“Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. And when our souls lie down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.” – Rumi.
This poem very well captures the essence of the monthly on-line Pause for Presence gatherings which is all about bringing people together to experience the “underlying field of living Presence” – a sense of the aliveness felt within the body and felt around you as an aliveness that holds and nourishes you. And then to simply “lie down in that grass” and rest there, letting yourself be nourished and resourced by this dimension within you that is completely unperturbed by all that is going on within and around you.
Being together in this way also generates a palpable energy field of group Presence, which allows you to experience Presence in a much deeper way than would be possible if you were on your own. These monthly gatherings also aim to be “an oasis amidst all the world chaos of this present time”, as a recent participant described it.
So far, we have had 3 gatherings in which, after some brief guidance into Presence, we simply rested in this underlying field of Presence, embracing the silence (interspersed with times for sharing) and “letting ourselves just be”. And indeed at the end of each gathering, “the world was too full to talk about”. Words felt wholly inadequate to say farewell, so we just raised our hands – paws up for Presence! – as a way of appreciating our full experience together.
We have planned our next get-together for Saturday 15th August, so if you sense a “yes” inside you to join in, then you are warmly welcome! You can also already register for the one after that, which is on Saturday October 17th.
Time and date: Saturday 15th August from 4 pm to 5.15 pm BST (British Summer Time). The next gathering is on Saturday 17th October from 4pm to 5.15 pm BST.
Venue: Zoom video conferencing platform. If you have no experience with Zoom, please let Cecelia know for necessary guidance.
Fee: £10 (by bank transfer) or £11 (by Paypal which includes £1 Paypal fee). It includes a free audio-recording of the guided sessions.
This Whole-body Focusing training session began with discovering a new embodying experience within me as I slowed down and connected to my body and presence. I found a deepening body-trusting that the environment will support and hold me, a sense of letting go into gravity and being able to be.
I sat with my breath just “doing its thing” when I was suddenly struck by how the breath in me awakens my unique conscious aliveness. My breath was “switching on” my Cathy aliveness–a shaping movement in my hand came under my diaphragm. With it came a sense of trying to find the shape of my aliveness. It was similar to the sense of awe and wonder I had felt at the birth of my daughters and on first meeting my new-born grandchildren. It was beyond words, a heart-felt “wow” at the creation of this particular utterly new unique and individual life energy, this new little human being and the excitement of who are they? Who will they become?
My body remembered how with my daughters this felt sense of their own energy was there even in the womb. Connecting with these body memories, I felt the unique patterns of their energy shapes, their particular form of aliveness. I suddenly recognised that I know the contours of their life energy far better than I knew my own. A familiar pattern for me – being more aware of the felt sense of the other person than of my own aliveness and sense of self. This pattern was a well-established survival pattern.
My hand continued the arced shaping movement, feeling for the shape of my aliveness: searching for the feeling of me-ness. The felt senses of my two grandchildren came: Meg all pink and sparkly, darting all over the place, an exploding dazzling firework of creative energy. Ethan very different – softer and flowing, leaning into, cuddling up, deep focused concentration and sensitivity, a broad connecting smile.
Addie invited me to sense into myself to find my shape, my energetic movement pattern: this was far more elusive, the old familiar survival pattern at work. Addie encouraged me: a reminding me that I was here with my breath awakening my aliveness.
My Trauma is Not my Shape
Suddenly a light bulb moment happened: a new awareness that for decades I had been “working on” the shape of how multiple traumas had impacted on me and in many senses “shaped” me. But this was not the same thing as the unique “within-me-from-creation” sense of my essence – this was my true shape.
Addie mirrored back to me, both in copying the shaping gesture of my hands and with these words, “This is the shape of your unique aliveness which is the essence of you that is untouched no matter what happens in life in terms of trauma”.
The words and the movement together sank into me. My body was absorbing this new discovery in a way that felt akin to the action of the yeast fermentation process in the bread-dough. “To begin to know the essence of you,” Addie reflected back to me.
A sense of expansion gently occurred within my whole body with this new awareness. And then a mental recognition that this is what I needed to discover and take into myself to be able to differentiate myself from others.
Then I noticed, as I sat with all of this, was how patterns of tightening in my body came, as they so often did. They were old trauma-shape models and I could now “mark and park” them with ease, to use Addie’s phrase. I was able to let them go rather than pursuing them and their paths. I now felt in my body that what would help me more would be if I could connect with the essence of myself untouched by my traumatic past.
Suddenly I realised that I had a sense that my essence was around in me but was hiding! Like a baby deer hiding in the trees and it was watching me. I could feel that this little fawn needed me to be very still and not to startle it, that the fawn was shy and not used to the attention. My hand started moving up and down – a gesture showing me that this place was needing stillness and silence.
In the quiet, I began to feel more of a sense of my shape: not as energetic as star-burst Meg and yet I had her colourfulness and independence. I also had the more muted nature colours of Ethan and his sense of flow and sensitivity – this was the shyness of the fawn.
What is My Shape?
My hands started doing a grasping movement as if trying to capture something that was ephemeral: a curiosity came to do with this fleeting feeling. Was it that this was something more trying to come? Or was it that by my very nature, in my essence I have a sense of the ephemeral? Then the energy of my younger daughter comes: she is an engineer, always has a clear understanding of direction and purpose, and there is nothing ephemeral about her! And in connecting with this, my whole body shifted as it owned that ephemeral-ness was and is part of my intrinsic shape.
A tightness came around my head and the image of trying to fit a round peg into a square hole: my bodily experience of how this being ephemeral can mean I often feel somewhat out of kilter with our external world of left-brain planning and organising. Suddenly something came – this ephemerality of mine it is Gene Gendlin’s “fuzzy edge”. A sense of something not yet entirely known and again on the verge of conscious becoming. Addie invited me to allow all that had come to be here. “The all that had come” sank into my body with each breath.
Suddenly my breath shifted gear, and more came: I had been in a fuzzy edge about my intrinsic fuzzy-edged-ness! My intrinsic ephemerality is the language of my body, and when I sense into and listen to it, then I am in step with myself. That being a fuzzy-edged person is not a “psychological issue” as I had always previously thought, it is not some trauma-derived problem, but it is part of the intrinsic nature of who I am.
For me then, to be in step with myself, I need to invite and be with my fuzzy-edged-ness that this is the healthy way forward for my aliveness and also for healing the residual trauma still within me.
As you may already know, the Pause for Presence project is all about bringing people together to deepen their experience of simply resting in the ground and aliveness of Being, a dimension in us that is completely unperturbed by all that is going on within and around us.
Being together in this way generates an energy field of group Presence, which allows for all of us to experience Presence in a much deeper way than would be possible if we were on our own. These monthly gatherings also aim to be “an oasis amidst all the world chaos of this present time”, as a recent participant described it.
Our last get-together on 12th June was rich and full. There were over 20 people and after some brief guidance into a sense of the ground and aliveness of Being, we simply rested there, embracing the silence and “letting ourselves just be“.
Some brief, rich sharing came out of this at times, but what was most noticeable was the depth and fullness felt in the group energy at the end. Words felt wholly inadequate to say farewell, so we just raised our hands – paws up for Presence! – as a way of honouring our full experience together.
It brought to mind a Rumi poem: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. And when our souls lie down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about it.”
We feel this project clearly wants to keep moving forward, so we have planned our next get-together for Friday 10th July. If you sense a “yes” inside you to join in, then you are warmly welcome!
Time and date: Friday 10th July from 4 pm to 5.15 pm BST (British Summer Time).
Venue: Zoom video conferencing platform. If you have no experience with Zoom, please let Cecelia know for necessary guidance.
Fee: £10 (by bank transfer) or £11 (by Paypal which includes £1 Paypal fee). It includes a free audio-recording of the guided sessions.
What happens when we let our egos decide how significant a problem is? Here is the story of my toe.
I was born with an oddly shaped toe—the middle toe on both feet is the longest toe. The right foot has been more problematic. That foot is also a bit longer, and there is even less space in a shoe for it. If you look at the photo of the “perfect” foot, you will see perfectly conforming toes with the big toe being the largest and the subsequent toes gradually getting smaller. What happens when one of your toes do not fit such perfection?
When Someone Finds a Flaw in You
My teenage boyfriend was the first to point out the middle toe. He said I had square feet in a mocking tone. Bye-bye, first boyfriend. But now that I knew about this “problem,” I wondered how many other people might mock me for having an oddly shaped toe. “Square feet,” however, became a background feeling to describe my relationship with my toes.
