This Morning Feels Full Today

This morning feels full today, in contrast to the many mostly still and almost silent ones.  A steady breeze stirs the air, sweet and cool and heavy with moisture from yesterday’s mid afternoon thundershower.  Prayer flags strung between fence posts, then sodden, now flutter.  For a few minutes I hear birds, sparrows and chickadees chirping, crows and magpies’ hoarse and scratching, and then notice my favourite robin song is missing.  Errant males must have finally found their mates. 

This morning feels full today, with eager anticipation.  Travel plans, vacation to-dos, home care projects, restaurant and cafes to sample and savour, friends to entertain, hopefully “al fresco” in gardens now flourishing from early spring warmth and summer rain, now flush with fragrant and heady blooms. Two whole summer months of possibility and promise.

This morning feels full today, outside and in.  I finally make sense of the malaise and migraines that have weighed heavy since the first of June.  Like that first peek of sunshine, the anniversary of my own leave-taking four years ago.  Then I thought I knew my place.  Now feeling the precarious straddling on another threshold.  Then and now.  Certain and uncertain.  A new place, what and where?

This morning feels full today, though somewhat lighter, too.

From Ambition to Meaning

“Throughout our lives, transitions require that we ask for help and allow ourselves to yield to forces stronger than our wills or our egos’ desires.  As transitions take place during our later years, a fundamental and primal shift from ambition to meaning occurs.”  
Angeles Arrien, The Second Half of Life

41GyeErgUvL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_That simple phase, those four words, “from ambition to meaning,” would sum up the four days’ interior journey of those who travelled with me at Soul Spark in mid February.  As the starting point for our first circle conversation, where each of us, having crossed paths before, now sat comfortably together on sofas and rocking chairs, with the fieldstone hearth and fire taking its place of honour, offering warmth and solace, this excerpt from Angeles Arrien’s The Second Half of Life became our touchstone.  Regardless of age or stage of life, occupation or endeavor, each of us, host and participant alike, found ourselves delivered to this threshold, whether by ready intention or “no-choice” choice.

I’ve been writing about this threshold for the past few months, initially catalyzed by my experiences at the Self as Source writers’ retreat in early December.  From the dark depths of winter solstice, I recognized the need to listen and tend to what David Whyte calls “the great inside shout of joy,” that new life that we must call our own,  helped into being by our preparation, practice, discipline and allies.  Then, almost a month later, inspired by that master of naming and blessing thresholds, John O’Donohue, I gave deeper consideration to my allies, those beings – human and non-human, animate and inanimate, living or passed – whose shoulders we stand on, whose backs shore up ours, whose energy, image and guidance we call upon, who walk beside us to remind and help us call forth our resiliency, talents, and wisdom.

In between: a straight forward dental procedure reactivated some Bells Palsy symptoms that emerged almost three years ago, and still has me in irritating distress with a “not yet quite right” bite.  An irregular EKG for which cardiac consultation and testing has occurred.  Hearing that several younger colleagues have suffered strokes, heart attacks and brain injuries.  The passing in January of those iconic musician-artists, each in what is now my decade.

What had been ready intention, has now become my no-choice choice of letting go, paring back, or as I said quite spontaneously yesterday to a friend, a necessary “winnowing to essence.”

Angeles Arrien instructs us that when we stand upon a threshold, we must do the inner work of transformation and integration – the treading, turning, twisting and flailing of noticing, releasing and discarding what is no longer necessary or aligned with our essential nature. Noticing its signposts:

  • Work, that while in and of itself deeply satisfies, the preparation and holding for which energetically costs more than can be afforded.
  • Dreams that have silently, surreptitiously slipped to the background of awareness, attention, and need for fulfillment.
  • Tiredness signaling depletion and misalignment.
  • Anxiety and worry that time, at least in this lifetime, is running out.
  • Pressure to keep telling a story that’s no longer relevant, describing a self that no longer feels true.

“Deep in the wintry parts of our minds, we are hardy stock and know there is no such thing as work-free transformation.  We know that we will have to burn to the ground in one way or another, and then sit right in the ashes of who we once thought we were to go on from there.”

