Even when on a path of heart there come times when it is best to pause and reassess. Not every choice is right nor every decision a good one simply because the path of most heart has been chosen. Take an occasional respite to reassess, reset and rest. Know your boundaries, be thoughtful of how you use your energy, and retreat from too much activity when necessary. Maintain balance and let your heart be your guide.
In troubled times, whether inner or outer, step back for moments of rest and retreat. Take time out for moments of detachment, for moments of stillness and reflection. When things are not going as you would like, find time to discover why you are confronted with change and how a new twist in life, a sudden change in plans allows something new to enter your life. There are no wrong turns, just different ones. Slow down, breathe, and look calmly for your next step. Even in the darkness you can see. Even in the midst of chaos there is order. Even among the sands of turmoil lies a path with heart. Go there!
I notice how everything aligns, what I’m thinking about, what happens outside in the world, as well as what happens on a deeper subconscious level. The universes are synchronized.
I’m concerned with energetic and spatial alignment and compatibility. I want things in my life to be in good relationship, to each other and to me, as I live and flow through my life. I want to personally be in good alignment with my environment too, both inside and outside the house I live in, as well as inside and outside my physical body house.
While I seek calmness and balance, I must also challenge myself to go beyond my comfort zone, to be appropriately daring but also to not be foolhardy. There are times when we must push ourselves to try something new, but there are other times when it might not be the right time yet. And so patience is part of the process; it may actually be critical that we know when to be daring and when to wait. And so, we must be willing to question our decisions on a deeper level. Am I holding back for the right reason or am I acquiescing to the old self who just doesn’t want to be disturbed? I’ve noticed that the appropriate answer comes when the right question is asked.
My greater intent is to remain in alignment and in the natural flow of things, whether that flow is calm and sedate or frenzied and difficult. I seek to be adjustable in appropriate ways, giving and receiving when right, but also able to pull back and away when that feels right. Sometimes it just isn’t right to be available, no matter how a decision to not engage may appear to others. Sometimes it’s just time to break the old patterns, expectations, and demands of others, and withdraw. Sometimes it’s even time to permanently sever old ties that no longer serve us.
I’m a dreamer. If you’ve read any of my books, especially the latest one, Into the Vast Nothingness, you’ll have encountered my dreaming self. As I recapitulated I became very adept at analyzing my dreams. As I learned more about my own life and began to understand the symbols that arose to show me the way forward, things in my life evened out. I began to access the calmness and balance I had always sought to maintain. Now, at this point in my life, I’ve achieved more calmness and balance than I ever thought possible. During my recapitulation, I’d momentarily access it but it would be fleeting, as I’d dive back into my process or be drawn back in, as was appropriate at the time. Eventually the process took less of my energy and life took more—real life, new life freed of trauma—as life in alignment with my new self took over.
Lately my dreaming self has been going to classes. The other night I earned my doctorate and graduated into a “day of renewal.” The next night I dreamed that I was back in school again, sitting at the feet of an Indian guru, studying the Upanishads. That same night I also studied intent, holding onto my intent to “see” as the Shamans of Ancient Mexico say, seeing energy as it moves in the universe.
Last night my intent for calmness and balance came through, right in alignment with my greater intent to be in the natural flow of things. I sat in the middle of a solid square comprised of 25 one-foot-square stones, laid out like a patio. This square was my place of power, my fortress but also my place of calm mediation and retreat. Though there were no walls surrounding me, I was totally encased inside this square; nothing could reach me that I did not bring into it. The number 25 was significant. Upon awakening I wondered why 25, but when I drew out the pattern I noted that the 25th stone sat solidly in the center of the perfect square. It was the center of my place of power.
As I dreamed, worry arose again and again. I knew that worry was not necessary, that it signifies something from the past that is done and cannot be undone, or something from the future that has not happened yet and so it was futile and a waste of energy to allow it to have my energy. It was appropriate to withdraw. And so each time worry arose in my dream, I retreated into my square. I sat down on the central 25th stone and grew immediately calm, knowing for certain that it was the right thing to do.
Upon awakening and beginning my day, I carry that sense of calmness with me. It is solid like stone. My fortress is both a spiritual container for my deeper self and protection against all that is outside that wants to get in, the dual aspect of containment that is necessary if we are to achieve and maintain alignment and balance in our lives. In going inside my stone square, sitting at the center of my power mandala, I declare that I am not available right now because my own energy needs rejuvenation and exploration, completely devoid of outside energy.
As we seek to know ourselves on deeper levels, we must learn how to contain our energy for our own use, constantly adjusting so that we can also be available, when appropriate, to share ourselves with others. We all need a center of power to return to as we go about our day.
It is certainly appropriate, and even necessary, to establish a place of retreat, a place where we feel safe and secure, away from the demands of the world and the cogitations of the mind—such as the worry of my dream—but also a place where we can spiritually rejuvenate. This place can be an imaginary fortress like a square or a circle, or it can be a quiet spot inside or outside, removed from everyone and everything. It might even mean sitting in our car for a few moments of breathing before entering back into the fray of life. In offering ourselves even momentary retreat we set the intent to not overextend ourselves or lose ourselves to the outer world, but to give our spirit appropriate time alone.
As we give ourselves permission to retreat we also give ourselves permission to reenergize and maintain our power to live life on our own terms. It’s something I worked hard for, as many of you do too, and it’s not something I will very easily give up. So I gladly accept the advice of my dreaming self, taking time for spiritual study, retreat and renewal!