As I aged, however, I understood that I could not wear “stylish” shoes because shoe sellers predicate their designs on everyone having a “perfectly shaped” toes and two same size feet. We all know from watching many police shows that shoes give away who you are. If you can’t wear stylish shoes, then forget stylish clothes. This tiny problem also impacted how I dressed, mostly in slacks with shoes that had square “toe boxes.”
I began spending exorbitant amounts of money, not on designer shoes, but orthopedic shoes that never really were comfortable. My middle toe would never have enough space to be itself, and the nail would send painful shock waves up my leg. I decide to get professional help from a podiatrist who happily cut away the nail. Two years of nerve pain later, the nail just grew back. So what’s a gal to do with a non-compliant toe?
I wear Crocs as much as possible because Crocs designed their shoes to give one’s foot support and space. Three months of lock down made me forget my toe. I only wore Crocs. But now, because I can leave the house occasionally, I began wearing shoes again, and the pain came back.
How Merchandise Controls Our Perceptions
I decided to hold space for my toe with love and compassion. The first thing I noticed was how central this toe is to my well-being. There is nothing in being longer than average that makes it a defective toe—it performs all the tasks one expects a toe to do. Because it is different from what our society acknowledges as a middle toe, few produce shoes to accommodate it. The basis of shoe design is the supply and demand economic model. This model impacted how attractive I felt, the people I dated, and the shoes and the clothes that I wore. Somehow even though the boyfriend is long gone, his harsh words hang in the air as an acknowledgment of the limitations of not having a “classic” foot form.
Getting to Know my Toe
When I hold space for the toe, what comes is how it has been my reliable bellwether. If the boyfriend didn’t like my toe, he needed to go. He was a nascent domestic abuser. When I felt pressure to dress in the hyper-sexualized clothing that society promotes, I thought, “what’s the use, I can’t wear the shoes to make the style work.” If I do not regularly care for my toe when I have to wear outdoor shoes, the unbearable pain makes me stop everything else and care for it. I’ve learned to be proactive in caring for my toe so that I can move, walk, dance, and play without pain. Maybe when I stop my ritual care for my toe, it is the same time that I am not taking care of other parts of me. So my question is, what does my toe need now?
The first word that comes is “constant.” When I have outdoor shoes on, there is never enough space for this toe. My toe develops more hard callus right at the point where the regrown nail is as a way to protect itself. The coming together of the callus with the nail’s edge is what alerts me something is wrong. My toe wants me to know that it constantly suffers from this constriction and works hard to protect my toe by reinforcing the callus already there. Then, I work carefully to remove the callus because that is what relieves my perceived pain.
I have more compassion for my toe and its lifelong journey to live under conditions that do not support it. I also hold an appreciation for the role it has played in my life to give me a reason to leave unhealthy people and activities behind. I hold space for the “not knowing” how to support my toe so that it is not under constant pressure to protect itself only to have me undo that protection. How many other ways do I undo my body’s natural activity to heal because it doesn’t fit my perception of what is right? By holding space for my toe, I trust my body to inform me of what it needs.
One of the positive aspects of the COVID quarantine was the vast amount of time that entered our lives. Like an unexpected gift, we could slow down, sit down to savor the silence, or stand by a window or balcony and gaze upon the empty streets, read a whole book at once, write, care for our gardens, cook, chat, and many other things. In the beginning, I felt a sort of excitement for all this. Then I found myself lost in this huge container of time. I needed references; I needed to stop to one point and dig in.
Therefore I tried to make room for my writing process. In a Wholebody way, I tried to create space and time for what I was feeling while being in the present moment. I connected to my heart in a loving and caring way. Here is what I found. This short dialogue with myself helped me to find my voice.
“Today, it’s a long day, and I wish I could find something really valuable in it–something like a work well done, for example. I feel that I can do it because I can take care of things. This trust -it supports me and feeds me. I know I can take care of my plants, my books, my clothes, my body, or my desk. Perhaps I can even take care of those pages that I would like so much to write. A simple writing job I have been fighting with for days. I want to be doing this work in the most loving way.
