Being Vulnerable

“How can you be so vulnerable?” readers have asked me over the years.

That question makes me nervous. Am I too vulnerable? What criticism have I invited?

Then I hear from these askers the most common response to my honesty: appreciation. “I read what you wrote and think, Me, too!” they say. “I’m so relieved to hear that I’m not the only one who feels this way.”

In SoulStream’s Living from the Heart course, participants and facilitators share vulnerably around the circle. I’ve often thought that if the average person walked in and saw this, they would consider it strange or woo-woo. But now I realize it’s how people talk in a group unconstrained by collective trauma.

Let me back up. Fred and I couldn’t go to Banff as planned because of the forest fires, so I happened to be home for a limited-time viewing of The Wisdom of Trauma documentary about Gabor Maté along with seventeen interviews with leading experts on the subject of trauma. In one interview, Thomas Hübl explained that collective trauma is when we all buy into a belief or behaviour that continues to traumatize us. In this case, the common cultural belief that keeps us from being real is “I can’t let you know who I am because you may judge me and the pain of shame and exclusion would be unbearable.”

That got me thinking that appropriately sharing what is really going on for us is healthy. I hear the same from my heroes in this: the founders of SoulStream, Brené Brown, Pádraig Ó Tuama, Maya Angelou, Sia, Gabor Maté, and Glennon Doyle.

In an On Being podcast, Krista Tippet said to Glennon, “You wrote somewhere [about being in recovery and going to Alcoholics Anonymous] that you thought to yourself, ‘Why is it that we can only be this honest in little dark basements of churches, one hour a week? What if we could actually be fully human and honest with each other in real life?”

Glennon explained, “I write about things that maybe other people don’t write about—all the time—but that’s because it’s a spiritual practice for me. The second I start to feel anything that has a hint of shame in it, I always think of that Maya Angelou quote that’s ‘I am human, so nothing human can be foreign to me.’ I get it out, if it’s scary inside and dark; but once I get it out and get light on it, it just shrinks. It’s not so scary anymore. A bunch of people say, ‘Me too,’ and I’m like, ‘Ah, I’m not bad. I’m just human,’ and we get on with it. So I’ve just tried to turn my entire life into one giant AA meeting.”

When I heard Glennon say that, a huge YES! rose up in me. I don’t want to live afraid of judgment and shame. If my writing can be a place of connection and healing, I’m deeply grateful.

That’s not to say that my heroes are impervious to judgment and shame. After Brené Brown’s Ted Talks on vulnerability and shame went viral, she received a lot of feedback. Most of it was great, but some was nasty and hurtful. Shame knocked her flat, and she said somewhere that she found solace in binge-watching Downton Abbey and eating peanut butter. Sia told Gabor Maté that she relapsed during Covid. However, if you follow their stories, you will know that shame did not have the last word. They rose up, talked about it, and got on with their lives.

Thankfully, those who think less of me haven’t shared their thoughts in comments, emails, or on social media. I’d be grateful if it stayed that way. Still, it could happen, and God will be with me in it. That doesn’t mean it won’t knock me flat before I rise up and find compassion for another dark part of myself.

Then, I hope, I’ll have the courage to write about it.

The only place to begin is where I am, and whether by desire or disaster, I am here. My being here is not dependent on my recognition of the fact. I am here anyway. But it might help if I could learn to look around. ― Pádraig Ó Tuama, In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World

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Love Mischief for the World

I’ve been captivated by the energy and pathos in this video by Sia. I hear in it my desire to live free and in the present moment. I also hear how addiction unlocks these desires and works against them. Trapped in her world, Sia is able make it through another day with the help of what is robbing her of life. I feel compassion for her and for myself. And yet there are more feelings rumbling around in me. I feel anger and judgment towards those who have hurt me because of their addictive behaviours and also disconnected from the pain I have caused others because of my limitations. I feel helpless, hopeful, ashamed, sad and comforted that I am not the only one who feels this way. 

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
“Dandelion” by Peter Ealey. Used with permission.
“Dandelion” by Catherine Singleton. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com

Posted in community, compassion, Poverty of Spirit, Reflections, Stories, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Photosynthesizing

I told my spiritual director about my compulsion to be outside, my recent episode of anxiety, and Heidi’s horticultural house call.

“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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is rest-stop-ambleside-2.jpg

“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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is gracie-at-cypress-lookout.jpg

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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Love Mischief for the World

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.

