I joined a yoga class just over a month ago. As my limbs stretched out and my joints opened, I remembered an old friendship with my body. Motherhood had come along two years before and turned my dear friend into a vessel, fertile ground for the growing of another. This interloper let us drift slowly apart, my old friend and me. As my daughter settled into toddlerhood, it became easier to leave the house for snatches of time. I sought out a community to help me start up a yoga practice again. I bought class passes at bulk discount. I went once a week, then twice. The excitement of an old friendship rekindled shot adrenalin through my veins. I wanted to achieve, to grow, to stretch. I wanted to capture a tiny piece of who I used to be. I didn’t bother to find out who my body had become. I pushed through her discomfort and used the class as an arena for competition. I overpowered my body, smothered her with affection and my memories of who she was. And it response she broke. My muscles tore and my bones creaked. Still I didn’t stop. What I thought was love was a desperate race after an image held in my mind alone.
It ended with two weeks of flu and a lingering cough. My body had to shout for me to hear her over my manic nostalgia. It wasn’t a new scenario for me, but one I paid more attention to than usual. I have always considered myself rather good at change. I adapt like a chameleon, letting my identity blend with the requirements of each new setting. Yet I have grown more courageous of late (parenting will do that to you), and I pried a little deeper. I realized I launch myself into change with abandon, because rushing headlong allows little time to make acquaintance with my fears. I had thought that moving toward my fears was facing my challenges head-on. There is some truth in this. My strategy has lead to a life painted in colorful bold strokes. But also a slight of hand. I jump to say yes! so that no never gets a chance. I commit with all my heart so that I will never have to inspect the shadows. But they don’t leave. They merely grow in neglect, until they shuffle under the spotlight as ill health or neurosis or obstacles. True courage knows more than rushing in. It knows also the slow torturous path, feeling every pebble and brush of wind.
As co-director of our family business, I felt drawn to re-read the book The Diamond Cutter by Geshe Michael Roach around the same time as I was laid low by flu. A few years ago I attended a talk by this Buddhist monk. He is an American man who through decades of devotion and study has attained the title of ‘geshe’. He spoke to us of an ancient Buddhist text, The Diamond Cutter. He explained how to achieve personal and financial success through the development of integrity. Reading his words over the last month has fanned the flame of change within me. He showed me that it’s not enough to just do ‘alright’, or be a ‘good enough’ kind of person. Our brief spell upon this earth is made meaningful only by a disciplined unrelenting effort to grow spiritually and help those around us. He encourages me to put my life under the microscope, and examine each speck and stain. He makes it clear that this is no quick fix, and that this journey once started, is never over, until it finally and irretrievably is.
Last weekend I held my first Maths Play workshop for adults. It was a beautiful morning of sharing and creation and play. We pulled down barriers to our creativity and felt our way towards a new kind of learning and living. It was inspirational to be in a group of like-minded supportive women, each seeking to revolutionize their own patch of earth. In our discussions we highlighted the obstacles we face, and the hazy nature of our goals. To abandon the model we’ve received, to let go of the habits of who we’ve become, means we erase all visions of our future. We switch off the lights and leave ourselves fumbling in the dark. One of the women advised me that we walk forward ‘softly softly’. This condition creates something beautiful of the blackness. It turns ignorance into awareness, and a keen sight for what is, rather than what we think should be.
Colleen of the Midlands House of Healing*, who sponsored this post, epitomizes the philosophy of ‘softly softly’. The approach to her home is lined with trees whose dappled sunlight lies across the road. Mountains stand watch in the distance and all around the only sounds are those of nature’s gentle dance. With a warm hug, a wide smile and healing hands, Colleen takes me to a state of bliss. After, she points out the damage I have wrought on my body. She gently explains the hostility of my actions. And she makes it okay to be flawed and confused and somewhere indeterminate on the road to healing. Most of what she does is hidden. While my eyes are closed and my body unwinds, she unlocks closed doors, coaxing out pain and secrets. The work she starts continues well beyond her table. She leads with incense and stones and sacred sounds. Her touch is gentle because she understands pain. She understands that it is something that we will never escape, but that with which we might become friends. Dedication to truth and health requires no less. There is no other way to reach these gods, yet the pain of awareness can send us running, or into violence, both of which bring much greater pain in the end. Colleen understands that we will never be healed. Without instruction or coercion she manages to point out the winding path toward wholeness. The road is there beneath my feet. I have no answers. But I know that today, now, I can take the next step. Softly softly.
*Call or message Colleen on 084 6030 604 to book a session with her to receive her support in your own unique journey. The image featured on this post is from the road to her home outside Howick. The trip there alone is a catalyst to healing, and a reminder that nature herself works for the most part with slow hidden dedication, creating in the end, a world of beauty and goodness.