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Ache and Delight

The week before last was the fourth anniversary of my mother’s death and I shared here before that I have been feeling called to walk willingly into some dark places.   It turns out that the anniversary was also the day I had to end a friendship.  Friendship to me has always been sacramental and so not something I treat lightly. This friendship had actually been over for some time, but it took until now for us to realize that we each still have old wounds that have never been healed, despite our previous efforts.  It feels good to have some closure, but it was a very painful day that calls me to reflect on my own patterns that helped contribute to this undoing. 

During that week I also had a dream in which I was being introduced to Richard Rohr.  I shared the dream in spiritual direction and was encouraged to find out what Rohr might have to offer to my journey at this time.  Part of my work in Jungian analysis is integrating a healthy masculinity into my spirituality and so I found some of Rohr’s articles about his extensive work with male spirituality and initiation.  One article in particular really spoke to me — in it he writes of the masculine as being rooted in the “sacred no” and the feminine with the “sacred yes.” 

Rohr writes: “By the sacred yes or sacred no I mean that affirmation or negation that comes from a deep place of wisdom and courage, even if it creates conflict or disagreement. The sacred yes is not willful or egocentric, but rather is willing and surrendered. The sacred no is not rebellion or refusal, but always the necessary protecting of boundaries.”

This simple distinction of the sacred yes and sacred no that each come from the place of “deep wisdom and courage” has brought me a tremendous gift of clarity.  I realized in this friendship I had to create clear boundaries for myself and that was the gift of the sacred no.  At the same time I also had to welcome in the grief that accompanies this loss and also inevitably rises around the anniversary of my mother’s death. This was the gift of the sacred yes — making space within myself for sorrow.

While the previous week was filled with ache, this past week has been filled with delight.  One friend’s 50th birthday party (about which I hope to write more later), another’s invitation to hear some classical music, and another friend’s visit to see me at the hermitage.  It was a week filled with such delight and grace, in which I was reminded again and again how I am blessed with many wise and wonderful women in my life who I count as soul friends. I found my heart saying an enthusiastic yes again and again.

The journey for me is truly about making space within myself to hold the tensions of ache and delight, of lament and praise, of yes and no.  It is a slippery space, not always easy to maintain when I often want life to be clear and straight-forward, or when I want more answers than questions, or when I want to feel grounded in the center rather than dwelling on the edges of things.  But really, this world filled with mystery and questions, invites our wonder and longing, our sorrow and our joy.

To what are you being invited to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’?

-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts

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8 Responses

  1. Thanks Eveline, I love those synchronistic moments when things begin to make sense. :-) Sorry to hear about your friendship as well. To be honest, this situation with my friend has been going on longer than a year, so it was finally time.

  2. Wow – synchronicity…..I was just reading an article of Rohr’s this morning on “male love” for a course I’m taking. Had not heard of him before this, and now another reference. Thanks for the link to the article, it will complement some of the other stuff I’m reading. I too have been grieving the loss of a friendship, only it’s taken me a year to work through this – but I find your reflections on the sacred “yes” and “no” to be very helpful

  3. Thank you for the most thoughtful responses.

    Cathleen, glad these words were helpful!

    Sue, isn’t everything that is liberating and empowering also many times frustrating? :-)

    eileen, I appreciate you sharing your experience. I can very much relate. You will have to come out to Seattle sometime and join us.

    lucy, I am grateful for our time of discussion as it helped me to articulate some of those things and in turn allow them to shift.

    Thanks Suz, it is indeed a powerful one. I am grateful I had such a good relationship with her. Blessings to you in your own “no” — that was my experience, the friendship had long before ended, but saying the no out loud made a big difference for me.

    love and blessings to each of you, Christine

  4. Christine,

    Though sad, these are beautiful thoughts, Christine. I so understand the mother anniversary…I still feel some pangs even though it has been years and years. That mother relationship is a strong and powerful one, isn’t it? I will be holding a place in my heart, too, as you pass through this time.

    The end of a good friendship is deeply painful. I especially love your words about friendship being a sacrement…how right that feels! Loosing a sacrement would, of course, be of utmost importance. I thank you for these words as I struggle with a sil who was a
    “sister” to me for all but the last ten years. It is so difficult to say “no”…even when it has really been said long before.

    Blessings and warm thoughts…

  5. i feel so privileged and welcomed to read this account after having discussed much of it in person. where am i being invited to the sacred yes and no? it feels like i am really being called to embrace what it looks like to incorporate both good and evil, dark and light, ego and essence into my being…integration maybe? rather than keeping them as opposing forces, but seeing them as part of my whole being. what does that look like? i am not really certain, but my dreams and collage work, as well as reality, continue to lead me in surprising (& not so surprising) ways toward this goal. It feels like both the yes and no combined. thank you for sharing rohr’s words…there’s always more to ponder!!

  6. Wow – this is quote similar to what I experienced over this week. SURRENDER is so where it’s at for me right now. Healthy boundaries – absolutely. I was put into a position of having to communicate a Sacred NO to someone. After a month of feeling the stress of the relationship, communicating it honestly to those closest to me, and spending much time in prayer and meditation, the answer became quite clear. After listening to the enormous amounts of negativity and then, verbal abuse, I lost it. I made amends for my outburst (there is only so much I can take and my patience ran out – but I know better than to go to that place). The following day this person called with her amends. I am now able to distance myself and walk away gracefully. From this I draw many lessons learned, and I am most grateful. How I wish I could have joined you and Lucy – you both are part of my daily life these days.

  7. Wow. Wonderful words as always. Richard Rohr – I have been barrelling through “Everything Belongs” at a rate of knots since it came in the mail the other day from a New South Wales secondhand bookshop. Great stuff.

    To what am I being invited to say “yes” or “no”? At the moment, I think I am learning to say both yes and no to just enjoying being single, to using this period of my life as preparation, to not waste pointless time feeling less than complete because I am single. It’s very liberating and empowering and I’m enjoying the process … when it’s not frustrating me :)

  8. Christine, Again you offer helpful words. I especially appreciate your sharing Richard’s distinction between sacred yes and sacred no ~ both what they are and what they are not. Thank you!!