Words are the lantern I carry deep into the darkness of my psyche. Deep into the wilderness that is my soul. They light my path when the path feels imperceptible. When that path is strewn with the debris of my mind—fear, jealousy, rage, expectations, blame, loneliness. Words shine a flicker of light so I can see where I actually am, not where my mind thinks I am. I can see what actually is rather than what I imagine it is. Words. These tiny black marks on a screen or blue marks scribbled on a page contain all the light of the universe within them. A light that illuminates the universe that churns within me, lighting me up from within in the midst of utter darkness. Breadcrumbs that lead me back to myself. Back to the path. Beacons of light that offer hope, that dispel the despair, that lead me even deeper into the wild, swirling universe of who I was, who I am and who I am meant to be.
I’ve never been good at being alone.
Never been comfortable with silence. Which explains why I resisted meditation for so long. Even when one of my favorite writers/teachers highly recommended it for writers, coming just shy of touting it as the magic key, I still refused to sit with myself in silence.
When I first went away to art school, I arrived before my roommate. I had the apartment to myself for almost a week and I didn’t know a soul. I didn’t have a TV. This was well before personal computers, much less iPhones. I didn’t have a stereo. I think I did have a cassette player with earphones. And books. And myself.
Those few days were excruciating. I remember sitting on the couch in view of the apartment across from me where I saw other students, hoping, praying they would notice me, take pity on me and invite me over.
When I was a young mother, I craved time alone, even if just in the bathroom. When I was lucky enough to get that time to myself, I almost always squandered much of it in front of the TV. Or I’d call family or friends and talk to them. Anything to fill up the silence. Anything to avoid being alone with myself.
Now, my daughters are both away at college. This week my husband is out of town so it just me and the dog and cat. And the silence.
As I sit in my cozy reading/writing nook in the living room I hear the tapping of these keys, the gurgling hum of the washing, the clock ticking over the mantel and the muted thrum of highway traffic. That’s it. No TV or radio or music to fill the silence.
No barriers between me and myself.
I no longer resist silence or being alone. I embrace it.
What changed? Me.
I don’t know when exactly it happened but it’s been since I started practicing yoga, since I finished my YTT. Yoga has allowed me to dive deep and figure out who I am, how I feel and to, you know, actually feel those feelings.
I think I was afraid of feeling too much so I avoided being alone, avoided creating space where feelings could surface.
Being alone no longer feels lonely. I am not always comfortable with being alone or with silence. Sometimes I still get that feeling of wanting to crawl out of my skin. Of wanting to fill in the gaps of silence that press on me.
The difference now is that I allow myself to feel comfortable with being uncomfortable.
And that is something that has definitely emerged from my yoga practice. I find my edge in poses that aren’t comfortable but I stay there, I breathe, I feel my body, I note my resistance and choose to stay.
Staying there when I want to flee is where the growth happens. It’s like a muscle that I push to its limit and it grows stronger. That space of hanging in past resistance helps in my writing as well. It helps with everything, really.
So, as I find myself sitting in the utter quiet of my home, I note the butterflies in my belly, I note my shallow breath and the urge to turn the TV on. But I don’t. I choose breathe deep. I choose to embrace the silence.
And in embracing the silence I am embracing myself, exactly who I am in this moment.
I wish eighteen-year-old me had known this. But she was young. She didn’t know or appreciate the beauty of all of who she was.
That’s okay. We know now.
She strode into the woods without a path to follow. It is the only way to go. The darkness beckoned her rather than repelled her. She used to be afraid of monsters under her bed and in her closet then she learned that there were actual things to fear in the world. Things that were right in front of her, in the light of day so the darkness no longer scared her. The darkness became her companion. She didn’t learn how to use a compass because she had one. Her heart. And once she learned how to follow it, there were no woods too dense, no road too long, no cave too deep, no place within or without that she would avoid. She strode deeply into the center of her life, unafraid of what she would find, unafraid of being lost. Being lost was only a step on the path to being found. Being lost was merely a state of mind. A state of heart. A state of being exactly where she was. Of being exactly who she was.
