Soul in the World
For many years now, I have longed for some kind of "sabbatical." I really didn't know exactly what that meant, but I knew I needed some kind of rest and renewal. I don't work for a university so it wouldn't be a professional sabbatical. I work for myself, so if I wasn't working I wouldn't have an income. Hmmm. Somehow, though, I would find a way to have a sabbatical and for a year if I could swing it.
I slowly began backing down my hours in my main source of income over the past two years. At the end of 2017, I was done. I would still have some income from hosting retreats, seeing clients and renting retreat spaces. Technically I would still be "working," but I set my intention to clear space & time for art, writing, meditation, yoga and other sources of nourishment and practices. My birthday was on December 30th. I decided that January 1st seemed an appropriate day to officially begin sabbatical. That was the plan anyway.
And then things started to happen:
January 1st - My dog had a stroke during a women's retreat with 20 plus women here. Oh, did I mention that during the night of New Year's Eve, our main water line froze. We had guests in our retreat cabins. We had a retreat happening in the morning. We had no water. I texted around and everyone pitched in by bringing buckets of water. We had a wonderful day. The dog recovered. We left the dishes for the next day. That was Day 1.....
Day 2 to Day 64 - the tractor froze, the brake line on the truck went (while I was going down the hill), the frozen pipes burst, we fixed it then the main water valve broke, we dug up the road with help from friends, we jack-hammered the rock to put the pipe in lower, we hauled water for two weeks with help from friends & visiting family, the dog died, we ran out of firewood, our driveway was too icy to drive up so we had to cancel classes, our guests had to walk up the hill to get to their cabin, the water heater in the cabin stopped working, we had a mouse infestation in the other cabin, the main electrical fuse blew, it kept raining, it was icy, a tree fell on our house, then our building in town flooded, we rallied to clean it up then the electricity went out, the sump pump stopped working, the building flooded again, everyone pitched in to clean it up, the clutch on my old vehicle went the morning I was driving it to the salvage yard, the rear brakes on my recently purchased used car went and now I have a flu.
But we are here, we are alive, we have family and friends to support us. Each time something would happen, I would imagine what it would be like to not have support, to be a refugee, to live in poverty, to be alone, to not have back up. I can't imagine that because it's not my experience. I know, however, that it is a reality for many. If the brakes go on the car, there might not be money to fix it. There might not be clean water in the first place, nevermind water coming through pipes into a home. Electricity is a dream for many. Mice are the least of some people's worries. A dog dying is one thing, but loved ones dying is another. I just haven't been able to shake these kinds of thoughts.
Each day i get up thinking about how fortunate I am. What can I do with my good fortune? We don't have alot of money, but we have so much to offer. My time of sabbatical is taking on a life of it's own. It feels as though my longing for rest is really about a longing for depth. I want to live more deeply. I want to live with more meaning. Creating space for others to enter into for their own time of rest and renewal has been my mission. Many of the people who come for retreat are helping others. Their self-care is vital in order for them to care for those whom they serve. It is very fulfilling for me to prepare a cabin or meals for retreatants. It is nourishing for me to start seedlings and make plans for our garden that will feed us and others. It is important to me that all are welcome, that anyone who needs it can come and rest awhile.
May we all find the rest and renewal we need and support others to do the same.
I began writing this newsletter on Thanksgiving Day. I thought I would begin with the theme of gratitude, but I have been reminded that this day holds many meanings. For many it is simply an opportunity to gather with family and share a meal. For some, it is a sad reminder of the plight of Native Americans in our country’s past and present. Others want to take some time to give thanks and express that in some way despite this day’s history. For many, it has become a day off work and a chance to get caught up on things at home, go hunting, create a Christmas shopping list and prepare to hit the Black Friday sales. Mixed feelings abound about what Thanksgiving Day represents. It seems important to remember that not all people view this day in the same way and for us to be respectful of our differences. Ideally, we want to extend this compassion to all aspects of life.
