After I posted yesterday’s entry I sat awhile, well, most of the day. I was both revelling in the mystical experience that I had had and thrown off balance by it. Such is the spiritual journey.
As I have moved through my day today my heart has been opening up like the thousand petals of the lotus flower and I have been going very deep into my center. I always trust that the answer will lie there as to what I should write about on any given day. And it came to me, something I am so often asked about but that I think applies to everyone in their own lives, and that is that we all walk alone on our journey on this earth, even in the middle of a family and children, amongst co-workers and the world at large we are on our own journey here. We each come with a purpose and a path that we will walk in our own way and our own time and it can be painful and lonely, joyful and exhilarating, terrifying, and also bring a sense of inner peace we have never heretofore known.
Some people know their path very early although I think for the most part we grow into it over time. My early life experiences were very hard, they left me damaged and vulnerable, even suicidal, but as I worked through the decades with wonderful therapists and my own personal work, teaching journal classes for 40 years, becoming a healer, and with my spiritual practices, I have come to a place, in my 60th year, that I could not have come to if I had not lived through every single thing that I did. It is a good place, but it is a place that requires a very specific set of circumstances for me to live a life in balance, with enough inner peace and sense of well-being to continue to live on this earth and move through my days, even with the ones that are very hard, with a sense of forward movement, momentum, and grace.
People are often curious about Dragonfly Cottage and see it as a magical world, which it indeed is, at least to me. It also sounds a little fanciful to people, and even escapist, but the truth is I do not move well in the world, I become very frightened and it takes a serious toll, and it has grown with each passing year so that I realized if I was to do the work I believed I was meant to do in the world, and maintain balance and equilibrium, it would have to be a life lived almost entirely in solitude, in a cloistered world of my own making. Here I feel safe, I can breathe, I can open my eyes and my heart, and I can reach out to the world from a place where I feel safe.
Creating Dragonfly Cottage has been as if building a monastery and a beautiful, peaceful place for me to both work and continue with the healing practices that are essential to my well-being and require daily care and tending. And because I am going to live in this place, rarely go out, do not take vacations, rarely socialize, I needed to make a world that was everything to me, the animals are my companions, the garden is where I work out my inner demons and find beauty and peace, the sacred spaces that I have created are where I pray, meditate, and record the thoughts, and the life around me so that I might write, as I hope that I do, in a way that helps others. The personal contains the universal and vice versa. My experiences here are uniquely my own but they are also rooted in the human experience and mirror that of every other person on the planet. We walk together, alone. We search for purpose, and meaning, we seek answers, some of which will never be answered, and we share our knowledge with others. I wanted to live a life of service, and this is the place I have carved out to do just that.
I know that sometimes you feel lonely, and lost, afraid, maybe even hopeless, with a sense of despair from time to time.
I know that the moments of deep communion and love that you have had or do experience make everything worthwhile and enrich your days and help you stay the course when you might not otherwise. Though I came close to suicide a number of times, and in my 20’s was hospitalized for a month because of a suicide attempt (I discovered I was pregnant just weeks after I got out of the hospital), I would not take that final plunge because of my children, I would not do that to them, although looking back I don’t know how I held on at all.
I feel that it is true for you, as it is for me, that finding your true purpose in life, and living that purpose, is crucial so that you will feel that your life mattered. We all want to matter. I believe that most of us do.
Young ones come to me, in their twenties and even in their thirties, depressed because they don’t know what direction they are, or should be, headed in. They may have a job that pays the bills but they feel something deeper, and yet not yet fully realized. I share with them what my dear friend May Sarton wrote about in her books, something that her friend Louise Bogan said to her. “Let life do it.” Surely this is the only way, and it all comes down to mindfulness, living a mindful life.
It is something that I say time and again but it bears repeating. Don’t worry about the future or where you are headed. Take care of today, of this moment, live it as fully as you can, and life will float you through your days so swiftly — it doesn’t seem so when you are 20 or 30 but as years go along you look back and are almost breathless over how very fast time passed — that one day you will be washed up on the shore, you will have reached your destination, and you will know, you will just know.
You needn’t leave the world to do deep work of course, some of the deepest work people do takes place in the family. Having my children is the most important thing that I have done in my life, but they are grown and into their own lives with their own families now, and the family that I work for, and with, and in is the wider world. It is one of the marvelous things about living in the world today with the technology that is available. I can, and do, communicate and work with people all around the globe. How heartening it is to be able to bridge the gap between peoples and countries by flipping on one of these machines. I marvel at it every day. But I turn off the computer, and I am alone.
