It starts as a hairline crack, a seemingly harmless dissonance in the surface of our well-being, but over time the crack gains momentum into a sudden network of irritation and restlessness.
Restlessness has a mission and it must run its course. It is the expression of our discomfort with the ways in which we’ve become habituated. It seeks to undermine those places where we might be striving, mimicking, or falling into obligation.
At its deepest core, restlessness is a sacred question which asks, ‘Whom does the grail serve?’
Like the mythical grail, we all want to open ourselves to purpose, to create a capacity through which the mystery may gladly express itself. Yet, for even those of us who may follow the call of vocation, the perpetual allure of the external world is powerful and, if left unchecked, can cause a gradual but critical shift in the emphasis of our service – away from the holy, towards growth for growth’s sake.
For a long time, I thought the practice of ‘emptiness’ went against my philosophy of yesness for life. I believed it was something detached and even cold – which pushed life away instead of embracing it.
It wasn’t until I considered the image of the Holy Grail, with its most luscious emptiness, that I began to understand what it means to prepare oneself to receive.
These ‘rituals of approach’ as John O’Donohue puts it, are what put us into right alignment with our way in the world: “When we approach with reverence, great things decide to approach us. Our real life comes to the surface and its light awakens the concealed beauty in things. When we walk on the earth with reverence, beauty will decide to trust us. The rushed heart and arrogant mind lack the gentleness and patience to enter that embrace.”
Often it’s only when the well runs dry that we realise how thirsty we’ve been. We become aware of having lost a presence for life. We may find ourselves asking what happened to those magic eyes which saw poetry in the ordinary? Where went the wondrous self whose very countenance is invitational?
Artwork by Elena Ray
Put quite simply, the emptiness has become full.
As our lives take on even excellent forms, we can easily fall into the habit of taking our prompts from the outside world, responding to its demands and invitations, instead of calling things towards us from a place of presence.
Presence is the real feat of originality: it drops the veils and titles of human society, and wriggles down into the feeling place. Like improvisation itself, it chances its own ugliness into the open for the gamble at unfathomable beauty.
It is a dropping of trying and letting of allowing. Like the lone bird singing the sun’s rise, breast full with the tender song of now, a melody of yes, it is a communion with the holy moment which, like a cadenza, is always playing through us, living to be heard.