On My Way

On my way
The earth is loved into bareness
Walked by thousands of feet

On my way
Along the acequia
I’m companioned by the calls
Of peacocks and roosters
Living into their duty
To make certain
There isn’t a soul left sleeping

The sun peeks over the Sandias
Finally illuminating the
Dawn-rising balloons
Giants that, by now,
Float near the river

Pristine blue dome overhead
And I’m overcome
By the beauty and luck
Overflowing in my days
–Stephanie J. Gretchen

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Day 1: Pre-amble

Day 1I am leaving Maryland today. There’s a sense that I’ve started my journey, my pilgrimage. I have that feeling of shifting perspective.

I said goodbye to my dear brother, sister-in-law, and niece this morning. They stood waving in the driveway as I pulled away. They’ve been my home base for the past few months. What a treat it has been to spend this chunk of time with my niece as she perches on the edge of adolescence.

I’m sitting in Panera waiting for my car’s tune up to be completed. Then I’m off to a board meeting in PA. Seems funny to go in the total opposite direction (north and east) for the next few days. At the same time it feels grounding to go to Pendle Hill, a place that is steeped in Spirit, beauty, and centeredness.

I’m so aware of each interaction I’m having. It’s like watching my life in slow motion. This morning I’ve been gifted with joyful souls, caring for me and wishing me well. Little do they know the weight of their words or the distance of my journey. I take their words and the dragonfly’s acrobatic dance outside the window as a beautiful harbinger of what’s to come.

Oh yes, I’m ready!

A Pilgrimage of a Few Steps

IMG_6587

The road to growth can be a circuitous route.

I recently went to a two-day spiritual event. The spiritual tradition was fairly new to me, although I had heard of this spiritual leader many times before.

On the first day I waited for 6 long, hot, tiring hours for my personal blessing. As the day wore on I found myself wanting to slip into exasperation at the seeming chaos, and reminding myself that this event was about loving kindness and maybe I should try a little of that. I felt surprisingly fussy and exhausted from the wait, the height of expectations, and the struggle of trying to understand the speaker. As I drove home that night,  I felt like I truly had been on a pilgrimage that day. I was in bed by 9:30 that night.

I played with the idea of not going the following day. I was tired and cranky and felt like I had been all revved up with no place to go all day. Did I really want to subject myself to that again?

I pushed on and went anyway. The following morning’s yoga, meditation, and teachings were wonderful. It was fascinating to learn more about this wisdom tradition, to understand a little more about this different road to God.

After a delicious lunch we went into a two-hour teaching session where I fought hard to understand what the speaker was saying. It was also late afternoon, the room was warm, and the lights were dim…food coma. I struggled to stay awake. After the teaching there was an hour-and-a-half-long meditation session in a darkened room. I lasted about 15 minutes before I popped out of the Depth. For the next hour and fifteen minutes I fought one dragon after another, changed positions, and tried every trick in the meditation book. I kept coming back to the prayer, “I know you’re there God. Help me find you.” I was totally unable to connect. I jumped out of my seat as soon as she concluded. I was out the door before you could say, “Namaste.”

As I exited the building, I saw a beautiful bird feather on the ground in front of me. I paused. I got into my car and a catbird jumped onto the hood and started tapping on the windshield right in front of me, “Knock, knock, knock, are you there?!” I heard the message—Work is happening, progress is occurring even when the space feels empty. It’s like when there’s a rainy day, just because there are clouds doesn’t mean the sun is not there. God was with me all the time.

This was not one of those rainbow and butterfly spiritual experiences, but sometimes the road to growth is a circuitous route.

The Labyrinth and Care for Self

IMG_6035Sometimes I’m just blown away by how clearly Spirit moves in my life.

I was at a retreat recently and decided to walk the labyrinth one morning as the sun was rising. Since it was early morning, I was aware that the soles of my shoes were particularly noisy on the pea-stone gravel the labyrinth path was made of. I thought, “Oh, I have socks on, I can just walk the labyrinth without shoes. That way I won’t bother anyone.”

So, I prayed and started walking. I had a nice rhythm going and was deep in prayer until about a third of the way in, I noticed my feet were starting to hurt. It wasn’t painful, but I was aware of my feet being uncomfortable.

I thought, what do I do now? Step, step, step. Do I stop here and walk directly to the entrance to retrieve my shoes? Pray, breath, step. I continued to say my prayer in pace with my walking. Step, step, step. Do I walk back, following the path to the entrance? Breath, pray, step. Do I muscle on and just keep doing the labyrinth? Pray, breath, step.

