I got all my sisters with me, yeah
We are family
Get up everybody and sing
To get our share of this world’s delights
(High) high hopes we have for the future
And our goal’s in sight
(We) no, we don’t get depressed
‘Cause here’s what we call our golden rule
Have faith in you and the things you do
You won’t go wrong, oh no
This is our family jewel
I woke up this morning singing this Sister Sledge song. I used to love dancing to this back in the day. This morning I danced into the kitchen, singing from my heart, feeling so alive.. and sat down to my coffee feeling at one with the world. I don’t have confidence to sing to others but sometimes when I sing it feels so good. In these times it’s like my body loves singing; the words and melody this morning carried something out from deep inside my body and I felt at one, in harmony, together. I wondered why this song, why this morning?
My body feels good my bare feet feel the coolness of the floor my body feels comfortable I ground myself in the moment here in my kitchen- I have woken up and I am smelling the coffee! looking into the garden aware of the light, the trees, the birds tweeting – the feeling of in here and out there, the outside feeling and the inside feeling of my bodily presence and noticing and connecting with the open and happy feeling in my heart – I feel open and receptive – part of everything around me.
I drop the pebble down into the pond, why this song, why this morning?
I look into the garden from the kitchen and feel gratitude for this place. It feels like some kind of miracle that I am here in this peaceful haven. I feel gratitude and awe at the journey I have had to endure to get here.
My childhood family life was traumatic. I would never say that to anyone but it feels ok to say it here. It sounds so melodramatic. I have been in denial of this fact until recently but mindfulness has allowed me to approach that which has been buried deep; it has gently allowed me to see things and more importantly feel things that I had not allowed myself to think or feel. Actually it’s not that I have approached things. It’s much more like Mindfulness has trained my mind how to settle, like mud in a jar of water. The settling silt results in clear seeing as it settles. It’s a non-action. This clear seeing of the multifaceted nature of all experience is described in my mind as a diamond. Strong, clear and reflecting all that surrounds it, but it remains pure and untouched. Once seen, I am reassured that when more tricky situations arise within me that the path will show its own way if I just sit tight with the practice. Having experienced this liberation I know that each time I will be rewarded with a diamond that is within me. It is funny that it was there all along but all I could see was the distorted reflections of a situation.
Mindfulness has provided me with the strong and stable foundation that my family did not give me, a true sense of self-reliance, rather than the kind of tough and defensive self-reliance that was my coping mechanism to deal with overwhelming conditions as a child and young adult.
I was tough, I was strong, I was independent.
During my compassion and insight practices I really saw that these schema were personal ‘self-beliefs’ that were fundamentally nonsense – stories that I told myself – to protect myself. I melted around that, and I let go of them resulting in freed up energy. Clinging is exhausting!
This unravelled: the shattered and exhausted parts of me hid behind the schema “I am tough”
‘I am independent’ denied the forbidden declaration ‘I need help’ and ‘I need you’
‘I am strong’ masked the more truthful reality ‘I feel vulnerable’.
My life has been somewhat tumultuous since my early years, nomadic…and I think of the journey from then to now. This touches on something quite raw which is a surprise considering the upbeat nature of the song that is in my head this morning.
“We are family”
This weekend I attended the Mindfulness Association’s Members Gathering – Connecting in Hope. I noticed that I was there in two capacities it was interesting to observe this duality in my mind. I was there as ‘me’ a mindfulness practitioner and member – and I was also there as Behind-the-Scenes Lisa, assistant to Jacky Seery working with the Mindfulness Association helping with design, blogging and sending out the digest each week. I notice as I write that I say I work with the MA and not for them. I believe in the work the core values of the organisation resonate with mine. There is no separation. When I have described my ‘new boss’ to people, I noticed I described Jacky as being like my nana (don’t take this the wrong way Jacky haha!) (my nana was so loving and kind), my sister and my aunty all rolled into one. These are family terms. Ah.
Over the weekend I look at all the faces on the zoom screen as we meditate together. I look at the teachers who guide us so diligently and with such good-hearted and authentic goodwill-intention and I feel like I have found my family. This is my family. This family has my wellbeing as their core raison d’etre. This family has compassionate intention at the heart of their action. This Sangha I see before me, the teachers who are very much open about their own personal journeys, and the over 200 fellow participants make me feel like I am no longer alone on this journey, I could turn to any one of these people and they would hear me with their heart. The behind-the-scenes compassion is strong and feel supported here too. Here I am with my Sanga – “I’ve got all my sisters and me”.
