Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Outgoing and The Return

In the last chapter of Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose, he explains several things that directly pertain to us as widow/ers. Within the first year or two after the death of our spouse, it can be very, very difficult to conceive of our mate's death as a great gift to us. But, as Eckhart illustrates, the gift is there nonetheless.

Our life consists of two main phases — the outgoing phase, where we are growing and expanding, and the return phase, where we are diminishing and shrinking [pages 282-283]:


Those two movements, the outgoing and the return, are also reflected in each person's life cycles. Out of nowhere, so to speak, "you" suddenly appear in this world. Birth is followed by expansion. There is not only physical growth, but also growth of knowledge, activities, possessions, experiences. Your sphere of influence expands and life becomes increasingly complex. This is a time when you are mainly concerned with finding or pursuing your outer purpose. Usually there is also a corresponding growth of the ego, which is identification with all the above things, and so your form identity becomes more and more defined. This is also the time when outer purpose — growth — tends to become usurped by the ego, which unlike nature does not know when to stop in its pursuit of expansion and has a voracious appetite for more.

And then, just when you thought you made it or that you belong here, the return movement begins. Perhaps people close to you begin to die, people who were a part of your world. Then your physical form weakens; your sphere of influence shrinks. Instead of becoming more, you now become less, and the ego reacts to this with increasing anxiety or depression. Your world is beginning to contract, and you may find you are not in control anymore. Instead of acting upon life, life now acts upon you by slowly reducing your world. The consciousness that identified with form is now experiencing the sunset, the dissolution of form. And then one day, you too disappear. Your armchair is still there. But instead of you sitting in it, there is just an empty space. You went back to where you came from just a few years ago.

The day we came home from the hospital knowing that Deb's cancer had returned and that this would be a fight to the death was the day I could feel our life contracting. I watched, helpless, as Deb became less and less. All this at a time when, as a new mom to our 1 and a half year old son, she should have been fulfilling her potential. She absolutely saw motherhood as her outward purpose. And I had thought my outward purpose was as a husband and a father. Instead, It turned out that my outward purpose was as a caregiver. Until one day the couch was still there, but instead of Deb sitting on it, there was just an empty space.

In my next post, I'll share Eckhart's wisdom of the gift that awaits us during The Return, if we will just be aware of it and seize the opportunity.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Oh Vic,
I know exactly what you mean about the empty space. It is so hard to reconcile in our minds that our spouse is gone, but all of their things still remain. Trav's clothes, shoes, motorcycle helmets are everywhere. Our home is filled with wedding photos that I can't imagine taking down but that I can barely look at without wailing. It's been 7 months for me, and I am just now really letting it out. I am crying daily and all day. I am searching for him all the time. I am trying to keep him in my life. I bring him up, I roll around in his closet, I read his emails. I know he isn't coming home, but I can't imagine moving forward in life without him. He was only 41 and it was sudden. I can't imagine the pain you endured and are still enduring for having watched Deb disappear. I am so sorry for you.