Stepping Back Into the River

I seem always to be stepping back out into the River. Which river is it this time? The same river, but a different step, a mildness, a tender stopping, not to make sure that the bottom is there but to feel the current and know the moment of letting go. When balance is possible and the ties of the past have loosened, it is as if the River decides and I become again a small bird diving towards the waves and refreshing myself for a moment before I cross to the other side.

Now I leave my small temple by the sea, a loose network of spiritual friends and familiar faces, and an archipelago of safe harbours where I have wandered for years between the sun and the wind to be uncreased and cradled in the art of growing whole. And my leaving is pungent.

To some, it is an estrangement, an abandonment, a quixotic turning away from the sought-after place of safety and saccharin assurances that fed long years of vague connection and accessibility. To some, it is an inconsequential leap out of earshot, far from the ground of our encounter on this earth. But to others, it is a sadness, an unspoken cry, lamenting the loss of presence and personal rapport, the long conversations and interactive support, the giving and receiving and the simple sharing of blessings.

For me, this departure is a realisation of something greater to be done, at once acknowledging what I have received and what is needed in order for me to give back. But what an act of unstitching it has taken to send me into the thrashing waters of anonymity and the unknown. How complacent I could have been, how comfortable – lulled to a flawed happiness in the ebb tides of conventionalism, barely in view of the real fibre of life and the precarious landscape I must traverse to realise my freedom.

But stepping out like this is a stepping in. I shear away the props and paraphernalia of my very existence because I must, because it is the only way to be true, deeply true to what I honour most in this world.

© Ayyā Medhānandī

This a post from Ayyā Medhānandī’s blog written while based in Penang. She draws on her experiences in a monastic community in England as a solitary nun in a coastal hamlet of New Zealand and as an urban nun perched in a ‘sky temple’ overlooking the Malacca Straits. Other posts from this blog can be found under “Penang’s Blog” topic category.

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