Thich Nhat Hanh is well known in the circle of those that study mindfulness. I first became familiar with his work after reading his book Living Buddha, Living Christ and I enjoyed his simple yet profound insights into the similarities of Buddha and Christ. It’s been many years since I’ve read this book and I think it’s time for me to revisit. So, yes, I’m a fan of Thich Nhat Hanh’s work. Imagine my delight of having at my disposal a video of him demonstrating how to do Ten Mindful Movements. I discovered this wonderful YouTube video during my online MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) course modeled after the founder of MBSR, Jon Kabat-Zinn. This video just happens to be one of the many, many, resources available to those that do the course. I’m proud to say I finished the course and received my certificate several months ago when I began my gap year. Pride is a strong word, but I do feel a sense of accomplishment, and was introduced to so many ways to practice mindfulness. These Ten Mindful Movements are one of my favorites. It only takes 15 minutes and the movements are so gentle and you use your breath to guide your movements. In breath… Out breath…. And don’t forget to smile. The other thing I like about it is that it’s a moving meditation, obviously, and it’s perfect for limbering up the body in the morning and working out all of the kinks. I had to use the video a few times before I memorized all 10 movements, but this is now my go to mindfulness practice when I want to do a moving meditation and the area is not conducive to yoga poses on the ground. And it’s super easy to adapt and use for all kinds of mindful movements. Chris and I love participating in moving meditations. I hope you also enjoy.
I fell asleep last night with views through my window of the star filled night and a bright crescent moon on the Western Horizon. I wake to the orange glow of the mountains as they are set on fire by the rising sun. It’s cool, almost cold. I hurry to make my coffee and wrap myself in a blanket and make my way outside of our cabin here in the ‘Back of Beyond’. I’m mesmerized by the quiet that envelopes this town as the sun begins to warm the earth. The silence is broken by the cooing doves, cawing ravens, and clucking quails. I savor these moments to be alone in this stillness. I mindfully observe the dove on the wire. She does not move, and at first I cannot tell she’s a dove, for she’s in shadow. She is still. She begins to glow golden as the morning sun finds her. She seems to soak it up. She’s watching me. I wonder what she’s thinking. I watch the jack rabbits make their entrance to my domain, their long twitching ears glowing in the sun, looking for some greenery they can devour. The quail family scurries down the road. The wildlife owns this sleepy little ghost town in the ‘Back of Beyond’. Life is indeed precious and I notice my deep sense of contentment as I watch the morning sun bring light to all that is in shadow.
I take time to reflect on the fight that Chris and I had yesterday and I realize I am in the wrong, for I uncovered him. I revealed something about him that I had no business revealing. Furthermore, I painted a picture of him that was far from accurate. I violated his trust. Yes, it was unintentional, but still it hurt him. We talked about it, and made our peace, but it makes me think of this ‘uncovering’ that people do to each other.
I think we know innately to ‘cover’ the nakedness of our spouse, literally and figuratively. And even for those we are not in intimate relationship with, common decency prevents us from revealing things about others we think may embarrass them. My grandsons of course think nothing is embarrassing and are quick to point out things like my soft upper arms that can serve as wings so I can fly when we play make believe. Oh, out of the mouth of babes. Good thing I can laugh about my wings. Ha!
