I typed this phrase in response to my friend Heather’s blog about shifting, that “in between place” where she, an extremely talented writer, was out of words. I offered as comment:
“I’m learning that when I am without words, or when words won’t come, it may be that I’m in that ‘before, beneath and beyond’ words place of deep sensing. Inchoate…preverbal…pure.”
William Bridges calls this place the “neutral zone,” in between an ending and a new beginning. I remember the relief I felt when I first read his books (Transitions and Managing Transitions: someone had finally said what really happens in the face of change and had differentiated between “change” (the outward manifestation of the beginning) and “transition” (the inner response to what has ended).
Neutral zone… bottom of the U…the Void…the Vortex…forty days in the desert…Point Zero… belly of the whale… the cocoon…. sitting under the Boddhi tree…. Throughout time, people have described this deep, dark place of not knowing, waiting, being still, being patient, trusting, sensing, actually “pre-sensing”, which according to Otto Scharmer, a mentor in this experience, is listening into the space and learning from the future as it emerges.
In the past month, since my re-turn to work, as I “hurry up and wait” and hold space for the unfolding of a new service delivery model within a new position, a new team, a new area of work, I’ve experienced another dimension of culture shock. It took me a few weeks to realize and name the palpable and pervasive disorientation, confusion, grief that I’ve been hearing in my colleagues’ stories, that I’ve been feeling as I see people, positions, functions, philosophies and structures change.
A couple of weeks ago during a Skype call, my dear Halifax sister offered to do a tarot reading for me. She did her first reading for me that June in 2010, when I was in Halifax, ostensibly to be at the 10th anniversary of my professional learning community, ALIA, and but in actuality came to cross the threshold into my own “what next?” After that complex and informative reading, when all was said and done, the single card drawing of DEATH was most potent, most relevant, most foretelling of the beginning of this ending. We convened on Skype a week ago, she drew the cards, a five-card Diamond spread, four of which came from the major arcana (signifying momentous shifts), the first, the issue, being SILENCE.
“The silent mirror-like receptiveness of a star-filled night with a full moon is reflected in the misty lake below. The face in the sky is deep in meditation, a goddess of the night who brings depth, peace and understanding. Now is a very precious time. It will be easy for you to rest inside, to plumb the depths of your own inner silence to the point where it meets the silence of the universe. There’s nothing to do, nowhere to go, and the quality of your inner silence permeates everything you do. It might make some people uncomfortable, accustomed as they are to all the noise and activity of the world. Never mind; seek out those who can resonate with your silence, or enjoy your aloneness. Now is the time to come home to yourself. The understanding and insights that come to you in these moments will be manifested later on, in a more outgoing phase of your life.” (Osho Zen Tarot, 1994)
A coalescence…. a confirmation…a challenge to continue to sit still in these precarious depths and only when able, when authentic, to trust words.
Last Wednesday my community of practice convened for our monthly gathering. This time I co-hosted with one of my co-holders of this space. Sensing the shift from ending of summer to beginning of a new season, a new school year, and a pattern in our collective comings and goings, she framed the question for deep listening to self and other:
“How do you take the you that comes here, out there?”
I, bringing continuity from our collective reflections and conversations this summer when, with another co-host, we introduced our colleagues to Theory U, invited people to again practice “presencing.” This time with a tiny experience in process painting. With tiny paint boxes, eight tiny tempera discs, tiny brushes, on little pieces of paper, with little cups of water. A silence ripe with curiousity and energy filled the home of our gracious host. For thirty minutes everyone, even those initially timid and shy, was fully engaged in the moment, allowing image, colour and brush stroke to surface. A way in, before, beneath and beyond words.
I sense I have the title of a book here…. and a concept that is emerging out of this peculiar, often perturbing place of not knowing…sitting in the depths of my “U”…learning to honour its silence and stillness, learning to trust its innate wisdom. Perhaps you’d like to contribute?
How do you sit in this space?
What are your practices, before, beneath and beyond words, for its honouring and trusting?
In the meantime, if you’re curious about this practice of process painting, please check out my Sunday Sessions and Winter Workshop under the EVENTS page on this site. My intention is to create a local community of practice and I’d love to have you join. No experience necessary. Just bring your curiousity, paint shirt and brushes.