Reflections on Absence

IMG_3755The Day After Death is always strange with its aura of absence, of wondering whether I did the right thing, made the best choice. I’m never one hundred percent sure. Was it too soon or too late? Was it for them or me? Was our life together as mutually rewarding as it could be? I experience a lot of second-guessing and anxiety along with the simple, deep awareness of absence.

Responsibility and Resilience — to accept the former and trust that the latter will find its way into the cracks of a well-worn heart.

The Day Of Death is spent inside the process of being present for another soul’s transition, and after she has gone, there is this pause of emptiness and feeling lost, as if the world has stopped spinning and we are all suspended like a dream on a slender thread that could snap at any moment. But then the turning starts up again and I’m dizzy with the new unfamiliar absence.

I eat. I always do in times of stress, whether grief or joy, the extremes seem to require ingestion of the present experience which is mirrored by food and eating. When grieving, though, I often eat until I’m sick, until my body screams in protest and I slump in defeat, until the pain in my stomach challenges the pain in my heart, and I feel a sort of vacancy of breath. A form of suspension of belief.

But the Day After Death is different than the Day Of. For me, it’s not heavier but lighter, as if I am not tethered very securely and I am witness to all the emptyIMG_3754 space around me, as if the distance between objects has been magnified and what once took me three strides to reach appears to be a three-day journey. Sounds seem to come from far away and yet when they arrive are as claps of thunder, shattering.

The absence creates expanded space yet I don’t feel alone — it has the effect of bringing me closer to the infinite Oneness that is all of us, our entire Universe that is uncrowded and possibility stretches into Ever After until we begin again.

Within the space that is holding the absence of body, there is a stronger presence of Spirit. I inhale the curious blend of absence and presence, and peace envelopes me in a pink cloud of cotton candy. Time becomes irrelevant, and, when I button both ears closed, silence descends.

Silence doesn’t bother me nor does it make me feel alone, whether in the woods, on a mountain, or out walking in the desert. The absence of human construct and noise is a balm to my mind and senses.

IMG_3753Proposal. A brief venture into the desert today, to be away from the cover of home, car, or buildings — exposure. To walk away, into the desert of revealment and the withdrawal of protection or ability to hide. To, just for a few minutes, be in the absence of cover instead of the absence being inside me.

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Yesterday, Guinevere, a sweetheart of a cat, died (with the kind assistance of a vet who makes home visits). Two months ago, Pooka the amazing Corgi died (also with assistance). Guinevere was the 14th cat I’ve lost, and Pooka was the 7th dog. It never gets easier, and can be especially hard when more than one loss occurs within a short period of time, but I wouldn’t change a thing — I’m deeply grateful for every single one of the precious creatures who has graced my life. I’m truly blessed.

“We who choose to surround ourselves with liveseven more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle; easily and often breached. Yet, still we would live no other way.”  – Irving Townsend

Flourishing Transplants

[the following is a rough-draft excerpt from my nearly completed manuscript titled “Desert Gifts”]bougainvilleaagainsthosue

Another Desert Gift is nearly year ‘round Bougainvillea blossoms! Is there any important difference between the gifts received by being in the desert and those gifts that are indigenous to the desert?

The Bougainvillea is not indigenous to the Sonoran Desert (also referred to as Sonora) — it is a South American native though it has become naturalized here — yet its blooming provides great joy through color, profusion, vibrant energy … a transplant that has found a home here and relishes the arid climate, the heat as well as the cooler temperatures of winter’s onset.

I am a transplant, too, and my infused creative energy can be mirrored to some extent by that of the Bougainvillea. I can’t remain for long in direct sunlight — unlike the Bougainvillea — but the autumn shifting brings forth a bounty of energy from me likened to the fresh, clean, bright, heather-weight bracts that laugh mischievously among their chaotic community.

