How to Grow Tall

‘Learn to carry conflicts – don’t force solutions. We are not meant to resolve all contradictions but to live with them and rise above them.’
So wrote Sister Maria, a nun in the Orthodox tradition.

Pondering these words I thought back to something Dr Franz Elkisch told me in connection with his visits, as a Jungian analyst, to the Carmelite nuns at Quidenham in Norfolk who live in a house set in parkland which was given to them by the Duke of Marlborough.

On his first visit Dr Elkisch was invited to stay for three days. Each day he spoke to the whole community, whom he got to sit in a circle.

‘There is a need,’ he said, ‘not merely to let fresh air into such communities (this was in 1969) but also to let air out, to release the charged energy that builds up in such a community, in order to make easier the possibility of personal encounter.’

He spoke to them about the need to ponder and observe what was psychologically unfolding within each of them, and not to interfere with the process. ‘If I cut my hand, thousands of cells will at once set to work to heal it. If I keep removing the bandage to see how it is forming this will hinder the process. Similarly with the psyche – we must allow it to go about its own work of healing.’

Referring to the magnificent trees in the park, he added, ‘If a tree could speak, I would ask it: “Where did you get your great beauty? How did you come to grow so tall?” And the tree would reply, “By doing nothing. One must allow things to happen.”’


One thought on “How to Grow Tall”

  1. Beautifully composed. A healing, rejuvenating piece. A moving thought. Thank you. I take photographs. If I go out wanting to make a great photograph (to be admired by others!), trying to take a photograph better than anyone else, I have nothing. If instead, I go out with the idea I may not get a photograph at all, then a photograph may come to me. If instead of trying to control my experience, I let the world come to me, show me something, then I receive something surprising and delightful beyond what I could have imagined for myself. As James Hillman held, there is more to the work of soul, its own work, that has little to do with what we do. If I am part of greater whole, then the wisdom is in the whole. My wisdom comes from it, from being part of it. Isn’t my wisdom to control. To see things as they are, I have to allow the whole to imagine the world for me. Everyday I awake and wonder (if I remember) what one surprise and delight the world will give me today. Today it was this beautiful piece calling me back to where I am.

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