Time Away

My time away was…

Too long. Not long enough. Exactly what I needed. Nothing like I wanted. Joyful. Annoying. Perfect.

The Sunday morning service at the sanctuary was sweet. There were maybe 30 people, the musicians were a little off half the time, and the service and meditation were longer than I was prepared for. The people were kind and welcoming. The only baby was a little six month old boy named Benjamin. The women at my table graciously held space for my tears when I heard his mama call him by name. She was lovely and we had a great conversation afterward. Only one person made me want to run away with her well-meaning and exactly-wrong words. So I ran…into their little shop to browse. It’s open all day, every day, the building never locked, shopping on the honor system. I wandered back to my cabin and the loneliness hit.

It’s been a long time since a day stretched into night without someone at my side. I sat and noticed…clouds rolling in, rain drumming on the roof, hummingbird wings as loud as distant car engines, deer and wild turkeys wandering the fields, my desire to eat, my cravings for distraction. Unexpectedly my phone had no service so I couldn’t text, check in, check email.

Alone.

That’s what I came for. It was harder than I expected. I’d brought a million things with me but I didn’t feel like doing anything. I meditated again, heated my food, read Mary Oliver and Pema Chodron as I ate, and at 7 o’clock, night having fallen quickly over the ranch, I put on my pajamas and crawled into bed. I read for a while then turned out the light. 8 o’clock in my darkened cabin, heavy drops of rain beating an unsteady pattern above my head. I slept, off and on, for 12 hours.

The sun shone through my curtains when I woke. I opened them to watch the light play on the mountains, then closed my eyes to meditate again. After breakfast I decided to browse the books on my bedside table, written by the sanctuary’s founder, a student of Paramahansa Yogananda. I found myself getting annoyed by his “specialness” and how much he had written, found my comparison mind kicking in, wondered at some of his choices – enough to be different while not straying too far from proven spiritual paths. Then the reminder came from somewhere in the recesses of my brain that there is room for everyone in this reality we call life. Which means there is room for me. I don’t have to follow his path, I don’t have to follow anyone’s at all. I can find my own way home, grateful for all those willing to shed light as I pass.

I bought a few simple things from their store – a mala, a mandala, a button for Ada, and chatted with the woman who runs the office. She made me a green drink (kale, chard and tomato, grown in her organic garden) to send me on my way. I stopped in the driveway to watch the wild turkeys forage, then drove on towards my life, loving it more than I did when I arrived.

I appreciated the rest, the ability to meditate when I wanted for as long as I wanted, that my choices for 24 hours affected only me. I stepped out of my life for a day and was reminded that the practice is to step back in. That it’s one thing to go off into the desert and have visions and quite another to find clarity in the chaos of parenting, relationship, clutter, and an inbox with thousands of unread emails. The practice – the opportunity for growth and greater love – comes from accepting and embracing what I have while allowing it to transform into what it wants to be. I love my life. Yes, there are things I want to change but I have to love them first. With my whole heart. Only then will I be able to let them shift. And when I complain about time, I promise to remember that there are only a few things that are really important – my family, my writing, my health, my closest friends.

Am I rested? No. Rejuvenated? Not really. There were no huge epiphanies, no fast tracking of grief. But I am changed. I took care of myself in a new way. I kept walking when fear wanted to pull me back. I allowed myself space and honored whatever came. I am happy to be home, where my frustrations, joys and family were delighted to greet me.

Now – again –  the practice begins.

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5 Responses to Time Away

  1. Jessica M. says:

    I am glad that you had that time away – even if you don’t really feel rested I’m sure that time was much needed. (((hugs)))

  2. NM says:

    I came across your blog from Maezen’s recent post. Oh, how I know and understand your words all too well. I am 2 years out from losing our son. Maezen is doing a ceremony for us in the coming weeks to mark his passing. Know that you have the strength of many women walking the same path with you. Sadly, there are many of us. Know that time does not heal, but it does soften. Hugs, dear mama.

  3. Lisa Mullins says:

    Alana, I’ve been so moved by your inner search and personal growth as you grieve the loss of little Benjamin. During my years of practice I often gave talks on “Growth Through Grief”, and you exemplify this. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Love,

    Aunt Lisa

  4. JessicAran says:

    I think this is my first post here. I just read your three latest posts and then this one again. Usually I read them chronologically. It is strange and amazing how they read differently backwards vs forwards. This one meant totally new things to me the second time around. Was it because I went from the 30th towards it? I guess that I am different today too.

    I hate to admit the different spaces I am in when I read these time capsules of your heart, mind and searching soul. Inner dialogue can sound like this, “my heart wants to know how she is; can I handle her words today; could I ever heal so gracefully; how brave she is to touch that spot; wince, double wince; ooh, nugget, what a goldmine; could I be doing more to help; am i doing my own inner work; does she have a publisher yet; this is epic, truly epic.”

    I also realized that at 3 months after Benjamin’s birth, I am no longer wishing I could take your pain away. Something in your words, your rhythms, your life, makes me feel that the waves are no longer pulling you under longer than you can hold your breath. But, like a harsh critic, it seems as if your honesty mirror blows at you like winds that could remodel an entire desert or fell a redwood forest. “I’m gonna huff and puff and blow anything down that isn’t authentic living.”

    Alana, your words keep me honest. I want everyone I love to read them for the unique gift they would provide to them at their “present moment.”
    Bravo for leaving Steve and Ada and taking the risk of being alone at the sanctuary. Bravo for honoring the gifts and enduring the thorns – with the utmost grace.

    and again … Thank you Benjamin.

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