The Road Back To Yourself, Day 4, Online Retreat

Become a Pilgrim

“A pilgrim is a seeker for answers she can’t find at home.” Anonymous

Here I go again, buckled into my seat on a small turbo-prop jet that will take me to Newark where I will catch my transatlantic flight. As the engines roar and the plane races down the runway, a sense of calmness overtakes me. I am AWAY, already out of cell phone contact, in my own space, just BEING, no longer tied to the agenda of others, the responsibility of home and the daily routine of job and community. For now I am free to be as I please, to lean my head back and give over to others—the pilot, flight attendant, even the weather—cheering my loss of control as well as  my failed attempt to change those I’ve left behind. Time to focus only on changing myself. I am rendered vulnerable, a rare but important quality of being.

Still, an hour later I must navigate one more crazy world—an international terminal where I follow signs, dodge other travelers, deal with security, navigate moving staircases, all anxiety provoking inventions of modern day life—but with several hours to spare I remind myself that there is no need to rush. I remain in my bubble and feel as though I am gliding above all the commotion.

I’m reminded of a time when I had cut it too close and inevitably missed a flight, cursing my failure until my traveling companion reminded me to “be kind to myself.” That phrase is with me now, and will be the mantra for my trip. I have been kind to many recently—putting their needs in front of mine—perhaps accruing points that would entitle me to be truly selfish on this journey.

I am traveling halfway around the world to be unattached and it feels divine.

No more pushing against the current. Instead I intend to go with the flow. For I believe that under the frozen surface of my being, I will soon begin to experience a thaw, a renewed consciousness, indeed, even a new set of intentions.

As it is almost Thanksgiving, my thoughts drift to the Pilgrims—that small band of dreamers who desired religious freedom, and were courageous enough to find a means to their end regardless of the risk. How many of us have stopped ourselves from such hopes and dreams and for myriad reasons lack the spirit, means, and ideas, stopping our process and therefore stopping us from living in the way we were intended.  As I said in a Year by the Sea, the habit of deference can grow like a cancer on the soul of a woman until what she becomes is out of her hands. No more deferring! It is time for us all to give into the journey and all the new possibilities that await us.

Questions to Ponder:

What could you do for adventure (remember adventure comes from the word advent…to begin again)? How could you let go of a job, relationship, duty, or event? How would that alleviate some of the chaos in your life? What is stopping you from being your own pilgrim? It is said that a pilgrimage is a way to prove your faith in self and find answers to your deepest questions. You might begin by an exercise of praise, thanksgiving, and petition—something I do on my daily walk. What in your life deserves praise, what are you thankful for, and then what do you need and desire—those qualities, experiences, and situations that will make you whole?

22 thoughts on “The Road Back To Yourself, Day 4, Online Retreat

  1. Here it is November 29th and I have slipped “off” the retreat pilgrimage. That habit of deferring as Joan A. says is powerful indeed. The holidays are pulling me to take care of others and “make the holidays happen,” as only we women know so well. I was in the mountains yesterday and was pulled hard to take that “adventure” and pilgrimage to start anew. Though I couldn’t stay in the north country (Vermont) I thought of the advent candles at home and how they could be part of my exercise to compile and glorify what I praise in my life, what I am thankful for and especially that huge area of desire to find my real happiness.

    Thank you, Joan !
    Now on to catching up with the additional retreat days.

    • Joan…I slipped off answering my blog and more importantly, slipped away from the wisdom that you all are offeriing me. I used to think I had to have the answers…now I know that this new circle of seeking women have answers for me and this Thanksgiving I give thanks for our collective thoughts.

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  3. A spiritual perspective on the “chatter” or that Voice in your head as suggested by one of my spiritual “work-out” buddies…… the Voice may be an evil spirit preying on your insecurities and fears paralyzing you and keeping you from becoming the person God planned you to be……she suggested that when I realize that Voice is there bringing me down or creating a panic attack, I should command the evil out in the name of our Lord. When I remember to do that, the respite is almost immediate. Some times I just don’t command the evil out –I also pray to my guardian angel and St. Michael to protect me from further attack. this is particularly useful at night–when I remember to do this, I enjoy peaceful and restful sleep–no panicking or tossing and turning through out the night….it is something to be diligent about though–the Voice does find it’s way back–it is persistent…so I try to stronger and more diligent in my prayer life.