Clarissa Pinkola Estes  

On the eve of our inaugural Soul Spark (now to be an annual mid-winter gathering) during meditation, I suddenly asked myself, “Who is this person I am becoming?” this person who:

  • Is a bona fide seeker of God and the transcendent?
  • Meditates regularly?
  • Whispers words of loving kindness throughout the day?
  • Wakes before dawn to listen to an hour of poetry and song?
  • Reads Rumi, Hafez, Teresa of Avila, Hildegard von Bingen, and other mystics?
  • Several years earlier than declared, is walking away from professional work to embrace a simpler, more creative life?

“Who is this person?” for she does not yet seem to be me.

IMG_0004(1)This is threshing. This is the process of becoming, wherein I am unable to answer, “Who am I now?” because I’m releasing myself from the story and illusion of who I think I am, who I have been.

Yet what I can say is there is a bittersweet sister found in the threshold, and her name is grief-relief.  The grief-relief of noticing, releasing and discarding that which had served but does no longer.

To give myself permission to notice, name, and feel this most peculiar grief heals, makes space for, and helps me recognize the edges of to eventually claim this person I am becoming.  It helps me make choices better aligned with and in support of who is emerging.  It helps me become my own ally in service of living out loud that inside shout of joy.

A Gift To Self

…Inside everyone
is a great shout of joy
waiting to be born…

So let this winter
of listening
be enough
for the new life
I must call my own.

David Whyte – from The Winter of Listening

Soon the Winter Solstice will be upon us, the darkest day marking the return of the light and lengthening days.  In the past few years with less pressure to rush out the door to be at an office, I’ve come to welcome the invitation darker days bring, a “hunkering down and in.”  This year especially so as I enjoy our home, feeling new with the completion of a long-awaited kitchen and bath renovation and that fresh coat of paint, all creating a comfortable feng shui flow.  I can’t believe how much I’m loving cooking in our kitchen!

Wendy Townley Aldermarsh

Aldermarsh Skies by Wendy Townley

And I’ve just returned from my first ever writers’ retreat, held the first week of December on Whidbey Island.  Hosted by my circle teacher and friend, Christina Baldwin, and circle sister “travelpoet” Kristie McLean, attending Self As Source was a long awaited gift to self.  I imagined being in the Pacific Northwest in December – with its grey sodden skies, wind and rain, living among the cedars, firs and alders with owls and coyotes singing at night – would be the perfect ambiance for listening within and claiming myself, “writer. “ It did not disappoint.  After several days of preparation with gentle prompts and creative activities, our thirty-six silent hours found me sitting by the window tapping out an almost complete volume of love letters, as the rain tapped continously on the glass.  It was, as David Whyte writes, that “great shout of joy” inside, being born.

Now home to full weeks of deep listening to school leaders – helping them create inner space for the grief they hold for students and community whose memories of Christmas are painful; hosting the first of several leadership training circles for the staff of my local women’s shelter; tending to business matters left waiting during two quick trips to Whidbey Island; and making Christmas preparations, my love letters wait, much as our gentle Annie waits for me to rise from my desk and take her for a walk.

Each of the fourteen women in our circle realized that claiming time to write – to listen and tend to that great inside shout of joy, that new life that we must call our own – takes what we experienced in retreat – preparation, practice, discipline and allies, those who support us in doing what we know we must do, and yet…

I can’t keep those letters waiting, any more than I can keep Annie waiting.

It has me wonder:

What great inside shout of joy is waiting for you?

What new life needs the preparation, practice, discipline and allies to have you call it your own? 

While not Whidbey Island in the Pacific Northwest, Strawberry Creek Lodge in the aspen parkland an hour’s drive south of Edmonton has a similar warm ambiance for hunkering down and in.  There, I’ll be co-hosting Soul Spark with my friend, work mate and circle sister, Beth Sanders.

Soul SparkSoul Spark … An annual intimate winter retreat for ten people to step into the fire of doing the work and living the life they long for.  Whether you are in your early, mid, or encore career, here you will have the time and companionship to discern what and how to move forward.

Soul Spark … Strawberry Creek Lodge, a warm log cabin with quiet sitting spaces, a cozy fireplace around which we gather each day, silent walking trails, and delicious home cooked meals.

Soul Spark … February 16-19, 2016

Soul Spark … You are welcome.  Your place is waiting.

Wishing you the warm embrace of winter’s Solstice and Christmas and a new year full of promise.