“If I have weaknesses, don’t let them blind me or camouflage all I am wary of. I could be sailing on seizures of laughter or crawling out from under the heel of love. Reach in the dark. Reach in the dark. To overcome an obstacle or an enemy. To glide away from the razor or a knife”
– Rhythm of the Saints Paul Simon
I spent the full year after living out and sharing chapters, refraining from expressing any inner experiences or written reflections publicly. With intent, I chose to withdraw socially. Engaging with only a few people, no particular community and retreating from professional pursuits. I directed my attention away from external obligations and focused inward with new intensity. What did this look like? What are the repercussions of a year focusing internally rather than externally? I am choosing to share, now a year later, as a means to help understand the answers.
Prioritizing this kind of time for one’s self is rare. If ever taken, we are taught that it’s selfish or unhealthy to do so. For me, I found the opposite to be true and landed upon some valuable lessons. I learned how to hear, listen to, rely upon and share with myself. Becoming my own boss, audience, motivator, accountability, critic, fan, and foe, I learned to accept my ebb and discovered my flow.
Without outside obligations to abide to, what would I do for myself on my own? Could I stay in step with my own beat while learning to live without evaluating or understanding everything I did and felt? Could I feel and be within my natural rhythm of time? Yes, in fact, I could. After finally releasing the reins, I stopped trying, flailed about and stumbled into my flow. What I found was an infinitely deep pool of water and words waiting to rush in. Meditation is the practice that directed me off the diving board.
At first, sitting with myself in silence was a strange and sometimes difficult thing to do. I had issues with the physical effects of sitting still and felt resistance in finding “the time” to do it in my day. The most difficult part of meditation though was simply facing my own thoughts directly without distraction. “Empty the mind. Silence your thoughts. Be in the present moment.” were the directives. I came nowhere near those outcomes in my first meditation experiments. Instead, I did a 180 and flooded my brain with thoughts at full force on high volume. All the questions and concerns I stored away bubbled to the surface and rushed into the room to sit with me in the “silence”. Racing questions with no answers were anything but calming or relaxing. How could I experience the present moment when all these questions from the past and future kept interrupting my here and now?
In my two years of practice since, I’ve learned to accept the thoughts and questions as a part of my present moment. The queries are no longer distracting, and I no longer seek answers. I simply listen in, welcome the thoughts and then let them leave. Living by a creek, I focus on the sound of rhythmic water to float these passing thoughts onward. Now, sitting in “my silence” is satisfying. Instead of distracting questions rising to the surface, there is a wide-open space of stillness that repeatedly is re-filled with breath and heart beat. In this rhythmic dance from past moment to future moment, there is constant motion and no time or room for hesitation or judgment in between. In these intervals of silent space, I now hear the answers before questions arrive. My moments in meditation conduct and orchestrate new movement and action in my day. And above all else bring creative energy that is flowing forth into spontaneous and free-flowing writing sessions.
I now spend hours allowing words to come as they want to, in ways they intend on coming out. I stop thinking, start breathing and feel into the process. Often I’m surprised by what emerges. I write about topics I had never thought about, and create characters I didn’t know existed. Thoughts move through my head and come concretely together on their own, in a way that is fluid and automatic.
I believe the origin of this flow comes from the space I have given it to grow from in meditation. I have broken down the walls where it once was contained and have not pin-pointed or directed a final destination or outcome. Releasing the reason to write, the specific audience to write for, and topics to write about frees me up to feel into my own natural current and move forward.
My sailor friend Jeffrey says, the key to sailing is to utilize the best of what you have access to: current, wind, tools and the structure of the vessel. Lean in and allow for the natural elements to do their work. Use observation and technical skills to make minor fine-tune adjustments to shift your direction along the way. This is something that I think I have been trying to learn my entire life. How do I release myself fully while making technical and observational adjustments along the way without heavy-handed control?
It’s a bit scary at first, like being on a sailboat alone without knowing how to utilize the assets and tools you have. Floating freely in foggy open water, not knowing if you will hit the shore or if you will be lost at sea. At this point there is no other option then to release into the current, utilize the wind and learn the tools at your disposal. If you don’t want to ebb, it’s time to learn to flow.
Reach in the Dark.
Thanks for sharing, Beth! My first time feeling into my ebb and flow was in grad school when I started to “feel my inner rumblings” – just noticing what was going on inside. It is awesome to hear your account and it is encouraging me to revitalize my meditation practice. ❤