Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Cushioned By Faith
"When we descend all the way down to the bottom of a loss, and dwell patiently, with an open heart, in the darkness and pain, we can bring back up with us the sweetness of life and the exhilaration of inner growth. When there is nothing left to lose, we find the true self--the self that is whole, the self that is enough, the self that no longer looks to others for definition, or completion, or anything but companionship on the journey." Elizabeth Lesser
There are two books I always turn to when I feel the ground falling away, one is Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser (from which the above words were quoted), the other is When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön. Whenever my husband sees these two books out from their home on my bookshelf, he knows something has hit the fan—just one lovely perk of living with someone for fourteen years—I love that he just knows these things.
And now I take a deep breath because I really don't know how to write about any of it—I can’t even quite identify what “it” is. But I can feel that the longer I go without writing about it, the more condensed the light seems to get. I know from many years of coming here and writing that there is great release when I share the painful stuff—so, here's my humble attempt...
Things have felt hard lately, like, really hard. It feels hard to sit myself down with a paintbrush, it feels hard to put all these tangled feelings into writing, it feels hard to take deep breaths, it feels hard to come here and tell you that things are hard. But I also know that sharing the real of all of it is something I'm committed to doing. So I'm showing up here today, wondering what might come out…
I know that when we let others see our scared parts, when we're open about our pain and struggles, others see themselves in us and feel less alone. I know that I don't want to run from the hard stuff, I want to allow the pain to burn away what no longer serves me. I want to lean in and listen to what it has to say. It is such a human thing to push away pain, to reach for something that will take the edge off the discomfort. We think something is wrong with us when we don't feel "good." So, we resist it, we take a drink or a pill, we speed up rather than slow down, we compare more, we share and create less— we make excuses.
But what if we just let it be here? What if we let ourselves sob when we feel like sobbing, what if we stopped saying we're fine when really we feel like we're breaking? What if we could see our pain as a messenger that has something very important to say? What if we could see our pain as a gift that is trying to nudge us more awake, that is trying to burn away the old? What if we allowed others in rather than pushed them away? What if we stopped caring so much about what "they" think and decided to simply tell our truth? What if the pain/discomfort/broken-openness is part of the sweetness that lets the light in and out?
I'm continuously amazed by the effort we humans go through to try to hide our humanness. I mean, isn't the secret out that we all feel pain, that we all struggle, that we all question our worth--that, at times, we have no idea what the hell we're doing? And aren't we doing ourselves and each other a great disservice by trying to hide/hold in/sugar coat these truths?
A couple of nights ago I had the great honor of attending a dark moon ceremony with nine other women, women who ranged in ages from 16 to about 50, seven of whom I had never before met. We sat in a candle-lit circle surrounded by red scarves and tapestries and a temporary alter with sacred objects we had all brought to share. We sang and prayed and hummed, we passed around a talking stick that, when held, meant we were the only one who could talk—which meant all the rest of us had the gift of listening in the deepest of ways. When it was my turn to talk, I felt seen and heard in a way that felt deeply, beautifully healing and filling. We held hands, we blessed the directions, we set intentions and planted metaphorical seeds. We giggled a little, we passed a roll of toilet paper around as the tears began to flow. There was no attempt to hide joy or gratitude or deep pain. It was beauty in a way I've rarely experienced and showed me what is possible when there are no worries about getting it wrong, when we see the beauty in all of it--when we feel safe enough to share our un-sugar-coated real.
"The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reel." Steven Furtick
I love the above quote so much. We all do this—we compare our darkest, most flailing/questioning/doubting/on-our-knees moments with their "highlight reel." We see the finished product, the completed artwork, the published book, the edited article, the showered-made-up-hair brushed version of each other and feel like we're failing somehow.
I have a lot more I want to say about all of this but since I need to run out the door to pick up my little ones from school, I’ll close this for now with one of my most favorite prayers, my greatest wish for all of us...
"I pray that each one of us stay awake as we fall. I pray that we choose to go into the abyss willingly and that our fall is cushioned by faith--faith that at the bottom we will be caught and taught and turned toward the light. I pray that we don't waste precious energy feeling ashamed of our mistakes, or embarrassed by our flaws. After years of teaching, I know only a few things for sure. One is this: We are chunks of dense matter that need to be cracked open. Our errors and failings are chinks in the heart's armor through which our true color can shine." Elizabeth Lesser