I am home again, after four days of silence at the Jesuit Center at Wernersville. I feel refreshed, reprogrammed, reset, re-energized, rejuvenated, renovated. I needed this one more than I realized. I wasn’t admitting to myself quite the extent of the bubble I had placed between me and the world. When you live with your heart on your sleeve, it can begin to feel like you’re immune to the numbing effects of addictions and sadnesses and avoidance of the inward pathways. I think I knew that I had been veering off, not walking deeply to center, not really wanting to see myself.
It’s a long and messy story, full of my own self-absorbed wanderings. It’s about the sudden weight gain, about Facebook as pacifier, about the news cycle. It’s name is Shame. I hate it when I have to go back and work through something I have already been through, but there it is. It took me two days of walking and making art and standing in doorways to finally step through and look that Shadowself in the face and name it: Shame. I have been living by shame, and refusing to call it by its name.
The Shameshadow had been lurking at my heels, a menacing old dog. I called it Anxiety. I called it Exhaustion. I called it by the name of our new president. But when I turned and called it by its true name–Shame–it bounded up to me and began to teach me. Those other names were simply things it fed on and symptoms. It was one of those Illuminating Moments, an Epiphany. I am under no illusions. I am sure it will probably begin to lurk and growl again someday, but then I must remember that it will have more to teach me.
I don’t like that that my Shadowself so often goes by the name of Shame. I want to exorcise it once and for all, not live with it crowding my heels. But this seems to be the way of it. It returns again and again to teach me. I am grateful for the messages.
After my moment of Epiphany, I walked out to the labyrinth. At every turning, I dropped a shamebundle. You don’t want to know these, do you? It’s things like the constantly messy/dirty house, sudden weight gain, use of FB to numb anxiety, not paying enough attention to the boys, being too hard on the boys, not being the perfect teacher, not getting my grading done in a timely fashion–that gives you the picture. Some of them, I picked up again on the way out of the labyrinth, not as shame, but as ideas for satisfying my heart.
And yes, I have spoken to the Shameshadow time and again in my life. It can feel like I’ve slid back down the longest slide in the game of Chutes and Ladders, but I find the spiral a much more helpful metaphor. I have been here before, on a previous cycle, but I am spiraling onward. I am not where I once was, just at a further loop on the spiral.
May we all find the courage to turn and call our Shadowdogs by name, and wait quietly to learn what they have to teach us.
One more thing about the monastery. My friend Ruth Ann and I decided to take our silent retreat at the same time this year. We spoke together about our intentions and hopes before we sank into silence, and then we surfaced into a quiet reflective conversation at the end. In between, we left books in the hallway outside each other’s doors. Having a silent witness and being a silent witness was a powerful experience. It was a deep and powerful level of Companionship that mirrored and enhanced the work with the inner Companionself.
did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?
“I have woven a parachute out of everything broken.” —William Stafford
“There are years that ask the question and years that answer.” —Zora Neale Hurston
“Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living in better conditions.” —Hafiz
Sign on a stone at the monastery: “I am now.”
“One puts down the first line. . .in trust that life and language are abundant enough to complete it.” —Wendell Berry
“Speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee.” —Job 12:8
“Sometimes the truth depends on a walk around the lake.” —Wallace Stevens
“Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.” —Emily Dickinson
“The contemplative stance is the third way. We stand in the middle, neither taking the world on from another power position nor denying it for fear of the pain it will bring. We hold the dark side of reality and the pain of the world until it transforms us, knowing that we are both complicit in the evil and can participate in wholeness and holiness.” —Richard Rohr
“Always we begin again.” —St. Benedict
Thomas Merton: “There are only three stages to this work: to be a beginner, to be more of a beginner, and to be only a beginner.”
“If the Angel deigns to come it will be because you have convinced her, not by tears, but by your humble resolve to be always beginning; to be a beginner.” —Rainer Maria Rilke
“When you have stood at the edge of the pool
and concentrated your will upon it,
a moment will arrive to ask you the question,
“What do you see?” and you will not know
whether you are gazing at the surface
or into the depths, or into the very woods itself.
All will be one, and it will be into your own soul
that you are gazing.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider
“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” —Rumi
“Ask much,” the voice suggested, and I startled.
Feeling my body like the trembling body of a horse
tied to its tree while the strange noise
passes over its ears.
I who in extremity had always wanted less,
even of eating, of sleeping.
Agile, the voice did not speak again, but waited.
“Want more” –
a cure for longing I had not thought of.
But that is how it is with wells.
Whatever is taken refills to the steady level.
The voice agreed, though softly, to quiet the feet of the horse:
“A cup taken out, a cup reappears; a bucketful taken, a bucket.”
1. What the Shameshadow will teach me if I will listen
4. Beech Cathedral and Labyrinth
5. The Art Room at the Jesuit Center
6. Cloister walks–there is something deeply TRUE about archways. Something in my spirit recognizes the deep significance of archways, even if I cannot find the words to explain.
7. Being home again. Establishing the summer rhythms.
May we walk in Beauty! With sunshine sparkling all around.