I just came back from a ten day journey to my beloved Southwest, where I got replenished and re nourished from spending time BATHING in the energy of that ancient red rock universe.
One of the things that feeds me so deeply in that landscape is the incredibly extravagant color. The deep reds and rich oranges, the earthy browns and buttery creams all flow into and around each other in often startling and always unique configurations of hoodoo and butte and mesa. My eye is wondrously delighted by the incredible variation and my mind is mesmerized into stunned silence by the immensity of the landscape that seems to have no end once you are in the middle of it.
Something in me is always longing for the sheer sense of space and spaciousness that the red rock landscape offers. I read somewhere recently that those of us who are mystically inclined feel are continually drawn to those expansive terrains of desert and mountains and ocean. And even though I live in the heart of the city with it’s intensity of hustle and bustle those wide open spaces are my true home.
This potent combination of geographical immensity and overwhelming beauty also brings me closer in to my inner world and allows me to gain greater clarity about what the heck is actually going on with me at any given time.
And this last trip opened me up to some powerful revelations about my life.
I have written a lot over the past seven months about the massive inner and outer changes I have been going through spurred on by the loss of two of my longtime and beloved retreat centers, one through political circumstance and one through the ravages of fire.
But the Cliff Notes version is that I had been offering my intuitive painting workshops and retreats for over 18 years at the Ghost Ranch Conference Center in New Mexico and the Mountain Home Ranch Resort in Northern California. Both of these places were physical AND spiritual homes for my work. And they both disappeared from my life quite suddenly within three weeks of each other last fall.
The loss was devastating and I have been in a tumultuous grief process since then. Initially the grief centered around the loss of the actual places. I was grieving what they gave me. What they meant to me. And how they supported me and my work.
That level of the grief has softened in the intervening months but the process has shifted in some new and often disturbing ways. Because both of these places were much more to me than simply addresses on a map. They were an intimate part of my identity and deeply tied into a sense of how I saw myself and who I felt myself to be in the world.
So losing them has shaken to the core. And left me feeling somewhat adrift and unmoored and not quite sure about who I am anymore.
However, it’s beginning to occur to me, as I wade through this unraveling process how it may not be an entirely a bad thing. This loss has cause me to question EVERYTHING about my life. It’s asked me to look long and hard at how I think and how I behave. At what I believe and what I have taken for granted. At patterns and strategies that have shaped my life and directed my actions.
And I’m beginning to get an inkling about how much I have been functioning on a sort of automatic pilot for awhile now.
Like so many of us, I had developed a sense of identity and certain ways of operating that were quite satisfying and dynamic at an earlier point in my life. But I had outgrown some of those operational systems without totally realizing it. I had gotten lazy and complacent and truth be told, afraid to change.
These identities tend to take on a life of their own. We become attached to them because they HAVE worked so well. We become attached to them because they HAVE worked so well. And when they start to lose their vitality and sense of meaning our survival fears begin to kick in. We can’t imagine how we can possibly live without them.
Plus, releasing these systems and strategies means we have to spend more time than is EVER comfortable in a state of dissolution and dissolving.
Letting go requires us to hang out in a sort of suspended animation where the old ways of being begin to float away but the new way has not yet shown itself. It’s being thrust through a portal that leads to the often terrifying land of the unknown and, for a time at least, the unknowable. And being asked to stay there for as long as it takes while your entire inner world is being inexorably dismantled.
For someone who has spent her whole life actively CREATING her life this is a profoundly disconcerting place to be. It feels so darn passive. It feels like NOTHING is happening. It feels like I don’t know what to DO. And I don’t. And that’s exactly the point of this whole process.
I don’t know. I can’t know. And I’m not meant to know.
So, since I can’t seem to do anything else, I’m beginning to allow myself to surrender to it the tiniest bit. Fighting it isn’t working. And believe me, I’ve tried.
Truth be told, relaxing INTO it feels kind of good. And what actually feels the best is making the space to simply float along in a half daydreamy kind of way. Allowing the mystery to take me where it wants to go.
And hoping there will be something of me left when I get to wherever it’s taking me.
If you would like to join me on a mystical intuitive painting experience in the wild and wide open spaces, I have a weeklong painting retreat in the High Sierra Mountains of California, coming up in June 16-23rd.
Click on the link below for more info and to register.