I think, as I sit here reflecting on what it is that I really want to say to you, that no matter what your life is, what constellation of people, and work, and things you have in your world, it is essential that you take time for yourself, everyday if possible. Daily we must rebuild the soul, it is so easily battered and worn down by the events of one day, or at least bruised, weakened, or just plain weary. When I was at home with three young children that we were homeschooling I set my alarm and got up every morning at 5 a.m before my husband was up and the children were all still fast asleep. I would go down and make my coffee and carry it back upstairs to my office and read, write, meditate and pray for 2 or 3 hours before the day with the children began. I was a morning person then and could not make it up late to have quiet time after the children were in bed but I know a lot of people who do just that.
If you are at work you can pack a lunch and go outside some place quiet, if you are lucky enough to work near a park you can sit on a park bench, eat your lunch, write in your journal, soak up some sunshine and fresh air, and recharge your battery. In each instance, no matter how you manage to find your special moments of solitude, islands in the stream, it is a time of mindfulness, of releasing everything that has come before this moment and detaching from anything that might come after. It is a time to be still and reconnect with the place inside of you where your soul resides. I imagine it as a physical entity in our body cavity simply because it is easy to achieve that inner peace if we can visualize the place where it resides.
Will you take a few moments with me now (or later if you need to)? Take a deep breath, very slowly, in through your nose, out through your mouth. Close your eyes, and relax your body. Start with the top of your head, touching it with your inner eye, take a breathe, breathe, release the breath, let go. Move down through your body, being very present, taking your time, breathing your way down the ladder of your limbs and torso, belly and hips, buttocks and thighs, knees and calves, ankles and feet, to the tips of your toes. Let everything go, take a deep breath, feel your body melting into the earth.
Now move back up, from your toes through your feet to your ankles, move them, turn them around in circles, glide up your legs, slowly, with your inner eye, as if your hands were gently, barely touching them, sliding upward, and breathe your way back up, over your knees to your thighs, into your buttocks, around to your hips, and stop at your belly. Rest here.
Take another deep breath with both of your hands on your belly. Feel your breath moving in and out, slowly, slowly, and then let your breath move normally and focus on the area under your hands, imagine that you are able to gently move your hands into your body and lightly, very lightly, open your hands and receive your soul. Let it rest gently, ever so gently, putting no pressure on it. Feel it breathing with you, breathe in all the beauty of the universe and let it feed your soul. Breathe in the universal consciousness and let it flow in and out, around and back, reconnect with all that is, and feel the peace in the knowledge that we are never really alone. Relax and feel your soul opening, expanding, refilling, floating gently up out of your hands in to your body cavity, your hands will move effortlessly back out and rest on your belly, just sit for awhile and breathe. You will know when to stop. Just breathe, just rest, just sit.
When you come to the place where your cup is filled, your body relaxed, your mind at ease you can re-enter the world, and make a conscious effort to carry this feeling with you. When you encounter moments that are uncomfortable, if you are afraid or stressed, close your eyes for a moment and move back to the place where your soul resides but this time let it cradle you, let it breathe with you, let it support you. In a moment or two you can return to a sense of peace, enough to get through what is at hand in your day. This is a simple practice that you can return to again and again, the meditation above, and the return to the memory of it when needed.
We walk alone, in the company of others, and we make our journey by tending that which we have inside. It is our compass, it is our haven, it is our strength, it is our home. Like a turtle with it’s home on it’s back we carry our home, our true home, inside. We can always return and find comfort, we can heal ourselves, and in so doing we can heal those around us.
Find peace within your family, bring your peace to them.
Find that still small voice within and let it whisper words of comfort to those in need of comfort.
Let all of the love that you hold inside, that you reconnect with daily as the thousand petals of the lotus open inside of you, guide you to open your heart and your arms, your hands and your words to everyone you encounter.
Be the peace you want to receive in the world, and you will watch others around you change too, perhaps imperceptibly at first, but when faced with gentleness, kindness, an open heart, compassion, people cannot help but be touched. This may happen with a stranger on the street, or someone in your own family.
It is true that some people will not open at all, but the very act of opening to them, being soft and gentle with them, not losing your center even as your disengage, allows you a sense of gentle peace inside. And remember that this is a practice, this is an ideal, this is what we get up and do every day because we will lose our way, but the very act of trying, of returning to the practice is the point of it all.
I am going to leave you now. I will walk back into my own life quietly. I will pick up a tiny girl pug and close my eyes. She lays her head against my chest and we breathe together. I can feel her heart being with mine. We walk alone but we are all connected. This is the truth. This is all there is.