A racing, anxious mind kept me up last night, elevating my heart rate, making it difficult to be calm enough to sleep. When I did sleep, my dreams were lucid, and I woke earlier in the morning that I intended; now I’m on the couch, cool wind blowing in through the window and the sound of cars on wet roads punctuating the quiet birdsong morning. A candle with a label that says ‘energizing and uplifting’ flickers, a warm contrast to the cool blue of the morning, rainy light.
I made golden chai tea. Shuffled my cards with hands, deep breath, and a prayer as one of the cats leapt onto the windowsill. A couple cards leapt out — a sign or my clumsy shuffling? Either way, I consider them significant, and lay them down along with a couple of others. They tell me that I treat others with so much compassion and strength. That abundance shines down on me. They tell me I have a hard time handling money. And, opposing each other, one card shows that worry hangs over my head, while another says that rest and healing is near after a time of difficulty and exhaustion, all I have to do is heed the call of sanctuary.
All seem to be true. Even the time of rest and healing, I can feel hanging at the edges of my life: a call to withdraw, to eat more nourishing foods, to meditate and write and direct at myself all of the love and compassion I give to so many others. If the labyrinth of life has lead me outwards, it is now leading me back inwards, back to my soul, back to the Self that lies beneath the fears, the insecurities, the anger, the judgement of myself and others. Back to the Self that breathes in the scent of rain and Spring flowers. Back to the Self that longs to bury hands in soil. Back to the Self that finds joy and peace in aloneness. That loses herself in dance and song.
Exactly two months from now, I will be ascending part of the Eastern Cascades in Washington with a group of others who are called to return to the land to reconnect with their deepest Selves. For several days, we will hold space with each other and go for walks on the land. Then, we will send each other off for 72 hours with camping gear and water to fast and, alone, rediscover who we are; we will welcome each other’s return with open arms and open hearts.
I did a similar fast and retreat two years ago, in the mountains east of Ashland. It ended up being a catalyst for many different changes in myself and in my life that I did not consciously predict, but which nonetheless needed to happen. I don’t know what this fast will be a catalyst for in my life; what I do know is that I go to the mountains to Remember who I am and to find a way to stay connected to my Wild Self, to the magic and power and wisdom that lives in my bones, even in the middle of the city. I go to the mountains “to lose my mind and find my soul,” as Muir so eloquently and accurately wrote.
And so it seems that my life is, already, leading me to the mountains. In truth, my retreat does not begin in two months; it began the day I signed up for it, and I have been slowly turning back to the inward spiral of the labyrinth of my life. Already I prepare, not just physically (the gathering of supplies and the giving up of addictions that will make it harder for me up there, like coffee), but also emotionally: I begin to draw inward, and crave the silence and peace of the early morning, before anyone else awakes. I am craving dancing, and singing, and painting, but I am craving the aloneness that lends inhibition and authenticity to those things.
My journey has begun. And it will only grow deeper, more and more lush and complex, as Spring blooms into Summer.