Returning from a week at Kripalu places a specific demand upon me: Rest and Integration. For this to happen, I need to go deep inside. So this week I am honored to present a series of posts by some wonderful writers about their experiences of Unexpected Bliss.
by Rachelle Mee-Chapman
I am not one of those people who eagerly latches on to the idea of “Bliss.” As a chronic pain survivor, Bliss is often in short supply. Even when I know what my Bliss is, I cannot always begin to reach for it. I’m stretching, though, to sink more deeply into the concept. So when Christine suggested the idea of writing about Unexpected Bliss, something coalesced for me right away.
Lately, I have been submerged into the Unexpected Bliss that comes with Solitude.
I am a spiritual director, and most spiritual directors are pretty gaga about Solitude. They go on silent retreats. They spend time in their “quiet closets.” They walk for hours alone in the heath. Not me. My natural proclivity is for the group, the pack, the tribe.
In our former house in Seattle, our biological family of four rapidly expanded to become a household of seven. There was our long-time housemate Sharon, who will forever be the soulful center of our children’s early memories. Then there was our son-adopted-by-affection, Souren, who started out coming to dinner and ended up with his own room on the ground floor. Finally, there was our beloved housemate Rebecca with her downstairs room filled with bookshelves and the soft glow of the fish tank. Add to this clan the dozen or so folks who came each week for dinner at our Thursday night soulcare group, along with the endless stream of playdates, tea dates, potlucks, and impromptu wine tastings, and our big house was rarely quiet. I adored it. The community that surrounded me was my pride and joy.
And then, I moved to Denmark.
Denmark does not have a reputation for being an overly gregarious nation. Expat friends tried to warn us. But like most people ready for adventure, we blithely ignored whatever we did not want to hear. We were skilled community builders. Didn’t we have lots of evidence of our ability to create soultribes? Surely we could overcome cultural biases and build a new community amongst the Danes.
As it turns out, not so much. And after a year of trying, I pretty much gave up. As a fellow ex-pat friend put it, “I am tired of always saying ‘How are you? How is your family? How is your cat?’ I think I do not have to try to be so nice if no one is reciprocating.” It’s exhausting, to host all the play dates and make all the dinner invitations and never receive any in return. Eventually you give up. Eventually, you give in. And then the days pour out before you like a large, silent lake. I resisted that reality for a long time. Then I realize that I had to sit by that lake and wait for it to tell me its name.
“Solitude.” It whispered. “Solitude.”
In Solitude, I found out how strong I truly am. In Solitude, I faced loneliness, illness, and confusion – and I survived. In Solitude, I sat in silence and found out – not what my community wanted me to do – but what I wanted to do. Solitude asked me to type for endless hours until I found my voice. Solitude led me to the work I love most.
Solitude introduced me to my Bliss.
Perhaps there is something in your life that is not your favorite. Something that has come your way and landed straight in your lap. Something that is not your first nature, but is nonetheless quite real, quite prominent—quite a big part of your every day.
What would it look like if you sat beside it and waited for it to tell you its name? What might happen if you patted it down, ever so nicely, to see what gifts it might have hidden in its pockets? What if it is holding on to something for you until you are ready for it?
What if that thing is Bliss?