Sunday, August 09, 2015

Sitting Right In The Ashes

I had to put my blog to private because my anonymity was breached. Enough time has passed that I felt I could change the settings back. I hope this is a sound move.

I've had a good, full-of-people summer. Grandchildren, children, parents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and long time friends in face to face communion. However, after three weeks of not a lick of solitude, I felt relieved to go on a week long silent retreat.

The first night is a communal supper where you can talk all you want, ahead of being assigned to a spiritual director. At supper I sat at the same table as a woman who radiated a warmth that was both solid and real. She also had a sparkle in her eye. I prayed she would be my spiritual director and then let go of that desire many times in the space of the next hour. After all, there were many spiritual directors to be had. But darn, I really wanted it to be her.

And it was.

The week that followed was a gift that comes from the blend of grace and hard work. Do those two words even belong in the same sentence? I don't know. My spiritual director has spent much of her life working with people in recovery. She was such a delight.

I like to complicate things, any thing, even a silent retreat, and had forgotten that it is enough to simply show up.

During the retreat I let go of trying to connect dots, even the dots of my journal ramblings and let them speak for themselves, without needing to come to a single conclusion. My spiritual director was content to let them be as well. It is a mystery how growth can come out of this. Not one tidy package to be had. Imagine that. And yet I feel changed.

Here is a quote from my journal which spoke to me during that time:
"The poor ego is always looking for an easy way out. Deep in the wintry parts of our minds, we are hardy stock and know there is no such thing as a work free transformation. We know that we will have to burnt to the ground in one way or another, and then sit right in the ashes of who we once thought we were and go on from there. But another side of our natures, a part more desirous of languor, hopes it won't be so, hopes the hard work can cease so slumber can resume." ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes in Women Who Run With The Wolves
Songs came unbidden to mind the whole week. I trusted that they came from somewhere beyond me.  I was surprised with where they took me and how songs from decades ago could filter in and impact me.

Most days I went for a long walk that took me from countryside to city and then ended up at a creek on a mostly abandoned road.  There I dangled my legs over the side of the bridge while I sat and watched the water converge as if every drop of water was fighting it out for first place.

One night we had a communal penitential service followed by private confession. As we entered the chapel there was a basket of rocks with a sign asking us to pick one. The chapel lights were dimmed so I couldn't do my usual looking-through-the-whole-basket to find the perfect rock ritual. No, I picked up the first one my fingers found. As I sat waiting for the service to begin the rock felt heavy in my hand. My fingers searched its surface like they were reading braille when they found a ridge that ran through the middle of it and I smiled to myself at its appearance.

During the service we were invited to either place the rock in a basket at the altar afterwards, symbolizing a letting go of all that weighed us down, or to go out in nature do so there. Throwing mine into the creek, where it would take years of water coursing over it to smooth out that ridge, felt like the perfect place to let go of all that had surfaced for me during the week.


spookyrach said...

Sounds like an incredible experience.

A week of silence would be amazing.

annie said...

I'm so glad you had this experience. It sounds like such a blessed time.

Cyn Huddleston said...

I like to think of the rock with water and silt worrying at the ridge, which will get smoother as it is worn. It is so with us.

Grace-WorkinProgress said...

Sounds like you got exactly what you needed. Isn't that always the case I never can see that until I look back.