I vacillated between praying, and wondering about going to the entrance or the center. What to do? Then, I stopped. I was at the entrance, right next to my shoes. I’m not sure how I did it, but thankfully, there I was. I had to laugh at myself. I said out loud, “Got it, God! Thanks!” The lesson of the labyrinth, the answer to my prayer, the gift of that moment was—“Steph, take care of yourself. It doesn’t have to be hard.”

The spiritual journey doesn’t have to be a trial. It doesn’t need to be about self-sacrifice, putting others first, or pain.

In the comfort of my shoes, I walked to the center of the labyrinth and sat in silence as the sun rose, thankful for the chance to learn this lesson in a physical, gentle, and simple way.

Yes, take care of myself. It doesn’t have to be hard.

Happy Full

2014-12-05 16.18.03The first Saturday in December holds a favorite event for me and my family. It’s a winter festival full of community, yummy treats, books, and pretty things. It’s like old home week where you get to see so many current and old friends, catch up, do a little holiday shopping, support good causes. The extrovert in me loves it!

I volunteered this morning to help set up the Coffee House with one of my best friends. Spending time together was a gift. I could have stopped right there and it would have been enough. But, there was icing on this cake!

When we finished working we got to catch up with lots of other people dear to us plus do some shopping while supporting good works around the world: schools, clean water, literacy. Talk about warm fuzzies at every turn.

The day moved on and all of a sudden I realized I was no longer clear on where I was on my gift list. And, my list is not very long or complicated. As this happened I also realized my feet were starting to get tired from standing all day. Obviously I was done. I walked back upstairs toward the parking lot, sprinkling short goodbyes along the way until I made it back to the car. As I sat down on the couch back home and put my feet up I felt my back and feet relax.

I think I may have learned something over the years. At the first sign of “doneness” I let go of the joyful event and, satiated, gently went home. I had that sensation of happy fullness. I was not driven by, “I’ve got to get this done!” or any feelings of missing out on something. I just rested in the delicious aftertaste of a wonderful day, full of blessings and bounty. I had been fully present to the simple gifts of friendship, good music, teamwork, community, and an awesome cupcake. And, in gratitude, I put my feet up and was able to continue to relish the holiday season.

Photo and content © Copyright 2014. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Gifts Hidden Beneath

2014-12-02 12.03.32It’s a rainy December day, gray and still. As I adjusted the plants in my son’s room, trying to give them enough slanted winter light, my attention was pulled to the creek below our house. The serpentine curves are wide and full of this winter rain. There is even a little white ripple in the normally meandering flow.

We recently moved, so this is the first fall and early winter we’ve experienced here. When we moved in, the woods were thick and lush. When my son opened his shades the other day he said, “How did I not even know there was a creek below my window?”(It could be because he is a teen and doesn’t open his shades all that often.) Regardless, this is one of the blessings of this season. This part of the earth has shed what’s extraneous at this point. It is stripped naked and in traveling lighter more of what’s beneath becomes clear.

Last night I had a glass of wine whose brand boasts of not being encumbered by the oaken aging process. Here too, traveling simply without losing one’s delicious essence is illustrated.

I’ve often thought of autumn’s gift as the symbol of letting go, of releasing what is no longer needed. I thought the traveling light was the gift, but now I see that is just part of it. In letting go of what is carried we’re not just lighter, but we can see more deeply what has been hidden. What gifts are laying fallow, waiting to be seen and brought into service?

Photo and content © Copyright 2014. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Interrupted

cropped love to infinityI was out to brunch with a friend the other day. We were talking about something I felt to be important. My friend had just shared and I was responding with my thoughts. In the middle of my sentence my friend said, “Oh my gosh, wait a minute. I just figured out what to do with blah, blah, blah,” a subject totally off topic.

Hurt and feelings of not being respected or cared for rushed over me. I emotionally withdrew immediately, as if I had touched a hot stove.

My friend quickly apologized profusely. It took me a minute or two, but I worked my way back to open hearted again. I was happy because this has been an “issue” for me in the past. Getting my feelings hurt after being interrupted and taking a while to recover have both been recurring themes. It’s all wrapped up in worthiness.

What happened differently this time is that I recently read about Byron Katie’s “The Work.” I asked myself if it was true that my friend interrupting me was a sign of her not caring, not respecting, and not loving me. No, I couldn’t say that any of that was true. The next internal question was, how do I feel and act when I believe it’s true. Well that was evident, and it felt like crap. How would I feel if I didn’t believe that junk? I’d just let it slide, comfortable in my worth and knowing that I’ve done the exact thing to others and it wasn’t necessarily because I didn’t care or wasn’t listening.

