Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Real Journey is This

The Real Work
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

by Wendell Berry, from Collected Poems, 1987

El Camino de Santiago: A New Beginning, A Look Back

As I begin my Camino this week, I look back at my visit ten years ago. I started on what is known as the "French Way," hiking over the Pyrenees into Spain. 

Pilgrim Anne gets credit for starting me on the journey. She has hiked the Camino three times!

That first visit, I completed 150 miles of the French Way. This time, I'll pick up the trail in Leon and continue to Santiago. I'm not married to any plan, though - and I'm not sure how much blogging I'll be doing, as I'm not carrying any wired gadgets.

Silence, for me, is a key component of the walk.

And so is the willingness to accept what comes.

My first pilgrimage taught me that the most important thing is an open heart toward every experience, even if it takes you away from what you thought was supposed to happen.

My intention now, is to savor each step and discovery. In truth, you're only ever here once.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

El Camino de Santiago, Finding the Path, and Getting Lost

A decade ago, I joined a friend on El Camino de Santiago, the ancient pilgrimage in northern Spain. Marked by the yellow scallop shell, the road has been traveled by countless pilgrims over eight hundred years.

I came home with blistered feet, a mind full of landscapes and faces, and a soul that felt certain I was on the right path.  
And then, last summer, that path ran in circles. It trailed into the woods. It disappeared. 

I’d known exactly where I was in my life, in my relationships and roles. Now I looked up and nothing seemed familiar. I was lost.

At first, I panicked. And then, over the months, I began to change. Now I understand that lostness is an important part of the journey.

If we are certain of our destination, and how it will unfold, we can’t be nudged, guided, led to new things. We become glib and presumptuous. We stop listening to the Spirit.

Barbara Brown Taylor, in her book, An Altar in the World, writes about getting lost as a spiritual practice. “[S]omething is happening to you in this wilderness that does not happen when you are safe at home.”

Indeed, one afternoon last summer, traveling Germany's oldest city with my husband, an even stranger thing happened. He got lost. This never happens. He has a mind like a map.

Caught in a drizzle, we retraced our steps for miles. He sighed over the guidebook that had made sense until now. It felt like the perfect metaphor for our relationship, for my soul, for all the lostness I felt. 

Then we turned a corner.

There it was: the scallop shell. Turns out, we were on the Camino--Jakobsweg, as it’s known in Germany. 

I was on my path even when I felt most lost.

Again and again, I heard the consolation of Spirit: “You’re exactly where you belong.” The sweet thing is, I can’t give myself credit. I’m humbled to keep following, keep listening, and not take anything or anyone for granted.

Last Sunday I gathered with a small group of Camino veterans. They blessed me and gave me a scallop shell for my journey.

Because I’m heading out again. In about a week, I’m going back on the Camino, an outward walk to complement my inward practice. I have a deeper understanding of pilgrimage now, allowing for surprises and the unknown. Knowing that being lost, and being on the path, are often the very same thing.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Communion: A Poem

by Livia Montana

I chew on the divine
while pondering the ever-changing
grocery list of what I need to buy
I’m sure of no priest’s approval
and yet I believe
Mother Mary does not look down
on this unorthodox rosary

After all, how many lists
must she have recited
to keep her own
all-too-human divine
alive long enough
to die in time?

Who can judge the radiance
of the commonplace? For instance,
if I place the word “eggs”
as an item on my rosary
and a choir of brain cells
hosannas to another and again
beyond measure of what I am

That I am
the feeling
of that smooth
and bumpy shell
that my mind is both creator
and container
of a presence,
a holy ghost

And even more
if I apprehend,
the thin
semi-permeable membrane separating
what could’ve been
from what now keeps me
alive—who can proclaim
that anything but divine?

Thank you, poet and Wildfire Writer Livia Montana for this poem of proclamation and presence.

Friday, June 27, 2014

His Third Wife: Lessons on Marriage and Becoming

The second husband, the second wife

The husband and I have been discussing his second wife.

"I miss her," he says.

"She was sweet," I agree.

"She did so many nice things," he says.

"Yes." I should know. That second wife was me.

Over the past twelve months - a difficult year, a beautiful year - I've learned new things about myself. I've resolved to honor that person. I've delved into my gifts with fresh vigor. I've grown and challenged myself to paint, play, write, and wander. 

I've become a new person.

Exploring new territory

I'm no longer the wife who makes dinner every night, or joins her husband on the couch for movies. I've stopped scheduling social events on his behalf. I don't ask for permission any more - to put my art on the walls, to make new friends, or to write and create on a Saturday instead of hang out with the hubs.

I know. Some of you wives are gasping in disbelief. Others are jealous.

It's been a process of honesty and investigation - finding out what I'm truly about and discovering how to be this human being. I trust that the more I'm following Spirit, the more I can bless the world.

It's my job alone to become this human being. Gone are the days of wanting someone else to define me, even my husband.

Which means I'm now his third wife.

Situations will arise, and I'll say, or he'll say, "The second wife would've said yes." Ah, but the third wife says no. Or waits. Or says what she really thinks about it.

And in all this, there's a dialogue, a noticing, a freedom, a new way.

I've been grateful for the guides and friends who have supported me on this journey. They've acknowledged how this needed to happen; they've been witnesses to the me who was hiding.

Hiding and calling it service. Calling it wifehood. Really it wasn't so servy after all.

True service only happens when you know who you are. 

Where two rivers meet (the Rhine and the Mosel)

So the other morning, the husband said, "You just keep getting prettier and prettier." Which is sweet. This second husband of mine has always been so wonderful with compliments.

I paused. "You like the way I'm changing on the outside. But you don't like the other ways I'm changing."

"That's right!" he chirped, grinning. 

"Ohmygosh!" I said. "You just told me the truth of your feelings!" We both laughed.

Obviously, this is no longer my second husband.

This one is my third.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Different Kind of Shopping

Added a thing or two to the husband's shopping list . . . .

When he got home he said there was one thing Winco didn't have. 

Funny, my friend Gypmar found it there quite some time ago.

Because, you know, Big Feelings can give way to spiritual insight.

Just a reminder to keep the truly important things on your list, even if you're not sure where to find them.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Journaling as a Spiritual Practice: The Light Gathers

It begins as a blank page when you have nothing to say. It creeps, line by line, into a journal entry on a sad morning.  

But here's what amazes me: how the light gathers. How a journal becomes a beacon.    

That's the beauty of journaling as a spiritual practice.

You don't think you have anything to say. You don't think there's anyone listening, anyway.

But when you go to the place of telling the truth, just telling the truth, to the highest force of Truth you know, there's always light. The light gathers. 

So many times we are caught up in telling ourselves things, pretending we feel what we don't, demanding we be who are not. This goes along with the trap of saying prayers we don't believe. 

Truth is better.

Being where you are is the only beginning.

When you touch the darkest, most honest, most frightening truth, you're pierced by a sliver of light. 

The Presence can't work with you if you're trying to impress yourself or your deity. The Presence has no use for ego-construction projects. The architecture of protection only hides what we need to see about ourselves.

So when you visit your journal today, don't worry about writing something spiritual or profound. Stop protecting yourself from what is.


 What is the most honest thing I can say to God right now?

And say it.