Words were in their blood. Words nourished them in ways nothing else could. They inhaled them from books, breathing in ideas and stories from long ago. She spilled her own stories, memories, pockets of debris that ended up coiled in some small recess of her mind—she spilled it all onto the page. Thank god her mama understood this need. This need to drag that typewriter out under the sun, the wood slab her desk, bare feet connecting with the earth, the same earth she walked on as a child, tramping through the tall stalks of green, emerging at the lake, a lake that always felt like a magical oasis every time she came upon it. Now her words are her oasis. And while her mama reads up on the porch, she allows herself to dive deep into her own stories, letting her words spill onto the page even as sweat pools under her eyes, under her arms, but still she keeps typing, still she stays connected to the words that almost seem to pour out of a place in her that she didn’t even know existed, a place that she eventually always stumbles upon and just like the lake, it is magic when she does. It is an oasis that nourishes her body and soul.
“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” ~ Alan Watts
So, we are 11 days into the new year. How are those resolutions going?
I’m not being sarcastic, here. I really want to know. Because I get it. Change is hard. Even change that is good for us.
Maybe you’re still resolutely plugging along on your resolutions. Yay! Awesome job!
Maybe, you’ve fallen off the resolution wagon. Yay! Awesome job!
Wait, what? Awesome job for not following through?
Because we’re human. It’s gonna happen. We start off flying high into the new year, our brain all blissed out on mood enhancing chemicals like dopamine and serotonin because we are so excited about this change we are going to make. This change that is going to improve our life in some way. Then the rosy glow wears off, our brain returns to normal (think of it as the end of the honeymoon phase) and we skip the workout or eat the cupcake or pour the third glass of wine or whatever it is. We do it. And we feel bad. We think we are lazy or undisciplined or whatever word you use to beat yourself up over just being human.
We feel even worse and before we know it it is February and the gyms are empty or our fridge is stocked with ice cream and we think resolutions are stupid.
But this is the point is where the practice really begins.
January 1 has no magical powers. Every day can be a clean slate. Every day is a chance to begin again. Every moment you can choose differently than the moment before.
It’s like meditation. We expect our mind to wander. That’s what it does.So when it does, the practice is to gently and calmly bring it back to this moment right here. If we have to bring our mind back a thousand times in the course of one sitting, that is awesome. Why? Because that is the practice. That is the process.
Same with making changes in our lives. It’s a process. It’s a practice. We slip, we fall, we stumble, we make a choice that doesn’t jibe with our resolution. And that’s fine.
It’s better than fine. It’s a clean slate.
We begin again from right here, from this moment.
Over and over, we begin again.
It’s our practice.
We dance with change. One step forward, two back, step forward again, twist, twirl. Keep it light. Keep it moving.Fast or slow to just barely swaying standing still.
Just keep dancing.
“When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.” ~ Wayne Dyer
For a New Beginning
by John O’Donohue
In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
Opening the old book she found stuffed in the back of her closet, she new it contained magic. Every book does. It’s why we read. We are transported to other places, other times. We inhabit the lives of people like and unlike ourselves. Books expand our world.
But this book. This book she knew was different. Even the dust particles dancing in the air as she gently opened the pages contained magic.
She needed some magic. Desperately. Her life had become so…ordinary. So flat. She knew she sounded spoiled. There were way way worse problems going on in the world. She knew that. She also knew that she couldn’t go on like this. They couldn’t go on like this. This mild but consistent discontent thrumming just beneath the surface of their marriage. Nothing that she could point to and say, “That right there. Change that.”
No, it was more insidious than that. Because it wasn’t so easily identifiable, that made it easy to ignore. To pretend that everything was okay.
She felt it was something deeper. Something she had to dig for which is what lead her to cleaning out this closet. That whole creating space for the new bullshit that she reads about so often. Clearing the clutter from her life.
The book in her hands is old. She doesn’t remember buying it. Or reading it. When she opens the cover, her name appears in the corner. As she is watching it appears. Right before her eyes. Written by an invisible hand.
She glances around her. Why? Who or what does she expect to see? Well, she knows who but she also knows that is impossible. She is alone in the closet. Or so it appears.