We sat. We listened. We waited. In my mind I asked "God where are you?" And God answered: "In the shadows and the light." In my mind I asked God "Where am I?" And God answered: "In the shadows and the light." I had taken a few snow photos just before our session. I love the interplay of shadows and light on snow. The way one cannot be revealed without the other. Hmmmm?
We talked about an awareness I have had in the past week that with the subtle improvement in my walking and the gradual return of my natural voice, my "artist's eye" is also being restored. I am starting to see beyond "object" again, enjoying the simple beauty of light, shadow, form and color playfully interacting. I like to think of this process as witnessing what is...capturing a moment of mindfulness in a photograph. I do re-adjust the "frame" of the image on my computer to hone the composition afterward, a form of abstraction I suppose, or perhaps a zeroing in on what caught my attention in the first place.
I recognize now, several hours after our session, that as my neurons heal, my brain has the energy to devote to things beyond basic functioning. I am witnessing a rebirth of this ability to look at the world in a more visually discerning way. It may be several more months before I feel physically stabilized and strong, until my accent is more Suburban Philadelphian than European (still an unidentified national blend)…but my health is definitely improving.
We sat some more. I opened up about some of my fears as I begin to heal. The growing expectations of my loved ones for me to do more, maybe before I'm really ready. We talked about compassion fatigue. We discussed how I need to be very clear in my own body about what is too much in a given moment and telling my kids: “I just can't do this or that right now”. Later after our session I realized I suffer from compassion fatigue. I am tired of being sick. I am the one with the great expectations. I became conscious of my legs. When we started I was sitting on a cushioned folding chair with my feet flat on the carpet. This was new for me. Usually I'm a cross-legged, on the floor kind of girl. Sitting cross-legged has always felt grounding. But I decided after my doctor suggested not crossing my legs in an attempt to prevent them from falling asleep so often and after working through a seated posture in a chair with my friend Art Baner, a Qigong master in Bellingham, WA via the techno-miracle of Skype, that I would try this new position in SD and see how that felt. Somehow my legs were now tucked up under me, as though I were on the floor anyway. I remarked to Nancy how there seems to be an urge in me to return to home, to familiar again and again. My body, my legs were instinctively moving to that safe, "home base" position. Nancy mentioned Pema Chödrön and how she is a gifted teacher when it comes to *groundlessness and the art of falling away. She recommended I check out the book When Things Fall Apart.
And we sat silently.
In my minds eye I saw a leaf falling toward the snow. I said, "Maybe for me it's more like falling to...I don't know where I'm falling to...but I know I'm going toward, not away."
We talked about the grace of falling...how we don't normally speak of "falling" and attach it to the word grace...but this kind of falling, the kind a leaf does is effortless. Effortless Effort. Grace in falling. Falling to...and I realized it doesn't matter where I'm falling to. What matters is this effortless, effort. And I said something like "A leaf falls toward the ground...it touches down and rests for a while before the wind lifts it up and carries it to a new place. Then it rests again. The leaf repeats this over and over until it finds it's final resting place. There is no struggle. It falls, it rests, it rises, it falls, it rests again."
“Like our breath” Nancy offered.
“Yes. Like our breath” I agreed.
We talked about me listening to my body and knowing when enough is enough. Resting without struggle. Falling to that resting place without struggle, with grace. Nancy spoke about ballerinas...how their movements look completely effortless, but we know they have worked for many years to achieve that kind of graceful movement. She reminded me that mindfulness is exactly so. The effort is in practicing, returning to the present moment. Witnessing without struggling. I noticed that my body posture had changed yet again. I was now resting my mid back against the cushion of the chair. I felt supported. It felt good. I was in such a heightened state of awareness that I remarked it was as soothing as a massage, resting this way against the back of this simple cushioned folding chair. I felt held. Relaxed. Present. As my body shifted so did my perspective. My awareness was dancing gracefully like a ballerina; falling to calm and acceptance, falling to myself, to Divine Presence like a leaf released from the long fingers of a winter tree’s branches, like shadows falling across the snow, distinguishable only because of the interplay of light. Shadows that would move to a new resting place as the world turned and the sun appeared to move across the sky.
*click on this link to read a transcript of an interview in which Pema Chödrön discusses "groundlessness" among other fascinating topics with Bill Moyers.
PS...all of these photos were taken through the smudgy windows of our house (because it is only 11 degrees out!) with my very simple, Kodak Easy Share digital camera, and slightly shaky hands. Thus the blurry quality of some of the images!
This one is for all of my Christian friends, some pine needles and berries resting on the snow outside the window seem to be singing out: