Delight, light, play, fun, happiness, laughter, wonder, presence, love, joy, freedom, excitement, stimulation, engagement, fullness, compassion…lightening up, taking it all in, embracing it, balancing it, smiling.
The defining image for 2011 is the one that came to me when I was trying to find a way to defend against an Inner Critic attack for having forgotten my purse on the way to an appointment for which I would need my checkbook. (Dave was with me and he had a check, so all would be well, but my Inner Critic didn’t want to drop it.) I was lying on the table before my myofascial session and nothing was working particularly well, but then I had the image of “jumping” my 1&1/2 year old nephew Zander up into the air and how he could jump and jump and jump and never get tired! And I “jumped” my Inner Critic up over my head in a playful way, smiling, telling her to “lighten up” to not be so serious. And the engagement was totally broken—I was filled with delight and warmth and compassion. I even smile thinking of it now. Since then I’ve been holding this image and it’s really working!
Then during the session, I had described how my left-side pattern had kicked in with something inbetween my shoulder blades going out. Patricia talked about that as the back of the Heart Center. Being with Zander over New Year’s was very heart-opening. I wasn’t working, just being present as much as I could be, with him and the family. And being with Zander was about play, delight, the joy in every moment of life. What a beautiful lesson and break from my oft-times very serious life! So, it’s not surprising to me that on the day before I was to fly home that my Heart Center might decide it had been open enough and it was time to feel more “normal,” more shut down, less impressionable…
Self-compassion is what Patricia found when she checked in energetically. Fits so well with the Katy who thinks she has to be so serious and who was afraid upon her return home that she wouldn’t know how to co-parent well, wouldn’t get what she needed, and so shuts her heart down. Self-compassion—it’s OK not to know how to parent, it’s OK to feel bad because I don’t always know what I need or don’t like the way my haircut looks…it’s OK to feel the hurt, the vulnerability, the sadness. Can my heart stay open to this and not have to close up to defend against it?
Spending so much of the trip on “Zander-time,” our lives were arranged around the living of his life. We got up with him, let him choose what to play and do as much as possible, and joined in. I was very engaged with him, following his energy and his lead, allowing my energy to be big, loud, playful, engaged, full, happy… At times, experiencing this energy, my type patterns wanted to interpret it as being “overwhelmed.” I caught myself in this story and went back to the sensations and feelings and stayed with playing Zander’s life with him. It felt like I was pushing the edges of my self-image—the serious, busy, held-in Katy gets overwhelmed with too much playful fun, too much activity, too much excitement—but what about delighted Katy? She seemed to really enjoy it!
This reminds me of some reading I’ve been doing lately about somatics. In his book Somatics, Thomas Hanna talks about the Red Light and Green Light reflexes. He describes the Red Light reflex as the impulse we have to pull away or withdraw from negative stress. The Green Light reflex, however, is about wanting to move toward something as a response to positive stress. Zander embodies this Green Light reflex a lot, as he invites us all in to join him in his exploration of the delightful, exciting, fun world. The problem comes when we adults use the Green Light reflex to move the body forward into action only in order to get things done, to be responsible in our “adult” world and and forget about moving toward things that delight us! A further problem is that this reflex gets engrained in the body as ongoing back and neck tension that we take for granted and don’t know how to let go of. In Zander, the Green Light comes on, leading him toward delight and joy, then turns off, allowing rest and relaxation; in many of us adults, it’s always on, pushing us not toward delight and joy, but work and responsibility…
At my first church service after returning home, we had the Tolling of the Bells service, in which we remember those that have passed away in the last year—Maureen McKessey, my uncle Harley, and my sweet Teddybear, who I still miss tremendously. And Mary Oliver’s poem Heavy was read and really struck home:
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
I went closer,
and I did not die.
had His hand in this,
as well as friends.
Still I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,
was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friends Daniel
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry
but how you carry it—
books, bricks, grief—
all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it
when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?
Have you heard
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?
How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe
also troubled roses
in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
to which there is no reply.
“‘It’s not the weight you carry / but how you carry it— / books, bricks, grief— /
all in the way / you embrace it, balance it, carry it / when you cannot, and would not, / put it down.‘ / So I went practicing.”
I’m practicing. I’ve lived so much of my life with the adult version of the Green Light reflex on, carrying and trying to balance my books, bricks, and grief (although I haven’t acknowledged the grief much, mostly covered it up with a lot of improving, being serious, and doing…) There will always be books, bricks, and grief. How will I embrace them, balance them, carry them? Can I carry them in the way I carried Zander? With love, with delight, with wonder? Can I hold them compassionately, with presence? Can I jump them into the air and lighten up when they threaten to become too heavy for me? Can I take breaks from carrying them and allow myself to rest, to put them down?
The collage at the top of this post is a visual exploration of these questions. In the midst of the books, bricks and grief—(working, teaching, mentoring, learning to co-parent in midlife, doing my spiritual practices, learning to be present, learning to be a good life partner…constantly improving my life and my world and never feeling like I have enough time)—can I still embrace the joy, the breath, the beauty, the fiery life that sparkles, the fulfillment and freedom of awakening, the gratitude for and cherishing of all of it, the joy and delight?! YES!
How do you embrace, balance, and carry your books, bricks, and grief? How do you practice delight, laughter, and joy? I’d love to hear some ideas! There’s a start in the post I did on play last year, and I’d like to gather together even more ideas here so that when I forget and get caught in my serious and overwhelmed self-image, I can welcome the lighter jumping-in-the-air energy in, too!