During a recent Centering Prayer retreat at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado, I ventured forth on an afternoon hike, scrambling up a steep cliff to check out some rock formations that had enticed me from the ground below.
After exploring the ancient outcrop where birds nested and faces appeared in ghostly patterns, I made my way down the steep incline in the mid-afternoon heat. As I got closer to the bottom I found myself in the middle of a dense thicket of scrubby trees and realized I had no choice but to make my way through it to get out. This is when it hit me: the Spiritual Journey is a bushwhack.
Maybe you’ve been there yourself? It goes something like this:
You are in the thick of it and you can’t see the path and the branches are in your way and you’re getting scraped and scratched and you just want it to be over.
But it’s not over and you’ve got a long way to go before you get to the clearing. So the only thing you can do is be where you are as you move each branch out of your way, carefully avoiding the thorny and prickly ones, crouching down low to avoid poking your eyes out, pulling up your pelvic muscles to support your legs as you take each tortuous step, one at a time.
There is no rushing this.
And you’re parched because you didn’t bring water (you didn’t want to carry it) and you’re bleeding a little from the thorns and it’s hot and you wonder if you’re going to die. But you don’t die you take another breath and move the next branch and then… you’re out.
You’re out and you’re grateful. So you turn back to look at where you’ve come from and give thanks.
Now you’re safe and you walk on the clear path for a while and you meet a friend who was smart and stayed in the lowland and you smile at each other with recognition but you don’t stop. And then you come to the crick and you wonder if you have the energy to jump it and you do. And you’re still not home so you keep coming back to each step because you are not really there until you get there.
And when you do get there you rest because tomorrow . . . you will go again.
May we all support each other no matter where we are on the path.
By Celia McBride, Retreat Leader and Facilitator of “The Healing Journey”