I was 16 years old and cycling home on my sit up and beg bike that I had painted gold. I was on my way back from the fruit and veg shop near school and, with pocket money just spent, my wicker basket was laden with a seductive selection of fruit and veg. I had decided I was going to attempt a cleanse, my first. The intention to simply eat just these for a few days. Yes. I believed I was going to be cleaned. I was going to be less heavy. Become purer. Not going to be weighed down anymore. Pedaling, headily, towards my romantic destination of self-improvement, an image of health, abundance and greater worthiness ahead of me.
This. At 16.
I look back now and think, What the fuck?
Home life was shit. Abusive. Destructive. Depressing. I internalised it all. As children often do. I could feel an overwhelming sense of carrying other’s load, their baggage and I really didn’t, didn’t want it. I wanted to be clearer. Lighter. More deserving. I was going to be Not Me.
Maybe then Life would change. Maybe the planets would align and the nightmare of growing up in the shittiness would transform. It would all have been a dream and my parents would step up and come forward with love. With wanting. With acceptance. Oh yes. One pineapple. One melon. Several raw onions later and all would be well.
You get me?
And then? You guessed it. It didn’t happen. So I tried again. And again. And again and again. Stopping eating. Stopping going out. Stopping all I could in a secret bid that this would change and purity would come along and save me.
How many years did I keep this persistent fantasy alive? That somewhere along the way I would eventually discover the very best version of myself. One? Two? No, my friend. Probably closer I’d say to 25. Yes. 25 fucking years later and I began to twig, maybe all the counselling and the healing and the cleansing and the exercise isn’t going to come up with the goods. Maybe, just maybe, I don’t need to change. Maybe, without my blood stream being clean as a whistle and without me delving to the deepest depths of my being, I don’t have to undergo some miraculous transformation and I can just show up and accept myself as I am.
OK. So maybe I wasn’t as wholly manic as I might intimate about this whole shebang. I did learn many valuable nuggets along the way. And I did face some wholly crapping trauma that had paralysed me within for years. And somewhere along the line, facing some longstanding somatic inklings and visceral rememberings of sexual violation in early childhood, helped me find the courage to begin discerning, learning and owning what was mine and, most significantly, what was not. This and introducing the word AND to my lexicon (my parents did their best and they deeply hurt me), enabled new movements and understandings, flexibility and inner-tenderness to grow.
And then, in the last year or two a new phrase came upon my horizon. This seeming insane suggestion to consider what if what I am doing right in this moment is enough. Can I sit with the assertion that actually, yes, it is quite magnificently just that?
Not maybe. Not can I slip some sneaky judgement in there and put myself down. Not lace it with self-doubt and too familiar self-criticism. But can I say to myself, in earnest, Yes, it really is?
I am learning. As many of you know. And, as many of you know who too are learning this, it takes TIME.
So from an eternal quest for purification to simply being with what is, can we do it?
There are several souls on this path over the course of the last few years that I have found both solace and nutrition to draw upon as I navigate this radicalism. Matt Licata, a heart-centred psychotherapist writes a wondrous blog and his words strike resonance and learning within frequently. Maybe, he posits, there is nothing wrong with us in the first place. Maybe there is no urgent healing that needs our immediate address. Maybe it’s simply presence itself to the gamut of this big chunky life in all it’s shapes, colours and dimensions and our willingness to FEEL IT ALL is all that is required. And maybe, crazily maybe, we are perfect just exactly the way we are. No need to change not one single thing.
And then too there is Joanna Watters, who’s teachings I find similar kinship and immensity in and whom one day I might dedicate this blog to and rename it “I love Joanna!”, for this is not the first nor second nor I believe third post I have written about my time spent contemplating and cherishing her offerings.
I was fortunate to return last week from a three-day retreat with her. It was called, For Love and within which, twelve of us sat with our hearts pulsing in their glorious vulnerability and rawness, feeling our way through and filling, as much as we could, ourselves and each other tenderly with love. Three days of beautifully held inquiry. Three days of falling into love. Three days of standing up in our honesty and drinking it into the soft tissue of our being. As much as we possibly could.
I thought a lot in this time about receiving.
I thought a lot in this time about digestion.
I thought a lot in this time about the movement of the breath. The inhalation. The exhalation. And the space and the impulses between each. This is something I ruminate on a great deal.
Joanna encouraged us, as she cradled the space and we did for each other, to breathe into any pain arising. Any hurt. Contraction. Fear. Anger. She posed to us the notion, What if love is unrestricted feeling? Less the happy ever after, more just this as exactly as it is right now. Everything. What if all of this irksomeness is simply the generosity of Life’s endless invitation to meet Love’s wound? No more casting to the realms of “positive” and “negative”. Instead just listening in to the tightness in your chest. The recurrent lower back pain. The depressed circuit of thoughts in your mind. The fear of not getting it all perfectly “right”. The resistance, oh the crappy, mighty Resistance…..
And we sat, each day, feeling and loving in more and more keenly to everything we are inclined to hide and shove away. Yes.
I realised through this process, as I remained in attendance with my breath, for me there appeared four stages. I was struck initially by the power of my exhalation, as I chose not to run, to digest the stuckness, discomfort, rage, fear. I watched it’s ability, without me getting in the way, to transmute the all ickiness through it’s own seeming volition.
Big juicy WOW.
Then, from ‘digestion’, arose effortless ‘expression’ (translate from previous effort with a big E, release) and from here, before inhalation, or as I came to consider ‘ingestion’, there was a moment of ‘reception’, of being ready, very naturally, to receive. Welcoming what I might for a moment deem as Other and letting that just be. Just simply watching this rhythmic circle and allow it’s fullness, rather than sitting in the appearance of rejection, opposition and separation.
Hmm? Yes. Reception. Ingestion. Digestion. Expression. Of breath. Of love. Observing the tides, observing the affirming ebb and flow. Pausing the urge to control and reconfigure it into something more apparently pleasing.
And I thought of my endeavours, pretty much three decades ago, to purge myself of all of this. And I thought of my early dalliances with Kundalini yoga at the age of 20, and the beginning of understanding the value of meeting pain rather than turning away. But still my internal drum banged on in a blind ache to transcend and become purer. And I thought of how very un-alone I have been in this pursuit. So many of us unwittingly chasing this image. So many pulling under the illusion of our unworthiness.
It takes courage, I know well, to sit in the seeming shadows. But today, maybe it takes less or simply less effort, as today I’m not trying to change and alter them or, even in fact, designate them as such. Rather maybe I am discovering a new prowess to feel into as much as I can and allow the Breath of Love to digest every corner and every crevice in every cell and every single fabulous bursting heartbeat.
Can we revive ourselves back to being with simply just this? Yes, I believe we can.
Image: KM Schmidt