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
Photos of Gracie on the Iron Worker’s Memorial Bridge, my rest stop at Ambleside, North Vancouver, Gracie at the Cypress Lookout, the parking lot at Cypress Bowl, and the elevation marker at Cypress by Esther Hizsa
Photo of Gracie and me on the Lion’s Gate Bridge taken by a kind cyclist from Coquitlam.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com

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Root Rot

“You see these roots here? They’re brown and have no filaments on them.” My daughter, Heidi, sat on our balcony holding my poor, naked Christmas cactus and pulled away the old soil and dead roots. “No wonder the leaves are so thin. They weren’t getting the water and oxygen they needed.”

Heidi cleaned the cactus’s bald stump, then repotted the plant and returned it to its home by the window in my study. My cactus was so strong and healthy until I overwatered it. If Heidi hadn’t come to the rescue, it might have died. “It still might,” she said, touching the leaves lovingly. “We’ll see.”

In this state, my dear companion isn’t very attractive. I thought about moving the cactus out of the room where I write and offer spiritual direction, but I couldn’t do it. It’s been with me for so long, flowering in Advent and Lent when God was silent and greening with me on ordinary days. Now it was my turn to see it through tough times.

In prayer, I reflected on the damaged roots that couldn’t absorb the nutrients the large plant needed. I feel strong, even taller these days. Yet, a bit of bad news or a forced decision can disrupt my ecosystem, and it can take me a day or two to settle. My mind knows it’s no big deal, but my body remembers this story and has lived it for a long time. My roots are gasping for oxygen.

As I listen tenderly, I’m able to see and brush away the rotting certitudes that validate my fears. I take a breath and let it go down under the anxiety. I take another and let it nourish the knowing that is deeper still.

I’ve heard that there’s a place in the core of each of us that is untouched by trauma. In this place, we know that we are in God and God is in us. In this place, there is no doubt that we are good. Our hearts and bones know that we are loved, we are enough, and God will never abandon us–not in this life or the next.

I take another breath and look at my sad and drooping cactus. It will take a while for the new shoots to grow. In the meantime, life will jangle my nerves and my roots will need those reconnecting breaths.

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.
–Psalm 52:8 (NIV)

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Love Mischief for the World

In this short instructive and inspirational video, Dr. Gabor Maté, explains how we can heal from trauma and reconnect with our True Self. While I would have preferred a different title which names that it is God that enables us to find and heal ourselves, I appreciate that Maté names that we have agency in this. We don’t have to be victims of our past. What Maté is proposing here aligns with what Julian of Norwich, Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr have written about the True and False Self. It also aligns with scripture (Genesis 1:31, Colossians 3:3) and the words of Jesus (Matthew 11: 28-30John 14:18-20)

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
Christmas cactus photo by Esther Hizsa.
“Loneliness” by Alice Popkorn. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in compassion, Creation, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Creation Calls

Fred retired this year and, with his unrestricted schedule and my flexible one, we’ve spent a lot of time outside. Our last camping trip was to E.C. Manning Park where we hiked into alpine meadows, kayaked on Lightning Lake, and bagged the highest peak in the park.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is coprinus-comatus.jpgOn our way home, Fred dropped me off near Bridal Falls, and I biked a hundred kilometres to Fort Langley, meeting up with Fred in parks in Chilliwack and Abbotsford to refuel and rest. The ride was flat and easy until I got to Abbotsford. Then my route took me up and down city streets and into the hilly countryside past cornfields, vineyards, and the historic village of Mt. Lehman. The quiet road led my tired body up, up, up and around a bend to surprise me with an expansive view of the Glen Valley and the promised 15% downhill grade.

I’m thinking about all we saw now as I write this week’s post. Ripening blackberries on the roadside, constellations of stars in the night sky, red, blue and yellow wildflowers, thousand year old Dr. Suessish fir trees, a mother deer and two fawns ahead of us on the trail, a monkish marmot sitting on top of Mt. Frosty, fairyland mushrooms, and whiskey jacks eating bits of apple from Fred’s hand.

Creation called us each day to come and walk, sit, and wonder. It offered no words, disdained metaphors, gave no rationale. My body sang in the rhythm of movement. My heart let it lead, and my mind wandered to no place in particular.

August and September we plan to head out again to the mountains and to the sea. Our hearts follow our feet, trusting the inner voice that keeps calling us out to play.

Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!
–Jacob, Genesis 28:16 (NRSV)

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Love Mischief for the World

Here’s Fred’s first Youtube video of our summit of Mt. Frosty.

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
Three Brothers trail by Fred Hizsa, used with permission.
Coprinus comatus (shaggy ink cap or lawyer’s wig) mushroom by Fred Hizsa, used with permission.
View from Mt. Frosty by Fred Hizsa, used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Creation, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Full Meal Deal

Admit it.
We all want the full meal deal:
nine gifts of the Spirit, every fruit 
in a neat little package with our name printed on it
and Christ, the only ingredient listed.
We want what those people are having,

but we don't know to get it.

Wisdom tells us transformation doesn't happen quickly,
then we're fooled when it beats us to breakfast.

We can spend a life-time trying to disentangle the do/be dilemma.
God does it, but what's my part?
I still have to show up
and sometimes I can't
or won't.

If we care for others without caring for ourselves, it won't work.
Or will it?
Where's the line between rest and self-indulgence?


When it comes to attaining spiritual maturity,
there's so much I don't know,
and yet

I keep being led back to a thought
that might be true.
We can relax.
God will get us there in the end.

We just don't know
what "there" looks like.

Perhaps when I arrive
I'll open up my take-out life and say,
"This isn't what I ordered."
And God and I will have a good laugh.


If you could do it, I suppose, it would be a good idea to live your life in a straight line–starting, say, in the Dark Wood of Error, and proceeding by logical steps through Hell and Purgatory and into Heaven. Or you could take the King’s Highway past the appropriately named dangers, toils, and snares, and finally cross the River of Death and enter the Celestial City. But that is not the way I have done it, so far. I am a pilgrim, but my pilgrimage has been wandering and unmarked. Often what has looked like a straight line to me has been a circling or a doubling back. I have been in the Dark Wood of Error any number of times. I have known something of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, but not always in that order. The names of many snares and dangers have been made known to me, but I have seen them only in looking back. Often I have not known where I was going until I was already there. I have had my share of desires and goals, but my life has come to me or I have gone to it mainly by way of mistakes and surprises. Often I have received better than I deserved. Often my fairest hopes have rested on bad mistakes. I am an ignorant pilgrim, crossing a dark valley. And yet for a long time, looking back, I have been unable to shake off the feeling that I have been led–make of that what you will. —Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow 

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Love Mischief for the World

This is a song to sing when you get tired of asking “Are we there yet?” Here’s a link to see Nightbirde performing it on America’s Got Talent.

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
“Take Out” by Jonas Seaman. Used with permission. 
“Road to Nowhere” by Sergio Boscaino. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com

Posted in Aging, Poetry, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Gift of Self-Awareness

Lately, my self-awareness has risen to a whole new level. I swear there’s a little fellow deep inside me rummaging through all my crap and sending it up for me to look at. These “gifts” are about as attractive as the skull in the picture above. 

So far, thankfully, rather mundane things are being hurled my way. I noticed I got irritated by a comment, unsettled when someone didn’t agree with me, and frustrated when I took a wrong turn. I hear what I say sometimes and want to take it back. I didn’t remember until we opened our take-out meal in the park that I meant to ask for ketchup. 

I notice how each awareness is followed by judgment and disappointment. As my self-awareness increased, so did my discouragement. 

Listening to James Finley’s podcast on Teresa of Avila’s The Interior Castle reminded me that the way to an ever-deepening union with God involves three things: prayer, humility, and self-knowledge. God isn’t inviting us to transcend ourselves but to become ourselves. 

This gave me the courage to believe I’m not getting worse. I’m on the right path, and all this self-awareness is supposed to be helpful.

With that in mind, I was able to step back and observe this pattern of noticing, criticizing, and becoming discouraged. I began to wonder what it would be like to offer myself what I offer my directees: compassionate, non-anxious presence. What would it be like to simply notice what I was noticing without labeling it as wrong and something to fix?

I felt a quickening in my heart as I imagined a new spiritual practice evolving. Whenever a new awareness comes, instead of critiquing it, I can name what I notice without judging it as good or bad. I can simply receive what I notice as information about myself. 

I remember Valarie Kaur’s Revolutionary Love compass. She invited us to turn to others with wonder. “You are a part of me I do not yet know.” I felt invited to wonder about what I noticed in myself.

