Wholeness – the spiritual challenge of things going well

I realize that it’s 2020 and that the word unprecedented has been used so much this year that it would be completely cliche, if it were not for the fact that it is so manifestly appropriate. So you won’t be surprized that something unprecedented has happened to me. What is surprising, in the context of 2020, is that it is something good.

My latest spiritual practice is to lay out in my  back yard on an old wooden bench, with my arms spread out like upside down wings, stretching the muscles in my chest but also the muscles in my (metaphysical) heart. I have been listening to the Wailin Jenny’s beautiful multivoice harmonic cover of Dolly Parton’s song ‘Light of a Clear Blue Morning’ on repeat while I do this. Parton wrote this song as she finally won her freedom from a man early in her career who had been trying to own and control her soaring talent. It is a song of recognizing that a long endured oppression and fight has ended, and recognizing that like an eagle, she was born to fly, and that the eagle is finally taking the sky.

I feel like that these days, sometimes so intensely that I will cry, laying out on my blue bench, looking up at the sunlight coming through the green leaves above me. Right above my face there is a single circular gap where I can see the blue sky, framed by a more than 20 feet of overlapping leaves, that somehow don’t obscure it. I get to see the sunlight through leaves, one of my favourite things, and also the blue blue sky, my other favourite sight.

So what has happened that is so unprecedented? I feel safe, loved, secure, worthy. Here in the middle of a pandemic, with the US going through labour pains for a rebirth that could be either a monster or miracle, and half of the continent on fire, I feel like I have come home to myself. Wholeness.

When I reach out to my gods, they tell me it’s real, that like Dolly, I’ve come through a long hard night, where I’ve fought hard to keep my spirit alive while waiting for a morning I wasn’t entirely sure would come. And like an eagle, I am eager for the sky.

It’s a simple thing really. As a priestess of Aphrodite, I’ve come to expect to learn lessons about love, often quite hard ones, like taking the high road through a breakup, knowing when to say no and when to leave, owning my own issues and focussing on my own underfunctioning rather than that of my partner, the difference between compassion and false sainthood. I’ve learned how to love more than one person at a time, and how to respond with grace when one of those people fall in love with someone else and out of love with me.

But the biggest lesson, the lesson central to them all, is security. I’ve realized through that journey that the path to wholeness for me is to form secure attachment with someone capable of it. I’ve learned that I can stretch, I can ask for what I need and expect to usually get it (aye there’s the rub), set clear and firm boundaries that clear the path to be compassionate, and finally, understand that the long hard fight, the long hard night can be over. Like Dolly, who got herself out of Porter Wagoner’s clutches and has since soared, I can stretch my wings into the places of safety and healthy relationship, and fly into a clear blue morning, trusting the air to hold me, without fear.

And it feels simultaneously so simple and natural, but so completely unreal. I wonder if it took Dolly awhile to trust her wings, to soar while letting the vistas unfold within her, gliding on the air currents her strong wings could now hold her on. Did she feel as unreal with the lack of effort it took to glide after fighting in her eagle self to run along the ground?

Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

Update: You can listen to a playlist of all these songs on Spotify called ‘Inadvertently Pagan Pop Songs’.

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