Wednesday, September 24, 2008

August & September Sabbatical Journal 2009

Sabbatical Journal August & September  2008

It wasn’t very dramatic or even scary really.  Just waking up on a Saturday and feeling like I’d slept on something wrong which now needed to be stretched out to restore circulation- an arm maybe or just a hand.  But it was my heart.  I could feel the rhythm was off and I felt a bit light headed.  I wasn’t in pain, no nausea, no sweats- just some sense that something important was a bit off regular.  I had a shower, felt more light headed, sat on the couch and told Marshall, and then called my cousin Annette- Super RN.  Time for a clinic she says.  We are on Cape Cod and the EKG at the clinic shows things are a bit off.  I take the suggested ride in the ambulance because it seemed unfair to Marshall to drive me, and my possible heart attack an hour to the hospital, though I didn’t feel sick enough to warrant an ambulance.  With oxygen, all symptoms disappear.  3rd and 4th EKGs are normal.  It seems that some backside of my heart didn’t get quite enough oxygen but other than that I don’t have enough illness to show what’s wrong.  A stress test with my hospital later on at home shows only a normal 57 year old over weight who seems stubborn enough to go longer than needed to show he’s fine.  

I did have a moment or two in the ambulance when I set aside the idea that I was really OK and opened to the idea that maybe this was serious and I was in trouble.  What would I do about open-heart surgery?  Or not being able to work or go upstairs?  Of course, I didn’t take the middle road consideration, which is order the chicken Caesar and 86 on the next 10 bacon cheeseburgers.  I had a sad deep moment about surgery and large life changes/limitations.  And then I got back to the moment and felt badly that Marshall had to drive alone on a beautiful morning when we should have been at the beach while I got to enjoy a very perky EMT and be in an ambulance going very fast without being in pain or scared much.

I had been working outside most of June and July.  I schlepped about 1,000 pounds of soil, lumber, and flagstone into the back yard for garden beds and placed the flagstone outside the 3 south facing doors.  After planting the garden and mowing the 3 acres of slope, I began making a stonewall.  I got a stairs mostly made and laid some very large rocks as the wall base.  And then I stopped.

Something inside had shifted.  Instead of going outside to work, I thought of things to do in the house or errands to run.  I was anxious, restless, and couldn’t concentrate.  I couldn’t bring myself to return to the discipline of daily outdoor work, which I’d arranged for my own health.  Instead I’d sort a linen closet or clean a desk or oil the dining room table or shop a secondhand store for some bargain (a $90 Sabatier cleaver for $4- oh ye of little faith keep shopping!).

So, I watched this tension and fear moving in me and wondered at its source.  It took a few weeks but on a long drive through beautiful Vermont farmland on a gorgeous summers day, it became clear.  As I worked outside I could feel my body change.  Muscles were more flexible, blood pressure lower, and my posture shifted from fat out of shape person to fat stronger person preparing to lose weight.  And very quietly deep within me I could feel the young child sexually abused not wanting to lose the protection of being fat and unattractive.  Some moments of sadness, some quiet grief for this young part of me.  And then sorting out the puzzle.

The puzzle- I am on sabbatical to become more healthy and return to work.  Part of more healthy is losing weight.  My blood pressure requires it- I might be able to get off medication if I lose 30 pounds.  I’ve osteoporosis (I’ve testosterone therapy stories that shouldn’t be told in public!) and the weight lifting helps bone retain calcium.  My sleep disorder of not getting down to REM sleep is better with physical work.  How then to tend to this young resistance within me and get back on the path?  Patience, calm, and reassurance- in all ways, at all times- this is what I learned as a Montessori teacher of young children for 10 years.

Today I spent the morning and afternoon mowing our field.  It was my first day back outside working hard.  My heart was into the work and I never got winded as I did mowing back in June- so my body must be getting better.  Resistance came only in hints and calm reassurance seemed to be enough.  It will take me another 2 days to finish the mowing.  And then there are 3 cords of wood to stack.  And I’d like to paint at least the south side of the house before it gets cold.  And I’ll also need to clean out the tool shed and collect kindling before I move the wood shed.  Back in a groove, it seems.  Oh yes, the stone wall should get done in there too along with emptying the night soil from the outhouse. Plus bring in the tomatoes for spaghetti sauce.  10 pints of pesto already in the freezer.