Life is perspective. So many things affect how we view the world, from our own genetic makeup and upbringing, to our current physical and mental health, and everything in between. At the same time, we need to be reminded that we should not believe everything we think. Who we have known ourselves to be is quite likely a very simplified and skewed version of who we are. We attach to the story of us, of others, and the world, and believe it to be true. Perhaps that seems easier. In doing so, however, we forget our true nature. We miss out on the mystery, the opportunity for growth, and in the end, we miss out on the real story. Meditation, mindfulness and times of retreat are about returning to what is real.
Pay attention to what is stirring within you this season. Carve out some time for exploration, reflection & renewal.
"What do you believe?" "Do you believe?" "Are you a believer?" "I don't believe that."
What do we mean when we use this kind of language - the language of belief?
Where do our beliefs come from? In some cases you may say it's something
that you instinctively know. For example, you may believe that if you walk
to the edge of a cliff you will fall off. In fact, you might say you know this to be
true. But as a small child you would not have known this, so is it something
that you have learned? Could the same be said about other beliefs that you hold?
Perhaps you believe that someone who is speaking kindly to you really cares about
you. What if they are speaking kindly to you because they want something from you?
Maybe someone is angry or upset and we believe it's because of something
that we've done. What if it's because they are struggling with something, having
a bad day, or have been triggered by something that is bringing up this anger?
We could come up with all kinds of scenarios in life where what we believe feels
like a "known" when actually it's a "learned." How much of what we believe is
is a result of our perception of the world around us, our thoughts about a situation,
person or thing?
Now think about some of the things that you have "learned" from experiences in
your life and how they have affected what you believe. If you have been hurt in
relationships, you may believe that relationships are hurtful and damaging.
If you have been raised in a home where people don't talk about their feelings, you
may believe that talking about feelings is wrong, or a sign of weakness or
that feelings should be kept private. If you were raised by someone who is
racist or prejudiced, you may carry a belief that "others" are different than
you, or lesser than, or worse.
Take a few moments and make a list beginning with the words "I believe...."
Now, spend some time writing about these beliefs - why do you believe this?
can you determine when you first began believing this? who and what
influenced this belief? has this belief changed over the years? did you used
to belief something different than this belief you now hold? what events
or experiences in your life have reinforced this belief? are you willing to
change this belief or be open to a new belief on this particular subject?
If you take this practice seriously, and spend some time in contemplation
and reflection, you may find that much of what you "believe" has been
placed upon you by parents, significant adults in your life, your environment,
the media, educational or religious institutions....you may notice that many
of your beliefs are "perceptions" of the world around you, based on these outside
One of my mentors suggests that the practice of meditation is, at it's core,
the practice of reality. There is no other true reality than what is happening in
this moment, and yet we carry with us many "realities" of what we
perceive to be real, that is to say, what we believe.
What would it be like to strip away all of our beliefs, to return to the purest
form of experience in this moment? We can have a taste of this "reality" in our
practice of meditation. As we practice being present to each moment, we find
that many of our former "beliefs" begin to fall away, our tolerance and
acceptance of others increases, our understanding of the world, in all it's diversity,
expands, our compassion for ourself and others intensifies and we
find ourselves without a need to hold tightly to beliefs. Does that sound
I have been given a bumper sticker that says:
"Don't believe everything you think." It feels like a mantra that
I carry with me(literally on my car) and want to share with others. Don't believe
everything you think. Question your thoughts rather than take them at
As Jon Kabat Zinn says, "We only have moments to live." Live them well.
This week my friend posted this entry from a blog that I had forgotten about.
This was and is how I attempt to be in the world. It is a daily practice.
If this speaks to you, join me in Being Light.
When I allow myself to Be Light,
I live from a place of compassion.
I feel at peace.
I want people to feel welcome, heard and accepted.
I feel whole.
It is easy to accept others as they are.
I am not stuck or struggling because the Light holds me up,
embraces me gently,
permeates my being,
clears away all the blockages to Light.
My Being Light means that others around me are reflected in that Light.
I see them differently.
I feel the Light emanating from them as well.
Light knows Light.
June 30, 2012