Linda is coming on our trip to the centre – and she’s brought a longtime friend. TS Eliot is now a fellow traveller! Turns out it’s a journey of exploration for him as well. Both he and Linda have some great reflections to add to our own. They both acknowledge the difficulty – perhaps impossibility – of defining the centre. And they both speak of the mystery and the paradox surrounding it. There are many lines I love in Linda’s writing below. The thought that has most stuck with me is in her last lines – but I’ll stop now and let you read it for yourself…
The T. S. Eliot quote below resonates when I try to think of the idea of my centre. It seems that even for the poet, this is an indefinable idea, as he is more able to tell us what the still point isn’t (neither arrest or movement, neither ascent or decline..) than what it is. Except that at its heart there is the dance.
‘At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement.
And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.’
To search for my centre,
to try to wrestle definition,
can become too self-centred.
Focusing myself on myself,
I can lose what’s perhaps most centring.
I know my centre best
at the times I am most taken out of myself
(neither flesh nor fleshless,
neither from nor towards…)
A collection of artworks that can move me to tears;
that piece of music that digs a hole in my soul;
When I’m lost in the poem
or the feeling of sand and water on my feet;
Watching the flight of the birds
or the pattern of the stars;
Laughing with a friend
and holding my grandson newly born.
All these things take me further
to a somewhere
where my own centre is not my awareness.
In those moments Love holds me
in that Still Point
and the dance is within my being.
The problem with all this
(and the beauty too)
is that here I am perhaps describing something altogether different.
Joy would also be a word to give meaning to my examples.
And so what of the many, daily times when joy is not my experience?
What if the centre
is the absence of movement
at the eye of the storm
And I am the storm
the hurtling vortex of debris and dust
turning and churning
Large chunks of grief or anger or love, perhaps
mingling messily with particles of stress and planning and endless to-do lists
No cyclone, I,
just a whirlwind of whipping sand
or a willy-willy in the desert
spinning itself to exhaustion and nothingness
Unable to settle
So I return to T.S. Eliot, who has this to say…
‘I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Quick now, here, now, always —
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well.’
So I wait
and allow the stillness to be what it is or isn’t.
And perhaps my centre
will find me.