In my spare time, I need to convene a clearness committee to ponder re-entering my work opposing torture.  I’ve some questions to ask others and seek their questions to increase my understanding, broaden my horizon.  Other than that, not much else is new.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

22 Years Later - September 14th

22 years ago today, Marshall and I met for the first time.  It was the last warm day of summer.  I was at the gay swimming hole in the area, the Rock River and he came along.  In all this time what amazes me most is that we love each other more.  Over time the surrender to deeper love has become greater.  I had no inkling of this in the marriages I saw coming up.  And up to that time I had never known a gay couple for any length of time that were long term.  I’ve always seen marriages that don’t feel quite right to me.  There seems more separation than joining, more not quite knowing one another as deeply, and not noticing when the breath around the other changes.  Our marriage  is my greatest teacher about myself, the world, and observing the dance we enter into with another at any level.  I wonder at times why this miracle has been granted me.  I think of others I’ve known who never got a chance for true love anywhere in their lives that I could see.  I remember the poverty of that state for myself.  And from that former vantage point I could never have envisioned the tenderness and togetherness I experience now.  One does not learn swimming or driving or sex from a book.  And the blending with another life to know all of one another is a path that can be learned, but I can’t imagine it being taught.  I remember my first response to knowing I have come upon something very different from what I had ever known was fear.  YIKES!  This had more power than I’ve seen before.  What might this power mean?  More chance to be hurt?  More need?  More work?  Yes, all of that and more.  I think the thing about great love is that it asks more than we can give and gives more than we can receive.  And that balance of too much is a teacher in giving and receiving that goes on and on.  Can we increase our receiving?  Yes, thank goodness.  Can we increase our giving?  Yes and hooray for that too.  But for me the learning has been slow.  I think it took the first 7 years of being together for me to really begin to let in this other life.  And by now we have a much more graceful dance.  We’ve just had a few days on Cape Cod for vacation.  Marshall came down with a cold, which limited our time out and about.  I woke up on the next to last day with my heart not quite feeling right and had an EKG at each end of an ambulance ride- more on that anon.  My main point being that we did our dance of meeting change, maybe disappointment or fear, in maybe the most graceful we’ve ever done.  Sure the vacation was changed, but how we were with one another only increased in care and meeting the other where we were.  Had these events happened 10 or 15 years ago, I don’t think it would have been as smooth.  And like spiritual life, romantic life is cumulative- the more you show up and do the dance, the better one becomes at the dance itself and understanding what the dance is and how to be most graceful.  And this shows you who you are at essence- something nearly impossible to find in the midst of noisy American popular culture.  I know there are all kinds of teachers and learning situations.  Disasters, great gifts, huge change, small learning adding up to larger visions- all are teachers when used well.  But I am especially grateful that in my 56 years I’ve had these 22 years of learning in a very specific classroom of life called true love and that together we are acing the surprise quizzes thus far.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Switching Reverence

Here is a problem/puzzle I am wondering at these days.  In the very early days of my work a wonderful healer, Jean Schweitzer, suggested that I needed to engage more directly with practices of reverence to keep myself clear as I touched trauma clients and witnessed absurd amounts of pain.  This was very helpful.  Over the years a number of ideas, practices, and disciplines have been used. My capacity to be with others pain grew and my own fatigue in the work lessened.  The spiritual gift of being able to sense another’s pain and to release it became encased in tones of reverence, a practiced discipline.  A second skin comes in proper sequence for balance and clearing.

Now here’s the hitch.  One goes on sabbatical to rest from the work and reassess how to proceed after 25 years of good works.  One stops touching and teaching and following the sense of pain seeking to be of help.  And so where does that wisdom of the second skin come into play?  Where in the daily living is one to find what has been associated work when no work is allowed?  

Rest goes well.  I feel much of the physical fatigue has lifted.  I can read about torture with interest once again and even allow myself to wonder how long would it take me to teach about to torture at every monthly meeting in my yearly meeting- but not allow myself thought beyond wonder.

I’ve always taught that gratitude is the prow of being/becoming graceful.  I can feel my gratitude increase with rest and space and time without schedule.  But I need to find some ways to implement moments, breaks in the rhythm of the day, and routine-ize some reverence where in the care for myself during sabbatical has the same quality of Light and grace as my former work in the world.  Is that right?  It seems so but I am still wondering about this.

