The Return

Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

In all of my days, I have never before come to such a place.

I stepped into solitude, into my fears. I sat patiently with my emotions. I read, studied, meditated, reflected, connected, created, and most importantly — I practiced the art of being.

I have come to understand that all the events of life can be viewed within the context of a journey consisting of 3 fluid spaces: separation, initiation, and return.

Separation can hold the energy of all that is discomfort: emotions, loss, change, grief. Even birth itself, where we are brought into a world wholly unfamiliar, never to again be as physically close to our mothers(or any other human being) as we have been for those many months within. Separation is the descent, a demarcation, the change from what was into what is possible.

The energy felt in the moments of separation may at first feel frightening, uncomfortable, impossible. Even heartbreaking. But it can be interpreted as an invitation or a call to connect with the realm of solitude, a place of learning and transfiguration. Whatever the message, the feeling, or the event, looking at it as an invitation into something deeper and unknown shifts the energy.

Initiation becomes the stage for the work, the crucible of experience, the cauldron in which the magic flows. It may manifest as the actionable period of a journey, it can look like weeks or months in solitude or even stand as a representation of the time we spend living between one end to the other of our mortality. In this space, the experience is examined, challenged, grieved, loved, re-framed and accepted. Life itself is by its nature a continuous initiatory experience.

Return signifies the ascent, the voyage back, the re-emergence of something new. It is the integration in motion of our evolution. From the journey we return with gifts, strength, perspective, tools. Brought with us are all the memories of what has been and also a vision for what can be. A new version of the self girded with the knowledge that comes from overcoming adversity, from facing fear.

Within this frame lives the ebb and flow, the fluidity of change that is constant in our physical reality. Having once been through this journey does not preclude it from happening again. Indeed, this cycle will play out over and over again, many times, within the greater container of our lives, from birth through life to death. Always will we arrive again at the point of separation from something that felt familiar, wanted or safe. Again and again, will come the opportunity to choose to step into the sensation. Every discomfort is an opportunity to grow while coming from a place of love.

For most of my life, I sought to avoid the sensations of discomfort, fear, uncertainty.

Over the years I have slowly but surely traveled a path that brought me to this place of understanding. Along the way were messages, experiences, teachers. Each a light along the shoreline. Reflecting, I can see where the messages were. Invitations to listen, to move, to shift, to learn. Each may have held the energy of “separation” within the context of my journey, I can see that now. To step away from the known into the unknown. As I allowed moments of stillness to hold me, I opened. When I found the courage, I followed my heart. I listened, moved, changed and learned. And I had help, tremendous love and support, every step of the way.

I have learned that intentional integration is key in bringing home the lessons that the discomfort has come to teach, the reasons for the initial separation. Without entering into that space, the sensations of separation will resurface again and again. And they can be damn uncomfortable. Each appearance is an invitation to enter into a journey of self-discovery:

Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From then on, you are inflamed with a special longing that will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfillment. The eternal makes you urgent.

– Anam Cara, John O’Donohue

By embarking on that journey, by making the choice, we invite in the gifts that come with integration. Solace, compassion, awareness, self-love, creativity, wisdom, resilience, vision. Grounded and unfathomable centeredness.

Everything offers itself in that space, every experience of discomfort or joy is a separate but parallel path to growth. Yet they all inevitably point inwards, to the within. It became clear that I needed an initiation experience, to step into and then beyond my reactions to the ebb and flow. Solitude offered the vehicle of transformation that my evolution required:

But your solitude will be a support and a home for you, even in the midst of very unfamiliar circumstances, and from it you will find all your paths.

-Rilke

In this container, within the solitude, I experienced the 3 stages of my journey.

Separation began months before. I entered into a deep realm of my subconscious in a ceremonial space with the intention of digging up what I had buried, what I wanted to heal. The invitation continued, with growing urgency, manifesting with fear, memories and discomfort, opportunities to look inside, to integrate. I resisted (which I have learned, increases all sorts of problems).

It continued as I challenged my relationships, seeking externally that which could only come from within. My professional work fell to the pandemic, and with that went security, the validation and appreciation that comes with helping others heal, a sense of belonging and being needed as well as the comfortable income. I struggled with old programming from my adverse childhood experiences. Fear became a palpable, ominous energy over my shoulder, fed collectively and subconsciously. My safety was compromised. I reached out, grasping, clawing.

Enter solitude and integration.

Intentionally setting myself apart was terrifying. I had been in the energy of separation, in the vibration of resistance for months. Resistance and aversion had built and built, playing my mind into a corner: the perception of suffering. I had been unable to hear the messages around me. I wanted to, but my emotions had been slowly flooding for weeks to a point where I struggled to find balance or communicate.

Entering into solitude I began to reconnect. In this space of being I became the teacher and the student. I read books and books, I wrote thousands of words, drew diagrams, papered my walls with a litany of post-it notes. I processed my emotions, countering their intensity with my own potent and primal energy of intention. I discovered the illusion of my actions, how even though it felt so difficult to be, the art of non-doing was the more effective tool.

I processed my grief. I studied Stoicism, relationships, the hierarchy of needs, shame, poetry, archetypes, resourcing, and love. I connected with teachers and loved ones, I built community all around me. I created and practiced sacred rituals and connected with my Wild Man. I confronted the impact of my actions and the unintended consequences. The art of being became a teacher of the art of transfiguration. Each time the discomfort or fear reached up, I reached in. I paused whatever I was doing and sat in the stillness.

I cultivated long ago planted seeds of self-love and tended to my garden of needs.

The heart is the inner face of your life. The human journey strives to make this inner face beautiful. It is here that love gathers within you. Love is absolutely vital for a human life. For love alone can awaken what is divine within you. In love, you grow and come home to your self. When you learn to love and let yourself be loved, you come home to the hearth of your own spirit. You are warm and sheltered.

-Anam Cara, John O’Donohue

The Return, fluid coalescence and arrival into a new way of being. Having integrated the energies of separation with the wisdom that comes from listening deeply, I came forth from a place of appreciation, of reverence, of gratitude. Bringing with me an understanding of the deep-rooted need to return to this place of solitude and integration again and again. Recognizing the power of choice, of perception, will, action and being. The return for me meant coming home to my self, the deep place within. The one who, despite all the world-changing, remains steadfast and constant, safe and vigilant.

My life will most definitely come again to places of discomfort, of fear, where the loss of safety threatens ruin. This cycle of separation, initiation and return plays out over and over. Stepping into life knowing that it will at times be frightening and painful creates an opportunity to experience a deeper and more intimate relationship with ourselves, where the ebb and flow of change are embraced as gracefully as the seasons pass.

Every tree must bend as it reaches for the sky.

The opportunity will come again and again.

Lessons and thoughts will change, the path will look different.

But always, always, the journey continues.

As a Wise Woman once told me:

“Go lightly…stay curious.”

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