Day 318/365 The Courage of the Seed

The Courage of the Seed

All the buried seeds

crack open in the dark

the instant they surrender

to a process they can’t see. 

This innate surrender allows everything edible and fragrant to break into a life of light that we call spring.

In nature, we are quietly given countless models of how to give ourselves over to what appears dark and hopeless, but which ultimately is an awakening that is beyond all imagining. This moving through the dark into blossom is the threshold to God

As a seed buried in the earth cannot imagine itself as an orchid or a hyacinth, neither can a heart packed with hurt imagine itself loved or at peace. The courage of the seed is that once cracking, it cracks all the way.” – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

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At the very beginning of Dipped In It, I made reference to feeling within myself a “breaking open.” I did not use this metaphor in the positive context of the above prose…because quite frankly, I didn’t see it that way.

I meant – My life has broken me.

I AM BROKEN.

Now, with some perspective, I can see that yes, I have been broken, but I was never irreparable.

Wait…that isn’t the truth. 

Actually, I am irreparable…because I was never meant to be repaired.

I do not require fixing.

I cannot go back into the seed casing. I cannot curl back into who I once was. I am forever changed…and I hope to break open and to bloom again and again.

No, I do not wish for more hardship nor tragedies in order to further become.

Actually, I believe it is equally the joys in life that have the ability to crack us open.

Even the simplest of things can expand us when we open ourselves up to them…

Waking up in the morning next to someone we truly love, witnessing a fiery sunrise, letting the sound of our children’s laughter spill over us…  

I think when we practice opening our hearts within these beautiful, simple moments, it makes it easier to begin to open them during our painful experiences as well. We can choose to soften when we feel the impulse to tighten.

In opening our hearts to fully FEEL IT ALL…the full spectrum of our humanity, we begin to trust in “the courage of the seed.”

Knowing that the moment we let go…

That is when the light bursts through.

“It is an awakening beyond all imagining.”

Day 293/365 Fear is a Needy Neighbor, Maybe I Should Fix Her Up

When you have dealt with fear a lot over a short period of time, there are some benefits – the biggest one being, it is not an unfamiliar sensation. You don’t have to go through that, “Oh shit, what is this feeling? inner dialogue.  You know...and you usually understand why it is being revealed in a particular moment or circumstance.

For those of us who have made its acquaintance somewhat regularly, fear becomes a bit like a needy neighbor with a penchant for “pop ins”.  We didn’t invite her over, but it is the compassionate thing to do to invite her in, to see if we can’t ease her suffering in some way. Sometimes just giving her that little bit of attention is all she needs. Other times she camps out on the couch for so long we’re afraid she’ll never leave…and boy does she ramble on and on.

My own needy neighbor doesn’t seem to do this much anymore – the camping out, that is. It helps that she doesn’t need to keep reintroducing herself. I know her pretty well, and she’s not all bad.  She does usually bring with her wine and desserts, and she spurs some interesting self-reflection, so I mean…she tries to be a good guest.

The other day my needy neighbor showed up unexpectedly (as she is want to do). It seemed like she was making herself pretty comfortable on my couch, when I grew bored with her chatter and decided to distract myself with a book. I picked one up, flipped through it and read this passage…

“When gripped by fear or anxiety, the reflex is to hold on, speed up, or remove oneself. Yet when we feel the reflex to hold on, that is usually the moment we need to let go. When we feel the urgency to speed up, that is typically the instant we need to slow down. Often when we feel the impulse to flee, it is the opportunity to face ourselves.” – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

I don’t know about you but I can think of so many times in my life when I reacted to fear and anxiety by doing all of those things – holding on, speeding up, or removing myself. 

I know for a while I hung on to my marriage out of fear. I labelled it loyalty or commitment…but I see now that it was just my old friend, fear. I did not want to face myself. I did not want to hear myself silently screaming that I didn’t want to be there anymore…telling me that being afraid wasn’t a reason to stay.

What was I afraid of?

I was afraid of being seen as a failure, afraid of emotionally damaging my children, afraid of not being able to support myself, afraid of starting over.

Unfortunately being steeped in feelings of fear within a relationship creates a pattern – a conditioned response. Do you remember, I wrote a while back about creating an account on a dating site? How I panicked when I was asked to describe myself? I couldn’t go through with it. The only man I have allowed myself to want is someone who would never let me close. I hid there in plain sight – emotionally unavailable on account of wanting someone who is emotionally unavailable.

How clever of me.

What am I afraid of?