My recent research has helped me see Sonora through a softer, more accepting lens, to admire her and her Beings of all forms for their ability to thrive and dance! To acknowledge that she isn’t “out to get me” like a bandit who wants to rob me of my juiciness. Instead, she encourages me toward recognition of the need for self-nurture and self-realization of what I need so that I can flourish. Sonora was willing to play the devil’s advocate, to portray herself as the villain, until I could see that the true villain was inside me … my fears and insecurities and lack of self-awareness in certain qualities. She helped me see the wisdom of being able to live anywhere because to thrive comes from inside myself, not from external situations per se. Those without self-reflection can be destroyed whether they live in the blistering heat of the desert or on a tropical island ignoring the lava flowing straight towards them or in the north woods ignoring a tree that is crashing down.

So, maybe it’s okay that the Bougainvillea bring me joy in them, myself, and the ability of Sonora to cause them to thrive. Which brings me full circle to my desire for travel, to wisely intuit when I need to go away to absorb the emotional and psychological nutrients I don’t have around me — just as the Archaic hunter-gatherers moved around.

Finding my inner Wise Woman, she who guides me not to blame Sonora — or any other external factor — but to listen to how our frequencies sing together at different times. Are we discordant or harmonizing? When not in accord, do we need a little time away from each other?

I had been resisting planting Bougainvillea in the courtyard because I didn’t want to encourage bees to be so close by … but does the joy of the visual flowering splendor outweigh the fear of the bees? I still retain a fear of bees though it’s nowhere near as intense as it used to be. Bees — fire, intensity, inflammation, heat, swelling, pain. Again, the fear of these things can constrict my breathing — my prana — more than anaphylactic shock would. A childhood wasp sting — and my bad reaction to it — seems to have elevated this fear of being stung, of having venom pumped throughout my system without my permission or any control over it. In turn, this also translates to my fear of scorpions, a separate desert topic in and of itself. Even mosquitos cause large red, itchy welts to rise up on my skin and stay a long time.

My body and mind do not react well to fire … easy and frequent sunburns, severe headaches, photophobia, nausea from any kind of over-heating. That kind of fiery intensity easily overwhelms me. Combine this susceptibility with the hot flashes and night sweats of menopause and what happens? Ash results. However, Sonora reminds me to be self-aware, to either remove myself from exposure at its height or be sure to know the remedial scenarios to dissipate the heat, whether that is silence during an argument, drinking water in the shade, or simply remaining in my home-cave.  During the most intense fires of life, it does not do me — or anyone else — any good to go up in flames and disappear into the vastness of the desert, my bleached bones to be found later tossed around by coyote pups at play in the mirage of life.

The key to all of this is knowing, accepting, embracing myself as a non-native of Sonora and reducing my expectations that I can be someone I’m not. Here, I’m a transplant, and my purpose requires a different approach, a different amount of fire — only a small amount of fire that is held gently, cradled close to my heart like a stone warmed to a sweet, moderate temperature that soothes and creates sparks in imagination and spinal fluid so that body and mind flow within the subterranean streams feeding all life in the desert.

I say Grace … thank you, Sonora.

How do each of us handle the Fire in our lives? Are we comfortable with intensity? Do we, in fact, relish the heat? Or do we shy away from the flames?

Artemis in Crete

[The following is an excerpt from Minoan Messages On The Gaia Path.]

balconyIS IT COINCIDENCE THAT I AM STAYING at a hotel named after Artemis? Artemis who has long been another resonant Goddess for me? Artemis who exemplifies the independent stage of life I went through after my divorce and before I met Ron? Artemis in her Maidenhood, her independence and empowerment, her strength and intimate relationship to the wilds, the woods, nature, her pack of hounds called the Alani? The Alani of which I became one?

I’ve read books and articles about Artemis, and relate to much of what’s written, yet I also know Her differently in some ways.

Goddess of the Hunt is one of Her appellations. However, as a devotee of Artemis, my sense is that as “the huntress” Artemis did/does not advocate killing. Rather, Hers is the power of dispensation and for stepping in as intermediary between hunted and hunter for a swift and painless death. In other words, if it is necessary to take a life for survival, invoke and invite her guidance and She may grant absolution to the one who deals death to a precious wild creature and/or an innocent of any species. Her bestowing of prowess with the bow—in her association with that tool—was for protection of the wild creatures, and to prevent suffering. Ultimately, Artemis is a Huntress of Souls, not hunting to kill in our mundane perceptions but to renew, protect, guide, save and inspire the wild and innocent beings.

