I spent this past week tasting wine in Languedoc-Roussillon, in southern France. It’s not a bad way to spend a week. And, I did a lot of walking, giving me a good deal of time for cogitation and pondering. I needed it, wrestling with questions that seem more prescient than ever.
Now that I’m supposed to be grown up, what do I want to be?
Where will I unearth my passion, and why is it so often buried?
And is there a secret to staying attentive and replenished?
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going,” Thomas Merton prayed candidly. “I do not see the road ahead of me.”
“In many shamanic societies, if you came to a shaman or medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions. When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence? Where we have stopped dancing, singing, being enchanted by stories, or finding comfort in silence is where we experience the loss of soul. Dancing, singing, storytelling, and silence are the four universal healing salves.” (Thank you Gabrielle Roth)
So, speaking of stories. In the village of Trouillas, we find Domaine Treloar. We met Jonathan, the owner and winemaker. He is affable and welcoming.
Jonathan and his wife Rachael started the winery in 2006. Jonathan is British. And we ask him how he ended up in a remote village in southern France.
“Well,” he said simply, “on 9/11, I saw the first plane hit the tower.”
Jonathan and Rachael lived in NYC within 500m of the Twin Towers, as he worked downtown in the financial district.
“After that,” he tells us, “my whole world was upside down. So, it seemed a good opportunity to ask myself what I wanted to do. This was not just about career. It was about passion and the permission to rethink our life and provided the catalyst to make our dream a reality.”
I love it when we ask one another about following our passion. And yet, why is there always the tempting follow up question about how to make it successful? Which is inevitably tied to income. “You can live on that?” I’ve been asked.
I loved Jonathan’s answer, “My philosophy (about wine making) is not the most profitable. But the pleasure payoff works for me.”
I get profuse (and unsolicited) email advice about my retirement fund and what I will need to live contentedly. None ask me to step back and see investment as a much bigger picture. And none invite me to dance or sing or tell stories.
So, back to wine making. Jonathan and others tell us that passion for good wine means we pay attention to the terroir. Paying attention is always rooted in care. Meaning that we don’t force or alter vineyards to produce grapes they are not suited for.
And care brings dead soil back to life. In the same way the soil dies when it is not cared for, our lifeless spirit gives way to a lesser self; selfish, tribal, judgmental, grumbling and belittling.
With care and passion (as we dance and sing and are enchanted by stories), we invest our heart, spilling empathy, creativity and watchfulness.
With care and passion, we create a healthy terroir for all that is alive inside; generosity, inclusion, charity, open-mindedness and redemption.
(Henri) Nouwen said that all his life two voices competed inside him. One encouraged him to succeed and achieve, while the other called him simply to rest in the comfort that he was “the beloved” of God. Only in the last decade of his life did he truly listen to that second voice. (Philip Yancey)
“This part of your life is not about being a reporter,” the abbot once told Thomas Merton. “It’s about listening to your heart.”
“Vocation,” Merton wrote, “does not come from a voice ‘out there’ calling me to be something I am not. It comes from a voice ‘in here’ calling me to be the person I was born to be.”
So, here’s the deal; from that voice (nourished by wonder, open arms and generosity of spirit), we get to say how the story ends. We get to say where the next chapter takes us.
How does this shift happen? Do we need a personal 9/11?
This much we know; listening to your heart is not an off the shelf program for enlightenment or success. Nor is it merely a healthy dose of willpower absorbed from a motivational course on being a Productivity Powerhouse.
It is not the earthquake
That controls the advent of a different life.
But storms of generosity
And visions of incandescent souls.
And here’s the secret: A “wise and loving father” sat down with each of his almost-teenage sons, and used the word “sanctuary” to assure them that they would always be welcomed, no matter what they had done. He spoke of future mistakes and actions his sons might regret and their fear of the consequences. He went on to say, “When that happens, please… come to me and say only “sanctuary”, and I will know. You can sit there in the silence, and I will keep you sheltered by a love that will never let you go, no matter what you did. We will get through it together. I want you to know this now and to count on it when you feel despondent, like a failure and want to run away. I will be your SANCTUARY—till you can carry on.” (The Compassion Connection, Catherine T. Nerney)
My cynical side takes exception, and I too easily shut everyone else out. Even so, there is, in the words of Parker Palmer, a“safe space to regain my bearings, reclaim my soul, heal my wounds, and return to the world as a wounded healer. It’s not merely about finding shelter from the storm—it’s about spiritual survival and the capacity to carry on.”
I am home, on Vashon Island. The good news is that we haven’t dealt with the freezing that threatened so many of you. Although it is snowing here as I write this. For us, unusual. Spring is at least in shouting range, and we see our diviners of lavender hope, Iris Reticulata.
The Super Bowl is history. An event we watch for the ads.
I’ll be walking and pondering. And dancing and singing and telling stories. And (with Diane Ackerman) “I swear I will not dishonor my soul with hatred, but offer myself humbly as a guardian of nature, as a healer of misery, as a messenger of wonder, as an architect of peace.”
Quote for your week…
The plain fact is that the planet does not need
more successful people.
But it does desperately needs
more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers,
and lovers of every kind.
POEMS AND PRAYERS
slipping on my shoes,
buttering the sky,
That should be enough contact
With God in one day
To make everyone “crazy.”
I will not die an unlived life.
I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think
that I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire
in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything
apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this
you will lead me by the right road
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.