Like so many of us, I’ve been on a long journey getting here – here to this place that is no-place, no-thing, nowhere.
I’m now sixty. Mother of four adults. Step-mother to four more. Grandmother to two grandsons and another grandchild on the way. Once divorced. Twice married. An erstwhile Oxford academic (I taught English and North American Literature). A former Church of England vicar of twenty years standing. A writer. Author. Woman-of-prayer. Mystic. And a daily wild-water swimmer in a beloved, chilly, Scottish Loch.
Wow. All that to get nowhere? Someone must be having a laugh! And, of course, she is. Life/God is. She smiles at the folly, the frivolity, the failures, the-fabulousness-of-it-all, and the fuck-ups. She smiles tenderly and kindly at herself. Herself in form. Herself-as-Melanie. God-self-as-me/you.
What a dance.
And, along the way, she’s learned a lot, loved a lot, lost a lot, and experienced it all – every single bump, bruise, breath, and hiccup. Each laugh. Each sigh. Each teardrop. All of it. All of it. Not one moment lost. Not one moment wasted. Everything included. Everything seen and felt, tasted, and touched, sniffed, and sounded. Everything honoured. Everything loved.
Once, several years ago now, while sitting in prayer/meditation, I left my body. I hovered above looking down upon Melanie. As, so often, she was alone, sitting before an altar in quiet, wordless, contemplation. I felt a tremendous love for her – this woman, this form who so often struggled with life, with herself, with others, with God. And then everything went SILENT. It was a silence such as I have never encountered before or since. Hard to put into words because we think of silence as an absence of sound – an absence of some-thing. This was more the source from which all sound emanates, including its absence. An empty fullness. Potentiality. The primordial void perhaps. Who can say?
And out of this silence, a chuckle erupted. A deep, resonant, light-hearted, totally one-with, all-pervasive, completely celebratory and delighted, CHUCKLE.
I understood, as never before, the lines in the book of Genesis that say that when God gazed upon creation, God saw that it was GOOD, very good.
I returned to my body. That familiar felt sense of being localised. Home. Here. Now. Always. And, ever since then, I have known in my belly and in my marrow-bone, the rightness of Saint Juliana of Norwich’s beautiful words:
Sin is behovely
And all shall be well
And all manner of thing shall be well.
We might like to gloss that with a non-dual rendition: The belief in separation is inevitable, and that’s ok. No need to beat yourself up about it. Just come home. See what is here. See, and know, it’s all ok. You are ok. Really.
It’s taken 60 years for this to land here in this form named Melanie – and it’s still landing. Quietly. Graciously. Fully. Each day more so.
Integrating. Intimately. Ordinary. Everyday. Seamless. All-encompassing. Life.
Not the end of the story, of course. But enough to be going on with for now.
Prompted by mystical visions, The Revd Dr Melanie Santorini left her Oxford academic career to become one of the first women to be ordained priest in the Church of England in 1993. She served as a vicar in busy, inner-city, multifaith, parishes for almost 20 years, and made newspaper headlines as the first vicar in the UK to need maternity leave. In 2008 Melanie suffered a violent physical assault which contributed to mental breakdown and loss of faith. This was the turning point. After a 2 year ‘dark night of the soul’, Melanie was introduced to non-duality and found her spiritual home within the perennial understanding. Nowadays she offers solo and couples residential retreats in the Highlands of Scotland, as well as individual and group sessions on Zoom. More details can be found at www.melaniesantorini.org. Her first book, Majesteria: Spiritual Guidance Through the Menopausal Gateway is available on Amazon.