Membranes of Hope: Part 1
What is the Library of your Soul? Do you know it? Can you see it? What does it look like? Can you feel it? How does it feel? We each have this unique space within us. This space needs to be nurtured, protected, and cherished. It is yours alone
How do we attend to this precious interior space?
Let me begin by referring to a woman who fought valiantly for her own: Virginia Woolf.
Virginia Woolf and A Room of One’s Own
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) a writer, intellectual and feminist, who, in her seminal book, A Room Of One’s Own, wrote: “A woman must have money and a room of her own (if she is to write fiction).”1 These words were originally delivered in a talk she was asked to give in 1928 about women and fiction.
In the journey of the small book, Woolf allows us into her thought process as she ponders what to say about this topic. She goes to the banks of a river across from “Oxbridge,” a fictionalized version of the infamous Oxford, a place to which women at that time were not admitted. In fact, Woolf, being a woman, is not even allowed to walk on the turf of the well-cultivated grounds and is forced to move aside to the gravel upon the scolding of an approaching male scholar. “Oxbridge” is also a place whose library, women are only allowed into if “accompanied by a Fellow of the College or furnished with a letter of introduction.”2
Woolf knows there are gems of wisdom within those walls, in this precious space, but she is locked out of this library in this esteemed institution merely because of her sex. (Woolf refers to her gender as ‘sex’ in the book so I will stick to her wording the purpose of this essay.)
“…and I thought of the shut doors of the library; and I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse perhaps to be locked in;…”3
As she continues her reflection, she begins to wonder over the poverty of women.
She attends a fancy luncheon at this esteemed institution where she observes the participants are able to take their time to slowly think, discuss and philosophize over a delicious meal with wine and dessert. That same evening she experiences a contrasting dinner at a woman’s college, one of the few at the time, where the food is not good and the discussion less so. She comes to the conclusion and writes the famous quote: “One cannot think well; love well; sleep well, if one has not dined well.” 4
She contemplates her own mother, and other mothers who did not leave their daughters money and did not endow women’s colleges which is why they are both so poor, and realizes those women were too busy having children to earn and save a lot of money to pass on to their daughters to pursue their intellectual dreams. In fact, she realizes the women before her didn’t even have a legal right to money or property.
She asks: “Why did men drink wine and women water? Why was one sex so prosperous and the other so poor? What effect has poverty on fiction? What conditions are necessary for the creation of works of art?”5
She reflects on all the women writers before her who wrote their novels at kitchen tables or side tables in the middle of cluttered domestic life and hid their work from others, both literally in cupboards and under serving trays, as well as through the use of male pen names.
She comes to the conclusion that in order to write fiction a woman needs money and a room of her own. To write fiction one must have the security of a set income so that one’s thoughts can delve deeply and uninterrupted into the line in which they sink them and a writer also needs a place of her own in which to do this.
“By hook or by crook,” Woolf goes on to say, “I hope that you will posses yourselves of money enough to travel and to idle, to contemplate the future or the past of the world, to dream over books, and loiter at street corners and let the line of thought dip deep into the stream.”6
As a young aspiring author, I took these words to heart. I understood Woolf’s room to be more than a literal space. I saw it also as a place inside of ourselves that we must have access to and ample Time to hang out in. And because the image of her being locked out of the library at Oxford impacted me so deeply I chose to call it, the “Library of the Soul.”
“Lock up your libraries if you like;” Woolf asserts, “but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”7
The worst thing, I decided, is to be locked out of the Library of Your Own Soul and no one can lock you out but yourself. But to not lock yourself out is the challenge, and you must fight to win this challenge every day of your life.
“So long as you write what you wish to write,” Woolf states, and I would add, do what you wish to do, “that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair off the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery, and the sacrifice of wealth and chastity which used to be said to be the greatest of human disasters, a mere flea-bite in comparison.”8
The Library of My Own Personal Soul
For me, finding the Library of my Soul was a spiritual journey. For you it may be something different. I write about this journey in my most recent book, The Amazon Pattern.
“I took Virginia Woolf’s advice and I crafted that room very carefully, both externally and internally. I carefully molded myself into a woman who has Time to deeply listen to the things women for so long were told they were not allowed to listen to; the things women were kept too busy and too occupied to have the energy left to listen to.
For Virginia’s bravery, I committed to that room inside myself that she had fought to not be locked out of in herself. For her and because of her, and to honor her life——she, whom I claimed as my ancestress and mentor——I would make time to listen. I vowed to not be locked out of the library of my own soul. I would look deeply into the mirrors of history that Virginia challenged women of the future to look into. I would not be a prisoner inside my own life. I would tell the truth of a woman’s experience through my writing——a thing more threatening than any other.
I was committed to telling the untold stories of women, therefore, a lot of women from history (who were dead) came and spoke to me. I asked them to. I had declared this my life’s work. I called upon them and they showed up.
My Italian grandmother and aunt had shown me that if I saw a dead woman in a book and I wanted to know her story, I could simply ask her. I would finally give the silenced women their voices. This I did, in the privacy of my own writing space or while out for my walks through the forest alone. In front of the desk where I wrote, I lit candles and created altars to these women; to all my adopted ancestresses——Charlotte Brontë and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Mary Shelley, Jane Austen, Willa Cather and Sappho, Virginia Woolf, Mary Wollstonecraft, and so many more——and the one whose story I wanted to write. I lit candles and created space, and I called them in. And they came. And I listened.”9
Through this practice and consistent interaction, I found and cultivated the relationship to the Library of my Soul.
And so, What is the Library of Your Soul?
