Once again I have returned from my retreat to and with the wonderful community of Academy 34 at Camp Sumatanga. This experience continues to change for me, with me, and around me. It's always wonderful, but each time in different ways.
The biggest difference for me in this second session was how comfortable things were from very early on. This truly is a wonderful community of people and while I doubt that a change of venue would change much it is always helpful for me to be back at that "place of rest and vision" and seems only appropriate that I have this experience in this place that has already been so formative for me.
I will be completely honest here - I know I was not as "fully present" throughout the whole week as I was last time. Some of it was the battle going on in my own soul over the fertility stuff that was unfolding while I was there (and let me tell you, hearing about expected babies and watching folks knit baby blankets and tiny leg warmers wasn't always helpful either!) but I also honestly don't believe I would have been able to make the peace that I have, and it's not much but it's some, without the love and support of that community. There is so much shame that goes with this, at least for me, that being open with people about this has been hard, but it has been worth it and I'm continuing to learn this as I daily feel myself wrapped in the love and prayers of this whole community.
The other "challenge" of the week is that I believe I was much more open to whatever was going to happen to and with me and whatever it was God had for me to receive early on. I didn't have to wade in slowly, easing myself down the steps of the pool. Instead, I flung off my shoes at a run, tossed my towel without caring where it landed, and took a flying leap off the diving board! The problem with flying leaps is that they often result in a painful and messy entry into those deep waters, and that's pretty much what happened from me. I became very aware of some difficult truths early on and that made it hard to stay as open because I reached my threshold pretty quickly. I know I spent some time "distracting myself" (pinterest anyone?) as a matter of survival but I do feel a certain sense of guilt about that because I know those special times in that special place can never be recaptured.
Our faculty was amazing, as I have come to expect. I learned so much and was so incredibly blessed by the whole experience. It really does make a difference having them truly participate in the community rather than simply gracing us with their presence at lectures and being sequestered elsewhere for the other 22.5 hours a day! I'm glad there are smarter people than me who figured that out, but I guarantee it's a lesson I will never forget!
One new experience I had was walking the labyrinth. I know about labyrinths and I have played/worked with pictures and finger labyrinths before, but this was my first time actually walking one. My covenant group decided to do it together one day, and that was also a really special experience. As a whole, the experience of the labyrinth wasn't what I expected or what I wanted, but it was what I needed. I don't know that I would say I enjoyed it so much as I appreciated it, but I do look forward to the chance to do it again.
I also had my first "official" experience of working one-on-one with a spiritual director/ spiritual guide/ spiritual friend. My previous therapist did some measure of this and we had group spiritual direction as a part of my CPE residency (which I think planted the seed for this journey now) but I hadn't sought out that individualized experience until now. It was a very enriching experience and I think it is something I would like to add to my life a bit more permanently, but the process of finding the right someone for me may be difficult and I'm not sure it's something I want to do right this second.
I do have a new favorite saying - "Go, not in peace, but TO peace" which has found a special place deep in my heart. Because I think that is what this entire journey has been and continues to be about for me. Going to shalom, which is not only peace, but also wholeness.