INTO THE WILDERNESS
Quietude in the Age of Screens
a 12 month guide
By Sara Sharpe
A DRESS, A RING, PROMISES TO SELF: an unconventional wedding planner for one
A Dress, A Ring, Promises to Self, the book, is based on a commitment ceremony author Sara Sharpe performed for and by herself years ago, at the Balsam Mountain Inn in Balsam, North Carolina (long before she had heard the word "sologomy.") The book, part journal and part planner, serves as a reminder to all women (and men, for that matter) that radical self care is an absolute prerequisite to marriage in the traditional sense. And as the book says, "If you're already married, it's certainly not too late!”
INTO THE WILDERNESS, A 12 Month Guide: Clearing the Way for a STILL/WILD Practice
"... This process involves much more than a daily meditation, though going into the Wilderness does indeed require some form of regular, mindful silence. But stepping into the Wilderness, as I see and teach it, constitutes a gentle and profound lifestyle change; one that requires a new-found awareness of our addictions and distractions and a commitment to weaning ourselves from them—not by sheer force of will, but by getting to the heart of the very things we’re distracting ourselves from: fear, guilt, insecurity, rage, unhelpful holding patterns etc. This guide will offer exercises designed to help you confront and work through those debilitating (and often heavily encrypted) fears and patterns that keep you from moving forward." (From the Introduction)
A Dress, A Ring, Promises to Self
an unconventional wedding planner for one
Read the little book that (hysterically) has been disparaged from
Australia to Zimbabwe.
Apparently this little book has stirred the tiniest bit of controversy. Since the book was published a few years ago, and since "sologamy" has become a thing (I'd never heard the term when I performed my little ceremony years ago), several articles, in several countries and on several continents, have appeared describing self-marriage as "The pinnacle of the culture of narcissism." Dress, Ring, Promises - and yours truly - are mentioned in almost every article. I am both amused and exasperated by the fact that anyone actually thinks we are confusing a symbolic gesture with the institution of marriage. Sigh.
I responded to one article as kindly as I could, reassuring the author that those of us who "married ourselves" (term applied loosely, thank you very much) were simply making a commitment to love, honor and care for ourselves so that we could better love, honor and care for others. A commitment to self isn't about narcissism; it's about putting the broken pieces back together.
Ah well. Rest assured, friends: the institution of marriage will prevail.
FROM THE INTRODUCTION
In the summer of 2001, I married my self.
In the beautiful town of Balsam, North Carolina, I bought a long white dress, a huge bundle of flowers, and a ring that I wear to this day. I stayed up all night writing a list of promises to my self, building a temporary altar at which to perform the blessed event, and decorating my cheerful, purple room at the Balsam Mountain Inn. The following night I donned my dress and, with a home-made wreath of flowers in my hair, tearfully made a commitment to honor my self, first and foremost, henceforth.
I wish this sort of ceremony for every woman (and man for that matter) regardless of age, sexual orientation and marital status. Few would argue with the notion that it is hard, if not impossible, to love, honor and care for another if one does not first love, honor and care for one’s self. Some things deserve to be elevated to ritual status, and making the sort of commitment described herein is, in my humble opinion, just such a thing.
I encourage you to use this book as a guide. Think of it as a non-traditional wedding planner. Take two days, two months or two years to plan your ceremony, but plan it. Construct your altar in an exotic location or your own backyard; make it a private affair or send out invitations… It’s your day, your journey – and the ritual can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish. The only rule is that every aspect of your ceremony be an accurate reflection of you. This is the time to be utterly self-indulgent.
Most importantly, a commitment ceremony such as this one provides a tangible opportunity to begin (or continue) to heal the past, imagine the future, and to construct – first on paper and then in your relationships – boundaries that will keep you safe, rituals that will keep you connected to the Divine, and language that will enable you to communicate your deepest desires.
"I bought 4 copies to give as gifts for Christmas and everyone who has read it has been just as enthralled as I..."
B. Harris (Amazon review)
The perfect gift book
A Dress, A Ring, Promises to Self is a wonderful purchase or gift for:
Young women just venturing out on their own
Any woman going through a difficult transition (break up, divorce etc.) or working to reframe a traumatic experience
Any and everyone who has lost a vital part of themselves in the "dailies" (working, child rearing, partnering etc.)
