Adverse Childhood Experiences and the path towards healing. You are not alone.
I share my trials, my victories, and my stories with you in hopes that if any of you were ever touched by childhood abuse or neglect, as I was, you will see yourselves in my experiences and feel strengthened to voice what you had not been able to before. I hope we can learn together why we respond to life through a particular lens, and that there are ways to climb out of this prison of pain, silence, and shame.
My name is Bess Hilpert

Head Suitcase

Grappling with Monastic Withdrawal…

“Whether we find our True Self depends in large part on the moments of time we are each allotted, and the moments of freedom that we each receive and choose during that time. Life is indeed “momentous,” created by accumulated moments in which the deeper “I” is slowly revealed if we are ready to see it. Holding our inner blueprint, which is a good description of our soul, and returning it humbly to the world and to God by love and service is indeed of ultimate concern.”

Father Richard Rohr, Franciscan monk and Founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Staring through the clay-encrusted back window at the long, muddied winding road as the monastery recedes into the distance. Ahead, I see my worn suitcase of old hurts toppled on the side of this rutted road, leaning against a prickly pear cactus. It waits silently for me to stop, climb out, present my claim ticket to the universe, bend over, and grudgingly hoist my accumulated wounds off the clay and back into my consciousness.

Already the monastery’s cherished moments in which my deeper “I” was seen, heard, and held receded with each lurch of the car as it crawled up and down through the winding turns, cattle guards and mud patches. Finally we reached the end of the 13-mile “driveway” and the inevitable merge onto the highway. Time to reenter time and space no longer free of distractions. Time to hear the humming of my silenced cell phone reconnecting me to my responsibilities.

I feel the peace I acquired from the silence, solitude, and contemplation slowly being stripped away. I feel the moments of freedom from being in the NOW being sucked out of me with each breath. The connection I experienced with my deeper “I” feels lost under the mounds of emails and texts and ever-increasing “to do” list. I want to scream.

Where did that peace go? How do I hold onto my inner blueprint and not let it get lost in the cacophony of living? How can this deep sense of anxiety about reentry into my world, cause such internal chaos, leaving me again plagued with night terrors, self-loathing, and hopelessness?

How can I silence the voices reminding me that I am not worthy, not good enough, not smart enough, not strong enough? I feel anxious and depressed. I am lost in a space separate from the world around me, judging myself as falling short. These feelings leave me paralyzed. Where in the midst of this old pain is the peace I found in the desert?

Staring out the window, seeing but not seeing, I feel my chest rise with my breath. I feel impelled to set my hand on my heart. I feel the rhythm of the breath gently moving with the rhythm of all around me, and in me, and in the space between me, and everything on the other side of my passenger side window. I take a heart pause.

In this pause I am reminded of the words of Polish-American rabbi, Abraham Joshua Heschel: “I prayed for wonders instead of happiness, and You gave them to me.” Staring out the window, I see the wonders of the mountains and hills roll past. I see the wonder of the hawk nested atop an abandoned wooden telephone pole. I see the wonder in the face of my husband as we drive mile upon mile.

Heschel also so wisely said: “Just to be is a blessing, just to live is holy. The moment is the marvel.”

When I spiral down, down, down into the rabbit-hole, lost in the tunnels of my mind, I lose sight of all the goodness in front of me. I lose sight that I am holy, and this moment is a gift. I lose sight. The lens I view the world through is shaded by fear. That shade hides love from me.

American psychologist and Buddhist meditation teacher, Tara Brach has a prayer she begins her day with: “May I trust my own goodness. May I see the goodness in others.”

And so, I pray: May I trust my own goodness. May I see the goodness in others.

Pausing, breathing, and in this moment seeing beyond me with this little prayer feels like the trance of unworthiness wants to lift. Even if just briefly.

Can I hold myself with compassion long enough to break the spell? Can I hold myself with the love that is always loving me (and is sitting beside, me traversing the miles) and see through my layers of judgement and doubt? Can I discover that beneath those strongholds there is clarity, openness, presence, and love? Can I allow this living awareness to be my guiding light?

Tara Brach is quoted as sharing:

“No matter how wrong or lacking we may feel, how caught in separation, or how trapped by the messages, violations, and inequities of the society we live in, this basic goodness remains the essence of our Being.”

The power in the loving hand reaching across the console to hold mine as the miles melt into the setting sun, momentarily soothes my aching mind. The power in the loving face that sheds tears at the magnificence of the light highlighting nature’s unparalleled beauty, causes me to breathe into the moment. The power of a loving friend reaching out because my silence is a sign of my internal distress, brings me forward into this moment, shaking me into presence. Accumulated moments. Moments calling me to share the love being given beginning a new spiral. A spiral of healing energy. A spiral of energy touching others beyond myself.

Getting myself out of my own way so we can, together, keep trying to stop the cycle of pain.

Abraham Joshua Heschel challenges us to view life through this lens:

“The world presents itself in two ways to me. The world as a thing I own, the world as a mystery I face. What I own is a trifle, what I face is sublime. I am careful not to waste what I own; I must learn not to miss what I face.”

Truly, I must learn not to miss what I face.

It is hard. It is very hard. But can we be kind to ourselves when we are lost? Can we accept the love that is always present and available for us? Can we start accumulating moments (small moments) and fill our ever-expanding toolbox with these treasures?

Until next time, friends.


  1. This was a great read. Thanks so much for sharing. Leaving a retreat is so hard for those of us who must take our faith beyond the cloistered walls.

    1. It is, Melanie, isn’t it? Ahhh I long for that peace. I also know I can find it beyond the desert thanks to you and others like you in my life.

  2. I love the pictures! I am so happy you had a peaceful visit to replenish. It is so true, that moment you describe when we re-enter the world from our places of solitude, an explosion of anxiety. I felt it for you, great description.

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