How can I do something lovingly? I can love what I do by putting a touch of poetry in it. Loving also means that I don’t need to hurry, knowing that if I only stay with it a little longer, it could become something beautiful, profound, and mine. Being in the present moment while writing is an excellent way of drafting my pages.
I can order ideas calmly–thought by thought. Things written and then read and then corrected. I notice how everything looks different once it’s on the page–how some things come to life and others die because they don’t have enough strength, they don’t have energy, they don’t have roots.
I write and then search for what makes sense, what has a story, my story, my voice. I can recognize my voice in what I write. That is my process. Write to find me in what I write and then trim, clean, correct everything so that my voice is as clear as possible. This is the process I want to get into as I write.
How do I recognize this voice? I believe it is a distinct voice because it comes from my heart and reveals truths. It could be a small part of truth that would otherwise be lost. Maybe this is the real task of a writer. Reveal truths, even if only partially, minimally, but something that begins to shine among a thousand others. I don’t think a text can have many of these pearls, but some, yes. I also believe that the whole piece serves those pearls because they represent the heart voice. So I write slowly, to prepare the ground, to accompany the reader towards these unique pearls.
The Language of the Heart
It’s not about finding inspiration because, after all, inspiration is like a passing cloud, that you can eventually grasp. The language of the heart, however, is always there. One only has to listen carefully to be able to grasp it and bring it out gently. It needs to be encouraged with much caution–lovingly and poetically.
Then the rest of the text is an accompaniment; it is a dance; it is a ritual that brings pearls to light. That ritual must not be listless, casual, distracted, or confused. It has to be done with care and presence because it is precisely from the quality of the ritual that the pearls can emerge. Because somehow it is like welcoming a guest. If the host is not kind and welcoming enough, the guest will not enter. He does not trust; he hangs on the door.
It is a delicate but extremely creative and pleasant process. It is like the process of life. Caring in life is always a winning strategy. Somehow I have lost the habit of taking care of things. I have lost the joy of the cure. Only the appearance of the treatment remains, and that is not enough for the guest. It is not even enough for me. Maybe it’s like listening to background music. Writing with love is like being accompanied by a soundtrack that creates the right environment, the ideal mood, the right feelings.
I do not want to delude myself, because there are no guarantees that by doing all this, the longed-for result will come, it is not sure at all. And on the other hand, I do not intend to do all this for a result. Perhaps I do it because the journey is more pleasant if I do it with a smile in my heart. Perhaps because, in the doing and redoing, there is so much love and love is what matters.
Just doing and redoing, never gets tiring because the heart actively participates in the process. I am not alone in this eagerness to express my voice. My heart is with me, and it leaps in my chest with enthusiasm as I make that decision. My whole body is on the alert and wants to join the process. I am not alone in this task. Every part of the body does its work, and the music begins to play with such intensity that I want to stand up and dance. But I don’t get up; I don’t move, only my hands and my eyes move because the process has started, and I don’t want to miss a single word.”
Uno degli aspetti positivi della quarantena per il COVID è stato avere tanto tempo a disposizione. Un’enorme quantità di tempo è entrata nella nostra vita come un regalo inaspettato. Finalmente potevamo rallentare, restare seduti a goderci il silenzio, oppure restare alla finestra o al balcone ad osservare le strade vuote, leggere un intero libro senza interruzioni, scrivere, occuparci del giardino, cucinare, inviare messaggi, e tante altre cose.All’inizio sentivo una certa eccitazione in tutto questo. Ma ad un certo punto mi sono sentita come persa in questo enorme contenitore di tempo. Avevo bisogno di riferimenti. Avevo bisogno di fermarmi in un punto e scavare.
Allora ho cercato di fare spazio al mio processo creativo. In un modo Wholebody, ho cercato di creare spazio e tempo per ciò che sentivo, restando nel momento presente. Collegata al mio cuore, con cura e in modo amorevole. Ed ecco ciò che è emerso.Questo breve dialogo con me stessa mi ha aiutata a trovare la mia voce.
