The past six years have been clouded by periods of uncertainty, cynicism, confusion, despair, and a fear of “running out of time.” Therapy provided insights into several issues but it did not seem to heal my heart which was becoming more guarded and wearier. I considered all the etiologies and began to wonder if it was too late in life; maybe there were just too many unhealed wounds to sort out now. After a lifelong quest for healing and to know Love, I wondered, was I destined to die with a jaded heart? While talking with a couple of older women about the source and cure for my growing cynicism and jaded heart, one asked, “How old are you?” I replied, “Just turned 65.” “That’s why you feel this way, we all do. Welcome to the club!” she said. This response reflected their resignation. Part of me admits to feeling a bit of relief, to be off the hook with the legitimate excuse of aging; I could give up all hope and call off the search for Love and healing and freely express my cynicism. Soon after, another emotional heartbreak coincided with the “breaking” of my physical heart. I was doubting whether more inner work would make a difference as I continued drifting toward the Island of Resignation. My watchful daimonnoticed my unmoored Boat and sent me a lifeline:
“What if love were the hunter and you were the prey?”
This sentence became Love’s arrow piercing my guarded heart, sending an irresistible Invitation to return to the great journey. I spontaneously began repeating softly in my mind this koan, “When Love is the Hunter and I am the Prey . . .” I finish the sentence by watching to see in what form Love has come to hunt me—it’s different in each moment. Often, the answer is easy: someone makes me laugh; a hummingbird drinks nectar from the red sage in my garden, the opportunity to paint. Sometimes the answer is hidden at first, such as Love coming in the form of conflict to show me I am running or hiding from the Invitation to love. Were it not for this practice I might not have noticed that Love was, in essence, finding me.
Another way is a contemplative approach where each day I take time to concentrate on the koan while sitting or lying still and engage with the imagery and feelings that surface. I make no effort to use this visionary-koan practice to produce change or insight. I watch, rather than create, the felt-images that show themselves to me. In dialogue, I listen to the Voice of the image, or my Muse or ancestors rather than repeat what I have heard before. This practice is not new; traditional people and tribes had long-practiced visioning before Carl Jung immersed himself in it (1913 to1916) and coined it as “active imagination.”
Active imagination is experienced in an awake, relaxed state of mind, in solitude, and in a quiet space without distractions and without music because music provokes certain emotions and imagery. During active imagination, the gap between heart and mind, or what we want to express but are trying not to express—closes just a little which allows for a deepening of self-acceptance and authenticity.Begin with a question, an intention, a dreamt image, or ask for an image. It is essential to be receptive to whatever presents itself to you and to quietly follow, observing, listening, and sensing whatever is arising or fading away—in the image and within you—allowing yourself become captivated, almost mesmerized, and often surprised. Engage the image, character, word, or feeling in a dialogue.
Late May: I only sensed the presence and speed of the Hunter, who never appeared to me in animal or human form. As Prey, I saw the imagined landscapes I moved through and felt the emotional charge of being hunted but I never saw myself as animal or human. At first, I kept feeling my “self-as-prey” running from Love. This surprised me. It wasn’t a metaphor I consciously created, so my first impulse was to change the image because it seemed crazy and wrong to run from Love. Instead, I tracked the imagery and my beliefs about love to see what, if anything, would happen next.
Marcel Proust wrote In Search of Lost Time,
“We fear more than the loss of anything else the disappearance
of possessions that have remained outside of ourselves,
because our hearts have not taken possession of them.”2
In every visionary-koan session, I tried but could not outrun Love. Every time, It would catch up with me and take me down. Sometimes I watched an arrow cutting through the air, find me, pierce me, then watched my “self” collapse. No matter how the Hunter caught me, my ego never surrendered to Love. And this I began tracking: What would happen if I surrender to Love? From what am I running?
Instead of me hunting for love, Love was now hunting me. This inversion of perception changed everything. I realized my understanding of love has been wrong my whole life. Like many children, my Orphan-ego learned love is earned, bartered, withheld, and scarce. She spent a lifetime in a search for love “out there,” starving for someone to love her, to choose her, all the while testing and perfecting strategies to seem worthy enough to be loved and chosen.
June 18: I was startled to feel and see my “self-as-prey” hiding from Love. Hiding? From Love? Curled up in the shadows, hypervigilant, being still to be invisible, peaking out to see if Love would find me—here. This was not fanciful, fleeting imagery; it was a reckoning with a lifetime of Hiding from Love.
What’s this all about? Why am I running and hiding from Love? Am I not Love?
Why am I not in the open… saying Here I am, Take me!
Instead I hide like a fearful mouse.
And sadness wormed its way in.
July 21: This chase, hiding, and tracking has been going on for nearly ten weeks. In the middle of last night, when I woke in pain, relying on the soothing warmth of the heating pad, my mind softly repeated the koan and suddenly: I saw a white Owl flying silently overhead, hunting against a grey sky. I was awed by the great wing span as it swooped down on me, Hiding Mouse. A glimpse of the talons. Then their merciful grip. No struggle, only surrender to death. The Owl’s beak painlessly devoured me-as-Mouse. In the stillness and darkness of night, Ecstasy came into me, filling all of me. Mind floated in the silence without images. For the next couple hours, each time I repeated the koan, this Owl-Mouse Hunt replayed and ecstasy followed. I jotted these notes down in the dark:
I am Hiding Mouse no more.
Devoured by Love Itself, where am I? Who am I?
Absorbed into the blood and body of the Owl,
Hiding Mouse became the Hunter hunting Prey.
When Love is the Hunter and I am the Prey: I Am Love. Love is omnipresent.
Love hunts Love: I drink Love, I eat Love, I breathe Love in.
My heart beats in synch with Love itself. Love hunts and enfolds me;
it could never have been the other way.
This koan has more to teach me. Invitations come throughout my day to come out of hiding. As my heart cracks, opens, softens, the turmoil subsides. A poem from Hafiz describes what is happening in a poem:
What happens when your soul
Begins to awaken
And your heart
And the cells of your body
To the great journey of Love?
First there is wonderful laughter
And probably precious tears
And a hundred sweet promises
And those heroic vows
No one can every keep.
What happens when your soul
Begins to awaken in this world?
*Footnote: Weeks later, when I realized the power of this image working on my psyche, I went back through my pile of summer books in search of the source of this provoking quote, but to date have not found it; when I do, I will post the credit. I’ve been postponing the posting of this blog because I want to cite the inspiration for this. If you know the source of this quote, I’d appreciate hearing from you.
1. Visionary-koan practice is akin to Heart’s Question, read about it in my book, Ancient Map for Modern Birth.
2. Marcel Proust,In Search of Lost Time. Grasset and Gallimard:1913 in French, translated into English 1922, 1931.
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