So often it’s our own heart
that is set upon the shelf,
the weakest kindness offered
is kindness to the self.
A tale for slow gestation:
Great hunters visited a tribe of people in one of the hunters’ distant, “uncivilized” colonies to pursue a rare beast whose habitat was deep in the remote wilderness of this land.
They had brought with them all the accouterments of their modern and technologically-advanced lives, believing them to be both necessary and “superior.” These included motorized vehicles that hurled them about, at great speed, from one desired location to another.
The native people had no experience with mechanized velocity and feared these roaring conveyances but, needing what the great hunters offered, the few men selected as guides (desiring to retain their own high tribal rank) tentatively entered the trucks and wagons, and took their seats, as directed.
The vehicles started up and flew over the dusty trails. The scenery and known landmarks rushed past, and a few gasps and frightened screams escaped from the native men as they gripped what they could to remain stable, and struggled to adjust to life at such a speed. The colonizers chuckled at their primitive responses.
When the vehicles arrived at their remote destinations, the colonizers leapt out with their hunting rifles and dashed into the fields to seek their prey. But the natives remained, sitting in silence beneath a tree that shaded the vehicle, now stilled.
The hunters cried back at them, and demanded the guides make haste; making haste, after all, was what allowed one to accomplish tasks and reach goals, like slaying unknown beasts and hanging their heads on the civilized walls of their superior estates.
But the natives sat, breathing, eyes closed.
With great impatience, the leader of the hunting party approached them and demanded an explanation.
“You have brought us to this place too quickly,” explained the native’s own leader. “We must sit and wait for our spirits to catch up.”
As with all wisdom tales, parables, myths, and fables, and in varying gradations only we can assign, we are every character in the story, and the message is often that we are out of balance and need to heal ourselves. We need to find ways to restore our center, the core of our being (“core” derived literally and etymologically from the root for “heart”), to offer ourselves and then the world, the finest we have to offer.
Unbalanced, we have given too much of our power away to the exterior accouterments of life: the things that create its surface appearance and tangibility, and we’ve left our spirits stunted and anemic. We have not allowed them to “catch up with us.” How unkind we have become to ourselves, to our own lives, and therefore, to the world around us.
There are neural injuries that leave the patient capable of seeing only half of the reality before her; everything to the right or left of her vision field is rendered invisible. Living unbalanced, we are blinded to the spiritual part of our existence. Not living from a balanced center has led to the manifestation we now endure: a world dying from neglect as well as exploitation. We’ve profited all we can, and given little-to-nothing back.
The empirical has received our finest attention and the transcendent so very little. Our energy is directed outward, and when we experience even a flicker of intuition that we need to feed our interior, our immediate response is guilt and a kind of shame for feeling a hunger that is no longer acknowledged or valued; after all, the sacred can’t be bought and sold, nor is it “productive” to sit still and listen. It’s not on the task list. I can’t sell what introspection and healing offer, and you can’t buy it.
Desecrated life. Desecrated earth.
We’re months into staying at home and here is what I’ve noticed: as I’m being invited to sit with greater stillness and listen for the wisdom my shadow can offer my spirit’s growth and integration (what I believe to be the ongoing, healing journey of our lives), there are days I want to flee more than ever into tasks, to manufacture tasks to keep “busy.” There must be more to do…shall I paint a room, or five of them? Or take down all the curtains? Wash and press them? Weed the acres of gardens? Again? Doing things keeps me a valuable person. Doesn’t it?
Behold, my psyche’s walls are lined with the trophies of my many lists, tasks crossed out, goals accomplished. What a good girl am I! My spirit? Did it catch up with me? What spirit? I went to the wilderness and all I came home with were the heads of beasts I imagined made me look superior, valuable, accomplished.
A friend of mine moved through her daily yoga routine one day last week and suddenly broke down into deep sobs, granting herself a very long, healing cry. As she told me this, she quickly cushioned the telling of the experience by listing all the blessings she’s very aware of: home, food, employment, etc., as though, because she has worked for and earned these things (and also been blessed, for which she is consciously grateful), she does not “deserve” to experience stress during a pandemic and its unknown outcome. While the world is also in crisis from the climate crisis we’ve induced. It’s somehow unjust for her to grieve ending her career in quarantine, to grieve anything at all; after all, no one she loves has died of this virus.
Others have shared similar stories, with the similar need to apologize for “even feeling” distress. I have, too…but am wondering how and when we became unable to feel and honor our feelings, when we began to assign guilt and to almost expect punishment for sensing the need to be still, the time to let our spirits catch up with us? When did we become so unbalanced that, unless we are doing/earning, we’re useless?
I suppose it was during the time we destroyed our water, destroyed the Amazon, destroyed the organs of the earth with such violent fracking that it induced earthquakes, during the time we destroyed the habitats of our fellow earthlings so severely that their extinctions have occurred and are continuing, as is ours. Certainly, we were well-separated from our spirits by the time we tolerated others who were seeking shelter and freedoms we enjoyed to be separated from those they loved and confined to cages.
And so, we’ve come to this time, when we’ve divided our wholeness and hidden the parts deemed weak: The feminine in all of us, the creative artist in all of us, the divergent thinker, and the compassionate mother, the benevolent one who is hospitable and welcomes the stranger.
It’s time these missing parts, our spirits, caught up with us. I fear we are wasting the preciousness of this time we have been given to heal, the days we have been given to transform how and what we are creating with our lives and energy.
And I think much of this begins with being kind to ourselves, which is very different from indulging appetites out of anxiety. It’s allowing ourselves the time to feel what we’re feeling with acceptance, non-judgement, and a generous, loving heart.
It’s granting ourselves a good cry without apologizing, and to grieve the staggering losses we are collectively enduring. And engaging in the yoga/gentle movement that triggers tears as well.
And, yes, it’s allowing ourselves hours of rest and relaxation, even during a pandemic, hours when nothing has to be accomplished and no tasks crossed off a list. And then, noticing what thoughts and feelings emerge when such peace is permitted to them.
It’s listening deeply for the old stories that need editing, the past choices that need forgiveness, the lies that can be healed by the truth.
It’s letting go of whatever fails to serve our growth, the kindness we offer ourselves and, therefore, others, which strengthens the healing and gifts we offer the world now, and when we gather together again, our spirits reintegrated, and our vision and gifts re-balanced.
I’d like to share with you how very dire the circumstances of animal rescues, all over the world, have become during the pandemic. Funds are limited and thinned by need, I know, but if there are any that you can spare, please know how vital they are to keep these rescues saving those so desperately in need. The rescue I work with is Paddy’s Paws, an all-volunteer organization that brings rescued dogs from the Houston area to our own and then to homes and families who have applied and been carefully vetted for the privilege of adopting. Four of our five pups are Paddy’s dogs and we are eternally blessed. http://paddyspaws.blogspot.com/
My very good friend works tirelessly for the Freshfields Animal Rescue in Liverpool, England. They save everything you can imagine, and release back to nature those who survive and can adapt. http://www.freshfields.org.uk
Certainly, I would welcome any possible donations you could make to either of these rescues, but there may well be those closer to your home also in need of supplies, cash, assistance you could safely provide, and more. Please, help as you are able. Gentle peace.
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