I was lying in bed trying to read a book that early Friday evening when the voice in my head threatened to nag me to death:
Don’t get too comfortable in your cozy yoga pants! Yes, you’ve had a busy week and are tired, but you promised you were gonna go to this sound bath meditation tonight. If you don’t go, you’ll be a flake and nobody likes a flake. You’ve wanted to do this for so long, so don’t bail out now, ok? Come on. You always flake out like this at the last minute when it’s a commitment to yourself. When are you going to stop being such a fraud?
I kept trying to ignore the snarky voice in my head.
But it’s guidance seemed so sensible. So practical.
Isn’t it important to keep your word?
You’re just being lazy.
If you want to succeed in life, you can’t just bail out anytime you don’t feel like it!
Come on. No one trusts a flake!
My mind was working in overdrive to get me out of my snuggly blanket to head out into the chilly (ok, for Palm Springs it was cold!) night air.
But then, as if a cry from an animal across the forest, I heard a sound. It was actually a deep groan. My ears couldn’t hear it, but my heart could.
As I brought awareness to this presence, it became clear what it was: my body was saying no.
How many times had I ignored this soft, furry animal and demanded it conform to the expectations and demands of my mind?
Far too many to count here.
This sound though got my attention, and brought me back to a conversation earlier in the day with a client about the seismic shifts and earthquakes in our culture around the role of women today, and feminine energies in particular. How this much needed shift was coming after centuries of ignoring and reviling not just women, but just as importantly, the principle and energy of the feminine in our lives. And all of this to the detriment of women, men and the planet.
More than two thousand years ago, a sacred wound occurred.
Among others, the Ancients Greeks who revered the nous (or rational intellect) separated the mind and psyche - the traditionally masculine energies - from the messy body, intuition and emotions, the realm of the feminine. So many of the consequences that ail us personally, politically, environmentally and spiritually today are a result of that sacred split.
And that split is often represented in other spiritual traditions as well, including those from the east.
Even in mindfulness and Buddhist meditation communities, this split is easy to spot. It’s the meditator who is above everything and seems aloof, disembodied and rather cold, and who thinks he or she is making great spiritual progress; what’s commonly referred to as a spiritual bypass.
Buddhist psychologist, author and former monk Jack Kornfield writes about how common this is:
The near enemy of equanimity is indifference or callousness. We may appear serene if we say, “I’m not attached. It doesn’t matter what happens anyway, because it’s all transitory.” We feel a certain peaceful relief because we withdraw from experience and from the energies of life. But indifference is based on fear. True equanimity is not a withdrawal; it is a balanced engagement with all aspects of life. It is opening to the whole of life with composure and ease of mind, accepting the beautiful and terrifying nature of all things. Equanimity embraces the loved and the unloved, the agreeable and the disagreeable, the pleasure and pain. It eliminates clinging and aversion.
This is enormously helpful for re-balancing what we give importance to in our daily decision making: the mind or the body.
If the mind is associated symbolically and spiritually with the sky and the masculine principle, yang energy and aggression, it is only by bringing balance with the body, the feminine, the earth, yin energy and receptivity, that a true state of balanced equanimity and authentic vitality can occur.
For me, in that moment of trying to decide if I should go to the event or not, my mind was screaming that I should. But with mindful awareness of thoughts and sensations manifesting in the body, I was able to hear different guidance. This time from the body and what seemed to be mother earth herself.
Stay home. Rest. It’s ok.
The masculine energy of the mind and the feminine energy of the body were in conflict once again in me. And that’s when it hit me:
Here was my chance to take a tiny, but radical stance in favor of righting the imbalance on the earth of masculine and feminine energies. Rather than merely talking about equality and the importance of affordable child care, parental leave and equal rights for women, with this one small action, I could help to energetically shift the world into greater balance.
All of a sudden my decision to stay or go wasn’t about me being lazy, not keeping my word or being a flake. Framed this way, I was taking one small action to listen to the feminine principle of the earth. I could honor mother nature in my own body and make a decision from that place of listening to her, rather than continuing to allow my decisions to be solely dominated by the linear, rational mind.
The more I reflected on it in those terms, as a matter of balancing feminine and masculine energies through mindful awareness of the body and mind, the more excitement, empowerment and joy I began to feel.
Rather than feeling bad about myself because I was simply too tired to go out, I could see one moment as a radical act in favor of the kind of sustainable world I want to see.
A world where all men and women are valued equally.
Where the earth is cherished.
Where compassion for self and others determines our political policies.
It’s moments like this when I realize how important our mindfulness practices are. Not just for our own well-being, but for the consequences it has on the issues of environmental and social justice that matter to us most. How it turns us from passive witnesses of the daily headlines of sexual discrimination, to active participants in embodying something better and more truly sustainable.
I can’t imagine anything more important to think about this holiday season.
In invite you to think about what your body might have to say about your choices this holiday season. If you start to pay attention to it, by doing the body scan and other mindfulness practices for example, it will start giving you guidance.
A client who did a half-day mindfulness retreat with me on video while I was visiting Walden Pond recently was utterly surprised that, when she actually listened to her body, it told her exactly what she was feeling and what she needed.
Imagine asking your precious, furry, soft animal - the one that has been born witness to all of your experiences since you were born - what it wants this holiday season.
Whether it wants to go to your Uncle Leo’s for Christmas dinner.
Whether it wants to spend a small fortune on electronics that will be obsolete in a year.
Whether it wants to host New Year’s at your house (once again).
We have been taught to fear and control our bodies - God knows I spent decades trying to do so. That if we listen to them we will end up like wild animals, and do nothing all day but eat all the chocolate in the world, have deliciously hot sex and never go pick up the drying cleaning again. But that simply isn’t true, if you are genuinely cultivating mindfulness through moment-by-moment awareness of the present moment.
Perhaps you might start in this moment.
Close your eyes and take three deep breaths.
Place your heart on your belly and simply observe the weight and warmth of your hand.
Notice your body rising and falling softly.
Stay here like this for 10 minutes.
And listen to anything it tells you.
It’s your friend after all. And it has been here, waiting for you, all along.
Want to learn how to apply this mindfulness of the body in your life this holiday season? Join us for First Fridays with Felina on zoom video this Friday, December 1st at 10 am Pacific. This interactive call is free but you must REGISTER HERE.