Does the intention of being spiritual for the self carry different qualities?  Does all my learning have to be vicarious?  I learned of my own learning disabilities teaching children to read.  I freed my own body of years of old fear as I changed my body in preparing to work on others’ bodies.  Always teaching becomes simple reminders of what I know but don’t always do- do I learn so reluctantly?  Changes, shift of routine, learning to trust mid-air – these are always my biggest learnings.  That and not taking betrayal so personally.  Life long teachings for me that seem to come in various forms over and over.

There does seem to be a blessing with non-verbal physical work.  What feelings, ideas, wonderings that need to float up do so better when simply stacking firewood, building a stonewall, or painting the bedroom.

The grace or Light that comes upon me as I go into work washes all worry, clears posture, eliminates doubt, and makes a full sense of well-being and that all good possibilities are within reach- such a deal.

Watching Bill - July 1995

I recently found this journal page about my dear beloved & departed friend Bill Kreidler when we were roommates at a large Quaker conference.  His death with AIDS in 2000 brought me the largest grief I have known.  This journal was the beginning of loving him against the rush of time and illness, and feeling the lush joy of loving someone so completely.

Watching Bill- July 1995


He slept until the alarm rang and took a large handful of pills after breakfast.  His clothes and things were scattered all around the room.  He always said goodnight before putting his earplugs in and went to sleep on his side.  It was never longer than two minutes before his breathing was deep and slow.  There were all sorts of people who wanted to have the pleasure of his company, to be with him and feel his smile, his quick wit, his generous humanity.  He never took a mouthful of food before praying and he only said wickedly funny things about people when he was with one good friend or a few select ones.  He understood that messages and leadings came at any time and in many ways.  Some part of him was always listening for the next ideas the Divine would send him.  He danced with a four year old in the dance contest on Friday night.  She felt confident and beautiful the way only children awash with care and comfort can.  I wept as I watched them, wondering how in the world had I been so fortunate to have this dear friend so many years in my life and how many more would I have this outrageous luxury.  All that was good and tender about him showed in the careful way he held her hand and led her in a simple tap dance.  It was the respect and joy that we wish and pray for each child.  It was the peaceable kingdom revealed in a fun little dance.  He dressed up in my new silk pants and kimono and strode down the hall to the full-length mirror flowing and rippling like the delighted child he was.  He is more beautiful now than at any time in his life- and in all ways.  Can that be?  Is all life so?  Does everyone, or everyone who's trying, make their life so much better that by and by it has a glow to it?  There were times when I watched him just for the joy of feeling all my love for him.  Can it be only sixteen years that I have known him?  There isn't anyone in my family that I know as well.  His long lean body is more toned now than ever.  And his love of the irreverent and of sexuality has only grown deeper.  From our dormitory window, we watched a young man tending the grounds.  As his muscles heaved the wood chips from the cart to the evergreens, Bill was clear that we were witnessing one of the many cathedrals God had made.  We watched a long time with the breathy appreciation of young girls and made the comments to each other of not-young men beyond the reach of such beauty laughing at themselves.  He talked about his love of sex outdoors with the same passion that he talked about his revelations during prayer.  He loved laughing more than most things and good stories or sharp one-liners delighted more than words can say.  He could talk about people and their lives with care and mercy even, or maybe especially, if they had hurt him.  His understanding of forgiveness was large and articulate.  He saw it as the crux to resolving conflict and to making life worth living, particularly for the wounded.  He felt a duty to share what he knew that took him beyond comfort and into tasks of great work.  He spent the time before bed telling me what he had seen and heard that day while he set certain things in place for the next day- his papers and bible, his clock, his briefcase, his AIDS pills.  He wore his regular sort of Land's End/ LL Bean-ish kind of outfits and never looked unready. 

