Start of The Trail

First Section Survival Saga

image: The Start of the Trail

So I made it through the first 8 days in the wilderness by myself, hiked a total of 48 miles, had extremely challenging and exhilarating moments and managed to find a way to keep going and get out when I was running out of food. The plan for doing a little over 70 miles to Stevens Pass did not quite pan out as I expected. Though I thought I had done enough training to prepare myself for this journey physically, I found that the constant large elevation gains and then losses followed by more of the same were more challenging than I was ready for. My issues with shortness of breath showed up big time and led to extremely slow uphill sections which would then be followed by having to be careful going downhill to not hurt my knee or ankle issues. The first full day I only made it 4 miles though I had planned on 6. The second day 3.5 miles rather than the planned on 10. The third day 6 miles when I needed to do an average of 9. You begin to get the picture that making what I thought would be a relatively easy 70 miles in 8 days was not starting well.

I also underestimated how long it would take my body to get used to it and get stronger. I think I pictured it as it was in my 20’s, a few days and I’d be good. Actually I think I added a couple more for the age and weight factor but was sure it wouldn’t be too long. Each morning I would be so disappointed when just getting camp packed up exhausted me, much less getting out and moving on the trail. It may be that I was exhausted also from all the prep work of getting ready. Whatever all the factors, the reality was that I was moving forward daily but very slowly. At first I felt like a trail name of “Tortoise” would be appropriate but eventually even that felt too fast. Since I felt I was moving glacially slowly I’m going with the trail name of “Glacier”. I would speak to these through hikers doing 20,25,35 miles a day in order to do the whole PCT north to south to Mexico and they would think I was kidding about being that slow. They’d laugh and say “yes I wish I could go back to only doing 10-15 mile days” and I’d not disabuse them of that notion but think “If only”.

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All that being said each day had so much beauty to behold that I learned a lot about just being with what is and enjoying it rather than wishing it was otherwise. Often what I could enjoy was the gorgeous displays of wildflowers as I went step by step up a hill. Needing to concentrate on placing my feet carefully didn’t allow much gazing about as I walked. On a number of steep uphills I had to stop so often to catch my breath that those would be the moments that I could really look around and see the big vistas and that was glorious. I have come to really appreciate those slow uphills. Marching by would be all these fast hikers and there I would be taking in the beauty.

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Many dark times of discouragement and much patience needed to just make it through moment by moment. All the little learnings about setting up and taking down a camp, best ways to use all of my gear, how to deal with rain or too much sun, etc,etc. Questions of “why am I here” and “what was I thinking”, “how do I get out of this” all cruising around taking up space in my head as I walked. Trying as much as I could to turn off the story line but often not very successful at it. I so very much appreciated the fancy GPS device that allowed me to receive and send messages and so still feel connected. If anything I think I have made it through this first week with a embodied knowing of how loved and supported I am as so many of you took the time to contact me with your love and support. There is a place for modern technology even in the wilderness!!

On Day 5, Thursday I came up with a couple of alternate plans to hike out on Sunday as planned but in a different area. I contacted Betty and Jennifer, my Stevens Pass resupply team, with the possibilities. So grateful that they took the whole thing on, were willing to do whatever it took to support me. Betty went to REI to get a map so she could see what I was talking about, they allowed time in their schedules for doing it earlier or later if needed, even ended up borrowing Michael’s 4 wheel drive vehicle to drive the forest road in (Thank you Michael!) So out I came down the Cathedral Pass Trail yesterday. I was so very, very glad to see them waiting as I came out into the parking area of the trailhead. With no cell phone reception there for them what if we missed each other? It was a great moment to know that I can adapt, find a way to make it work and get back to civilization and my friends when the time is right. I have been here in the cabin that I rented weeks ago for this day of rest for almost 24 hours being pampered by my friends, I could get used to this! Fresh food, deep conversation, hot shower, even a hot tub to ease my aches this morning. Good day for it also as it has been pouring rain all day.

