“I felt like I was doing so much better. People have even commented that I’m more relaxed than I used to be. So I was surprised when I had such a strong reaction to something that shouldn’t have bothered me. Surprised and disappointed,” I said.
“I wonder if I used to be anxious a lot, and now that it happens less often, I feel it more intensely,” I went on to say as tears came.
“Just like sugar tastes too sweet now that you’re eating less of it,” my director added.
“I took some time with what was going on in my body when I felt panicked. I sat by the lake and journaled about it. I heard the little girl in me say, “I’ve done something wrong and now I’ll be abandoned.'” Tears flowed freely now.
“What would you like to say to that girl now?” my director asked.
“Oh, I would take her in my arms and say, ‘It’s okay. I’m here, and I’ll never let you go.'” I pictured her snuggling deeper into my arms, into God’s embrace. I allowed myself to stay there for a while.
I was reminded of Heidi’s visit and how she attended to my cactus. “It was exactly what I needed, and I did nothing to make that happen. In the same way, God is attending to me and my roots,” I said.
Every time I come to spiritual direction, God reassures me I’m on the right path, and every time I hear it, I cry.
“Heidi gave me some new plants. She showed me how to care for them and said that it’s important to wash off the leaves so the dust doesn’t inhibit photosynthesis. I feel like that’s what I do when I go outside. I photosynthesize.”
“What goes on for you when you think about that?” my director asked.
I closed my eyes and saw myself on Mt. Frosty. “I feel like I’ve stepped through a doorway into a grand vista, and then another doorway opens and the view is grander still. So much beauty. So much freedom to be who I am.”
For days after my direction session, I thought about my statement that I photosynthesize when I’m outside. Every time I’m in spiritual direction, God reassures me that I can listen to myself and trust that God is guiding me, beckoning me outside and inviting me to enjoy moving my body. Then, when I leave, I doubt it. I wonder what’s wrong with me that I can’t just rest. Am I deluding myself?
A few days later, Fred and I hiked up St. Mark’s Summit to a glorious view of Howe Sound. On the drive down, we saw cyclists riding up to the parking lot on Cypress. I’ve always wanted to do that.
What if I just trusted that this was God’s desire too? I keep vacillating between giving in to my desire to be outside and tempering it. What if I believed that what I heard in spiritual direction is true? What if I decided to see what my body can do just because I want to? What if all that’s happening to me is the way God is allowing me to be more and more myself?
The next day I was among the hundreds of cyclists on the road up Cypress.
Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it,
I must listen to my life telling me who I am.
― Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation
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Parker Palmer has given many of us the courage to listen to our Inner Teacher, to God in us. In this video, he describes this and the importance of community to help us give voice to what we hear. When I share vulnerably with my spiritual director or with those in a contemplative group, they “hear me into speech” as Parker Palmer says. What a gift to be heard and have my thoughts witnessed. I feel empowered to take the next step in my journey.