Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Yurt Journals August 5-7, 2007

The First Day -- Evening
Despite an inauspicious beginning, I have arrived and settled in to my beautiful yurt.* But for a while there tonight, I thought this whole thing might be turning into another one of those good ideas come to naught. While driving back from our trip to the Cities, the Dear One had developed some alarming health symptoms, which culminated in a trip to the ER upon our arrival back home. When it became clear that all would be well, I was dismissed to get on with the yurt trip and called a friend to take me home to get my car and get on the road. The drive up was gorgeous, with the first real sunshine all day, and at one point I decided I just had to stop, late for the yurt or not, and get some pictures of my beloved prairie light. It was then that I realized that that the camera had been left in the other car when we made the ER run! But, thanks to the miracle of cell phones, the camera fairy has been summoned, and the camera will arrive tomorrow and all will be well on the photo front.
Upon arrival at the farm, I was greeted by two barking dogs, cats of all denominations, a passel of goats and no discernible humans. After some wandering around the farm I did turn up one of the sisters, who it turns out, was home alone with the elderly parents while the other was off with The Only Remaining Intern putting back the swing sets that they had mistakenly believed they could remove along with the schoolhouse. They had, as I feared, forgotten I was coming and there was that one awkward moment of “who from where?” until it was “Oh yes! The intern’s mom’s priest!" And all was well.
This yurt is probably the cutest little thing I have ever seen. Imagine a round room with lattice and canvas walls decorated in Girl Scout camp meets Martha Stewart at VBS. It is light and airy and has the best and most sacred energy. The Only Remaining Intern has just brought a jug of fresh water (no inside plumbing, though we do have electricity) and some free trade coffee for morning, along with the grinder to grind it! In the “kitchen” there is a tiny little dorm frig, microwave, toaster oven, a fan and a heater. A huge shelf of books tempts from the other side. A skylight above lets in the stars and the crickets are singing in lovely chorus through the screen door. The “facilities” are down the path, though I’ve been told I’m welcome to use the real indoor ones in the sister’s house any time. One of the cats has already adopted me. I immediately unrolled my yoga mat and decided to live here forever. Or at least till Tuesday.
The Second Day -- Morning
Sometimes it appears that I manage to get myself actually in some kind of sync with God’s wavelength for my life. This morning’s reading from God Calling made me lose my breath:
Dwell Apart
Rest more with Me. If I, the Son of God needed those times of quiet communion with My Father, away, alone, from noise, from activity – then surely you need them too. Refilling with the Spirit is a need. That dwelling apart, that shutting yourself away in the very secret place of your being – away alone with Me. From these times you come forth in Power to bless and heal.
So I am away, in a place that while possessing a certain personal solitude is far from quiet. The rooster woke me at what passed for sunrise on this foggy morning. He was soon followed by calls and songs and all manner of vocalizing from every feathered thing for miles, one of which sounds like it is saying over and over, “Hey!” in a very imperious tone. The goats are now in the act, as is someone revving a tractor. Silence, may be golden, but it is also relative.
Early afternoon
The camera fairy came right before lunchtime. As did the rain. We need rain here on the prairie. Very badly, so I really can’t complain about the fact that in the early afternoon, having been well fed by the sisters on all sorts of good locally grown food, including a chicken who used to live here (but I tried not to think about that part), I am back in the yurt listening to rain on canvas, hard rain on canvas, that appears to have arrived for the duration. It may be a good thing there is well-stocked bookshelf as I could run through my own allotted two sooner than planned at this rate. There is only so much simply sitting in silence one can do in a yurt in the rain. The rain on the roof sounds like being inside a drum. Strangely comforting, soothing.
The day has passed. The rain stopped. The camera broke and has been replaced with a new one. I discovered that I meditate with a camera. It helps me focus on small and beautiful things, to look, to really see. This was a new learning recently and helped me make the decision to take the hour round trip to get a replacement camera. That was the shortest and most disciplined shopping trip I have ever taken. Into the little town with the big box store, into the camera department to find the one that is the closest to the one I have, buy it and out, back to the yurt! Here at the yurt it has not been hard to be quiet, though it has been hard to be still at times. What I miss most is being connected. Not TV or radio, no surprise, but my net access. I have a niggling sense I am not making “good enough” use of my time, whatever that might mean. I have read, walked, simply sat and did nothing, wrote a bit. I think the “not doing” part is engaging in more doing of prayer, but that refuses to be forced beyond a certain point. I can bring myself to this place and arrange all the pieces to be conducive; I can be willing and open, have intent and practice as far as the disciplines are concerned. But beyond that, there is no forcing of the emotional component. It is what it is.
The Third Day -- Morning
There was intention of Compline last night. It was over ruled by sleep, deep overpowering and sudden. I don’t recall it as a decision. I was reading on the couch, I was sleeping in the bed, there was no transition. The night after an initial period of something apparently resembling coma, was fitful, punctuated by dramatic dreams all themed around not being prepared for things and being invaded. A sharp contrast to the first night’s deep, peaceful and seemingly dreamless or dream forgotten sleep. I awoke feeling hung over and disoriented, beleaguered by the ghost of the last dream.
Note to self (as if I did not know this already): Forty hours, despite its biblical symbolism is too short for a retreat. I am getting into the rhythm of slow down now that it is almost time to pack and go. This morning was very fruitful once the cobwebs of the night were dispersed with good doses of the Book of Common Prayer, asana and caffeine. My reading for this retreat has been Graham Standish’s Humble Leadership. It was a good choice as there have been many “ahas.” Standish says: "Humility is the recognition that we are made of the same stuff as the rest of the universe. We are nothing but carbon molecules strung together in a human matrix. We are distinct and special not because of any qualities or abilities we ourselves possess. Our unique qualities are gifts from God that come from God’s Spirit breathed into us. This is the second part of understanding humility – that what makes us unique has nothing to do with our own power, but only what God has given us through the gift of the Holy Spirit..... Humans are endowed with a spirit that allows them to transcend their created nature. Transcendence is a gift from God and it alone sets us apart from the rest of creation. (pp. 12-13) Throughout the Gospels Jesus teaches others how to live in humility by loving others, especially enemies, giving generously, praying regularly, refusing to let anxiety rule their lives, respecting others rather than judging them, relying on God’s grace, seeking the narrow way of surrender to Christ."(p.14)
What really came together for me was the connection between shame and humility (or the struggle with it). I have always had difficulty with so many parts of what this humility stuff is about, as humility and humiliation got very mixed up (and I think messed up) by some people in my past, who may or may not have been well meaning, depending on my level of charity on any given day. But as I result of extreme Catholicity and alcoholic parenting, I came out, shall we say, a wee bit shame based. This has made it difficult to accept the shadow in me, as every time I try to go there, to say, as we all must for true humility, “yes I am flawed, I possess these characteristics that get in the way of true authenticity of holy union with God and others,” I would fall over the edge into some level of shame and find myself wanting to overcompensate in some way, to be, or at least try to act, as if I am more perfect, more holy…. a design flaw for any kind of spiritual life for sure! Ordination has made this in some ways more profound, more difficult, as the “accretions” of the past as Standish calls them, become more important than the realities, take on lives of their own and become barriers to the very thing I seek.
The good news, and I have to take a deep cleansing breath before writing this, is that I am doing a lot of things right. I am not perfect. And I don’t have to be. It is ok that I am a bit selfish at times , a wee bit histrionic, a little over-sensitive at times and tend to think it really is all about me. I feel like it is confession time, and once again I am not quite sure of absolution. Ah, but those are ghosts of the past. The truth is, despite the shame voice, perfection is not required, and those traits, according to Standish, can all find a place in ministry with the rest of our less than perfect but wonderful human selves! But it goes back to humility, not shame, not humiliation, but humility, which really is a virtue. Remembering, as I keep preaching (mostly to myself) who and Whose we are…. and yeah, that we are all made of the same stuff as the rest of the planet, adamah, hummus. Earth. We are all carbon strings that God, for some reason known only to God, transformed and infused by Spirit to be in God’s image. To be like God, as much as that is possible for the adamah we are. Oops, almost got myself lost there in lofty theology, but the point of this paragraph was, (another deep breath), that it appears that I seem to be doing something right . Standish points out that the things we need most to keep us from veering off the humility path are prayer, self-awareness and someone or ones whom we can trust to be honest with us about ourselves. Wow. Blessed again. On a good day it 's three for three. I can only say, it’s grace that’s bought me safe thus far…. amazing, amazing grace. God is good, all the time. And I have time for one more walk, one more look at the prairie I love before the yurt adventure (this time) ends.

