Grace, surrender, abundance....

Grace, surrender, and abundance, three themes I have had a lot of time to consider during the past couple of weeks... What causes us to go where we go, to do what we do? When we consider this, we are usually thinking about something we believe we have done intentionally, of our own volition. And yet, looking back over the sweep of our lives, how many of us can say that we actually planned to end up where we find ourselves? We go along making decisions, hour-by-hour, day-by-day, sometimes we set goals for ourselves, days, months, even years into the future. But if we were to write those goals on paper, in detail, or better yet, somehow create a photographic image and hide them from ourselves for some length of time, when we reached that mythical future, would it really look anything like what we imagined? What actually steers us? And how do we feel about what we find?

Take me for example...

Three years ago I made the decision to take a journey. I will not even pretend that it was anything other than 'grace' which brought me to that decision. I was in a moment of sincere searching and the decision came to me in a moment of unusual and extreme clarity. And the 'rightness' of that decision was so completely heartfelt that it took my breath away.

Joseph Campbell, author of "The Hero With a Thousand Faces" -- one of my favorite books -- often said: "If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you, even where you could not see them before and even where they would open for no one else..." And so it has been for me. Once the decision was made, I began to watch the doors opening in front of me.... The people I respect and love supported my decision, wholeheartedly. The money I needed to make the journey began to flow to me. A space opened where no responsibilities, no relationships were tying me down. Casual encounters, books I read, everything, began to point me in this direction. And the doors did not open all at once. I just kept walking through the doors as they opened. And then another one would open...

Oh yes, there were times... When the practical voice in my head would say things to me like: "Crazy woman! What will happen to you if you give up your career, your home, your security...?" And yet, that never really felt like my real voice. My real voice, the one in my heart which I had tried to ignore for years, was singing the siren song, telling me of places I longed to see and things I longed to do. And what was that? Volition? Intention? Or could it possibly have been grace?

In the end, I came to understand clearly, that there were only two choices: I could stay where I was -- and it was a good life. I had a good career, beautiful clothes, lovely loft apartment in a beautiful city, wonderful, loving friends, son beginning a successful business...everything we are taught to aspire after. And yet, inside myself, the restlessness, the yearning, no matter how many times I turned to look -- with true gratitude! -- at all I had accomplished, all that had been given to me, that yearning never really left me. And at the end of the day, I knew I had no choice at all. So, I surrendered and did what Joseph Campbell advised. I 'turned my fall into a voluntary act'.

Since then, and still now, I continue to surrender. I really have no idea where I am going. I open my guidebook or I look online and the decision of what I will do each day or where I will go next is, more or less, a spontaneous act. Do I feel like staying another day? I ask at reception if my room is available for another night. Sometimes I find myself on a train or a bus and feel something like surprise. At the same time I am filled with inspiration: energy, future projects, things I want to learn, like a cistern filling and spilling over, filling again. In the early mornings, I tumble out of bed and cannot wait to sit down at my keyboard and write. And when I do, the words begin pouring out. I watch myself writing...

And what do I find along the road?

A few days ago, I woke up in Faro, Portugal. It is a very small town on the Algarve, nothing really special, it looks like other small Portuguese beach towns. Walking along the marina, quite by chance, I am approached by a blond, deeply tanned South African man who must be somewhere in his 40's: he looks like a surf bum who is still waiting to grow up. He is hawking ferry tickets to Ilha Deserta, a small desert island nature preserve about 20 minutes ride away. I decide to take the trip, pay my 3 euro and climb aboard the ferry.

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At the ferry landing on Ilha Deserta is a long wooden walkway leading to a single simple, architecturally modern, wooden building -- a restaurant -- which is the only building on the island. As it is still early and I am not hungry, I decide to go for a walk. A wood-planked trail has been built along the length of the island. My South African friend back at the dock told me it would be a very nice walk, about 2 km each way so I begin to walk. It leads me through dry, scrubby brush, along one side there is an estuary, the golden sand and clear blue-green water form a lush counterpoint to the drab vegetation. I am alone. The sound of the wind and rustling brush, the buzz of an occasional insect, birds calling, all are deeply peaceful.

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Toward the end, the trail curves away from the estuary and leads over some sand dunes. Coming over the top of the dunes I find myself on a wide expanse of sandy beach, still completely alone. The day is sunny and very warm. I take off my clothes and, leaving them with my pack on the sand, I walk down to the water. I am used to swimming in North America, so I brace myself as the first wave rushes up the sand to meet me...and my toes are covered with water just cool enough to feel refreshing. There is no shock as I wade deeper, only inviting coolness after a hot, dry, walk. The beach slopes very slowly and the waves are gentle so I feel no fear. I walk in water up to my knees and then dive into the waves where I play, naked, joyful, laughing....

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When I emerge again onto the beach, I sit on my towel, feeling the warm sun and breezes on my body, eating a sun-warmed orange and watching the play of waves and sunlight. A young woman comes over the top of the dune. She drops her backpack, throws off her clothes, and runs toward the water. I call to her to remove her sunglasses, propped on the top of her head, forgotten. With an extravagant gesture, she throws them up the beach and runs into the water. For a long time she plays in the waves, a scene that was perfect before is, again, perfect, now in a different way. It feels as if all of this; beach, water, sun, birds, Undine frolicking, is being enacted for no other reason than to entertain me.

After a while, I stand, dress, and walk, this time along the beach. Arriving at the restaurant just as I am becoming very hungry, I sit on a wide open veranda, order a bottle of very crisp, white, wine and eat cold gazpacho with hot, spicy, fried beach prawns. Abundance...

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