Good morning! I’ve missed writing to you. I’m having fun at home here in South Carolina and hoping you are enjoying your summer days.
It’s June, the beginning of summer, and with school starting in early to mid-August we’re nearly halfway through this play-filled season. My granddaughters and grandson were just visiting with their respective families. There is never a lack of adventure in the foothills of the Smokeys, but for my nine your old granddaughter, high on her list of concerns was the chrysalis she’d volunteered to care for during the summer. She’d left her dad in charge of its care while visiting me and texted him detailed directions for its care as it was about to break out of its cocoon. Excerpt here: “If he is still a chrysalis, then just leave him alone. But if he turned into a moth, then please go to the small desk right next to my bed…there you will see a small bag that says NECTAR SPONGE. (Please take it to the kitchen counter) and go to the pantry and take out the white sugar. NOT the brown sugar.” The nectar has to be right!
Her understanding of the care and feeding of insects in transition reminds me that people need nurturing as we go through our own emotional and physical transitions. Our changes may not be so obvious to the onlooker as the butterfly’s (or moth’s). Maybe that’s why compassion and forgiveness of ourselves, the perfect “nectar” we need to survive our changes can only come from within us. Without acceptance of our changes, we try to control them and there is no nurturing in that. It’s my experience that control of outcomes and resistance to what is happening to us right now is at the root of our autoimmune conditions. To heal, we need first to become aware of what is happening at any given moment, and secondly focus our attention on it. If we do, we will naturally accept it; at least for each moment we stay present to it. When we draw closer to the discomfort of a situation instead of trying to fix it or escape it, the situation no longer has control over us. Without a need to protect ourselves or manage what is happening, the discomfort dissolves.
My most recent example of this came last week when I awakened to a completely new way of being in relationship with my children and their children. Up until now I aspired to be the go-to mom/grandmom who made things happen; endlessly willing to do and take part in, and never wanting to disappoint. When not with them, I imagined how it feels when I am with them. It was this feeling of missing them that fueled my dream of someday living close to each other, and I would become a part of their daily lives. Although that plan shifted with the onset of autoimmunity, I learned to balance my need to be with them and my need to pace myself with my own schedule, diet, activities, and bedtime when we were together. What happened this visit was less a shift and more a transformation.
My dream of someday being together derived from the belief that my children and I would always be the same, and as such our views of life and our needs would always be similar. That is, throughout theirs and my changes, the gains and losses, the perceived rights and wrongs of life, they would always be available to me and me to them. This recent visit I recognized that we, my loved ones and I, can not help but change. Time, distance, and priorities have helped to mold very strong and independent children who need very different things than when they were children. As a young mother, I too had very different ways of seeing the world than I do now. My daughters are now their own people and my dream of all of us some day living close to each other helping each other meet our needs, mine as I age, theirs as they raise their children and beyond, would be too much a compromise to whom they and I have become. When I understood this, no amount of laughing over family photo albums and remembering the way we were in the past could quell my sense of losing my daughters.
What did I do? I wanted to ignore it. Like Scarlett O’Hara, I wanted to think about it tomorrow, inclined to do as I’ve always done, pretend nothing was wrong and force myself to keep showing up as the “go-to mom.”
Isn’t that how we human beings, men and women, deal with our emotional pain? Save it for later? Now that I’ve lived with MG for 6 years, I’ve learned this habit of rejecting the truth of emotions creates tremendous stress on the body and triples my symptoms. Feeling sad and afraid of the future and mourning the loss of my dream, I might have despaired and compounded the pain by pretending all was good intentionally rationalizing it was for the sake of my children and grandchildren. Holy Cow! Isn’t that a recipe for physical and emotional breakdown?!
It had only been a month since I’d declared myself done with compromising my health because I was denying emotions that were overwhelming me. Recalling this promise, I did not push my feelings of loss, sadness, anger and rejection away. Instead, I did as Eckhart Tolle says to do in his book The Power Of Now; A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment (2004, 120), I drew closer to them, not to fix them but to witness and feel them. This freed me of any desire to hide these feelings from myself, or to bring them to my children.
How did I do this? Gently. Early the next morning, I took time to sit quietly in meditation. I breathed with attention to the sensations of air coming in and going out of my lungs. The second morning I focused on my body and was aware of tightness in my stomach, weakness in my arms and prickles that roamed my body. These were reports of something happening inside me that my thinking mind could not detect. I concentrated my attention on the sensations one at a time. Along with deep sadness I became aware of tension; I saw myself physically digging my heals in and gripping hold of reins, holding myself and the world in place. This state of being was shutting down all movement. The moment I recognized this, I saw that I was causing pain to my body and mind. This was my responsibility that I fully accepted. Something released inside and the tension poured out of my body. Tears came and I opened my mouth in a silent cry, “I’m so sorry for holding on to the dream.” I sobbed and understood that I had already been forgiven-I just hadn’t accepted it yet. The relief of my own acceptance of self through forgiveness filled me with compassion-for myself and every human being. I stayed present to this new clarity and my mind and body opened. I had no need for a dream of any kind. I smiled at how important it had seemed, resting a few minutes in gratitude for having let go with genuine ease.
I don’t know what form our relationships will take in the future, but after finishing my meditation I did understand that my family and I had today together. Not forever, but for now. We had this moment and the next moment, and on through the day’s activities. My heart and mind were clear and open. I rested easily in not knowing what would happen, and understood I was to notice, observe, and engage with my loved ones. No pushing to get all our expectations of the day fulfilled, and if I did, to notice myself pushing (or resisting) with self-acceptance. At the very core of the day, we had each other and I had the presence of mind to appreciate and delight in them.
As human beings we push to make things happen and we resist what is out of our control. Both ways of receiving life create unrelenting stress.. Over time, this stress is like driving with the brakes on; this will kill the car. It’s the same with our bodies. We’re killing our cells, organs, and shutting down vital systems with the tension we make for ourselves. Our habit of turning our attention outward and ignoring what’s happening inside stops the flow of life’s energy and the body’s natural ability to heal. We can’t become the butterfly if we’re stuck in the chrysalis. We must come closer to what is making us afraid to accept the unfamiliar and unknown. Slow down, turn inward with our attention, and stay present. Stay and allow what happens now. That’s when healing begins.
I recommend highly that if you suffer from an illness or you feel run-down by stress, begin a practice of quiet stillness; a life-style practice of meditation. Alone in a quiet room, sit with both feet on the floor or lie down. Close your eyes as you begin by observing and feeling your breath, in and out. When you focus your attention on your breath, colors, or sensations in your body, and allow the chatter of your thinking to pass by, in that moment you are self-aware. Even if it’s only for ten minutes each day, practice looking within and allowing and observing what happens. It’s the daily habit of quiet practice that will grow self-awareness.
As always, thank you for reading and considering what I share here. If you have a practice of self-awareness or are interested in meditating, please email me or leave a comment below.
Thanks for sharing your process. I especially enjoy the “the driving with the brakes on” image. I’ve had the emergency brake on and didn’t realize it so, if course, my first reaction is take it personally. “What’s a matter with me that my car isn’t performing properly?” Well i want to go and part of “going” is to be present to the process.
Thank you, Aubrey. Your comment reminds me how hard we are on ourselves. You are so right about”going.” We can’t move forward until we bring our attention to now. Tolle’s book is a wonderful way to learn more about that.
Beautifully expressed. . .
Having read this when released, and reread it again just now – thank you Jean, for who you are, for what you’re willing to share, for the journey you are on. It applies to each of us, whether we acknowledge it or not, in one way or another. I love your truthfulness, your perspective, your overall caring for yourself and all who share your space – God bless you and yours.