July Sabbatical Journal 2008

July Sabbatical Journal 2008 - John Calvi

Marshall and I have just had a week vacation at home, a decision of budget and simplicity.  There was much need of rest, deep rest, spontaneous rest, and some fun- but no planning or effort or schedule.  His work this spring reached 70 & 80 hours a week with counseling graduate students applying to his college, teaching English as a second language to community college immigrants, and taking classes towards his second masters, a masters in teaching.  Insomnia, which has plagued him since doing some work in Ireland in 1988 and his body clock never quite fully returned, made for further wear and tear.  Plus a decision at the upper levels of college administration to decrease and probably eliminate the program he recruits for includes bad politics, some slander, and a growing dishonesty.  Yes, a big rest- empty the mind, be surrounded by favorite possibilities.  So, some lovely dinners with friends, catching up with people he missed in busyness.  And a solid rule that a nap could be had any time.  Helping a friend to move gave us a lovely teak coffee table too big for our house.  Replacing the outdoor gas grill and making some favorite foods and some time with his colleagues leaving the college in a political migration was great fun.  And an adventurous removal of trash and recycling that brought spaciousness to the tool shed.  The list of what didn’t get done is long.  We kept saying someone should mow the lawn.  Rest and time together as a first priority was achieved.

When I was a school teacher, a Montessori teacher of 3 – 6 year olds, there was a month near the end of my 10 year career when I was really tired of being in the classroom.  It was June and the beautiful summer days in Vermont beckoned as I remained in the church basement classroom with 24 kids.  I called a circle and all came and sat on the big green and blue braided oval rug.  “Let’s go to the park.” I said.  “No, we want to stay here and work,” they said.  There was no escaping it, too much success.

I’ve had similar discussions with myself of late.  I spent a month doing lots of outside work each day and then retreated indoors.  It was some combination of heat and lack of discipline.  My body would say- let’s go build that stone wall!  And I’d find something else to do inside.  But I could feel my body was right.  After lots of work I was sleeping better and my body was tightening up, my clothes were looser.  But now this procrastination stymies progress.  So I began the stonewall. How odd that all the disciplines I have for work to serve others seems so elusive in serving myself.  I am wondering how it is that what I need and know to be good for me seems to be just beyond my decision to reach.  How odd human beings are.  How odd I am in knowing myself and not knowing.

Years ago, Marshall removed a stonewall at the entrance to our little house.  Huge rocks were tossed on the slope south below the greenhouse.  I began to move all these rocks down to the terrace.  Some of the rocks are much larger than I can lift.  So, I roll them downhill a bit and hope to stay out of their way.  This creates a showroom of rocks to choose from and frees up the slope where the wall will be.  I have to prepare the slope by ripping out weeds, chasing out snakes, and making straight lines of earth where none exists.  I’ve never made a wall before.  But I am thinking it’s in my blood as a first generation Italian immigrant.  I am hoping it will lean back just a bit as a retaining wall, be parallel to both the greenhouse, which is above the wall, and the raised garden beds I built last month that lie below the wall.  I’m hoping to make more garden beds once the wall is done and to place the heat loving plants like tomatoes near the wall.  As the sun brought over 80 temps, my resolve melts.  As I begin building stone steps I try to listen to the stone as I listen to someone’s body when I place my hands on them to hear what should happen, how to help or place hands.  Stone are more difficult to hear for me somehow or maybe I just need more practice. I stand on the house roof, take a photo of my progress, and see I’ve a long way to go.  Sometimes the placement is just right.

I am interested to watch my thoughts wander as I work.  Ideas, memories, songs, poems, quotes, people I miss- all seem to waft through as I try not to pin my own foot under some small boulder.  I am noticing, at 56, that life seems long.  How many people have I known?  How many circles of people have I moved through of friends, Quakers, healers, teachers, kids, musicians, family, etc?  I find myself wondering where is so and so now?  Did he die?  What was his last name?  How did I end up living with those people in that house in Boulder?  What was it Elizabeth said about writing that I meant to remember that time we went out to Thai supper?  As my body and one part of my brain lifts and moves heavy rocks, another part of my brain wanders and shifts in memory and wonder.  I can feel strength return to my posture as I work.  I can see our home change and become better.  I can feel the space within and without as I release myself into the work and a there’s contentment nothing else brings.  

June Sabbatical Journal 2008

Sabbatical Journal June 2008 John Calvi

It took a month to get the annual Beethoven Letter out- much longer than usual.  Partly because my office systems were not kept up over the last few years with all my QUIT work, so address updates delayed me.  Also I’ve 3 different computer programs for Email, paper mail addresses, and bookkeeping so it’s hard to find and keep complete records. The return to desk work cramped my brain with details and deadlines.  Amidst this was a death in the family and giving the eulogy before my large family in my hometown small Catholic church where I had first communion in 1958.  Sabbatical was derailed getting out the annual letter and as I cared for beloved cousins and waded through my own history of family in hometown.