* A Yurt, for those new to the neighborhood, is a round nomadic dwelling. There's a picture posted back on July 8 that I would link to if I knew how!


Barbara B. said...

Thanks for posting your 'yurt journals'... your time there sounds wonderful (and I love the prairie too).

"PS" said...

Wonderful post. Thanks for sharing. I loved the image of the carbon strands made in the image of God. And, yes...40 hours is much to short!

Tandaina said...

Thank you for posting your retreat journal. You added two new books to my list and gave me some things I need to think about for myself.

Thank you for the little mini retreat.


Diane said...

so you can blog from your yurt? somehow I thought it wouldn't have electricity or something!

Thanks for your comments on my blog. Looking forward to hearing more about yurt life.

Katherine E. said...

Loved your journal! Yes, "prayer, self-awareness and someone or ones whom we can trust to be honest with us about ourselves." May we all keep those three in and around us! Thanks so much for this.

RevDrKate said...

It was fun to be able to share it "post-yurt" with you as I felt so sustained by your blessings and prayers during the time there.

Serena said...

"We are all carbon strings that God, for some reason known only to God, transformed and infused by Spirit to be in God’s image."

Love this quote ... and this post. Thanks for definition of "yurt" and for sharing this journal.

mompriest said...

I'm glad you were able to make the most of your yurt retreat, even as you realized, (as I often do), that there is never quite enough time for retreat, given how long it takes to settle in...

thanks for sharing your reflections on this precious time.

Gannet Girl said...

It's lovely to share retreat stories. I'm not sure which sounds more appealing -- your little yurt or the surrounding animals. The animals no longer reside on the farm where I was, and I discovered that I very much missed the cows and sheep of Iona, even the cows who awoke us early in the morning by MUNCHING outside our windows.