The Myth of Chaos
On journeying and returning home
First there was Chaos, the vast immeasurable abyss, Outrageous as a sea, dark, wasteful, wild. ~Milton
In the mysterious beginning of the world, as thought by the Greeks, lay a formless confusion, a time when Chaos, personified, brooded over unbroken darkness. From Chaos, two children were born—Night and Erebus, the unfathomable depth where death dwells. Nothing else existed—so all was empty, silent, endless.
Then something miraculous came to pass. From darkness and death, Love and radiant Day were born. New light, and from this, new life would continue to arise, created from the nuturing of what arose from Chaos.
And so, this was the myth I shared to begin the time I spent with a lovely group of people who chose to retreat to Greece with me this past week. Certainly, from chaos, we each arrived in a wholly new and unknown territory, eager for some story of wellness and retrieval of love and something more radiant to arise
This retreat was planned 3 years ago—just before the pandemic washed its chaos over us—back when every one of us was different in some way. It was planned before travel felt impossibly scary, forbidden even; planned before the chaos of illness and death, disconnection and separation had become part of our daily language of life. It was planned before the myth of Chaos, the formless and unbroken darkness of time, was more like a lived reality.
Each of us came to Greece with our own stories, wounds, and expectations. Within the landscape of mountains and sea, each of us came together, knit into a community, within which some of the chaos could be held and offered up for the birth of love and radiance.
I remembered and witnessed the way that new life is created within a community that allows for vulnerability and honesty. I witnessed the way a landscape can transform a people, and the way that people can heal each other. And I witnessed the ways that chaos continues to arise and churn, even within healing. The Yes, And of life and its many forms.
It is true that wherever we go, there we are, and so many of us faced our old, entrenched patterns and how easily these patterns can leave us feeling displaced. Yet, we also witnessed the way that we come home into true refuge when we settle into the present moment through our senses, when we use our practices to better see ourselves and the truth of what is, when we allow ourselves to rest in a greater Presence, and when we connect to the relationship of community so that we can deepen our relationship with love.
Each day I walked the hillside that took me to our yoga practice space, our shala, looking out to the giant mountains that rose up from the clear, blue-green sea. I felt myself stand as a mountain among the mountains, imagined the fluid water running through my own veins. I had the privilege to witness as guests relaxed into themselves, their nervous system recognizing a state of healing. I laughed more deeply than I have for a long time, was greeted by human kindness in myriad ways each and every day. I lived into the possibility of a slower rhythm and asked myself, “What about this time is reminding me of the most important things in life?”
Retreat travel isn’t accessible for everyone, but making space to see the landscape and ourselves in a new way can be. Taking refuge in the practices that build presence, in the community that builds a commitment to understanding how to connect with others, and in the spacious, aware part of us that connects us to a larger Presence is possible without travel. How then shall I be in the world now, I find myself asking? Do I return to the hustle and stress of before or do I find a part of my soul leaning into retreat each day?
Today, I think of these lines from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass:
Reckless O soul, exploring, I with thee, and though with me, Sail forth--steer for the deep waters only, For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all. O my brave soul! O farther farther sail! O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God? O farther, farther, farther sail!
Today, I am setting my soul’s sail, daring joy, sensing that wherever I am, I’m held in a great and endless sea. Steering for the deep waters within, this soul of mine, whatever landscape I’m in.
This retreat time for me felt like a reminder of what it feels like to find a place of belonging, without and within; to minister to others and to be ministered to by place and people. So, I leave you with this hope friend—that you, too, find places of belonging within and without, and that your soul might be ministered to by the hands of another.
Next week, bonus materials will return for paid subscribers. I have returned with a mild case of Covid, so may have to hold off on returning to live classes until the following week. For friends who want to know the status of classes this week, check in on social media or contact me at 401-440-0279.
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