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Tomorrow I will head out again for a 10 day section heading past Glacier Peak towards Stehekin. I know now that I cannot do the full 107 miles from Hwy 2 to Stehekin as planned. We looked at another map and have found some forest roads again that they will drive me in on to a trailhead where within 5 miles (2200 feet uphill again, what’s new) I will be back on the PCT but have cut off 30 miles. So I will have 83 miles altogether to go in 10 days. I had started feeling better, stronger on day 7 and 8 so I do believe this will be realistic and doable. In all of the discomfort and difficulty over the days most of the time I knew that I wanted to continue on this pilgrimage, whatever it is meant to be. A friend of mine who has done the Camino Santiago in Spain twice sent me this quote from Philip Cousineau “The point of pilgrimage is to improve yourself by enduring and overcoming difficulties. In other words, if the journey you have chosen is indeed a pilgrimage, a soulful journey, it will be rigorous.” I think I’ve got that in spades!!

My friend Catherine has been sending me little pieces from Joyce Rupp, another pilgrim soul, that have I have meditated on and walked with and continue to take to heart.

“It is time for the pilgrim in me to travel in the dark, to learn to read the stars that shine in my soul. I will walk deeper into the dark of my night. I will wait for the stars, trust their guidance.”

I have felt this first week of journeying as walking in the dark. I am trusting that whatever it is that drew my soul to this journey will show up. I will learn to read the stars that shine in my soul. I truly am waiting for them and their guidance.

There is so much more that I could say and I will in the future but for now I need to start preparing my supplies for this next section.

Blessings to all of you on whatever journeys you are on. Kathryn

One Week to Lift Off

One Week To Lift Off

It seems hard to believe after almost a full year of planning, gathering gear, training and putting plans into motion but one week from tonight I should be sitting in my first campsite after doing the first 4 of 265 miles of my Camino Cascade solo trek. Today I spent most of the morning and early afternoon organizing and weighing the remainder of what needs to go into my pack besides food. At one point, as I watched the weight add up on my spreadsheet that I was using to keep track of everything, I despaired of being able to keep it to the 40-45 lbs that was my goal. Amazingly enough in the end it looks like 43 lbs give or take a bit depending on how much water I carry. Wow maybe this will all work out okay. I want a few luxuries like camp shoes, sleeping clothes different than those I walk in all day and wild things like that. I think I have been really afraid that they won’t be possible. However most of them are in – yahoo!

I was tired after the stress of all of that and really did not want to go do my six mile training hike but off I went at 3 PM with my pack filled with these 42 lbs of real stuff that I will carry. The first 2-3 miles I was struggling along wondering if I would make 4 miles, much less 6 or more. Late in the day I am much more tired than morning and it was warm. I walked with a phrase from the poem below that a friend sent me in response to my request for poems for my birthday gifts at the 60th birthday/send off party next week. I will take the poems and meditate on them as I walk. I love this poem as it so expresses what I am aiming for with this 28 days of being out in the wild – to Rewild Myself. The last stanza – “Rewild Yourself, The Earth is her own medicine, Be yours.” really resonates with me. There is something about this whole endeavor from the very beginning that has felt like choosing or being my own medicine. To choose to stretch myself as I turn 60 to create new life and vitality, to continue to grow and change and reach for new possibilities. As the poem says “To rise up into my own magnificence and take my place among the constellations.” Isn’t that an amazing thought!

So as I continued to wander the trails with my pack, deciding that no matter what I felt like I would do at least 6 miles and feeling that sense of “rewilding”, I found my second wind and it became easy and wonderful to move along. In the end I did 6.75 miles and even chose to go back through “Roller Coaster” twice (a trail that matches the name, very up and down and up and down).

Roller Coaster

Roller Coaster

Great training for the many thousands of feet of elevation gain and loss that I will do over these 265 miles through the Cascades. I do believe I am as ready as I need to be and it feels great.

I will write a few more entries hopefully before I leave and then send some as I travel when I get to my resupply spots. If you are interested stayed tuned. You can follow me on a map also at https://share.delorme.com/KathrynHarja. The links will show up on Facebook also as I do a map share. The maps I hope will be more accurate than my training loops have shown I think because I travel over the same ground more than once.