In her other guises and energies, and at other points in time, Artemis is also known by a variety of names. For instance, on Crete, She is associated with Britomartis, Goddess of Mountains, and Eileithyia, Goddess of Birth and thus also of Death.

My own energy is connected to Artemis in some interesting ways. A zodiac sign associated with Artemis is Taurus, which is my birth sign. I have a strong attachment to not only the wild and untamed Rocky Mountains, but also to trees and especially pine trees; Artemis, Goddess of the Wilderness, has been known to hold a “pine cone tipped wand,” and is a tree goddess. My middle name is Diane, a form of Diana which is the Roman name for Artemis. She is Moon Goddess and Lady of the Beasts; I am most content at night or in caves, and have always lived with multiple dogs and/or cats. The moment I ‘met’ Artemis, we were in resonance.

She has, however, been tainted by aggression, enslaved by the will of the oppressors, and made into an image of death-wielder or hunter of those She actually protects. There is a deep chasm stretching between Artemis-primordial and what they—the violent ones—seek to make Her. Her archetype has not the desire to kill or to destroy. She is the waxing moon of growth, the crescent moon is Her silver bow and Her discerning, protective gaze flies sure and true as an arrow from that bow. She is the Great Mother Bear, marking the trees to show all who come into the forest that this is sacred space. Who were the Amazons when Artemis led them into healing groves and fields of herbs where the animals showed ignorant human hands how to know blessed plants that could turn fear into peace, hate into love, and still the pains of birth and death?

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 4.24.41 PMHow can we see Artemis clearly if we look through the eyes of patriarchy and those who dominated even themselves, restraining any semblance of kindness? Harsh times rode in on horses disregarded except as vehicles, long forgotten as the wings upon earthly rhythms pounding freedom across the land. Can we close our eyes and feel the origin? Imagine one of the first faces of She Who Runs With the Wolves for they are Her friends, her kin.

I am stricken and saddened by how easily we forget to look before the onslaught of oppression, look into the forest mists of the times when harmony reigned and all of Great Mother’s creature beings were honored, each life taken a great sacrifice for which we gave thanks, asking beforehand for a volunteer … the wounded, the weak, the old. Grace is given for their life to be taken quickly, offered as sustenance in the cycle. The vibrational patterns of life, the energetic threads of relationality became snarled and were tangled, so that we forgot Her truth, Her Divine gift of interconnected honoring into harmony.

Under the light of the waxing moon, She cast shadows to protect the wild beings, to create equality—challenge and illusion—so they would not be taken too easily, would not be slaughtered without asking forgiveness, without prayer and invocation of Divine guidance to lead them to balance of sacrifice and nurturance.

There is tremendous strength in standing firm, in holding fast, in celebrating birth and death as equally vital in our human forms walking the manifest world. Artemis is the exhilaration, the growing light in the sacred dark, glorying in the soft shadows of night and the cool recesses of the cave, and the womb of renewal and joy of youthful vigor.

She has been tarnished and stained, contorted by aggressors who cannot possibly understand Her complexities, for taking a life is a mighty honor and the life taken is then to be honored in a way that reveres all life be it plants, animals or the unknown mysteries of the unseen realms that guide and direct us into opportunities for greater inter-relationship.

Her stories were told and written down by men who could not comprehend Her. Artemis is one who guides us to look within, in the dark, to discover whether we need to take a life or sacrifice our own or even to simply allow a flow of compassion into the relating of all life. She guides us into the paths of our souls, pointing with her arrows to that which needs to be removed or transformed.

The Amazon legends, like the stories of Artemis, were recorded by men; we must seek within our own hearts to find the truth between the lines of the self-reflected, ego-dictated aggression of patriarchy to locate pure source. Maybe the Amazons were indeed wild women of the forests who supplemented their gatherer diets with the occasional meat sacrifice. But I sense that whenever a kill was necessary, it would have been a grave undertaking, not a revelry of joy and laughter with fierce cries of jubilation and pounding upon the chest in dominance. There would have been no joy in the kill.

