It’s Monday. It’s the day to post my blog. I thought I’d be home this morning, but I woke up in a bed in an airport hotel in Minneapolis after my flight home was delayed. The view out my window is of pretty white snow; my room is warm; I had a complimentary breakfast. And no doubt I will get home sometime today. Whenever I want to even think about the disappointment of missing my connecting flight, all have to do is think of having nothing left in my life when family and home were destroyed by earthquake in Turkey. Or think of living with the threat of bombs falling down in the street below my window if I lived in Ukraine. And of course, I could come up with a hundred scenarios to jog my gratitude instead. It quickly puts it all in perspective. And who knows? Maybe I needed another day before re-entering my familiar life.
I spent the last week at my semi-annual retreat in Connecticut with a Diamond Approach retreat group that I’ve been part of for nine years. It was on Pleasure. I anticipated a time of joy and celebration and it very much was. But as a group, we had to work through all the blocks to having pleasure and to being pleasure itself.
For me, I was taught that pleasure only came after the work was done on the farm. In some subtle ways, pleasure had tones of indulgence or laziness. And if I dug deeper, early church teachings always paired pleasure with warnings of sin. Lust, greed, sloth to name a few. To this day, I don’t allow myself to watch a movie or take a nap in the middle of the day. Or if I am doing nothing, and I hear my husband coming in the house, I jump up and look busy, even though my husband always encourages me to relax. (But my father didn’t!) All this and more leaves me this morning more aware of what gives me pleasure and how I don’t always allow it.
Even yesterday as I waited five hours for my plane to arrive, I noticed I found so much that delights me. Little children. A particularly good smoothie. Texts from friends wishing me safe travels. Finding a rocking chair in an isolated corner to read my book. A friendly waiter who made me laugh. The memories of skits and a dance party the last night of the retreat.
What deepened me even more though, was the fact that I can have pleasure while at the same time holding the sadness of an earthquake in Turkey or bombs in Ukraine, climate change or a rude person in line, or yes, missing a flight. Pleasure and sorrow aren’t either/or. They are both fabric of this human life. Life is a both/and. And it’s real. It’s not even a balance of pleasure and sorrow. It’s just holding the paradox and letting myself feel whatever is here.
We had a memorial for my dear friend, Linda , at the retreat since she died during the pandemic, and this group hasn’t been able to meet in person for three years. I was both laughing and crying with the memories–and both these things gave me pleasure. It’s a pleasure to have had such a friend and grieve her. It’s a pleasure to remember all we shared. And all this is part of a bigger understanding that everything belongs. I live so often rejecting my experience, instead of just being with it and seeing what unfolds. I wrote much about this in my book on the Camino. But that’s the way it goes—we keep coming back to the same teachings, but they land more firmly as I “keeping taking a pass at it,” as my teacher says. So eventually I have begun to walk more often where I stay open to what is happening and be curious about it, let myself feel it and don’t come up with my ideas of what’s pleasurable or not pleasurable, who’s acceptable or who’s not, what’s right and wrong, what’s good or bad.
I need to go catch my shuttle to the airport now, but I will leave you with this Rumi poem. He wrote it a thousand years ago. We have had this wisdom available to us for so long and yet it is a hard one to live. I ask for the simple grace of surrendering to it.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
There is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
The world is too full to think about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each
doesn’t make any sense.
Heading home to Alaska, heading home in my heart. I’ll meet you there.
2 thoughts on “Finisterre: It’s a Great Pleasure”
Safe travels home! A couple of friends and I skied Arctic Valley to Indian over the weekend and I completely identify with this pairing of pain and pleasure: spectacular winter scenery and great companionship alongside aching feet and an utterly exhausted body. Wonderful post – thank you.
Yes, I saw that photo on FB! Perfect example.