Enjoy the poem below and consider ways that you can Rewild yourself. Kathryn
Rewild Yourself: Be Your Own Medicine

There are places in you
Where thousands of bright, tiny flowers
Open each morning to the sun
In meadows as vast as the sky.

An ancient alchemy courses through your bones.
It speaks in feathers and stones and
Precious metals and the footprints of mandalas
Left by the stories we tell with our lives.

Rewild yourself.
Until green tendrils sprout from your fingernails
And lichen swathes your eyebrows.
Rewild yourself.
Until your roots spread and uncoil and
Writhe down through soil and rock.
Rewild yourself.
Rise up into your magnificence and
Take your place among the constellations.
Rewild yourself.
The Earth is her own medicine.
Be yours.

Caroline Mellor – Sent to me by QuinSerra Stanley

Discouraged Today

I feel discouraged and heavy of heart today.  I haven’t had the energy to get out and walk the last two days.   Grieving for Dennis, for the victims of Orlando and their families, now for a friend whose dear dog companion died.  Somehow all of these deaths have combined with a time of feeling vulnerable in my training for the journey.  At this moment I feel overwhelmed with it all.  Also went to my chiropractor this morning for my biweekly adjustment feeling knee issues cropping up again.  In his advice I heard that in trying to protect my foot arch and ankle with stiff boots I’m probably stressing my knees and hips.  I feel this sense of “I can’t win for losing” or some such thing.  What does that really mean anyway?  In protecting one issue I create another in this aging body.

Today I wonder what in the world am I doing?  Why am I planning to walk 265 miles alone carrying probably 45 pounds?  Why do I want to put myself through the many thousands of feet of up and down that frankly scares me?  Why do I want to face being cold, tired, hungry, alone – all the things that I know will show up on this trek?  I don’t really know, I just know that I feel called to it.  A line from the Rumi phrase that I worked with last week comes to mind, “a voice comes to your soul saying ‘Lift your foot, cross over'”.  There just is a voice saying to me “do this” and it does come from my soul.  I don’t know why now perhaps I will know later.

So I don’t want to go out and do the 5 miles with my weighted pack that I planned on today, I just want to curl up here in my recliner at home and watch the tide come and go.  But I’m going to get up now and go out and do as much of it as I can.

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I made it the whole 5 miles with 42 pounds in my pack.  Feels good to have done it though I am tired, my body feels well used.  Above is the beauty of the woods that I enjoyed so as I walked.  It all helped me to rise beyond the sense of discouragement to knowing that there is still time to prepare and in the end I will be as ready as I need to be.  I trust that Spirit will guide me as I continue to prepare and that all will be well.

Where did “Dirty Pants” go and who left my rain pants in the laundry room?

I set out earlier today to do a training hike on the trails near my cottage. I planned on doing 5 miles as I carried 33 pounds in my pack.  Slowly I am carrying more weight in my pack and traveling further distances to increase my body’s strength. The weather report said that it would be rainy in the early afternoon but I felt prepared for that. My rain jacket and rain pants were in my pack, I had a hat for my head and a rain cover for my pack if it got bad. I even had a map of the trails in a plastic bag as I planned on trying a few new sections that I hadn’t gone to before in order to increase the miles I was doing.  I had some lunch with me and a plan to hike about 3 miles then stop for a bit to eat and enjoy the woods.

 

I started up the hill feeling good and ready to enjoy the walk.  I have been working with a process called “Camino Divina” from a book of that name by Gina Marie Mammano, a fellow Whidbey resident.  It is a way to use your walks as a moving meditation as you work with a phrase of poetry or prose.  Like the “lectio divina” practice that I have used off and on for many years, a practice of feasting on sacred words,  you allow yourself to take a bite of the phrase or words (lectio), chew on it (meditatio), savor it’s essence (oratio) and finally digest it (contemplatio) as you walk.  I had planned on pulling out a new phrase to walk with but realized I had forgotten to do so when I was already a quarter mile up the hill.  So I decided to continue to work with the phrase from Wendell Berry that Gina used in the first chapter of her book, “The search withholds the joy from what is found.”  My poustinia circle of 9 friends are all walking with this phrase this month and then coming together in early July to share how it moved us.  Though I felt I had done that over the last week I figured there was probably more to be digested since it was all that was coming to mind for me today and I did want to walk with something to meditate on.

