Friday, January 28, 2011

Belly Love and belly insights

My stomach has been bothering me lately. Which is annoying because I have been eating well and cannot for the life of me figure out what is wrong. It is a mild upset that will not go away.

So this morning was my official start day for working with The Artist's Way. I think I am the only person who hasn't read it or really known much about it. There is a reading group taking place over on the Goddess Circle and I decided to join in as I do better when I am holding myself accountable to a group. The major tool of The Artist's Way is Morning Pages. Each day I am to write 3 pages or 750 words, stream of consciousness style to get all the junky junk out of the way. I'm not to be writing anything inspirational, just writing. Gremlins and angels, crap'ola and magic, inspiration and nonsense. And apparently in my case, a spicy dash of profanities.

I grabbed an old spiral bound notebook and I wrote. And wrote. I wrote so fast my hand cramped up and the words blended together on the page in some crazy french liaison-like mush. I was acutely aware of feeling like the day was lost to me. It was 9:15 and I was behind because I did not get up when my alarm went off. And then I spewed forth a long list of all the things I wanted to do and all the things I needed to be doing. Right now. No, an hour ago.

Writing until my claw of a hand could go no further, I realized it is no wonder my stomach is bothering me. The amount of efforting, the volume of I-ness that covered the page would cripple the hardiest of beings, never mind stomachs. Staring at my pages heaped full with desiring, pushing, striving, reaching, grasping and grabbing, I could feel the knot being pulled tighter in my stomach. The navel center and stomach is the chakra associated with fire, will, achievement and individual power, action and expression. It is the chakra that gets things done. And mine is collapsing under all the strain.

This awareness came after another a-ha moment earlier in the morning. I was late getting up because I could not rouse myself from my dream. I have intense dreams and periods when they leave me exhausted and spent. Throughout my life, I have had cycles when specific themes appear over and over again in my dreams. Some just cease and others end when I take action in my dream. For years I had the classic "back to school" dream where I was contacted by my high school that they had made a mistake and I needed to come back and take one more math class in order to graduate. This went on and on until one night, in my dream, I said "I have my college and master's degrees - I don't need your high school diploma!" I never had that dream again.

My present dream theme - one which has been going on for years - is where I am attempting to travel somewhere, usually by plane, and obstacles keep arising that prevent me from either getting to the airport or, if I do travel, I get lost or diverted on route to wherever it is I am trying to go. These dreams leave we feeling frustrated and tired from all the effort spent trying to move through the obstacles. All my attention and energy is focused upon getting to my destination and that never happens.

Wanting to break this cycle, I have tried to figure out where is it I am meant to be going? And what is holding me back? Of course, this is a huge metaphor for my life: what am I supposed to be doing? How can I get there?

This morning it occurred to me to turn things around a bit. What if the dream is not an omen telling I need to figure out what to be doing with my life; what if the dream is about me pushing, striving, straining to get somewhere when where I am meant to be is right under my feet? What if the frustration is from my refusal to surrender to the life I have been given? What if I accept there is nowhere else to go, no one else to be but me as I am in this moment? Because beneath all that straining and efforting is a belief that once I get there, somehow I will magically be transformed or transported out of this existence. Poof! I will explode into a million pieces of light and be free of birth, death, pain, and well, life.

Okay, I should have provide you a map for the circuitous route of my thinking. To put all of this into a larger context, I should also mention the instruction we were given last week in Deep by Connie, our fearless leader. She asked us to consider things this way: that no matter how much we painted, we couldn't get any better than we already are but also, we couldn't get any worse. How would we paint? Wouldn't the only choice be to be ourselves and embrace being extraordinarily that? Because the other option would be mediocre and which is not an option in my book.

So I've been chewing this whole being extraordinarily me for the past week. It has been liberating to paint with a sense of just painting me. Nowhere to go, no striving to improve, just aiming for honesty, aiming for 100% Lisa. Pretty radical. And my painting practice is mirroring the other practices that define my life: yoga, meditation and parenting. In each there comes a point when I've read the books, I listened to the stories and experiences of others, taken classes, seeked advice and guidance and now all that is left is to practice. Roll up my sleeves and do the work. And here's the thing: the work is never finished. I may have an amazing meditation, a glorious painting session, an on-fire-alive asana practice and tomorrow the work continues. As the saying goes, after ecstasy, then the laundry. There is no there to be gotten to, no final launching point (where I will dissolve into that light.) Just the practice. And showing up for it again and again.

Because if there were an end point, that would mean exiting this life which is work, pleasure, pain, joy, agony and ecstasy. Yeah, maybe we become angels, but remember Wings of Desire? Isn't the joy of life so much sweeter because we also experience the bitterness of disappointment, the pain of loss, the full spectrum of emotions that give flavor to existence?

Have I lost you? Maybe I've lost myself. But this is what is welling up inside me. All my striving and pushing and forcing has lead me to this point of total surrender. And in letting go of grasping, I am finding myself opening to receiving the greatest things of all: my extraordinary life, my singular and unique self. That's all there is.

Well, that an a huge stack of dirty dishes and a pile of laundry patiently waiting for my attention.

And hopefully, a new and relaxing cycle of dreams.

(is this what is meant by navel gazing?)


  1. navel gazing never looked better - this is an ole moment for me Lis namaste

  2. Some big insights there....I love how you can reinterpret that dream and make it a positive message of acceptance and being. I also have dreams of frustration,and now I have a new way of thinking about them. Thanks for another thought provoking post. XOXO Gina

  3. Oh Lis, I always love your posts! This is such good stuff! And even a reference to wonderful Wings of Desire:) So, so happy to know you! XXOO Liz

  4. i have that travel dream, too! so frustrating. i hope your stomach feels better soon. i have never read the artist's way but it is on my list. i look forward to seeing what you think of it.

  5. oh i love the first comment, an ole is in order for sure!
    lis, if this is you navel gazing, please continue, and please make sure you continue to share what you find in there. it's juicy good stuff!

  6. definitely 'ole!'

    i get hundred times my travel dream i'm in a shopping mall or a certain 'place' and i'm trying to get home but the doors are all wrong and then the bus is going the wrong way etc. etc. I have it in it's varying versions quite a lot and it wasn't until reading about your experience that it makes sense now...

    {i think we do a lot of the same stuff ;)}

    i also don't mind telling you..that since i had my similar moment last week, i've had a least two nervous breakdowns from not knowing where the hell i'm going...:) but they passed...and i'm getting the hang of this letting-the-fuck-go business....

    so much love to you my mango-mama!!

  7. Nice posting. Do you know about these yoga books?

  8. Isn't it interesting that we keep showing up. The "why" behind what we do is almost as fun to analyze as the "what". I hope your belly is unclenching now with those realizations. My own big aha recently is how I am at peace with my life. I no longer feel the need to fight. Too hard to explain. And I must go and tend to my stack of laundry now.

  9. Oh I like that thought: no better, no worse, just you. A very freeing thought, indeed. Sounds like we are both in a similar frame of mind lately-- stressing out, but still showing up to do the work. Believing in the work. Ah sweet surrender :)

    Oh and that school dream... I hate that dream! Way to take charge.