Footsteps and Journeys

There are times in life we travel alone. And there are times we follow in another's footsteps - or someone follows in ours...

Years ago, while I was in my twenties, I visited a contemplative community for a silent retreat in their cloistered monastery. I came armed with a few spiritual texts and blended into the rhythm of the nuns' lives, participating in as much as was possible - most especially in the chanting of the Liturgy of the Hours - which I found both daunting and a satisfying rich and spiritual feast!

I was housed in the novitiate wing, by then empty, in a cell where Mother Teresa of Calcutta had spent the night once, as she passed through town. I was told by the nuns that the next day, they were amazed to find that the room had been left untouched. She had not slept in the bed - and had either slept on the floor or prayed all night. The only thing she asked for had been a bucket of water.

I felt the energy of Mother Teresa's presence deep into the silent nights I spent there, and I tried to imagine what praying for a whole night would be like. I almost felt as if her presence wrapped me up in a blanket of love and support, and to this day, decades later, I still have very special memories of that weekend.

Somehow, in that room, I felt I was following in her footsteps, yet knowing her sandals were indeed, very big one ones for me to fill, even if she had small feet! Still, I felt comforted knowing she had spent time in deepest intimacy with the Divine in that sacred space. It was as close as I ever got to her. I never met her or saw her anywhere, but this experience was more intimate and special. We had shared sacred space - having both shut the door in the same place to commune with the Divine...

We are supported in so many ways - seen and unseen...

Today, a dear friend posted a beautiful picture with the well-known quote by Emerson:

"Life is a journey,
not a destination."

But life is also both I believe...

I recently wondered, what if everything we experience in life is really just about the journey? We might pour all of our energies into a project, expecting that it will succeed - as in a book that becomes a best seller - but it might be the process of writing it and the growth it elicits in us and from us - that ultimately becomes the success. The poetry we write or the journals we keep may never see the light of day for someone else, but there is both innate value and meaning in the creative and therapeutic impulses that engendered them. And the energy contained in the written and spoken words release an energy that reverberates forever on this planet and beyond...

What if everything that happens - every experience, encounter and relationship are just pieces of this journey meant for our growth and wisdom and not as destinations in  and of themselves?

There is a certain innate freedom in all of this - and in letting go of how we think everything should be. It allows us to be more present in the moment. And in our experiences... We could just walk along a sandy beach following footsteps or leaving them behind - all the while knowing they will overlap and soon be erased under the surging tide.

As I look back to that time, over 30 years ago, when I did that retreat, I imagine I was following in Mother Teresa's footsteps and my own - for both of us were responding to the inner promptings of our own unique spiritual journeys - never totally sure where it would lead either one of us.

It's all a journey. Just a journey. One we take over and over again, leading us deeper into ourselves...

"Forever Oneness,
who sings to us in silence,
who teaches us through each other.

Guide my steps with strength and wisdom.
May I see the lessons as I walk,
honor the Purpose of all things.

Help me touch with respect,
always speak from behind my eyes.
Let me observe, not judge.
May I cause no harm,
and leave music and beauty after my visit.

When I return to forever
may the circle be closed 
and the spiral be broader."
~ Bee Lake


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