I am a seeker. Always have been. Always will be. Before, I was seeking myself. And now, I am still seeking myself. But, what I am after now is evolution. My own evolution. In the hopes that, as each day, each year, passes, I become more + more who I already am. Who I am meant to be.
Throughout my life, I have been pulled and inspired by two different words that speak so deeply to my soul: monastic and nomadic. I have always been drawn to, and still am actively seeking, a contemplative life. One inspired by monastic orders of simplicity, solitude, study, meditation, mysticism, and devotion. I have also been inspired by nomadic mystics, who leave behind everything, much like the monastics, and head out into the world. Wandering. Free. Connected to nature. Making a difference as they come + go.
These words, I never realized until recently, are contradictions. I had always just accepted + embraced them both as muses in my life. Goals and inspirations for my spiritual journey. I suppose you could say that I thought of my search as a way to live a monastic nomadic life. A contemplative, free-spirited, wandering life. And, that just made sense to me. Until it didn’t.
Right now I am reading a book, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, by Kathleen Norris, that touches on how a certain place has formed the author. How she has grown, evolved, and changed by living in a small town on the Dakota plains.
The Dakotas are a harsh place to live, according to the author. Wild, expansive, unforgiving, forgotten. A place, many say, without hope. A place to be from, not to move to + settle down in (as the author has done). Of course, in the 20-ish years that she has lived there, she has come to know herself, her soul, and her place in the world in this desolate, rugged, tough desert. As she says, “who goes to the desert to find comfort?!” And, many times, she, and others, wonder why they remain. But, the author finds hope, and a reason to stay, in the examples of the monastic communities of the ancient deserts of the past and the monastic communities of today in the forgotten lands of the Dakotas.
It was her discussion + description of monastic communities that enlightened me and gave me a whole different perspective on my romantic monastic, nomadic beliefs.
Monks and nuns of the Benedictine orders adhere to certain vows, ways of life. One of them is stability, commitment to a particular community, a particular place. The Benedictine monks + nuns in Dakota live counter-cultural to what most people seek: urban areas, control, security, the fast life, success, amenities, more, more, more. In the desert, and in monasteries, monks + nuns live in the present, committed to stability, to seeing things with the long view, to observing the movement of the spirit in the world around them. Knowing where they are and learning to love what they find there.
Reading that was like a flash of lightening cross the wide, expansive desert sky. I have been seeking stability and freedom. Wanting to be still, and yet, run free all at the same time. Feeling pulled to a nomadic, ever-changing, adventurous life – and, yet, yearning to be committed to something.
This little regular day epiphany of mine has spoken to me about settling my soul, staying put, accepting + simply being. This little moment summed up and tied together everything that I have been experiencing in the past 10 years, or more, of my life. It felt as if a burden had been lifted from my soul, the unconscious (and sometimes very conscious) battle between settling down + remaining on the go.
Suddenly, it was all so clear. I am a traveller, but not a gypsy or a nomad. My wandering is over. I have come home to myself. And, therefore, I can settle down… wherever.
The nomadic part of me was my soul needing to wander and explore and discover itself. All these years, I’ve thought of my yearning to live a nomadic life, and my desire to live a contemplative, monastic life, as a literal outward journey. And there was a sense of a battle between the two, even though I never recognized the tension between them.
But, in reality, this journey, has been all internal. A wandering + seeking of my soul to find her true self, to live her most authentic life. To be set free. So, I tended to focus on the nomadic muse, unsuccessfully pushing the monastic muse in the background . Committing, staying put, and stability has always felt boring to me. But, now that’s all done. The need to be a nomad. It wasn’t even really about being a literal nomad anyway. It was really just about letting my soul roam free. And, in the blink of an eye, it magically feels like a calling. A release. A purpose. And so completely right.
The internal nomadic journey is over. I am free to live a stable, committed life. My soul has settled and found it’s home.
How would you describe yourself, my friends? A nomadic, wandering soul? Or a soul seeking stability and commitment?