“È una giornata lunga e tra le tante cose da fare, vorrei infilarci qualcosa di veramente valido. Ad esempio, un lavoro ben fatto. Sentire che lo posso fare perché posso prendermi cura delle cose. Questa fiducia mi sostiene e mi nutre. Posso prendermi cura delle piante, dei libri, dei vestiti, del mio corpo, della mia scrivania e anche di quelle pagine che voglio scrivere da tempo e che non riesco a scrivere. Un semplice lavoro di scrittura con cui sto combattendo da giorni. Voglio farlo nella maniera più amorevole possibile.
Come posso fare qualcosa in maniera amorevole? Posso amare ciò che faccio mettendoci un tocco di poesia. Amorevole significa anche rallentare, non andare di fretta, perché se solo ci resto dentro un po’ più a lungo, può diventare qualcosa di bello, di profondo, di mio. Stare nel momento presente mentre scrivo, ecco un buon modo per affrontare la pagina.
Le idee possono essere ordinate con calma. Pezzo dopo pezzo. Le cose scritte e poi lette e poi corrette. Notare come tutto appare diverso una volta che è messo sulla pagina. Notare come alcune cose prendono vita e altre muoiono semplicemente perché non hanno abbastanza forza, non hanno vita, non hanno radici.
Scrivere e poi riconoscere ciò che ha un senso, ciò che ha una storia, la mia storia, la mia voce. Posso riconoscere la mia voce in quello che scrivo. Questo è il mio processo. Scrivere per riconoscermi e poi sfrondare, pulire, correggere ogni cosa affinché la mia voce sia più chiara possibile. Questo è il processo in cui voglio entrare quando scrivo.
Come faccio a riconoscere questa voce? Io credo che si tratti di una voce particolare perché arriva dal cuore e rivela delle verità. Una piccola parte di verità che altrimenti andrebbe persa. Forse questo è il vero compito dello scrittore. Rivelare delle verità, anche solo parziali, minime, ma che brillano tra mille altre. Non credo che un testo riesca ad averne tantissime di queste perle, ma alcune sì, e credo che tutto il resto vada a servizio di queste perle perché loro rappresentano la voce del cuore. Quindi scrivo lentamente per prendere tempo, per preparare il terreno, per accompagnare il lettore verso queste perle che sono uniche nella loro essenza.
Il linguaggio del cuore
Non si tratta neanche di trovare l’ispirazione, dopo tutto. L’ispirazione è come il passaggio di una nuvola, che puoi cogliere. In questo caso invece il linguaggio del cuore è sempre lì e occorre ascoltare attentamente per poterlo cogliere e portarlo fuori. Con molta cautela. In modo amorevole e con un po’ di poesia.
Allora il resto del testo è un accompagnamento, è una danza, è un rituale per portare alla luce le perle. Quel rituale non deve essere svogliato, casuale, distratto, confuso. Esso va fatto con estrema cura e presenza perché è proprio dalla qualità del rituale che può nascere la perla. Perché in fondo è come accogliere un ospite. Se il padrone di casa non è abbastanza gentile e accogliente, l’ospite non entra. Lui non si fida e resta sull’uscio.
È un processo delicato ma estremamente creativo e piacevole. In fondo è il processo della vita. La cura nella vita è sempre vincente. Io mi accorgo che ho perso l’abitudine alla cura. Ho perso la gioia della cura. È rimasta solo l’apparenza della cura e quella non basta all’ospite. Non basta nemmeno a me stessa. Forse è come ascoltare della musica di sottofondo. Scrivere con amore è come essere accompagnato da una colonna sonora che crea l’ambiente giusto, lo stato d’animo ideale, i sentimenti giusti.
Ora non voglio illudermi, perché non è detto che facendo tutto questo il risultato arrivi, non è affatto detto. E d’altronde non intendo fare tutto questo per un risultato. Forse lo faccio perché il viaggio è più piacevole se fatto con il sorriso nel cuore. Forse perché nel fare e rifare c’è tanto amore e l’amore è quel che conta.
Fare e rifare, appunto, e non stancarsi mai perché il cuore partecipa attivamente al processo. Non sono sola a voler esprimere la mia voce. Il cuore è con me e balza nel petto dall’entusiasmo quando prendo questa decisione. Tutto il mio organismo si mette in allerta e vuole partecipare al processo. Non sono affatto sola in questo compito. Ogni parte del corpo fa il suo lavoro e la musica comincia a suonare così intensamente che mi viene voglia di alzarmi e ballare. Ma non mi alzo, non mi muovo, si muovono solo le mie mani e miei occhi perché il processo è iniziato e non voglio perdermene nemmeno una parola.”
