Let It In
Have you ever had a dream in which the answers to your life were so clear? The feeling of relief was so palpable? The joy and wonder had you saying, “of course?” Some version of this dream comes my way occasionally, and I used to wake up frustrated that what seemed so clear in my dream state had totally escaped me upon waking. For a few years I had a dream that I had THE ANSWER – it was exhilarating – and then I would wake up with no idea what it was. I finally recognized that there was no such thing as THE ANSWER – the one thing that will always and forever more resolve all of our issues. When I realized that issues come and go and life is all about taking responsibility and making decisions over and over again, I stopped having the dream. This week, I had a cousin to this old dream. I woke up with the phrase “let it in” echoing through my mind, and an idea that I needed to blog about this concept. Other than the elation I felt, little from the dream itself survived my awakening, and yet, I have been thinking about this phrase ever since. Let it in. Let it all in. The joy, the sorrow, the frustration, the sadness, the grief, the laughter the tears. It is all a part of being alive. When we try to protect ourselves from feeling any of these feelings, we deny ourselves the fullness of life. When we make some feelings more desirable than others, we fail to recognize the cleansing value of a good cry, the release of a burst of anger (as long as it’s not directed at someone else), and the honoring that grief makes possible for something or someone we have lost. All of our feelings are valid and deserve expression to ourselves if not with others. Sharing our feelings in an appropriate manner with others, and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable enough to do so is what connects us. Knowing that someone else has felt the same way, battled the same demons, been awakened to the same truths can create a beautiful bond. Can help us feel less alone. Can remind us that we are all one. The fourth principle of Taoism talks about this balance. Harmonious action describes the process by which we balance our yin and yang, the light and dark and all the other polarities. It says if you want to be whole, allow yourself to be partial, if you want to be full, be empty, if you want to be given everything, give everything up. As I hiked through a bamboo forest in Hawaii the other day, I noticed this in the bamboo. It overcomes the wind by yielding to it. If it were rigid, it would break because it's so brittle, but because it yields, it overcomes. Thus, in this way, weakness produces strength, and strength produces weakness. That which we resist, persists. I wrote about this before in my blog about the Downside of Positive Thinking. When we categorize certain feelings, states of being or thoughts as less than, we tend to resist them or actively deny them. When we do so, we only insure that they will hang about until they are truly felt or expressed. We are just prolonging that which is demanding our attention. When we can actually acknowledge and feel it, it is free to disappear.
I’ve been in Hawaii for two weeks. The first week was spent volunteering at a surf camp for cancer survivors. I attended this camp 18 months ago, and was asked to come back as an ambassador survivor – a sort of liaison between the campers and the staff. It was an in-between role that was sometimes uncomfortable because I wasn’t firmly in either camp. Not quite staff, and not a participant either. The second week, I have been largely on my own. Sightseeing, resting, catching up on some work and enjoying the warm weather, cool breezes and beauty that is Hawaii. As I post photos and comments on Facebook, my friends have been chiding me about rubbing it in as much of the mainland is in the middle of an early arctic blast complete with a great deal of snow, even in some places that don’t typically get it. I am definitely grateful to be here and missing out on that first blast of winter, but being in paradise doesn’t in and of itself, bring bliss, just as living through a brutal cold snap doesn’t signal constant misery. Even though I’m in an incredible place, I am spending quite a bit of time on my own, and that gives me pause. Is it really smart to hike down that volcanic rocky hillside to those inviting pools with the surf crashing in the background? What if I slipped and injured myself? Who would know I’m here? Even when I’m enjoying a beautiful sunset from my lanai, it is easy to wish there was someone there to share it with. Life brings light and dark, joy and sorrow, sickness and health, abundance and lack. When I am laid up with a cold or the flu, you can bet that is when I most appreciate and miss the health I often take for granted. When I am low on funds, it is easy to look back and wish I had saved more. Right now as I am nursing a cracked rib from stand up paddle boarding, I am thinking about the pain-free full range of motion I usually enjoy as this injury is keeping me from doing many of the things I love like swimming and even breathing comfortably. No matter what, I vow to let it all in. To breathe in the fullness, and the emptiness of life. To appreciate the love and friendship I enjoy so often and the loneliness I sometimes feel. I love the balance of life. I love the uncertainty of the weather. It is one of the things I love the most about Colorado. You never know what you’re going to get one day or even one hour to the next. In Maui, it’s pretty predictably the same every day – somewhere between 68 and 88 give or take, sunny, maybe overcast and windy or breezy. Not much changes here. It might be nice for a while, but I wonder if it wouldn’t get boring? Someday, it might be nice to stay long enough to find out.