Being Me, Being You

Being Me, Being You

November 4th, 2013 (No Comments)

I’ve heard it said many times, “I don’t want to become a professional retreat goer!” The next sentence usually goes something like this: “I want to serve, stay engaged, not gaze so long at my belly-button. I just don’t have the time, or the money, to spend on myself when there’s so much to do, so many people hurting in the world. It feels selfish. Maybe when I retire, I’ll give myself this luxury.”

As a ‘professional’ retreat leader, I could quickly give 1001 good reasons for people of every age to take time out of complicated lives, to slow down, and listen to our racing hearts speak. I could offer all sorts of ways to remain active and still passionately alive from the inside-out. But, this morning I am wondering if in fact many of us, as the human race, are like school children trying to win the three-legged race competition while running backwards around the globe. Truly a very complicated and agonizing scenario!

DSC05825It’s Monday, and I have just returned from facilitating the first of a four weekend, year-long, seasonal series of Courage & Renewal® retreats. Twenty courageous souls signed up to dig deep into the meaning of what it means to “Journey toward Wholeness.” These three days were richly enlivened by the vibrant colors of autumn at a welcoming Pennsylvanian retreat center steeped in contemplative tradition. Yesterday, in our last council circle, I heard people exclaim:

“My soul has become more open and porous.”

“I felt the potential of us as human beings, I experienced that potential.”

“I heard my own voice.”

“This felt like work, I had to get out of my own way…”

“It is about standing alone and working together…”

 Yes! I too became aware at a deeper level of how each of us is such a unique human person. What a joyful mystery to feel fully alive and function from a heart connected in this Circle of Life.  The conundrum as I see it this morning is how to be truly separate and fully connected. How can we be authentic living beings with our stripes and polka-dots, our knots and our whorls, our bleeding wounds and our calcified resins?

Where in the world can we be all that we are?

Where can we untie ourselves from the addictions that cripple our freedom, those unconscious actions that strap us to other beings, those attachments that drag us backwards through our days?

When are we given the freedom to stop racing, stop competing, and stop comparing — to just be present to All that is? To find movement in harmony with planets and pollen, wind and autumn leaves?

In our Western mindset we have spent much energy on individual self-help schemes, many of which offer much personal healing.  In other more tribal, communal experiences, we have found our spiritual connections, our sense of belonging.  But the practice of being fully present to each other and fully alive in our bodies is buried, I believe, in the heart of our connection to the greater natural world.  We are living nature — here today and unseen tomorrow.

I wonder why it is so hard for us to have eyes to know how beautiful we each are!  In retreat circles that offer intentional community we receive the invaluable opportunity to be seen without the job title, the pressing issue, or the chronic illness. You probably already have learned that just wandering in a blanket of shimmering golden leaves releases you from all your urgent self-doubt and questions. We found together and separately this weekend that as we gave ourselves permission to wander down the  uncomfortable lanes of pain and longing, we received loving compassion for our own selves and for each other, and were drawn forward into Wholeness – messy, dazzling, and changing. We have been lured into the mystery of a throbbing web of life that speaks both in human language and in the soulful wildness of all of Earth beings.

This weekend as I gingerly held the casing of a Chinese chestnutchestnut, I was reminded that it is in my prickly discomforts, my dis-ease, and in all my darkest unknowing, that life’s most precious gifts have been growing. It is injurious to precipitously bite or gnaw on these gnarly seeds. How often we try! We often add to our hurt to attempt to open them alone, but it with loving attention- alone and in communal human circles- and in the seasons of Earth time, that I learn to uncover, relish, and pass on these nuggets of hard-earned truth.

Our human souls are rooted in the Mystery of Earth; each of us alive as precious, complex, unique creations. As I sat in our retreat Circle yesterday, I marveled at how hard it still is for me to trust the larger flow of life, to constantly release myself from the need to perform as ‘responsible person.’ I do not need to be so ridiculously self- important and all-knowing. I only need to be me. All I am called to do is to live from the essence of my true name, to continue to let the dry husks of role and ego fall away and be Carol, Song of Joy.

That’s really me. Who are you? What is your hidden name that is planted in the seed of your soul?


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