September 2021 Newsletter
The Gift of Clarity and Steadiness
Have you ever known something in your bones, without even knowing how you knew?
In that moment you were drawing on the clarity of the Wisdom Area that allows us to see clearly, even when our emotions are overwhelming.
Our Bones are the sturdiest, densest part of our anatomy. And they form the scaffolding, the structure that supports everything else.
When we embody in our Bones — when we can take our awareness into the innermost chamber of who we are as a human being — a quality of steadiness naturally emanates from them.
And from us.
That’s why learning how to dwell in our Bones, particularly in times of turmoil, allows us to become an oasis of calm. A beacon of clear light when the world feels murky.
Yet most of us aren’t taught to do this as children. Instead we learn to pay attention to the outer world to find love and approval and connection.
In doing that, we learn to suppress emotion rather than process it in a healthy way.
Or we live overwhelmed by our emotions, not knowing what to do with them at all.
But what if we learned instead how to be a calming, steady presence for ourselves and for others?
Then whatever emotions arose could gently find their own natural resolution.
Instead of getting caught inside of us, they could move through us without leaving a trace.
When I was 6 years old, the tip of my right pinkie finger was crushed by the chain on our backyard swing set.
Screaming at the top of my lungs, I ran into the house with blood streaming from what remained of the end of my finger.
My father, a much-loved Baptist Minister, quickly cleaned and dressed the wound.
He gently and carefully wrapped it in gauze and taped it.
Then he quietly let me know that I needed to stop crying — now.
I so aspired to be the person my dad wanted me to be.
My finger hurt like hell. But I knew that if I wanted to please him, I needed to put a lid on my pain and stop crying.
My tears and fears had been in the process of releasing. But I stopped them. Just like that.
Thus began a stoic pattern that continued for years.
By the time I was a teenager I lived behind invisible walls, firmly shielded from whatever I thought could possibly hurt me.
I rarely cried, seeing myself as the Rock of Gibraltar. A place of safety and strength for everyone who needed me.
People loved me for my responsible caregiving.
Yet inside I felt numb and confused.
The tenderness in my own heart didn’t get seen, much less touched.
Yet what if my father had been able to be a steady presence that calmed me …
And allowed my fear and pain to come to a natural close?
That incident likely would have become a simple memory from the past.
Instead it became a turning point that took me years to come back from.
Wouldn’t you prefer to be that calming, steady presence for those around you?
That’s the gift of the steady presence of our Bones.
“All I Am Is This Huge Ball of Pain”
Jennifer was newly separated from her husband of 10 years when she came to one of my classes.
She was an attractive, well-dressed woman whose sweetness shone through her face and eyes.
Yet the tension in her shoulders and back told me she was also carrying an inner burden of pain.
As the class started and it was her turn to share, she began to cry.
Through her tears she told us that although she was firm in her decision to divorce her husband, every time reflected on it she became overwhelmed with a deep ache in her midsection.
When I asked her about the size and shape of the pain, she described it as a “watermelon-size ball of excruciating grief.”
Just describing it brought on a flood of tears.
I acknowledged her pain and how that huge, contracted ache in her midsection must be controlling her life.
To help her feel less overwhelmed, I asked her to notice how her backbone felt resting into her chair.
She relaxed slightly as she allowed her awareness to expand to that area.
Then I asked her to notice the weight of her ribs and spine as she rested back even more.
Her flood of tears started to slow down as her pain lessened.
Next I asked about the sensation of her sitting bones on the chair.
As this awareness settled in, she spoke through her tears, “I am all alone without support now that I’ve struck out on my own. Even my family is upset with me for leaving my great provider of a husband.”
I didn’t know most of the facts regarding her divorce. Yet I did know she had come to my circle with two friends who were sitting on either side of her.
I asked her to allow her awareness to spread out to either side so she could feel the supportive presence of her friends.
As she explored this, her tears slowed to a trickle.
Next I suggested that she direct her attention to the sensation of her feet resting on the floor …
And within the ease of this connection, to simply notice how supportive it felt.
Gravity connects us to the earth without effort. And this resource is available to every one of us in every moment of our lives.
As Jennifer tuned into that, something seemed to shift inside that turned the tide of her grief.
Finally, I asked her how that watermelon-size ball of grief in her midsection was doing.
She got very quiet. And her mouth curled into a smile as she reported that it was about the size of an orange. And she was feeling much better.
Notice how she wasn’t asked to swallow the pain? Or stop the tears?
Instead I simply led her to reside even further into the calm steadiness of her Bones.
And she left with more of herself available to hold her sadness and grief with compassion.