Artemis vibrates with protection, defense when necessary, and survival with a distinctive grace and reverence for all life. Humans have the will and the intellect to choose how we live, and Artemis will guide us through the dark if we open to Her power.balconyatdusk

Peace

“It is a gross misunderstanding to imagine warfare as endemic to the human condition.”

~ Marija Gimbutas, Professor of Baltic and Slavic Studies at UCLA, 1963-1989; Chair of European Archeology. Gimbutas

I feel sadness at how quickly average people — men and women both — have become excited by the idea that Viking women could have been half of the warrior force. What reason is there to celebrate violence in any culture? And yet, consider all the movies and television series that continue to grow in number where the female is killing and destroying; this is promoting the idea that women can only hold power by becoming better warriors/killers than the men. The promotion of that archetype is not coming from the core of feminine principles of a loving, transformative energy but from the obfuscating masculine energies within them. This will not resolve anything — this will not heal our world.Fresco at Knossos - Version 2

I wish people were as thrilled by the knowledge that there were many early civilizations that existed peacefully for hundreds of years, some for over a thousand years, within an egalitarian structure. Some of these towns and/or village communities were heavily populated; for instance, the “Late Cucuteni culture, c. 4000-3500 B.C., reached an urban stage with towns of up to 10,000 inhabitants at the center of a district surrounded by medium and smaller size villages,” while other large, peaceful societies prospered as well such as that of Catal Huyuk in Anatolia and on Crete we know of the “Minoan” culture. (Gimbutas) Further, hunter-gatherer cultures were usually egalitarian as well.

Stolen Memories

redlilylg

Red Lily – Australian Bush Flower

Observations of being human …

Gaia guides me, helps me value my memories and my Self — through Her kind and loving eyes I see the me of my story before memories and moments are stolen — or given away; She grounds me through the trees nodding in affirmation and recognition, and the path welcoming my footsteps, and the dogs looking to me for guidance and love. Full Circle. When I step into woods, I feel Her embrace and Her love holds my memories as sacred, as mine; my soul is nourished, our spirits are One. Gaia sees me as me. And She tells me to write into my own infinity …

If I don’t make the effort to tuck away my treasures, the essence of each moment’s quenching of thirst, the healing well, can be drained by those who presume to know what I meant … they steal the memory and put their own spin on it and I wonder if I’m crazy — ! Did I recall a fantasy, a story created in my mind or was it real?

To write is my way of putting a lid* on the memory, to wrap it up with a ribbon so that I can say: this is what I felt, thought, sensed, knew. No matter what anyone else may say or think, the memory has become real — it is my memory, not someone else’s.

I have barely any memories of childhood, of being part of my family’s life, of my socially active early twenty-something years — all the people around me sucked my memories away and made them their own, and I wasn’t quick enough or mature enough to realize I needed to write it down, that I needed to be the scribe of my own life or it would appear that I was merely a footnote, an addition, an accessory to someone else’s life and memories. My wispy memories are of a solitary child playing in the barn with cats, of watching roly-polies for what seemed like hours, of twirling alone on the green grass in an old square dance dress until, dizzy, I drop to the ground in my Gypsy fantasy.

Later, the longer I lived alone, the more memories I have retained, through writing in my journal and scripting the story in my mind — consciously pausing to write my story, my internal response to a situation, before someone snatched it away and said “no, you aren’t remembering right — it happened this way.” The space, a pause, a few moments of solitude and stillness are needed to set my memories firm, to establish their home in me.

They didn’t intend to steal my memories, or my innocence, or my identity. They simply assimilated the events into their own story — like The Blob in that old horror movie — and I disappeared, became a mass of bone and flesh without a sense of Self. And I do own my part in giving my Self away. But who was I if my memories weren’t there? Most people set such store by the importance of past — of memory — and my past was someone else’s footnote.

Only a discipline – writing – within solitude’s grace, the solitude I again came to know as my long lost identifier in a deeply rooted core of being, only then were my recent and new memories allowed to remain with me — they weren’t stolen away by good intentions of control or a foreign persona of deception.

