Ruah

“Rûaħ or ruach, a Hebrew word meaning ‘breath, spirit.'”

The Ruah Center at Villa de Matel is dear to my heart. A silent retreat tucked into a convent at the center of a bustling city, its wooded acres and quiet halls are always a soothing balm for an achy soul.

“This place hasn’t changed,” I said to the spiritual director during our session. “It’s been four years since I’ve been here, and I’ve changed…but this place still feels exactly the same.”

We talked about my anxiety. The tight, heavy feeling around my heart and the deep wisdom wanting to emerge from behind the suffering. She’s a wise woman and friend, and later in the afternoon of my arrival, she slipped a prayer under my door which began with the following:

Gentle me, Holy One,

Into an unclenched moment.”

These words informed my journey in the coming days as I walked the cemetery grounds and labyrinth and wandered through the building’s ancient yet immaculate hallways. I felt them echo in the roots of great, towering trees and in the wind that called to spring.

My first night, I woke up with a feeling of perfect stillness in my heart, surrounded by tenderness. Still half asleep, I saw myself in an egg, with the moon shining overhead. I heard,

“I am an extension of the Great Mystery.”

I painted my dreams the next morning, the egg and the roots of a tree.

The generosity I experience here always astounds me–generosity of people and generosity of Spirit. It is completely donation based, no questions asked, just leave what you can in a box on your way out. You are fed, housed, and gently ushered through a silent retreat of your own design. You can meet with a spiritual director, or not. There are thoughtfully placed signs, unique gardens, prayer spaces and works of art that are always exactly right where you need them to be. Though the center is rooted in Catholicism, people of all faiths are welcomed.

Generosity always reminds me that it’s okay to receive. It’s okay to reach out into the world and into the heavens and lean on a little support.

Advertisements

Therapy

aede939aef37df59e3d6bcf2c4a7dc77
“the hard season
will
split you through.
do not worry.
you will bleed water.
do not worry.
this is grief.
your face will fall out and
down your skin
and
there will be scorching.
but do not worry.
keep speaking the years from 
their hiding places.
keep coughing up smoke
from all the deaths you have
died.
keep the rage tender.
because the soft season will
come.
it will come.
loud.
ready.
gulping.
both hands in your chest.
up all night.
up all of the nights.
to drink all damage into love.

 -therapy”

(from Salt. by Nayyirah Waheed)

 

Sun in Pisces

663d7a064ef02005f1da2ec57b4697b6
Medusa, by Olaf Hajek

“Pisces along with Neptune rule the 12th House, the last house of the 12 which make up our chart…the 12th House is the realm of Artists and Insanity. Of Asylums and Prisons. Of Addiction and Spiritual Awakenings…

It is a scary place because so many lose themselves in these dark waters. When we are in them, we/I forget there is anything else but the dark terrain. We are in danger of getting fully swallowed by voices and ideas that are moving through the collective at any given time…

So when we hear in our thoughts , “you are a failure…you can do nothing right…you have no value,” all universal voices that depressed people hear, they are not our own. We were inseminated with these voices at the moment of our birth from parents who had themselves internalized them. All of us were born into a patriarchal culture which set up impossible standards to achieve, let alone upside-down values of what it is to be human.

The greatest revolution is the one each human faces within themselves. The more we break out of these lies and this conditioning, the more we come out of our hiding, the more we share ourselves with others in groups we feel safe in or with one friend… the more we really see ourselves and begin to build our strength in revolt against these collective abusive systems. In this way, we destroy the ‘horcruxes’, the inner curses, one human at a time.”

–words by Kathleen Prophet, with minor edits.

 

On Being Human

 

a615735680ca81c461cf2132d0941988
“The owl is one of the most curious creatures, a bird that stays awake when the rest of the world sleeps…I find that so interesting, to be mired in reality when the rest of the world is dreaming. What does she see and what does she know that the rest of the world is missing?”                        – M.J Rose, adapted.

Somewhere amidst the lonely tracks of the past several months, I have interwoven another journey, an exploration of what it means to be human.

It wasn’t a path I intended to take, but there was something that inevitably pulled me there, something in the rawness of being curled up for days in the fetal position under heavy blankets, wishing the world would disappear.

I’ve discovered that my worth as a human being has nothing to do with the months that are stacking up under the “employment gap” on my resume, or the bills that I can no longer pay on my own. Or the desperate feeling that I’ve made so many critical mistakes in recent years.

Being human simply means that I am worthy of dignity and freedom. And that all I wish for in this life is to love, be loved in return, and walk gently upon the Earth.

I am heartbroken at the world I live in — my own, and the one we collectively share. It weighs so heavily on me in every moment, sometimes so much that I feel like I can’t take the next breath. I often wake up in the middle of the night with my jaw clenched and my fists balled up, and a scream that wants to rise and explode from my belly into my throat.

And still, I am here, and I am human. And I am deprogramming the urge to fix this.

Other than basic self-care and being vulnerable enough to ask for help when I need it, there is nothing else here to fix. I’m glad to have recently abandoned the insanity of the self-help/personal development industry…there is no magic mantra or practice or manifestation technique that I want to paint over this grief. There is, instead, an opening wide to receive all of it, and a deep listening to the heartbeat of the Earth.

I find comfort in this quote from a fellow wise woman:

“If we are going to come back into the rhythm of nature, we have to slow down.

If we imagine the world as our own body, speaking to us in loud, desperate pleas, the first thing we have to do is listen.

We must acknowledge the limitations that have brought us to this terrifying precipice. We don’t know what we don’t know, and instead of pushing through our injury and confusion, we need to surrender the rush and show up instead with our heartbreak to encounter what is becoming.

Be hospitable to what stillness has to offer.

Cherish the opportunity to sink into the eternal, which is available to be bathed in at any given moment.”

— Toko Pa Turner

 

 

Doors

“The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious.

If you have a deep scar, that is a door,

if you have an old, old story, that is a door.

If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door.

If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.”

Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves

 

(Fyi: The word that touches my heart the most in this quote,  that breaks it open every time, is “sane.”)

Family

77a5967bf83b609306923d52f2053497

“Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs, the ones who accept you for who you are and love you no matter what.” — unknown

Cutting cords today, thanks to the illumination following last week’s powerful blood moon eclipse. Feeling the freedom that comes with finally realizing that sharing DNA with another human being doesn’t mean I have to want or need or receive any of the following from them: love, reassurance, acceptance, respect, understanding, etc.

Life is big, and wide, and open. With every new breath, I come deeper into the knowing that my life is fully and gorgeously my own. And it always has been.

“Show me the light, and rise like the moon in the darkest of night….put all your beauty deep into the fire.” – from Flesh and Blood, by Ed Prosek

 

The Forest Knows Where You Are

Stand still. 
The trees ahead and the bushes beside you are not lost. 
Wherever you are is called Here, 
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost.
Stand still.
The forest knows Where you are.
You must let it find you.

-John Wagoner