‘One of the ways that Gil adds value and makes important contributions is…’ That is the assignment, to reflect upon when we are at our best. We were to solicit opinions from our colleagues, family and friends about moments when they had seen us at our best. Asking for positive feedback from people that know you well, why is that so difficult, why is it so frightening? Yet, here is was, that sense of trepidation as I pressed send, that sense of unease, of disquiet. It felt really wrong to ask for positive feedback from people, really wrong.
They were kind and offered to put me up for the weekend. I did not know them, and they were trusting that this stranger in the house would be alright. That is the principle of Couchsurfing. People generously open their homes to strangers passing through to spend a night. I was coming back to Princeton for another Hakomi weekend, and the place I had stayed previously was not available. I put my name out with my plans for my weekend of education, and I got several offers from strangers to host my stay. Each one was kind, generous, and unique. However, one was on the bus route I used to get to the Yoga Center where the training was taking place, and I was intrigued. A family of four from the French Alps staying in Princeton for a couple of years, and their house was 50 meters from my bus stop. At the end of the weekend with them, my life had been forever changed.
‘I am curious about your use of the word allow.’
My breath caught in my throat, tightness grabbed at my heart, and for a second the sense of vertigo was there, I was on the precipice looking down. What had she seen, what had I shown, and why did she hone in on that phrase.
‘I want to offer you some words… notice what happens when you hear them…. It’s OK to allow yourself to be loved.’
I turned in, felt the instability in my seat, felt myself twisting just a bit as I looked into that place where it felt scary.
‘Well, I guess it is time to go back to reality…” Hearing those words, my heart sank, I felt sad. I heard longing, longing for a different life, longing for change, a desire longing to be met. I heard the voice of someone who did not expect the world to be different than it appeared, and I imagined someone who felt a little powerless to make any difference. Within me, there was a voice of rebellion to this statement, a voice that wanted to call out, to shake them out of their expectations, and it is the voice that speaks to me often.
The moon, large, yellow, rises slowly above the trees, sounds of the jungle can be heard in the early evening, strange and foreign to my ears. Sitting on the cement flooring that marks the porch edge for the school we are building, I have a moment of clarity, my place on the earth. I see it on a globe, glowing brightly, so far away from everything I know. Rising with the moon, an urge in my heart, to walk into the forest, disappearing from all that is known, into a place where everything familiar to me no longer exists. Into a place where everything unnecessary, unessential, is stripped away.
Looking out the window, I can see them working their way across the barren flowerbeds. The bright orange of their breast showing me the hope of spring. Today is the first day I have seen robins in the yard. Moving from place to place with their hopping step, pausing to peck and scratch at the surface. They are so puffy with the feathers fluffed up against the cold wind, as if inflated just a little too much. It is a sign of springtime, and today is the first day I have seen them. It reminds me that I should take time to look, and see what is happening in my world, something I forget to do.
The letter was from the Czech Republic, it was the latest piece of mail for InCoWriMo and it had the loveliest stamp on it. My mail box had been filled with many letters from all over the world, Korea, Japan, Australia, Singapore, China, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada. Total strangers writing to me to tell me of their lives, and in turn I wrote to total strangers telling them about mine. Handwritten letters, with stamps, in envelopes, mailed out. A way of connecting in the world that is a little slower. A way of connecting that requires a bit of trust, trust in the basic goodness of people.
My father cannot tell me how he feels. It is something that does not appear to be part of his make-up. This is not unusual, it is part and parcel of masculinity. I hear it in the office every day, spoken and unspoken. Men who struggle to express their feelings, struggle to even acknowledge they have feelings, feelings long suppressed that are killing them. I see it in unmanageable blood pressure, in stomach problems that defy solutions, lousy sleep, boundaries that are never set, unrealistic expectations, deep profound depression that seems to lurk just at the edges of their lives. These men hold one thing in common, though they do not know it, they cannot speak of their feelings… ever... to anyone.
There is a certain simple pleasure to the process. Taking time out of the day to sit down and compose my thoughts. To prepare the space, selecting the paper, choosing a pen, and then placing the pen to the paper. Watching the ink flow from the nib across the page as my thoughts are translated through the subtle movements of my hand into words flowing through ink. The sounds of the nib on the page, the slight scratch, the way the paper grabs at times against the tines of the pen. It requires a bit more concentration, I have to be mindful of my thoughts as I write so that they do not outrun the pace of my pen. I have to hold those thoughts as I reach for a new page. These are all the little moments that make writing by hand such a pleasure.
Fresh snow blankets the world, the wind was absent last evening as it fell, so it come straight down, settling into fluffy piles upon the surfaces. Every branch has become a small shelf allowing the snow to rest for a while, the spruce trees with their small, tight leaves hold the snow so well among the branches, each one piled high with snow, undisturbed. The lower branches are weighted down, touching the drifts that lay below. In this space, there is a silence that is felt, the sounds of the world further away as these heaps of snow slow and muffle the noises of life beyond the pasture edges. It is a silence I have felt before, in other settings, in other places, but it always brings the same sense of peace when it is here.