Wisdom, I have learnt, doesn’t arrive fully grown – it arrives as a thought, a scrap of understanding, a lesson slowly revealed – and then it’s planted, taken in and given time to find its roots – gradually, over months and years, wisdom emerges, fragile at first, finding its feet like a newborn lamb, growing into its own understanding more fully over time. Until one day, it’s flourished – a secure anchor, a touch point you can find your way back to – a mighty oak tree – unwavering.
Three years ago, I was invited to be a part of a little retreat with Alicia Britt Chole and a handful of lovely friends. I always feel as if my hands are holding a metaphorical Rubik’s cube I’m desperately trying to solve – and this time was no different. I’ve thought often of those three days and two nights we spent in that beautiful house in the Highlands – how I knew I’d struck ‘rubik’s-cube-solving-gold’ when Alicia opened on of the morning sessions with an illustration and this quote about reservoirs:
If then you are wise, you will show yourself rather as a reservoir than as a canal. For a canal spreads abroad water as it receives it, but a reservoir waits until it is filled before overflowing, and thus communicates, without loss to itself, its superabundant water. In the Church at the present day, we have many canals, few reservoirs.
Bernard of Clairvaux
I soaked up every last drop – writing down everything I could absorb. This was it.
This is the puzzle piece I’ve been looking for.
Over the next few years I have felt as though I am Peter Pan desperately trying to reattach himself to his own shadow.
I have a problem – I’ve found a solution…and somehow, I can’t seem to apply my solution to my problem.
I blamed myself for not being dedicated enough.
I berated myself for not getting it right, for not learning fast enough – it’s obvious – why can’t I get it.
At the time I didn’t realise that I had been given seeds, and if I planted them within my problem, overtime my solution would push back the dirt and effortlessly grow – the challenge isn’t in planting the seeds, it’s in having the patience to give them the grace, time and space to grow.
This is what grace, time and space has taught me about reservoirs…
Imagine a deep well on top of a hill. The hill isn’t a smooth hill, it’s had retaining walls build in circles around it – like a fondue fountain. The top reservoir is the smallest, when that is filled it overflows into the next, slightly larger reservoir, and then that one is filled it overflows into the next, slightly larger reservoir, until all the reservoirs are full and flowing and finally, after the last level the water freely flows into the surrounding land.
Alicia taught us that the first reservoir was our soul, the next was our inner world, then our household, then our closest family and friends, then our work, church, community and finally our extended outer world.
The picture she painted for us was of a hill that had turned to dust and we’re standing there with a hose trying to fill up the most outer reservoir, the one where church, community and work is. The unsustainable rat race of making sure the outside of our lives are glossy while the inside falls into disrepair and quietly implodes.
This was me. I had a well-watered outer world – lush and flourishing but I had turned to dust, my reservoirs closest to me were empty and the cost to fill my outer world was killing me.
Time has taught me that there is a well at the centre of my life. It’s bucket and chain drop down deep, deep inside to find the stillest, most pure water there is. The bucket plunges into the water and the chair draws it up, the water pours out on my soul and it starts to soak into the dust while the bucket freefalls back into the water.
This is my focus. This is where I put all of my energy. Bucket, water, soul, bucket, water, soul, bucket, water, soul.
The water is my worth. It’s living water, constantly full, unaffected by my behaviour, actions, thoughts or beliefs. It’s unconditional love and acceptance.
My bucket and chain are my practices, my meditation, my prayers, my gratitude, self-reflection, my journaling, my peaceful morning moments. These are the keys that help me access my worth.
My practices are the bucket and chair that scoop up my worth and water my life with it.
Without them I am no less worthy. I am simply disconnected from accessing my worth.
My life is a reservoir, my soul and inner world is at the centre and that overflows into my immediate and extended outer worlds.
At the centre of my reservoir there is a well.
The well is deep and at the bottom there is living water.
I am worthy – always worthy.
My practices draw up my worth, and I water my inner life with it and my inner world overflows into my outer world.
I am not becoming more worthy.
I am already enough.
I am becoming moreconnected to my worth.
[Art by Maddsgn]