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A New Practice? Braving the Fear...

Updated: Dec 24, 2023

I've learned more why naming my own heart’s desire is fraught for me.

Anxious energies swirled within me all month around whether I would have a single or be paired with a roommate at a Circle Immersion retreat. Hope Springs is a marvelous, holistically-communal center offering rooms with at least two beds in them. This means that participants are usually paired as roommates, often persons you’ve never met before. I’ve loved how this prioritizes community over individualism-isolation. I acknowledge the anxiety or dissonance I experience in it as well. It brings up body-anxieties for me, laced with shame—will I snore? What if I fart? I mean, seriously…these rise up with dread. AND I’ve deeply appreciated how being paired with a roommate re-programs me. This body-fear has been eased by having a roommate.

I said yes to this event because of the circle-way communion, even as sabbatical is pushing me into introverting desires. After a semester of ‘performatives’ in seminary responsibilities, I felt a deep yearning for a more strongly communal container to support, even reshape me in my entrance into sabbatical. Sabbatical yet necessarily brings an introverting push. These tensions played out in the logistics. I emailed a request for a single. “We’ll do our best,” was the ambiguous response.

A month of swirling anxiety began.

This was no longer about a roommate or not.

I had asked for what I needed, what I desired. I landed in fear, vulnerability, with a visceral sense “I was about to get smacked.”

I don’t have a sense of the origin of that kind of visceral language. My early years do not match those physical words/fear. My current home does not have that energy. I recognize the fear and dread, all the same.

Like when I drafted the sabbatical proposal, submitting it to faculty-colleague review. Fear and dread were then followed by an awareness that if the sabbatical were not granted, I would leave United entirely. It was granted, shifting my fear to relief and curiosity.

I therefore got curious more quickly here. There is a pattern in my family—of origin or immediate—in which naming what you desire is considered selfish, self-serving, even lazy. Deep within the lineage is the (religious) assumption that virtue is self-sacrifice, putting others before yourself. To an extreme conclusion that none of us really excels at naming what we need, what we desire. To name what you desire/need can bring isolation and disconnection, potentially shame or punishment.

As the retreat drew closer, I realized my invitation (and then gift to receive) was not single/roommate, but awakening to and then braving the deeply ingrained fear of spiritual violence, disconnection, when I ask for what I need, or worse, what I desire.

When the retreat leader called to let me know I would have a single, I smiled. It was a blessing, for other potential-illness reasons, but it didn’t mean what it had a month ago.

Braving the fear of naming what I want/need can become a practice, even a gift to myself and others, in time...

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