I am finding that between these blog posts, my journey of 365 days, I am feeling a sense of deep gratitude, a clarity about my life, what is really important, what I believe, and what I feel is important for me to share. I hope that it might help, in even a small way, my readers, but the thing is I really do have to do this for myself. I am more awake to and aware of my own life, and heart, and mind than I was a week ago when I started this pilgrimage, and today it has become one of the most important things in my life.
Because my writing in these entries seems to take the form of stream-of-consciousness, I will tell you at the outset that while I thought it was important for me to write about Truth, Acceptance, and Love, these topics will not come in any particular order, some will carry more weight and some less, and some may be repeated. I don’t know what I am going to write as I start this, but I have a deep knowing, when I start, that what is supposed to come will come. If not the content, the form, if not the form, the experiences that will arise. They are like gurgling bubbles inside and I usually close my eyes while I type. There are the few odd typos here and there that I can correct later but after a lifetime of writing my fingers know the keyboard better than when my eyes are open. And so I begin.
Truth. I take a lot of pictures of the pugs. I am so in love with them, I feel so tenderly toward them and they fill me with so much love, and, too, so much compassion because as rescues they have almost all come out of very hard circumstances, terrible abuse and neglect. Little Delilah above was rescued from a puppy mill where she had been kept in a small cage and forced to have puppies several times, and still she is only five years old. She needs to be very close to me, and if truth be told I need to be very close to her. I came out of terrible abuse myself and nightmares and fear are often part of my nights. One of the remnants of the sexual abuse, from 4 to 18, was that I do not feel safe sleeping in a bed. I sleep on the couch every night. It is a very plush, overstuffed couch, long, and has the reclining foot rests that go up so there is plenty of room for the pugs and I. I feel safe here. I sleep in The Cozy Room next to my studio, a small room with pine paneling and a large fireplace. I feel safer in small rooms. I have a lovely bedroom at the opposite end of the house but I really only go back there to change clothes or shower in the attached Master Bath. One more thing that I think is odd about me but I have accepted it. It is what it is, there’s no reason I have to sleep in a bed just because other people do.
How does mindfulness fit in here. It fits in because when I was not mindful I was more attached to the outside world and what people thought of me. I never fit in, though I tried, and in failing it made me feel worse and the cycle repeated causing a downward spiral that felt like whirling around and going down a drain. When I began to practice mindfulness, seriously, not as an occasional whim that came and went, I really connected to my own body and life. I felt myself, my physical body, my feet on the earth, the clarity of my own feelings and reactions. When I touched down on the truth of my own life, the small moments, the grace in the little things, the love for my body, even overweight and lopsided, face crooked from Bell’s Palsy that never went away, feet that are not really right from surgeries and breaks, when I accepted all of this I fell in love with the way I am in the world.
From the outside in this might not seem possible, or, given my middle-aged stage of life, acceptable. I am supposed to be working hard to lose the weight, go to the gym, focus solely on fitting in and being accepted. I think it’s more important, first and foremost, for me to accept and love myself as I am. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to be healthy, or that losing weight isn’t important to me, but loving myself, I believe, will be the key, eventually, to losing some of the weight, and my body will find the comfortable place it belongs. Not the numbers assigned to my height and age, but the place where my body feels really good and I feel healthy and strong.
I love myself. I accept myself. I tell the truth. My truth makes some people uncomfortable, I am often told that I shouldn’t speak so openly about many of the things I write about, but I believe if we don’t write authentically from our own story, we won’t help anyone else least of all ourselves. I also have a lot of people write to me to thank me for what I have written, they tell me it has helped them in some way. I am happy that that may be so, but again, as I said at the outset, I have to do this for myself.
Until you are able to look in the mirror and see with clarity who you really are — and I don’t mean physical attributes, I mean looking in the mirror as if into a reflecting pool and seeing deep down to the bottom of your soul — until then you cannot sink into all of who you are and move in the world lighter, with a more certain grace. I can look in the mirror now and see a woman who is very soft, a woman who is kind and exudes a gentle love for everything, the elderly lady across the street, my small grandsons, the little animals that I live with, the lady at the checkout counter in the grocery store. I know that I can completely accept you as you are because I accept myself. It doesn’t work if you don’t. For example a woman who has a dread fear of gaining weight will be horrified by a woman who is overweight because that woman is a living example of her own deepest fear. She shuns the woman so as to feel better about herself. She may be starving herself thin but at least she is not fat.
In my practice of mindfulness I will say outloud, “Maitri, I love you. Your big hips, your heavy thighs, your round tummy, your crooked face, they are all here for a reason, and they will change in time.” I know they will, as a deeper acceptance and love, a more profound kindness toward myself fills my heart.
