A Wellesley College Retreat

Last weekend I had the pleasure of conducting a workshop at Wellesley College. I had applied to both Wellesley and Smith Colleges some forty five years ago, but alas, was not accepted to either. Thus getting in the “back door” as it were, and  being able to share what I know to some thirty five women was my pleasure.

There were three mother and daughter couples in attendance as well as an entire book club. We met in a very Zen like room under the Chapel and had break out sessions and meditation time in smaller rooms, each dedicated to one or another of the world’s religions.

The morning session was dedicated to getting to know ourselves again—that is answering the question:  Who am I beyond the roles that I play?

Dividing up into groups of eight for lunch each table was responsible for answering one of the following question:

What is outlived in my life? What is unlived?

Which emotional conflicts have given me the most strength?

How has my own fortitude given me unique characteristics I hadn’t recognized before?

How can I nurture my spirit and redefine the meaning of high maintenance?

What needs to be healed in my physical, emotional and psychic being?

With a plethora of answer coming forth we tackled the question: How to launch our second journeys.

The day culminated with a closing circle standing around a magnificent labyrinth which allowed each of us to release that which was outlived and receive intentions for our future.

I look forward to more workshops on other campuses to keep the unfinished women crusade alive.

Send an email requesting information about holding a workshop on your campus.


Serendipity Reborn

This letter came from a past retreater. She said:

“I now live on a barrier island in Florida where, in the past, I could connect to nature as you taught us. My husband has now retired and I no longer find the joy in the sea.  Any suggestions? How do I reconnect?”

After pondering her question this was my answer.

Just as we have to change up our exercise and dietary regimens, so we have to change up our routes to meditation. I suspect “the husband” being in your space has altered your freedom to seek whenever you please. I suggest a weekend alone every once in awhile…away from the home front or at least declaring the first day of each month to be just yours. During that day have an adventure…do something that is out of the ordinary…with art, music, working with your hands, visiting sacred places, sitting in a chapel, and of course walking on a beach you’ve never walked on before…then taking pictures of found newness…like soaring birds or unusual vegetation. One moment will lead to another and awaken within you something that is longing to be brought forward.

Lightening Your Load

A friend of mine just emailed me from The Camino, a 500 mile stretch of road that goes from France to Spain. It is considered one of the great pilgrimages in the world and her various messages telling of her adventures have been entrancing. Today she writes:

I am wearing the turtle necklace that you gave me, feeling gratitude and appreciation for this journey because honestly, I feel like a turtle with all my worldly belongings on my back. I pack and repack my things each morning throwing away all unnecessary things without a second thought as each ounce counts, especially at the end of the day.

What a message! How important it is to lighten our load, not to carry around stuff that we don’t need to be holding on to. For me that would be worries, unfounded fears, and lingering grudges to name a few.

In Iona, when the women set out on various treks I encourage them to fill their back pack with rocks, each of which represent “baggage” that is no longer useful. They are to carry their “burdens” until they decide it is time to release them. Seeing women, standing on a shore, tossing such feelings into the water is always a triumphant scene.

What unnecessary things should you consider getting rid of?

Better a Blog Than Nothing

In going through old papers and saved momentoes from my kids, I became nostalgic. In the pile of paper on my lap were greeting cards complete with tender notes, faxes sent from afar when they were each travelling the world, airmail envelopes with actual letters inside, and in the past few years emails that were so dear I copied them and tucked them away as well. These pieces of mail had made the SAVE pile because they possessed sentiments that were rarely said and as such, cherished gems.

But alas, as their individual lives have become chaotic and their families, work, and vocations keep them more than busy, the above mentioned communications have dwindled as have my connection to them.  I recall my Mom walking out to her mailbox each day in hopes of finding the written word in one of the envelopes amidst all the junk mail and bills. “People don’t write letters like they used to,” she would say. “I love getting notes from the children. You can read their thoughts over and over again.” Now years later, I find myself as wistful as my mother. It seems letters were replaced by phone calls which have now been replaced by emails and even those are few and far between.

The next best thing to hearing from one of my sons is catching his runner’s blog. It’s not how I imagined to communicate, but I’m grateful for his heartfelt point of view which is more complete than a text. Ah, modern technology.

Travel While You are Young Enough to Enjoy it

I have been back from Costa Rica for less than two weeks now. It seems like three months! Although I met some remarkable women and we worked through our Second Journey issues the hot temperatures (100 degrees to be exact) of the Equator took its toll along with a vegetarian diet literally devoid of protein. Add to that an arduous flight to Miami and then Costa Rica and then a 4 hour van ride to our destination I began to have my doubts as to whether this particular adventure was worth it. Have I grown too old for such travels or have I lost my sense of adventure altogether? Whatever, it has taken some time to recover.

I keep thinking of a friend who hated to fly. She would travel from the east coast to her parent’s home on the west coast every summer by train. She insisted that by the time she arrived she was on west coast time, and what’s more, she had left one life behind with transition time in between to get ready for another. Another friend recently crossed the ocean on the Queen Mary, Cunard’s pride and joy, and found the same pleasure—leaving all that life entails at home to take 6 days to become accustomed to a new time and place.

