Welcome to A Spiral Space.
“Each life is the biography of a hidden conversation between consciousness, experience, and memory. In and through all that happens, each life strives to become present to itself. To gather in the circle of presence is the dream of life. This is the arena of spirituality.”
“The one who dreamed the universe loved circles. There is some strange way in which everything that goes forward is somehow still traveling within the embrace of the circle. Longing and belonging are fused within the circle. The mind is a circle, too. This is what keeps you gathered in yourself. If you were just a point in space, you would be forever isolated and alone. The beauty of the mind is its circular form. Yet the circle of the mind is broken somewhere. This fracture is always open; it is the secret well from which all longing flows. All prayer, love, creativity, and joy come from this source; our fear and hurt often convert them into their more sinister shadows.”
- John O’Donohue
I spent a long time thinking of what I’d like to call the work I’m doing. Which sucks. When doing soul work, the last thing you want to be focused on is marketing. I know this to be true.
About 6 years ago now I started a little side hustle business. It grew organically out of a move my family made to a new home. My husband and I had put all our money into the downpayment for the new house. We needed a five bedroom house for our Brady Bunch blended family and we were still hurting from the divorces that depleted all our savings. So we were broke. Out of necessity I turned to Craigslist… and I fell in love. I found treasures on every page. High quality, vintage furniture was hidden on this magical website, better than I would have ever found at a retail store. Soon I drove myself out to the country, sometimes as far as three hours away to pick up that perfect side table or lamp. Once I got there, the seller would invite me into her house and show me the piece her Aunt Mabel had left her. She’d tell me about Mabel and all her quirks and the moments of grace she offered her. I listened. I listened a lot.
The drive was quiet and calming; the stories were heartfelt, and I felt humbled to hear them. Furnishing my new house became, perhaps, one of the most spiritually fulfilling things I had ever done. I found a hand-hewn cypress dining table, a brass wheat sheaf cocktail table like the one Coco Channel had in her Paris apartment, I found a terrific 70’s orange sectional that screamed “lounge on me.” But finally, after a while, there was no more room. I couldn’t fit another club chair or credenza into the space, but I didn’t want my adventures to end. So I started a business.
“You tell me what you want and I’ll find it for you. I’ll even find it at the price point you want.” It was lovely. The added bonus of making the buyers happy and connecting with people who were in need of something I could offer made the experience even more meaningful.
But then I’d find a piece that no one needed and yet inside I knew someone, someday would want it. (hoarder alert!) Eventually I bought a booth at an antique mall called The Green Shag Market, and every weekend I’d set out to estate sales and drag my husband along for the heavy lifting. We bought a pick up truck.
My spiritual practice of long, winding contemplative drives and hearing the stories about Grandpa Joe’s favorite chair were over. I now ran a business. It was fun for a while and I met interesting people in the resale community, but it wasn’t what I longed for.
Then I heard a sermon. The one where Jesus asks his disciples to leave their nets and follow him. They all had really good reasons to delay leaving. One had to say goodbye to his family, one had to bury his father. And yet, Jesus said, nope.. now. The sermon explained that Jesus wasn’t being a jerk, he was making a point. Sometimes you have to give up things that are good to find the things that are better. Sometimes we’re called to more meaningful experiences in our lives and that means leaving things behind that we really value, things that are inherently good. So I called Green Shag Market and cancelled my booth rental and decided to go to seminary.
Well, it took a little longer than that, but that was the trajectory.
But I had learned that spiritual practice and meaningful work can easily be commodified and lose its sense of purpose. For some people branding and selling can be the thing that drives them towards their purpose, but for others, like me, we can get so distracted that we forget why we began.
So when I started thinking of a name for the work I do now, spiritual direction, I really didn’t want to spend too much time thinking about it. I wanted to trust that the name would come. Then one day I discovered the poem A Chambered Nautilus by Oliver Wendell Holmes.
“Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year’s dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.”
The poem described the threshold where I stood. The “shining archway” that “stretched” into the next space, the next chamber of my journey. It hurt a bit to leave behind the old, but the spiral was growing and I was ready.
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