As I sit in the quiet of my morning self-connection practice, I listen inside for the place to enter the flow of silence, the place of mystery. I don’t have to seek, it always finds me, and today it scoops me up leading me to the world outside myself. I hear the rhythm of the bird’s song, the refrigerator humming, the engines of the boats on the lake and the crunching sound of the gravel under the wheels of a passing car. I smile hearing the gravel under the wheels of a passing car because it reminds me of when I eat cereal with the crackling sounds that invariably echo in my head.
Near me is the gentle whir of my cat breathing, then the unexpected buzzing sound of my cell phone in the other room, and the wind blowing through the trees just outside my window. I have my own sounds of life that begin to mingle, creating this symphony of consciousness, of the awareness of life being lived in all its forms. As my attention journeys back inside, I hear my heart beating, and the creaking of the cartilage in my knee as I shift on the pillow on which I sit.
I return to the voices of the work men, metal tools clanging, baritone voices booming in the air, filling the silence, mixing with the rhythm of the bird song that first captured my awareness. The same bird still warbles – same pitch, same cadence, same tempo… nonstop, ongoing, the underpinning of life all around. The din around me is chaotic, unpredictable and without a melody, it begins to mix with the bird song.
The dance where I am seeking to know my place in the world AND where I am accepting the gift of knowledge that because I am sitting here, I already belong, is one of the truest pilgrimages in my life.
The aural hubbub of seemingly opposite sounds merge, and with all things in life – I seek my place in that space. I find myself longing to feel comfortable in my own skin and to feel at home on planet earth. I think I’ve yearned to know these two things for as long as I can remember. The dance of these two partners is deep, ancient and eternal. The dance where I am seeking to know my place in the world AND where I am accepting the gift of knowledge that because I am sitting here, I already belong, is one of the truest pilgrimages in my life.
It doesn’t always feel joyful though. Life is painful when I don’t feel at home, when I don’t have a sense that I have a right to be here, that I have a contribution, or to know that I matter simply because I am alive. When I am confronted with the opinions and words of others who speak words contrary to welcoming me and honoring me, words and actions that echo my own dark thoughts of being broken and unworthy, I sometimes lose my way. The doors and windows of life close.
The unspoken lesson of childhood that reverberates through me is, “Be strong, be good, shut up.” To know I had a place on earth, or even to know I wasn’t taking up too much space meant I needed to repent, I had to be good, and I had to be strong enough to take what life gave me and get tougher. I don’t feel very tough though, I feel fragile, weak and small.
I bring my awareness back to the bird song, to my heartbeat and to my breath, remembering that the space filled by the cloud of air moving in and out of my lungs is all I have in this place. I am forced to hear the breath of everything that ever was. It opens me to that dance, inviting me to inhabit this place more fully and live out the paradox of being opened and closed by life while holding the mysterious space in between.
At times it seems easier to deflect the things of this world, to close to the hurtful words and actions of others. Yet what I continue to learn and practice is that everything is changing, while everything remains connected, and I have to put on my dancing shoes in order to move with the rhythm of life. For what lies in the spaces between the dance steps are the things I need most to learn – to heal and to love, to be joyful in my sorrow.
The places in the spaces hold everything for me – it is here the threads of every experience, including the ones that hurt or diminish me, are spinning the web of my knowing my place in the world. My breath inside and the bird song outside offer me a place in between, that most precious place where I get to wrap my heart and hands around what matters most, or live at the expense of others by surrendering my place in this world.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting – over and over announcing your place in the family of things. – Mary Oliver
I think I’ll take the risk and put on my dancing shoes, find a partner and listen for the rhythm. If not, I lose the chance to drop through those spaces and I may never know my place in the family of all things. Wouldn’t that be a loss for me, for all that has come before and all that will ever be.