Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Questions of Maat


"In Ancient Egypt, it was said that in the Underworld Maat waits before the door all souls must enter. She holds a scale and a feather. Maat weighs hearts, and none may pass until they have answered her questions, and their hearts are as light as the feather of truth. Can each answer "yes" ? How heavy is each heart? Because to dream a new life, to be born again, you must know the life you have lived, forgive and be forgiven." **


I want to say how touched I am by those who so kindly sent me their good wishes in comments for the last entry.

It's been said that we don't live our lives - life lives us.
Arriving at 60 is a tremendous passage for me. I remember meeting Dana Dakin, founder of Women's Trust in Ghana, who said that there were three life passages: first you learn, then you earn, and finally, you return the gifts you've gained to the future.
Certainly, I feel the "lightening" that comes with transit into my 6th decade. I have the urge to get rid of things that weigh me down, aren't relevant, demand my attention in some way. Old love letters that just make me sad, pretty dresses that no longer fit and probably never will, dusty boxes of mementoes, weary assumptions, heavy handed beliefs, habits of mind that once were useful, but now are boringly repetitious. I see that most of my assumptions are erroneous, block my vision, and are probably unfair to somebody, somewhere, including myself. Unused possessions require care, require storage, require energy, require memory. Time to light-en up.

A reporter once asked Pablo Picasso, at 90 or so, what he thought, after such a long and distinguished career, his greatest work was. He immediately replied "The next one."

I've been reading a wonderful book by Natalie Goldberg on writing and Zen, called "Writing Down the Bones". She tells of meeting the writer Meridel le Sueur. In her eighties, Meridel told her that she lived nowhere. She visited people and places, writing wherever she was. The elderly writer asked Natalie if she knew a place to purchase a used typewriter. When she is ready to leave, she said, she will give it away so she doesn't have to take it to her next destination.

Now that I understand. Why should one wish to lug a typewriter around, or a bulky suitcase, or for that matter, an old grudge, a worn out storyline, or an exhausted persona?

This is the lightening of the heart and mind called for when we reach the "Return" phase of our lives, whether that occurs at 30, or 80. The balance that the Goddess Maat demands when she weighs hearts at the passageway. Maat's name, literally, meant "truth" in ancient Egyptian. Her questions do not "damn" those who wait before the door....but without answering them, without finding the truth of one's life, no passage to other realms is possible. Maat's questions are the questions each soul must answer sooner or later. "Who have I not forgiven?" "What have I done that I cannot forgive myself for?" "What part of my life story have I not been able to forgive?" "What am I unable to let go of?"

I am always stunned by the wisdom found in language we so unconsciously take for granted every time we open our mouths. (and each language has its singular depths of meaning). In our English usage, to "fore-give" is to do just that - to give the energy forward. To the future, to the unknown, to new possibilities of good relationship and shining creativity, high adventure. As well as the evolution of wisdom and full circle compassion. When we don't fore-give, we're left dragging around psychic baggage, grey thought forms, stories told so many times they have lost any semblance to the truth.
I am not saying that fore-giveness is not a complex process. Sometimes it involves working through unconscious layers of experience, telling our story over and over until it can be seen, and sometimes we need help to do these things from wise or impartial listeners. But ultimately I believe fore-giveness comes from being able to gain a wider perspective, the Soul's perspective. Being able to see the broad weave of our lives, the ways we were challenged and deepened by our experiences, our betrayals, our failures, our losses, our ignorance.

I remember years ago there was a man I was attracted to. The eros of my experience fueled enormous creativity in me. His considerable talent inspired me as well. And because I had a lot of half-baked, naive ideas, and did not know how to confront him, he also had a lot of fun manipulating and humiliating me, probably, just because he could. I still cringe when I think about it. But until I was able to fore-give him and myself, I was unable to see the gifts in that experience. Had I not met him, I would not have created what I did. And I also probably would not have moved through naivete I had outgrown, and more importantly, a "victim" template I was deeply entrenched in. Ultimately, he empowered me. That's the paradox of Maat's Truth.

Raukkadessa is a Finnish term Kathy Huhtaluata uses in her Saami inspired music. It means, she told me, "beyond love". I find it profound - because even love, as we experience it, can be a veil, impenetrable in the present moment, and beyond is something beyond the pairs of opposites, beyond time itself. Beyond love is the the soul's love, the greater pattern.

A Buddhist once told me that we should cherish all sentient beings, because, from the perspective of reincarnation, any sentient being you meet has at one time or another been your mother, brother, lover, enemy, has been your food, or has devoured you.

One thing is certain. When we don't fore-give, we are unable to move fore-ward, because we are stuck in the past. And from my perspective, one of the wonderful things about having had the privilege of achieving the maturity of 60 years, is that one has the means and experience to finally know just that.

The rest is just practice. Carrying water, and chopping wood.


** This was from a 2002 performance I did with Dorit Bat Shalom, Mana Youngbear and Valerie James in Oakland. The actual questions of Maat are in various translations - we recited some of them in the background, in English and in Hebrew (since we lacked a native speaker of ancient Egyptian) while a dancer performed in the mask of Maat.

4 comments:

yvette said...

a quick visit...read your post later
yvette

Jone said...

You are truly inside the circle that Spirit has pulled you closed to heart.

yvette said...

beuatiful...learn earn return...
love
yvette

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