I wrote about Inanna having the gates opened for her to descend into the underworld in my last post. My own journey through gates has been different, although I can identify with hers at times. In earlier posts through this past year I have written about many different kinds of desire, and I am noticing a theme in my process. The word that expresses this theme is CONNECTION. Inanna was intimately in touch with life, but desired to connect with her sister – the unknown shadow to life, which is death. My journey has been to dare to open my gates to life, others and the world. Sometimes, there have been times of being thrust back behind them. Sometimes an opening has been sudden and overwhelming, leading to a withdrawal, but I celebrate that I have persevered.
I think my desire for connection arose at my birth, due to an experience of separation, impossible to understand and integrate at the time, which I have written about elsewhere.1 Perhaps the general human existential longing for connection begins with the birth experience. I don’t know, but I think mine did. Thinking deeply enough about this as a young woman made me passionate about not being separated from my babies when they were both born. But there is another theme emerging alongside which relates to the desire for connection and ties into my earlier enquiries into fear – the desire to open the gates. By this I mean the gates inside that defend me from the perceived threats of existence – defend my vulnerability. There can be no intimacy, no deep connection without vulnerability. If any of the inner gates are closed, connection has been limited. What I see in my own writing is this DESIRE TO OPEN, so that I can touch and be touched.
During the time of my enquiry into desire, I have been influenced by the Buddhist teacher, Rob Burbea. I was attracted by his way of looking at desire as a positive, transformative force. At the start of the Preface to his book on Emptiness, Rob maintains, “Curiosity and desire can be the most precious forces.”2 This strongly resonates with me. I have attended retreats with him and listened to many of his on-line talks, and he keeps asking, “What is it you most deeply want? What’s the most important thing?” He also maintains that if you take the time to deeply reflect on this, once you get through the surface desires of the body and the habitual craving of the mind, you will discover that what you most deeply want is already available. You just have to open to it. This may sound simple, but it has been a long, challenging and, at times, devastating journey for me.
My gates have protected me when I felt intolerably vulnerable – but they became habits. Habitual defences are difficult to detect, easier to see in another than in yourself. If you don’t know they are there, the gates will stay closed. Finding my way through my gates has been happening since I first felt the longing to connect as a small child. A sad feeling of separateness is maybe the first clue I had of being closed off – what I am now seeing as being behind gates. It was all a very instinctive, unconscious journey until, due to recurrent depression, I began looking at this feeling more directly in Encounter Groups during my late 20s. Through the years I have explored many different approaches to opening my gates, so many I don’t want to list them all here. It has required me to look at what is unknown and frightening – to risk being vulnerable. In Inanna’s story, she finally understood complete, ultimate vulnerability – death.
In a few weeks I will be 70 and still, after all this time, my gates are needing to continue to be opened. The instinct of the soul is to open – to be revealed, to make more and more contact. Rob maintains that this is endlessly rich in its potential. The survival instinct is to curl up and hide or run away from contact. That’s a very simplistic way of putting it – but it makes sense to me now. There is the need to take care of myself – to take care of my vulnerability. Threats can be real, I know. But sometimes it is necessary to be vulnerable in the face of real threats – as Inanna was – as climate activists are. There is no way to defend against the ultimate threat, anyway. Our choices about this depend on what is really, deeply important to us. That was why I asked what it was Inanna wanted – even though there is no one answer. That is why I keep asking myself what it is I really want. What do I deeply desire?
I want to open more and more. I want to open my energy body – soften and blur my boundaries, without losing touch with that clear, empty axis within, grounded in earth and reaching up to sky. I want to open my joints and the cells of my body. I want to open all my senses, open my heart, open my mind.
I want to touch and be touched by everything, however vulnerable that makes me. I want to feel connected to it all without losing my sense of being embodied.
Though this connection, I want to feel the uniqueness and beauty of each time, place, being and thing, big and small, gentle and terrible, in and around me, including my own beauty and uniqueness. I want to open to the complexity of all of this without falling into overwhelm.
I want to be filled with love for it all. And I want to express and create from this place – to share it and help others become aware of the precious potential of connection.
This is not too much to ask.
1Booker, M (2015) Nothing Special, Experiencing Fear and Vulnerability in Daily Life; Axminster, England; Triarchy Press.
2Burbea, R (2014) Seeing That Frees, Meditations on Emptiness and Dependent Arising; West Ogwell, Devon; Hermes Amãra Publications.