I have just returned home to Seattle after two amazing weeks of teaching soul care practitioners how to bring creative expression to their ministries of compassionate presence. 35 spiritual directors gathered in Louisiana and Mississippi for introductory workshops and then another 10 gathered on the shores of beautiful Lake Michgan for our Awakening the Creative Spirit five-day intensive (next one will be May 13-18, 2012 in the Pacific Northwest and they fill up early!) It is hard to express what a profound privilege it is to be with groups like this, to make safe space for deep inner exploration, to witness the in-breakings of newness into the soul, to behold the awe and wonder and tears that emerge in a space like this. It reminds me again and again why I am on this path.
And after two weeks away I am ready to be home, at least for a few days before I leave again to be a participant this time, in a yoga retreat. I am by nature a nester. My contemplative heart is deeply satisfied with days on end of time to simply be in my home, to savor the nurturing space I have created with my husband, to return to my own natural rhythms.
I also am by nature a wanderer and explorer, someone who embarks on great adventures both near and far. Pilgrimage is a central practice in my life, especially to ancestral places.
My word for this year is “sanctuary.” It emerged out of my own brush with death last Christmas and my longing to experience a place of deep safety and refuge in the midst of that experience. Sanctuary is an evocative word for me because it means the place where the holy of holies dwells, but it is also a place of refuge for those fleeing persecution or a place of safety for animals who can no longer be in the wild. Sanctuary speaks of a place where we encounter the sacred, a safe space, and a space of meeting our own inner wild natures.
I was in Hawaii this past summer as one of my pilgrimage experiences. This time wasn’t to encounter my ancestors but to visit the sacred volcano on the Big Island, that place of fiery destruction and new life. I hiked across the caldera of an active volcano and walked on new earth that had only been formed in the last few decades and experienced the wonder of that place. I also journeyed to be in the presence of the amazing sea turtles who dwell there. Turtles hold great energy and delight for me and this time I really felt the power of them carrying their home with them wherever they go. I experienced “sanctuary” in this place of being called to find the home within and to also meet the spirit of wildness alive and well in those lava flows.
I adore the season of autumn. There is a joy that I experience each year around this time breaking open in me as we enter the glories of fall readying for the spareness of winter. My mother died in the autumn eight years ago and ever since I have fallen in love with the way nature offers her consolation and fierce wisdom around the journey of letting go.
This year I am noticing the energy of migration calling to me and the question of what it means to journey home wherever we are. In the Northwest the salmon are making their long journey back to their birthplace to offer new life. They will die in the process, there is a wildness to this journey, yet they can’t resist the call to give birth. In Michigan I encountered Monarch butterflies and geese who will be beginning their own migration to a place of warmth for the months ahead. In my own inner work, I continue to explore the call of living in Vienna, the land of some of my ancestors, in the near future. As I finish up my application for dual citizenship with Austria I also ponder what it means to be a citizen of a land and how I claim the fullness of that experience for myself. Lots of threads moving through me these days.
An essential part of being a monk in the world is cultivating the sense of being at home wherever we find ourselves. Each moment offers its own invitations if we are paying attention. Can we be at home in this moment of time?
Stop by this week’s Poetry Party about Going Home and share your own poetic response for a chance to win a spot in my upcoming online retreat Honoring Saints & Ancestors: Peering through the Veil (October 30-November 19, 2011).