You are not isolated: How to find nourishment as you shelter in place
Words matter. My friend, Juliet, and I were talking about “self-isolation” the other night…that word just made things more difficult.
When I first started “self-isolating,” I felt – well – isolated and alone. That fueled my fear, my heart felt like it was closing, and I felt really contracted. So I began to think of this time as a retreat (a place to rest, dive deep, and do my spiritual work). That helped, and it wasn’t quite enough.
We are all social creatures and do not thrive for long on isolation. Isolating is not what we are being called to do right now. We are being called to “Shelter in Place.” When I first saw this term, which comes out of California, my entire body relaxed, and it changed how I was holding this time.
Think about it. When you think about sheltering in place versus isolating, can you feel your heart opening? What I like about the concept of sheltering is that it involves a sense of being protected, and also includes protecting ourselves and others, which is what “sheltering in place” is all about. Regardless of what your shelter is, I hope the following will help you deal with the current reality.
A history of sheltering
This reminds me of a theology developed in the 580-550’s BCE in Babylon by those who were living in exile 500 miles from their homeland. These people had lost not only their home, but their Temple – for 200 years they had heard that God (the Divine) was present, and could be worshipped only in the Temple. Even more, the belief then was if you were conquered, your God was conquered. So they lost their God too.
In the midst of all of this, a group of priests and scholars remembered the tradition that these people were wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. They asked the question: How could the Divine be with them in that time?
Their answer is highly relevant for us right now. No matter where you are, they said, the Divine is always present with you — as you’re living in tents, the Divine actually “tents” with you. Their image for that Divine presence was visual. Picture a pillar of cloud — almost like a column of smoke in the sky, and picture a pillar of fire — like a very tall flame in the sky.
A constant visible reminder of Divine presence
In those 40 years in the wilderness, this group pictured the Divine moving with the people as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. When the pillar moved, the people were to follow. And when the pillar stopped, they were to set up their camp there. Because it changed visually by day or by night, the pillar reminded them that the Divine was present continually.
Another extraordinary aspect of their vision was how the camp was to be set up: in concentric circles. At the very center was what they called the Tent of Meeting, which was also a mini moveable Temple. The people encamped around that Tent of Meeting – with the priests closest to the tent, those who helped the priests serve the people in the next ring, and then the rest of the people in concentric rings.
The focus of this encampment is not outward to defend or protect – but inward to the One who is Source, Nourisher, Provider – and also Protector and Defender.
Not only that, but when the Tent of Meeting was pitched, the pillar of cloud/fire would come to rest immediately above it reminding the people that God was present right there, right then, wherever they were. It was a visual symbol of God’s constant presence.
The Hebrew word for that presence may be familiar to you: Shekinah. Shekinah means literally “the one who tents” or “the one who dwells with.” What’s even more extraordinary is that this also became an image of the Divine Feminine within Israel and in worship and kabbalistic mystical traditions afterwards.
This whole feminine image contrasts with the very masculine teaching that if you haven’t got the physical form, you haven’t got it at all, and contrasts setting up walls and fortresses with guards and people facing outward to protect and defend. This inward protection is what we need right now.
The Divine is here — sheltering with you
While most of us are not exactly in exile — it may feel that way.
In exile we’re asked to find the mobile Divine that goes everywhere. That means the Divine is right there — with you — in your shelter. And we’re called to look for that Divine in the center.
In exile, we’re asked to shelter or “tent” or “dwell” in place. In this time, as we are called to keep physical distance and shelter in place where we are, we are also called into a new way of being.
Because we can’t look outward, we must go inward. And there in the center of our shelter, we find the Divine ready and waiting for us. We too can reach out and ask and look for that Feminine Divine Shekinah presence.
Allow this to shift your perspective. Words really do matter. How you talk about this time, and how you “hold” this time will make all the difference to how you navigate it. We are called to do this for a certain period – it’s not forever. And the Divine’s presence is dwelling within the place where you are sheltering here and now.
This time will end, but in the meanwhile, remember that you are not alone. You are not isolated. Picture a big tent pitched right inside of your current “Shelter in Place.” And take shelter in that tent. Feel the presence of the Divine right there with you, dwelling with you and in you. Picture the Divine giving you the nourishment and sustenance to move through this time. Truly decide to shelter in place.
With love and gratitude,
PS: If you’re struggling, you don’t have to do it alone. I will continue to do healing sessions by phone, FaceTime or Zoom. Here is the link for more information. In addition, an upcoming astrological event is going to give us all a huge boost. It will bring some opening and expansion in this time of contraction. On April 5, I am offering an online attunement and healing session. Here is the link for more information.