I think modern day’s race against time has done terrible damage to our very nervous systems. We all seem to be going too fast for anyone’s good. Perhaps my recovery is slow because my body is telling me to enter normal on my own terms.

I shall make time for tea each afternoon, meander along the beach instead of my usual power walk, and clear my calendar of unnecessary appointments. The blank space is allowing me to breathe.

Bridging the Gap

Everyday on my walk I have three special moments…when I come to a long bridge that leads out to the sea, when I am presented with a set of stairs beckoning me to walk on, and when I arrive at a clearly marked sandy path that urges me to follow the footprints of whomever was there before me. Bridges and paths offer me such hope…they beckon me forward when perhaps on any given day I feel stuck; they urge me to stay on the path or cross over to the other side where life is still unknown but could be exciting; they give me hope that by venturing forward I will find answers and more importantly see the myriad choices the traveller has if only she sets out. As John O’Donohue says: “The pilgrim travels differently knowing that on every walk there will be a change of mind and heart so that the outside becomes a metaphor for our unknown inner landscapes.”

Have a good walk in nature today and see how many “bridges” you can cross.

In My Face

I’ve just cleaned my office with the hope that it will tidy up my life. What remains on my desk are those reminders—practical and otherwise—that keep me honest.

Directly in front of me is a lithograph from the Metropolitan Museum of Art of a woman sitting on the porch of her summer cottage, naked to the waist, typing something.  I presume she is barring her soul and that her truth will set her and others who read her work, free.

There is a sepia photograph of my mother as a child looking very impish and sure of herself.

Under my computer screen is  a card given to me by a fellow Iona pilgrim which is nothing more than a bench upon which is carved: Sit here and feel the peace of Iona.

Several angels, one painted tin, another made of medal, and a third carved from wood dangle from a nearby window keep me company.

On the windowsill is a small candle holder which has carved into it the words: I am enough.

And a vase of a woman’s naked torso that fell off my desk and broke into many pieces. My husband glued it back together and I place dry flowers or leaves in it according to the season.

These are, but a few of my momentoes. They remind me to:

Bare my soul and seek truth; to be certain about self as I was as an unspoiled child; to find a place to go each day and just sit; that there are angels to lean on; that I am enough; and that, although broken I can piece myself back together again and again.

What do you surround yourself with?

Wild Turkeys

The other day I was tearing around buying birthday gifts for a grandchild whose birthday comes too soon after Christmas. I am almost always late shipping off his gifts and this year I was determined to succeed. In order to make my UPS deadline, I planned so well as to have wrapping paper and scotch tape with me in the car so I could head straight for UPS with packages ready to go.

But alas, I slowed the car down when I noticed some creatures on the side of the road. Once on top of the pack it was obvious that they were a family of wild turkeys. The father was already making his way across the street and the others were nibbling on brush with no interest in crossing. I was fascinated, especially when two of the birds opened their amazing fantails. To be in nature with nature is a gift I always treasure. And it can’t be programmed, can it?  “I find, I do not seek,” said Picasso, and so I found! It took another 5 minutes for the entire family to cross over and be on their way into the woods. Of course, I missed my UPS deadline (the truck was pulling out as I was pulling into their parking lot) but never mind. Serendipity is better than planned fun. My grandson will also have a treat—a second celebration two days after his birthday. We all win!

The Solstice Scenario

My fisherman friend, Hillary, stopped by the other day with a Xmas gift.

“I was touched that you remembered my party for the winter solstice,” he said, “and what you learned from me, of all people.”

We chuckled. “Well you are a spiritual man,” I informed him. “A cowboy of the sea. No different from a cowboy out west or a farmer. I see you all as seriously in tune with nature. I guess you have to be or, in your case, you wouldn’t catch any fish.”

His gift was a fisherman’s calendar. “Well, I just wanted you to see that since December 21st when the sun set at 4:14, today it sets 4:30. We’ve gained 16 minutes of sunlight. Isn’t that uplifting! You better start thinking of how you are going to use all the extra daylight as the winter turns into spring. This has got to be the best time of the year. Everything is growing, including us!”

And with that, he was off leaving me with a sense of the “lightness” of being.

Meandering Month

Instead of making sweeping  resolutions that I almost never abide by, I decided this year to unchain myself from achievements, per se, a recognize what I call “the littles” that so often go unnoticed in our hurried, fractured, and driven endeavors. The idea began when asked what I wanted for Christmas and I could think of nothing—that is nothing material. What I wanted was a more calm existence and individual time with special friends and particularly family.

The first gift came on Christmas Eve when our 14 year old grandson chose to sit next to his grampy on the couch and for the next hour I basked in the joy of watching the two just BE together, my husband’s arm wrapped gently over his shoulder. My first gift came sooner than expected. But I was filled with such delight that I “felt” and therefore possessed warmth, truth, and history at that moment.

A similar experience was had 16 years before when during the same hectic season I found myself knitting in front of the hearth with my mother and my new daughter in law. The gift remains with me—a heartfelt memory which can not be repeated. So, this new year I shall revolutionize my resolutions and meander so as to develop a rhythm that allows for me to be gifted by those moments which are meant to be.