I just went down to the beach below the house where I've lived for nearly three years. This place has been a haven for me, but now I feel strongly that it is time to leave my place of refuge. I don't want to leave, but I know that in order to stay on my path towards fulfilling my life purpose, I have to be in a different place now. That means I have to let go of this place that is very much part of me. I have to let go not only of my rented house on the water, but I also have to let go of the
Pacific Northwest, a place I consider my true home on this earth. That is a radical break for me since I've been here for nearly seventeen years. It is the first place I've lived where I really felt as though I belonged. While it will be easy enough to stay in contact with most of the people I know here, thanks to the internet, it won't be so easy to stay in the mental space where I've experienced a true sense of belonging. Moving here all those years ago, a big piece of the puzzle of my life fell into place. It seems contrary to all reason to walk away from the very place I spent the first two thirds of my life trying to find. Yet that is exactly what I feel compelled to do, and I've lived long enough to know that things are always better when I listen to my intuition, especially when the pull is this strong.
So I am spending the next couple of months saying goodbye to as many of the places I can get to between now and the time I pull out of the driveway for the last time. Sure I may come back some day but it will change while I'm gone, and I will change while I'm gone. That's the way life is, a constant state of flux. I went down to the beach today during low tide, hoping to connect to this place in a way that would allow me to carry this peace away with me when I leave it. Just as all of life is made up of change, I changed in the space of two hours while I was down there. I changed profoundly. I can honestly say that I went down there one person and came back another. If that much can change in two hours, imagine how much I will change in two years or two decades.
One of the ways I changed while I was down on the beach today was that I came to understand the concept of grace in another way. Grace has been one of the recurring themes of my life, one of my leitmotifs, if you will. How could it be otherwise when I was named at birth Beth Ann, which means "house of grace?" I have been, and always will be in this incarnation, a vessel of grace. While I no longer hold to the Christian religion, I have been and still am influenced by its teaching. I jettisoned the judgments and limiting dogma I was taught, but still embrace the kernel of truth that is in Christianity and every other spiritual path I've examined. Aldous Huxley popularized this concept of a "perennial philosophy" in his book The Perennial Philosophy, but he was hardly the first to recognize the recurring truths contained at the heart of all spiritual paths. Divine grace is one of those truths found in many faiths.
Whatever your understanding of the concept of spiritual grace, I came to see a different aspect of it today while I was down at the beach being buffeted by the winds of change that were blowing internally in my struggle to leave this place, as well as the winds of a storm that were blowing externally down near the water's edge. As I walked along the beach, I was battered lightly by the winds blowing all around me, but I noticed too that there were several places along my beach walk where I could move in closer to shore and the cliff wall where I could find shelter from the wind. Places where all became quiet, and I could experience a respite from the sound and feeling of the wind beating against me. I didn't create those quiet places. I did nothing in life to make myself worthy of finding those places, and yet there they were all the same, just waiting for me and any others who might pass that way. Waiting to give shelter in the midst of blowing wind and rain. These shelters provided moments of grace, moments of quiet in the midst of the maelstrom of life.
Upon having this new understanding of these shelters, these moments of grace, I sent a prayer out to the universe that I would be able to find places like these as I traversed the next year, walking with the winds of change at my back, pushing me towards places and people yet unknown. While I have an inkling of where I'm going, and I understand why I have to let go of my attachment to this place on the earthly plane that feels so much like home to me, I don't know or understand everything yet. I will understand more as I continue my journey through the next year. Right now I have to keep close to the front of my mind the message of Lao Tzu to anyone who feels intimidated by the road that leads away from home. "The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step." Another interpreter of this verse suggests that it could be phrased this way: "Even the longest journey must begin where you stand." [note by Michael Moncur,
September 01, 2004]*
So I embrace this literal journey of several thousand miles from Puget Sound to Central Florida, as well as the figurative journey towards fulfilling my life purpose, knowing that it begins right here right now where I am standing in my little house on Puget Sound. I will never get to where I want to be if I cement myself to this moment in time, to this place in the world, to this little house by the shore. I've told the universe what I want in my life and for my life, and now I must trust the winds of change to blow me where I need to be in order to fulfill what I came here to do and become who I came here to be.
Beth Mitchum is the author of five novels, one collection of poetry, and one music CD. Her works are available at Amazon.com through the following link: http://tinyurl.com/bethmitchumbooks