Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Accused of Softness
Last week I received an email from someone who had learned and participated in shamanic ceremonies with me many years ago. She said she’d been reading my blog and Facebook page and wanted to know what had happened to me, wondered if I had gone a little “soft in the head” with all my writing about tenderness toward our struggles and opening inner doors with curiosity. She wanted to know what had happened to Oriah the Warrior Woman. She was not pleased.
I have to admit, my reaction was one of delight. Truly. And that reaction thrilled me because I thought it might reflect at least a smidgen of progress in the not-caring-what-others-think area of development. But I took her questions as genuine, as prompts to have a look at how and why I might have changed, may have softened (in the head or in the heart?)
As I sat with her questions, I realized that the truth is that almost everything in the world breaks my heart open these days. Someone on Facebook writes that she hates herself for not being stronger, and I write a response with tears blurring my vision of the screen, aching a little for her- for me- for the parts of us that meet our own struggles, losses and pain without mercy, with judgement and criticism heaping suffering on top of pain.
Someone tells me of a friend who is working to set up community gardens in a city, a man who starts conversations with neighbours with the observations that since vegetable gardens grow vegetables and flower gardens grow flowers, they need to decide together how they want their community garden to grow community (instead of just assuming that dividing the land into small private plots is the only way to go) and my heart breaks open with hope for the infinite ways we can create the world right where we are.
I do a telephone session with someone and she confesses that her daily practise has not been going well- that the meditation she is doing feels boring and painful, that she spends her time wanting to be anywhere else. And my heart breaks open to our human struggle to live up to some kind of ideal- spiritual or otherwise- and our genuine desire to live fully present. Together we explore ways to remain true to her intent to centre and listen deeply without hurling herself mercilessly against methods that are just not working for her.
It doesn’t take much to break my heart these days: the way the sun lights the sky as it crests the horizon at dawn, the promise of another day given to us; the way strangers stop to help a woman whose grocery bags have broken, men and women scurrying to gather runaway oranges, to scoop up foil-wrapped butter and packages of spaghetti where they have fallen on dark pavement; the thrill of slipping into the quiet of a university library to write for a few hours away from my seductive internet connection, and the way the words spill out of me like living things, telling stories I had not noticed before; the courage of human beings facing loss- of homes, of loved ones, of health, of partnerships- to take another breath, another step. . .
The woman is right- I didn’t used to be so easily broken open. But some of the certainties I held when I was younger have crumbled in the face of life’s unpredictability. And other certainties- of the beauty of the human spirit and of the gift of having one small human life- have taken root.
I feel I cannot explain it all, so I just write one line back to her. My heart is very full as write: “Your wonderful questions have made me aware of changes that have happened so gradually I hardly noticed them- I am deeply grateful. Thank you.”
Oriah (c) 2013