I walk back behind the cottage to the edge of the woods each day now mesmerized by the giant branch that is falling. I suppose, like so many other branches that fall all over the property after a storm it was finally weakened enough that one windy night it just cracked. But when you look closely at the picture you see that broken almost clean through it didn’t fall, and hasn’t fallen in the last few months. Why? Because it is supported by the trees all around it. The trees whose branches litter the yard are the trees that stand alone.
It reminded me that there is much to support us, wherever we are, if we will open our heart and our eyes to see the unseeable and reach outside our usual expectations and definitions of what support is.
It is lovely when family and friends help us, it is much appreciated, but the support we need most is what comes from deep inside.
In my solitude I am aware of so much that I never knew was present when I led a busier, more active life in the world, where I believed my only support came from outer circumstances and other people. Now, in my 60th year, my life is in my own hands. I do not have nor do I need anyone to take care of me. To lift myself up by the power that I have inside of me, that we all have inside of us, and to grow it every day until there is no day I cannot face, no matter how hard, is my goal and I know that it will be so.
Today I had to go to an appointment that I have long known would come one day and I have dreaded it, but I was surprised to find that I was calm going in, completely at peace while I was there, and I came home and took up my day with the dogs and the parrots with a feeling, a knowledge that all would be well.
The outer circumstances are exactly what they would have been a year ago, even six months ago, but I have been going so deep with my practice of mindfulness that I have grown an ever expanding awareness that in this moment all is well and I can take that knowing and walk forward with it into all the moments that will follow.
It is not a matter of not being afraid. We will be afraid, but we know, when we come back to the present moment, that it will pass. Fear is an emotion, it is not us. As I sit breathing I see the difference between myself and my fear and I open my hands and release it.
Anxiety will rise in the pit of my stomach and it will try it’s best to engulf me but I sit down, take a deep breath, put on a cd that I use during meditation, and I melt into the present moment as anxiety slides off of me. I am not making little of the incredible grip that anxiety can have on me, and has for a lifetime, but I came here to learn what was really inside of me and there was a woman in there who was so much stronger than I ever knew. I am no longer the broken branch falling, needing to be caught by others, I am the tall, strong tree that catches myself, and even, now, can help others to find this strength inside of themselves.
It is there. It is always there, but we need to come to it by peeling away the layers built up through a lifetime of self-doubt, fear, and every other feeling and emotion that have built up over a lifetime. It doesn’t happen overnight. Think of it like this, I tell my students…
“You can do this, you can peel the layers and come down to your real, pure, strong essential self, naked, beautiful, unfettered, free but it does not happen overnight. It is like a floor that has been waxed so many times there is a buildup and the floor has to be stripped before new wax can be put on. A mindfulness practice helps strip away the layers of the past, and in a new state of calm assurance that no matter what comes up you can learn new ways to deal with it, you can begin to add fresh, new layers of strength, and steady assurance, the knowledge of who you really are, that you are so much more than you imagine, you can add another layer of practices and tools that you can use in the present to enhance and augment the effects of your practice so that the reverberations of your time of silence and mindful breathing are like a pebble thrown into a pond. The ripple effects through your life will amaze you. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound.”
I don’t teach this practice because I think it is a good idea, I teach it because I have lived it for 40 years, down in the trenches with it so to speak. I have fallen away and come back countless times, but each time stronger, more sure, steadier, and my life has been transformed. I want to help others find this peace and know that they can handle whatever comes up, they only have to take care of today, step by step, inch by inch, moment by moment.
And I will fall away again.
And I will have days where terror will overtake me.
And I will have sleepless nights and night terrors and days where anxiety runs through me like the blood in my veins, but…
I come back. I make myself come back. And I can only do that, now, because I have done it over and over and over again, so often that I have gained confidence in myself, and I know I can climb back on the horse. I won’t be down for long.
I look at the tree, I see the broken branch cradled in the trees around it and I know there are so very many things around us that we never see but that are surely there. We are held aloft by something greater than ourselves, and we can know it more intimately with time.
I study every day. I read endless books. But my greatest teacher is Nature herself, and the trees are some of my most profound Masters. On a very hard day when I wept uncontrollably I went outside and stretched my arms around a large tree trunk, let it bear my weight, laid my face against the craggy bark, clung to it, and, finally, there was a surge of energy transmitted from the tree to me.
We are supported by so many things around us. Every day I go outside and find new wonders, and my days are the better for it.
I will watch this broken branch for a very long time and I will be sad when it falls but that, too, is the natural order of things. Until then I will watch in wonder as the trees around it hold it aloft with great care.
A Special Note…
I have opened up my private mentoring sessions and have a “Pay-What-You-Can” special through the end of January. If you are interested I would be honored to have you as a student. You can click the banner below to go to that page for more information.