Archive for the ‘embodied spirituality’ category

Liminal Dancer

July 11, 2020

Liminal Dancer

The dis-ease and trauma within which we live is planet-wide. Changes must take root and flower in every system, institution, home and individual. In such a world, how do use my gifts as spiritual guide to support social change???? If I answer this question with my mind, I fabricate heroic plans, despite having learned that heroism is inauthentic. Heroism insists on ego-driven improvements to what it sees as an inadequate and unacceptable world and self.  This compulsive pretense goes to the heart of the dis-ease we face. Instead, relating with compassion amidst ordinary life is where relational healing occurs.

Since my mind gets stuck in old ego patterns, I turn to my body’s discernment. Inspired by My Grandmother’s Handsby Resmaa Menakem, and its reminders of body-settling practices, one morning while commuting to work (for an 11-hour day among very unsettled bodies), I began humming. Without conscious choice, I found myself humming the melody of Amazing Grace.  I began to sing. Out came spontaneous new words, starting with the question, “What can I do in times like these?” and verses emerged – “we feel it in our bodies, the suffering – it starts in our bodies, the healing” …. I pulled out my phone and recorded this song. After recording, I kept singing – repeating verses, watching them evolve into a final verse (not recorded):

It starts in the body

becoming safe,

it starts in the body

healing,

it starts in the body

finding peace

in the midst of our suffering.

     I entered the eating disorder treatment clinic where I have worked as art therapist for 13 years singing these words. This is Spirit’s answer for me – I have gifts to help bodies find safety and calm. Whatever work I continue or add to my life, this settling of suffering bodies (mine included) is the moment to moment practice.

At work, bigger than normal changes had begun months before the virus. The pandemic has unraveled everything further. Every week has been a practice of surrender, of doing what is needed imperfectly, of losing my bearings and only temporarily finding them. We are all in the same state, life’s normal flux thrust into disequilibrium and chaos.  One of my biggest stresses has been the eating disorder clinic piloting a teen PHP during this pandemic, while we’ve also learned to provide telehealth to all our adult patients. Every week has involved major shifts in practice, letting go of what I did well, while struggling with new situations.  (Thich Naht Hanh’s mindfulness teachings have been so helpful during this time!!!)

Yesterday afternoon, I took 7 anxious teens outside for a mindful walk, a welcome break in PHP’s day-long therapy. We trekked around a nearby pond and watched a pair of blue herons among lotus flowers growing from pond-mud. I returned, settled in my body, to attend a Zoom staff meeting. There I found out that we will be switching to an entirely new schedule for the PHP. My future responsibilities are unclear and to be determined. Instead of solidifying ground, this fall will bring more disruption. More feelings of loss and uncertainty. More confused bearings and having to adjust.

The peace of breathing with lotus and herons evaporated. My body flew into panic, thinking, “I’ll just quit and focus entirely on private practice!” Grand schemes spun from mind – heroism, grasping at control and the illusion that safety is found in independence. Luckily, I observed my state. I returned to body settling and mindfulness and loving kindness.

I put the finishing touches on an art piece I have been collaging, titled: The Truth Is the Ground Has Always Been Shaky, Forever (from Pema Chodron).  In it, a woman is dancing on fragmented, quaking, and constantly shifting ground.  A series of shock waves is occurring. One of the dancer’s feet stands on a Covid virus. Ripples of melting glaciers, disappearing rainforests, and other terrain quake under her other foot. Her body is covered with words from Alice Walker, Thich Naht Hanh, and Felicia Murrell about hard times and furious dancing, about two arrows hitting the same place, about racism and liminal space. I painted the dancer as a dark-skinned woman, reminding me that, globally, people of color have the most difficulties to navigate, as we live our lives fighting to dismantle unjust structures and experimentally create a more compassionate society. The dancer is me and every woman. She is Mother of All affirming that we can do this dance. We can soul-journey through the turbulence that is being quickened.