On Sabbatical

Monument Valley

(Reprinted from The Joy Center blog, third in a series of Letting Go.)

Back last Autumn, my first yoga teacher and I had a wonderful discussion about teaching, the ins & outs of it, the self-care needed, etc. At that time, she explained why she needed to take 2-6 weeks for silent retreat every year. Her yoga & cranio-sacral therapy clients all celebrated & encouraged her to go, as well as provided the financial backing by seeking her services.

At the time, I thought “Yeah, right. It’ll be 10 years before I can afford that, both in time AND money.”

Well, it’s here. It’s my first self-retreat. While it’s not at all in the same style as my teacher, I value what she does & will consider it for next time. Instead, I took off for the desert, to contemplate, go inside, and allow my head & my heart to sort themselves out.

Earlier on The Joy Center Blog, I wrote about receiving a visit from the Flux Maiden, and other situations. What lead me to this sabbatical, was a “perfect storm” of things falling apart. Absolutely _everything_ was being called into question: am I a good yoga teacher? Am I good at reiki healing? Am I a good writer? What is my purpose in this place, and on this planet?

If you’ve ever been through one of these “sloughing off” or “spiritual shedding” experiences, you know how unnerving it can be. It is truly a test of letting go, surrendering, to what is beyond one’s control. And what I’ve learned so far, everything short of breathing & eating is beyond my control! Even my emotions!

Shedding the Ego Self

One week into my sojourn, my thoughts often turn to my own death. Partly this is due to so many in my family who have died, but also partly it’s a type of personal death, or ego death. Having everything come crashing all around me forced me to change my view on the circumstances, and on life.

No matter the plans I made, or the ways I tried to “keep it together”, it was like the Universe was slapping the back of a child’s hand (mine) who had grabbed a cookie off the pan while it was still hot. “What till they cool off & can go in the cookie jar, and THEN you can have one”, she said. And she kept saying that kind of thing to me again and again and again and again…you get the idea.

My role in all this was simply putting too much on my plate. Friends who have known me many years know this is my modus operandi. Sometimes lessons are hard to learn. This go around, my hind quarters have been spanked in such a way that I’ll be feeling the sting for some time.

One huge learning from the complete & utter dissolution of my life these last two months has been the desperation I felt at earning a living, or needing to “make it”. It resulted in pushing ahead to “make things happen”. Eventually, all my effort at making things happen in the way I hoped for, failed. It was like I was a kid pushing against the inside wall of a bouncy house, and suddenly the wall released back and flung me to the other side of the house.

Another way to describe this consciousness was one of “doing” instead of “being”. It sounds trite & new-agey, but that’s how it was! As a result, I’ve taken a HUGE step back from my life. Instead now, I gently, daintily, throw out to the cosmos what I would like, and sit back & watch things unfold. It requires a tremendous amount of patience, something I’m only just learning to cultivate more deeply through this process.

This is why my ego has been so resistant to change. Now, I actually have the choice to be serene & peaceful through my day. By releasing how hard I push on the bouncy house wall, I do not have to be flung across like a slingshot through my day. I can focus. I can be present ALL the time, and not just sometimes.

Egos generally don’t like unfamiliar territory. Through the last weeks, my sluggish lack of motivation to pack up my belongings for a storage locker resulted in a near 24-hour marathon at the very end, even though I had 2 months notice before needing to leave my rental home. Resistance can be powerful.

Thankfully, through my amazing friends, my meditation/yoga practice, and just plain reality, I was able to get through the resistance, and type this blog while enjoying the sunshine of the Arizona hills near Payson.

Finding Spider Woman

Here I am, in the desert, communing with nature, and with myself. Having a pickup with a mattress is a great idea! My only plan is No Plan. Well, that’s not entirely true: I do plan to write & edit.

My goal is to let go of all responsibility and come back to the center of my being. It is a new place, my center, now. I’m different than I was back in August when this shedding process started.

My dear new friend & Cranio-Sacral practitioner in Ridgway, Julia Marie Gillett told me to look up the Native American stories on the Spider Woman. This was after I told her about my spider phobia from childhood. It came up in one of the sessions.

Not only is the Spider Woman story so beautiful, it helped me to learn how to trust in the here & now more. Think about it: spiders build a web, and then they sit & wait for bugs to get caught in it. THEN they have a meal. They do not go running around searching for stuff like other animals.

This is the shift into surrender. This is the shift into letting go, and going with the flow of life. For me personally, it’s also a shift into humility and away from arrogance or being a “know it all”. When I can do the little steps that need to be done right in front of me, without any grandiose plans, then exactly what I need shows up in my web. It’s a simpler, easier, less stressful way to be. For me, it’s been extremely scary, too! it’s not easy to trust that one’s needs will be taken care of when there’s no Perfect Planning by my Fabulous Ego Self. To that I say, “My best thinking got me here.”

Ironically, I stopped by a Navajo jewelry stand driving from Mexican Hat, UT to Kayenta, AZ and beyond. I was looking for a new necklace for my larimar stone purchased in Durango at the Whole Expo. I found a strand of bluish beads with silver accents that worked perfectly! When I asked the jewelry maker what the stones were, he replied, “Spider turquoise”. I kid you not!

Spider turquoise has turquoise plus another mineral that forms “webbing” or web-like patterns within the turquoise stone. The necklace I purchased is made of the chips from these spider turquoise pieces that are then re-shaped into beads.

Onwards I go, traipsing around the desert until Thanksgiving week, when I’ll return to Montrose for my Winter job in Telluride, staring into vast horizons, connecting with what matters to ME, and no one else. Re-charging my batteries, healing my body, and re-connecting to my soul’s path, surrendering to what each new day brings: this is the goal of my sabbatical. And also, to read lots of books!

I can’t encourage you enough to find a way to give yourself a retreat, and the longer the better. It’s hard with things like kids, spouse, work, etc. Do your absolute best to try. Create a space where you are not distracted by cell phones, computers, people, etc. either in a location where you travel to get there, or even in your own home. Give yourself the space & opportunity to get to know yourself. With all our social distractions, you might realize that you aren’t who you think you are. Are you really Mother? Are you really Partner? Are you really Job Title? It’s scary to face, but you’re life may be much richer in the end.

Blessings to you on your journey.

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