 

Up until now I felt that what I had gleaned from walking with that line was that it was important to make sure I am present with my life as it is and to experience the joy there rather than always searching, seeking something else, something more, something that will happen someday.  It feels like a bit of a paradox in that I feel so strongly that it is important for me and others to continually be open to new learning, new experiences, new ways of being if we want to be vitally alive.  How do we balance and do both?  In many ways this is exactly what I am doing with this pilgrimage through the Cascades this summer to celebrate my 60th birthday and feel into what the last third of my life is to be about.  My life is very full and rich as it is and I do appreciate and feel joy in living it yet I am going forth to explore and stretch myself, hoping be transformed by my experiences out in the wild.  I have been reading books about pilgrimages and one of them describes a tourist as someone who goes and experiences new places and comes home the same person while a pilgrim goes out and has new experiences but comes home transformed by them.

 

As I continued to walk along the trail today I let the phrase move through me as I moved and wondered how much more I could learn from it.  The rain started to fall lightly as I started warming up and I felt I was good in just my shirt and jeans as I continued to walk knowing I could put on my rain jacket and pants whenever it felt necessary.  It felt good to feel the strength and ability of my body to carry the weighted pack on my back relatively easily compared to just a month ago and my breathing felt light and easy also.  My breathing had been an issue with some shortness of breath being a continuing problem as I worked to improve my cardiovascular conditioning.  It had felt frustrating to be so slow to develop that compared to how easy it had been when I was younger.  I started playing with the phrase a bit and seeing if I could make it my own with this present place in my life.

 

I had been seeing these times of walking as training times to prepare me for the trip.  Though that had potency and got me out the door, somehow it didn’t quite feel like that was all that it is or that I want it to be.  I want it to be a practice, a spiritual practice that I then continue and deepen as I walk my 265 miles this summer.  Danny Dryer (Chi Walking) speaks of “a practice as a regular, mindful activity that works to enhance your quality of life.  It’s something you work at every day.  A truly good practice will help your body, emotions, mind and spirit to evolve and progress.”  All of the spiritual practices that I have cycled through my days over the last decade of my life have done that for me so deeply.  None of them seemed to have any juice lately though and I am finding it hard to sit down to any of them every morning.  Instead I find myself using the time reading about where I am going and planning the details for the hike.  Awhile ago I realized that my training walks need to be my spiritual practice right now and sought ways to turn them into meditations.  So Gina’s book being mentioned by a friend was a wonderful synchronicity as it put a name and more intentionality and structure to what I was trying to do.  So as I walked along today I changed the phrase to “Calling it training withholds the joy of what can be found if I call it a spiritual practice.”

 

What joy is there is this very moment as I walk, what is found if I stay aware of my body and of my surroundings as I travel on these wonderful trails?  As I continued along it had started raining harder and harder.  I finally realized that I should probably put on my rain jacket and pants as I was getting wetter and wetter and still had 2-3 miles to go.  I stopped and pulled out my jacket, put it on and then looked for my rain pants.  They were not to be found in my pack and I then could picture them hanging in my laundry room where I put them to dry after the last time I wore them.  “Okay well I’m plenty warm and it should be fine”, I tell myself.  “My jeans will be wet but I’ll survive”.  I looked at my map as I was now heading into the new sections I wanted to travel.  I was to travel on Oliver Twist, turn left on Coyote, right on CanterBerry Trail, right on Dirty Pants, right onto Moss Valley and then I would be in territory I had traveled in before. (Aren’t the names of these trails a hoot?)

