As many of you know, I’ve been ill and then I had something of a spine collapse (see previous post Ah, Life! Blessed Life…).
I knew it was going to take something extra to get through it, and when I’m in trouble I am always drawn to Taos. There’s some kind of healing energy for me down there in those mountains (my village is actually 1,000 feet higher than Taos).
And so I asked a friend who has a house there, which she doesn’t always use, if I could go stay for a week and she agreed. There is nothing more important than our friends. Mine really jumped in to support my efforts.
There were two reasons I needed this retreat. One, I simply had to rest and heal from a very difficult winter that started with spinal cord surgery and went downhill from there.
Second, a friend has written a novel she’s been working on for eight years and she wanted me to read the manuscript. I’m a very slow reader and the needs of seven animals at home always intruded. So getting away to give her book the focus it deserved was a big part of the plan.
So I packed and was off to Talpa (just minutes outside of Taos–a wonderful 17th century farming community) where I would get daily massage therapy, read, rest and think.
I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching trying to figure out why I’ve always been so sickly. It just feels like my body has been at war with itself for as long as I can remember and it seems to me there has to be a reason.
The great poet (I think) David Whyte had this to say about vulnerability in a conversation with Krista Tipett on her radio program On Being: “Vulnerability is not a weakness, a passing indisposition, or something we can arrange to do without, vulnerability is not a choice, vulnerability is the underlying, ever present and abiding undercurrent of our natural state. To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence of our nature…”
And so it seems I’ve been “running from the essence of [our] my nature” because vulnerable is probably the last thing I’m willing to be. And I haven’t really fully understood that before.
Do any of you do that? Block out life so you don’t have to feel?
Well, it appears I do. Like watching the news, I can’t look at the children in Yemen or Syria or on our own border. It breaks my heart, so I turn away from their suffering to protect my own.
My old Buddhist teacher used to advise us not to look too long at those things we know our hearts can’t take.
Instead turn that long, painful look inside–within ourselves–look to the feelings generated within us by what we see–because those feelings we can do something about. Those we can heal. But we don’t get to heal things that are outside of us.
And so I created this poor-man’s retreat to be alone with myself…
… to listen to my interior, if I could get below the surface…
… because lately I’ve been feeling like an empty husk of a person, and maybe that’s all I am, a vessel that needs filling.
Charles Bukowski, another great writer said, ” Drink from the well of your self and begin again.” Sounds like sage advice.
So I took this time away from my life to reconnect with it.
But it’s hard to trust a body that can be well one minute and suddenly crash the next.
Or to love when we all know how hard a heart can crash.
Be vulnerable, really?
But I am here to heal my body, my head, my heart… do our souls need healing? Perhaps.
To soften into something that looks like compassion…
… like vulnerability, like the “essence of human nature…” as David Whyte puts it, to dive into the well of my self…
… and to read, possibly finding some truths there.
Another of my favorite poets who recently passed away, Mary Oliver, had this to say in her poem, Invitation:
“… it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world…
“… I beg of you,
do not walk by…
“… It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.”
“You must change your life.”
There it is.
And so my Odyssey begins anew. “You must change your life.”
When I was younger I believed there was one destination, one life to live within this life.
But I see now that my task, perhaps life’s task, is to continually renew…
… to experience, grow and shape-shift, to live as many lives within this one as we can discover…
Virginia Woolf, better with words than I puts it this way, “The wave of life flings itself out indefatigably.”
It is for us to meet it…
… or not.
But there is another piece of poetry, music actually, that’s been on my mind lately. It is “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserable. It is such a heartbreakingly true song. In it life is laid out bare ending on this note:
“But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather
I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living…
Now life has killed the dream
And that is why we do our work and take retreats and study and create and endeavor and continue. Because we hope and dream. And that, my dears, I think makes us vulnerable, the “ever present and abiding undercurrent of our natural state.”
I will not allow life to kill my dreams even if that means I need to be exposed. Are you with me? Perhaps we’ll learn how to be truly vulnerable together.
Love to y’all,