“We beg you, God, make us truly alive.”
This quote has stayed with me for years. Well, that’s not entirely true. It has cyclically floated in and out, rising up and down in my awareness. I think I first came across it about 10 years ago. I have no idea where it found me. But it has played a leading role in my spiritual journey.
It’s what early monastic Christians prayed in the fourth century in the desert. And it’s the prayer that, sometimes silent, sometimes screaming at the top of my lungs, conscious and unconscious, has permeated the last year of my life as I have intentionally turned towards vibrant aliveness.
2019 was a year of massive change for me and, unquestionably, a year of spiritual transformation. Of course, the two go hand in hand. It started with long, cold winter months devouring books that were my mother’s, books by Sue Monk Kidd, Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr, and more. I didn’t finish all of them, but the stack by my couch increased almost weekly as I found another deeply spiritual book for my soul to feast upon. As the months unfolded, a mish-mash of wisdom and spiritual traditions accompanied me along the way, including meditation in the Buddhist tradition, Ayurveda (an incredibly powerful Eastern holistic healing system of medicine), yoga, body work, energy work, mantra, kirtan, Christianity, animism and a deep emerging spirituality that knows no boundaries and no container.
Along the way, I said good bye to a lot - to a long-time partner, to a beloved cat, to my job of seven years, to my community, and to Vermont, my home of nine years. Each of these losses, as painful as they were, taught me something and made room for something new to emerge. I learned a lot about myself and how I deal with change. And I learned how to ask for help. Through it all, I had the support of countless people, most notably, my family. My dad was there to help me move, twice, and to open up his home to me. My grandparents gave me their bed and their couch and their unconditional love and support. My brother and sister-in-law were always a phone call away when I really needed it. My nephews made me laugh and brought me unending amounts of joy. I worked regularly with a life coach, an Ayurvedic practitioner, a therapist, a spiritual director and many other wellness practitioners who helped me ride the waves of grief and loss that come with any change.
It was a year of unflinchingly, sometimes unwillingly, saying yes to the deepest parts of myself. I’ll never forget the moment, one year ago, sitting at work with no plans for New Years Eve feeling a little bit sorry for myself and not wanting to go home to my empty new apartment, saying, “No. This is not how I’m starting my year. God damn it, I will have an incredible start to my year.” And so I bought myself a ticket to see some musical production at the Flynn Theatre and then I went to a midnight yoga class to ring in the New Year with peace and ease and flow and movement.
And 2019 became a year of peace and ease and flow and movement. It brought me to some incredible places. I spent the summer on the shores of northern Lake George in the Adirondacks, the healing waters of Silver Bay soothing my weary spirit, the sun warming my soul as much as the precocious 5-year-olds I spent my days with. I traveled to two islands off the west coast of Scotland, the simple, breathtakingly beautiful country I fell in love with. I spent one week on a women’s retreat, learning ancient feminine wisdom in the magical quiet of Iona. I spent the next week on nearby Mull, away from technology and among candlelight, singing, trees and new friends.
I returned to my homeland, my family’s farm in Delhi, NY to start rebuilding the constructs of life that I’d spent the last 10 months deconstructing. I found a job baking sourdough bread, a new venture and craft with much to teach me. I moved into an apartment in my dad’s house, in between my brother’s family and my grandparents and surrounded by fields and woods for my daily walks. And I started writing more, writing to share, advancing long-held hopes and dreams that never had enough time or space to flourish.
So here I am, on the cusp of yet another year, feeling truly grateful, and truly alive. I came across this question in a book the other day, the newest addition to my stack of soul and spirit-related non-fiction (The Unknown She by Hilary Hart).
“Are you living who you truly are?”
I’m proud to say that I am. This path of life certainly isn't an easy one. But it sure is beautiful.