Dear Loved Ones,
Do you have a place that is one where God meets you, where you meet yourself?
I am staying at my friends home for a couple of nights while she is away. It’s a place I stayed often before I moved to Minnesota, but now mostly come for an afternoon, not overnight. My times of staying here before were usually tagged on to our monastic retreat, either before or after our monastery gathered in person, and was an extension of this retreat time. The home is a small cabin on the banks of a lake, the water visible through the trees, a dock to sit and pray on in the mornings, a shady lawn to be on if the bugs are not biting, a screen porch with recliners and a lake view. And while other houses are around and kids are playing, it feels like a sacred space for me.
When I arrived here this trip I had left some things undone at home, and my mind was playing the guilt vs. need to stop record. I should have finished painting the garage before I came, I still didn’t write that email that needed to go out, I have thank you cards to write, my carpet needs shampooing and the bathroom needs cleaning. What gives me the right to leave all that behind and escape for two nights? And, since starting at Clearwater UMC at the beginning of the month and just finishing up 4 weeks of intensive healing sessions with a client, (all really good), I was tired, and had only had one day of absolutely no work in a few weeks.
So I arrived at the cabin, unpacked some groceries and a swim suit and the dog, and sat on the porch to breathe. Within a few minutes I felt my body begin to open, to relax, my breathing got deeper, my mind slowed down, and peace washed over me. It was as though God was saying, “Welcome, have a drink of water, sit and relax. I’m here with you!” And it was as though the land itself were saying, “Welcome! You know how to do this place. Slow. Relax. Retreat. Be.”
I love that this land and God know how to welcome me into this physical place in such a tangible and grounding way. My body remembers all the summers when I spent time here and falls back into that space easily. The dock draws me for morning prayers, the water for afternoon floats, the porch to just sit and be and sit and be some more, the bed calls for naps and the nearby woods are becoming a place to walk Gibbs before the heat catches up with us.
I am filled with gratitude for the space, and for the prayers that have been prayed here over the decades, the people who have made this a sacred space…. As well as a space to gather and laugh and enjoy one another. I am grateful for Sue’s hospitality and care of her home, this little piece of land on the edge of a lake! And I am grateful for the lake and the land and God, for the fireflies, loons and a great blue heron, and for who all meet me there with arms and wings wide open!
Where are some of your sacred spaces? Where are those lands and waters where your body remembers to slow down, where God meets you with open arms?
Dear Loved Ones,
I was cutting the lawn the other day toward the end of a day of hard work. The weather was nice and the grass cool beneath my feet. My lawn mower is a push one…. No loud motor running, and I was enjoying the task, my mind wandering and quieting and the sound of birds filling the air. All of a sudden a piece of broken stick was thrown up into my face, hitting with a hard whack. It stung, but wasn’t too bad; there was blood, but not much. So I decided I wanted to finish mowing the lawn, I was so close to being done. But soon my chest closed up and I was finding it hard to breathe, the memory of other times I had been hit causing a feeling of panic to rise up. “Just push through,” was the old mantra coming up. “You’re fine…. It didn’t hurt that much. It’s your fault. Don’t be a baby. Keep going and pretend nothing is wrong.” All phrases that came in rapid succession as it was getting harder to catch my breath. (note…. All this took place in about 30 seconds or less!)
So I turned the mower back to the garage, went inside the house, got a cold cloth and sat down. Immediately the voices stopped. They saw the compassion and love I was giving myself and had nothing left to say. My chest opened and my breathing was easy once more. Within a minute I was regulated and calm.
I looked at the damage to my face…. Just a small scrape, and held the cold cloth on it a little more, and smiled to myself, kind of in shock and awe at the whole incident. Firstly, that the reaction had been that big. And secondly, that the compassion had come so quickly and, as soon as it was enacted, the calmness descended and all the feelings settled.
This made me think about all the times when I have had to push through pain, to keep going, to pretend nothing was wrong even when it felt like I couldn’t breath, even when the pain was far greater. And it made me realize how far a little love can go, how quickly feelings can dissipate when they are given the compassion and attention then deserve, when they are seen and heard and cared about. I’ve witnessed this with little kids who fall over and scrape a knee…. They sit there for a minute to see if someone will notice, and if they are asked if they are ok will say, “Yes,” and spring back up to play. But if no one pays attention they may begin to cry, looking for and needing on a primal level some compassion and love, someone to see their hurt and care. The pain is the same whether they are seen or not, but the response from those who should love them is what is important.
I encourage all of us to pay attention to the hurts and pains that arise, the feelings that come. Surround them with compassion and love, ask them, “are you ok?” Hold them for a while until they know that they are loved. Stay with them until they re-regulate. For if we don’t do this, they build and build until they are harder to love, harder to calm down from, bigger to face.
I believe if we can do this with our own small (and large) hurts and pains, we can begin to do this with the pain of the world, spreading ripples of love and compassion to all the places of hurt, re-regulating our communities and beyond so that healing may happen and everyone will be able to breathe with more ease.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.