As I practiced responding to each new awareness with compassion and curiosity, I began to humbly accept things about myself I don’t like, parts of me that I used to ignore or banish. I began to ask these tender parts what they needed. 

Take my propensity to misplace things or forget what I remembered ten seconds ago. Instead of beating myself up about it or brushing it off as no big deal, I can name that this happens quite often and makes life difficult. As I hold this and the sadness it evokes, I wonder what kindness could I offer myself. 

My grandson, who is also on the autism spectrum, has the same difficulties. I think about how my daughter gently comes alongside him, going through the checklist of things he needs to take with him before he heads out the door. When I think I don’t need to do that, I end up forgetting something. Self-awareness tells me it would be kind to pause before I leave the house and go through a similar checklist. 

God isn’t inviting us to rise above ourselves but to become ourselves and find we are infinitely loved just as we are. I’m a little nervous about what that little fellow is going to send up next, but if I don’t panic (as James Finley calmly says), I might remember to immerse myself in the ocean of God’s love

I feel so much love over my soul, it is like an Ocean I immerse and lose myself in: it is my vision on earth while waiting for the face-to-face vision in light.  [God] is in me, I am in Him. I have only to love Him, to let myself be loved, all the time, through all things: to wake in Love, to move in Love, to sleep in Love, my Soul in His Soul, my heart in His Heart, my eyes in His eyes . . .
–Elizabeth of the Trinity [1880–1906]

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Love Mischief for the World

It was a somber Canada Day on Thursday. Canadian flags were half-mast in the wake of the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves outside Indian residential schools in BC and Saskatchewan. EVERY CHILD MATTERS was boldly painted down the middle of a blocked-off section of Commercial Drive in East Vancouver, and the Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) was giving out orange shirts with that phrase on it. I was grateful to join the sea of people wearing orange shirts and also grateful for the work of the IRSSS. You can learn more about them here.

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
Portrait of Caravaggio looking in mirror. Creative Commons. 
Ocean by Theron Trowbridge. Used with permission.
Quote by Elizabeth of the Trinity in letter to Canon Angles, August 1903, in I Have Found God: Complete Works, vol. 2: Letters from Carmel, trans. Anne Englund Nash (ICS Publications: 2014), 123.
IRSSS Logo by Art Thompson. Used with permission.
“World-renowned Nuu-chah-nulth artist Tsaqwasupp (Art Thompson, 1949-2003), gifted this design to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society as a symbol of how our culture helps us move beyond the traumas suffered in Indian Residential School. Each tribal group on the coast has creation stories; most of them involve the Raven as the supernatural creator. Every tribal group has stories with in the tribe or family about the shaman. Almost every tribal group has stories about a shaman re-installing lost souls back into human beings who have suffered a traumatic experience of one kind or another. This would happen with the usage of a ‘soul catcher’ in which the shaman would capture the soul then ‘blow it’ back into the mouth of the victim.” (from IRSSS)
“What I have done with the arts is to put three elements together (in a Ditdaht style) to signal hope of restoring some of our inherent strengths. Strengths drawn from our history and the strengths we will have today. We have an incredible history as Native people of this country; we have suffered through many disadvantages and elimination. We have become well-adjusted in most respects. Not only have we survived, we are moving beyond survival into a new era of native awareness once dreamed of by our ancestors. We are truly becoming a strong people.
“Through the arts, I have woven my future. something that is important for all of us. For me it defines in one aspect who we are it helps define our space in the world.” –Tsaqwasupp (Art Thompson)
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in autism, compassion, Prayer, Reflections, Spiritual Direction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wrong Turns

“Are you okay?” the grey-haired man asked as I propped my bike against a hedge outside his yard.

“Yes,” I said continuing to open the map on my phone. “Is this the way to Twin Lakes Road?”

“No. You need to go that way,” he said pointing the direction I’d come from.

I didn’t like his answer, didn’t like the way the app and my fingers weren’t cooperating, but the fact became increasingly clear. I’d taken a wrong turn again.

“That means I have to go back up that hill,” I sighed, feeling my age.

“It’s not that bad,” said the man who was older than me.

He was right about that, too. Once I got onto the crest by Oliver Mountain, it was a nice scoot down on Willowbrook, shaded by trees with views of rolling hills, farms and ranches. Seven kilometers later, I passed the corner where I should have turned right and hoped Fred saw my text. 

