menu

In the Hut We Call the Self

In the Hut We Call the Self December 13, 2011

I’ve been listening way inside where the Universe rushes up through me like wind through a hole in an old door in a hut near the edge of a cliff. It is an ancient door, the one inside, and an ancient hole in the hut we call the self. I’ve been going there and listening, sitting on the inner edge of everything. There, I’ve heard two irrevocable truths: the truth of life, the very fact of it, how it comes out of nowhere like a strong breeze to lift our faces, how it goes on its way; and the truth of how life like a storm can rough up our hearts, how we have no choice but to feel that wind move through us and around us. Trying to give words to this is difficult. But the first truth can be inferred as the truth of things as they are, and the second as the experience of being human. These have become my teachers: trying to accept the nature of what is before me and trying not to deny its impact.

So when you ask, “What are we here for?” I’m stopped by this wind which rushes up through the hole in my heart. From this far down, it’s like asking the cliff itself what is it here for. We might say, to hold up the world. The cliff might say, to be the world. I can only say that my heart and eyes and mind keep forming.

Let me tell you what life is like in the hut these days. Like many of us, I have known centeredness as a calm and the experience of difficult feelings as forms of agitation. Like many of us, I swing between these poles: needing to calm down when stirred up and wondering how long the calm will last before I’m stirred up again. Like many of us, I’ve come to associate the lack of agitation (lack of pain, fear, confusion, or anger) with peace and the presence of such agitation as being pulled into the tangle of the world.

I’m learning, though, that the absence of agitation alone is not necessarily peace and that the presence of such difficult feelings does not mean we are necessarily off-center. Rather, the task of being fully alive challenges us to stay in the center while feeling the full range of life on earth. This is quite a task, which I’m not sure how to do. Nonetheless, listening way inside to these two teachers—the truth of things as they are and the experience of being human—I find myself here.

This all descended on me recently when I found myself drawn, again, into relationship with a person who didn’t mean what he said. The details don’t matter. Just that this person was unreliable and won’t accept that he broke his promise. There are a thousand reasons and, for sure, I have not lived up to all the promises I have made. But this time, it ripped me. I could feel my heart tear like old denim in the same spot it has torn before. And for all my practice at not having expectations, at letting go, at surrender and acceptance—this disappointment ripped me.

What’s most interesting here is how I’ve been jarred, after flipping back and forth, into feeling both centered and hurt at once: accepting that the situation won’t change and, at the same time, not shutting down what the disappointment feels like. I’m not trying to run from the agitation in the name of peace, but trying to relax my being until I’m spacious enough to be a container for both: the peace and the agitation. This is new and I’m not doing it or being it well.

Not surprisingly, this race between peace and agitation, whatever the cause, has reached its limits. For the peace and the agitation are stitched together and, tugged on, they unravel a thread of Oneness. It’s enough to make me break down the ancient door in the hut of my self, so the wind of life can bluster through. But then, the whispers that arrive one by one through the ancient hole way inside, the whispers we know as truth, would be lost in the unfiltered fury of the wind.

"Mark, your remark about the chord from Tokyo puts me in mind of a similar ..."

For Keith Jarrett
"Thank you, Mark, for posting this incredibly beautiful and heartwarming poem. Blessings, Laraine"

The Work of Care
"That you suggest:"We need to return to our basic, caring nature now more than ever" ..."

Our Better Angels
"I just love this perspective on learning, reading and writing! Mark Nepo, you have such ..."

The Energy of Hope

Browse Our Archives