I spent most of the Lenten season in the desert with my dog Reggie. We left on February 21 and returned April 6 – just over the standard 40 days.
I don’t mean we were literally living outdoors in the desert. We were in Tucson, Arizona, home of the Sonoran Desert, in a lovely casita for most of that time. In an earlier blog, I talked about how I came to be on this Lenten retreat. In this one, I’ll talk about the significance of a Lenten retreat, my experience of being there, and what emerged during my time in the desert.
Lent and The Unity Movement
In the Unity movement, we see Lent as a time of spiritual transformation, of releasing negative thoughts and feelings. Unity writer Clara May Rowland expanded on the idea of Lent’s purpose, saying its role is to “prepare us mentally, physically, and spiritually for a new awakening; to resurrect us out of old states of consciousness into a new realization of life… Through our spiritual awakening, we shall find renewed life and health, a joyous freedom from burdens, and best of all, peace of mind. “ “
While I didn’t intentionally go on this trip for a transformational experience, one unfolded. That has often been my experience with travel, especially travel that is not completely planned.
It has often been my experience with transformation, too. I start walking down a path. As I stay connected to the process of walking and the messages (intuition, guidance, synchronicities) I receive as we walk, I turn down different paths and release beliefs or behaviors that no longer fit. I adopt new behaviors that fit who I am now and find a bit more about myself with each turn.
Finding Myself During Covid
I’m sure you can relate when I say after a year of living and working in close quarters with my husband because of COVID, I needed to find myself again. During a “normal” year, I would travel alone every 3-4 months. A solo adventure helps me shake off codependent patterns that creep in when I’m not watching. (More on those codependent patterns in future blog.)
But like most people, I spent 2020 isolating with my husband. It brought massive changes in our finances as well as my work and health. 2021 was clearly going to be a year of re-creation and expansion for both of us and I needed some time to discover the way my body and being moves in the world. I needed to understand what was emerging for my future before embarking on the journey in partnership.
This is what I discovered.
Tucson is my place.
Being there felt like going home in so many ways. I love the vegetation, the sunshine, the heat, and the University of Arizona. I had a long-term study room in the Albert B. Weaver Science-Engineering Library that I went to most afternoons for 4 weeks.
Each time I drove onto campus my heart swelled and my being felt lighter. Reggie and I explored a variety of dog parks and walking trails, even making some friends at the Rio Vista Park where I used to walk my dog Zoe when it was just a bunch of creosote bushes and palo verde and mesquite trees.
It isn’t clear to me what exactly this means in terms of how I get to spend time in Tucson and where we live now. If I were single, I’d likely just pack up and move. But I am not and want to remain in this partnership, so there are lots of conversations to be had.
At one point I heard clearly “live into it.” To me, that means not to demand we move nor assume there will be a move at all. I will simply live my life with the knowledge that Tucson is my place and that I want to spend more time there.
I will simply allow the opportunities for me to spend more time there to unfold. Honestly, this is one of those “simple-but-not-easy” practices. Not my strong suit, so to speak. But here I am, doing it.
Completing the Ph.D. and the required dissertation is important to me.
Given this, I need to design ways of working on it that suit me. I work best when I immerse myself in the research, then step away and let it marinate.
I also work best when I can splay the qualitative data and articles that inform the literature review all over a room. As a kinesthetic learner, I need a white board, paper, Post-its, room to pace, and a place to walk outside to process. I often learn what I am discovering by talking it through out loud, so I need people to talk to about what I am finding in the data and what it means.
Now that I am home, Jake and are discussing how I can work in this way. Do I need retreats every so often or can I rent a place here to do the work? Again, the guidance I get is to live into it – don’t try to figure it out, let it unfold.
The path is clear for 2021, but beyond that, nothing is clear.
I have been hearing for quite a while that the “work” of 2021 has three components.
- Learn to live and work in balance. Allow my health and well-being to be at the front and center of my life.
- Finish the dissertation. People ask me all the time what I am going to do when it’s done. I have no idea. I just know I need to finish it.
- Build my Intuitive Life Coaching practice, Dragonfly Coaching and Consulting, LLC. Building this practice requires me to step WAY outside of my comfort zone and there is no guarantee that it will be successful.
- All three require embracing the unknown, living in uncertainty, and standing firmly and gently in my commitments. Balancing them and maintaining a healthy partnership with my husband, takes time and attention.
Take time for integration.
So much transformed and emerged for me during the Lenten season, as promised by the scriptures. Now I am home integrating these learnings into my own being and into our partnership.
In some ways, THIS is the hard, vulnerable work – articulating my wants, needs and desires to my husband, hearing his, and allowing possibilities and strategies to emerge that fulfill both our needs.
It is much simpler, and less vulnerable, to demand a change. But I have not found that to work very well within a partnership. More often, conversation, exploration, and an open mind and heart lead us to strategies where both of our needs, wants and desires can be met.
My husband and I met in the Nonviolent Communication community, so that method is our foundation. But over the last decade together, we have had to dig deep and integrate learnings from other personal growth experiences and learn communication strategies that work for us.
This integration, these conversations, could last the rest of the year. Integration is not also always fast, particularly when there are two people involved. Living into the guidance we hear, the lessons we learn, takes time.
I, like most of the people I work with, want things to happen more quickly. Like, yesterday. But the integration can be juicy. We can learn more nuanced things about ourselves. Taking time to integrate and explore allows the next indicated thing to emerge in timing that works for all.
Nonetheless, I’ll be attempting to trust that our lives are unfolding in Divine order, while also hearing some part of me yell “FASTER!!!”