Up ahead, I glimpsed a mother bear and three small cubs ambling across the road. I got off my bike and signaled the approaching car behind me to stop. With a sense of wonder and mild trepidation, I watched them disappear into the bushes.

During the next forty kilometres, up into the arid hills by White Lake, past the golf course on Twin Lakes Road, and down into Keremeos, I had a lot of time to think about wrong turns.

A few days before, Fred dropped me off in Summerland. I planned to bike to our campsite just north of Oliver, a fast fifty kilometre ride. At Okanagan Falls, I wanted to bypass a section of highway, but I took McLean Creek Road instead of continuing on Maple. Nothing looked familiar. I certainly didn’t remember it being this hilly when I rode it last year. Finally, I came to what I thought would be the highway. Instead, I was back on Eastside Road. I texted Fred: Took a wrong turn. Leaving OK Falls again.

Then there was the decision of where to camp. “Maybe when we see the temperature is going to be in the thirties, we should choose a cooler location,” I said to Fred as we fled from our campsite in the heat of the day.

I thought about all that as I rode to Keremeos. I figured out what I would do next time, so I wouldn’t make the same mistakes.

And yet. I’d wanted to know what it was like to bike the McLean loop. If I hadn’t gone left instead of right at the top of Secrest, I wouldn’t have seen the bears. And if we hadn’t camped at Inkaneep Provincial Park, we wouldn’t have gotten to know the family of quails that lived there. Only after the parents felt secure did they allow their tiny offspring to come out and feed in our campsite.

Our feelings are like those little chicks. They only come out when it feels safe, and Mama and Papa God are watching out for us.

So now, as I write this post, a tender fear comes out from the bushes. I’m afraid. I’m afraid I’m doing it wrong–“it” being my relationship with others, with God, and life in general.

As I listen to this familiar fear, I think about the gifts my “wrong” turns gave me. I think about the man who came out of his house to point the way. I think about what I shared at the end of this year’s Living from the Heart.

Each person’s offering was touching. Tears came easily. The word “trust” pushed itself into my awareness. So when it was my turn to speak, I said I trusted their journey with God.

Now God was asking me, “Can you trust yours? Can you trust Me to meet you when you can’t get there the way you’re going? Can you trust Me to get you safely across the road? Can you trust Me to be the safe place for your fragile feelings?”

A yes rises in my heart like a cyclist ascending the height of land. The view from here is magnificent and the ride down cool and effortless.

God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,”
 –Hebrews 13:6 (The Message)

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Love Mischief for the World

There’s still time to register for Living from the Heart. “Living from the Heart offers a learning community that invites participants to deepen their experience of intimacy with Jesus. Biblically, the heart is the very core of life out of which intellect, emotions, and intentions flow. Opening to God’s heart of love with our whole heart, especially in our most broken places, brings a healing integration within and provides the courage to offer our lives in loving compassion to the world around us.” This course is offered in person in Calgary, Alberta and in Abbotsford, BC in a weekend/Saturday format and in an intensive format on Bowen Island, BC. It is also offered online.

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
A view of vineyards, Skaha Lake and the north end of Okanagan Falls seen from Eastside Road. by Ted McGrath. Used with permission. 
California Quail Family- Kerikeri, Bay of Islands by Shellie. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Here

Sometimes being here
feels like I’m in the wrong place
as if I could look at a map and backtrack
to where I’m supposed to be.
But there’s no map for the contemplative journey,
let alone my contemplative journey.

“Here,” the wise ones say,
“is the only place to be.
It’s the only place we can be.”

Well, that sucks
because here isn’t there
where tears bear witness to divine encounters,
where God’s voice springs forth from the page,
where my Christmas cactus isn’t limp and dying,
and compulsions don’t mesmerize.

If I have to be here,
I want to fix it up, at least,
and need help with that
so I ask three times to take the thorn away

but You don’t.

Here is good in many ways
and yet–

That “and yet” feels so big
and so lonely until

someone else says they’re here, too
and tears fill my eyes.

As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.
–Isaiah 66:13 NRSV

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

So often I hear from readers that they’ve felt comforted to know that I’ve experienced what they’re going through. It’s a relief to know you are not the only one who struggles with distracted prayer, self-doubt or discontent. These relieved readers thank me for my willingness to be vulnerable and share my struggles. Do you hear an invitation to be vulnerable and share your struggles with someone? Perhaps you will hear from them a relieved, “Me, too.” Perhaps you will be Mother God to them offering them company in a lonely place.