I am afraid of making the same mistakes. I am afraid of thinking I know someone and finding out I don’t. I’m afraid of rejection. I am afraid of that cold, painful purgatory we find ourselves in when love is replaced by obligation, and bitterness is all we can taste on our tongues.

Fear knocks on my door whenever I even think about risking myself in this way. She really considers herself to be an expert on the topic of love. She has twisted love and fear up in my head so insidiously that I almost believe they are the same.

But I know something she doesn’t.

I know that when the right person arrives, I’ll muster the courage to introduce him to her (it’s only polite, after all). I suspect he’ll make an introduction of his own – his fear, to me. Perhaps his fear and mine will keep each other company, and they will be less likely to pop in on us unexpectedly, and…

When they do show up…

I hope we will try – to let go when the urge is to hold tightly, to slow down when the urge is to speed up, and to stay…when the impulse is to flee.

To use our fear as an opportunity to face ourselves, together. 

Artwork Foraged and Photographed by Meredith Brower Photography.

Available at www.630photo.etsy.com and at The Power of Juice.

Day 288/365 Shamefaced

Shamefaced.

That’s a word, you guys.

I was trying to figure out if what I was feeling would be defined as shame or as guilt. So I looked up their definitions and there it was…shamefaced.

That’s just too good a word to pass up.

Sometimes I feel shamefaced, and for all the wrong reasons.

So I intend to stop.

I have a lot on my plate – most of us do, I would imagine.

As the mother of two young girls, and a huge dog (who is sweet, but a terribly indiscriminate eater) and an elderly cat; as the daughter of a newly widowed, cancer-fighting mother; as a small business owner (responsible for the livelihood of a dozen amazing women, for the care of many precious children, and for maintaining the confidence of over a hundred parents who leave with us their world wrapped up in a tiny package)…

I care, so deeply, about all of it, about everyone – I feel so grateful and proud to be given this privilege, and it’s a lot. It’s a whole lot of caring about very important people and very important things.

So why then, in light of all this caring…do I feel shamefaced when it comes to caring for myself?

You see…I have a confession to make. Every day for the past week, despite the many things on my plate, I have either taken a long walk (in the woods or at the beach), or I have gone to yoga. Each of these things takes about an hour and a half.

An hour and a half, and it feels like the most decadent thing I could possibly do – taking that time for myself.

I know this is what I need in order to maintain my sanity.  I know that it is, in the end, in the best interest of every other human who needs something from me. 

And yet…this morning after I got up, made breakfasts and lunches for my kids, fed the dog, drove the kids to the bus, cleaned the kitchen, took out the trash, started some laundry, spent and hour and a half doing tax prep and responding to emails…

I still felt shamefaced about taking the time to go to yoga…that little bit of time before ramping back up to do all the things for the rest of the day and evening.

I texted my assistant and said I would be “out of touch” for an hour. You guys, I almost lied and said I had “an appointment.” I don’t lie…and yet, I felt like I should…like I would be disrespecting her by admitting I was doing this thing –  just for me.

That’s so messed up. Seriously.

Whether your stolen moments of sanity look like finding a quiet corner of the house to enjoy a cup of tea or a glass of wine, or a phone call to a friend, or a walk with your dog, or a yoga class…whatever your self care time looks like – can we just acknowledge how hard it is to take that time without feeling like we should be doing something else….probably for someone else?

Why is it so hard to learn to put our own oxygen masks on first, before assisting others?

I think so many of us mistakenly wear our selflessness as a badge of honor.

Look at all I do for everyone else all day long!

We should be proud of all that we do for others – absolutely. We should be proud of our ability and our willingness to recognize all that needs doing, and to do it.

We should also be adept at identifying our own needs, and tending to those…and we should be, perhaps – even prouder of that.

We are constantly told that we should love ourselves. Self care and self love are interwoven – one cannot exist without the other. So if we must love ourselves, we must begin to trust, value and honor our own needs…

To place the oxygen mask firmly on ourselves first. 

The following is an achingly beautiful passage from The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo –

“I can only say that loving yourself is like feeding a clear bird that no one else can see. You must be still and offer your palm full of secrets like delicate seed. As she eats your secrets, no longer secret, she glows and you lighten, and her voice, which only you can hear, is your voice bereft of plans. And the light through her body will bathe you till you wonder why the gems in your palm were ever fisted. Others will think you crazed to wait on something no one sees. But the clear bird only wants to feed and fly and sing. She only wants light in her belly. And once in a great while, if someone loves you enough, they might see her rise from the nest beneath your fear. 

In this way, I’ve learned that loving yourself requires a courage unlike any other. It requires us to believe in and stay loyal to something no one else can see that keeps us in the world – our own self-worth.”