Photo Credit: Diana Scalera, East Village, NY 2009
When the opportunity to tune into myself and hear myself speak out like this, my body responds immediately as though I am having this experience all over again. At the same time, I am noticing that I am doing so. This enables me to hold both at the same time, one after the other. The physical experience in the moment coming alive again, and then to be able to report to you what that brings in my consciousness as a thought about this experience. So, I am trying once again to hold both the experience and then the thought from which the experience has awakened.
This short recording of about 15 minutes seems to have a series of three different physical experiences that seem to follow one after the other, coming with the first outburst, “I am stuck!”
“I am stuck, I am so stuck etc.” seems to awaken a very powerful shaking in my body, vibrating all through me. Just a few simple but very clear words, but direct and passionate in its delivery with the full force of intention. “I am stuck!”
I am almost shocked that I can actually speak out this way as though I have broken some kind of taboo. I say it again because I feel I want to—as though I like the sound of my voice. “I am stuck.” I actually begin to smile—almost into laughter—and say even more clearly with more vigor—as though I am enjoying myself!
This vocal experience, sounding off like this, feels very new and very freeing, breaking through some kind of prohibition that I mustn’t speak. I must not say this or something bad will happen to me. There is also a fear right there that is so familiar, a fear that stops me from expressing myself, fearing that something very, very, bad will happen! A belief embedded in me that comes right there when I have a deep reactive felt response that feels so not right. Yes, something bad will happen, I’m sure of it. This fear is like I will go to hell for all eternity, I will be punished severely, I will break my mother’s heart. Very dramatic fears that hold me back enough to remain silent.
But in this moment, as I hold both the experience and then my awareness, something also happened at the same time that I can mark right now. I can feel the physical vibration, the shaking. The fear is there and the words that come saying, “I mustn’t”! but there is more in this experience that feels new. My body is moving, shaking out, vibrating all the way through me, the very opposite of what one would describe as being ‘stuck’! The stuck is not happening, something new is happening and it seems as a very different experience of what that word ‘stuck’ points to!
The word is still there–‘stuck,’–but the experience has moved on to something quite different from what I believe that word is pointing to: stuck in place, rigid, held, tight etc. That is not the experience I am having right now; something quite different, something that I can’t describe, no words yet but the feel of it is so different! What I also notice is that I am noticing. That I have some sense of space to notice these two different expectations and reactions which enables me not only to notice but also to choose, to choose what I might want, rather than the familiar habitual response (I mustn’t), some form of stoppage. I am actually enjoying it, enjoying my own empowerment that I can choose, perhaps for the first time. And I like that.
The whole situation has changed, and in this moment, by holding both, I can speak and perhaps even begin to put words to what has now happened. Physically, I am shaking all over, and at the same time I am enjoying myself in this experience, enough to keep repeating it with a kind of bad-boy intention, I am feeling so stuck, ha ha ha! Yes, whatever is happening, even before I can put words to it, I know I’m having a life-affirming experience right now and I want it. Yes, that kind of bad-boy sounding out there feels almost sexual and knotty in some way. I am feeling so stuck now feels so good: so stuck, so good! And I’m not in hell! My mother is not there, nothing bad is happening! So, I play with the freedom of that, enjoying the freedom that comes in speaking that way, speaking out against something that I believe must never be said!
I am allowing myself to express “what I mustn’t” with passion! It is as though I am almost daring to challenge life itself!
I realize this is only the first part of the recording. As I enjoy this speaking out in this way and having this enjoyable experience of empowerment, something more comes in my consciousness to remind me of something else about myself. Something of how it was for me as a young boy growing up in the school where I didn’t seem to fit in because my experience was different from those of other boys. This is coming out of nowhere now, but the recording seems to have moved on towards another experiencing that want to be noticed too. Other painful places that are stuck in some kind of old belief systems.
I was reminded about being in grade 3, being taught basic arithmetic. I was taught “1+1= 2″. It was implied that this was the first principle of mathematics; truth number one and all else follows. But I was surprised that what seemed to be the accepted truth was not my experience! In fact, I could not accept that this statement was true at all! I knew I had to comply and pretend, perhaps, that I agree with it. But at the same time, I knew in my heart that this was not true for me. What to do? How to live with that split in me? It is still there, stuck!