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
“Alone” by Mark Harrington. Used with permission.
Poem “Here” by Esther Hizsa.
“Me too” by Menachem Ganon. Used with permission
Image of two hands from PxHere. Creative Commons.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in community, compassion, Poetry, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Infinite Love that Loves Us So Unexplainably

For the past three months, James Finley has been my spiritual guide. As soon as I wake up in the morning, I walk in a nearby park and listen to a podcast from Turning to the Mystics. Then I sit for twenty minutes of centering prayer.

I was inspired and encouraged by Finley’s meditations on Thomas Merton. But when I listened to his reflections on Teresa of Avila’s The Interior Castle, I found myself getting discouraged. I don’t love God or pray unhindered by distractions the way Teresa could, even in the fourth mansion (if that is where I am), never mind the seventh.

Even though I have experiences of God’s presence in my day, my silent prayer is full of distracting thoughts. They never let up. They take me up and out of the present moment, and I lose the awareness that it’s even happening. This is not new, and I’m not new at this way of praying. I’ve been practicing centering prayer for sixteen years. Shouldn’t I be further along by now?

Then I heard Finley say that one of the habits which Teresa calls “reptiles” is discouragement. 

It isn’t just that when we got into the castle, we were careless of these reptiles; that is, these habits got in with us. But we realized that we’re raising them as pets . . .  these little ongoing habits that we know compromise the fullness of the love that we’re called to, to surrender ourselves over to in the love of God. And I also think that what happens in all of this then is that we’re being asked by this love to give up the ideology of perfectionism; that is, the ideology of our inner peace being dependent on our ability to measure up to the standard of love we feel called to. We’re being asked to give that up and handing all that over to being surrendered over to the infinite love that loves us so unexplainably in the midst of these unresolved matters that we have not yet been able to work through. And so, this is the gift of tears, see? This is the gift of tears is this being invincibly loved and being so unexplainably precious in the midst of so many, very real, tangible shortcomings and unresolved things that end up compromising ourselves and others and not responding to the love of God. 

What I heard in Finley’s words is that I need to give up measuring myself and surrender my progress to God. I also heard that God wants me to surrender my inability to pray or love better and to rest in the reality that I am being invincibly loved and am unexplainably precious to God in the midst of my unresolved habits and unpassionate love for God.

I can offer myself compassion. I can put my hand over my heart and say to myself, “This is hard. You thought you would be in a different place right now and you are disappointed that you aren’t. We all get discouraged when we don’t see ourselves progressing. But you’re not in charge of this, and God isn’t disappointed. God’s infinite love unexplainably loves you right here, right now in the midst of your discouragement and distractions. Breathe in that love. Breathe out that love.”

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
–Romans 12:12(NIV)

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

In this short video, James Finley, clinical psychologist, former monk, and Center for Action and Contemplation faculty member, encourages us be lovingly present to the overwhelmed, reactive, and flooded parts of ourselves and others during the COVID-19 crisis. To touch this suffering with love is to dissolve it, revealing the deep peace of God that depends on nothing but upon which everything depends. (Center for Action and Contemplation)

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
Image of boy with gecko from Snappy Goat. Free public domain/CCO images 
Quote by James Finley from Turning to the Mystics, Teresa of Avila Session 2
Blackberries by Ed Dahl. Used with permission. 
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in compassion, Creation, Mystical, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Borderline

On a run, I wondered what I would share for my check-in that afternoon at the peer supervision group I attend with other spiritual directors. Typically when we check in, we don’t just share what’s at the surface of our lives, but what’s going on in our souls. What is said is often tender and held with deep gratitude.

At first, I couldn’t think of anything to say because I feel like I haven’t landed anywhere. I’m in an in between place, so that’s what I decided to share.

I talked about being borderline on the autism spectrum, that I kind of have it and kind of don’t.

“I noticed I got anxious when I read Katherine May’s book in which she discovers she has ASD. I was nervous of finding myself like her and nervous of finding I wasn’t.” I paraphrased this quote by May.

Perhaps I am hoping to excuse myself. Perhaps I’m hoping that people will love me a tiny bit more for knowing that I can’t help it, that I’ll never be able to access the easy patience that I see in everyone else. Perhaps I’m hoping for a better life story, a coherent, tidy narrative arc that finally draws my scattergun life together into a kind of sense. I sometimes feel as though I’m asking for a privilege, to be allowed to say that I’ve watched my friends sail past me into competent adulthood, while I’ve stuttered and stalled, but that it’s not my fault. it’s beguiling to think that I could shake it all off that easily.