The Library of your Soul is the place within you that belongs uniquely to you. And to know this place inside is absolutely essential to you retaining your power.
Sometimes for me this place or space simply feels like a pocket of thick and fecund darkness, a presence of depth and potency within. I have my own ways of finding it and feeding it: long silent walks, writing and reading, pondering and questioning—ruminating. There is information there, which is another reason why I call it a library, information akin to what we call intuition. This is the place from which arises what are often called “other ways of knowing.” Dreams live here. We have our own symbols in this place that have special meaning to us and help us make meaning of our lives and experiences. But it is also a place of quiet retreat and reflection for us to go to when we feel depleted and exhausted, weary or worried.
As we continue to go there, it becomes a portal to other times and places and we may experience deep insight. It is a place where we can make connections between seemingly random occurrences; it is a place of deeper understanding. In this space or library, we are no longer separate. In this space uniquely ours, we experience the connectedness of all.
If this spark within us is not appreciated, explored and nurtured, we may experience what is often referred to as “losing ourselves.” We may not have a strong “sense of self” and so look to others to provide that for us. We may look to jobs to do that for us, seek external approval. We may attempt to build ourselves up from the outside in, which, in the end, is ineffective because it leaves a hollow core. Everyone has the Library of the Soul. It is only a matter of acknowledging it, visiting it, experiencing it, and becoming intimate with it. It is important to form a deep relationship with it.
How is the Library of My Soul Related to Retaining My Power?
This interior space is the well from which arises your will, what causes you to act and make decisions in the world. It is the core of who you are as a person. Being in touch with and retaining access to this place makes your actions, thoughts and experiences authentic to who you are in your deepest core. When you are in alignment with and acting from who you are at your deepest core, you are in your power.
When we are in our power we are not only in touch with but true to our core essence, that which some call the soul.
Being in our power is being grounded in our own uniqueness, our own passions and beliefs, our own convictions and desires, our own longings and aspirations, our own purpose and impetus.
To use a cliché, being in our power is being “true to our inner most selves” and being able to speak from and for that place unapologetically and with integrity.
If we know what this is and can return to it often and let it evolve and grow with us, we will not be knocked off our center by daily events of life or even huge trials along the way. That is what I mean by “retaining your power.”
Fighting for this place means really giving it priority and importance, means giving ourselves access to this room of our own and tending it. Allowing ourselves to cherish ourselves. So no matter what is happening in the outside world, events, day to day living, we have this solid, weighted and grounded core.
And we can thank Virginia Woolf for modeling this for us.
How do I Find My Library?
If you feel you need help finding the Library of your Soul, I offer this guided journey to you. You may want to read this into the recorder on your phone first and then play it back for your self as you journey. Remember to leave plenty of time for yourself once you are inside the library.
Journey to Library of your Soul
It’s time to journey to the Library of your Soul. You enter this place through the heart. First become quiet and peaceful, taking a few deep breaths in and out. Become calm. Release cares, stress and worries. Breathe in, and exhale slowly. Breathe in again and exhale slowly. Breathe in, exhale slowly.
Life is busy, But this place is not. This place is nurturing and secluded and yours alone.
Allow your consciousness to now settle into the space in your chest where you feel your heart. Again, take some deep breaths to feel what is there. There may be some unexpressed feelings there that need your attention. Happiness, love, grief, pain, sadness, joy. Take a moment to listen to them. Then imagine a white light in the shape of a spiral over your heart. Let this spiral begin to spin in a counter clockwise direction. Allow the feelings to latch onto this spiral and dissipate with its swirling movement.
Let the spiral continue to spin.
Behind it is the door to the Library of your Soul.
Take some time to project that spiral into the space in front of your body. Allow the spiral to become larger until it is large enough to completely fill the space in front of you, as large as your body if not larger. You may need to breathe some more to allow this to enlarge. Take some time to do that.
Now the light turns into a misty substance and you begin to see the door to the Library of your Soul in front of you.
What does it look like? Take some time to notice. Is it wooden? Or stone? Does it have a pattern or design on it? Does it have a door handle? What does the handle look like?
Is there a sound, a feeling or perhaps light coming through this door?
Begin to feel the presence of this space. Is it familiar? Does it have something to say to you?
Stay in front of this door for as long as you need to. When you are ready, open the door and walk inside.
Now that you are inside, what do you see, feel, perceive? You may not see objects but rather, perceive a feeling, a word, a pressure, an energy. Take notice. Go with what is happening. There is not a right or wrong way to do this.
Are there walls? Is it a cave? Is it soft? Are there bookshelves? Is there a table with a nice armchair and tea. Perhaps it is a garden? Notice what is there. Are there any animals there? Is something you do not want there? Kindly ask it to leave. Is there anything you would like to be there? Take some time to bring it in. Sit or recline inside this room. Welcome to the Library of Your Soul. Begin to get to know it.
When you are complete, thank the space and tell it you will return. Come out of the library and close the door. Put the room back in your heart. You can move your hands to do this if you like. See the spiral of light again in front of your heartspace. Spin it the other way, this time in a clockwise direction.
Now come back into your body inside your room. When you are ready take some time to write or sketch about your journey.
Visit this place often until it becomes so familiar you can get there instantly.
~Theresa C. Dintino
© Theresa C. Dintino 2016
2 Ibid., pp7-8.
3 Ibid., p.24
4 Ibid., p.18
5 Ibid., p. 25
6 Ibid., p.113
7 Ibid., p.79
8 Ibid., p.110
9 Theresa C. Dintino, The Amazon Pattern: A Message from Ancient Women Diviners of Trees and Time, (Wise Strega: CA. 2016) p.15-18