So, I took the opportunity here to play with my experience once again with counting the numbers from 1 to 10 and then to notice how that was for me. As I spoke out these words slowly, I was surprised to find myself able to count is this felt way, pausing before the next number presents itself. It seemed to make room for another experience that didn’t exclude the mathematical principle, but it included something more too, a sense of space inside, a spaciousness around me and beyond me, life happening over there too.
So the principle could be accepted as a truth, a function that worked in a particular way, but I also could make room for other experiencing happening at the same time. It was not a question of having to choose one or the other. I have the capacity to hold both. The basic principle of mathematics seems to come from a different place, kind of man-made place. Perhaps an essential place for a man to function today. In short, I was able to hold both for more. So much more which included not only thinking but also feeling, tasting, touching, smelling, seeing, hearing etc. So rather than arguing with this formula, there was room in me to expand my experience of more possibilities that are also true, each in their own way. Not just one truth, perhaps many; many I have no sense of—at least not yet.
Feeling satisfied with this long-held anxiety about basic principles around mathematics and finding some kind of peace with the ability to hold differing ways of thinking and experiencing, something new appeared out of the blue again. What came was the recent memory of a shared experience with another person in a Heartfelt Listening situation. It seemed directly connected to the first experience of “I feel stuck”. That kind of sounding off reminded me when another person just did something similar, similar enough that felt somehow mutual like, “we know this place!”
This person said something out loud as she noticed her hands. Staring at them she cried: “My hands are so busy, they are always so busy, they never stop, they drive me crazy.”
I listened to her outburst and also noticed her hands. I noticed her hands were pulled inward at the beginning and then they seemed to do something quite different when she gave voice to what she felt about that. That kind of direct voicing of such an experience seemed to awaken her hands to expand in some new way. They looked bigger, with a different kind of expressing. She too was struck by happening in here, in her hands, and I heard her say, “Oh my God, my hands feel so different, they feel so loving of me. Wow, I love that!”
That whole thing over there, in her, felt true in me too! It felt like she was speaking ‘truth’. And as she did it, I could see the change happening. Her hands seemed to take on a life of their own, independent of her prior outburst of pent-up frustration. They seem to be coming from a very different place now.
What was also very surprising in me was that my own hands were doing something similar too! Something was happening in my hands that felt good, very life-affirming. And I wanted to speak up. I didn’t quite know how to describe that, so I said something: “It feels like I am borrowing your hands for a moment so that my hands can do something like that for me too.” And as I spoke, I could feel my hands beginning to move upward beside my head space to nourish this part of me that had felt so tight and tense at the start of this recording.
Something mutual had happened between us, a kind of ‘energy presence’ that was not of our own making, a presence that has a mind of its own that was mutually supportive in both of us each in our own way. It felt like a Heartfelt Connection as though I could say, “loving is happening here!” Something loving was happening between us that was life supporting for each of us as needed! The only way I could describe this was that “the life in her hands seemed to awaken the life in my hands for more in some way that was needed in my life too.”
The whole thing seems to be complete and I knew it was time to end the recording. So many different events in my life seemed to come together in one moment of integration and awareness in a variety of very different situations at different times and events in my life. Coming together one after the other right now. So grateful, Amen.
Recently Cecelia Clegg and I were both sitting silently in Presence together during an on-line WBF session, and it felt so rich and right to do so during a time in which it is so easy to contract in fear, anxiety and frustration.
To pause and give ourselves time to open up to the “Life felt within and without” feels now more meaningful than ever, and it gave us the idea to invite others to join us in a Pause for Presence gathering. We take time together to come into grounded Presence. Then we rest silently in the depth and aliveness of our Being. This process helps us to enter a dimension unaffected by all that is going on within and around us.
About a month ago, we had our first Pause for Presence gathering. After a brief lead-in (for those who needed it), we sat (or stood or moved) in silent Presence, which at times would flow into some sharing between us.
We knew that it would be richly nourishing for everyone but what was surprising also to notice was how quickly the broader field of the group Presence became palpable in our virtual meeting room. There was an added richness that allowed many of us to experience a much deeper sense of Presence than would have been possible if we had been on our own. At the end of our time together, it also felt like there was a tangible calm, still eye amid today’s turbulence.
