On our final night in Egypt, the sacred Sufi dances of ecstasy end. A wilder, joyous exuberance takes over within our group, an explosion of emotion, of deep gratitude, sharpened by awareness of the approaching ending.
Some of our company have prepared songs, rituals, presentations to honour our leaders, Jean and Peg, to thank Mohamed for his provision of private time for us in sacred places where we might experience prayer and ritual and to show our gratitude to Samai, our guide through Egypt.
Soon the audience spills onto the stage, and the Sufis are offering lessons in dance and movement. I watch the wildness of dance, wishing I felt free enough to express all the feelings that dance within me.
After we board the bus to return to the Mena House, I pass by Jean. I ask her if there might be a moment to talk with her before we leave Egypt.
The next morning, at breakfast in the Mena House dining room, I look for Jean, see that she is in conversation with someone. I have left my request too late. We are to leave immediately after breakfast for the airport. There will not be time to speak
with her, to share this sense that things have somehow come together in me. I feel a sharp disappointment. I want this resolution to happen
here in Egypt. I want to leave Egypt whole.
I am walking away from the dining room when Jean joins me. “You wanted to talk? Sit with me on the bus to the airport.”
And so it is that as Cairo’s exquisite ornamented mosques and modern buildings march past the bus windows, like a speeded-up time film moving from past to present, I speak with Jean.
This time I am telling her a story, one I finally understand in my heart, can see in my soul, where its separate pieces are quilted together in a pattern: beautiful, harmonious,
I begin by diving into the deep end of the pool, trusting that Jean will understand if I frame my experience in terms of durative and punctual time. I speak of my experience of an ending in Mystery School, at the final session of the year before, when I had then no hope of returning. How I came home grieving, aware only when I thought it was over, how important Jean’s presence was in my life. How I had been walking in the
woods beside my home when quite suddenly without thought or intent, I was aware of her presence with me, so real that I could converse with her. And how that presence has returned at rare moments, offering me guidance, words of direction when I lose focus, most often when I am leading retreats, sessions in spirituality with women. I have come to know this as a profound gift of her presence in durative time.
Then I tell her how difficult it is for me to reconcile the real Jean in punctual time, whose energies must flow in so many directions, with the Jean who, in durative time, is wholly present to me. I share the sacred experience at sunset on the deck of the Moon
Goddess. I tell her how I spoke with her imaginal presence even as I saw her clearly across the deck, in conversation with someone else.
I pause. This all sounds rather strange even to my ears. I wonder if Jean can receive it. I look at her, seeking some sign of understanding. I see attentive presence. I see calm receptiveness.
But I see too the woman whom I wrapped in a shawl because she was cold and grieving outside the tomb at Abu Simbel. I see the woman who one evening had fallen into an
exhausted sleep on the felucca that was taking us back to the Moon Goddess. Then, I had looked at her, as surprised as if a statue of Isis had suddenly closed her eyes and nodded off into sleep. That night when we left the felucca, I had guided her up
the steps to the ship, fearing she would fall asleep again on her
feet. Leonard Cohen’s words come to me now, something about
there being a crack in everything that lets the light in.
This is an ordinary human beside me, extraordinarily gifted,
yes, a woman who has opened her life to be a passageway for the
Holy. My glimpses of the Holy in her have drawn me to her. She
has become for me, especially here in Egypt, an experience of
the sacred feminine, real in a way that Isis or Sekhmet or Hathor
could not be. I feel a deep gratitude along with a searing awareness
that to demand, even to expect, more than a glimpse is unfair, unloving.
No one, no matter how wise and generous and loving, can live always in a state of being awash with divinity. And in that instant of knowing, I realize something else. This is
a woman whom I would choose as a friend, someone whom I will support with prayer and grateful love all my days.
The journey from the Mena House to the airport takes about an hour, but I have now no sense of time. I know (I have been well taught!) that there will be enough time, all the time I need, so I unfold the whole story. And Jean listens, receives.
“You are a very loving person,” Jean says. “Is that what attracted you to religious life?”
I am startled into complete honesty. “No. I came to find love.”
Later, I will understand that these words are the essence of my journey to Egypt. I came to find love. Later, I will write this discovery in a poem:
Egypt is where I learned about love.
Not a lost coin, forever sought in vain,
Not a boon for which I begged, helpless, empty,
Not a burden I placed on others who could not receive.
Rather, a gift, poured into me from Love
Until, overflowing with joy, I poured it forth.
That is Egypt’s gift to me. I know it has its origins in the Love within the Universe that I have come to call the feminine face of God, the tender love that brought me here, that revealed itself in so many ways, as Isis, as Hathor, as Sekhmet, as Jean, in tomb and temple, in pyramids, in the depths of the Red Sea, here on the bus approaching the Cairo Airport.
Now I know in my whole being the call from that sacred presence to finally Send Sorrow Packing, to release the inauthentic constructs of sorrow that have
clouded my relationships. I feel the harmony of a symphony whose opening chords in September have moved through darkness and light, to finally resolve in closing notes of quiet beauty.
I feel held by love.