Journey Into the Beating Heart of the World

I have been feeling very introspective lately, probably the result of having some sort of virus with a rash and fever that caused me to retreat to my bed for the last four days (the prescription-strength Benadryl helped that along quite a bit!)  Or maybe it is because summer is waning, and while I am probably one of the few folks in Seattle who actually tires of sunny weather all the time (I adore cool rainy days and curling up by a fire with a book), summer also means lots of time with my husband who is on break from teaching.  Early August I always have some anticipatory grief for when we move back to our regular schedules and are apart all day and when the busyness of my own life goes back to full swing.  I love my life, but I am also enjoying lots of stillness these days.  Deep down I know I am truly called to be a monk in the world.

I have been contemplating ways to sustain a healing rhythm for myself this fall, one that honors my deep desire to be in the forest or by the ocean regularly, to tend my dreams, to make time for art-making, to sit in stillness.  I find as I get older that the time I spend each day in prayer doesn't feel like enough to quench my thirst.  So I am considering whether I might be able to have a Sabbath day for myself each week.  My husband and I already try and keep Sunday as a Sabbath, but that day is for us to be together, to go to brunch and the farmer's market, to nap sweetly, to go to church in the evening, to extend hospitality to friends.

This second Sabbath would be more of a personal retreat day.  A day to go hiking in beautiful Northwest forests so close at hand even from the middle of Seattle.  A day to sit with all the dream images that have been bubbling during the previous week, calling me to wholeness.  A day to play with art materials, collage and paint and mosaic.  A day to write poetry and listen to the music of other poets.  A day to relish the joys of the body, to move deliberately, to eat mindfully, to indulge in a massage, to visit the spa, to experiment with a new recipe.  A day to just be that is entirely my own.  I already do all of these things as a part of my self-care, but this feels like an even more intentional way to renew myself each week.  While it is a retreat, at the same time, I somehow can't help but believe that it is also a journey to the heart of the world, to listen for the whispering under the roaring waves of life. It feels like an invitation — and if I choose to accept — I may be transformed in ways I can't anticipate. 

As I write this I feel a space open up inside of me.  A space that holds the other voices at bay –the ones that question my privilege to be able to even consider this as an option, that wonder how I will get all of my work done this way, that . . .

This is what has been calling to me from the deepest places of my heart.  What is stirring in you during these last days of summer?  How do you want to move into autumn?  What are the places of retreat calling to you?

-Christine Valters Paintner

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