This is Part 1 of my upcoming book about a new kind of earth-based, feminine leadership (see my last blog for the introduction, which will give you more of the context). I am looking for feedback so please let me know if you have any. You can leave comments below or email me through my website. You can also DM me on Instagram.
The chickens are making such a racket that one of the dogs starts to bark. Soon Chickadees in the nearby Chestnut tree join the chorus and the garden is lit up with sound. The sky is a pale blue colour; clouds come and go.
It is finally spring in The Berkshires and we can all breathe a sigh of relief.
This relief aside, money troubles loom high. Winter was tough and our bank accounts are getting low. As I trundle around the garden in the springtime sun, worries live in my shadow, following me wherever I go. Will I have to give up my somatic therapy sessions or my newfound love of the trapeze? Will I be forced to return to a job that eats my soul? Will he end up hating me if I don’t bring in some money soon?
Beneath my whirring mind my legs lie quietly, watching me. They are tight – as they always are – and as I tune into their tightness it relaxes me. This oh-so-familiar feeling is their way of saying: “Look, we’re totally fucked up and we still manage to enjoy life. You’re fine!” Legs remind me to step out from the swirl of thoughts and tune into the now.
I hear the birds again. The brook is gushing with its winter bounty of melted snow. One of the chickens roars her pre-egg-laying siren.
“You mean I don’t have to save the world?” asks mind. “I don’t have to fix everything?”
This is still an incredibly strange notion; mind does backflips whenever I even entertain the idea. Its primary response to this tomfoolery is to attack. “You’re crazy,” it says. Or “You’re totally naïve”. Sometimes it just goes with the old classic: “You’re wrong.”
I don’t attempt to stop my brain; I’ve tried that before and it doesn’t work. Neither do I argue with it. I can’t even hate it anymore; legs taught me that. When I can sink down into legs and become them, they watch brain doing its thing and all that exists is acceptance and love. It’s as if legs are saying: “You are perfect, just as you are.”
“You mean I don’t even have to fix myself either?”
“No sweetheart,” legs purr back. “In fact, you don’t have to do ANYTHING. You are worthy even if all you do is sit there and pass gas.”
“Well sorry, but that’s just fucked up,” snaps back mind. “Only lazy people believe that. I think I’ll go and try to get some shit done.”
“Okay honey,” say legs, unperturbed by mind’s tone. “I love you.”
Mind doesn’t even stop to acknowledge the gesture.
I spent years in a PhD programme talking about why Descartes was wrong. Back in ‘The Enlightenment” Descartes was the philosopher who declared: “I think therefore I am”, thus officially splitting mind from body. His reasoning seemed plausible at the time: if my thoughts mediate everything outside of me then all I can be absolutely sure of is the thoughts themselves and it must therefore be my thoughts that define me.
Cue 500 more years of misery.
At my graduate university, we considered ourselves the enlightened ones, with journal article after journal article detailing the fallacy inherent in this mind-body split. The fact that nobody ever thought to bring the body into this discussion seemed to go strangely unnoticed; we were going to use traditional academia to prove that mind and body were linked in some way that nobody could ever explain to me using words. All of those journal articles felt tantalizing but ultimately unfulfilling. Like an itch I could never quite reach, I knew there was truth in the words and yet it felt as if that truth was always one step ahead of me.
As the memory of my days as a doctoral student fade, I sink in. Backs of knees are tingling and shoulder blades echo the tingle, sending messages of empathy and unity. I notice the chair beneath me, a small fly walking across forehead, the sensations in pelvis. Then comes the squeaking and whirring of my lover’s truck pulling up the driveway. I look up and smile into this handsome face. Love pulses through me.
Ten years ago I would have considered this person unworthy to be my boyfriend because the men in my life always had to be educated, book reading, political types. They were thinkers. Perhaps that’s why I’m divorced. Twice. But that’s another story.
And speaking of stories, notice that you can tell the same story a million different ways. Take this one: I’ve started to write it so many times before and every time it comes out differently. My first attempt to write it came in 2010 shortly after I entered an addiction recovery programme. Back then I had all the answers and so the format felt easy and obvious to me: I would take the reader through the Twelve Steps, similar to the ones I had just taken, the steps that had led me to embrace humility and a spiritual outlook on the world. The steps that had fixed me.
I quickly hit a roadblock as it became apparent that I still had a lot of the same problems I’d always had. Panic set in and I started to wonder how I could possibly be a spiritual teacher, a leader or a role model if I was still broken. The question ate at me for a while and then led to a writer’s block that became permanent. Feeling defeated and worthless my words trickled back into personal journals and became fit for private consumption only; nobody could know that I was still struggling. If they did then this whole spiritual thing must be a bunch of junk and that was a thought I couldn’t cope with. My recovery story was the only thing giving me hope and the only thing that made me worthy of listening to. I sank back into silence and confusion.
It’s time to let out the chickens and so I pad up to the coup. They greet me enthusiastically and then dash down the hill. The way they run always makes me laugh. I think about how lucky I am to live here and how joyful my writing feels when I let it flow like this. As I move back to the Adirondack chair made by my lover’s hands, body moves easily, one foot in front of the other….
The second time I tried to write this book it was in the form of a PhD dissertation.
Gut tightens just at the mention of my PhD, lungs contract, breathing becomes shallow. Body is not ready to re-enter that story right now and so I put it back down; that story will come. I sit back and breath, watching one of the blonde chickens mosey her way up the hill. My body feels immediate relief that I’m not forcing myself to write about that yet. Or is it mind that feels relief? Same thing. There is mind-body relief. As the relief washes through, the clock on my computer flicks to 1:11pm - the angels are telling me that I’m safe and supported. I take it as a “You go girl” from my unseen friends.