When I first started going on contemplative retreats, I remember how difficult it was to give myself grace in my journey inward. I was uncovering so much within myself I had never seen before, which sent me spiraling beyond introspection into something of obsession.
On one level it was exploratory—the exhilaration of being on the shoreline of a new life in a new land—but on another level it was as if I was sparking an invasion, captivated by the potential I saw, with all there was to discover, to break down, and to build in this new land. Had any of the monks looked up in the balcony during prayer, I feared they might see smoke spouting from my ears. The engine of my mind was overheating and sputtering.
I once wrote that journeying inward sometimes felt like being in a room of whiteboards—inviting me to write, draw, evaluate, and connect my discoveries—but then, in the frustration of being unable to solve the riddles within, those whiteboards would turn into mirrors, transforming the room of discovery into a narcissistic cell, forcing me to be alone with the enemy, that person whom I could not solve.
I learned something early on about myself on those retreats: I struggle to give myself grace in new lands.
As we navigate the complexities of a global pandemic, we find ourselves in a new land. I feel my mind sputtering again. I feel my internal demands rising. I feel the self-judgment returning. Unrealistic expectations set my days up to fail. It seems that a lot of us are beating ourselves up for things completely beyond our control. The lies we have long told ourselves, contradicting the core truths of our identities as the Beloved, suddenly seem a bit louder. Alone with ourselves, in that room of mirrors, we can begin to feel like the enemy again...