This all helped to shift perspective, but the clincher was that I then emotionally went to a place where I remembered how loved I am by the Universe. There is so much love out there for each of us, simply because we exist. I don’t need to get wrapped up in whether or not someone’s actions step on my toes and hurt my feelings. Now granted, this was a minor issue. It wasn’t like she beat me or something, but it was a baby step forward in feeling how beloved we all are and the Divine Nature that resides in us all. And for that, I am so grateful.

© Copyright 2014. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Thankful For The Icons Of Life

2014-10-24 16.23.44Icons abound in life. I’m not just talking about the images that you often see in orthodox churches, pictures of Jesus, Mary, or saints.

Icons are a conduit to connect you to the sacred. Through imagery that which is Holy speaks to us, revealing truths beyond the reach of words. They are a way to be present to the divine beyond seeing, beyond verbalizing, and without thinking. They are a wonderful way to get out of our heads.

The icon is not an end in itself, but assists us in going beyond what can be seen with physical eyes into the realm of mystical experience.

The other morning, I was looking out the French doors into the woods. It was a fall day and the large tulip and oak trees in the distance were swaying deeply in the wind. Their yogic bends contrast to the mid-ground branches twittering up and down and the foreground leaves freefalling. The scene carried me deeper into my meditation, feeling the sway of my being, the in-breath, the exhale. All is happening concurrently and in harmony. Breath, Breath. And, I am carried still deeper.

There are countless icons of all sorts around us. Spirit abounds everywhere, we just need to be open. And, there seem to be shortcuts all over. At least that’s how it feels to me.

What takes us out of ourselves, away from “me” and into a more universal sense, into realizing the Holy is all around you? It could be a sunset, a baby, a happy dog…take it where you can find it. Blessings on your journey.

© Copyright 2014. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Path to Wholeness

2014-09-30 16.33.41I was out hiking a field trail the other day, through tall grasses and meadows, when the phrase “path to wholeness” struck me. Yes, I’m a firm believer in “Solvitur ambulando – It is solved by walking.”— often attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo. The idea of our lives being a path, a journey is not a new one, but here I was literally on a path seeking answers, looking for wholeness.

As often happens, as I walk I come up with a blog and I’ll speak parts of it into my phone so I can remember what I was thinking when I’m home and near my computer. You’ve probably had the same experience where you say something into the phone and it garbles it. But this time instead of translating what I’d said into “path to wholeness” it wrote “have to hold us.” I was struck by the beauty of this. What came to mind was Spirit holding me as I perambulated, processing my struggle.

The related phrase “to have and to hold” to me is not about subjugation, but to be responsible to and to care for. I love the idea of me being responsible to and caring for my spiritual well-being and Divine Wisdom doing the same for me.

The sense of being held and supported carried me on the rest of my hike and continues to the present moment.

I feel a great easing when I remember I’m not on my own, I’m not dangling out there alone on the edge, but Spirit is holding me all along the way on my path. And for that, I am so grateful.

 

© Copyright 2014. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

The Blessings of a Sick Day

photo(5)I have been rushing around getting all kinds of things accomplished, which feels good, but also not always sleeping well, and, in hindsight, a bit frenetic. Granted, there has been a lot to do. I just moved, and that alone has a ton of details as well as big picture pieces to it.

In the middle of the night I realized my throat felt dry, but I didn’t want to drink too much water for fear of my bladder waking me later on. Unfortunately, when I woke up this morning I realized I definitely had a sore throat. Damn! I was supposed to go help a friend among other things today.

I thought, “Come on, am I really sick or just a little dehydrated?” Plainly hoping for the latter. Nope, the throat thing didn’t go away. I called my friend and then looked at my day and how I really felt. I took that pause that people are always talking about. Don’t act too fast, don’t jump from one thing to another. Just wait.

I had just been talking with my son about how I just didn’t have the motivation to finish painting the living room. This is weird for me. Usually if I start a project I am totally excited to see it to completion. I thought about this and a few other instances where I was running out of steam.

Here comes the aha moment: Maybe, since I’ve been going fast and furious for a couple of months now it’s time to take a breather. So, I treated the day like a silent retreat. It’s a rainy, cool day anyway, so it was a bit easier to climb back into bed. I did a long meditation, napped, and just really waited to get clear on what my body needed. I did a lot of listening to myself. The head didn’t just give orders on what to do next. I practiced mindfulness all day. Mindful breathing, eating, napping, listening. I’ve been able to just receive the gifts of this day.

Funny thing is I hadn’t noticed the effects of running ragged. I just kept focusing on what to do next. I’m thankful for the day as well as the awareness I was given to realize what that little dryness in my throat was telling me. Slow down, you are in overdrive.

Here’s hoping I’m on my feet soon, but I know when I get back to normal, I’ll be stronger than I’ve been in a while!

© Copyright 2014. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.