This is the Poetry of Therapy
I don’t know what force moves me to put these words on paper,
to choose words carefully in the sacred space
to check inside myself for the resonance I want to feel
before releasing them into the room (or onto the page).
And then – that most exquisite moment
When they land precisely as intended and the ripples and prickles on my skin confirm it,
Along with the expression on your face, the light in your eyes, and the resonance between us.
Sometimes a word, a phrase, or a moment of music is just right. You cannot predict it, you cannot engineer it, but you can feel into the experience and the great vault of language to locate a match.
When it floats to the surface, I check it. Really? Is this it?
I feel around in my chest or belly or throat
Is this the word? Let me see….I send it, gently, tentatively, into the air of the room
Where it drifts across on feelings
And lands with you. I watch with my eyes and my heart.
I see you change; your colour, your eyes, how you hold yourself, the very meaning you make of your place in the room.
When it works
the word expands the experience
When it works, it connects us.
When it works, it changes the world.
The crabapple tree is going to have a great weekend. I can see her through the burgeoning green of the maple in my side yard. The crabapple sits in my neighbor’s yard, currently housing an assortment of songbirds who are shuttling back and forth to a local feeder. But the tree is focused on what’s happening in her flowers, not on the birds. Birds are secondary, irrelevant. The pink is deep, almost red, lightening at the edges of buds so swollen that they seem about to burst. The day is sodden and cold, so the buds are just waiting, just gathering moisture and strength, awaiting the next time the sun makes an appearance. When that happens, well, you better watch out! The crabapple is going to bloom, with a no-holds-barred eroticism that will pull every bee in a county mile into her orbit. Watch out! That sensuous hot pink, the seductive perfume….the tree will be humming as you walk by, humming and buzzing with the activity of a thousand winged things, all frantically doing what they do and the tree herself will be regal, vibrant, basking in the pleasure, taking it all as her due, enjoying the brush of stamen on pistil, the dusting of pollen, the industry of bees, the enjoyment of human passers-by. Oh, what a weekend she will have.
The sensuality of spring is everywhere. Birds are loud and demanding. The frogs in the little pond across the street spend every evening declaring their intentions. The onions and potatoes in my kitchen bins are insistent: sprouts happen, they tell me, and spring cannot be denied.
I feel it, too. I feel the urge to create, to make something new. I dig my hands into the soil of the garden, watch my mind generate ideas, stir up a new recipe in the kitchen. Long spring days that last well into the evening, warmer weather that draws one outdoors, the smells and sounds and skin sensations of spring….all beg to know, what will you make? What will you create? What will you bring to this season of growth and newness?
This morning I had a large load of laundry to hang up. I found myself rushing to get it finished, hurrying to complete the task because I had another task to complete or maybe just because I wanted to get back to my cup of coffee. The point was that I was going to spend twenty minutes hanging laundry and I could do it with my mind in the next task or in irritation or in feeling rushed, or I could hang laundry and practice being present to myself as I did it. So I decided to take this task moment by moment, and try to see when I was derailing and when I might actually be in the present. Hanging laundry doesn’t take a lot of attention and I can attach many memories and thoughts to it, so it was a bit of effort to stay present. In fact, I was thinking I’d write a blog post about hanging laundry and that was yet another way I escaped the present moment! Ahh, the monkey mind can be a clever fellow.
The most potent sensory moment was in snapping out my cotton flannel pajama pants and tossing them over the line, feeling the cold wetness on my hands and the dryness of my skin, smelling the damp cotton and the briefest sense of the enjoyment of the future of pulling on clean pajamas….maybe that was a memory and not a projection, but in any case, it was being present to my own inner experience as well as what was coming in from my senses. I might have enjoyed more spending that twenty minutes sitting on my meditation cushion in silence, but I still would have needed to hang the laundry, and so I am choosing to see that as part of today’s practice. How can I BE when I am still doing? This is one way.
Be-ing is something that I can access all the time. When I am deeply into thinking or remembering or reacting or otherwise unaware of myself, I can stop, notice my sensory experience, take stock of myself (“what do I notice in my body NOW?”) and connect once again to the ground of Be-ing. I don’t need silence, my cushion, or even a quiet space, although they certainly can help. But I am “being” all the time, even when I am not able to notice it.
How do you find yourself in the midst of a lot of doing?
