another journey

This is the Church at Black Mesa.  On the satellite maps it’s labelled the cemetery at Black Mesa.  The first time I saw it was in a black and white framed work of art hanging in a little gallery in Los Alamos.  The stark white crosses in the sweep of grayscale struck something deep in me.  We left Los Alamos and wandered the roads towards Taos in our typical fashion of “shun-piking.”  Back in the early days of turnpike fees, wanderers would take the back roads to avoid paying tolls.  Frank and I took this up as our weekend adventures, following blue highways and dirt trails for no reason other than to do so.  Somewhere outside Los Alamos, we turned left into the landscape and the mesa loomed dark and threatening ahead of us.   On that day, it was threatening in many ways as a thunderstorm gather around it; apparently mesas are not the safest places when storms hit.  This time, it was a day with a brilliant blue sky backdrop to the mountains beyond.  Black Mesa however continued to live up to its name, dark and forbidding.

I got a bit closer to the church this time and it was easier to set up the shots because I wasn’t busy dodging lightning streaks.  Whatever the reason, this is a treasured pilgrimage.  I’ve learned since that there is a road leading to the cemetery.  Another time.  For now this picture inspires me with the enormous presence of the mesa and the soft punctuation of the crosses that mark the graves.

I’m on another journey this week.  Tomorrow, my colleagues and I present a workshop at the Center for Mindfulness, Health and Science on holding the integrity and fidelity of adaptations.  In the aftermath of chaplaincy training, it is a good time to explore that topic.

See you the other side!

blind spot & a pilgrimage

The tricky thing about a blind spot is that we’re blind to it.  Tautology perhaps but true nevertheless.  In fact, there’s no way to actually see our own blind spot.  And – sometimes dangerously so – we need to rely on other people who have the privilege of a different vantage to point them out to us.  It occurred to me the other day that this raises all kind of questions about trust.  Not just trust in myself to believe there is a blind spot but also trust in the person I’m asking to point out my blind spot.  Goodness knows, we all have our agenda and that includes my Blind Spot Spotter.

The other thing that occurred to me is that we often ask for a sketch of the blind spot when in fact we really want confirmation that we don’t have a blind spot.

That’s what I mean about trust.  In myself and in my BSS.  No BS has to be the rule and that takes work.  It takes what William Blake calls a firm persuasion that can remove mountains.

I’ve been diving into a book by David Whyte.  If Rilke gets ladies to take off their bras, Whyte can well have us pole dancing.  But I digress.  The book, Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a pilgrimage of identity, was recommended as a source of inspiration for those of us who never relent in our seeking to bring that firm persuasion into our work – life, spiritual, career.  Whyte writes:

There is no hiding from work in one form or another.  Under the great sky of our endeavors we live our lives, growing we hope, through its seasons toward some kind of greater perspective.  Any perspective is dearly won.  Maturity and energy in our work is not granted freely to human beings but must be adventured and discovered, cultivated and earned.  It is … a never-ending courageous conversation with ourselves, those with whom we work, and those whom we serve….  It is achieved through a lifelong pilgrimage.

Further on:

It is very hard to say no to work.  We may courageously resign, take a sabbatical, or retire to a simpler, more rustic existence, but then we are engaged in inner work, or working on ourselves, or just chopping wood.  Work means application, explication, expectation.  There is almost no life a human being can construct for themselves where they are not wrestling with something difficult, something that takes a modicum of work.  The only possibility seems to be the ability of human beings to choose good work.

And finally,

To view work as pilgrimage is to put our hearts’ desire to hazard, because by merely setting out, we have told ourselves that there is something bigger and better, or even smaller and better – above all, something more life giving – that awaits us in our work, and we are going to seek it.

So, we set out on that pilgrimage with firm persuasion that we have all we need and that, even if lacking in courage, our feet know exactly how to navigate the journey.  And our practice is that little dustless mirror in the corner showing us the blind spots.