  4. “We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us” – Joseph Campbell

    I feel like I have just started the adventure in the last year by beginning to listen to my soul, that voice that was there as a child but somehow got pushed down when I chose to take on many responsibilities and make everyone else happy and do the “right thing” always. I love to read what everyone feels and encourages as it helps me on my journey. I loved the idea of placing my biggest problem down and taking someone elses…what a great teaching moment. I have begun the journey of taking quiet time for myself, getting up very early in the morning before everyone awakens and using that time to listen and meditate. A note to dear Susan…know that you are not alone, that there are many of us that feel that same way, hear the chatter in our minds even though we try to let go of our problems and issues. Be patient as it takes time. It is truly one the hardest things for me when I meditate because often that “chatter” begins in my mind and threatens to take away the peace I am struggling to achieve…just keep trying. Another quote for you Susan… “whatever the struggle continue the climb. It may be only one step to the summit” – D. Westlake

    My adventure this week….I am going to go kayaking, have always wanted to and have put it off for various reasons and excuses. Thank you fellow travelers for your wisdom and sharing your struggles, it is a blessing to be among such amazing women and warriors.

    • Yea!!!! Kayaking is such a great sport…once out on the water, looking back at the land a totally new perspective can be found. Beyond that, no one can reach you when you are away from shore…a wonderful place to muse, ponder, and meditate.

  5. Thanks blogging friends………….you are all so wonderful and I love your writing and word useage.
    I, too, made a pot of soup today and a pan of brownies!!!

    Let’s keep eating, writing and reading!!!!

  6. Life is an adventure. I have choices in every moment. With each choice I move in one of two directions … one direction helps me to find the path of peace … the other moves me away from that path. When given a choice … I need to think first. When I don’t take the time to think … my choice is a reaction … kind of like a ‘knee jerk reaction’ … it requires no thinking. When I think first … I can choose a response rather than a reaction. A response helps me to become ‘response-able.’ The cool thing about thinking is that I can even choose what I want to think about. My thinking affects how I feel. If I find myself involved in thoughts that lure me off the path of peace … I can change my mind and choose to think about something else.

    • and always, when I hear or use the word adventure I think that the root word is advent which means a beginning or a birth of something new. So, everyone, let’s have as many adventures as we can handle.

  7. Thank all for the positve and upbeat words of kindness. Yes today is a good day for a big pot of soup and the Pats game. I look forward to continuing my journey with great spirit and hopefulness. God Bless you all

  8. Steven Covey says … “The way we see the problem IS the problem.”

    Many years ago I attended a weekend conference with about 3,000 other women. One of the speakers said that she knew a way to help each of us rid ourselves of our problems. She suggested that each of us write our biggest problem on a small piece of paper. She said that we could eliminate that problem simply by bringing that little piece of paper up to the stage and leaving it there. But, she warned … there was a catch. When we left our problem on the stage, we had to pick up someone else’s problem. There were no ‘exchanges’ made that day … she gave all of us an opportunity to see our problems from another point-of -view.

    • Terrific advice…we are each given conflicts to learn eventually (and the opereative word is eventually) to work through the issue and get to the other side with GRACE. That is the beginning of the making of the elder.

  9. OH, how I love reading all these great postings! It just seems we are all on the same path, just at different times in our lives. I love hearing all the support that
    being given out, it is so encouraging to me and I am sure to every woman that reads them.
    I always seem to think I am the only woman feeling this “way” about a given thing,
    them find there are many dealing with the same issues, just in a different way.
    I try to always be an encourager to everyone, just have to be one to myself:)
    I am also finding that once we are on the path to ourselves, there really is no turning back, it is so freeing in many ways.
    I am going to do that list of three things for tomorrow, such a good idea:)
    Thank you fellow pilgrims and especially you sweet Joan:)
    Shannon

    • I was talking to a friend recently…she has been to Iona with me and also done the Camino in Spain several times. She said two things to help me with a current angst and my children:”Surrender, just surrender.” She also counseled me not to engage in any debate or argument for a month…simply listen.

      I am reminded of a line I heard at Alonon…I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, I can’t cure it. So for any of us feeling powerful over the ways of others that mantra constantly helps me with surrender and therefore a sense of peace, however fleeting.

