Mary Oliver wisely wrote, in her beautiful poem, The Bleeding Heart, that “Most things that are important, have you noticed, lack a certain neatness.” We are sold a bill of lies if we believe that perfection is the answer, instead, I am trying to work on loving the messy, imperfect, interesting parts. The parts are not so neat.
To show up as yourself, to shout here I am and to live gloriously in your body and move through the world glowing and sharing your gifts is hard. To even try we have to unravel some pretty ingrained patterns and shift some sharp inner critics that lead to this:
- The hesitation to share and to show up as proud of what you have done.
- The self-questioning whether someone will like it, laugh at it, or even notice.
- The fear of being seen as self-absorbed, pompous, or unlikeable
- The not wanting to leave anyone out, come across as entitled, create discomfort in others
- The self-doubt over what you create is something you can be proud of
- The move to holding yourself with tender arms instead of harsh ones
The move from discomfort to self-celebration is very hard.
There is a lot of conditioning, both from families and from our societies (schooling, media, customs) that tells us to keep quiet.
In Britain, one of the greatest sins is blowing your own trumpet. In fact, it is what sets the Brits apart from Americans, according to some. In Canada, a quieter approach is what is considered best, not being too big for your boots. In my family, I was told that I should tone down all the compliments I give my children, in case they get big-headed. It is not done, to praise too much, celebrate too loudly, ‘less you might be seen to show off.
We have three centres of intelligence in our bodies, despite the fact that we tend only to access one of them, the brain. And listening only to our brain means we are comparing, judging, fighting with mental chatter, paying heed to the voice that asks us to please be neater, more straight lines please. Instead, tuning in and listening to the wisdom in our bodies can fundamentally change how we show up in the world. It can help to undo patterns, find our own voice and ultimately show up as we are.
Firstly, there is the gut centre. This is the centre of action and instincts as unconscious drivers. Some call it the “Ka,” the centre of presence. If we don’t listen to the intelligence here we might over-commit to things that don’t matter, we will store tension and stress. When we listen here we find it is the place of sensation, aliveness, and instinct. It is a place of grounding, a place of “I am enough.’ A place of fundamental sufficiency.
Take a few deep breaths, sit in silence, eyes closed and listen, with your hand on your lower belly: From this place what do you know?
Secondly: Our heart centre. This is the centre of emotions. Suboptimally, without access to this place of compassion, we become cut off from our feelings, our emotions and empathy for others. When we tune in we have access to all our feelings, we know what is important, we hear our values. This is the place that tells us, we belong. I am connected to myself and others.
Put your hand on your heart for a few moments and with some deep cleansing breaths, listen. What do you know from this place?
Finally, we reach our crowns, our head centre: The place of thinking and attention, but also the place of defensiveness, reactive tendencies, mental chatters, disconnection and judgements. At its most optimal it is the place of clarity, insight, creation, and synthesis and where a quiet space can be found. It is the place of “I am here, in this present moment.”
Tune in by listening to a meditation app, or sit in silence and listen to your breath as it enters and leaves your body. What do you know from here?
What is the view from these centres of intelligence? As we pay attention and notice, something opens up. An opportunity to embrace our wholeness. To accept our full messy selves so that we can get on with the business of living and thriving, celebrating and shouting from the rooftops, here I am!
This is a practice: both the noun and the verb. And it all happens behind the scenes. Can you value your gaze towards yourself, honour it even, as much as the way others regard you? Changing the way we operate in the world, turning inwards and noticing leads to paying more attention to those around us. But be gentle, it is a practice. We are unraveling before we start making changes.
The Bleeding Heart by Mary Oliver
I know a bleeding-heart plant that has thrived
for sixty years if not more, and has never
missed a spring without rising and spreading
itself into a grassy bush, with many small red
hearts dangling. Don’t you think that deserves
a little thought? The woman who planted it
has been gone for a long time, and everyone
who saw it in that time has also died or moved
away and so, like so many stories, this one can’t
get finished properly. Most things that are
important, have you noticed, lack a certain
neatness. More delicious, anyway is to
remember my grandmother’s pleasure when
the dissolve of winter was over and the green
knobs appeared and began to rise, and to cre-
ate their many hearts. One would say she was
a simple woman, made happy by simple
things. I think this was true. And more than
once, in my long life, I have wished to be her.
Thanks for reading, Sam x