A Room of One’s Own

what to remember upon waking

This is not my room in Cochabamba. But, it is basically all I have: a window with a desk lamp, a desk, and, of course, a bed. I wish I could say the view was this spectacular — and it certainly is from the street – but not from my bedroom. My room overlooks a walled-in area of housetops that allow me to spy down through curtainless windows into the imagined lives of my neighbors. If I step out onto the tiny balcony off my room, I can see the sky. But only if I look up.

Many times over these past two years all I’ve had to call my own is one room — that, and the familiar touchstones I’d brought along with me. You’d think it would get easier. But each time, I have to find my grounding, get centered in remembering who I am underneath any doubts, insecurities, or concerns that arise. And remember to trust what brought me here.

This time I’m adjusting not only to living in a stranger’s house, but to a different culture and country that speaks a language I know barely enough to get by. It feels huge.

And it also feels right.

The Bolivian culture is beautiful, alive, spiritual; the people warm and friendly. My host family lives in a middle-class neighborhood that boasts several parks with flowering plants, huge trees, and lush lawns. Yet I also witness much poverty around me as I walk to the Maryknoll language school every day.

All that I am witnessing reminds me that I have so much back home. Many more choices for a healthy diet. Much more space — and gorgeous space at that — to move around in than just one small and simple room. Yet each time I leave my home, I become more aware of how much I need to let go of that physical space in order to be free to fully live this calling on my heart.

Do I know what I’m doing? Not really. Or where I’m going? Heck no.

Do I trust what I’m doing, and where I’m going? Yes!

Let the adventure unfold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Gift of Solitude

Winter morning at GCPark
Winter morning at my home in Virginia

In less than one week I’ll be on a plane to Cochabamba. Off to immerse myself in language school and get better prepared for the next step on my journey. Whatever that may be.

It’s crazy that I’m sitting here writing in the midst of all that I have to do before leaving, but this post feels important. Important to the journey that I am on. Because it keeps me honest. And vulnerable. And humble. All qualities I need.

I’ve had a lot of alone time over these past several months since returning home from El Paso. Lots of quiet time for reflection. And, as a result, for some painful stuff to show up too. Recently even more so when we had a foot and a half of snow and I really felt isolated in my house in the woods.

One thing about living in the midst of all this quiet — my shadow’s bound to show up. All those painful voices of my lower self that try to keep me small, hidden, and defended. Voices that try to make me believe that what my mind is telling me is true. That this is who I really am. Then my pride chimes in and says, I can’t believe you’re still dealing with these issues. They should be gone by now. Over and done with, thank you very much.

But that’s not how it goes.

I know from my years of studying with the Pathwork Transformation Program and with spiritual teachers of the past and present, like Teresa of Avila (14th century Carmelite nun and mystic) and Pema Chodron (contemporary Buddhist nun), that the secret is not to reject these parts of myself, but to embrace them. Yes, embrace them. And in doing so, find the gift they offer.

Pema-Chodron-compassion-2-380x570

I’m still learning how to do this. That’s why I’m exactly where I’ve needed to be. In the silence and the solitude.

Joan Chittister says that “Silence is the gift that throws us back on ourselves. Which is exactly why there are so many who cannot bear the thought of it. Without external distractions, we are left vulnerable to the voices within that demand that we come to grips with all the pieces of the self we have so carefully concealed.” (Between the Dark and the Daylight)

That’s definitely been true for me. I’ve certainly been vulnerable to these voices, and some days it’s pretty challenging. But if I don’t jump up to turn on the TV, call someone, or dash out the door to go see a friend, if I can sit with the feelings and stay with the pain, I finally surrender. In this place of pain and helplessness, I surrender to my absolute need for God.

John Welwood writes in his book Journey of the Heart, which coincidentally is the same title as my blog:

“The profound question love poses is, ‘Can you face your life as it is; can you look at all the pain and darkness as well as the power and light in the human soul, and still say yes?’”

I know that if I am to promote love and compassion “out there,” I must first have them for myself. That means being able to say ‘yes’ to all the pain and darkness. Yes to embracing and loving all the parts of myself.

But in those tough moments, without an awareness of God’s loving Presence, I simply can’t do it. That’s when solitude is a gift.  Because in the absolute silence, Love makes me aware that there is nothing I need change or reject. I am the Beloved. I am already healed and whole. And everything is gift.