There is a definite heartfelt “Yes” in us to continue with these Pauses for Presence get-togethers as they are nourishing in so many ways. We have planned our next meeting on Friday 12th June. And if you sense a “yes” inside you to join in, then you are warmly welcome!
Photo: Diana Scalera, Windscape, Cape May, NJ 1987
One of the characteristics of our Stay at Home experiences is that they heighten the feeling of impermanence. What is scientific information one day—don’t wear masks—becomes what will save us the next day–wear a mask! One day COVID-19 is a respiratory disease then the next day, blood clots and kidney failure are a more significant danger.
We also create expectations of what will happen next that are not reliable. When attempting to buy food, I found that the store where we had been buying food no longer included our zip code in their delivery zone. NYC has been quiet, and the air so clean. Our window sills stayed clean of the usual amount of soot, and we were able to see beautiful blue skies. But, today, all that changed. I could hear the roar of cars and motorcycles on the nearby highway, Police helicopters were flying overhead, and seaplanes were landing on the East River. These annoyances were absent for the last eight weeks. It was a calmness not felt in this neighborhood for many decades. And now, the noise and soot have returned in almost full force.
What is Impermanence?
In Buddhism and other healing traditions, embracing the impermanence of life is what relieves us from suffering. The doctrine asserts that all existence, without exception, is transient and unreliable. By learning to accept that all life is in constant flux, we might not be surprised by change. We learn that, while impermanence might bring grief and sorrow, it can leave space for renewal and love. It also helps us value what we have at the moment because whatever that is, is also impermanent. We are living in a time that is helping us connect to impermanence on a moment to moment basis. We can use this experience to become aware of and strengthen our ability to appreciate the present, process our losses, and anticipate that good might come from impermanence.
When I was studying to be a teacher, I learned about the Brazelton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale that measures, among other things, neonates’ consolability. This assessment is used immediately after birth. A team measures various aspects of the baby’s state of being. In the case of consolability, someone disturbs a sleeping baby and then observes how quickly the baby consoles herself. The faster the newborn returns to a calm state, the more emotionally stable she is assumed to be. I think about that test when I consider living with impermanence. It starts with the concept that our bodies have an instinct to return to a calm state. Wholebody Focusing connects us to the part of us present at birth—the ability to console ourselves.
When Narratives go up in Smoke
On a personal level, I’ve been holding space for a health issue. I had created a complicated narrative that explained everything. Then, one day when I held space for the energy of the narrative, it dissolved into a puff of smoke. What my body let me know was that my story was not only a small part of what was happening but also the narrative was limiting me from being open to a larger truth. My search for the magic bullet that would resolve my health issue in one neat package became useless. This revelation put me on a path to encounter a fuller picture. New insights have emerged. What is happening to me is an amalgam of long-held nameless somethings that are wanting my attention. Energetically, a larger area of my body is involved than I had connected to before and it includes the space surrounding my body.
As part of my healing, I am taking a constitutional homeopathic remedy to help deep-seated traumas to emerge. I’ve adapted my chanting process, to begin with sensing the energy of my concerns before I start chanting. I can feel that energy in my hands as I ground myself.
I have small singing bowls on my desk and ring them whenever I need to connect to “me” again by pausing. It ensures that I do not work non-stop. The sound of the bowls have a long duration, and I make sure I do not begin something new until the vibrations have returned to a calm state like that of a newborn.
When new energy or a narrative emerges, I let my hands feel the energy. Sometimes movements come. As the vibrations diminish, I remind myself that nothing is permanent, and my body has the capacity to console itself and reconnect to joy.
Challenges Big and Small
After I started writing this post, I got word that my dear friend Martin Blumenkranz, who lived 1,200 miles from me, had passed away. Even though we had not worked together for almost 20 years, we spoke to each other every week for hours. He was my assistant principal at a new, innovative school in Manhattan called High School for Environmental Studies. He hired a team of teachers passionate about improving the environment and gave us space to be our best selves. Since his death, social media has been alive with stories from people around the world who loved him. His leadership and undying belief in the goodness and creativity of humanity touched us all and helped us become the people we are.