Falling into Place
“When I can no longer rise to the occasion, I find I can fall into place.”
by Sarah-Jane Menato
After an extended five year cycle of personal loss and bereavement, I came to a point where I could no longer rise to the occasion. Unexpectedly, I found I fell into place. As inner and outer structures of both cultural and personal identity collapse, there is potential, I’ve found, in the dust and ruins of what has been, to experience ‘falling into place’.
External demands to continually ‘rise and transcend’ profoundly compromise vital inner territory of ‘home’ and being ‘in place’. Repeatedly ‘rising to the occasion’ (because culturally it’s honourable to do so), has an invisible price. For me this included deeply ingrained expectations that I could organise, sort out, and manage everything for my family. This put me in an unsustainable position (away from my ‘place’) everyone depended on, and, for me, was part of my identity.
Outer seasonal shifts are visible, but inner aspects of letting go in cycles of personal and professional life are often invisible, less predictable, and unwelcome. Western societies typically celebrate visible gifts of seasons and cycles, not their endings. At harvest time we acknowledge the bounty and fruits of summer. It’s less common to name the losses, the falling leaves, the endings.
Like many words these days, ‘knowing my place’, particularly as a woman, has toxic overlays. ‘Surrender’ and ‘invisible’ are other allied vocabulary so corrupted and dishonoured as to render vast territories of their meaning and worth inaccessible. But I’m discovering that knowing my ‘place’ in the larger systems of which I sense I am part, is a prerequisite for the experience of being more fully human.
In facing into personal and global unbearable truths, I have been brought to my knees on a regular basis. On my knees I have found that the foundations that are crumbling are not the same as my roots. My roots are deeper, older, and suffocating below the concrete foundations of my western culture.
Language in this territory is challenging and writing relies on words. How to write about endings and ‘falling into place’, when words have come unhinged from the fullness of their resonant source? The derogatory implications of ‘a woman knowing her place’ are the result of a corruption of words in which we are regularly complicit. Other examples include ‘giving up’, ‘giving in’, and ‘being on my knees’.
How about a woman in her ‘place’ as a rare grace and power? How about doing all I can and then courageously ‘giving up’, willingly relinquishing my agenda to see what life has in mind, regardless of what I want? How about ‘being on my knees’ as restoration of humility, my head below my heart, listening, faithful to natural cycles and rhythms? And how about ‘giving in’ as a welcome home to the feelings and aspects of my human self I have suppressed and disowned?
What might being with the invitation of our endings long enough to touch the edges of ‘falling into place’ restore? I circled this territory for many years before I understood it had been waiting at the hearth of my home all along.
Above the wood stove in my cottage is a painting by Don Hazeltine. It’s a mountain with an empty bowl in front of it. The Povera Bowl represents the state of openness and receptivity, and the absence (poverty) of the separate, isolated identity. The bowl is backed by a Source – a mountain, and was painted when the artist had been brought to his knees and sat with no personal resources left.
The painting radiates a subtle shift from broken, to open. It’s not a process I ever choose. It has to be visited upon me, and remain upon me, long enough to have me touch, finally, the edges of my place in the whole wildness of things. I never go willingly to that broken-open place, I am brought to it. If I can give up, give in, stay on my knees, the absence, the poverty of my separate isolated identity shifts into the mystery of being open, receptive, in my place with respect to Source.
Most of us don’t want to stay there, broken open. We want to rush to what’s next, ‘get better’, ‘fix or cure’ whatever is broken, get ‘back to normal’, back to comfort and familiarity. But what of ‘broken’ as a threshold of ‘place’? We’re on the threshold of so much we would never choose in our worlds. What’s ending for you? What might these times be asking you to leave behind, willingly or unwillingly?
All endings have some kind of in-between space. It’s difficult to befriend the liminal spaces in life when no action is required and what’s needed is to stop, slow right down, cease outward activities.
However, stopping is what enables me to fall into my ‘place’; my place where I am alive to the life-giving frequencies of giving and receiving, arriving and leaving. It’s where it’s possible to re-member what is mine to do in these times, what I’m here for; birth and death, all in service of life ever after, not happily ever after.
When because of sickness, frailty, age, or the impact of all three I am forced to acknowledge my limits, I find within them a spirit practice. I am forced to let go of my stitched-up place in the story that is unravelling, and there comes a moment when I can no longer hold on. Letting go can be many things; a graceful leaf falling, an exhilarating abandonment, a brimming over as finally tears of release fall. And there’s not nothing when I let go; everything is waiting.
‘Falling into place’ has evolved into an invitation. Cyclically, some of us gather to explore the rich territory of endings, to deepen into ways in which we make space for, pay attention to, and acknowledge endings. This piece is, in part, an invitation extended.
Sarah-Jane is a coach and DA Guide. She holds spaces and gatherings inviting humans off our well-worn paths and into potential resident in unexplored territory and perspectives. She works with myth and story. She is a volunteer facilitator for the Deep Adaptation Forum, and hosts “Falling into Place” and ‘The Well at the End of the World’ every month (or thereabouts) for DA members. You can find upcoming dates, and other events, here.
Image: “Bowl and Mountain” by Don Hazeltine