I notice, now as I write, that this quote makes me anxious. It names my desire for an excuse or explanation as to why I’m not like other people, but I doubt many people would see how I’ve “stuttered and stalled.” Then I think, don’t we all stutter and stall? And then I want to cry.

I slow down and listen to my gathering tears. There is something in me that wants to be heard and seen. I’m not neurotypical, yet I don’t have seven out of the ten top traits of autism. I’m on the borderline between two worlds, and I don’t live in either.

The day after my peer supervision group, I brought my in-between feelings to a focusing session, I pictured myself on a steep ridge. I could see open landscapes to my left and to my right. I listened to my desire to get off the ridge on one side or the other and rest there. I felt the futility of knowing neither side had rest for me. A lump formed in my throat.  As I stayed present to it, I felt invited to sit down and find comfort in that narrow, in-between space.

As I felt myself relax there, I began to feel hope. I remembered something that happened in peer supervision. This month, it was my turn to bring a situation I was dissatisfied with during a spiritual direction session. I told them I was angry for a directee who was stuck in internalized shame she picked up from how she’d been treated by others. I felt frustrated that my anger robbed me of my ability to feel compassion and be present with her where she was.

One of my peers gently offered that those on the autism spectrum can find it difficult to hold two strong feelings at a time. Perhaps that’s why my feeling of compassion was blocked. I sat with that for a moment and sensed Jesus’ compassion for me. I heard, “That was so hard for you. It was all you could do, and you wanted to do more.”

Here was Jesus offering me what May articulated in that quote: It’s not your fault. I felt my shoulders soften as warm acceptance enfolded me.

Now that I know about this tendency in myself, I can notice a strong feeling and wonder what other feelings might want to be heard. Allowing them a voice, enables me to make choices without being dominated by one strong emotion.

Naming what is true about me (for now, anyway) relieves the tension of having to be what I’m not. So what am I?

What it’s like for me to be between neurotypical and autistic? I named a few traits that I noticed last year. Here is what I’m noticing now.

  1. I need a heads-up and time to adapt to some changes. An unexpected change  can turn certainty into chaos. I suddenly feel unsafe and don’t know what I can count on.
  2. I need things spelled out for me. I often feel like I didn’t get the memo about what’s expected in a certain situation.
  3. I need a lot of down time. Being in groups of people for any length of time overstimulates me emotionally. I don’t get overstimulated by a lot of noise or bright lights but by all the verbal and nonverbal messages I’ve picked up. I manage okay in the moment but afterward, I feel anxious and overwhelmed. I ruminate over what I heard and saw, trying to understand what confused me. I have to pick off the burrs of judgment that tell me I’ve done something wrong.
  4. I need you to not take it personally when I have a meltdown, but I also need you to hear what made me meltdown. It doesn’t happen often, and I’m not as loud and dramatic, as Dr. Shaun Murphy in The Good Doctor, escalating, fists clenched, “No. No! NO!!!” But I can relate to him. I can see what he wishes he could calmly ask for.
  5. I need to wonder. I tend to feel one strong feeling at a time. Experiencing anger, elation, compassion, hurt, or any other feeling by itself has led me to make a decision I later regret. I need to wonder. What else might I be feeling?
  6. Above all, I need self-compassion. It’s hard to accept the limitations I have that many others don’t. So I can be gentle with myself and give myself the understanding, space, and rest I need.

Autism, by definition, is on a spectrum. We may not all have ASD, but I wonder if we all have HSD: Human Spectrum Disorder. We all have limitations being who we are. What would you list as your top six needs to be who you are?

Do not run or fly away in order to become free.
Rather go deep into the narrow space given you.
There you will find God and all things.
–Gustave Thibon

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Love Mischief for the World

I cannot overemphasize the importance of offering ourselves compassion. We can be so hard on ourselves. Kristin Neff helps us understand why we need self-compassion and what it can do for us.

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
“Border” by Jo. Used with permission.
Katherine May quote from The Electricity of Every Living Thing p 257
“The Spine of Devil’s Backbone” by Mitch Barrie. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in autism, compassion, Mindfulness, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments