We have no choice but to rest where we are. We can fight that choice, sure. We can wrestle it to the ground, exhaust ourselves, fill our minds with the screaming frequency of frustration, fill our bodies with the acrid burn of 'if only.'
I've done it. I've got the self-inflicted scars to show for it. But eventually what seemed like lack becomes so overwhelming, carries with it such a gravitational pull that, this time, there really is no choice. We give up.
And, oh, is that a relief. To give up. To give in. To realize you may not still be standing, but you're here and you're empty. And, good goddess, is that ever enough.
It's funny how complicated we make the idea of simplicity--like it's something to strive for, to wish for. How many times do we hear people 'long for the simple life.' THE simple life--like it's a brand we'll never afford.
You know why we think it's out of reach? At least, this is my theory--advertising. I mean, look at the catalogues that litter your mailbox--all those 'simple' designs ticking into the thousands so that you, too, can have a farm table like the one your great-grandparents had. Please. Please!
Do you want a simple life? Well then, let me tell you a secret: you can start in this very moment, no pricey artisan furniture necessary. It's not necessary to get out of debt (simplicity will help there, too, though), nor is it necessary to sell everything you own, grow out your hair, give up your electronics (though that helps), or change who you are.
All you have to do is watch your wanting. That's it. When it shows up with that incessant knocking, throw the door open and...
Your heart doesn't need protection, despite what your uptight brain tells you. Your heart is a rebel, man. She's a radical. She's a hip-swaying, drum-circle, barefoot soul-dancer, and she needs to breathe. She needs to feel the heat of the sun, the sting of salt, the chill of rain. So what if she ends up a bit burned? So what if a cough lingers, the skin a bit raw? That's living, baby. That's experience--and there ain't nothing a heart craves more than experience--discomfort, joy, pain, illness, and the irrefutable, extraordinary strength that comes with recovery, with healing.
So let her breathe. Let her move. Let her embarrass your puritanical brain with how much skin she's showing these days. She didn't invent these constructs; she has no time for conventional thinking. This is music. This is moonlight, muddy toes, bonfires, cave painting, primal chants, and deep vibration.
I read somewhere that everywhere is equal because anywhere can be filled with joy. I absolutely believe that's possible for those of us less attached to the training wheels of peace, of joy, but I cannot (yet) reconcile myself to the nuts-and-bolts belief that the peace accessed in the woods is equal to that of an office, a doctor's waiting room, the daily commute.
Do I believe it's true, that it's possible? Heck yes. Do I see moments of peace in the above that rival the easy peace of the woods? Blissfully, thankfully, yes. Do I believe they're equal? ... Radio silence. Something in me fights against it, because while my brain and my breath can work together to tick down into (short-lived) peace, my heart needs no help in the woods, in the mountains, in the garden, on the shore.
But I think that's true for all of us, isn't it? I mean, surrounded by all that determined stillness, resolute acceptance of self, and unshakable rootedness, how can we, too, not f...
Tension is nothing more than muscles poised to move. Now, if you're running from a moose stampede, that will be of some (admittedly not much) help. But most of the time, those muscles just ready themselves for nothing--and they do it so often that it seems easier, in the end, simply to stay that way.
Enter chronic tension. Tension is the elbow nudging you in the ribs, the voice whispering, for no reason other than a short attention span and a cruel delight in constant movement, 'hey, hey, can we go now?'
It doesn't matter that you're reading a lovely book in the hour before you have to go to work, that a moment ago you were delightfully content. Tension wants to move, to go. Even to work. And then once you get there, it wants to go home, back to the book, robbing you of any sense of place, of peace, of free time. It's what pulls you by the hair through your Fridays, steals your Sundays, and makes you doubt yourself and how you spend your every waking moment.
Here's what happened. Despite my almost 20 years of studying yoga, despite my almost 20 years of being taught that breath matters, I apparently never believed it. Yes, yes, it matters to life and to health, to endurance and digestion, but those are physical things. And I'm comfortable with physical things.
But the emotional life--the weird, squidgy, vibratory, out-of-control, weather-like flux of ups and downs, anxiety and calm, seemingly without reason, without trigger, and without relief--that falls outside my comfort zone.
But then I listened to a talk on anxiety by a favorite teacher, and he said it's the exhale that facilitated ease, quenched anxiety. Maybe I knew that, but it was the way he presented it. And then he led us through a deliberate series of breathing, all diaphragm, all exhale. Something clicked. Something shifted, and this is now my practice. Brain on fire? Exhale. Brain too tired to sleep? Exhale. Not ready to start the day? Exhale. New anxiety-provoking situation?...
A shift in perspective is old news. It takes a frustrating amount of mental energy and is often done grudgingly--like showing your work in math class. Besides, it's usually at the behest of so-called good advice, and really, when is that last time following advice had a lasting effect?
No, what we need is a shift in consciousness--a simple stilling of the noise of the inner waters and a fuzzing out of the gaze, letting what's out there rush in to fill that raw, churning, gnawed-on space.
Filling an empty glass is as easy as dropping it into the stream, and as much as we think we're filled to the top with our worries/fears/obsessions/possessions/problems/workload, we're not.
Thinking we're full is the first sign we're dangerously close to running on empty.
If nameless, haunting anxieties tend to surface at night, wouldn't it also be true for its counterpart, grace? If night is when the window opens, why is it that we only beckon to the energy hungry to eat us alive?
Couldn't we, against our so-called better judgment, throw open the window a bit wider, with more intention, and invite in whatever happens to be winging around out there? Isn't there an equal (a better?) chance that hope, faith, insight, and inspiration will rush in, grateful finally, finally, for enough space to enter?
I've moved around a lot. A. Lot. And, you know, I think that's true of my generation--we late 90's/early-mid noughts. We, for some reason, were (are) a gypsy band of seekers. We aren't unique, I know, but this is my tribe.
We wandered; we tried everything; we self-reflected; we were broke but involved; and we came to life (aka adulthood) pretty dang late. But here's the thing--most of us, from my completely unprofessional survey, ended up back where we began--back in our hometowns after LA, NY, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, with an entirely other perspective, an entirely heretofore untapped well of gratitude, of experience.
Did we have to spend all that time/energy/money to find this brand of peace? I have no idea. Probably. Does change, does adaptation, does a swing in perspective necessitate a journey through the desert, a long, dark night of the soul?
I don't think so. We've trained ourselves to believe this will be hard, impossible without sacrifice and discomfort. But I do...
I love puzzles and mysteries, myths and history, religions and ritual. I don't mind not knowing the answers intellectually, rationally, but I do mind not knowing them bodily, intuitively. In fact, I'd argue the latter is far more important, far more accurate, and carries far more information.
But when I can't get a read on something, whether external (person, phenomena, action) or internal (self--health, emotions, physical pain), it's profoundly unsettling. When the radar stops working, even briefly, it's like what tethered us to earth has been ruthlessly slashed, and here we are, floating up, with nothing to grab onto and no way to reinstate gravity.
And some of us (ahem) are afraid of heights.
I don't have an answer, but I once read that our intuitive selves are located along our spines, broadcasting out from nape to sacrum, which makes sense--this is the intersection of every nerve in the back body. They called it a radar dish.
I like to think of it as where we house our wings.