WHEN TREBBE JOHNSON was 50 years old, she fell in love with a much younger co-worker as they led a wilderness rites of passage program in southern Colorado. Pursuing the affair, Johnson writes in Body & Soul (July/Aug. 2003), would have come at the expense of indulging in 'deceit, guilt, and the likelihood of destroying a marriage I was truly happy in.' Yet denying her desire, she writes, 'would have seemed like the worst kind of betrayal of myself and my work, which focused on fearlessly exploring all parts of the essential self.'
Faced with those seemingly intolerable choices, Johnson forged another way. 'I decided to follow the trail of the passion itself,' she writes. 'It felt that what I really yearned for was to fall into the embrace of some great force . . . to know my lover not as a human man, but [as] the whole world.' Johnson redirected her passion for her young assistant, channeling her desire fully into what she now calls her 'quest for the inner Beloved . . . the irresistible force of attraction that calls us into the unknown and onto the path meant just for us, making itself known as a vividly felt, deeply personal, always beguiling companion in the life of a man or a woman.'
The quest for the inner Beloved is an eternal one, Johnson notes. It has appeared in the works of countless great thinkers and philosophers across centuries and cultures, from the ecstatic poetry of the Sufis to Jungian psychology. 'Call it God, the Goddess, a Higher Power, Earth, the Life Force, quantum physics, the Tao,' Johnson writes, 'we long for a personal connection with some force greater than ourselves.'
As for the unconsummated love affair that so enchanted her years ago, Johnson now recognizes the experience as a message from her inner Beloved, a call to engage more intimately with the world. 'My own journey with the Beloved has changed my life,' Johnson writes. 'It revived my postmenopausal sexuality and shifted the foundations of my attitude toward my own femininity. It deepened my relationships with my husband, my friends, my colleagues, and my clients.
'It showed me how to walk into the world as into the arms of a waiting lover.'
Eliza Thomas is associate editor of Whole Life Times.