking through the shell or mask is difficult. It does not necessarily mean she thinks he is wrong to minister.

There is truth and clarity in the Now. There is safety in vulnerability.

A prayer of surrender

I had to rewrite the prayer Richard Rohr quoted, of surrender to God, as I am not sure I believe God exists separate from human beings. I am clear that the ego, the petty-self, produces little people, and there is a real self, a core within, which can liberate itself in the great struggle for maturity in mid-life- or younger, if the person is blessed. This is the way to do- not-do with the Tao, to flow like water.

Rohr quoted Joseph Campbell- Where you stumble, there lies your treasure- and the Prayer of Abandonment, by Charles de Foucauld:

Father,
I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me
and in all your creatures—
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

I rewrote it. I am not sure I am able to pray this. The second stanza may be the real self responding, or the conscious mind’s best perception of that real self:

Inner light
You are my truth and my will
without you I can do nothing
yet I block you because I judge you
as stupid or wicked.
I believe: help thou my unbelief.
I need to surrender, and my fear is terrible.
This is the perfect human
whom God created.
Help me let go.

I am worthy of life.
I am soft, gentle, peaceful.
I am alive already in my own acts
I am beautiful, if only I saw it.
I am wise, if only I trusted it
I am perceptive, and my fear is a blindfold

Rohr’s summary of the Word of God, God’s message for humanity, is beautiful:

Listen to your body.
Live in the Now.
Love all that is.

He also says “Slow down”, which I don’t think quite captures it: lose the frenetic, but be capable of swift decisive action in the right moment. That anxiety and stress gets in the way when you need to act. Shed the anxiety- chill out- to be capable of action.

There is the spiritual reality, the created Beauty of the human being, and there is the difficulty of acting in the world, amongst other human beings. More on this tomorrow.