Back in September, when we had our first bit of cold weather, I had to make a decision: will I practice cold water immersion again this winter? If yes, then I needed to get in the river that day. Otherwise it would be too cold later on. Too much of a shock.
I started getting in the cold river last year, sometimes five times a week, sometimes one. The benefits were subtle. I was more resilient in cold weather. My feet didn’t stay cold when I went to bed. I expereienced a certain shimmery feeling when I got out the river. And also, I developed the confidence that I could do something hitherto deemed impossible.
So I said yes.
I like impossible things.
Walking back from the river the other morning, I was thinking about spiritual evolution, mostly because of Hilma af Klint. Maybe you haven’t heard of her.
She’s only recently been re-introduced to the world, though she’s been dead for seventy-seven years. I can’t really begin to dig into her life’s work here––she was tremendous–– so I’m going to toss this photo here from the Hilma af Klint Foundation, add some links at the end of this post, and offer up some quick facts about her life:
- Hilma af Klint was born in 1862 and was one of the first women to attend the Royal Academy of Fine Art in Stockholm
- She was very interested in developing her spiritual knowledge, joined the Theosophical Society at its Swedish inception, and in her 30s began meeting on a weekly basis with four other women who shared the intent of spiritual development.
- In these meeting the women made a connection with spiritual beings they called “The High Ones.”
- From this connection Hilma accepted a commission from a spiritual being to create the Paintings for the Temple, comprised of 193 works, some of which are shown above.
So I was thinking of spiritual evolution, and Hilma af Klint. I thought that perhaps, in this age of climate change and global awareness we might think of spiritual evolution a little bit differently. Not as an individual endeavor, something we personally work towards, but a very necessary group development.
And then I had a little epiphany.
(I can almost always thank the river for these little moments of insight. Did you know that being near water does that?)
Anyway, epiphanies are such lithe experiences. It’s as if your body opens up and feels a new path towards a difficult destination. My own difficult destination is quite simply how to be in this world. How might I serve? How might I evolve, spiritually or otherwise, in a way that helps to heal the world. Because, oh, what a state we are in.
And in this epiphany I felt how my own inner world was connected to the inner world of all that surrounded me––the rhododendrons, the sycamores, and yes, the river. I got a very clear sense that this inner world is where the healing is needed most, rather like how unprocessed trauma can manifest as disease. So all the disturbances in climate and ecosystems have their root in our collective inner world.
After all, everything exists in both inner and outer worlds––though quantum physics seems to suggest that even the outer world exists within the inner world.
And when I contemplate my inner world, I am just an individual. But when I open myself to the inner world of all that I am in relationship with, then there is a potential for re-wholing. Healing.
Isn’t that what prayer is? Prayers for the Earth, for the waters and the birds and the soil, are acknowledging the inner world of the Earth and joining it with our own inner world. And perhaps asking Spiritual Beings for assistance.
I suppose, if you are close enough, open enough, you might be asked to do something impossible, like create enormous paintings for a temple and then hide them away for your entire life. What an act of trust.
Maybe the impossible thing is to open up to this broken, ravaged world, and love all of it with a ferocity that refuses to be shaken. To hold that brokenness inside of us, and know there is a path to healing.
Even if it is impossible, we can find our way.