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On a personal note

The last 16 months have been possibly the most challenging of my life.

April of 2013, with a new year-long program about to begin (our fourth year) and other trainings to follow, as well as retreats I was scheduled to attend – I found myself bewildered by the fact that I didn’t want to continue.  I loved my work.  My friend suggested that I was tired from a recent major surgery, followed by two months of an infection, then the last retreat of the third year.  I wondered if this might explain why just after being approved for certification with CNVC (Center for Nonviolent Communication), completing an awesome year-long coaching program, as well as the success that the upcoming program promised,  I physically cringed at the thought of it all.

So, I cancelled my two upcoming retreats that I was attending as a participant, and rested.  I continued to rest day by day, week by week.  As the next series of retreats was coming closer by the day, I thought of the participants who were coming from Florida, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and so on, I couldn’t imagine canceling and I couldn’t imagine going forward.

I met with another friend in ministry, who explained that I was in the process of “burn out” and if I continued with my retreats I would be out of integrity. Those words really got my attention, and I trusted this person’s opinion.  I heard in seminary that 50% of all ministers burn out in the first five years and leave ministry.  When I heard that, I remembered wondering which ones of my classmates would burn out – never considering it would be me.

As I began to seek support for myself, I heard other terms for my experience like adrenal fatigue.  I was told to rest, that an extended sabbatical was prescribed – possibly up to two years.

As I have always done, I dove in to whatever this “rest” thing was.  I’m not saying there wasn’t a ton of guilt for a long time, and I didn’t have a choice.  I was surprised that I was sleeping sixteen or more hours a day for about six months, the summer and fall.  Finally, at the end of 2013 it seemed that I was coming out of my “dark-night of the soul.”  Next thing I knew, I was in ICU for six days from a drug reaction that affected my liver and kidneys.

What a gift that $66,000 ICU stay has turned out to be.  I believe in that experience I was able to “scraped the bottom of the barrel” and reach down to face a few more experiences.  When I left the hospital my goals were different than ever before.  I wanted to be happy, to think clearly, and to be able to care and be part of my immediate family (my partner and daughter).  I began to know that I was one of the seven billion on the planet, that I belonged and had worthiness just because I was here and so did everyone else.  No longer was success, working hard, and helping others at the top of my list.

My teachers, meditation practice, loving kindness and compassion practice, study, my meditation group as well as a few retreats, therapy and group all helped me become more grounded than I have ever been, and I am not done.  I want more of this balance, aliveness and experience.

During the last year and a half,  I would occasionally have the desire to teach again, or someone would call to ask for my assistance, and quickly my internal voice would say NO!  So I listened.  Then one day, about eight weeks ago I noticed that the desire to teach was arising consistently.  I listened and watched internally, and heard only teaching ideas.  I so love how the universe works.  That same week my good friend asked if I was ready to teach again and I said, “YES”.   We talked about some specific ideas and plans.  About a week later another friend and I had lunch, and he mentioned that he was hoping I would do some teaching with a certain work.  I smiled inside.  His request was the same as what I had just discussed with my friend a week before.

The differences as I exit my extended “dark-night of the soul” are many.  First and foremost I have learned to take care of myself, and even more, hold myself in reverence.  Everything now else seems to flow from this internal care and awareness; care and awareness of others, how I respond, and how I choose to spend my precious time.

There is more…and I think this covers the big picture for those who were interested to know.

May my practice benefit all, Lori 7/29/14



Discussion

  1. Tanene  August 12, 2014

    Dear Lori,
    I thought of you and this post often over the weekend, wondering how I could respond. What could I possibly say that adequately reflected my feelings. I realized finally that I simply wanted to thank you for sharing your journey–the ‘dark night of the soul.’ The walk through the ‘valley of the shadow of death’ as you peeled away the unreal–letting go of the ego’s grip–to awaken in discovery as to what speaks to you–what is really important To see life and work anew. I thank you for your words, the clarity speaking your truth.
    I read your post, pause, and take in the message. Read again. I find it applies to the walk that I am experiencing. When I read 16 months, I selfishly thought–”Oh, that means I only have one more month to go through this.” Well, maybe yes and maybe no. Read again. We each have our own timing, I know. Practice patience …impatiently. 15 months searching for work and no job. What am I to see? I sense the internal changes occurring. First I fight, then I let go. I offer up my concerns. “I will to do Thy will.’ Meditate. Practice yoga. Then I do the same thing all over again. I adapt; I slash the budget. No more budget to slash? The last to go–the sacred space I feel as I cocoon in my studio apartment. I advertise in newspaper ‘Senior female seeking economical living quarters…’ I move in with a new-to-me family; I feel relief. I am adjusting. The caterpillar sure feels like liquid mush. How long is this stage/state? When does the butterfly form? I can feel the workings… Patience.
    Sisterly,
    Tanene

    (reply)
    • Lori Woodley  August 14, 2014

      Tanene,

      Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I remember you well.

      Blessing on your journey.

      Lori

      (reply)

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