A CIL Reflection by Judith Schmidt

“You can have the other words-chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity.
I’ll take grace. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I’ll take it.” – Mary Oliver
Dear CIL Community,
I am writing to you to let you know that come this summer, I shall be moving from Westchester, New York to Hanover, New Hampshire. It is time, now that I have reached eighty-eight years of age, to move into the next phase of my life. I shall be moving into a lovely independent living community, called Kendal, founded by the Quakers, in the same town as Dartmouth College.
This is a very big change for me. Even though I shall continue to offer individual sessions, supervision and dream circles, they shall be via Zoom which has become a gift of connection during the isolation of COVID. In person, Alexis and I will hold CIL retreats in 2022 and 2023. Nonetheless, I shall be working less than I do now. I shall turn toward completing a book I have been writing for many years now. It is the story of how dreams and the appearance of dream companions saved my soul after the death of my daughter and now guide me as I journey through my aging and reaching the end of my life. As Mary Oliver says, there are many words to use, but I’ll take grace. Grace: to be guided from one’s deepest depths. Grace and Blessing ring the same bell for me. Blessing comes from the French blesser, wound. Blessing comes from out of our wound, from raising up that which is broken.
Which brings me to all of you who have journeyed with us in the CIL Community: You have been a blessing. You have raised me up. My ‘Thank you’ begins with you, Alexis. I remember us, some forty years ago, sitting on a dock by the lake and out of our talking as we moved our feet in the water, came to the thought to start our own teaching center. And so CIL was born. Thank you for our journey of teaching and of growing together. I am ever grateful to you as my teaching partner, for the rough patches that have stirred my growth. Grace.
And to each of you in the CIL Community: I thank you. Knowing you and journeying with you have been profound gifts to me, have enriched my learning and my spirit. Grace. D.W. Winnicott said that he did not know why he was paid by his students as they taught him so much. I say the same to you. You have taught me in so many ways by our being together. You have made me a teacher and a more seeing, sensitive human. Thank you. Grace.
One more thanks I wish to say: One of my deepest teachers is named Emmanuel Levinas. He was a Jewish scholar who taught philosophy at the Sorbonne. He spent years in a work camp after being captured by the Nazis. Each day, as the prisoners walked through the village to the work camp, the villagers turned their heads away. Only a stray dog was there every morning and night, looking at the men as they walked back weary in their prison uniforms.
When Levinas was freed, one spring day he was dressed in a suit, like a human being, in Paris. He was entering a café, like a human being, and an elderly gentleman held the door for him. Levinas said ‘Merci’. ‘Mercy’. To look into the face of another, to hold a door for another, to say ‘Thank you’ is an act of mercy. He went on to make these moments the cornerstone of his ethical teaching. To look into the face of the other is to see an infinity shine through that face and to be called to take care of the other. Never again to make someone walk on the other side of the street as the “other”. Only to see the Holy Other. Grace.
I share this with you because it is my deep prayer that we carry from our CIL community a sense of being seen and heard as the sacred beings we each are. This is my deepest hope. There is nothing that matters more in any time, but particularly in the world as it is now, suffering in so many ways.
In closing, I want to say, if I have offended you in any way or we have not healed, I want you to know I am truly sorry. I am open to making amends. If I have left you with a sense of being seen, of ‘merci’, please know that that means everything to me. Grace.
Alexis and I will be teaching CIL graduate seminars this May and June. Perhaps we shall see you there. In any case, I simply want to say ‘thank you’ for the privilege of being your teacher along the paths of our lives. Merci. Blessings.

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