Tonight I make the turn to go home after sixteen days away from Savannah and my family. I’ve really enjoyed this trip but absence truly does make the heart grow fonder. I miss my husband and son and am so excited to see them, I refuse to be daunted by holiday traffic. Even in stop and go traffic I will be pointed in the right direction!
But before I get there, I wanted to take a few moments in a DC coffee shop to reflect on the spiritual journey I’ve been on since mid-June when I left the house. I spent 10 days in Maryland at a Shalem Institute residency for their Spiritual Guidance Program, three days with family near Pittsburgh, several hours with more family in Maryland and the last two and a half days reliving wonderful memories (and food!) from my 20-years-ago life in Washington, D.C.
It’s not hard to see how my work with Shalem was a spiritual experience. I wrote about my reiki experience, and the whole ten days were a spiritual whirlwind of seminars on prayer and spiritual direction, mindfulness, and developing relationships with colleagues who join me deeply on the contemplative path. It was a gift to remember again how to find calm in the midst of the storm, freedom in the midst of a long list of scheduled activities, and joy in the midst of breakthrough tears. Being a part of a spiritual community was critical to the budding growth I had during this time. The people I shared with, sat with, prayed with, even put together puzzles with, helped me open to the blessings God offered in the silence and the noise of life.
In the days since the retreat ended I have visited with many family members and friends. I am looking forward to a friend’s renewal of his wedding vows in just about an hour, where I will see many of my colleagues from my days at the Environmental Law Institute. But I have also spent many of those hours alone, reflecting on the memories that I have purposely bathed myself in.
In Pennsylvania I visited my great aunt and uncle’s home, the people who raised my mother until she was eleven years old. I sat with my uncle sharing stories of how mom grew up on the farm after her eleventh birthday. I went to the amusement park, Kennywood, where my dad went every year, excitedly bringing along his family on Brownsville Day in August every year. We shared stories of relatives I’d never heard of who immigrated from Galloway and Scotland over crab cakes in Gaithersburg. And I tried to find the houses I lived in when I was in DC. Who knew that one could forget a house number you lived in for 3 years – no idea whatsoever which basement apartment was mine!
I walked up to my hotel from my old Dupont Circle stomping grounds filled with Bua Thai food – the first place I ever had Pad Thai – and realized that I was bathing in my memories during these 5 days with friends and family. I remembered painful times too, but those were cleansed and made integral to the goodness of the story of my life by their power to force growth, whether or not I wanted that growth at the time. I am in the midst of a memoir project that I know will cause many tears over the next few months and years. But integrating the good and the bad of my stories paradoxically gives them power to help me mature spiritually, while at the same time decreasing their power to hurt what is Ultimate within me.
I am once again reminded that spiritual development happens as much in the everyday as in the mountaintop experiences we cultivate. We might miss it if we haven’t done the work to notice the Divine working in our lives. But if we have cultivated the act of noticing, even if only at a beginning stage, there is nothing we can do that cannot be used as an opportunity for spiritual blossoming.
What kinds of things are you doing with your summer vacation, whatever that may look like for you? Are you planning any mountaintop spiritual opportunities, like a retreat or gathering? Have you experienced a spiritual widening of your soul in the ordinary this summer? What would that look like for you? Do you have good and possibly painful memories that are important to reflect on spiritually? What is the power of community in your reflection? Solitude?
I would love to help you reflect on your memories and find areas of growth just waiting to blossom. Contact me at Openings: Let the Spirit In for more information.