Jim Cogley: Reflections on Readings Tues 29 Aug 23 – Mon 4 Sept 23

Tue 29th Aug – The Art of Seeing

It’s a subtle art, the art of seeing, something we need to learn a lot more about and practice even more. Here I am not talking about seeing with the physical eyes, but rather seeing with the heart. Real seeing unleashes potential. It is like the sculptor who sees the statue while still locked in the block of marble. In effect this is learning to see through the eyes of unconditional love. One of the Beatitudes is ‘Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God’ – I take this to mean in everything and in everyone. ‘To the pure of heart all things are pure while to the jaundiced eye all things are yellow’. The jaundiced eye is usually caused by judgements and labelling and it may not even be yellow, but green with envy. So, there is something about seeing with the heart that demands dropping the labels and forsaking all judgements. No listening or counselling encounter can work while there is even a trace of judgment towards the other. Only with uncontaminated seeing can the deeper Self of the other begin to emerge.

Wed 30th Aug – The Need to be Seen

Every child has a need to be seen and this exists long before they become visible. So many adults say, ‘I never feel seen’ or ‘I have never felt seen’. Sometimes this goes back even to the womb. For the mother who didn’t want to be pregnant, she may not have wanted to ‘see’ the child, initially at least. If the pregnancy coincided with a major bereavement in her life, her ability to see and feel anything but her own loss would have been severely curtailed. Where a mother came close to having an abortion, she was, for that time at least, closing her eyes to her unborn. In such cases it is not uncommon for the offspring to experience, in later life, recurring bouts of depression that coincide with the month when their life came close to never having happened.

Thurs 31st Aug – Womb Seeing

Womb experiences can be carried right through into adult life. Tracy was conceived at a time of great inconvenience for her mother. Her first born was seriously ill in a Dublin hospital and trying to be in two places at once meant she had little time to ‘see’ to the reality that she was also pregnant. That earlier child was not expected to live and this greatly increased the mother’s level of stress and anxiety. Not only did her daughter spend much of her life feeling she had never been seen, but she also carried a crippling fear that she was going to die young. Even when she passed mid-life, and this was no longer possible, this fear did not abate. Its roots seemed to go back to the mother’s fear that the child before her might die. Sometimes a fear that we carry is not always our own.

Fri 1st Sept – How we are Seen?

Every child has a need to be seen for who they really are, and from the very beginning. This is an essential component for their true self to emerge later. So often the child is seen, not for who they are, but as the answer to the mother’s needs. An inordinate desire to have a child can easily translate into the child being there to meet the mother’s needs, and not the other way round. This gives rise to a sense of enmeshment that is not easy to untangle. Any attempt to break free, to be unique and separate, gives rise to intense guilt feelings and is usually met with resistance. At an unconscious level, a needy mother is using her child to make her happy, and to feel complete in herself. Understandably then, she will find it very difficult to let go, and face the hard question of, ‘Who am I, apart from being a mother?’ The unfortunate child may well go through life resisting and resenting even the ordinary needs of partners and others, and at the same time gallantly trying desperately to meet those needs.

Sat 2nd Sept – Seeing Romantically

In the world of adult relationships, romantic love both creates and is a very intense form of seeing. During the initial stages of being in love there is a strong element of almost unconditional seeing. At that point we have no judgements, nor are we open to hearing about the shadow side of that object of our devotion. Wearing rose tinted glasses makes it possible to see the other in a most unrealistic manner, without fault or blemish. This is why, in that honeymoon stage, both partners seem to come alive, and they feel more vibrant than they ever did before. What is happening? Perhaps it is a profound sense of being actually seen without any trace of judgement that awakens something deep inside; perhaps that I had forgotten about, or hardly knew existed. It has awakened a sense of my Self, of who I am beneath all the outer layers, and so it is such a liberating experience. For some it is so powerful that they become addicted to falling in love.