Now it is early June and I am back working outside and it is a tremendous relief to both my body and mind. At the edge of my thinking is how will I return to the work of ending torture.  What are the parts I am lead to and best at, what parts wear me down, and how to reenter the dance.  But all this is only wondering without deep seeking or research , so as not to interrupt rest.  But each day it comes to mind.  Mostly my mind is removed for this but not entirely, not for long.

We’ve a few acres of meadow on a south-facing slope surrounded by pine, hemlock, and hardwoods.  The meadow lies below the house where the slope continues into the woods down to a beaver pond and further downhill to a college for learning disabled young adults.  Our field is being taken over by an invasive species of shrub called Buckthorn- a European import used to make hedgerows.  We’ve rented a walk-behind brush hog that will cut small trees and I’ll take 2 days to schlep this noisy thing up and down hill and force back the onslaught.  I remember hearing tales of Findhorn and certain plants asked to thin out or become more plentiful- would be lovely to work at that level.  My spiritual communication is less than that.

I’ve been clearing a triangle of land above the house between the driveway and the road where two trees were taken down.  I’ve gathered the logs for firewood and now am hauling the branches off into the woods hoping the deer will use them for windbreaks in the long winters.  But I’ve started too late and each branch is entwined with briars, vines, and more Buckthorn making each move a tug of war until I find my footing, summon all my stubbornness- never really an issue as some know, and haul off another limb to be stacked.  It would be lovely to put all this through a chipper and spread it below the 30 high bush blueberries we have at the bottom of the field, but that’s not a choice for now as this must be done quickly.

This afternoon I began to clear the old garden bed where we grew vegetables before 3 things got in the way- 1- a woodchuck who ate everything, including jalapenos, but the tomatoes and basil. 2- Marshall’s second masters meant he had no time for anything but working, eating, and sleeping.  3- I took on the QUIT work and gave up the gardens and yard.  The whole outside around the house looked so abandoned that the deer began to live right up next to the house and thought it rude when we came out the door.  The crack in the outhouse framing causing an updraft is another story, soon to be history.

I found 2 snakes who preferred I not retake the garden and I uncovered a pile of rocks that I will make into a stonewall if all goes well this summer.  As my energy ebbed I settled into painting some plywood for an outdoor table and taking down 3 wind chimes for repair.  Yards of fish line and a couple hours later, they’re ready to go back outside.  One chime is particularly wonderful- it plays the chord outlawed by the Catholic church called the Devil’s tri-tone which evokes doubt, questions authority, and brings one out of settled patterns- quite subversive for a few notes!

I’ve two challenges at this point half way through my sabbatical- first - keeping the disciplines of physical work each day, staying hours outside and working my body hard.  And the discipline of eating less heavy to lose weight, regain muscle tone, and lower blood pressure.  While I can claim more capacity for stubborn when I decide to do something, I have a hard time changing patterns.  I spent half my life underweight.  And now to have to work to regain my body is more or less a shock as though I suddenly find myself in Japan and having to find a way home- quite odd.   Second is finding ways to keep reverence before me in palpable ways.  I’ve spent decades surrendering to spiritual guidance to do hands-on healing work.  This process has meant being washed as I seek to make a gift to another.  And now, without the urgency of another’s pain, I am having to find the stillness to bring this washing upon myself and interrupt the daily noises of life in the world.  Really, it’s sort of like doing something left-handed for the first time- not impossible, but takes some thinking, some thoughtfulness, and some patience.  Both these disciplines are so out of pattern to the life I’ve built over these past 25 years of healing work that I’m having to navigate new waters and set new ways of being.  Instead of having just enough energy to do the work of healing/teaching/on-the-road/QUIT, now I am working to rest as much as I need and then work as much as possible but none of the previous work and none of the previous ways.  Keeping all this in mind always is a push.

