A DIY Call to Meaning

At some point during our routine phone calls during COVID, my writing partner, Patricia, suggested the prompt, What gives my life meaning?

Immediately, the question rubbed me wrong. Why would I want to write about THAT? Did I assume that my answers would come easy? That I would end up stating the obvious, sounding like a Hallmark commercial or a page on an inspirational calendar? Or was I afraid to grapple with ongoing realities of the three Ps crowding my existence: politics, possessions, pandemic. Whatever it was, I didn’t want to carry the weight of the question in my pen. Until I did.

What gives my life meaning? I remember learning as a schoolgirl that the best way to begin an answer to a question was to make the question into a statement. What gives my life meaning IS. What gives my life meaning is contact with the divine. Therefore, I have learned to find the divine as often as possible. I’ve learned that if I want to, I can find it anywhere, anytime. It’s up to me. One way I like to make friends with the divine is in intimate retreat, three hours or so is a good average. Nine to noon, one to four. Those are the optimums in my life schedule. I prefer to be at home alone for the relationship to flower. How do I approach these spans of time? Is there a pattern? Yes. There is.

Step One: Cleaning, ordering. I allow time to incorporate morning or afternoon chores into my retreat whether it’s finishing up the dishes in the kitchen, folding clothes, scrubbing the toilet, or watering the plants. Yesterday it was a bigger chore, emptying, dusting, and reorganizing my desk, which is a large secretary hutch from my grandmother. I lit the end of a small piece of palo santo wood and let its sensual scent fill my studio as I worked. I also let my eyes fall on various cues. What should I do with these hours? I trusted my intuition to guide me.

Step Two: Gather tools and comforts. I had raised the ironing board and covered it with a favorite cotton scarf, creating more surface space for the reorganizing, and that is where I pulled my materials together. Runes, two rune guides, my current notebook, a pen, and a mug of tea. I also pulled my stack of NVC (non-violent communication) Needs cards. They would provide words from which my intentions could grow.

Step Three: Warm-up. To prepare myself for a rune reading, I needed to settle down. My energy was high after finishing my cleaning project, and I felt a sense of lingering fizz. I moved to the dining room table. On my place mat, items from my week had collected: a postcard from a friend, some dollar bills I had been saving to send to my mother (she likes being able to give her caregivers’ children a little fun money), and a mailing from a favorite spiritual teacher of mine. I scooted my place mat aside and shuffled the Needs cards, an extensive pile of eighty-eight words that label human needs.

Going through the stack, I set some words aside and held on to others in a quick, gut-response kind of way. I ended up with a keeper stack of three dozen cards or so, honesty, laughter, justice, creativity, understanding among them. What should I do with the collection? I started categorizing them according to kinships of meaning and ended up with six groups. To a passing eye, I might have been playing a new version of Solitaire.

I examined each column, which I began to see as suites, and gave each one a general label. Finally, I selected one single NEED card from each suite as a flagship card for What Gives My Life Meaning: to contribute to life, celebration, expression, creativity, ease, and love. As a warm-up, the process took less than five minutes and didn’t require analysis or brainpower, feeling more like a game to me. The purpose of a warm-up is to get from fizzy to still. Sometimes it’s a walk. Sometimes it’s a song. Or dancing. Or baking. Or planting. But today, the stakes were high. What Gives My Life Meaning, for gosh sakes! My immediate needs had to provide a clue.

Here’s what my warm-up revealed:

During this process, the clarity of my own voice emerged and the sense-making of my own spontaneous choices calmed me. When I looked at the suites I created and the final cards that I chose, I saw that the needs were also the desires of my heart. I looked forward to the rune reading, so I rewarmed my tea and made my way back to the studio for Step Four, the reading.

After I lit the candle and dipped the palo santo into the flame once again until it was smoking, I poured the rose quartz rune stones onto the surface of the ironing board and picked up each one. I hadn’t used my runes for many months and wanted to examine them anew before the reading.

I decided on a three-rune draw for “facing blockage.” My resistance to the prompt suggested a need to crack open. And I was certain my feelings connected to a wariness about my future. I scooped up the runes and as I was bagging them for the draw, two jumped from my hand and onto the floor. That’s not an accident, it’s a sign! I told myself. I bent low to retrieve them and placed them beside each other and then pulled the final draw. I would read from right to left and interpret from there. I consulted the guide as my reading began and used my journal to chart my findings.

Read rune draw from right to left.

My notes started with sketches of the rune letters and notes from the guide. I continued with my own interpretation of what these runes offered to me regarding my prompt and the feeling that I was blocked. What did I conclude?

Me, Now: I have been cleaning the dark corners, being gentle with myself, and penetrating my own cracks and resistances.

The Challenge: I must allow the gift of freedom (in my schedule, my ability to choose my direction) by entering the dance between matter and spirit despite fear, judgment, and doubt.

Best Outcome: A fertile possibility exists that requires the resolution of current projects to “enter the delivery room” of the new.

At the close of the reading I checked the clock. Time to shift gears. Step Five of my Morning Retreat was to stretch, literally, and reach beyond myself. A phone call with Patricia, my writing partner, within the next hour would be just what was needed as my benediction.

As a result of our conversation and my willingness to grapple with the bigness of her question, I had been reminded that my needs and desires are good teachers. Even my resistance was part of the process. I have Patricia to thank for pushing me toward reflection about what is actually one of the most important questions of my life. The question, What gives my life meaning?, lingers on my breath even now as a guide, a friend, a superpower.

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