I am so excited to introduce my friend River Roberts of some new delight as a guest blogger. I met her many years ago (or a few…when does a few become many, really?) at Diana’s Grove, and she continues to amaze me in all kinds of ways. I am confident you will enjoy her post on returning to center when the Work is not working.
Finding My Center Point
by River Roberts
Have you ever fallen out of love?
I’m not just talking about your last romantic partner, although that certainly counts toward recognizing the feeling I’m talking about. But can you remember a time where something you once had a passion for just no longer had the juice it once did? Like a piece of art or furniture that you went absolutely ga-ga for when you first saw it, but now feels almost dull or stale? Perhaps about a job that challenged you at first, but now feels rote and lifeless? How about a friendship that has faded? A hobby that has fallen by the wayside?
What happens when you fall out of love with your spiritual practice? What happens when the Work no longer… well… works?
Work is one of those words that can have so many different meanings and associations. So let me offer one such definition. In a spiritual context, I see “the Work” as the act of bringing myself to wholeness. It is about conscious recognition of who I am, what I stand for, and how I want to move through the world as a human being. It is about integrating all of the different aspects of my life in such a way that I can live in integrity with what I value.
More and more, the way I act to bring myself to wholeness is around discovering and connecting to my passion. To me, passion just isn’t about the things that bring me happiness, although I feel that’s certainly a key indicator that I’m on the right track. If I peel down to another layer, passion becomes being in sync with what I was I born to give. Why did I agree to come into this life and how do I strive to achieve it? When it comes down to it, another aspect of that definition of “the Work” is the practice of discovering, listening to, and becoming more in alignment with my soul’s purpose.
Sounds great, right? But lately, my relationship to that particular definition has been… well, complex. I spent several months of the last year completely out of alignment with my work. I have since stumbled my way out of it, but for a long time, I felt much less than whole and so disconnected to my soul’s purpose that I couldn’t even identify what it was, much less try and attain it.
How I managed to find my way back to some semblance of alignment isn’t something I can sum up in a few sentences, and to be perfectly honest, I feel far from done with this particular healing process. The reasons for my disconnection are varied and complex, so finding my way again has been just as varied and complex. But I can tell you one significant step that I took that allowed me to gain a little more perspective — I asked for help from 78 of my closest friends. I drew a card.
I have read Tarot professionally for several years. I dabble with a few different decks, but my tried and true friend is the Crowley-Harris Thoth deck. It’s what I use for my personal readings, and the one I often turn to when I could use a way to explain an abstract concept, or just need help telling a good story. When I needed some clarity, good ol’ Thoth didn’t let me down.
I drew Adjustment.
I try not to play favorites when it comes to the cards, but I have to admit, this is one of the archetypes that tops my list. In decks following the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot system, this card is called Justice, and is often pictured as a goddess holding a scale in her hand. Not so, this card. Here, Ma’at, the Egyptian goddess of justice and truth is the fulcrum of the balance. Her headdress branches out into the scales. And the part of this image that always jumps out as relevant to me is that she is balancing precariously on the tips of her toes around a sword point. Her true balance point is so small and precarious. If she is too flexible, the balance falters. If she is too rigid, the balance falters. If she is perfectly aligned with just the right amount of strength — she stays in balance.
When I turn those last few statements around and I-reference them, it becomes even more relevant. If I am too flexible, my balance falters. If I am too rigid, my balance falters. If I am perfectly aligned with just the right amount of strength — I stay in balance. Easier said than done. (Did I mention that is a really, really tiny balance point?)
There is a subtle difference between asking “What isn’t working?” and “What is out of balance?” Adjustment invited me to ask exactly that:
“What is out of balance?”
And then once I was able to identify that (and the answer was, “many things, such as…”), I looked more closely at that tiny balance point and asked:
“What’s my center point?”
And finally …
“How do I bring myself back to that center?”
It turned out my Work hadn’t stopped working. I just was too busy putting weight on the wrong side of the scale. In the Tarot, swords represent the element of Air — communication, speech, stories, clarity, precision — and the goddess in the Adjustment card is holding a very large one. It was time for me to use it. I realized I needed to not only gain some clarity around what it was I was trying to bring into my life, but to put it into specific terms. I needed to give it voice.
I asked a dear friend and confidant to help me whittle down my intention into something succinct.
We started with broad brush strokes: Work that sustains me physically, mentally and emotionally. A home that that is beautiful, comfortable, safe and affordable. Relationships that are open, honest and grounded in integrity. A connection to the Divine that is stimulating, challenging and loving. Then we broke each of those adjectives down into specifics. Work that sustains me mentally is… A beautiful home looks like… A loving connection to the Divine feels like…
For me, the next step was asking even more questions. When faced with a choice or a significant action, I ask: Does this action bring me closer to balance? If the answer is yes, I keep doing it. If the answer is no, then I stop. If the answer is, “I have no idea,” then I try and take some time to figure out the weight of the action. Am I putting the weight on the side of the balance that is my very real need for comfort or am I giving too much weight to my tendency toward escapism? Am I finding a way to give weight to my need for mental stimulation or am I adding weight to unhealthy social interaction like gossip?
I am human. I am not going to be in balance all of the time. In fact, those moments of true balance are exceedingly rare. But I have felt them, even if a particular moment only lasted for a few seconds. This is perhaps a topic for another day, but it’s one of the reasons I do ritual, and ecstatic ritual, in particular. When I allow myself to become fully connected in that kind of space – I feel an exquisite sense of purpose. I can’t live in that moment all of the time — there are bills to pay, relationships to nurture, and mundane challenges to face. But it exists. I have touched it. And my work then becomes finding a way to bring the scales back into alignment… putting the right weights in the right cups — letting my soul be the fulcrum. It becomes a sort of spiritual math.
What do I do when the Work no longer works? I ask questions. I identify my center point. I adjust. Over, and over, and over again.
River Roberts is a priestess and ecstatic ritual artist living in Chicago. She teaches in the Reclaiming tradition and was a staff mentor with the Diana’s Grove Mystery School for many years. The way she finds her balance point is through music, puzzles of all kinds, and writing. She blogs at www.somenewdelight.com.