Wanderer, your footsteps are
the road, and nothing more;
wanderer, there is no road,
the way is made by walking.
The words above have been a kind of mantra for me in recent years. As my own spiritual path loosens its grip on plans and certainties and moves more deeply into unknowing and mystery, I am discovering the truth that “there is no road / the way is made by walking.” Sometimes when I am working with someone in spiritual direction, I hear the longing to know the path God is calling them to, to have some certainty they are making the “right” choice. And yet this way of thinking about God is limiting. I have come to believe that God does not call us to one particular path that we have to scrutinize and discover. God calls us to the fullness of living which can be manifested in a multitide of ways. We have to listen closely for what is truly life-giving and there lies the struggle. We resist trusting ourselves. We tell ourselves stories about why we should stay stuck where we are.
Following the way made by walking means listening for what is life-giving but also involves descending into the dark depths of our being, the places where wounds and shame dwells. We are called to retrieve these lost parts and welcome them back in to the wholeness of who we are. This is why many of us never get very far. The inner voices that criticize and cajole become too loud and so we return to what is comfortable, to what numbs us from claiming a life that is more vital and congruent with our heart’s desires. This is why the desert mothers and fathers have become such loved companions for my own journey. They know this struggle well and they offer practices to help navigate the inner terrain.
The words from Machado have been speaking especially loudly to me lately because my husband and I have responded to the call to adventure. We were going to spend 12 weeks in Vienna this summer, but because of various recent life events, we will be moving this summer to Vienna from our home in Seattle. Our “plan” right now is to stay there for a year and then see what comes next. We are very much stepping off into the dark unknown and it is as exhilirating as it is terrifying.
This time is about stepping into the unknown, trusting the life that is calling my heart. It is about following both the life-giving call and the call to descend into the depths of my being and heal what has been broken off, cast aside. This is the journey of a lifetime. I am so keenly aware of the absolute privilege my ability to choose this path carries and I do not take that for granted.
In some ways this decision was made quickly, in a matter of a couple of weeks. In other ways, this response has been building in us for several years, from our several trips together back to Vienna and falling more in love with that beautiful city, my own desire to more deeply connect with my father who is buried there along with his ancestors (*the photo above is of my father and me walking somewhere in the mountains of Austria when I was a child), my application for dual citizenship last fall to open this door even further, the way my own work has begun to move toward more online teaching which I can do from anywhere, and many other threads which have slowly woven themselves together over time.
And as amazing as this leap we are taking feels, it also demands great sacrifice. We have a life we love here in Seattle, a warm and comfortable home, good friends, and our dear sweet dog. We will be letting go of most of our belongings in the coming months to lighten our load and what we carry on this great pilgrimage into the next season of our lives – this stripping away of securities and comforts and remembering what is most essential and true, the desert elders spoke at length about the wisdom of this. Each day I awaken both full of hope and possibility, as well as washed over by waves of grief in the letting go.
The beauty of all of this is that very little at the Abbey will be impacted in a discernible way for you, my dear monks. I will continue to offer an array of rich online classes and retreats. I will even be coming back to the States once or twice in the coming year to offer some live programs. Not much will be affected directly by this move. On the other hand, everything will be impacted by this journey I am embracing, as I will share with you what I am discovering by showing up for myself in the midst of both joy and sorrow. I know my own commitment to practice is essential to my role as leader of this community. When we live life with courage, it ripples out to others.
Years ago I attended a contemplative retreat with Sister Ishpriya, a British nun who had lived in India for many years. That retreat had a deep impact on my heart and played a part in my falling in love with yoga philosophy. Someone recently told me that she had actually opened an ashram in Austria. I looked her up online and there it is, an hour away from Vienna by train. She even has a book out written in German with the title “Es gibt keinen Weg, es gibt nur das Gehen,” which means “there is no road, the way is made by walking.”
We will be departing Seattle on July 10th and arriving in Vienna on July 11th which is also the feast day of St. Benedict and also happens to be the same date my husband and I arrived in Vienna the first time we traveled there together four years ago. A beautiful synchronicity we didn’t plan, but was simply what was available for frequent flyer miles.
I will be taking a sabbatical from teaching from mid-June until mid-September to allow space for this transition.
Before I leave, I am so thrilled to be offering a brand new live retreat called Sacred Rhythms: Bringing Yoga, Movement, and the Wisdom of the Seasons to Your Writing Practice – June 7-10, 2012 at the Grunewald Guild near Leavenworth, WA. This will be a wonderful, nourishing time of diving deep into our bodies and telling the stories we discover there. Guided by the rhythms of the day, we will move through the hours of awakening, ripening, releasing, and being to listen to how these rhythms might support our creative practice. This retreat is for every body and anyone who loves to write, or is curious about how movement and writing come together, or who wants to experience following the rise and fall of the day by listening deeply to what the body wants and needs. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.