I made good progress on this while painting the upstairs, loss some of this while getting out the B-letter, but now I am back in the groove and hoping to stay groovy.  It helps that summer is my favorite time and that my body is responding so well as I do work.  I can feel my posture shift and muscle tone restored more each day.  I’m feeling very blessed to be here now.

May Sabbatical Journal 2008

Sabbatical  Journal May 2008- John Calvi

Getting my annual letter out was very difficult.  Sabbatical since Thanksgiving spoiled me- staying away from my desk, not even thinking about my trauma or torture work.  I’ve been very successful.  But now face the office mess- 10,000 emails from the last 30 months have to be culled for new addresses- yes, 10,000.  80 pages of street address labels have to be gone over to note who has died, moved, etc.  Oh, merciful heavens- grant me in my next life a secretary and computer literacy!  Changes for the website need to be edited and sent to the new daddy with less website management time.  Envelopes have to be printed and can I get all this done before the rates go up?  No, a phone call about a death in the family changes everything- no matter.  As I go through each persons name and address I have memories of this ones face and that ones story and the other ones pain- 25 years and thousands of people.  I am awash in revisiting my own journey of helping others.  Some part of me aches to stop sabbatical interruption.  And there is also an ache to know what is now happening with this one and that one who I know are in crisis but working without me so I can rest.  Life can be so rich in love and healing and not enough time to feel even half of it as the noise of the world pushes us each along- not enough reverence or time.

Once upon a time I was upstairs making the beds with my mother when she said, “I found a pistol in your fathers dresser drawer.  I’m afraid he will come home drunk one night and shoot us all in our sleep so I’ve given it to your uncle to take away.  If Daddy asks you anything, tell him I told you I threw in it the river.”  Decades later I’m retelling this memory during therapy and wondering if I am remembering right.  I call this uncle one evening and explain.  “No”, he says, “I don’t remember any gun.  Maybe it was another uncle.”  We talk for a bit and hang up.  But 10 minutes later he calls to say my aunt has reminded him of the gun and yes it did happen, it was a Beretta.  He didn’t remember it because he got rid of it- it was broken and could have gone off accidentally.  I asked what year that was and he said he was just back from a trip to Okinawa so 1960- I was 8 years old.  This was the madness, violence, and stupidity I waded through in my parents’ house as a child.  That uncle died today in surgery as they tried to mend his heart, but it was too late, too far gone.  He’d just celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary with his family all around him two weeks ago.  When I reach back to recall this new man married into the family, I see a tall handsome young man so happy and strong, who loved children and was so clear about right and wrong.  He made me feel safe whether he was teaching me to swim, use a microscope, or explaining the lives of insects.  He was a bright light who did some kindnesses along the way to save a life here and there.  I did have 2 moments of repaying his kindness.  Once when I told him he was the only adult who ever acknowledged how bad things were in my house and offered to take me to his house whenever I wanted, forever if I chose.  He was very happy for my gratitude.  Several years later, when he had lost a leg to disease and was newly walking on a prosthetic, I did some massage and energy work on him in his home.  He was not easy to get to sit still in that big easy TV chair but somehow I was able to sneak up on him and soon found out he was particularly susceptible to energy work.  He lapsed into a trance of calm and quiet he hadn’t known even in sleep for a very long time.  It was a gift of peacefulness, a loss of pain and worry beyond his understanding and very beautiful for me to see- a tiny bit of payback, of returned kindness for him that washed me also.  Giving the eulogy in the big Catholic church was odd and familiar.  I named his essence, made people laugh and cry.  Ministry feels second nature.  But with my large sprawling family with whom I am largely estranged, few of whom know my work, felt like doing the usual in a past life setting.  I was a comfort to his family who are dear to me and know me well.  I was very grateful and happy to do hard work and be of use.

May 24th Beethoven Letter 2008

The 24th Beethoven Letter by John Calvi

Dear Friends,

Sabbatical is very wonderful and different.  Each month I find a lower gear in resting from overwork.  It began with a trip west to see Marshall’s family in Southern California- some time in the desert, some time at the coast, and the start of abandoning my desks, computers, emails, and phones.  My sabbatical task is to move all my energies in caring for others towards my own well being.  This is odd and I recommend it.  I began a news/newspapers fast and focused on painting the upstairs of our little house.  A deep blue now makes all the wood trim glow golden in morning and evening light.  Remind me to tell you about the wall falling down.  I’ve no talent for painting or repair, but delight in every improvement.

