I hold onto nothing
I hold onto nothing
I am standing beside a tree, its branches denuded of leaves, its limbs exposed to the elements. I lean into it. Place my hand against its gnarled bark. Lean my body into its strength.
The tree and I become one in felt relationship.
I feel it embrace me with its loving grace. The sap within it flowing into my veins. The wind’s stories etched against its limbs merging with mine.
I know peace.
As a group we had come outside to experience one of the fundamental exercises of The Embodied Present Process – The Elevator. The process is about consciously bringing your awareness down into your body, deep down into the pelvic bowl where your entire being comes alive to the mystical nature of life and then, from that place of grounded connection to the earth, to let your curiosity lead you on a walk through nature.
As part of the exercise, we were invited to repeat out loud a memorized verse of our choosing. The purpose of the memorized text is to release your mind of thinking as you connect, not through the meaning of the words, but through your senses expanding out to connect with the world around you in a ‘felt’ relationship.
My verse is a prayer.
I am hesitant to repeat it. I feel immense resistance and know, deep within, I must go here. And so, I begin to say the prayer out loud.
“Hail.” I stall after the first word. I feel my body begin to shake. To quiver. “Hail Mary,” I feel tears gathering at the edges of my eyeslids. I hear the tree inviting me to lean into it. I lean and I feel its strength.
I say the prayer out loud and grace embraces me.
Years ago, when I was released from a relationship that was killing me by the police arresting the man who had promised to love me ’til death do us part and was actively engaged in the making the death part my reality, I was completely lost. My identity, the person I’d known as ‘Louise, had become completely submerged into his identity as I jettisoned everything I knew about me to the terror and horror of being in that relationship. By the end I had become an extension of his identity, or as he would tell me, his creation.
Prior to meeting him, my connection to the spiritual, in particular to the Blessed Mother Mary sustained and guided me. That connection created beauty and texture, depth, tranquillity and peace in my life. I felt whole.
Through being in that relationship I lost that connection. In some ways, I felt betrayed by the spiritual and struggled to reclaim the freedom of aliveness it had imbued into my life after he was arrested and I got my life back.
Since being set free of that relationship I have tentatively stepped back into the spiritual waters of life, searching for the path to reclaiming what I told myself I had lost. I believed I could think my way home.
Yesterday I discovered it, nor I, was lost – I just hadn’t released my thinking I could find my way home through my head. Yesterday, my body lead me home to my essence.
We think we can think our way through to where we want to be within ourselves, using the brain as the intelligence to get us where we want to ‘be’ and treating the body as the vehicle to get us there.
The body is an integral element of our aliveness. Its senses come alive to our being present when we release ourselves from thinking our cranial brains know the way.
We cannot think our way home to our innate brilliance, magnificence, beauty. The way home is through our senses. It is embodied in our being present, in the moment, to life.
I found my way home yesterday. In that journey I received the healing grace of the wind whispering in the trees, the grasses murmuring exaltations to the sky, the autumn fallen leaves rustling words of encouragement into the earth upon which I walked as I took each step home.
II felt supported, cared for, Loved. I felt alive. I am alive and so very very grateful.
I am breathing.
Mist enshrouds the trees that line the road across from where I sit in a blanket of soft billowy white. Mysterious. Ethereal. Beguiling.
I am here to immerse myself in The Embodied Present Process.
I am here, curious, open, resistant and accepting. I am here. All of me. However I am.
We live in a world of infinite possibilities. Limitless until we define them and limit them by our beliefs of what is possible.
Yesterday, as I travelled across the country, I overheard smatterings of conversations that reflected our human (cultural) beliefs of what is the right way, and the not so right way, to ‘do’ life.
“Put your bag on the conveyor just so,” the computer flashes at check-in.
Follow the yellow line,” the sign at security reads. “Show me your boarding pass.” And then, once checked against the computer’s files, you pass and continue on to the next gate, the next checkpoint, the next place in line.
Line up here for coffee. Sit here to wait.
We are loading by Zone. Don’t get in the wrong zone.
You’re in the wrong zone. Go back and wait.
Everywhere, there are signs and reminders on how to behave, where to go, what to do so that we can keep life organized, controlled, systemized.
And then life happens and its happenings brings us face to face with the limits of our beliefs on how things ‘should’ be instead of our capacity to accept ‘what is’ with grace. Trapped in the belief it should be another way, or there is no other way, we struggle to make sense of what is as we attempt to outthink our circumstances with the very same thinking that has us trapped in our circumstances.
Frustrated, frightened, confused, we struggle to find the right tools to use to fix it, change it, reorganize it into something we can live with. Never realizing the tools at our disposal are limited by our belief of what tools will work in our life.
In the process of sorting out what to do, we become trapped in our head’s belief it can make sense of whatever’s going on if it just keeps re-working the story. Or, it can at least make everything fit into a box of our understanding if we just keep re-telling the story as we know it.
I am relearning how to live my life this week from deep within my body. I am learning to breathe. To be. To feel.
I am learning to release my thoughts of all I think I know to move out of my headspace deep into my body.
I am moving into the stillness within, finding myself grounded deep within my core as I move down, down down, out of my head deep into my body where life is calling me to awaken to living through all my senses deeply connected to the beauty and wonder of life and all its limitless possibilities.
It is a journey of wonder. Of hesitation. Of leaping first, thinking next. Of leaning in. Of curving back.
