There is an invisible world and a kingdom of spirits: that world is round us, for it is everywhere; and those spirits watch us, for they are commissioned to guard us; and if we were dying in pain and shame, if scorn smote us on all sides, and hatred crushed us, angels see our tortures, recognize our innocence. — Charlotte Bronte
There is a kingdom of spirits that protects you. Do you not see them? –Charlotte Bronte
I wish I could see them—the spirits, the angels that surround us, waiting, longing to help us. I believe—with my mind—that there are such things; it’s consistent with the great saying God is Love which, I’m told, can be found in the gospel of John. I’m not a big follower of the bible, and I’m not a believer in the creeds of the world’s great religions. But I do believe in Divine Love—that It’s all around us, and available to us.
I can’t see the ‘angels’ that could easily be around me—around each of us—waiting to help us in our struggles, or perhaps wave some of that fairy dust off their wings onto our aching hearts—at least, most of the time I can’t see them. I’ll admit that sometimes I do have a sense of the Love around me. It’s just that it disappears so easily.
Once when I was sitting in silence, I kind of ‘heard’ the saying: It happens right here, right now. And another time I ‘heard’ the idea: The body is the satellite dish that receives the vibrations of the great Love. This didn’t come in words, really, the ‘knowing’ came without words, and then the words jumped into my awareness all at once, without effort or thought. As though I’d overheard it.
I was standing in the meditation hall at the Garrison Institute about 40 miles north of NYC in late August of 2009 when I first heard of an invitation that would help me to—occasionally—become aware of those spirits who are ‘commissioned to guard us,’ and it started with the suggestion to feel your feet.
Really! Just feel my feet? One thing led to another and soon we were not only feeling our feet, we were feeling the things in the environment with our feet, and with our legs, with our back. It wasn’t simply ‘body scanning’ that we were being invited to feel, the more recognizable practice used to relax the body, by feeling a body part, tensing it, relaxing it, in order to let go of tightness caused by stress.
No, this practice involved the next step after body scanning: inviting the body itself to sense the environment around it. Not with our mind, not with our vision, but through the actual body part.
Someone in the meditation hall might begin with these words:
Inviting our feet to notice the support of the floor beneath them. Inviting our body to sense the support of the chair. Letting our back sense the sturdiness of the back of the chair. Letting our sitting bones, the backs of our legs, sense the support of the chair beneath.
This practice led to two new things. One, the new awareness that it’s not just my thinking mind that notices things; my body is directly experiencing support from outside itself. My whole body can do this. As I sit quietly with this, I begin to notice in a whole-body way that I’m not holding myself up, I’m not holding myself down, I’m not the source of gravity that enables me to sit in this chair without floating away. Some trust creeps in with this unfolding awareness. I don’t have to hold myself up quite so intently.
The second new thing is that I’m not as ‘alone’ as I was a moment ago. Whatever life problem I’ve been struggling with is shifted because at a whole-body level, I now ‘know’ that I am not alone. True, it’s only the floor—not a fireman to extinguish a fire, or a banker willing to cover the cost of whatever is needed, or a loved one to give me a hug and say, ‘there, there’. It’s just a floor. It’s just a chair.
But reality has shifted. I often fall into the belief that I must solve problems on my own. Now my body has direct evidence that I’m not in this all by myself. There’s always something outside me supporting me. I just have to feel my feet to know that’s true.
If I follow this practice to its natural conclusion, if I really take in that my body is—just now in this moment, no matter where I am in the world—getting support, then the next steps seem to me inevitable. As I sit, I become aware of the vibrancy of the moment, then I become aware of ideas that I’d never thought of, then I become aware, eventually, not just of support, but loving support just waiting for me to notice it.
It was my friend Diana—a friend who also feels her feet—who urged me to read the Bronte quotations, and who drew my attention to the question, Do you not see them?
Yes, Diana, sometimes I do ‘see’ them—not with my eyes, but with my whole body.