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  • Writer's picturemaggiehsmith07

Stupa

In late September, before I drew the tower card from the tarot deck and before my world continued to tilt on its 2023 axis, I signed up for a writers retreat.


It turned out that this retreat ended up taking place during a busy period of work travel and before the weekend I said to Andrea, “I don’t know that I would have signed up had I known this was going to occur between the work trips and projects.”


This is an example when the not knowing is a good thing.


I left work early on Thursday without a word and headed to Virginia Beach. The address that had been provided was to “Cool Ass Yurt”. When I arrived, the house was a geodesic dome with the name of the home on the front: STUPA.


It turns out that a stupa “is a mound like or hemispherical structure containing relics (such as śarīra – typically the remains of Buddhist monks or nuns) that is used as a place of meditation.”


I didn’t discover any relics or remains of Buddhist monks or nuns but I did find a safe place with 4 other women where we could meditate & be vulnerable, and hold space for one another. My writing wasn’t my best work - but it was my work in what processing what Rumi describes as "Life is a balance of holding on and letting go".


I think I needed a sign this weekend and the universe gave them to me, even when I was like, “Mmm…yes, but I need a signier sign.” I need to trust that the universe will deliver on its timetable - which is to say, not my time table.  For me, that is one of the most difficult pieces of trusting. The being in the present and trusting that the universe will deliver in its divine timing. It’s getting comfortable with the discomfort of the middle space - the in between.


Last night, I texted Andrea that this is a year I wouldn’t choose to live again - once was enough. It has been hard and filled with grief. I want to put grief on a shelf and ignore it. Once, after my dad died, I successfully dodged the weight of grief for a year. Then, it came crashing down. I went to a therapist who told me, “You cannot avoid grief. Grief sits upon your shoulder saying, ‘Pay me now or pay me later.” But we all pay.


This weekend, Valley reminded me that “grief is the price we pay for love.”


Fucking grief. It compounds and some of my grief is anticipatory - in preparation for all the ways of letting go of people, of circumstances, of my goddamn need for control.


Earlier this year, my book was published and pushing it into the world makes me think of what a natural birth must be like - painful and messy. And then, once it’s out in the world, you’re like, “Well. Now what?”


I think I wrote that book for me - for where I had come from, where I was then, and where I was unknowingly headed. The problems with getting the copies of the book were again a lesson in how I cannot control shit - particularly timing.


A few weeks ago, I was able to attend a retreat at Kripalu with my friend Anne. There’s that word again: retreat.


Verb (of an army) withdraw from enemy forces as a result of their superior power or after a defeat.


Noun 1. an act of moving back or withdrawing. “a speedy retreat"


These aren’t the only definitions, of course, yet they seem to fit. The serenity prayer popped into my head this weekend. Most people are familiar with the first part of the prayer: “God, grant me the serenityto accept the things I cannot change,the courage to change the things I can,and the wisdom to know the difference.”


But it turns out the next line after this reads:

“Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as a pathway to peace.”


No wonder the prayer, frequently used in recovery, typically omits that part (and the other lines that follow). I mean, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace? Imagine you run into that in early recovery?


Hardship as a pathway to peace. It's a lot like Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist spiritual leader, said, “No mud, no lotus.” Without suffering through the mud, you cannot find the happiness of the lotus.





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