Healing Work of Solitude

Your capacities are born by the situation that brings you to your knees.

Stephen Jenkinson

It’s been more than a year now since my operation for a total hip replacement.  People are asking me how my hip is doing. It’s not a straightforward answer. My hip led me to the fire, showed me how to stay, and be burnt. And when the burning was done, to get up from the ashes and learn to inhabit my body again with a wise, soft compassion. There was no other way to do it, no right way to heal, no pace but God speed and surrender to the fiery transformation. 

At the outset I was lonely, old wounds of abandonment opened up as my family and friends got on with their life and left me to it. Still and silent and alone was scary, not moving was scary. I was losing agency over my body, and the spectre of ageing was closing in.

But in the end my hip taught me the beauty of stillness, the art of solitude, an inner autonomy and freedom. Like other major life transitions, it was a secret doorway to a rich inner life, always present, that I had shut when I was a child. My hip enabled me to reflect and write, to become lighter and more playful, to dive deep into my interior world. 

There I found sunlit pools and unknown tributaries, fast flowing dark and troubled waters ready to sweep me away one moment and return me to dry ground the next. I was drawn to and repelled by this complex inner life but the pull to explore was stronger than the trepidation. 

In the quiet healing space of solitude, who I thought I was changed. There was more to me; a deep knowing, unknowing. I sat in this unchanging field of awareness open, woke and tender, emptied out and filled up again with the mystery of this unfinished project of my life.  

Curiously, now I notice that when life closes in and the spaciousness of solitude contracts, I lose that enlarged sense of being and connection to myself. I dissolve into others wants and needs and abandon my own. Parts of me leak out and drain away. I feel watery and ungrounded, scattered….and then the deep yearning for introspection arises again and I swim my way back home. 

My new hip and the healing process taught me more about health than a 30 year career in the health industry. Before, I saw my health as a personal possession, something to be constantly fixing to make right, my calling card for my ego driven professional persona. God forbid if I got sick, or my family did, it shook the foundations of my identity as a practitioner. The exterior robustness was a foil for a fragile, sensitive and changeable self. Now, health, like solitude, helps me to build inner consciousness; to be more aware, compassionate and caring and fully participate in the health making of others. 



Image thanks to the talented Jini Maxwell

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