 

Off I went enjoying the rain and the process even though it was now pouring.  Even as my pants were now totally soaked it was a joy to walk along watching how a deep rain transforms the trails and woods.   Muddy puddles to find my way around or travel through, if children can enjoy splashing through puddles so can I.  I have to say I was very glad to have my water proof new boots and thought it would be a good test for them.  So I’m walking, thinking, being present and enjoying when all of a sudden CanterBerry Trail ends at Rocky Road – “where did Dirty Pants that I was supposed to turn right on go?”  I look at my map and see somehow I have passed it but it looks like eventually I can get where I am going on Rocky Road, just a little longer.  My mind wants to start complaining “But I’m really wet and don’t want to go farther, I want to be in out of the rain or at least have my rain pants!  I sure don’t want to stop and eat my lunch, this is miserable.  Why didn’t I put my pants in my pack!”  I thought to myself ,“Okay now is the time to really practice this new possibility of staying with whatever is present with joy”.  So I did, I set aside that conversation that wanted to get going and kept walking and enjoying the moment as it was.  Rain, beautiful rain bringing life to all that surrounds me.  Lush foliage, deep green moss, amazing trees and a path filled with puddles!  A healthy, strong body able to carry me along and keep me warm as I continue to move, I laugh at myself and the situation as I go, delighting in the day and the challenge.  (I’ll probably have a few days like this as I travel in August so I might as well learn to enjoy them.)

 

A few more kinks with the trails and the map and then I feel a sense that if I go right here on this little trail that isn’t marked I’ll be soon be back on track.  LOTS more puddles, more like ponds, in my way, that I begin to just move through rather than go around.  At last another trail that I think might actually be Dirty Pants so I follow and sure enough I find Moss Valley and now know how far I am from home and how to get there.  A mile and a half later, jeans dripping wet and into my boots that have otherwise remained dry on the inside, I arrive home feeling exhilarated, stretched and thankful for new practices that can transform and change me if I will allow them to.

Dirty Pants now hanging at home

Dirty Pants hanging in laundry room, rain pants now in backpack.

2 Months and Counting

On July 30th, two short months from now, I’ll be celebrating my 60th birthday with a party at my brother’s house in Snoqualmie Pass and then heading out for a month long trek on the Pacific Crest Trail from Snoqualmie Pass almost to the Canadian border. (I will head west 20 miles shy of the border and head over some mountain passes to end at Ross Lake).  265 miles altogether, 26 days of hiking with two full days of rest at two different resupply points, Stevens Pass area and Stehekin.  This has been on my list of possibilities to do since last August when the idea took form in my thoughts and heart.  I have now crossed over the threshold to commitment to doing so.

 

I just returned from the Mazama area where I spent the last four days hiking a number of days and miles in a row carrying some weight to try my new pack out and test my older body to see how it might hold up.  All systems feel like a go!!  My ankle held up, my back feels good and I had a delightful time reconnecting with the mountains, an old love of mine.  Much more training and preparation is needed but the biggest hurdles feel like they are past.

 

I feel reconnected also to my younger self who knew her way around with a backpack and delighted in time walking in nature with all I needed on my back.  As I drove through Rainy Pass in the North Cascades and saw the signs for the PCT amidst these amazing mountains I did think  “Holy Crap what am I getting myself into?”.  What incredible beauty to walk slowly through.  I seem to a mange hiking about a 35-40 minute mile average with weight on my back and ups and downs (I’m slow but I’ve learned to live with that) and here I was driving about a mile a minute.  What a difference it will be to SLOW down and become aware of all that surrounds me.  After the amazing wild flowers and greenness this weekend I look forward excitedly to this pilgrimage to and through the sacred mountains.  My intention is to have this time out from daily life to deeply feel into what Spirit calls me to in this (hopefully!) remaining third of my life.  A time of eldership and giving back to the human and more than human community.  What is mine to do and how will I move forward into it?

 

One of the books that I am reading about pilgrimage (The Soul of a Pilgrim: Eight Practices For The Journey Within by Christine Valters Paintner) states “Pilgrimage calls us to be attentive to the divine at work in our lives through deep listening, patience, opening ourselves to the gifts that arise in the midst of discomfort, and going out to our own inner wild edges to explore new frontiers.”  That puts into words for me much of what is motivating me to do this, especially the part about going out to my own wild edges to explore new frontiers.  What better place to do that than out in the wilds of the Cascades?

 

So I have committed and now I step into whatever it will take to be ready in two months.

