Sunday, January 22, 2012

Squirrelly Wisdom

During a recent meditation, my eyes opened of their own accord to witness a bit of backyard drama.

Two squirrels played, one chasing the other through the tall trees. As I watched, the forerunner rushed onto the tip of one slender winter-bare branch and, without hesitation, hurled himself across a particularly large expanse of nothingness. Front paws barely snagged the skinny twig~branch of the adjacent tree, his weight bending it low. Body doubled over and hind legs strained until they, too, found the branch. He righted himself and scampered on. I was impressed.

Terror, however, appeared to be the reaction of the second squirrel as he contemplated a similar leap. The little guy stepped gingerly to the end of the first branch, his very caution causing it to reach for the ground~~and him to hightail it back to a steadier perch. Several times he tried, always pulling back at the last minute. Attempts from other branches yielded similar results. The furry creature was paralyzed by fear when boldness was called for.
Many of us can relate. As we contemplate this new year, we recognize the leap into the unknown it requires of us. What branches will catch us as we propel ourselves into our future? How do we find the courage to leap into the gap and to live there until our own feet find a new resting place?

Being fully alive, flinging oneself into the unknown, feels risky to our mortal brains. But clinging to branches that have outworn their usefulness, holding to old patterns and ways of being that no longer serve, is not what we’ve come here to do. We have been given precious life. It seems fitting to use that gift to grow what may now exist as mere potential.

And to do that, to bring forth this raw material lying deep within, requires courage. My two fuzzy friends, in all of their squirrelly wisdom, knew something that we, too, instinctively know. To make it to the next branch, we must let go of the one on which we stand. We must leap into the void. This was the truth being played out in my very own backyard. 

After a minute or two of scrubbed attempts, the terrified squirrel raced to the end of the branch and leapt into the air. Suddenly. Beautifully. Magnificently. I gasped as he flew across the chasm, and then let out a hearty cheer as he landed safely and, incidentally, with greater grace than his more experienced friend.
As we move into yet another year, I am reminded of a quote often attributed to the German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. “Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.”
Of course, leaping without wisdom is foolish. We must size up the situation, summon our intuition, explore the options available to us. Yet there comes a time when we just need to go for it, to leap into the unknown, trusting that we will land as we ought. The first squirrel knew this. The second one learned it. Their display is an encouragement to us all to gain proficiency in leaping and in trusting the wisdom of our own sweet souls.
Whatever lies within you waiting to come out, let it rise up. Leap into the void, even though you know not the treasures or challenges that may come.           
I end this with a squirrel~inspired prayer. May all your leaps be wise and bold. And may the next branch catch you always and hold you safely until another leap calls.

Loanne Marie

PS. For those quotation wonks out there (like me!), you will find more on the origin of the boldness quote here. It seems it wasn’t by Goethe after all~~or not really!


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Radical Acceptance, Radical Trust

As I sit to write this column, a nasty mix of bacteria and viral germies has taken up residence in this body of mine. Throat tender, nasal passages inflamed and full, head fuzzy, temperature high, energy low. Yep, I am sick. After a few days of denial, I surrender and do so fully. Rather than a whinin’ and carryin’ on about feeling bad, I choose to greet this experience with a radical acceptance and a radical trust.
Radical acceptance means that I receive what comes my way fully and without rancor, even when it’s not to my liking. It means that I greet life with a humility born of the knowledge that I can not fully fathom the ways or judge the specifics of the highly complex and ultimately unknowable universe we live within.
Radical trust, however, calls me to place my bets on that universe being a benevolent one in which good exists in everything, even that which seems completely devoid of virtue. This type of trust is not passive. In fact, recognizing my part in the whole brings with it the awareness that I, too, can have an effect. It compels me to take every sliver of darkness I encounter and bend it toward the Light.
As a psychotherapist, I sit daily with folks who have lived through various forms of hell. Some have survived actual wars, while the wounds others sustained came at the hands of those who cared, or should have. While an important part of healing is raging against wrongs done, at some point one must say yes to the pain. Only in this way can energy be freed for healing. Only in this way can darkness be turned toward Light.
This does not mean that a person who accepts the pain of childhood abuse is condoning what was done to them, or that someone sorely affected by our current economic crisis won’t join with others to press for a politics not dominated by greed. It does mean, however, that they must embrace their experience fully and take responsibility for their own healing. It means they need to reach down through their pain to that core that remains whole and healthy, despite their wounds.
They must open to the possibility~~no, the likelihood~~that they can create a thing of beauty from their devastation. Like the mythological phoenix, they can rise from their own ashes and fly once again.
Obviously, finding some good in a streptococcus infestation and its head cold sidekick is a darn sight easier than all that! But nothing is wasted in this journey. By exercising my acceptance and trust muscles in this small way, I reinforce the benefits gained from wounds already healed and rehearse for the challenges that lie ahead. Plus, I make things so much easier for myself in the present.
So today, I willingly abandoned my previous plans in deference to my body’s needs. I take my medicine and drink voluminous amounts of hot tea with lemon and cayenne. I consume bowls of warming soup morning, noon and night.
Just like the trees outside my window, my sap moves down into my roots. And I rest. A soothing rhythm envelops me. One healing moment weaves into the next, comforting me, buoying me, restoring me.
No, it was not my choice of how to spend these few days. But it is good nonetheless.

Blessings on this new year and blessing to each of you as well!

Loanne Marie

PS. No worries! As I post this, I am returning to full health.

PPS. Someone gifted me this video and I pass it on to you. It is 7 minutes well spent.