Is your mind is full? Do you feel flooded with racing thoughts, images, ideas, memories? It can sometimes feel like there is no room for anything else in there. Feeling too full in the mind often goes with feeling charged up (not in a pleasant way) in the body, and there are usually unpleasant feelings attached. If you have ever suddenly realized what you are thinking is making you feel bad, you are not alone.
The practice of mindfulness helps people to notice the contents and processes of the mind. Sitting quietly and just being with yourself is a way to directly access the mind. But I know people who find it overwhelming, especially if they think they are supposed to “quiet the mind.” We all start in different places. For people who feel “full up” in the mind, another strategy is called for.
If there is no space in your mind, you can pay attention to what IS in your mind. To start, you can label your process as “thinking.”
“Thinking.” Just noting that you are thinking may help you separate a bit from it. If just adding the label isn’t enough, you can notice the categories. What is the CONTENT of this “thinking?” Lists? Memories? Fantasies? Imagined conversations? Redecorating the living room? What are the contents that fill your inner space? When you can start to notice the contents and categorize them, then you have created a bit of space to witness your own mental activities.
So if I notice that my mind is busy making lists (things to do, what to get at the grocery store, reminders of tasks) then I have stepped out of the content for a moment, at least long enough to see….oh, yes, I am “thinking,” specifically, I am making lists.
If I am busy reliving last night’s party, then I can note that – ah, yes, I am remembering. If I can observe and label, then I am witnessing my own process. I am not in the thought, but outside of it.
As a witness to my mind, I can decide how I want to interact with those contents. If I remember that somebody was unpleasant to me at the party, I can decide if I want to stay with that memory and maybe regenerate some unpleasant feelings. By labeling the content as “memory”, I make distance from the thought, and then I am in charge of myself. Otherwise, my mind may run away with me into a waterfall of unpleasant memories and emotional distress.
If that’s already happened, and I am overwhelmed with thoughts that feel upsetting, I can notice it. I can become aware that there is a rush of thoughts and feelings cascading through my mind and body. Perhaps I notice it is like a river in full flood, with logs and debris and crashing brown water barreling through my mind. If I can notice that, I might be able to rise above this river and observe the flow, becoming a witness to this internal process of thoughts, feelings, and reactions. I am no longer in the river, but observing it.
When I have stepped back from the surging river, I have changed my relationship to it. I am no longer in danger of drowning, although I can still feel and think everything I was feeling and thinking before. I am out of danger. Through paying attention to my process, I can predict where I might get pulled in again, and remind myself to stay on the banks, Staying out of the river isn’t about controlling thoughts or feelings; it is about compassionately observing your process as you experience those thoughts and feelings, watching the river in full spate, and watching as it slows and clears and calms. This is a way that space opens up in the mind.
Learning to make friends with your mind takes attention and compassion for yourself. Like any kind of training, it takes practice. When my mind is in charge of me, I am lost in my thinking processes. When I am in charge, I can observe what happens without getting lost in the process. I can decide to watch my thoughts or to jump in the water with them. Either way, there is an exquisite freedom to owning your own mind.
Just in this moment, right now, check in with yourself. Notice what you sense in your body. Notice how you are holding yourself, your position in space. Then notice sensations in your body. What comes into awareness? Now check your breathing. Just notice your breath in your body.
If you notice thought, that’s okay. That’s part of what you’re checking on. See if you can let the content go for a moment while you finish checking in.
As you shift into this mindful moment, see if a desire to move or change something is there. See the desire before you take the action. If you do make a movement or other change, notice how you are then, too. Did you get what you were seeking?
This is how we get to know ourselves, on a moment by moment basis. Who you are in these moments is who you are in your life.
What do you notice?
Michelle at The Green Study posted this today….I love the attention to the spaces between those things that grab our attention. What can you notice in your day today? Where do you experience spaces? I am going to watch myself for space….
An interval of silence
when your arm no longer bows
music at rest
time to breathe
An interval of rest
between reps and sweat
your muscle regroups
lives to fight another set
An interval of breath
before sleep carries you
into the shadows
An interval of quiet
before the kids wake up
and after the dog has been walked
coffee steam swirls up your nose
An interval of observation
standing in lines
watching the cashier
have a good or bad day
An interval of thought
Mouth closed mind open
in the shoes of someone else
An interval of grace
for that momentary glance
that says I’ve got your back
for the child still snoring on a school holiday
An interval of peace
a cup of a tea
the list that doesn’t need
to be started right now