It is a journey worth taking.
I cannot know what it feels like to walk in your skin, different than mine, walking on the same streets where I pass freely
To feel the shame of having your body slammed by words of condemnation or sexual connotations fit for no one. Words that fall on you like acid rain as you pass by
Or experience the barb of the slurs you’ve heard slung at you like daggers to your soul screaming at you to go back to where you belong, that place where death stalked your every breath and fear was your constant companion
I cannot know your journey.
I cannot know the terror of gun-toting wild-eyed men invading your village and burning your home and stealing your children and raping you as an act of war
Or the hunger that gnaws at your bones as your children cling to your sides begging for food when your hands, and your belly, are empty
Or the deep all-consuming grief of burying your sons and daughters beneath the blood-red soils that claimed their lives because others coveted the land you love
I cannot know your story.
I cannot see the courage it took to trust strangers with what little money you had as you and your children huddled in a boat to take a perilous journey across seas you could not know for sure any of you would survive
Or feel the faith you had no choice but to hold onto as you lay beneath the mud that covered your home as you waited for rescue or death, whichever came first, to embrace you
I cannot know your tragedies.
I can stop minimizing the shame of those who sling words that make your walk a hellish passage where dignity lies struggling for breath beneath every step you take
I can stop judging you for our differences, shaming you for your lack of means, blaming you for your situation
I can stop condemning you for leaving your war-torn lands or storm-ravaged towns far away to seek refuge here to become my neighbours on this land where I live but do not own. This land that is not our land but everyone’s land, for no one can completely own something that is part of everything that is this planet upon which we walk.
I can acknowledge your journey is different than mine. That I do not know what you know but can learn from you how to be courageous, brave, kind, even in the face of fear.
I can start believing you without insisting you repeat your story again and again.
I can start listening to your story and honouring it as your truth so that all our truth has room to breathe in freedom.
And I can let go of my judgements so that together we can find a more peaceful path to living side by side on this planet spinning through space where each of us is searching for our place to belong. This planet all 7 billion of us call our home.
I can do this. I know I can because I am learning from you what it means to be human.
There are mornings, like this one, where the muse awakens and writes her way into being heard, seen, known.
I am grateful on these mornings when I let go of my agenda, my ‘knowing’ of what I will write and give her full reign.
One of the things I am noticing about this ‘here-in-my-world not out-in-the-world workforce’ place is I am enjoying my kitchen more and more every day.
I have always loved to cook. I am intrigued by the opportunities to experiment when I dive into the process, the curiosity it ignites with its constant invitation to explore, ‘what would it taste like if I add…?’ or ‘what would happen if I do…. this….?’.
And then, when life got busy, really busy, I started spending less time in the kitchen. When every moment was determined by the extra minutes I could carve out from beneath the pile of to do’s that kept rising higher than the laundry waiting to be sorted on top of the dryer, cooking became a rote process. It took time and where was I supposed to find more of that?
In my newly embraced ‘here-in-my world not out-in-the-world workforce’ mode, I am spending more time thinking about food and the kitchen. I am pouring over recipes, checking Pinterest for ideas on what to do with this ingredient or that vegetable, dreaming up soups and sauces with the savoir-faire of a sous chef in a fine dining establishment (okay it’s more like at a ‘diner’ establishment and a sous/sous/sous chef but a woman can dream!)
And it’s been fun.
Cooking is a form of creativity for me. It is meditative. Relaxing. Soul-filling. And, having more time to spend delving into its mysteries and wonders is a gift — and one my beloved dearly appreciates as he is the beneficiary of my desire to keep creating in our beautiful kitchen!
Some lessons learnt savouring time in the kitchen include:
I am spending more time in the kitchen savouring the opportunity to create and imbue our home with my love of creation.
I am grateful. I am blessed. I am alive.
I am reading an online article about Helen Duncan who was convicted of witchcraft in 1944 in Britain and sentenced to 7 months in prison. She was one of the last women to be convicted of witchcraft under Britain’s archaic Witchcraft Act of 1735.
Bemused by what I am reading, I raise my head for a moment and look outside. I gasp.
The river runs red reflecting the rose-red and golden hues of the morning sky.
I stop reading, grab my phone and run to the deck. I have to capture this beauty.
Back at my desk, I laugh at myself. I became so busy taking photos I forgot to just be with the beauty.
I go back out on the deck, without my phone, and breathe into the sunrise. I listen to the river flowing, the hum of traffic crossing the bridge, the dry leaves rustling in the morning breeze. In the distance, a train rumbles along the tracks aligning the river. A bird caws as it flies over.
I fill my senses with all that is around me. Morning has broken and I am one with its beauty, mystery and magic.
The pink-streaked sky has vanished. Dull grey-blue clouds blanket the horizon.
The river runs steely-grey.
The day continues on.
I am grateful.
While I was able to capture the photo above, I am even more grateful I remembered to let go of ‘doing’. In choosing to go back out onto the deck, I was reminded to breathe and let myself be with the feelings and sensations of standing in the chill of morning, allowing the beauty of a dawn-streaked morning to enter my awareness and imbue my body with its brilliance.
I am grateful I let go of capturing the moment to simply be present in its beauty and awe.
And I wonder… how often do I let go of being present to ‘get ‘er done‘ or to capture some one-dimensional impression of what is, rather than being in felt relationship with all that is?
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