“Taking Time to Reflect” by Patricia Cavanaugh

May what I do flow from me like a river,

no forcing and no holding back,

the way it is with children.

-Rainer Maria Rilke

These three lines from a Rilke poem took my breath away when I happened to read them in his Book of Hours during a recent retreat (Rainer Maria Rilke’s Book of Hours).  I had been feeling an urge to look anew at my 3rd Act direction and I found these simple words pointing the way, urging me to try a new approach to putting my work out in the world.

In preparation for the ten days at Bishop’s Ranch , an Episcopal retreat center near Healdsburg California, I laid out a series of questions for myself focused on my work.  I challenged myself to take a long look at my goals because of the  changes that had occurred in my life over the last year.  In our 3rd act work, we recommend that a plan be developed for this stage of life in order to have a successful life experience.  But, it is also important to take that plan out, review it on a regular basis and adjust it as needed to respond to the positive and negatives that life sends our way.

During my retreat I not only found  inspiration and direction from poetry but also from my walks through the well cared for land that the staff of Bishop’s Ranch stewards.  During a particularly long hike I found myself walking over three different kinds of bridges and four gates, some new and some old.  I chose to see these in a symbolic way and thought about the importance of various transitions in my life and the gifts and challenges those transitions afforded me. Some of the challenges where old and familiar like the old gates I passed through and some were new opportunities for transition like the flexible bridge that had been recently constructed by the trail crew.

Part of my time at Bishop’s Ranch included prayer and meditation  Twice a day I visited the small St George’s Chapel for an hour and a half giving me plenty of time for reflection.   The rest of the day was spent walking the property or exploring the beautiful countryside filled with  vineyards and charming towns surrounding the Ranch.  Each day upon rising, I selected a question from my prepared list and focused on it in my sitting meditation in the chapel and my moving meditation as I hiked or drove through the countryside.

I also  used The Book of Hours, mentioned above,as a poetic guide to explore the questions before me.  I selected a poem each day, one that  seemed to speak to the issues I was considering.  As answers to my questions came to me I wrote them down in the journal I brought with me for just this purpose.  I found that the responses came both in the form of fully fledge ideas and in slips of notions that needed further exploration.  My ground rules where not to force an idea or answer to come but to allow it to surface in it’s own way.  I also made a commitment to myself to come to a resolution about all of my concerns but  to not take any action until my retreat was over.  I have found in the past that taking action too soon sometimes short circuits the full process of exploration.

By the end of the ten days,  I had a new plan of action for 2013 with clearly defined next steps to be taken in the next two months readying myself for the New Year.  My plan had shifted to include the changes in my life and I felt a reenergized commitment to my 3rd Act.

Have you pulled out your plan and reviewed it?  Have health or financial changes caused you to  rethink some of your goals? Have new interests pulled you in a new direction?  We would love to hear your experiences.

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  1. Suzy says:

    Beautiful Patricia, thanks for the reminder not to act too quickly. That is something that I am exploring in my life frequently these days.

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