About four years ago now, I left my place of residence, San Francisco, which had been my home for 7 years. I took a leap of faith and spent a lot of time listening to my heart and my body. My first stop was to Big Sur, California, to spend time at the Tassajara Zen Center and then some time at Esalen.
I knew that my mind would be a maze of fears to walk through during this transition, so I wanted to put myself in a beautiful place where I could contemplate and prepare for the next steps in my life journey. Those three months in Big Sur provided me with the inner strength and heart clarity that I needed for the road ahead of me. And, looking back, I am truly thankful.
While at Tassajara, I slowed down for a month. No internet. 2-3 hours of meditation everyday. I tapped into my heart. My 2 months at Esalen allowed me to see and relate with the many others in transition. I called my work-study group a ‘support group for those in transition.’
Well yes, life is transition. It doesn’t ever stop. And, maybe that’s why I went to Esalen — to realize, while expressing myself and listening to everyone else’s life journeys, that:
*our lives are our narratives and these narratives shape how we find meaning and purpose
* these narratives are animated by the mystery of our own breathing and the source of our breath
* every day we are living our dream and the *big* creative process we were born to work with
Viewing it this way, the edges softened in and around me, the grasping ceased, the challenges or tragedies found their place in a greater picture, and the joys and the personal victories stood out like brilliant yellow suns on the canvas of my life. I realized, and deeply felt, that my skin was home to a rich narrative and story; that every bruise was holy and that every life experience was frothing over with relevance and metaphor.
Now, finding the space and the places for the stories to be heard and read in the real-time book of life, this is another issue. In traditional communities, they had the dreamtime, they had circles around fires where people spoke and were heard, they had council processes, and rites of passage. These were all ways to allow people to be heard and seen. These things are being renewed in the US culture: men’s circles, women’s circles, vision quests, the Sacred Fire community, retreats and dream circles — these are all hints of what intact communities once had.
It is with this awareness of the importance of narrative and meaning, that I began weaving in the relevance of natural cycles and rhythms into my life. The big leap I took from San Francisco about four years ago was much needed. I left the city with no seasons (yet with a wonderful rhythm all of its own) and headed back into a life with four seasons. I soon found myself in the mountains of Southern Appalachia, where I stayed for three years.
In the mountains, the seasons were marked with distinct flavors and variety. The daffodils in early Spring let me know that I could start sewing seeds outdoors. The wild berries let me know that Summer had arrived. And, the goldenrod in bloom beckoned the cooling season of Fall. Living out in the mountains, I began to feel and sense the patterns of nature in a way I never had before and they became a vital part of my personal narrative.
In the Winter of 2009-10, I started a practice that is attuned to what Maya Tawari calls the Kumbha Moon. Kumbha is the Sanskrit word for the zodiac sign, Aquarius. It also translates to ‘earthen vessel.’ This moon is the first full moon in February. It happens around the time of Pongal in South India (an agrarian celebration for fertility and prosperity). Maya says that in traditional cultures of South India, women would set their intentions for their homes, their personal lives, and their community during this time.
So, from the new moon previous to this full moon, I started setting my intentions. Three years ago, one word came up for me while sitting in the dark with my candle, ‘Courage.’ That was my only intention. This would be my guiding word for 2010. And, I definitely needed that word as many fears emerged during that time that I needed to work with, confront, and move beyond.
For the past two years, I’ve kept the same intentions. When it was time to renew my intentions, the words I had chosen the year before still resonated. These words were Seasonal Intelligence, Nourishment, and Wholesomeness. Every decision I made was filtered through these words, if my thoughts and feelings were aligned with these words, then I moved forward with that particular choice or action.
This year, as the Mississippi night sky slowly grows brighter with the coming full moon and after a good bit of contemplation, I’ve set my new intentions: Seasonal Nourishment, Preparing for birth, and Life-work. These intentions provide me focus without constriction. I’ve written them in the front of my planner and plan to put them on my altar as my new guiding words.
Life narratives… Intentions we make along the way… Seasons that come and go… Meaning we find in the barrenness of Winter… This is what continues the storyline of life. The stories, the meaning — this is what breaths life into the deepest recesses of our hearts and renews us over and over again.