Being at ease with the unknowable

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.


So much of our lives have been concerned with feeling safe and secure and knowing what is going to happen next. We like to be able to make plans and see them come into being and have a sense of control over our lives. Yet in the times of uncertainty that we are now facing we need to be able to find some comfort in being in a place of not knowing and feeling secure in ourselves in connection with others.

I love the start of a new project as it is in these times that everything is in the melting pot. There are different possible scenarios, a need to dissolve all the past certainties and be open to all the new possibilities and not to attach too soon to one potential strategy. Sometimes these spaces feel like a wasteland, they are often lonely and dark, you are out on a limb with everyone around you thinking you are mad. It is in these places that we need to let the darkness be a guide. The breakdown, suffering and pain can be seen as a gift as it forces us to turn outwards from the focus on the individual self and being self-sufficient to the realisation that we can do so much more with others. How do we facilitate a trip or a fall and help ourselves to open up in order to realise that, ‘no man is an island’.

It is in these spaces where in older cultures a community ritual or a visit to a shaman would have felt normal and for us to be at ease with the unknowable we need to look at contemporaneous ways to meet such needs. The reliance on religion is not a necessity but more on a sacred space and the divine within each of us that wants to reach out to others, to feel confident express our vulnerabilities and be met. In this way we can reunite with others and in so doing be reunited with the lost parts of ourselves, those forgotten parts where we might feel shame or emptiness.

In the environment where I live there is a sacred mountain called ‘Canigou’ and there are times of the year when people come together to trek up the mountain to light beacons that can be seen by others. People come together and walk and then eat together in so doing extend community and light.

In my doctoral dissertation I looked at women’s groups or circles as a way of creating meaning. I feel that women’s leadership comprises of giving opportunities for the creation of circles of support that create a way of inter-being that enable each to go on their journey into becoming the person that they are meant to be.

The journey

One day you finally know

What you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice –

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

through their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and the wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

you left their voices behind,

through the sheets of cloud,

there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognised as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do,

the only thing you could do and

determined to save

the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver


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