Delight in the New Year!

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:

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
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
the laughter
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,
a love
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!

Teddy Bear: In Memoriam

This collage is a celebration of the life that Teddy and I spent together, as well as an honoring of his passing and acknowledgement of the many blessings and lessons that continue to unfold from sharing my life with him.

The pictures show what a member of the family he was—he is seen with both of the boys, with my parents, with Dave, with me, and on his own. It felt right to put images joined with words of me holding Teddy next to pictures of me and Dave—they are my two loves and I am lucky to have shared my life thus far with both of them. There are also scraps of bandanas pasted in—he would come home wearing them after being groomed—he’s wearing the same blue one in the pic with his dog tag.

The pastel drawing in the middle of the collage is something I drew about 3 weeks before his passing when he was bleeding from a wound he had scratched open and I just wanted to take care of him, but there wasn’t much I could do. It depicts me, with my coursing life force energy and body of compassion encircling him with love, care, concern, attention, compassion. In the end, I couldn’t save him—he was old and his death came inevitably, but this drawing attempts to show how much I wanted to give him the care and love that I could, to save him from suffering.

His passing has opened up new spaces for me—open, unknown space—time that in the past I spent taking care of him. The unknown, fertile darkness.

  • Questions. What is becoming ready to be born from this loss? Life force—what life force expression will now be freer to express, to experience?
  • New Type Seven Energy. Possibility, newness, options, freedom, choice, freedom to explore, to express, to experience. A lightness, a joy ready to arise.
  • Freedom from responsibility to Teddy. I loved him—I wanted to care for him and I felt constrained, restricted. Compassion, growth, newness, unknowness.
  • More Time. Now more attention can be turned inward to my experience, to the newness, the unknown that wants to arise in me—allowing that.
  • Owning more of myself. His warm, alive, soft, sweet body and spirit are gone. His earthly form, his physical shape of love. His embodiment of my inner child—happy, free, alive in the moment, awake, joyful, fresh.

It’s my turn now—to live my life, to embody and be this life force energy. Teddy isn’t here to live it for me. My turn to step up to the plate, to experience joy, freedom, to be alive!

One morning after his death, I sat on my little couch and cried and prayed this metta prayer:

May you be held in compassion
May your pain and sorrow be eased
May you be free

I told Teddy that we’d done our best to help him, and that now I would turn this metta toward myself, that he didn’t need to hang around and help me learn compassion and ease. I wanted him to be free…I promised I would reach out for support to Dave and friends, that I would miss him, but I’d be OK. I told him he’s welcome to stay around, but he doesn’t need to in order to help me. I want him to be free.

It’s time to take care of myself the way I took care of Teddy—with love, with compassion, with understanding, with kindness and gentleness and softness, without judgment. Time to turn the loving Two gaze of concern to myself. Teddy—the guardian of my Being—I need to be my own guardian of Being now and to take his lead to remember how. Tolle says: “Love is a deep empathy with the other’s Beingness.” We recognize our Being in the Being of another. We love the Creator through the creature. This was certainly true with Teddy Bear. Time to nurture and take care of my physical body, my needs, to own the body awareness and practices that I am doing as part of who I am… Now I have time.

Ways that I will take on the guardianship of my own Being that I learned from Teddy Bear—I will:

  • Allow my needs to guide me
  • Rest
  • Stroke, touch, massage myself
  • Stretch
  • Play
  • BE
  • Do body inquiry

As Rumi so beautifully penned, I feel grateful for Teddy Bear’s presence in my life, that “Together, we talk and laugh, incredulous, That we are so lucky as to be alive, At the same time, you and I.” And I miss his physical presence terribly, as Merwin says: “Your absence has gone through me, Like thread through a needle, Everything I do is stitched with its color.”

Practice Loving Kindness

Practice Loving Kindness

After completing my “practice-makes-perfect” motto collage, I realized I wanted to look for a turn-around. Even with the inner meaning of perfect = whole = complete, I felt that actually changing the words of what I am practicing is important. So, I started playing with changing the motto:

  • Practice makes perfect
  • Practice uncovers wholeness
  • Practices uncover wholeness
  • Practices welcome wholeness
  • Practices invite wholeness
  • Devotion to unfolding
  • Devotional practice
  • Practice devotion
  • Devotional life
  • Devotional living
  • Mindful living
  • Living mindfully
  • Mindful devotion
  • Practice Loving Kindness

As I landed on “Practice Loving Kindness,” I realized how related this is to the themes in my life these days. I am struggling with owning younger, more vulnerable parts of myself that I have split off in order to be “capable, competent Katy”—

  • the side of me that was impressionable, open, sweet, connected, innocent
  • the side that was full of energy, gusto, aliveness, joy, bounce, and verv.

This has affected very much how I tend to live in the world, not making enough time for rest, for play, for ease, for gentleness, for wildness…And how I am with the boys, especially the younger one, Evan. Because of my own disowned parts, I don’t have as much compassion for the parts of him that are like the young, wild, energetic me.

So, this collage turned out to be a tribute, an honoring of these young and vulnerable parts of myself—parts of me that are still here, but haven’t gotten as much air time. It includes photos of me on both sides, and moves from younger me to more adult me as you move toward the center. This collage reminds me that it is the practice of loving and being kind to these parts of myself that allows them to be in balance, joining in friendship, allowing me to be more embodied, more whole, more “perfect.”

The whole collage is in the shape of a heart with wings. I love this image—which for me symbolizes that the practice of loving and being kind is freeing—it opens the way for the heart to fly, for the body to be a prayer, for the mind to be open, not caged in self-images…

As Janne Eller-Isaacs, my Unitarian-Universalist minister said in a sermon: we want to be open to the invitation that life extends to each and every one of us to become more fully and responsibly human. I can’t be fully human without embracing both of these sides of myself. As I embrace, allow, and honor these parts of myself, I will be more loving and kinder not only with myself, but with others, which has to have a loving effect on the whole world!