Sun 3rd September – Resisting Death

In the Gospel of today we see Christ at the prime of his life telling his disciples that he is destined to go to Jerusalem, there to suffer grievously and be put to death. His decision to embrace his destiny is met with utter horror on the part of his disciples. Peter in particular begins to remonstrate with him saying ‘Heaven preserve you Lord, this must not happen’, to which Jesus strongly rebukes him saying, ‘Get behind me Satan, for the way you think is not God’s way’. As we get older, and I certainly include myself here, we are forced to consider our own mortality. Once we went to lots of weddings but as time moves on it’s more funerals we go to. Walking through the graveyard in Kilmore recently I realised that I now know far more people dead than alive and so many who have died much younger than I am now.

We all have an inbuilt defence against facing our mortality, as if it’s always going to happen to someone else. Like the husband who said to his wife ‘Remember when we were talking about if one of us dies what the other would do. Well, I’m going to start off by taking a cruise.’ No matter what way we look at it life is just a brief interlude between two eternities and at its core it carries both inevitability and uncertainty. We can’t escape it and neither can we be sure when our call comes.

I had a good friend for many years and for him the call came long before he expected it. He was still at the height of his career and more interested in making money than making sense of life and asking what it was all about. He used to speak of retiring when he was wealthy enough to do so but in the meantime, he worked hard and seldom took time out to enjoy himself or even to spend time with his family. Looking back, we had some great conversations but never deep conversations. I never knew where he really stood in relation to his beliefs and especially the afterlife.

One day he nearly died of a heart attack and shortly after had to undergo surgery. When I learned that he had nearly died and passed over during the operation I was looking forward to our next conversation. Like so many he saw himself floating above his body and while he could see everything that was happening, he felt totally unconcerned. The blood and guts on the table didn’t concern him in the least. One of the medics said in alarm, ‘We’re losing him’, to which he just smiled and said to himself, ‘I don’t know what you are worried about I’m not going anywhere’. It was while watching the medical procedures from a distance that the door of the theatre opened and his ward nurse looked in to ask a question, and later he could remember who she was and the question she asked, much to the surprise of everyone. His wife was surprised too when he woke up asking for this nurse and not for her.

Later, he told me that he just knew that at that time he wasn’t going to die and the rest of the journey was for a later time but that having passed over once he had absolutely no fear for when it would happen the next.

Needless to say, I was still curious, and asked him what the experience was really like. He said that ‘it felt like a seamless transition from one state to another, a bit like waking up in the morning’. As I probed a bit deeper, he said, ‘It’s like coming home to your self. You are no longer the husband, the father the brother, the businessman, or what other think you are, you are just you, and that is more than sufficient. This was the true me that was always there but had forgotten about and neglected beneath all the roles I had taken on during life’. He has since passed on and gone the full journey, but I was glad for him to have had a preview and to have shared a glimpse of what it’s like to pass over.

If he had any regrets, I felt it was around having lived his life as a stranger to himself where making money was more important that making sense of life and trying to be somebody important in the eyes of others was more important than being himself and who he really was.

Mon 4th September – Seeing the Threat

Yesterday’s reflection mentioned the experience of falling in love and how it can awaken that deeper Self that is hidden in each of us. Ideally this being seen with the eyes of unconditional love should have begun in the womb. So, what if an unsuspecting lover becomes the very first to really ‘see’ the other? Certainly, it will be an incredibly liberating and exciting experience, where personal magnificence is seen and felt. However, it will also be seriously coloured by childhood issues relating to parental attachment or rather to the quality of it. This will mean that the lover will have a foot in two camps, one being parental and the other as partner. This is a difficult position to be in because he or she can’t be both. Without a serious level of awareness, such an initially wonderful relationship can become undermined by possessiveness and jealousy. This is where the insecure child, who still needs the undivided gaze of the mother, feels threatened and triggered by all other ‘seeings’ on the part of the other. Without being able to give real freedom to the other, adult love will always be compromised, and unable to grow and flourish.

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