It's About Us
Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week: "I am alright right now."
In this present moment, just as you are right now, are you okay? Reading this post. Breathing. Sitting. Standing. Are you okay...basically okay? It's so simple but it can be deeply helpful just to recognize this. Just a quiet observation and few simple words. "I am alright right now." Or, "I am okay right now."
Neuro-psychologist and author Rick Hanson has a great essay about this that I highly recommend--it's fairly brief. He reminds us that as we evolved as a species our brains developed a "default setting of apprehensiveness" in order to stay safe. That's a great way, he says, "to keep a monkey looking over its shoulder for something about to pounce. But it’s a crummy way to live."
Of course there are times when we are not alright. "Maybe something terrible has happened, or your body is very disturbed, or your mind is very upset," says Rick. "Do what you can at these times to ride out the storm. But as soon as possible, notice that the core of your being is OK." Like a bear sheltered in a warm cave during a blizzard.
It's About Us
John McCutcheon, multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter extraordinaire, notes that near the beginning of his 50+ year career his mother said to him, "Remember, this is not about you. It's about us."
"That was a tremendous gift to get very early on," said John.
John is a man with remarkable talents, including concert-level ability on hammered dulcimer, guitar, violin, piano, banjo, autoharp and mountain dulcimer, a fine voice, and an amazing ability to write songs--he has put out over 40 albums filled with hope, calls for justice and a good modicum of playfulness. Pete Seeger said he is "one of the best musicians in the USA." Johnny Cash said he is "the most impressive instrumentalist I've ever heard." He bubbles over with music and compassion--he can't help it. At nearly 70 he is still going strong.
"This is not about you. It's about us." That statement works for people like John, with huge talent, reminding them not to get puffed up but to realize their gifts are given for the greater good. It works equally well in the opposite direction, for people like me, who focus way too much on fear of what others think. I too need to be reminded that it is not about me, or my fears, it's about sharing my small offerings for the greater good. It's not about being the center of attention or, conversely, effacing ourselves out of commission. It's about all being in this together, helping each other along as we can, sharing whatever gifts we have--and all of us do have gifts.
In that spirit, here are two poems--one written about eight years ago (originally offered in my third blog post) and one written this week. The older one, "Unfolding," shares it's title with this blog.
Why did I name my blog "Unfolding"? Because unfolding is what a rose does when it’s been nourished by earth and rain and sunlight. What a down comforter does—one that has been packed away for the summer months—when you pull it out of storage on that first really cold night of the year. What a baby does as it is being born. Or a newly hatched butterfly. Easing into space. Expanding. Slowly moving beyond the confines of the container that has been its home for so long...into a whole new world.
A note: The poems I consider to be my best seem to arise out of some deep inner need to heal, or understand, or have support. Therefore often, like these, they are written in a directive, second person voice, from me to me: "Always allow..." or "Loosen, fingers, loosen your death grip..." They are (take your pick) my higher self, my Higher Power, God, a guardian angel or the Universe, sharing wisdom with my "regular" earthbound self.
If one of them speaks to you too, that's wonderful.
Always allow the first shoot
to grow unhindered.
Early pruning distresses the vine
beyond where it can go
loosen your death grip on this very day.
Open to the atmosphere of open,
drink in large draughts of clear.
Hear the rain linger freely on your blessed face.
Breathe in the wreathes of a hero’s laughter,
for life is an enormous,
and very tender,
That dark cellar,
those cruel rememberings,
can be at rest for the day.
Rivers bubble gradually from springs
long before they go swaying through the wilderness.
Mountains green softly into hills over eons,
These are the rhythms of the great heart
of a whale were she to become a world.
This is the unheralded music, the slow rhyme,
waiting to be savored and held
in your loose and local fingers
this very day.
Until next time,
Boy and man, Ben White, unSplash
John McCutcheon, Old Town School of Folk Music
Little girl dancing, Hanna Morris, unSplash
Man floating, Stefan Stefancik, unSplash
Greening mountains, Waranont Joe, unSplash
Wolves, Tim Fitsharris, Minden Pictures