a swarm of bees in flight

Distilling, Part 1

A short while ago, I had the opportunity to serve on a small jury to elect a new county-wide Poet Laureate. I came to the process late in the game, as a rushed fill-in person for a juror who begged out. I’m no poet, but have writing chops behind me, so there I was.

My immediate response to this unusual opportunity was two-fold: I was slammed with projects of my own and chose to feel sorry for myself about being overworked. Plus, in reading the resumes of the applicants, I spiraled into an immediate self-bashing funk-o-rama. The poets were powerful women with schooling I’d never had, organizational networking I’d never done, community outreach I’d never achieved.

Along and cold in my own pity party (actually, this is Wim Hof who does this for fun, but the image felt about right…)

Said my inner critic to my vulnerable heart, “Wowsers, at the height of your author-hood, you were never this accomplished. What a sluggard you’ve been!” For the course of one entire day, muddling there in the quagmire of my own making, I managed to simply forget that I’d written a NYT bestseller, national bestsellers, and had books translated into close to 20 languages. I had no degrees next to my name, but I could gather bee swarms with my naked hands. I was never an artist-in-residence, but I’d shared my medicine pipe with hundreds to bring healing and comfort.

We do this all the time, don’t we? We forget our gifts or place them somewhere under a small rock, while writing nasties to ourselves in capitol letters across stone monoliths. A best seller? Well, yes but

Sometimes in a big world, it is easy to imagine you are very small and helpless. But such thoughts really shrink us.

Embarrassed as I was that I lost hours of my life to this pathetic muddling, I am proud to say that after years of meditating (badly), a different voice showed up on my shoulder saying, “Oh, look, she’s at it again! Silly girl. You are not your thoughts! You are the one who is aware of your thoughts…” And so I meditated on the deep felt-sense of all my insignificance. I felt my shoulders sag, and my breath become shallow. My head literally began to hang. Yet what arrived quite quickly in the quiet was a warm sense of comforting arms around me. And on its heels a sweet knowing that I had always been more than enough, and that I was loved, and with a love that came from myself to myself and spread out from there to everywhere.

As I rested in the silence with a small half-grin on my face, a word bubbled up:


A swarm of bees in flight
Distill–taking all the many wild and flying bits of one’s life, gathering them together, and teasing out the very best…

And it occurred to me that without the “bother” of the jury event, I would not have been swept into my hours of self-bashing, nor my awareness of my new skills to deal with it. I would not have been given the gift of the word “distill,” which ended up completely shifting my year’s plans unexpectedly—and beautifully.

Friends, I pray that you have methods of finding your own inner resilience,  that quiet place where the voice of your heart can find you and be heard. And that you can source quickly a raw sort of delight in the things that ruffle your feathers or blow you flat on your face. Here, we grow. Here we go.

Part 2 on Distilling will be coming soon.



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