Write, write it down, write everything down before someone can abscond with my experiences and create their own version of my story, my life. I hear it revised and rewritten whenever I visit family, so hard to hold onto it. Who I am disappears into someone else’s memory of who I was and my young nieces don’t see or know me — they only know the person I was supposed to be or the me who disappointed authority. I disappear into someone else’s memory — I don’t recognize that person they talk about, that me in their memories. But since my memories of the early years are gone, I cannot contradict, I can only shrink a little further into the bubble of my dimming aura, contract in so that no more memories are extracted. If I don’t speak, my voice cannot be stolen. Write it down; become the story in the pages, preserved a little while longer than would happen if the fire blazing through vibrant personalities made me disintegrate.

Now in my fifth decade, when I am with other people, silence preserves my voice from being distorted … I listen, feel, think, and then later write into wholeness of Being. Not to be chained by ego, but to recover and know my own soul in the world.

Are there other people with stolen memories?

lilypondmaine

Lily Pad Pond in Maine

Without abundant water and earth, is it possible I fear the desert fire and air will try to steal my memory — my identity — if I let go of my resistance to its intensity? I nearly lost it once in the desert already …

The desert is another face of Gaia. I’ve always trusted Her loving presence. Maybe it’s time to have faith that even in Her most fierce form — the Fiery Desert — She will keep me growing, safe, whole. She has nurtured as the North Woods, She has inspired as the Rocky Mountains — what is Her gift to me as the Sonoran Desert? She’s never stolen my memory before, why would She do it now? Unless … would She do it to teach me that I am more than my memory?

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*The portal for the above was Emily Dickinson’s poem (#1266), drawn at random:

When Memory is full

Put on the perfect Lid — 

This Morning’s finest syllable

Presumptuous Evening said — 

lilypadroomcave

Lily Pad Room, Onondaga Cave, Missouri

I have also been reading When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice by Terry Tempest Williams, and I know her essays influenced my direction toward contemplation of voice.

Deep Listening, Deep Seeing

DesertDawnSky081114Rainstorm! Thunder! Lightening!

Across the night sky my heart was beating and I heard it in Her voice at play among the clouds in our union. My body in bed relaxed into the moments; whisked away to the inky infinite I was at peace, serenity of mind and body attuned to the symphony held among the stars tossing themselves across the expanse as they danced in a lacy play of cosmological badminton.

A breezy, cool 70 degrees welcomed me on an early walk as the clouds created a soft batting above and I could look directly at the dawning sun — we beamed at each other while the hills were a splendor of rust and emerald, rock and plant. In the opposite distance, the western horizon was blinking itself awake with half-closed eyes in wrinkled pink and violet. 

The air was, and is still, heavy with suspended silken water that absorbs into my skin and, deeper, into my cells — I am fluid, flexible, bending like the slender hop seed branches. The Santa Cruz River is flowing, there are puddles in the Sonoran Desert, and I am full in our Oneness — a well-spring opened.

Solitary, I sit outside sipping chai — no dogs are with me for, being a weekend, they would bark at any noise in the neighborhood. This is part of my new practice of growing a deeper silence: a few moments of only background noise so that the space around me heals, my aura can feel itself gently pulsing, and I can feel me — alone. To grow, breathe, Be in a state of solitude and learn to relish this quiet separation that mysteriously creates total union with all life. A solitary bee is buzzing near my head, off on its own private adventure this morning while a bird flies overhead, cawing — not a crow, a gray bird who seems a little frantic, searching.

I didn’t even hold my usual indoor sadhana … this moment called for me to be in the outdoors, sitting, listening, Being. The thickened air holds scents more firmly and I know the plenitude of dogs in the area by smell as well as sound, one sense that normally doesn’t alert me to their presence since the usual aridness desiccates droppings rapidly. 

I lightly brush the soles of my feet upon the still-damp sandstone, feeling its softness, and wonder how far it traveled to be here; does it miss its first home? The sandstone — sandpaper-like against the calluses on my feet — breathes, I can imagine the space between the particles where the granules are splashing in puddles like happy grubby children and a subtle melody, a lullaby, whispers itself into existence unheard except by otherly realms found in fables. While walking earlier, my husband pointed out a rock formation upon a nearby hill — a giant turtle rock. The hills are a bounty of shapes and sizes; a little imagination goes a long way. 