Lunchtime relaxing

Lunchtime relaxing

Almost There

In one of my earlier writings I spoke of learning that the journey is what is important not the getting to a “there” that we are aiming for.  Yet last week I found myself with a driving need to get to a “there”.  I was out in a wilderness area with my soulcraft sisters taking time to be in nature and allowing space to let my soul speak through the natural world of what it wishes to bring forth into the world.  As we arrived in the area we were to stay in I saw a small, prominent peak that drew my eye and heart.  I have always been drawn to the heights, love to get up there and see what there is to see from there.  Both of my vision quests I ended up with my site high up on a ridge or cliff.  So here I was with this peak calling to me to come yet knowing I probably couldn’t go there as I had injured my left ankle 10 days earlier and it was still feeling sore and weakened as well as feeling my body in a weaker state than it has been in many years.  It left me feeling vulnerable and bereft in some way that I couldn’t do what I had always done.

For the first three or four days there I listened to my ankle and stayed in the lowlands.  One day though we had more time to wander, my ankle had been feeling a bit better and I was feeling good physically.  So I decided to head up the peak slowly and carefully, stopping to check in with myself as I went to see how my body was feeling.  It was a slow journey but I carefully made my way up, picking my route so that I didn’t have to travel on scree that could be difficult for my ankle to handle.  I reached a place where there was only a final push up the steepest part to where the top was.  I could see that it would get more difficult and I would have to pick my route with great care.  I told myself to take a moment to check in and make sure my body felt up to it.  So I went over to a lovely rock outcropping that had a great view of the Golden Doe valley below and the cliffs to the south.  I stood there for a moment asking myself “is it necessary to go any further today, right now”?  I turned towards the peak top and all I could think was “I’m almost there, I can’t stop now, the top is right there.”  Without really checking in with my body I headed up the steep slope towards the top.  It didn’t take very long before I was feeling my ankle twinging often and my tiredness beginning to catch up with me.  All along the way I had told myself that if I ended up having to travel any distance through scree that would be unstable I needed to turn back.  I found myself at this point in scree, big rock scree that I told myself I could handle okay.  I traveled on, determined to not stop but to make it to the top, to make it “there”.  I must have gone 30 or 40 steps with no end of the scree in sight before a rock under my left foot moved in an unexpected way and I felt my ankle screech as it tried to stabilize me.  I finally woke up and realized that I needed to stop right there and go no further.  I sat down and spent a few minutes crying over a sense of limitation and inability to do what had always come easily.  After a bit though I realized that the tears were more about how hard I push myself sometimes to get someplace other than where I am without really taking enough time and space to let my soul and body tell me if it is necessary or not.  I had been learning over the previous months much about being gentle with myself yet here I was driving myself to go further for no reason that was truly necessary.

I stood up and slowly made my way back down to the lovely rock outcropping that I had stopped at earlier.  As I arrived there and truly looked at the spot, I found a lovely space that I could sit where I felt tucked in, held by the rock surrounding me as I looked out at the beauty around me.  Warm sun and a gentle breeze caressed me as I let myself sit and be where I was, letting all feelings of disappointment in not making it “there” blow away on the breeze.    I sank into a numinous state, feeling that right here is where the holy abides, here is where the Divine meets me.  Right here when I stop long enough to let the earth hold me, to let the sun gently warm me, to let the wind caress my skin, to let the beauty of the valley and cliffs around me enter my soul.  No need to go anywhere else only needing to allow here to speak to me.  In my mind I now call this my “almost there” place.  It is a place of great beauty, peace, aliveness and a sense of connection to all life.  I will hold it as a touchstone when I find myself driving again to get to a “there”.  Perhaps allowing myself a little more time and space to truly feel into whether getting there is necessary or if being “almost there” might possibly be where the mystery is waiting for me.

Whether drifting through life on a boat or climbing toward old age leading a horse, each day is a journey and the journey itself is home.