In the picture at the top with Delilah and I there was a time I would never have posted it. My hair is sticking up all over the place, I look my age, and my face is the full face of a woman who is not slender. Now I only see the softness, the tenderness, and the love of this wee girl who came so afraid and has found a safe haven in me, and I in her. I sleep better at night because I can feel her breathing. I can feel the beating of her heart, I feel her incredibly soft hair against my cheek. When I look at that picture all I feel is love. All I see is the precious gift that she is to me, and I feel a deep sense of gratitude that I have been able to be here for her, to love her, and to make her feel safe in return.
This morning, lying in bed, I breathed slowly, in and out, felt every single point of contact between us, her velvet ear, her teddy bear soft coat against my cheek, the warmth, and how completely her body was relaxed. For an animal, especially one who was so abused, this is such an act of trust it fills me with awe, it can move me to tears. This morning I just felt an incredible sense of happiness, I was fully in the moment, it wouldn’t last long before we would get up, but I lay there and took it all in and it fueled the beginning of my day with sweetness, I felt it humming in my body as I got up and went out with the four dogs, and came in and fed them and cared for the five parrots.
This is mindfulness. This is living fully aware of everything that is happening in every moment, the little things we disregard or don’t take the time to open our heart to and feel fully. This is acceptance, this is love, this is grace.
I have always had a very hard time with money. I came from a family that had money and when my father abused me he bought me things, and gave me money to assuage his guilt and keep me quiet. The allowance he gave me in highschool was more than I got weekly as a stay-at-home mother. Whenever I got depressed or fearful I bought things to comfort myself. Even though as a married woman and since the divorce I didn’t have the kind of money I grew up with, and had a very hard time after the marriage I still spent money I shouldn’t have. Being bi polar made it worse.
Now I didn’t spend big money on anything, I mostly collected things on eBay not thinking about the fact the the $5 items, the $25 items, and so forth added up. And I had credit cards then. And it got so bad I had to declare bankruptcy. It was terrifying. The only thing that had ever made me feel safe was gone.
After my mother died 3 years ago I was able to be more comfortable but the time is coming when that will come to an end. I will be 60 in April and I have to begin to earn an income if I am to survive. I have been so completely taken over by panic and fear I didn’t think I could survive it, but, then…
I began to deepen my relationship with my practice of mindfulness. This is why I am so serious about it. This is why I am writing about it. I want to reach out to others who are afraid and say it’s okay, you can do this, I can do this, it will all be okay.
In meditation and sitting mindfully reflecting on my circumstances I begin to relax. I have tremendous gifts and talents from a lifetime of writing, teaching, being a spiritual counselor, a healer, an artist. Now as I have fully embraced my place as a Crone in the world I sink into the wisdom gained from a lifetime. I have survived many things. And I have begun, in loving and accepting myself, to acknowledge all that I do have to offer, a kind of blessed joy, a certain knowledge that I will be okay. I am no longer afraid, I am excited to be here doing my work. Every day is an adventure even when the bi polar cloud descends and it feels as though the sky is falling, mindfulness, if not lifting the dark cloud, helps me stand my ground and know that I will see my way through.
I chant, “I am okay, my family is okay, my animals are okay, my…” and I repeat it over and over until I can breathe again. I let go of the past, the fear about the future, and my “everything will be okay” mantra gathers steam like “The Little Engine That Could.” I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I KNOW I CAN…
And you know what? You can too.
Today I lowered my price for my one on one sessions to something that feels more comfortable. It came to me as I knitted, mindfully, during what I call knitting meditation. Each stitch a breath, with each breath I am anchored in this moment, with each moment I am more grounded, as I become more grounded I am filled with a kind of grace that can only come in this way.
I will be alright. I will teach, I will knit and weave and crochet and sell my fiberwork. I am writing a novel and writing an eBook. I am getting ready to do a free teleseminar, and open a community. I am filled with so much love, I am so loved, I am so blessed in so many ways, there is no way I cannot succeed.
I am okay, I will be okay, and so will you. And as blessed Julian of Norwich wrote, in the 11th century, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.” I have a bracelet that I never take off that has this quote on it and this too enriches and anchors me in my practice of mindfulness. When I become afraid I sit down, begin to relax my body, breathe, and recite Julian’s words over and over and over until my body begins to relax, not contract, until a smile comes softly and naturally without thinking, until I come back to that knowledge that everything will indeed be okay.
And all things will be well and they will be well, all manner of things shall be well. And so they shall.