This comes through as a feeling-realisation, which turns into thinking- there it is – like when I have a creative idea it comes out fully formed, cooked in the subconscious it comes up when it’s ready to be seen and heard in the conscious world.
Simultaneously my eyes are filling with tears and a raw feeling comes up about my biological family; and a situation that occurred when I was 17 which resulted in me being thrown out of the house in the middle of my exams. Something happened which I have ‘never had any feelings about’. In fact I have spoken about it and made it funny, a funny story. My brother thought it was really funny at the time but for me it was not funny at all. In fact he got thrown out too, for laughing. It was a moment where I couldn’t take any more and so I took courage and stood up for myself after years and years of fear and despair. It was the moment when I left my biological family to fend for myself.
I sit here now and am shocked to find I have feelings connected to this situation for the first time. The memory is clear and I am back in that kitchen, reliving the scene but this time the feelings are there not just a dream-like video.
I call on my mindfulness and compassion training, welcoming the sensations that are manifesting in my body and I feel the deepest grief come from deep down inside me mixed with a whole host of unacknowledged emotions swirling round and surfacing and I find there is space for them, I do not feel threatened or overwhelmed. I rest with awe at the process, gratitude for the training which provides me with an on-call emotional doula to hold me and encourage as the feelings emerge into the world for the first time – moving from my inner world, out.
‘We are family’ – the irony now makes me smile as well as cry. The obstacles are the path – everything has brought me here to my kitchen table mindfulness – for me Buddhist teachings – the Dharma- I see all the causes and conditions in my life have brought me here. And I am grateful. Had I not had such suffering I may not have found this path. I quietly thank my mother.
At the time I felt rage and strength, courage in my conviction. ‘Softer’ feelings were not helpful in this situation and anyway I had stopped crying a long time ago. Fight and flight were activated, with my courageous heart I fought – I stood up to abuse and declared myself free of it with a non-violent protest. My big brother’s laughter was probably relief at the liberation form a terrible situation we found ourselves in, and that his little sister had finally cracked.
One thing I have discovered through the intense training on the MSc course is that when insight comes to me– it comes with a flood of laughter about the whole situation. ‘Enlightenment’ for me when it comes, is nothing short of hilarious. But first I have to dive IN to the feelings, dive IN to the pain, say YES to it all and allow it to be there. (I understand the little fat Chinese laughing Buddha now in a completely different way). Thich Nhat Hanh says, “The moment of awakening maybe marked with outbursts of laughter, but this is not the laughter of someone who has won the lottery or some kind of victory. It is the laughter of one who, after searching for something for a long time, suddenly finds it in the pocket of his coat.”
So this morning, well I wasn’t expecting all that.
I didn’t full on sob all over the kitchen table like I wanted to- that would have alarmed my family – I acknowledged the feelings and resolved to make space later and to revisit the feelings with a RAIN practice to practice radical compassion. I cannot advocate this practice more highly for these complicated tangles of emotional baggage. With strong mindfulness practice and by sitting ourselves on the comfiest cushion of compassion – we can learn how to welcome our grief with open arms and offer ourselves the consolation and compassion we never got and were too numb to offer ourselves at the time.
This week, notice what songs if any come to mind for you.
As you sing, notice the feelings and sensations arising in your body. What do you notice?
Google the lyrics. Sometimes this can reveal something about what you are feeling. What do you find here?
Practice RAIN if there’s something, an emotion or sensation that would like to be heard.
So thank you, to my new Sangha family for this wonderful journey that we all share, and I am so grateful to the MA for this opportunity to practice and to work with such an organisation which has compassion truly at its heart, thankful also to have a voice to share this incredible journey with you, in the hope that you too will find the strength from within to say yes! To difficult feelings and equally to have the strength and courage to say NO! when something threatens to overwhelm you.
Stay well, keep singing! I hope you enjoyed the Sanga experience of the Members Weekend as much as I did.
If you’d like to contribute to the message board on the padlet you can do that here and see all the lovely messages. This morning I noted there’s a lot of talk about finding our Sangha on there!
Warmest wishes to you this week dear Sangha,