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Spiritual Community: Digging Deep

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

This past weekend – Friday evening and all-day Saturday, I had the great opportunity to gather once again in spiritual community. To provide some context, I would like to share our teacher Lynn’s preparatory instructions and comments:

At first when I thought of getting back together, at least on the medium of Zoom, for me it was the longing to see and make contact with each of you again. That would have been enough perhaps, but there is clearly more to be done, and that we have to do. We are friends and colleagues, but through the years as we have studied, worked and prayed together we have been aware of our common vocation and calling, not only to seek and practice wisdom, but also to transmit it as we can.

With Lynn’s guidance we considered the following questions within the context of this extraordinary time of chaos and uncertainty:

How Are We Accessing Higher Wisdom? What tools and practices help you to access wisdom? What are we learning and accessing? What has been sustaining us during this period?

What part of the wisdom teaching and work seem to be most central?

What practices seem most important?

What insights have you gained during this season?

Has there been any “download” from Above?

Tuesday May 26, 2020 at 4 am. Finally quieting down enough to truly reflect on the time spent in spiritual community. This particular community has been the most formative and consistent opportunity for growth during the two decades that I have lived in San Marcos, Texas. I will refer to the group as Praxis.

My spiritual journey has been long and circuitous. I lacked any sort of religious education during childhood. My parents were both Christian protestants. It seemed my mother’s expression of spirituality was to dress her four daughters up and take us to church on Easter Sunday. Occasionally my parents would take us to church when the spirit moved them. And by occasionally, I actually mean rarely. The point is I do have Christian roots. The truth is, during childhood I was very confused by Christianity and by my parent’s bursts of participation in a religion that did not seem to inform our lives.

My initial connection to Praxis was through the Gospel of Thomas via an introduction to Lynn Bauman in the basement of St. Mark’s Episcopal church by the Reverend Bruce Wilson. But that is a story for another time.

As I begin to collect myself – thoughts, feelings, memories, I looked back over some of Lynn’s abundant letters and images which he has so generously offered since the stark reality of this pandemic set in months ago. The first offering was this amazing poem by Karen Poidevin, and image created by Lynn.

BROKEN RECORD by Karen Poidevin Dig deep, deeper, still deeper Dig down to the fertile grounding of all things. That is where immunity is alive and well. Light can never be quarantined. It oozes through the cracks in everything. A light that refuses to be snuffed out. Empty bravado is totally unprepared for living, breathing, consistent wisdom. There is a celebration going on. Cast the seeds of loving kindness into every corner of your world: watch for geometric progression. Practice extreme generosity in all you do. Life is short.

What strikes me is the depth of connection that runs through those among us. A connection that I often take for granted. A connection that I oft think of as a burden. A connection that forces me to see myself as GOD sees me; both in light and in shadow. I realize how blessed I am to have the support of spiritual elders. And how as I sit and reflect in this time, and in this space, I am humbled by all that I do not know, and how much I am learning from community.

Amazed by the beauty of the image and words, and the feeling of resonance deep in my soul. For me access to higher wisdom involves paying attention to the particularities of life and the synchronicities that it brings.

Over the past months I have been obsessed with the idea of immunity. Physical, biological immunity. My 61-year-old system of self-protection. My immunity to the SARS CoV 2 to be precise. This is the first time in my 37-year nursing career that I can recall feeling vulnerable in an existential way. Sure, I have felt the extreme stress of long shifts in critical care and emergency/trauma settings. I have felt at times that my nursing career was killing me slowly. There were times that I wish it would just go ahead and take me. Or incapacitate me. But, at my core, I always felt in control. Even in the darkest days, I knew I had choices and the will to make the ones that would preserve both my life and my livelihood.

I am not eager to assume the risk involved in caring for patients with COVID19 because it feels like an immanent existential threat. Which reminds me of my brother Herman’s pandemic realization, “I really like living, and want to continue doing it!” As the particularities of my nursing career during the era of COVID19 began to play out, I was pretty damn sure would not be exposed; my hospital is not a COVID hub hospital; my job seemed relatively risk free! My sense of safety and security became dependent on this belief. True to form, I had a contingency plan just in case I was completely wrong in my assessment. At the time of our gathering a few days ago, I had just completed a self-imposed modified two week quarantine because of a suspected but unconfirmed exposure. In fact, no exposure according to CDC guidelines - the patient had multiple negative tests. But tests are not 100% accurate. And this is a nasty virus, a terrible disease and I'm not taking any chances. If I get it, I'm not going to share it!!

The first week of quarantine was quite pleasant and productive. In fact, there were times in my intense introversion, reading, meditating, practicing yoga, and doing a few long-distance bicycle rides that I felt transcendent. The second “modified” week was the week where I work my four scheduled twelve-hour night shifts in eight days. The last few days of quarantine was the most cumulatively stressful experience I have had in a very, very long time.

Immediately upon beginning quarantine I sent a letter to my yoga sister and fellow nurse providing a detailed account of my assessment, interventions, evaluation and disposition of the patient that I believe had COVID19. My take away of the whole situation stated in the letter is thus: The Great Mother wants me to go deeper. I can and I will.

Karen’s poem seems prophetic. It is as if she was able to give voice to a longing from my very core that was yet to make itself manifest. But here it is. Here is the lesson. I can and I will dig deeper. Deeper still. I will try to learn to let go of the empty bravado in the hope that I will begin to live and breathe consistent wisdom. I will try to assimilate this along with all of the nourishment I receive from the realm of spirit manifest in human form. With the support of spiritual community and our connection to a deep stream of wisdom, there is hope.

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