This past week I had my first class with Addie van der Kooy and Cecilia Clegg called “Practicing Presence.” I came away from that workshop with some homework—pause and find your grounded presence whenever you can even if you are just waiting for the kettle to boil. The experience of these pauses helped me learn so much about myself.
One task I needed to do was to put together my bookcases that I had dismantled when the painters came to freshen up my apartment. For months I’ve been promising myself I would make some sense out of the mess so I could actually find a book I might want.
I began sorting my books into piles. I paused to be with all the categories looking for meaning. The first thing I noticed was how many journals I had. Even though writers are supposed to be people who wrote in journals all their lives, I never thought of myself as a journal writer. I found 11 full journals. Who knew? They are mostly from extended trips abroad and times of strife. This was the first big pause. I stopped to sense into “Who was this person who wrote in journals and what did she write about?” There were texts of prose, letters to angels, dreams, schedules, poetry and many different types of art—painting, drawing, collage, and textile design.
I paused with each journal in my hands. I found the text below in a journal I had written when I was struggling with cancer and my relationship with my mother.
The Rage Temple has Gone out of Business
You have rage that’s too dangerous to express?
Open up an account with me.
Just tell me your problem
And I’ll deposit it in my body.
And when my body explodes with rage
We are sorry.
Now these Temple doors are closed for good.
How long will it take to empty the inventory?
I had these journals. I never read them. I didn’t remember writing them. I didn’t remember me. A pause changed that. The pause got me to open the journals and remember the me who wrote them.
The next pause helped me notice what books I have been reading. There were a large number of books about all sorts of energy healing, diet, health, wellness, etc. There’s a considerable number of books about Focusing and WBF. There are also books about Reiki, Flower Essence Therapy and Homeopathy. These are all practices that are now as normal to me as breathing. I paused with the books and I sensed how I loved learning about these modalities and how they have saved me and helped me move toward my highest and greatest good.
The next pause that came was around artistic endeavors. There are books on crochet, drawing, creating Flash cartoons, dance, poetry, and feminist literary criticism. As I was putting some odd books away, I paused again. Where should I put my bound copy of the Master’s thesis? It is study of two Spanish women writers who wrote about breaking free, or not, of their patriarchal limitations. They do this through writing self-begetting novels about women who read Fascist romance novels as children and are trying to create new structures for novels about women’s lives. It suddenly occurred to me that my thesis should go with the other books of feminist literary criticism. Some of these books were quoted in my work. Rather than being just an activity that I did to graduate, I could understand now that this work is a companion to the other books of feminist literary criticism that I had.
Each time I paused, I felt more like myself. I felt more appreciation for who I am, the struggles I’ve survived and the beauty I created along the way. This is an appreciation I had never felt before because I was always too busy trying to change myself to be something or someone “better.” Instead, I now know that this treasure trove of information about me is readily available and that whenever I pause and hold space with equal regard for what is there, something new about me will emerge.