Updated: Apr 20, 2022
Sometimes after the girls are in bed I look through the photos on my phone and see them in the quiet of the moment I’m in, instead of the rush of the moment it was taken. The pic I snapped of Lily was in haste, she wanted to hold onto the memory of her new-to-her porcelain dolls (she calls them her girls), and I needed to rush down to Edie. I took the moment with her but wasn’t really present. Now days later I see it as freezing a moment in time, just as she was – gleeful, proud, joyous. Today holds gifts just waiting to be discovered like these photos on our phones. Not even discovered perhaps, just waiting to be labelled as such. Waiting for our perspective to shift so we can see what’s before us in a more favourable light. Waiting for us to stop long enough to really see the moment we’re in for what it is. Often it’s with the lens of time passed that we then see what the meaning, purpose or gift was. But can we connect sooner, can we connect now?
I don’t say this to gloss over the experience you’re having right now. If nothing else this year has brought me more awareness around how truly important it is to recognize the feelings I have, all of them. Not to wash them away, not to label them as bad or good, not to fix them or erase them or amplify them, just to allow them space. As a self-professed optimist, I recognize my propensity to push away the heaviness and lean into the light. It’s not a terrible quality, it’s a well developed coping skill that serves all sorts of useful purposes. Most recently this skill was applied after this little visitor found it’s way into my house…not just into my house, into Edie Plum’s pudgy little hands! I was lucky enough to be sending a video message to a friend when I found it so you can see this creature for yourself. Watch the video but be warned, there’s some salty language in here!
Welcome back. It’s crazy right? And hilarious. But also reminded me in realtime what my brain is often trying to do when it wants to evade uncomfortable information. I’ve realized that dodging my feelings doesn’t mean they no longer exist, they’re usually just pushed further down, waiting for a moment of sorrow or grief or anger to resurface with a vengeance (or like the snake who we can only hope now has burrowed into the earth for the winter, far far away). This isn’t new knowledge of course, it’s the premise for so much of the work I do with people to bring whole-body healing, it’s the foundation of mind/body/soul wellness. Humans are proficient at distracting themselves away from feeling ‘badly’ — usher in the dopamine hit that social media brings, a glass of wine, a piece of chocolate, sex, binge-watching tv shows, even exercise. There’s no shortage of ways for us to manage our feelings, however it’s not really managing them if we’re just pushing them down under layers of sweets, endorphins and pasta right?
A feeling isn’t good and it isn’t bad, it’s just a feeling. It’s coming up because it needs to move through us, not get trampled down. If our feelings are calling to us slamming the phone down doesn’t make them disappear, you’re on redial. An emotion, e-motion, energy in motion. That’s the body’s physical response to our feeling state. And as it’s meant to be in motion, we do it (and ourselves) a disservice when we try to cut it off, we are better off moving it through. Walking with it, crying it out, speaking of it, writing it down or simply sitting with it. An exercise I’ve been doing lately is just simply sitting with the feelings – sadness, panic, scarcity, unworthiness, anger – and breathing through it. A friend recently taught me the art of envisioning these feelings in a flow like the river, sometimes the river gets jammed with ice – picture the riverbank after freezing and thawing then freezing over again. Chunks of ice embedded in the shore, layered on top of each other. But below, the river, still in flow. Sitting with my feelings reminds me they’re just that, a feeling, a sensation. And as the ice is dislodged and melts away into the river, so do the feelings when I allow for it.
Back to the gifts of today. Maybe it was reading about that practice I just mentioned, maybe it’s that you feel permission to allow the heaviness to settle for a moment into your shoulders. And then what happens? We are worried the heaviness will drive us down deeper, too deep to resurface perhaps. It can. And we can also be reminded that the feeling is NOT the sky, it’s the cloud in the sky and it too will vanish. You are the sky and you hold the clouds but you are not the clouds. You hold the birds and the rain and the snow and the trees stretching way up high. You hold the balloons and the vision of the stars and the moon and the sun. You hold lightness even in the dark. You can name the feeling and welcome it in and know that as all things, it too will move along as you allow it.
Why do I keep circling back to these same feelings? Why do I get flooded with memories that fill me with pain? I’ve been doing the work for so long, shouldn’t I be beyond this?! It’s a practice because it doesn’t end. But it does change. In my experience if the feeling is still coming up, if the painful memory keeps surfacing, there’s just more to learn from it before it moves. Like peeling layers from an onion, there’s another layer there for you. Instead of seeing it as a failure on your part, see it as an invitation to learn a little bit more, go a bit deeper, a new lesson is there. It’s part of the process, you’re on the right path. It’s all for your healing.
Maybe your gift today is feeling the tension slide out of your shoulders, relaxing your brow and seeing that even though today has been hard and this year has been hard, your life has been full of beautiful moments. Maybe your gift today is that you choose one moment and you extrapolate it — your feet on the earth, the breath in your lungs, your eyes reading this, your heart stretching out and thrumming it’s beautiful beat in the song that is life on earth. Your light that is rippling out and touching others in ways you can’t ever truly know. Maybe the gift is tasting your lunch or that hot sweet tea in your hands. Maybe it’s that neighbour that smiled at you or the stranger that held the door. Maybe it was sitting with a friend, or your pet or yourself and feeling safe in that moment. Maybe finding photos on your phone and seeing them through a new lens.
Our gifts are plentiful when we choose to see them. And recognizing them does not mean there isn’t hardness too. It doesn’t mean that your life is more valuable or better lived that another. You having gifts in your day doesn’t take a single gift away from another person. In fact it only multiplies it. The feeling of awe, of gratitude, of pleasure eclipses the feelings of despair, of pain, of fear. In the wake of fear we contract, in the face of joy and pleasure we expand.
Today let’s give honour to the lightness that is inherent within us. Today let’s choose to celebrate each small wonder as we see it – not sure where to start? Ask to be shown something to give gratitude to and see what comes. Today let’s feel the feelings and learn to ride those rising tides. We don’t have to stand in the ocean and get pummelled, we can shape our body to the waves and move in flow with it. The feelings come in and they go. Just notice.