  10. How is it that so many of us struggle with the day-to-day “stuff” and continue to try to find ourselves in all of it? I too am there, some days more than others. Betsy is right when she says that it’s all a matter of perspective, as I mentioned in a previous posting. Here’s something I was told just yesterday. While catching-up with a friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while, we discussed our loved-ones that suffer with anxiety disorders. It was recommended to her son that he write down every night 3 things he’s looking forward to the next day. What a wonderful pregame activity to the glory of tomorrow. I brought it up at dinner last night with 2 of my adult children. I hope they take it to heart. Today I look forward to a little writing, making a photo book on the internet as a gift, and creating a big pot of soup to go with the rain and football games on television. Today I nest!

  11. Words for Susan, you are never alone. Even when you think all it lost and your road is difficult. As Joan, Betsy, and others have written, reach out and open up beyond yourself. I have worked though difficult times in my life, I have helped those I love through difficult times in their lives, and I find I simply reach out. I am thanksful for being apart of this journey with so many wonderful and exciting people. I am thankful for my best friend and her journey forward. Although we live 386miles apart we are there for each other. I praise myself for being able to touch as many lives as I can before I die. I would like to think I have been able to provide support, education and love along the way. I am thankful for being able to help my mother through her final journey because from that I have been able to help and support others in theirs. I take time each day, usually while running or walking to think for and of myself. I am learning “me time” and seeking to carve out a new journey. As I have grown older, I am beginning to realize I enjoy life more or get more out of life as I look a new path (or as Joan puts it – adventure). I have returned to journaling and writing poems. Something I did in my 20’s and 30’s, then put aside. I have written some new poems and re read some older poems, I am going to publish them someday soon. I am getting closer to retirement from teaching, yet I welcome a new path of teaching and learning. For me and I hope Susan for you, open yourself to new possibilities the one’s you haven’t even come across yet. Be open and free in thought.
    Thank you to all for being in touch. Joan let’s continue to climb our own moutains.

  12. Letting Go — For me letting go or finding the road back to myself is like an impossible task during my current changes in my life. Always being a person who has felt responsible for everyone’s happiness, letting go is considered “bad person” behavior. After living in a small town where changing your living room around was questioned and judged, I have a hard time of knowing how to let go because of the chatter that consistantly leaves me in a paralyzing state. Yes, I have taken many walks, fallen to my knees in prayer, participated in women’s circle, burned paper after paper of behaviors to let go of, but they live on in my mind with chatter. This leads me to wonder during the time of change in my life how to get back to the Road to Myself, when I see her so unattached to me. The holidays can be a real killer to finding ways to be thankful. I was always the upbeat person that gave a helpful hand to everyone. I do not have anyone to reach out to after being ousted by my decisions. I was be anxious to hear comments from all the positive people that post and have had success during their journeys.

    • Susan, it sounds like you are on a difficult and lonely journey. Please remember that there is always someone out there who has a harder time than we do. This came to me recently when a friend was in danger of losing his business and was complaining about it…until a friend of his became seriously ill. It’s all about perspective. I felt the same way last year when my husband had a serious stroke and everything sort of fell apart. Well, here we are nearly a year later and things are much better–not perfect–but not horrible either. There is always hope and Joan really knows how to lead us there. Start simply–just a kind word to a stranger or a smile to someone on the street can make you feel wonderful. It’s not about the money or what we can give–we can always give from our hearts. I hope this helps you. We all need the support of our friends.

      • Yes Betsy, Your absolutely right, someone always has a more difficult life. I apologize for making mine sound so terrible. I just wished I knew how to let go of my thoughts and chatter. I do have two beautiful children that are my life and always make me smile. I want to find a way to let go of my past and move on to a more cheerful life. I do read, walk and practice a spiritual life, but that chatter seems to hang like cob webs on the ceiling. Always present during the dark of the night. Thank you so kindly for responding and I again apologize for negative thoughts.

        • Susan
          Alan Alda’s wife once told me “don’t compare.” We all have stories and they effect us in various degrees. For some of us (me included) I get too involved and therefore too connected and there fore extricating myself always takes more time to accomplish than I thought.

  13. I begin anew today! I have slipped for way too long. I am renewing my Gratitude Journal and also making positive plans to become a pilgrim–small steps for now. Longer walks with my puppy! Lunch with friends. Returning to my journaling and working with your questions. Thank you Joan for this wonderful retreat–it’s like a little bit of one of your books that I can read and reread every day!

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