I wonder how many people were taught to fully love themselves. My guess is not many. This must be why there is so much heartache in the world. Whose guardians truly demonstrated that art, day in and day out, each moment while raising a child into the world? Even the most “well adjusted” people have dark corners and broken drywall, with leaks springing through in the hallways of their hearts and minds.
To love yourself, you must know yourself. Do you actually know who you are? Do you know the “you” that resides in the spirit of your being, not the “you” that the world has told you to be? When you sit quietly and shed the roles that you play, the list of to-dos calling your name, the chatter inside your mind, who is there? Have you taken the time lately, or ever, to ask, and then listen?
I read a book several years ago called Mindfulness. It offered the imagery of viewing our thoughts as clouds, and our whole being as the sky. Ever changing, sometimes the clouds are white and fluffy, other times thin and transparent, and occasionally dark and thunderous. Always, though, the clouds are moving. They are not permanent. Instead, they drift through the sky, shift with the wind, the moisture, and atmospheric pressure.
So, I started looking at my thoughts like clouds. Recognizing them, allowing them to take up space for a time, but then watching as they passed by, revealing a clearer sky.
It Doesn’t Hold Anything Too Tightly, Just Lightly
The sky is open, vast, and capable of harboring all kinds of weather, visitors, and events. The sky is an offering; a place for the sun and the moon to both shine, for the rain and snow to fall from, the wind to pass through. It displays undeniable beauty and welcomes guests of many kinds. Birds and insects, planes and helicopters, rocket ships, paragliders, sky divers, kites, fireworks, satellites and stars. We can neither touch it nor see how far it reaches. To live beneath its wonder is a gift we are given every day. The sky is both conspicuous and mysterious. It doesn’t hold anything too tightly, just lightly.
Sometimes, I think living in our bodies gives us the illusion that we are small. It is hard to imagine ourselves as the sky, infinite, yet connected. Perhaps this is why some gesture to the sky as the place God resides: only a holy being could inhabit such a sensational landscape. And what if we’re just worm food when we die? So, we feel small, insignificant, and simultaneously under so much pressure.
Held Captive by Constructs
When the world gives you 17,000 memos in a day, it feels nearly impossible to make time and space to know and love yourself. You’re too busy trying to fit a mold, meet an expectation, make a deadline, be punctual, do what you SHOULD do for goodness sake, stop wasting time! The rat race continues, intensifying with each subsequent generation.
Professor Mark Williams is quoted saying “mindfulness is a very simple form of meditation that was little known in the West until recently. A typical meditation consists of focusing your full attention on your breath as it flows in and out of your body. Focusing on each breath in this way allows you to observe your thoughts as they arise in your mind, and little by little, to let go of struggling with them.” Just like the sky holds the clouds — lightly, allowing them to pass through with acceptance.
Spiritual Beings Having a Human Experience
What if mindfulness, and meditation, was a practice learned in childhood? What if time was blocked off every single day for the vital connection to self? Can you imagine if this was built-in to family structures and school curriculums everywhere? How much more peaceful, accepting, tolerant, loving, compassionate, kind, grounded, and self-aware would such a generation turn out to be?
Pierre Teilhard De Chardin once said “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” When I think about that, I feel somewhat aghast that our human forms have rendered such gross overshadowing of our spiritual selves. How can the clinging of our minds bastardize the spirit we are MADE OF? Doesn’t that seem absurd?
Fountain of Youth
Have you ever noticed how elementary school teachers never seem to age? I remember when my oldest daughter was starting kindergarten in my hometown. There was a teacher on the kindergarten team who had been there nearly 30 years and had taught many of my classmates and those before me. At my daughter’s orientation, I was stunned by the time travel my brain experienced when I saw this teacher again. She looked the same to me. Not older, not different in any form. Her same bright smile, same type of style, same hairdo. It was truly as though she had not aged. It flabbergasted me.
I have noticed this trend among several teachers who have spent their lives educating young children. One might think that wrangling 20+ little learners every day would be the MOST aging thing…but I have come to believe that it is to the contrary. Childhood runs at a different pace than the rush of the “adult” world. There is wonder, curiosity, fascination, and authenticity that hasn’t yet been silenced or shamed. They have a way of allowing their emotions to move through them and feel lighter on the other side. Small children do not shy away from asking questions, and they can make just about anything fun. To be surrounded by such vibrancy is to connect to the closest thing I believe we have to the fountain of youth.
The Network of Life
I believe when we are children, our soul is the most connected to its spiritual self. We are most aware of the intrinsic nature of our connections to the earth and creation itself. It’s why a child is endlessly awestruck by the beauty of a butterfly or the growth in a garden. A child knows and deeply feels the network of life that sews our hearts together. To look at the world through a child’s eyes is to see how it was intentionally made.
Each step we take away from the child residing within us, is a step toward a world that has lost touch with the wholeness we are all born embodying. Systems guide us into abandoning ourselves, glazing over our lenses, and blindly following status quos and constructs that don’t align with our souls. Somewhere along the way, too many of us feel strung out, exhausted, uninspired, taken advantage of, and empty. Add in whatever feeling you yourself have found yourself marinating in.
The point is: it’s time we took initiative to return to our souls. Return to the child within you that stopped to stare at the waves, that huge icicle hanging precariously off the gutter of your home, that ladybug sitting on a leaf. Take a breath, put your face to the sky, and let the sun warm your skin. Stop, amongst all the shuffle, and let the spirit inside you whisper the truths long ago silenced. Set yourself free, over and over again. You are the sky. You cannot be contained.
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