This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
This morning I lay in bed and “meditated,” flat on my back. A couple of times, I actually had to resist the urge to get up and get going; my to-do list is always very long. So what happened for thirty minutes was this back and forth between moments of joy blooming throughout my torso and moments of thinking about my tasks. What a choice. I could be really blissful or I could be busy in my head.
I kept returning to actually paying attention to the physical reality of my existence, to what my rib cage and belly felt like as breath went in and out, to the stretched feeling of muscles in my legs, to the warm feeling of my hands over my heart. These experiences make me happy. Also, they amaze me. As I type on my keyboard now, I pay attention in that way again, and the smile in my body comes back.
How seldom we actually feel our aliveness! One moment of that and I don’t need to ask what my purpose is, or what is the meaning of life.
Next thing I know during my “meditation,” I’m listing, planning, worrying…oh. I’d rather breathe in the happiness that breath brings. And here’s what I’ve learned through bodywork: it’s not a matter of wrestling with my thoughts or trying to stop them or watch them pass or anything.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
As they say in real estate, what matters is location, location, location. I can live inside my skull, or I can live inside my whole body. When I switch from one to the other, it feels like moving from one place to the other. I come down out of the heights and into the territory below my neck, all the way to my feet. That territory is three-dimensional, alive, a subject and not an object. And what a resource it is! It lives a whole different life than the one my head lives.
For example, I can sit here and be stressed by all I didn’t get done today, or about the news, or about the health of people I love. These things are real life, and they are troublesome. OR I can descend into my body and wait to see what’s going on inside. Beyond the level of aches and pains, hunger, feeling my heartbeat, etc., there’s the level of sensing aliveness.
When I come across that me living in my belly, I find someone who is relaxed, content, and deeply satisfied with things as they are. This make no sense to my brain, who knows full well the perils of life on earth. This other one inside knows, beyond words, that Everything is Okay. And yet she’s no slouch. She’s full of curiosity and interest and creativity and expansiveness. She’s fully engaged, calmly and peacefully.
I don’t get it.
And how much do I dare put my trust in that? That notion that behind all the appearances of life, Everything is Okay. I know I’ve experienced that profound peace in the direst moments, but still…
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
This week was the anniversary of the death of my brother-in-law. My husband’s family is Catholic, and they go to mass to commemorate their loved ones. I go because I like being part of that family, plus we go out to breakfast afterward. The last thing I expected in church was an epiphany.
I “got” that what I have to do is contain the contradiction and sit with it. Yes, humans are destroying each other and life on earth, and yes Everything is Okay. Put those two opposite realities right there side by side, feel them both, and something will happen. Open a space inside where I don’t have to choose one, deny one, or make one right and the other wrong.
The first thing that came up was grief. Second, not feeling confused or lost about this issue any more. I don’t have an answer, but I’m on the path. Third, Mystery. There’s something about not taking sides that allows something else to peek through.
I have to spend a lot more time there to say more about it. But I do know that that epiphany has influenced most of my interactions with people since, and led to a depth of connection and healing previously unreached.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
(Thank you, Rumi)