Books with hand-crafted covers, ready for shipping
INTO THE WILDERNESS
a 12 month guide
Clearing the Way for a STILL/WILD Practice
By Sara Sharpe
INTO THE WILDERNESS
A 12 Month Guide
Clearing the Way for a STILL/WILD practice
Recently, a friend asked me how it was that I managed to spend a certain amount of time each week observing silence. “Silence makes me crazy,” she declared. “But I love the silence! Silence is sexy,” I blurted. In thinking about my instinctive answer, I've decided that sexy is as good a description as any—in addition to boundless; transformative.
Through silence--in stillness--we enter the figurative Wilderness. Once there, we are silent long enough to discern and address those parts of ourselves that are "shrouded in darkness," as Sarah Parsons would say (A Clearing Season). We "pay attention to the parts of ourselves that do not flourish," and then we "clear and cultivate a part of that wilderness, to create an open space in it." A Wilderness practice is for you if you are suffering in any way, whether from everyday stress or the deleterious effects of trauma.
FROM B REAL MAGAZINE:
BR: You wrote A Dress, A Ring, Promises to Self: an unconventional wedding planner for one, nearly a decade ago, and just published the book last year. Why did it take you so long to publish and distribute it?
SS: Maybe the simple answer is that self-publishing is easier now than it was when I first wrote it. The more complicated answer is I was more than a little embarrassed by the book for a long time. I gave it away to friends, over the years, but beyond that it didn’t seem like anything I could or would seriously consider marketing.
BR: Embarrassed, why?
SS: Because as important as my ceremony was to me, and as much as I love this little book, it is very self-helpy, and for a long time the concept struck me as vaguely silly. Also, the story is inward as opposed to outward looking, and I judged it to be a bit frivolous – especially in light of the FAIRVIEW Project and other work of mine. When I performed my ceremony, all those years ago, I wrote and made Promises to myself, which I grew into only very slowly. I planted seeds of self-care long before they bloomed and grew. The importance of this part of my story dawned on me equally as slowly. Only after I had given away my power for nearly two decades, and found myself sick and tired and incapable of being helpful to anyone, did I realize how important it was to take care of myself, first and foremost. Then the book seemed vitally important as opposed to silly.
Eventually I gave a copy of Dress, Ring, Promises to a young, twenty-something friend of mine who fell absolutely in love with it and insisted that I make it available to other folks. I put a little blurb about it on facebook in December of last year, and immediately received so many orders that I essentially took the month off to fill them. Who knew? I was building beautiful, handmade books at that point. And then I had another friend who offered to help me self-publish, and the entire thing seemed to take on a life of its own, so I went with it. I think you never know what’s going to resonate with people. When I read it now, my forty-five year old self shudders a bit at some of the writing I did a decade ago. Then again, I’m sort of amazed at how clearly I was writing about claiming my own power a decade before I actually did. And it’s interesting and not surprising, ultimately, that once I did come into my own, the book jumped off of my personal book shelf and out into the world. Read the article in its entirety HERE.
And yet, even though we are well aware of the purported benefits of contemplative prayer or a meditation practice, most of us have instead become increasingly adept at distracting ourselves from any sort of deep introspection. Silence “makes us crazy,” because when we set aside our distractions/addictions, we are invited to sit with and forced to deal with our "wild selves," which represent those parts of ourselves over which we have little or no control, and which take the form of unwelcome thoughts, disturbing emotions, incessant worry, long-held resentment, physical discomfort, stress, confusion, lack, and the nagging sense that something—though we’re not exactly sure what—is missing in our lives. WHO WANTS TO SIT WITH ALL THAT?! It's uncomfortable stuff. So to keep the discomfort at bay, we find countless ways of distracting ourselves. We shop. We binge on Netflix and smart phones. We drink too much, eat too much, work too much. At the extreme end of distraction we develop drug, alcohol and/or sexual addictions.
The bad news is that your wild selves have much more influence in your life than you might imagine. The good news is that you can deal with them. In the Wilderness, we sit with our wild selves and we listen—long enough to calm and, finally, to tame them.