To not take care of anyone has been an adjustment.  I resist the urge to call any number of people to check on their trauma recovery and instead care for myself- nap, read, or begin the next house project.  I changed the toilet seat in the outhouse.  This new discipline prepares me for work to come.

Spiritually, sabbatical restores my humor, gratitude, stillness, a quiet mind, and a clean connection for seeking.  I can feel my ragged edges reshape to the dovetail of knowing and learning.  I have good things to wonder about- how has my leading grown since 1982, can I keep my improved wellness beyond sabbatical, how will age contour my work, what am I learning that others may want to know?  One gift of sabbatical is that I can keep the questions, refine them, and await the new learning patiently. 

Sabbatical is not only time out.  It’s also a health necessity.  A hormonal imbalance has been implicated in my struggle of the last dozen years with chronic fatigue, weight gain, and recently a diagnosis of osteoporosis.  This discovery is a surprise and a relief.  It is the beginning of good resolution with treatment.  This sabbatical came right on time!  I am feeling better than I have in years, assuring me of good energy and a fit body for the good work of the future.  My homework is happily increased.

My plan is for more physical work- stacking firewood, reclaiming the field from an invasive brush species, restoring the abandoned vegetable garden, and painting the downstairs and the exterior.  As blood pressure and weight continue to improve, I hope to begin a slow return to my desk to edit a collection of my speeches into a book and CDs.  I return to my teaching and touch work in 2009 and include a developing calendar.  More information and soon a new journal/blog will be at my website.

I am grateful for all your good care.  Your generosity has made this possible.  I would greatly appreciate your support now to continue to restore myself.  I need your help.  Thank you for your gifts.

In the Light, 

John Calvi    May 2008    PO Box 301 Putney 05346

April Sabbatical Journal 2008

Sabbatical Journal April 2008 John Calvi

There is a gearshift in this sabbatical that I am learning, though very slowly.  It’s the question of reverence for the self rather than for service.  I learned over many years to kick into a spiritual gear of attention for guidance and cleansing whenever work came to me either in teaching or touching.  This became a second skin over time, a dance in response to another’s pain.  I am slow to learn and slow to discipline, but over two and a half decades I got to a very comfortable place of spiritual weight lifting before, during, and following witness of another’s pain.

Now comes the task of removing the old stimulus, another’s pain, and keeping those disciplines of reverence for my own well-being.  Can one rest the body and wash the mind and keep the strong back, head up, and careful listening for the continuing spiritual feed that comes?  What is unplugged and what is not?

In receiving messages to help others, I’ve learned to listen for those parts that I need to learn in my own life.  Now the whole task shifts from mutual and vicarious to sole and direct.  What is being given that brings me to my brightest shining light?  Can I hear this over the noise of the world, the noise in my own thinking, the clutter of life?

In this new paradigm, I think I’ve rated perhaps a C- where I used to consider myself a solid B+ student or better.  As the physical body rests and my mind steps out of the traces of constant chronic tasks, as space opens and there is the time to feel what is, I can see I don’t spend enough time in wonder but am still of a task orientation.  As the body rests more deeply, the mind needs more washing, the psyche pulled out of old patterns and refreshed.  Mostly this used to be done via the disciplines I surrounded work with.  I am having to recall and refit these disciplines without the work.  And so I am having some learning, some confusion, and some trying to be patient with my own learning style, which appears most often as my brain squinting and mumbling, “huh?”

Amidst this the last of the firewood is brought in, bookkeeping for taxes done, and now I prepare to do the Beethoven Letter before stamp prices go up.  Each month brings a lower gear for me to move more slowly.  The stillness and quiet necessary for wonder seems to be a vital part in all this unfolding.  How not to hear the noisy self?  How to be at attention without the tension of a work posture?  How to be given more to delight?

I try not to list everything I want to get done.  But this keeps creeping in – paint the outside of the house, repair the air vents near the roof and drive out the squirrels, re-establish the vegetable garden, tear down the old wood shed, super clean the tool shed, build a stone wall to warm up the tomato patch, prune the blueberry bushes, edit a book of speeches and self-publish a book and recordings.  And how will Marshall and I settle on a color to paint the downstairs of our little home?  Goodness only knows!