My last post here was almost one year ago. And I ended it by writing that I would write more soon. But this year has not been like other years, not in almost any way. But I wouldn’t know about that for another six months or so. So what was I doing? What was happening? And how did the year that brought me to Zion National Park lead to the year that become 2020, the year that stopped time?
I wrote through the fall, working on refining a manuscript that even today awaits more definition of its destiny. My book is a thematic memoir, a book that is part story telling and part spiritual invitation. I am writing about the place of desire, mystery, and belonging in our spiritual journeys and in our lives. In listening to others as a spiritual director and as a psychiatrist, I have found that among our desires often lives the deepest desire to become fully ourselves, to be the “most me” that we can be and to live that fullness every day. When we follow our deepest desires, we inevitably are immersed in mystery as we learn that we cannot control or know or even guess at the outcomes of our efforts, of our lives. We learn to tolerate mystery in the service of our desires by practicing belonging, by seeking and finding community, by reaching out in relationship with others. This path of desire, mystery, and belonging has become familiar to me and helps light my understanding of life’s rhythms. This book tells a lot of stories about desire, mystery, and belonging and invites the reader to reflect on their journey as they read. I have finished two drafts and am tinkering with a third but I can see its completion in my mind and in my soul.
Last fall and winter, I also embarked on an adventure of pursuing my 200-hour yoga teacher training in Richmond, Virginia with the trailblazer Amber Karnes and a group of amazing, wonderful humans from all over the country. This training was Amber’s inaugural Body Positive Yoga Teacher Training. This five-month experience changed my vision and my spirit. I learned many things, but central among them was the guidance to “accept and expect non-closure” as shared with us by one of our guest teachers, Michelle Cassandra Johnson, author of Skill in Action. Michelle taught us on the first day of my arrival at the training. She shared these words with us as part of a set of agreements that she had developed in collaboration with other members of Dismantling Racism Works (https://www.dismantlingracism.org/). I am still unpacking the power and meaning of these words, along with so much more. I have so much more to say about this time with Amber and our friends, but what matters most to me in this moment is that I said yes to this soul-level invitation, not knowing what lay ahead. And even here, I see desire, mystery, and belonging guiding my way.
As Amber’s training approached its last days, COVID-19 arrived. We spent our final week of training online via Zoom. Our group is still meeting via Zoom almost every month. Hoping to write more of my book, I was planning to attend several retreats in 2020, one of which I would lead, and all of them were cancelled. The pandemic life now is sadly much too familiar to all of us. I feel like I have no words to offer because I don’t know how to say how much I want to respect, want to honor all those whose lives have been lost. We are swimming and sometimes drowning in the non-closure that Michelle encouraged my yoga student friends and me to expect and accept. It is the acceptance that paralyzes me. How, how, how? So much loss. Everyone I know has suffered losses public and private, communal and personal. Losses that go far beyond COVID-19, itself unimaginable. I have so much to learn. Every day is another invitation to practice and to be present to what is real. The deepest desire to be fully ourselves still waits inside us, and although the mystery is chilling and frightening, belonging still reaches out its warm hands, their hands, to each of us. I pray that we hold out our own hands and find our way through the mystery to the deepest desire that lights our heart, that lights our soul, that lights our common humanity.
This is how I have spent this past year since last September. I pray for all of us in the days still to come. May we know the grace of tenderness when we touch our deepest desires. May we be brave in the mysteries that surround us. May we say yes to the belonging that brings grace, that brings hope, that brings love and brings us home.