My husband rescued (with permission) abandoned rocks from the shelves of the basement at his office, and they are excited to be out in the elements again, once more soaking up the rain and reflecting the sun and feeling the wind whip around their jagged faces. Liberation! 

RockFaceA rock face guards the agave, his solemn expression reminding me of Easter Island giants or totem pole alchemists shapeshifting. His chin is jade green, his lip line thin and stoic beneath a recessed granite nose, broad and sensing all that goes on around him. Green appears painted around deep-set eyes beneath his broad gray brow. His inner cheeks are rusty brown from too much sun as he holds the space around him in safety. What are the minerals called that he reveals in such solid presence?

I had felt the coyotes watching us during our morning walk; they were safely hidden among the wild buffer zone of mesquite and palo verde and cholla. Motionless, they were undetectable by weak human eyes so I only knew them through feeling their eyes upon us, that prickle on the back of the neck; one that could have been a vibration of past presence, who knows for sure. It doesn’t matter because at least I know they are out there, still stalking, breathing, Being. If I were to stand barefoot on the sand atop the packed earthen ‘concrete’ — the hard caliche of the desert floor — could I feel their paws trotting miles away? Does the dense earth of desert pavement carry their vibrations like the stampede of buffalo were heard miles away by placing one’s ear next to the plains grasses on ground that held the sounds of all life, all movement, back to the beginning of time? 

Is Gaia’s body a chamber of resonance across time and space? We talk of a Field “out there” somewhere, but what about the Field of pure awareness that holds the recordings of all manifest form archived within Her veins, cells, tissue and organs? 

Do our rescued rocks, now reconnected with the skin of Mother Earth, speak of their adventures and send their memories into the chamber of knowledge beneath my feet? 

3RocksEach rock has its own forgotten story of excavation, transport, experimentation, and entombment. A story that is a mere blink, but each one unique. In the palest of sage green coloring, a mere blush of elegant residue, the pyramid stone casts healing rays around the yard, its edges rough yet kind, an ancient symbol of masculine principle transformed into healing the wounds of patriarchal ignorance. Three huge guardians, each of different origin, bump shoulders in a corner: green, brown, gray … they anchor us here, determination and courage in their unearthed exposure reminding me that home is wherever I desire it to be, it’s where love is. To go visiting for nourishment and expansion is wonderful … but my human-rock, my Beloved, is here. He, like the boulders, anchors me in safety wherever I am. 

This is our story … rain, desert, rocks … all Beings.

Thinness of Self

handleafveilbwI had lain in bed at dawn, savoring the taste of silence, appreciating the moment of dark quiet with Widget snuggled against my side and Phoenix curled at my feet. This was a moment of sweet peace, relaxing, breathing in the silence that would sustain me during the rest of the day. A short while later, when I took the dogs outside and we stepped into the dove-gray softness of liminal light, a small bat was flitting back and forth above my head quite near but silent. Gaia’s Grace was tangible.

There is a line that I love in A Book of Silence: “the thinness of my sense of self” (p.17). When I read this, I felt I became intimate with the book’s author, Sara Maitland. I’ve never met her and probably never will, but with this comment, I felt we were kindred spirits. She is writing of how difficult it is for her to sit in silent meditation with others because she is so aware of them it intrudes upon her own sense of silence.

I nearly squealed in recognition of this sensation of “thinness of self” because I experience this when even one other person is in the house with me. I usually considered this due to my personal insecurity, or perhaps embarrassment or discomfiture that I was somehow being “judged” and could feel the judgment oozing through even a closed door. However, I also usually experienced this at Kripalu — though to a milder degree — in group meditation, where it was highly unlikely that others were judging me since they, too, were meditators. Nevertheless, I was often feeling a disturbance of energy in the room rather than my own peaceful silence or the group silence. I simply am not at ease in group meditation. And this went against (which added to my feeling of being an “outsider”) the teachings of all the benefits of meditating in groups to assist with maintaining and encouraging spiritual focus and energy. Occasionally, the meditation was long enough I could reach my own silent center and personal sacred space of nothingness, my core of being. But not often.