We gather our books, our notebooks and writing pens, and go into retreat. We leave everything else behind. Perhaps we take a cup of tea, a jug of water, an apple or two, but little else. We leave the phones, laptops, all forms of communication with the outside world, and disappear. No one knows where we are. For the time we’ve allotted ourselves, we are free.
We sit amongst the catbirds, quietly conversing or silently reading. We meditate, or perhaps even doze in our chairs. A doe and her two fawns come out of the woods and walk past. We are so invisible in our intent to retreat that they take no notice of us. We are present yet not present.
We reject all attachments, including the needs of those closest to us. On another day of retreat we sit in our canoe on calm waters. We drift, going nowhere. We let the world rumble by, all its troubles and turmoils, all its fears and desires, all its crisis and calamities. We are free.
We know what awaits us upon return to the reality of our world, yet we allow ourselves to turn from it as often as possible. In this manner we offer ourselves balance, we create a container in which to nurture our spirits. We offer ourselves sacred space in the midst of everyday life. We lift the veil of one world and enter another, rejecting the chaos that constantly seeks attachment. In the simplest of ways, at little or no cost, we seek retreat as often as possible.
Perhaps we take a walk at dawn, or at midnight. Perhaps we go to a movie. Perhaps we sit on our deck as the sun rises. Perhaps we build a fire and watch its sparks light the night. Perhaps we take a friend out to dinner and sit in a calm garden cafe. Perhaps we take a yoga class, or hike along a new path. All of these things offer retreat from the energy of the world constantly stirring around us.
Part of going into retreat, part of disappearing for a few hours or a few days, requires careful planning. It requires honing detachment by setting limits on the self and the outside world. It requires that we reject the chaos. It requires that we leave everything behind that might interrupt our retreat, anything that might interfere with our solitude. Often enough it requires leaving behind worry and fear, leaving behind the thoughts and ideas that we are needed, that we are important, that the world might collapse if we are not available every minute of every day to those who need us, want us, rely on us for whatever reasons. Going into retreat requires honing nerves of steel while simultaneously extending a tenderness toward the self that we might not ordinarily feel. Foremost, going into retreat requires rejection of all outside energy.
In turning inward, in going into retreat, in rejecting the chaos of everyday life, we learn how to care for ourselves. We learn how to detach from the critics, whether outside of us or inside. We learn how to suspend judgment: what others might think of us, what we might think of us, how the world judges us every day.
In successful retreat, we achieve calmness and contentedness. Our minds slow down; our hearts slow down. We become better givers, lovers, kinder more gentler people, because we give to ourselves, love ourselves, are kind to ourselves. In desiring to be giving beings we must first learn how to give to ourselves. In desiring to become more compassionate beings we must first experience what that means, and the best way is to practice compassion toward ourselves. In desiring to be loved, we must first learn how to love ourselves.
If we are in the midst of painful recapitulation we have already learned how to leave the world behind, for we do it every time we go into a memory. We know how to retreat, but it’s vastly important that we give ourselves sacred space for healing retreat during recapitulation too. In small increments we must learn how to care for ourselves, even though we are not used to caring about ourselves at all.
Recapitulation is really a time of retraining our minds and bodies, of reawakening our spirits, and remaking ourselves into a different being altogether. It’s a time of rephrasing how we think and speak, recreating our life styles and agendas to fit the changing beings we are in the process of sculpting. And so, even when deep into painful recapitulation—especially when one is in deep painful recapitulation—one must take responsibility for occasionally pulling out of the chaos and advancing the healing process. By finding some means of rejecting the chaos—however captivating it may be—one establishes balance.
Keeping in mind that the intent of recapitulation is to heal, the balance comes in learning healing activities and skills, and actually practicing them. Nothing will change if one does not act on what one is learning during recapitulation. This entails regularly stepping back from the intensity of the process and assessing the progress made. This entails reevaluating the self, appreciating the self in a new way, actually rewarding the self for the difficult work that has been accomplished. This entails reframing the state of one’s mind by offering it positive accolades as one rejects the old negative thought language. This entails learning how to be gentle, kind, and compassionate with the self, and eventually learning how to love the self.
Although recapitulation is an ongoing process of change, there will always be times when it is appropriate to reject the chaos of recapitulation—even if only for a few minutes at a time. In such moments of respite—think calm retreat—one builds stamina and regains balance that may have been lost during intense memory recapitulations. One learns how to detach from energetic attachments, nurturing one’s own reclaimed energy in the process, experiencing small doses of freedom along with a newly unfolding self.
A young woman told us of losing her phone and how free she felt. Sitting in a circle of friends, she noticed how everyone had their head down, looking at their phones, texting, reading, only peripherally attached to the conversation of the group. In that moment she clearly understood the addiction that she normally carried in her own pocket, the addiction to constantly needing to be in touch, to not missing something, to having everything at her fingertips. In that moment she saw her friends as slaves and she experienced her own freedom. Forced to break her own habit, she experienced a sense of relief, for a moment glad she had lost her phone. For a moment she basked in her own place of calm retreat.
No matter who we are, where we are in our lives, no matter what is happening, we must learn to take moments of retreat. We must learn how to reject the chaos, turn from our addiction to the chaos of life, and take responsibility for our spirits needs for calmness and balance. We must learn to nurture ourselves. It’s not that hard to do.