– Basho

Swallowed up by life

“Swallowed up by life”  While doing my morning reading and meditation this phrase spoke to me.  I sat with it in my heart as I enjoyed the silence and watched the sunrise.  Why it spoke to me I don’t know, I just know that my heart felt full as I let it settle into my being.  I weep as I sit here typing this, feeling the fullness of my desire to be absorbed, taken in by life.  The remainder of the reading said “Now He(She) who has prepared us for this very purpose is God who gave us the Spirit as a guarantee”.  “This very purpose”; to be enveloped, swallowed by life is our very purpose, it is what we are here for.  God(Life) prepares us for this purpose and gives a guarantee with the Spirit.  To me the Spirit is this sense of Presence that I have in these moments of grace.  These moments when I weep at the joy of knowing that I am a part of the whole of life, that I am being swallowed up by life.  I don’t really have the words for this.  That I am one with the colors of the sunrise, one with the mysterious mountains in the distant mist, one with the flowing sea that is singing to me as the tide comes in, one with the sea otter popping his head up as he travels to who knows where, one with my dear friend who calls with a question, one with the morning song birds.  There is so much beauty in each moment if only I can allow myself to be there, to let myself be enfolded completely by all of life around me.

For Presence
Awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.
Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.
Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon.
Respond to the call of your gift and the courage to follow its path.
Let the flame of anger free you of all falsity.
May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.
May anxiety never linger about you.
May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul.
Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.
Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.
May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.

– John O’Donohue

 

Opening To A New Life

Six years ago I found myself in a place where I knew I needed to change my life.  I didn’t know what I needed to change it to, I didn’t know with whom and where I needed to go or even really what it all was about.  I only knew that I was suffocating in the life that I was leading, it felt too small and constricting, lacking in meaning, purpose and joy.  I knew if I stayed in it I would slowly become less and less the person that I was meant to be and that felt like a form of suicide.  So I set out on a journey of opening; listening and following my own inner voice and the voice of the Divine as I knew it.  My prayer as I set out was “Spirit of life open me”.

Last week I was reading some of my journal entries from the early years of this time period and was struck by how what I envisioned happening and where I thought I was going is so very different from where I am now.  And yet I am in a beautiful new place in life that is feeling so very right.  A place full of connection, meaning, purpose and joy as I move forward into serving the world in the way that I believe I am meant to serve.  Getting here was not easy in any way.  Along the way I had to leave my marriage of 24 years, deal with the grief and difficulty of a son with a drug addiction, learn to support myself financially and slowly but surely learn how to create the connections with others that I needed to feel supported emotionally and spiritually.  I moved twice, decided to change my work situation to part time so that I could explore new options, spent lots of time and money on different healing modalities, sought spiritual community and connection and learned new spiritual practices to ground myself within the web of life that we all are a part of.  Each step felt both difficult and wonderful as I opened to new experiences, people, thoughts, emotions, practices and places.

A quote I read by Rumi early in this process has been a guiding light for me:  “When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”    I could feel that river moving in me, that joy, even as my life around me fell apart or was pulled apart by my own actions.  In my deepest pain and sorrow, in all of my fearful places and thoughts, there would be this undercurrent that was full of peace and joy because somehow I knew that I was doing all of this from my deepest self or soul.   So now six years later I find myself in a whole new life that fits me, that is me, that allows me to breathe.  I am still journeying, listening and opening.  I don’t believe that I am “there” or even that there is a “there” that I need to get to.  I do believe that I have learned to open to life, to open anew every day to what life holds.  To be open to the pain or the pleasure, to take each day as the gift that it is, however it is.   Even when I can’t be open, and there are often times that I can’t, to at least be aware that I am closing myself in some way.   I’ve learned that I only need to listen and to take each step as it opens.  I don’t need to know where the path is leading me, I just need to be on the path.  As the Buddhists say “The path is the goal”.    There is such joy in not having to control what is next but to live each moment as fully as possible for the moment that it is.  Such joy in trusting that all that I need, all that I have to give, all that is good in life is here right now in this moment and will be here in the next moment and the next.  The river is moving in me and I am moving in the river, how about you?

God takes our souls on journeys we know nothing of.  Why?  We don’t know, being as we are the passed-out reveler laid in a wagon and driven elsewhere.  What we love, what we want, is this being held in a presence, the being taken. This is the satisfaction, not learning why or how or where we are, or when we will arrive somewhere else.

– Bahauddin, Rumi’s Father