Friend, hear me. You no longer have to distract yourself from your own life—from your deepest self. I am aware that stepping out into the Wilderness, where the silence can be deafening if not downright terrifying, is not something most of us do willingly, even with the promise that life is radically different on the other side of such an experience. I went kicking and screaming, but I went, and now I want you to come with me. The Wilderness experience is the portal through which we find the ability to be both profoundly Still and Wild. It is in the Wilderness that we also find Peace. Joy. Answers. Atonement. Depth. And the Divine, if you happen to be looking for her (and, I would argue, even if you aren’t).
Life doesn't have to be an endless struggle, even if - and I say this gently, carefully - even if you feel irreparably and relentlessly broken by your work, your relationships, your traumatic experience, your profound loss and inescapable confusion. You don't have to figure out what to do with your life or how to walk away from anyone person or thing, for instance. When you're ready - when you are tired enough the internal dissonance, on whatever level - you will step into the Wilderness and make time to let the light in.
When it comes to the Wilderness, you don’t have to want to go, you just have to go. Be brave. Allow yourself to let go, just a little. Set aside your distractions slowly, gently. Step out into the STILL/WILD Wilderness, which has always called you and always will.
I'll come with.
12 MONTHS IN
1. A month of ORIENTING YOURSELF IN THE WILDERNESS
With the exception of this first section, the 12 MONTH WILDERNESS GUIDE is entirely flexible. There are 12 sections, and you can do them one at a time, over 12 months, or you can do several at once in more or less time (in whatever order you choose).
2. A month of SETTING ASIDE DISTRACTIONS/ADDICTIONS
3. A month of ENTERING THE WILDERNESS WHEN YOU’RE IN PAIN
4. A month of ACCEPTANCE
5. A month of CREATIVITY & PLAY
6. A month of SURVIVING THE DESERT
7. A month of AUTHENTICITY
8. A month of WHAT’S YOUR STORY?
9. A month of ACKNOWLEDGING TRAUMA
10. A month of FORGIVENESS
11. A month of ARETE (or, Living Up to One's Own Potential)
12. A month of GIVING BACK
12 MINUTES IN
This exercise if for those of you who either have no experience whatsoever with meditation or contemplative prayer, or who haven't engaged in your practice for some time.
At the risk of scaring you off before we even get started, I'd like to urge you to try the following exercise (keeping in mind that if you do begin this program, you can start with fewer minutes or ditch the timer altogether): Set a timer for twelve minutes. Sit quietly, without talking or moving much. Still your mind. Observe this silence until the bell rings. Try it now.
Done? If you have never had a regular meditation practice, this exercise can feel a bit like a mild (or not so mild) form of torture. While sitting in the silence, you may have been bombarded with relentless thoughts of all the things you could be getting accomplished if you weren’t sitting in silence. Or perhaps you were excruciatingly bored. Maybe your back hurt, or your head hurt, or perhaps all of the unkind thoughts (about yourself or others) you’ve been keeping at bay surfaced, causing you to feel some complicated and unpleasant emotions. Perhaps your worries (long and incomplete to do lists, unpaid bills, lack of direction etc.) pressed down on you with uncomfortable force.
One practice meditation is typically all it takes to get a sense of why it is that we go to such great lengths to stay busy. If we slow down, if we get quiet, all hell breaks lose inside of us. And really, who in their right mind wants to willfully subject themselves to mental stress, physical discomfort, and left over emotional baggage?
But here's the thing. It's vitally important to realize that until you deal with all of this inner chaos, it affects every aspect of your life: your relationships, your health, your financial situation, your ability to make decisions and to move forward on all fronts, etc. You can distract yourself for years—lifetimes, perhaps—but you can never outrun your worry, your guilt, or your self-destructive thoughts. The only way out, as they say, is through.
So let's get through it together. The 12 MONTH WILDERNESS GUIDE is HERE for those of you who want companionship in the Wilderness, along with a more structured approach to your time there. Use my experience and employ the exercises I suggest if you feel so led. But please understand that while the guide may be helpful, it isn't necessary. All you really need is a slight nudge and a willingness to step off into the Wilderness. Everything, everything you need is there.
It is never too late, and you are never too broken.
Wondering if you could benefit from some time in the Wilderness?
Try this simple experiment