Attending to my own House
I am currently reading “12 Rules for Life” by Jordan B. Peterson. There is a chapter called “Set your house in order before you criticize the world”. There are numerous ways to interpret that statement and this is one of mine. It connects directly to my mindfulness practice and follows the simple principle of looking after yourself first before attending to others. It also applies to supporting and working with others to enable and encourage wellbeing. The helping is coming from a place of experience, a life lived, not just a theoretical concept. I used to think that this was a given when it came to a therapeutic alliance between professional and client, Doctor and patient, how naïve was I? Anyway, moving on before this dialogue becomes about something else.
This morning it was raining hard. I was aware of this from the sound, no need to look out of the window. The weather put the dampener on a dog walk with a friend. So, I continue to lie here in bed. Connecting to my breath and occupying my body, I bring my attention inwards. Noticing thoughts coming and going.
Thoughts returning to a place of unrest. Recently the pressure and need to do something has been great. A gear locked into a need to achieve, to strive for, to attain something. But what is that something? The drive to have or possess, what? Is being successful the same as being happy or liked? Success means different things to people. What is success?
My thoughts reflect on my previous practice from last night. My meditation took me to a tiny area of discomfort in my body. This is not the first time that my body has directed my attention to an area of need. The spot was to the right of my heart. In my chest. It could have easily been overlooked in fact I believe it had been for an awfully long time. Sensations like this often give up trying to get attention over the years until they collaborate, band together and force you to take notice.
I rested my attention on the area, imagining a warm light, illuminating onto the place of discomfort. Soon the sensation began to change and unfold. It softened to reveal its nature. Images and words rose to allow investigation and I welcomed the dialogue with kindness and curiosity. By acknowledging the sensation, I had allowed it to have a voice.
Connecting to my body, gave a part of me, an opportunity to be heard.
For many years as a child and teenager I felt that I was different and not in a good way. Different from my peers because I came from a broken home. (what a loaded term that is, hopefully was?) I lived alone with my mother with little money and my dad had left us. Different because my name was unusual, not easy to pronounce and open to word play and jokes. Different because I felt alone and unlovable. Friends appeared, though trust was an issue. I believed that anyone I cared about would leave me or cause me pain. And yet I was desperate to be liked by others.
On reflection I sacrificed my education to be part of the gang. The gang that involved bunking off school, smoking at the back of the bike shed and all the other activities that lead to the wrong side of the street.
My effort in learning was minimal except when it came to the Arts. I found joy in being creative, art and drama were my true friends. I felt myself when engaging in these subjects and I loved learning, I felt alive. To lose myself in the imagination of visual arts and to allow myself to take on other personas in drama working with movement and music was a salve to my soul.
My peers lacked motivation. They were on a different path and it was hard to extract myself from them in order to create. I needed them to feel connected, to have a bond, but I was constantly torn.
My art O’level portfolio was complete and ready for assessment. I was happy with my achievements and felt confident that I had done the best that I could. Just before the assessment, my work was sabotaged. It was defaced with scribblings and paint, ripped and torn. I was shattered. The examiners saw beyond this and I was given a good mark. However this was not enough. The one real joy I had in my life trampled underfoot, with no explanation and no-one to blame. My friends made loud noises in class, threats to maim and hurt the culprits, all to no avail. The school was helpless to offer the answer and I had to walk away and let it go. Did I let it go? Or did I just bury those feelings deep beneath my skin. Layering the armour for future attacks.
A while after leaving school, I learned who the perpetrator was. Can you guess? My best friends, my peer group that I foolishly trusted. Another example of why I should not trust people, why I should protect and shield my heart.
So, that happened 40 years ago and here I am with this tiny sensation of discomfort feeling the emotional pain that I did not let go of, just hid it away. I am shedding tears for that part of me that went unheard, the part of me that still after all this time needed to be heard. To acknowledge this now allows me to move forward with my creativity and desires. Whatever guise it chooses to reveal itself, is what is required. That tiny sensation of pressure, or tightness signposted me to a block which I was able to shift. Using kindness and a gentle approach to my past suffering as led to letting go.
Take a gentle approach towards yourself and help heal the parts that have been silenced for so long.
You never know what will arise from a practice.