But seriously, when someone does reveal their nakedness to us, are we inclined to keep it to ourselves, recognizing the gift that has been entrusted to us, or do we yell it from the rooftops perhaps to get a good laugh? Or maybe we just ‘share’ another person’s story to make ourselves look better or sound interesting not realizing we may be uncovering the other person? I hope it’s not the latter. Have we lost the sense of common decency in this age of reality tv and doing all that we can to catch someone with their pants down? I sometimes wonder. I often feel embarrassed for the individuals who reveal their most outrageous and embarrassing behaviors for millions of viewers to see. Do we encourage this by our voyeurism? As a psychiatric nurse I worked with individuals who often lacked insight into how much or how little they should reveal about themselves and to whom. I saw both ends of the spectrum. Some were so guarded they wouldn’t even tell you their name. Others were so open, they told anybody and everybody every intimate detail of their lives. I believe both extremes are desperate attempts of broken people trying to affirm themselves when no one else will. Are we exploiting people like this for our own amusement with some of the reality tv? Are we complicit in a further unraveling of their already fragile sense of self? “Until we learn to love others as ourselves, it’s difficult to blame broken people who desperately try to affirm themselves when no one else will.” ― Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life
But am I not doing the same thing? As I write my blog, I’m revealing parts of my most intimate self. But here’s the big difference. I am doing it with compassionate awareness. This inner journey of self exploration provides me an avenue to discover and let go of my false self, my shadow self, so that I can live a more authentic life. It’s scary to put myself out there. I’m by nature more of a closed book. Fear of criticism, judgment, and ultimately rejection are legitimate fears, and my ego, my shadow self as described by Richard Rohr, simply wants to protect me, but it keeps me down. It keeps me from growing. It keeps me from experienceing the joy that can only be found by going deep. So it’s a fear I’m willing to confront because I believe by revealing my shadow self to the light the chains of bondage to my ego are broken. My ego does not like it. I can feel it kicking and screaming. I reassure it and say “it’ll be okay”. My ego is not evil, but it likes the status quo and resists diving deeper. I am learning to treat this ego self with compassion, for it is part of me. I am learning that the most important gift I can give myself is to be my own best friend which was one of the profound lessons I learned with this free online MBSR course. So when I look deeply into the mirror and see things I do not like, I am learning to be compassionate and nonjudgmental with myself. Blogging for me is very much part of the process of my growth and maturation, it is part of my intentional uncovering. I may only have one follower, me, but I’m putting it out there. This uncovering is humbling and hard to do but it is part of my journey to “know thyself”. I know how important it is for me to practice gentleness and compassion. Each of us has our own life’s journey. Some may choose to live an examined life, some may not. But life itself has a way of teaching us humility and sometimes when we see the truth of ourselves, it hurts.
I found it hard to acknowledge that I hurt Chris, and I initially denied it, and instead blamed him. I did not want to see myself as a hurtful person. I felt vulnerable and fearful of abandonment and my ego defenses were simply trying to protect me from further pain. Things like denial and anger and blaming feel so much better than vulnerability and abandonment. But when I owned it and humbly acknowledged my hurtful behavior, it allowed for healing and growth for both of us.
So yes, it is true that when my nakedness is revealed, I feel vulnerable and alone, and my ego defenses go up, but when enveloped with love and compassion and acceptance, my defenses dissolve and I feel free and authentic and relieved. And if I really pay attention, I notice an expansion of my heart space. Until next time – Diane
It’s the new year and Chris and I leave for our road trip soon. In the meantime, I’m still working long hours at my job as a clinical director for a non-profit organization and it feels rather bittersweet. More sweet than bitter, as you can see from my photo as I jump for joy in our beautiful local park. Bitter because I so love and believe in the mission of our work and I will miss it along with all of my amazing and dedicated colleagues and the bravery and inspiration of the women we are so honored to serve. Sweet because I will not miss the frustration I so often feel from working with challenging systems. Chris and I have been planning our ‘gap’ year for some time, and the process we’ve gone through to make this major change in our lives reminds me of stages of change that one goes through when changing a behavior related to their health, such as stopping smoking, or exercising more. We’ve been stuck in ambivalence for awhile. Things feel very serendipitous, and it feels as if the universe is speaking to us saying there is no time like now. It becomes apparent to me that Now is the time for me to leave my job. I’m not handling the stress with my typical equanimity, and somehow lost myself somewhere along the way. My health suffers and my heart hurts, literally and figuratively. So like the stages of change, the universe helps us to see the pros of making this major life change now. It really is related to our health, both physical and mental. Now is the time to strengthen our mindfulness practice, something we’ve been practicing and teaching for twenty years, but that seemed to fall by the wayside. In preparation of our trip, I’m doing an 8 week online Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course, now in my 4th week. I’ve been wanting to do this course for years, but have found it too cost prohibitive, so I’m thrilled to find this course for free. My intent is to strengthen and deepen my daily mindful practice. You may want to check out this free online MBSR course for yourself. There will be much for us to explore and share on this exciting journey. Until next time, enjoy the NOW. ~ Diane