When I think it is my insecurity creating this inability to feel the silence in a group, I feel negative overtones. But what if this is a “thinness of self” that is naturally spiritual? What if it is the natural thinness that comes directly from one’s soul? Sara Maitland seems to worry, as do I, that this is some kind of “fault” in our character. But is it? Why would it necessarily be so? Why would we assume it is? Is it not simply a trait that is natural? Perhaps our discomfort or inability to rest in group silence is a judgment of our society, even a spiritual one like at Kripalu or a retreat center? A judgment that is more comfortable grouping everyone together and not comfortable with those who are solitaries in their silence? The only advantage I personally could see to a group meditation was that it provided a structure for the ritual, something that says it is to be done now, not put off, not shortened or skipped — group practice can create a sort of discipline if one has a hard time doing this alone. And yet, even if that aspect is helpful in the beginning, it is still adherence to someone else’s control of our path. At some point, will our spiritual path be important enough that we are disciplined by self?

Is it possible that this “thinness” of self goes further than imagined? That it is a gift allowing a permeability of spirit to more easily flow in and out of soul, and that solitude is needed for some of us to lower the barriers we maintain in any group? Is it this “thinness” that can sometimes be perceived by others as a “madness” or a form of dysfunction because it doesn’t adhere to the group mind? Or is it a source of creativity in some sense? At least for some of us? Clearly not for all of us because many people go deeply into meditation in groups or create marvelous works of art in the company of like-minded individuals or even strangers. But, for some of us, why do we automatically assume that this thinness is a fault, a flaw in our constitutional construction?

Some contrasts I feel here with Maitland are, for instance, that I’ve avoided groups my entire life; preferring one or two people at a time to crowds; even being uncomfortable at my own family’s dinner table at times. Whereas Maitland speaks of her joy in the bantering noise of discussions in family and other groups … that she didn’t begin to yearn for silence and/or solitude until later in life. Which shows her to be following a somewhat normal basic inclination — a healthy one — as described by Ayurveda, i.e., the Vata phase of life. Further, Maitland divorced — she began her journey into seeking silence while on her own, without a life-partner to consider, and this allowed her more freedom to fully engage with the Call of Spirit, to deepen her relationship with silence and solitude. I, however, have a beloved husband. Yet we, in our partnership, continue creating ways for my “thinness of self” to be nourished and encouraged.

Our partnership has been built, in part, upon early recognition of my need for solitude and silence. We didn’t call it “thinness of sense of self” though; an easier and more common term, though one just as socially unacceptable, is introversion. Confessedly, moving to Arizona has been a trial in this area, due to some confusion, loss, misunderstanding, and stumbling.

GatesPassHowever, come winter and cooler weather, I will be able to drive fifteen minutes into the desert, walk a short distance, and experience vast silence and that will, hopefully, induce a greater sense of solitude … one where my thinness can breathe more easily — if I can release my fear of the desert. As Maitland puts it, “the silence of the desert has a horror to it, as well as, born of the horror, a deep and joyful beauty. The desert is vast, cruel and very silent” (p. 128). Perhaps there is a way for me to replace my fear of the desert with love for the opportunity it provides in its unique manifestation of silence and solitude? To balance the environmental overwhelm I feel in this harsh landscape with a freedom of expansive space once the extreme heat recedes for the winter? In that silence, what will happen out of the thinness that is my self and the prominent desert elements of fire and air?

I seek a greater spiritual appreciation of the desert. I seek this so that even though my preference is cave and forest, where I feel safe (and, interestingly, another contrast is that Maitland does not feel safe in the forest), I can move into a state of gratitude for this opportunity of spiritual exploration through desert presence. After all, Maitland who lives in the United Kingdom had to travel to the Sinai Desert whereas my desert is all around me. Maybe my “thinness of self” will facilitate my becoming one with the desert silence, and, through that grace, find a deeper peace here?

May Bast guide our journeys to self through silence and solitude.