A few weeks weeks ago, I wrote a post titled, WALK AWAY, explaining my need to escape responsibility for a few days for a retreat and encouraging others to do the same. But I failed to take my own advice and stayed home to take care of a situation with my daughter. I needed to do it, but I also felt horrible about canceling on myself. In order to feel whole, I needed to go. Two days later than originally planned, I got on a plane and flew to New Mexico to study and practice with two beloved teachers, Natalie Goldberg and Wendy Johnson.
I walked into the zendo at Upaya Zen Center at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday evening. The session had already begun, the room dark except for a few candles burning on the altar. I slipped in the back, crossed my legs, folded my hands, and connected to my breath. Someone began to read about her daughter’s wedding, watching her ride away on a horse at the end of the ceremony.
The next morning I learned that before I arrived, Wendy had led a ritual for times of transition — dark to light, summer to fall, single to married, attachment to separation. The retreat was titled, Mind of Autumn, but somehow it had not registered that we were practicing over the Fall Equinox.Then Wendy recited a poem by the Haiku master, Buson, which she had read the previous morning before I’d arrived:
This poem could not have been more poignant, leaving my daughter during a difficult moment, moving clumsily through the dance of mother/daughter separation. When the retreat was over and I was home again, I wrote to Natalie, admitting that separating was as difficult for me as it was for my daughter.
“Keep practicing separation,” she wrote back. “Coming and Going. You go, I stay. Two Autumns.”
I share this because I know how difficult it is for many of us to leave behind our responsibilities, to separate from those who depend on us. I also know how vital is is to reconnect to ourselves, to return to our true nature as individuals with our own lives and path.
The theme of return is on my mind as the Jewish New Year begins this evening. On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jews all over the world practice teshuvah, which is often translated as repentance, but actually means “to turn.” We turn toward our communities and our faith and we return to ourselves, to our true nature.
Here are a few things I’m returning to this season:
Silence. As I’ve written here before, I struggle with my meditation practice, in part because of my health, but there is nothing like sitting with your breath on a chair or a cushion, to settle the mind. I will be holding more space for silence for students and clients in the coming months as well, beginning with Brain Vacation, a day of writing, rest, and renewal for the mind. More events to come when I announce my new location for my new base of operations. Stayed tuned for opportunities to find creative sanctuary here in Austin.
Writing practice. The pleasure of the mind moving across the page, unedited and uncensored, no good and no bad, letting the truth of our existence be free on the page. More opportunities to practice with me as well, online and in Austin.
My two true loves: art and literature. Also, working with more artists and writers to find their true voice and vision. I love helping women align with their purpose through Art/Life Mentoring, Heroine’s Journey, and Continuous Practice.
Family and faith, the rhythm and ritual that ground us, without getting caught in gender roles or identity. Loving the people I love and leaving them when I need to.
The high holiday prayer book tells us that though the holy days come but once a year, the gates of return are always open. That is true for all of us.
What do you yearn to return to? Make a list right now, then set a timer and write for five minutes on each. Return right now to what matters most.