The oracle card, tiny as a raffle ticket, read, “Adventure.” It was the penultimate night of our Qoya retreat in Costa Rica, where my days were filled with Howler monkey alarm clocks at 5:30am, teacher training, Qoya class—let me rephrase: soul-ringing rituals and emotional caravan movement classes--, lunch, more teacher training, sunsets so saturated I almost forgot my preference for pastels until the sunrise pinking the sky reminded me, naked mermaid ocean dips, and more talks/labyrinths/ceremonies in the evening.  

Our week was rich, 89% dark chocolate rich. I was filled up. And I was exhausted. Physically and emotionally. But my friend wanted to go out, “see the local flavor.” The handsome front desk manager/surf instructor asked her to join a group in town for reggae night. It would be “fun!” And, while I’m usually the first to drag others onto the dance floor, I didn’t want to go. But I didn’t want to be that friend, the one who isn’t “fun!” So, I pulled a card: “adventure.” I was annoyed.

We reclined in Savasana as ethereal waves of singing bowls filled the room, washing over our bodies, I realized “adventure” meant something different for me that night. An adventure is a new venture, something out of your norm, a clear and open precipice for the unexpected. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Guatemala; I’d brought in the new year kicking cans of beer with locals in Nicaragua. I talked art and politics with the fringe set in Puerto Rico. I briefly had a Brazilian lover. I’d already had that adventure.

But it was my almost last night/morning in Costa Rica. I wanted to do something memorable, something that would make a soul imprint. Wake up and watch the sunrise on the beach. It came to me the way any thought would, unbidden, just another star across the sky, but I caught it. Oh, wake up early? Without the Howler monkeys, I never do that. Walk alone on the beach? But there are so many interesting people here, and I’m all about making meaningful connections. Early. Alone. Early and Alone? That’s when I got it. The real adventure would be to greet myself in the morning when the sky offers its pastel lightshow, and just see what happens. Meet my muse, I guess.

So, I did.

At 5:25, the monkeys stirring the trees outside our cabin, but not yet calling, I rose.

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Invitations like this help us create self-intimacy. An inner-awareness. Not just an intellectual knowledge of personal habits, histories, or quirks—it’s a bodily knowing that may feel like a flowing river in your hips, a glowing sun of security in your solar plexus, a thousand butterfly wings opening and closing in your chest.

But that’s metaphor.

What Is self-intimacy?

It’s cohesion. It’s feeling connected to all the parts of yourself—your light and your shadow, which is a brave warrior heart journey. It’s not just “tolerating” but “allowing” your full range of emotions and experience.

 Beyond awareness of your feelings—which is no small feat—self-intimacy is actually “caring about those feelings, and sharing them” with your closest people, according to Psychology Today.

In his book, Intimacy: Trusting Oneself and the Other, mystic writer Osho teaches us that “The word ‘intimacy’ comes from a Latin root: ‘intimum’. ‘Intimum’ means your interiority, your innermost CORE. Unless you have something there you can’t be intimate with anybody.”

We hear a lot about having a strong “core” in our culture. Pictures of fit, flexed abs flash across our cellphone and mental screens. And, yes, having a strong physical core is integral to nearly every movement we make, but that’s just part of the picture. We hear less about our spiritual core.

What Osho means by “interiority.” What makes you, you. A kaleidoscope of sensory experience, memories, gifts, challenges, inclinations, and that original divine stamp—what poet Gerard Manley Hopkins called “Inscape.” Star-stuff.

Sounds compelling, right? Then why do we sometimes avoid ourselves?

Is it because we’re afraid if we look, we will find nothing there?  Or, if we take the time to go inward, we’ll miss out of what’s happening around us? If we go in, dive down, silence some of the noise, are we afraid we may never come back out?

All of these are possibilities. I get it.

And yet, the greater cost is in never taking the journey.

How many of us have heard, “We must know ourselves before we can know another”? I’ll say it again. Intimacy with another starts with intimacy with ourselves.

I’ve tried for many years, many relationships to find that love, acceptance, and connection with another—bypassing myself in the process. It never works.

That way lies poverty of soul and disappointment.

What has helped me is imagining my spiritual core as a treasure house of hard won jewels. Injury. New geographies. Love letters. Dancing bodies. Silences. Braveries. Mistakes. Revelries.  All the things I value in myself. All the people I have been. Deaths and rebirths. What I might be afraid ofand yet want to share with someone special.  Self-intimacy leading to intimacy with another.

Maybe this is obvious to you.

Some people come into the world with a soul-imprint of self-knowing, an unshakable confidence. Some work on it day by day, thought by thought.

How to cultivate self-intimacy? I imagine the answer is as varied as we are—so many patches to make our coat of many colors.

Here are a few practices that have helped me:

§  Meditation / Prayer

§  Movement – Yoga, dance, Qoya, hiking, swimming, etc.

§  Journaling – “Morning Pages,” gratitudes, dailies, etc.

§  Oracles – Card decks, stars, nature, stones, etc.

§  Intentions & Affirmations – Grounded self-worth guides me to making wise choices.

§  Self-study – Reading, studying, reflecting, etc.

§  Self-care rituals – Hot baths, self-massage, nourishing meals, chocolate

Sometimes I take myself on “Artist Dates,” just to see what I see, making myself available to the muse (thank you, Julia Cameron). More than anything, getting quiet and being alone, for a time, is what opens the gates to the treasure house.

Choose the spiritual practices that help you connect intimately with yourself—finite consciousness—in the context of the larger whole—infinite consciousness. Peter’s practice may be Zen meditation; whereas, Sally’s is watercolors or nature hikes.

The divine speaks to us in a poetry we already know. It’s natural.

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Walking down the jungle path to the water, I heard the silence singing. Within minutes, humidity moistened my skin. The sky warmed to a newborn pink, and sunrays sent cathedrals columns of light across the water. Pebbles and spindle shells washed over my feet. I walked the surf alone.

I sat near driftwood with a shell in my hand. I had spotted it the day before while my friend and I rode horses for the first time. Our guide scooped it up and presented it like an offering. Now, I studied it like the face of a lover. It fit perfectly in my palm. White as bleached bone, whisper of pink. The wide spiral narrowing to a secret I wanted to know.

I thought of all the paths I’d taken to get to this moment on the beach in Coast Rica. A childhood in Arkansas under tall pines, the salt of pine the salt on this shell. My teenage years as a competitive figure skater, spinning spinning spinning on ice until I couldn’t find my balance again. The eye injury that sent me reeling for self-worth in a religion of original sin—not goodness. My tattooed husband who carried me across an apartment threshold, to Indiana, and over divorce papers. My late-twenties and early-thirties teaching in California, hoping to catch a wave for the long ride back to love, back to myself.

And this morning adventure alone on the beach, sitting in meditation holding a shell I would place on a glass altar to remind myself: This is self-intimacy. 

If you enjoyed this blog--or know some deep-divers who might appreciate it--please share.

Love and Light, 

Proseleslie stjohn