• Personal Mythology Proj

Riting Myth, Mythic Writing: (3) Riting the Awakened Self

Updated: Apr 30, 2019

"Prostration" by Alex Grey

This post is an excerpt from Dennis Patrick Slattery's Riting Myth, Mythic Writing: Plotting Your Personal Story (Fisher King Press, 2012).

“We know a thing only by uniting with it, by assimilating it, by an interpenetration of it and ourselves. It gives itself to us just insofar as we give ourselves to it.”

– Evelyn Underhill, Practical Mysticism, p. 11

There seems little doubt that we live in a time and place where our uniqueness and distinctiveness, even our autonomy, carry strong mytho-cultural values we are asked to emulate and strive for. Perhaps we are in a period that might be called the (r)age of the individual. In such a climate of self-absorption, it may be hard to imagine giving oneself over to something like what is outline in Evelyn Underhill’s perceptive observation above. Interpenetration rather than controlling mastery is a difficult concept viewed within the cult of the individual. But it seems an essential interchange within the spiritual dimension of our being.

We live in tension, then, between individual growth and a contrary impulse of giving over to something beyond us with such intensity that we penetrate its being as it penetrates ours. Such a mutual overlapping could be understood as a definition of love. As we get older and grasp more, an urge may grow in us to connect on a deeper level with others, including the natural world, the cultural frame we exist within, and the spiritual realm we may sense in tandem with our mortal limits. Perhaps you feel in yourself at this stage of your life an impulse of awakening, of loving on an entirely different level that is more encompassing and satisfying. It springs from a natural desire for what one writer calls “heartfelt knowing,” another way of grasping a deeper form of love, which he describes as “a quality of being” rather than a function (Gerald G May, The Awakened Heart: Opening Yourself to the Love You Need, p. 10). It is interested less in self-improvement than on expressions of gratitude.

Love awakens some qualities dormant in us and makes us feel a bit restless, a little ill-at-ease because we intuit at certain moments of our lives that something is absent, needing presence, to allow us to be more present to ourselves, others, and perhaps a divine source or origin from which we emanate. Variations on how this might be satisfied had led to a vast pluralism in spiritual practices, where, for example, engaging in one’s work is now being referred to as a spiritual practice. The psychiatrist Lionel Corbett writes in a new book that psychotherapy itself is a spiritual practice. He further observes: “Essentially, our spirituality is our personal myth, our way of understanding the nature of things” (Lionel Corbett, The Sacred Cauldron: Psychotherapy as a Spiritual Practice, p. 20). A friend of mine referred to his own teaching as his ministry. What I am witnessing is a new lexicon that I prefer to call mythic; our practices, both professional and personal, carry a mythic substructure that gifts our lives with a deeper meaning. Such is the power and presence that collects around awakening, which can be captured effectively in the ritual of writing.

  • Do you or have you sensed an urge or impulse to connect with some power, force or presence beyond yourself that you might call spiritual?

  • Can you return to the origin of that impulse, or what could be construed as a calling to what transcends you?

  • In what way is it asking or insisting that you respond to it?

  • What are its obligations that you sense in responding to it?

  • Does it carry a wisdom that you feel a need and a desire to respond to?

  • Is there a trust demanded of you that you might have to yield to before giving yourself over to this presence?

  • If you choose to say no to this invitation, what do you imagine will be different in your life?

  • If you choose to say yes to this invitation, what do you imagine will be different as a consequence?

  • Does yielding to this calling frighten you, exhilarate you, excite you or evoke other emotional responses in you?

Reflect on the questions posed in this Writing Meditation and (w)rite your responses in whatever form most inspires you...


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