The body knows

After last week’s Write into Life post, I have been thinking more about the wisdom of the body and how it always knows the truth, despite how many hoops the mind pushes it through. I wrote this poem about it.

THE BODY KNOWS

The body knows

The lies you tell

The headache blooms

Where love is blocked

The wrong path

Knots your stomach

With the nausea of self-abandonment

The fear of being seen

Your precious life energy

Exchanged for acceptance.

You push on

Too busy to notice

The birds gliding effortlessly through the sky

The flower buds gently opening

The return of the spring sun

These masters showing the way home.

You push down the truth emerging

Still trying to be good

Forgetting your own innate perfection.

There is nowhere to get to

Nothing to strive for

Everything is a gift you rejected over and over

Until now.

 

Relax and enjoy

 

She believed the lie she had been told for most of her life. Be a good girl, work hard, put others first, do your best. Her whole life was built around this lie. She had tried hard to secure her place in the world, to secure their love.

She hid her sadness, her aloneness, her sense of being different and tried to fit in. She presented her happy, helpful, perfectly made-up face to the world as she had been taught to do.

But, one day, a cold wind of change blew through and uprooted her carefully constructed life.

She raged against this injustice “Why me?” she cried. “I don’t deserve this!”, “I always tried so hard”.

Day after day, she tried to rebuild her life. She had all the tools: yoga, meditation, counsellors and advisors, the latest spiritual books. Her constant mantra: “I must try harder”.

But try as she might, she could not go on. Every time she smiled and said, “I am fine, thanks” was another lie. Every downward dog she pushed herself into an affront to her fragile soul.

On the very day she gave up striving, she thought she heard a song. At first, she caught only the softest grace note, but as she began to slow down and listen, she heard the tantalising snippets of an ancient, long-forgotten melody.

“You are loved, just as you are.”

“Nothing to do, nothing to strive for.”

And finally, the one that made the ears of her soul prick up: “Relax and enjoy”.

She took to her bed, unwilling to get up until she had understood. She thought she was going mad, hearing voices in the wind. She decided even madness would be preferable to the constant striving. She wanted to know the truth.

She noticed the light streaming though her bedroom window, the breeze causing the branches on the trees to dance. She saw the birds gliding effortlessly through the sky, the buds on the cherry blossom tree that always appear at Easter. She watched it happening, without effort.

She breathed in and out, and as tears poured down her cheeks, she realised she was being breathed. Each breath was a gift she did nothing to earn.

For the first time, in a lifetime spent trying to achieve, she notices it is enough to lie on her back and watch herself being breathed, watch the trees being blown, the birds being flown, the buds being born.

It is all there is.

It is enough.

Write into Light: The SIP-Anything but what is.

 

I recently joined a writing class called Write into Light run by Martha Beck. write-into-light

My first submission was a piece bringing together some of the things I have been writing about on this blog.

The SIP: Anything but what is.

I have recently become aware that my whole life has been a self-improvement plan. (Hereinafter to be referred to as a SIP). Lying on my bed, in 1982, age 20, devouring Helen Gurley Brown’s newly released “Having it all”, I determined that I would become a souped-up (SIPped-up?) version of myself.

No area of my life was left unimproved. I prided myself on my constant search for tips on how to excel. My house is filled with self-help books on every conceivable topic: weight loss, yoga, writing, gardening, simple living, luxurious living, meditation, parenting, business, blogging, emotional health, physical health, psychological health, spiritual health. Everything I know I learned from a book, a course or a retreat. Everything I know I learned from someone else, my success always located in some imagined future.

The more prescriptive the SIP, the better I liked it: “10 steps to inner peace and thinner thighs” was my idea of heaven. Follow the plan, do the work, bask in the accomplishment. I was very good at these plans. I did them so many times.

Why so many times? Because the effects never lasted. Left to my own devices, I floundered. I literally forgot who I am without a plan.

When my reading moved on to topics such as living in the present moment, I, of course, wanted the “Enlightenment in 10 easy steps” version.

Of course, you know it doesn’t exist.

Instead, we are advised to love what is. Wait a minute, love these thighs? This messy imperfect life?

I started to realise that in choosing the SIP I had rejected myself over and over again. I had rejected the reality of this present moment, in all its perceived imperfection for a fantasy future that does not exist.

Let that sink in: I have completely and utterly rejected myself and my own precious experience. I was too busy to smell the roses (something I learned in a SIP that one must do daily to be well-balanced). I was much too busy reading books on how to change my husband into a man who would bring me roses.

Dear reader, I burned out.

I came to a screeching halt where no SIP could save me.

Thank God.

I am writing this now, in my pyjamas.

I don’t have the answers, no 10-step plan for recovering from burnout.

But I do notice my fingers tapping the key board, I notice my hair needs to be washed after another night of hot flushes.

I hear the ticking clock, notice the light streaming through the window.

I notice that I don’t have the energy for any more SIPs. I wonder if letting go means resting in this present experience or if it means giving up on trying. I wonder if they are the same thing. I notice there remains a longing for a book or a guru to explain this to me. I want to know how to do it. But I can no longer abandon myself for someone else’s wisdom.

 

Unless it is Rumi:

 

“Last night I learned how to be a lover of God,
To live in this world and call nothing my own.

I looked inward
And the beauty of my own emptiness
filled me till dawn.
It enveloped me like a mine of rubies.
Its hue clothed me in red silk.

Within the cavern of my soul
I heard the voice of a lover crying,
“Drink now! Drink now!”—

I took a sip and saw the vast ocean—
Wave upon wave caressed my soul.
The lovers of God dance around
And the circle of their steps
becomes a ring of fire round my neck.

Heaven calls me with its rain and thunder—
a hundred thousand cries
yet I cannot hear…..

All I hear is the call of my Beloved.”