There are endless delightful questions that arise in contemplation with this layer. Here are a few living in me now:
How might we come most alive via the gifts of contact and connection with those who touch our skin? How is the innate sensuality, sensitivity and pleasure-creating capacity of the skin a form of intelligence? How is the desire for beauty our need to be true to the real world?
Skin, Scar and Sickness
How might we rest into presence with the permeable layer between outer and inner? How does skin support our explorations of the cosmos? How does this layer protect or allow entry to the ‘other’? How are our orifices sites of intensity and precarity? How might skin tell the tales of our past, memorialise our times of pain or great meaning?
This is the layer where we come into connection with the intelligence of our sense organs. We can honour their complex knowing, their intricate perceptions, their fine sensing. We can feel how they are enlivened with every breath, their cells awakened with oxygen, we can feel how they are nourished by the gift of digestion, and the contributions other forms of life make to enable our awareness.
Vestments and Adornments.
How might we ritually respond to the beauty of the cosmos through how we reflect this world upon our person? How might we be a microcosmic reflection of the macrocosm?
One aspect of this layer includes how we might consider our bodies and the way we hold ourselves within space. Our bodies, feet on earth, head in sky, our spine an axis between these. Our sense of front, back, sides, we are positioned within the directions. The sense of vast inner, the sense of great outer, and our skin a portal from vast to vast. To spend some time in presence with our axial selves, aligned within the cosmos, is a rich meditation.
The offer is, if you have the time and opportunity, to consider how you might wish to array the portal of skin for our next session together. Your vestments and adornments — your clothes, jewellery or decorations, flowers or other magical beings that you incorporate upon your person. How might we reflect the inner, how might we honour the outer? Are such distinctions even useful? It can be distracting to get conceptual here, when the felt sense of it can be so fertile. To stay with the impossible unsolvable question of existence as it takes form in and as these bodies we call ‘ours’ — there’s richness in this!
And to consider too how your creative project is linked to a process of ‘inner adornment’ — creating a form within which to nest your belonging, love and commitment to this beautiful world. The act of working on your project is, in itself, a soul-adornment — it is soul-making, which is the same as deep-seeing or listening, which always reveals the irrevocable links the beloved (of every type or animacy) has to you.
I acknowledge that this is in no way a linear process and that we will continue to circle back and deepen into layers we’ve already touched.
People, Pets, Spirits
It might seem strange, but what is it like to honour and recognise both the actual and the immaterial beings who touch our skin? The reason this is important is because in the work of co-becoming, we are engaging with the real world but in a different and very specific way. We are engaging with the world Imaginally.
To engage Imaginally means to engage with the world spiritually in a specific way through what we are calling the act of co-becoming. Co-becoming is sometimes called soul-making, where the world and presence (‘our’ presence, or the eternal shared presence that manifests within us) witness each other and become something more, together.
To talk about it, to try and get our ‘head’ around this, will fail every time. That’s ok — think of all these words as place-holders for the ritual, which is the time when we are co-becoming, and the knowing of co-becoming.
Back to what we do in the ritual. We bring to presence the being we seek to meet. Thus it matters not at all whether this person is alive or passed, this animal is our specific and hairy companion or a ‘totem animal’ (the sense we might have of a more-than-human presence whose intelligence seeks to engage with our own). The Imaginal realm is a realm where space, time and intelligence are different. There is a sense of timelessness and permanence here, yet also change. We aim to bring our softness, our aliveness, our sensitivity and our trust to this place, and listen carefully for what it might say.
Part of the reason to combine many elements together: current or past lovers, children, people who we touch with intimacy, plus pets and totem animals, is to cover a variety of ways we might experience intimacy upon our skin. To include both current and past is to bring forward the way the imaginal works — it operates outside of linear time, so the past is absolutely alive. And to include the imaginal aspect of animals (I used the word totem to signify a creature that you have a deep and particular relationship with) is to acknowledge that some of us may live with an abiding sense of animal presence that has a subtle felt sense.
To work imaginally with humans is not so much to work with their personality/psychology. It is more dwelling in the third space – the space that is alive between the two of you. I remember the surprise of this the first time I felt it – the strange sense that there were three of us – me, him, and a presence generated by the relationship. I imagine for many this is the first experience of the imaginal.
Imaginal/archetypal love, the archetypal lover, archetypal loss – these are patterns of enormous psychic energy that at times in our life we enter and experience their vast and ancient grace. Archetypal love never fades, archetypal loss is profoundly deepening — these are initiatory experiences that, once experienced, we find ourselves humbled by.
Since designing this course I’ve separated from my partner and the children I lived with have moved away, and so my physical experience has changed. Touch this week has been acrobatics with young nephews and contact improvisation dance — which included a powerful dance with someone I just met in the session. Our persons were strangers to each other, but our bodies knew how to move so well together. I’m curious now what my body might share if I gave her the chance, through writing about that experience.
I acknowledge that this theme may bring with it material that is very personal. You are invited to engage with it in the way that best meets you and your learning desires — whether they be for comfort or for challenge! I am so grateful for the depth of connection and safety that is being held by all of you in the group, which gives me faith in our ability to provide a container for what arises.
Regarding the Imaginal experience of animals, where the touch is on our soul, I am pleased to share with you this beautiful radio documentary made by my former writing mentor featuring four of the most significant teachers in my life – and me! https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/archived/radioeye/tiger-country/3307180