When I tripped over a chair in the dark a few nights ago,
And somersaulted my landing, and woke up to a very stiff and sore body for the last week,
I wasn’t really all that surprised.
It felt quite symbolic really:
Falling in the dark.
Being brought to my knees.
Finally, waking up.
Isn’t that how it usually goes?
Of course my patterns of relentlessly driving myself would eventually be reflected physically in debilitating lower back pain.
Physical pain really slows me down.
Way down. It’s exhausting.
Spending an entire day lying in bed, in pain, while enjoying the sunshine, the quiet and the rest gave me dedicated practice time with self-reflection and slowing down.
First, the self-judgments. (Unfortunately. Of course. Why is the first course usually judgment?)
- I suck at self-care. Seriously. Super bad at it.
- I feel guilty and supremely uncomfortable when I become dependent on others.
- I get angry with myself when I find myself actually needing support from others.
- I assume that I am a burden to others if I am not being useful.
- I fight myself. A lot.
But after a while, watching these thoughts, and wondering where and when they were planted, tender images and worn-out internal patterns began bubbling up unexpectedly in the present. (When we get present to ourselves, the next courses can be emotional, sad, painful, healing and tender.)
Emotionally-laden memories of younger selves, earlier traumas, losses, betrayals … so many parts waiting for and wanting compassionate presence.
So many experiences had been bottled up and away to be dealt with later – when I am not so busy.
In a dream last week, I was in a board room running meetings and delegating tasks. A woman walked in, sat down and leaned over the table to look closely at me. I thought, “Wow, she is so serene and beautiful.”
She looked at me earnestly and said, “Stop trying to change things. Just be present.”
- What does it mean to finally get present to all that is swirling within?
- What does it mean to slow down and feel, with compassion and tenderness?
- What if I just surrendered to this experience of dependence, slowing down, limited mobility?
- What if I softened into my experience and just experienced it fully?
- What if nothing was wrong, but rather that something was waiting to be rediscovered?
More than ever, the truth that we cannot love one another if we cannot love ourselves is working its wisdom into my life.
Self-care, tenderness with myself, nurturing myself … these don’t come easily to me. Sadly, I am far more familiar with shame and blame defenses that keep me disconnected from myself. And others.
But they are worth my intentionality, my attention and my deliberate practice.
In The Fringe Hours, Jessica Turner beautifully describes an unbalanced life, writing: “I’ll look at my over scheduled calendar and think, “Oh that is totally doable.” But then I getting to the thick of it and I am drained, short-tempered and an emotional wreck … clearly the satisfying arrangement of the elements on my calendar is not enough by itself. We can’t have balance if activities in our life are neatly scheduled but we are overwhelmed, exhausted and emotional.”
That is so me.
Luckily, when I live too far out of balance, life slows me down and invites me to get back on track.
Even if it takes a chair.
Nothing like a fall in the darkness to wake me up.
So: Deep Breath.
This month will be about cultivating more Presence and more Balance.
Here are a couple of Concrete Practices:
The Power of No:
- Telling one of my healer/bodyworkers recently about my resolve to stop saying yes to so many things, he looked directly at me and said, “Wow, you’ve been giving away your power so easily … ”
- Say what?
- I’d never thought of saying “yes” to things as a way of squandering energy and empowerment, yet it made such sense when he pointed it out. When I am overextended, saying no allows me to reclaim energy and power.
- Saying no is a self-protective act; it’s easier when I believe that I matter and when I know what I want.
- Embrace living with equal parts yes and no: in balance.
Replace “I don’t have time” with “It’s not a priority right now.”
- When I say that I don’t have time, I tend to feel more like a victim of forces that are more powerful than me; I feel like giving up; it feeds a victim consciousness in me.
- However, acknowledging that “It’s not a priority right now,” helps me to remember that I have control over my decisions. It feeds my sense of choice, freedom, clarity, self-responsibility and empowerment.
Contemplations on Presence
- In what ways do you make the NOW the focus of your attention?
- In what ways do you gently drop inwards and connect with your felt sense?
- In what ways are you able to be fully here, now?
- In what ways can you increase your willingness to say “yes” to present moment experiencing?
Contemplations on Balance
- In what ways do you easily move between opposites in your life?
- In what ways do you practice both giving and receiving, equally?
- In what ways do you practice both resting and working, equally?
- In what ways do you extend grace to yourself and others, equally?
- What are your personal cues that you are moving from balance to overwhelm?
Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralysed.
Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds’ wings.