When we moved to Madison, WI, after many years of living in Ohio, I discovered I had retired without being aware of it. In Ohio I had a private practice in spiritual direction. I led retreats and facilitated groups and taught classes on topics related to spirituality. None of that seemed possible or clear in our new location. What to do?
One morning I packed my book bag with pen and colored pencils, big sheets of sketching paper, a couple books, and a new journal with these words on the cover, "Then swing your window open, the one with fresh air and good eastern light and watch for wings, edges, new beginnings." I headed to the University of Wisconsin Student Union overlooking Lake Mendota where I could sit anonymously among students and professors and smile at alumni reminiscing about their glorified students days. A place of accompanied solitude.
I began by just sitting. Breathing slowly and deliberately, I allowed myself to enjoy the honey sun and the light breeze creating ripples on the lake, just enough for a sailboat without a plan.
I started writing all the questions and options in my head. Should I attempt to start a spiritual direction practice? If so, how? Should I focus more on writing? And many more. I could not write fast enough. I drew circles around key questions and random reflections, joining them with arrows. I wrote without rereading.
Finally, I lifted my pen and set aside the colored pencils, secretly pleased with myself for all the gushing scribbles on the paper, certain they amounted to a treasure map for my life. "Walk three paces to the large oak tree next to the shed with the green shutters. Look under the north side of the lilac tree and dig down until you find the small box with the gold latch. You will find IT."
I wished finding my path could be that easy. I hoped I would know exactly what I needed to do. I hoped I could say, "Well, I've figured it out and this is what I am going to do."
Then I noticed a red and white kite ambling unloosed above the dock. No one appeared to be guiding its direction or controlling it by winding a long length of string. It was happily free. A free spirit.
The treasure was revealed. I realized I didn't need to make a firm decision that day. I, too, could float in the breeze and wait to feel the direction of the wind. I could lighten up, let go of the string, and wait. A gift of discernment.
What surprising experiences have you had with discernment? I would love to know.