The other day, I noticed, while spreading avocado instead of butter on my whole grain toast, that I was having a little argument inside my head. Is this really good for me? Shouldn’t I be avoiding gluten?
A few minutes later, as I swallowed my vitamins, I noticed I was worrying if they were a waste of money and might upset my stomach.
As I carried my tea into my office and sat down at my desk, I thought I’d better get serious about getting to work. With a new program starting the first day of January. I need to get that module done.
Instead, I scanned an astrological report from Lorna Bevan. She wrote: "This December is definitely not the usual downhill holiday season time-out before we face the realities of another New Year. Make your mantra: “Everything counts. Everything matters.”
Ouch, I reached back to massage the back of my neck. Maybe I slept in the wrong position. Maybe my briefcase was too heavy. A tenderness in the joint at the top of the spine. I turned my head right, then left. Ouch.
In the next few hours, the pain radiated, burning its way downward, settling in the cavern at the back of my heart. I couldn't crack it out. I couldn't yoga it out. Ouch.
“Everything counts. Everything matters.”
Was I hunching my shoulders around my ears again? I let my arms drop into my lap and relaxed my shoulders and closed my eyes. What do you need? I asked my body and it flashed an image: Me, in downward facing dog, the yoga pose where you bend over and touch the ground and walk your feet back until you’re body is an upside down V.
I shook my head. I don’t have time. I looked at the piles on my desk. I got to work. A few hours later, ouch. I reached back.
Down coat, hat and scarf - I set off for the farm.
I walked. Past the barn. Past the grazing cows. Up the rise where the old orchard (now an empty field) spread out before me. At the bottom of the hill, I discovered a new bench, facing the pond.
I sank onto it. Took a deep breath. I felt the cold against my cheeks. The scent of the wild fresh day filled my nostrils. My body softened. I closed my eyes.
Which is when, finally, suddenly, I noticed the birdsong, the branch crackle, the water trickle of the creek behind me.
How had I missed that? What HAD I been listening to as I walked from back door to bench?
My own thoughts: Anxious ruminations Grocery and to-do lists. New boots before the snow comes. Holiday gifts. And money, always money to pay for it all.
I sat and let myself really hear what the inside of my head sounds like and the first thing I noticed was, my heart hurts.
I felt my body respond. My head dropped, my shoulders turned inward. I folded around my heart.
Inward facing hug pose.
I sat up. Exhaled. Listened.
A vision bloomed in my mind’s eye:
Two maps of the same landscape, my life.
One map marked out time in milestones of urgency and achievement. Success, legacy, how much time I have left to leave a mark on the world. This was a map of hurry up. Of you're not living up to your potential. Nowhere on this map was there a mention of creek trickle, of hiding place, of birdsong. Walking this map was a woman who was trying to do her best, trying to keep up. Trudging along with a broken heart and back pain.
On the other map, the milestones were connection, creativity, joy. I saw my son's brilliant smile, as he waved, shirtless from the greenhouse he was helping to build one summer. I saw my daughter coming over the hill after working at summer camp. I saw the path that I discovered during quarantine which led to Barbara’s labyrinth. I saw the hill where three deer leapt across my path so close I could feel the air move as they swept by. This was a map of memory and beauty, and the woman who walked this way had a heart full of love, overflowing with joy. When her back hurt (because we have bodies and sometimes they ache) she listened to the pain and responded to it. In return, her body supported her - and healed itself.
I knew these maps. I’d seen them before. A few years ago, on the day when I ran into my friends Barbara and Madalasa, and when, after talking with them, I had a realization about the two worlds.
One of these worlds, which I’d called The Blue World, was a cool, sterile, perfectly man-made world where the only thing that mattered was success. The other world, The Golden World, was sunlit, green, and vividly alive.
To the traveler, these maps plot the same terrain. What I realized back then, was this: The way is in the walker.
We choose the way, we choose the world.
How do we choose? With our attention.
This is a huge subject, full of complexity but that is the simple summary of it all.
The walker chooses the way. The map builds the world around her.
I stood up from the bench and headed home. I crested the same hill, the same old orchard was there, the same cows, still grazing. And there was my friend Barbara.
Though Barbara figures into many of my Soul Caller stories, I really only see her once or twice each year. Always, it seems, on a day of realization.
We met on the path and after the pleasantries, we dropped deeper, as we always do. We talked about letting go of grown children, the ache of that, the loss.
“It takes longer than I thought it would,” she said.
“It takes forever,” I said.
“Given how painful this is, I'm trying to keep busy,” she said.
“Me too,” I said. “I really should get out the sewing machine, the knitting. But this time feels like more than busy, doesn’t it? There's something important calling - as if the field of mothering itself is opening, widening, deepening."
“Yes,” she said. “I understand.”
“As if I am expanding the heart field to hold the whole world,” I said. (And from inside, my body spoke: You don’t have to hold it alone. Expand so you can hold the whole world, together with everyone and everything else.)
And from outside, Barbara spoke, “We really should have tea one day.”
“Yes,” I said, and we parted, not hugging because of Covid, and walked in opposite directions. Me, listening to my thoughts. Barbara entering the landscape I’d just exited.
The landscape with two maps. One blue and one golden.
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A month-to month membership circle.
Enrolling all year. Go see.
I wish you all the light of the holiday season.
And so much love.
Sending you so many blessings.
Feeling so much gratitude for your presence in my world.