Inside this clay jug are canyons and
pine mountains, and the maker of canyons and pine mountains.
All seven oceans are inside, and
hundreds of millions of stars.
The acid that tests gold is there, and
the one who judges jewels.
And the music from the strings that
no hand touches, and the source of
If you want to know the truth,
I’ll tell you the truth.
Friend listen – The one who I
love is inside.
Several months ago, I began preparing for two retreats I would be leading. My process is to read, write, pray and get centered in my own relationship with Spirit, all of which I enjoy. Retreat leadership is a relatively new path for me and it was somewhat predictable that I would be become overwhelmed by the awesome responsibility of providing a meaningful experience for the women attending. In other words, I became attached to the outcome. Once my ego became activated and engaged, doubt and fear were sure to follow. Rather than the still, small voice of reassurance, I began to pay attention to the voice of the lie telling me I might not be good enough.
“If I am truly called to do this work, why is it so difficult?”, I mused. Shouldn’t a calling mean you are “in the zone” or “following your bliss”? While agonizing internally, I was also projecting my distress onto my husband. I became withdrawn, confrontational and dismissive. The man has the patience of Job, but even he has his limits so when he finally said to me, “Why do you push me away? I am not the enemy”, I had to stop and really think about the source of my anxiety and my reaction to it.
My program of recovery suggests the “spiritual axiom” that whenever I am disturbed, there is something wrong with me. This is not an easy principle to accept or follow under normal circumstances but when I am stressed and my cortisol-soaked nervous system tells me I am in fight or flight mode, it is nearly impossible. I lash out at the nearest scapegoat, forgetting that the enemy is me.
Relationship and community are fundamental to my spiritual progress. Without them, I cannot be shown my blind spots, be given honest feedback, neither gain nor offer support. A true friend will not only tell me when I have spinach between my teeth, they will tell me when my words or actions are hurtful or inappropriate, or when I am , quite simply, being a jerk. Twelve-Step programs around the world use sponsorship and community as the healing balm for battered and bewildered souls.
In a culture that relies on competition and one-upmanship to fuel ambition, I must take an active role in creating communities based on mutual trust, respect and compassion. In the face of those who bully, blame and gaslight, I must be diligent about speaking my truth and living from my heart. With the companionship of my husband, the insight of my spiritual director, the depth of my faith community and the unconditional love of my recovery community I am granted the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Photography and artwork by Janice Olson