I’m lying in bed, belly full, relishing the delicious food and delightful wine that I had for dinner. I’m blissing out on memories of the intimate moments and joyful laughter of the past few weeks. I’m melting into happiness, free from worry, free from any self-judgment or condemnation. And then it occurs to me: Oh! This is what she means.
In one of the teachings this week with my medicine woman, we discussed anxiety. She says that we feel anxious when we ignore the subtle requests of the body for food, water, rest and so on. She says that anxiety is an alarm that notifies us that we are ignoring our basic needs. Procrastinating that bathroom break because we have to make a call. Postponing that meal because we have a meeting. She says that the more we ignore the body, the louder the alarm. She says that the longer we ignore the body, the less attuned we are to what we actually need.
So many of my needs were ignored or denied when I was young. My parents were loud and demanding. I learned to be quiet and deprived. My catholic school teachers valued discipline and morality. I learned to be the perfectly-behaved student. Learning to be healthy is unlearning the denial of my body. Learning to be healthy is taking the bathroom break — the call can wait. Learning to be healthy is eating the meal — the meeting will go on without me.
My medicine woman says that our work is never done. If we push ourselves to work without stopping to take care of ourselves, we fall out of rhythm with the natural order of things. If we stop to take a drink of water, the person we call will be ready to speak, because we are attending to our inner impulse, we are in synch with the laws of the universe. When we ignore and push and procrastinate, the caller will not be available, we will not be moving in the natural flow. We will be going against the stream.
For decades I have studied the meaning and practice of liberation. I did thousands of hours of meditation. Sat through silent meditation retreats. Trekked to Tibet on pilgrimage. I thought liberation was a place you arrived when you work hard enough. I’m slowing sinking into the truth that Listening is the highest form of practice. Listening to the body. Listening to others. Listening to the wind and the water and the plants. Through listening, I hear the subtleties and the anxieties subside as I find refuge in my own skin.
Freedom is not just the ability to move from place to place, buy what we want, have a plethora of choices at our disposal. Freedom is eating beautiful food and feeling good about it. Freedom is working without stressful habits and unrealistic expectations. Freedom is breaking through the mindsets, norms, paradigms, and pressures that we inherited from others. Freedom is not shaming, blaming, criticizing or depriving ourselves, but rather, blissing out on every f*cking thing that we can. AHO!