Monday, May 18, 2009

Puttin' Down Some Roots...

I killed yet another plant. Actually, I think this one killed itself. It never put down roots. In fact, it uprooted itself right out of the pot and died on the surface of the soil. If that's not a metaphor for my life right now, I don't know what is. I had to laugh. I kissed its soft leaves as I scooped it from the pot and deposited it in the trash. I thanked it for being a beautiful messenger.

When I left the Jehovah's Witnesses four years ago, I uprooted myself from the only tribe, the only soil, I knew. Since then, I have been enjoying an immense amount of freedom. Freedom to explore life, love, and everything in between. I have loved and lost. I have loved and won. I have taken drugs, smoked, and gotten drunk. I have had more casual sex than I ever would have imagined. I have stayed up all night and slept all day. I have eaten ice cream for breakfast, potato chips for dinner and lived on pennies a day. I have laughed, painted, danced and generally frolicked. And now, it is time for something else. It is time to plant some roots.

It is time for me to burrow myself deeply into the soil of life, to feel grounded in my body, in who I am and where I am going. It is time to claim my right to be here and to feel safe doing so. It is time to find a tribe or create one, to set limits, and to follow my dreams.

I have written recently about coming into my own power. This past week, I felt a surge of physical power run through my body. Along with a strong surge of creativity. But by week's end, I once again felt overwhelmed and suicidal. As has been the pattern for most of my life, if not all, I have difficultly being here and have trouble bringing things to life. I can see what I want to do, smell it, taste it, reach out and bring it to me, but somehow it just never grows, never blossoms, never manifests. And my little plant reminded me of why that is: I lack roots. I have no stable base from which to manifest and move from. I am this strong, amazing, creative, powerful woman without a foundation on which to build.

A sense of roots comes from our earliest experiences in utero, through the birth process, and into early childhood. I used to teach new mothers about the significance of the first year of life and the impact that their pregnancy and the birth process would have on their child's ability to move in the world. It is funny that sometimes we can teach things to others but forget to apply them to ourselves.

I was a breech birth. I'm not sure why I didn't turn in utero. My mother either does not recall much about the pregnancy or chooses not to share it. But, I do know that I came out feet first, not head first as is the natural way of things. As I used to teach in my movement classes...yes, I used to teach movement classes...ironic, isn't it? They say we teach what we most need to learn...the trip down the birth canal is begun with the infant's push off the uterine wall. It is this push through the infant's spine, through the legs and through the feet that awakens the body's deep sense of grounding. It gives our root system (feet, legs, spine) the ability to experience solid movement and the first experience of choice. I am choosing to come into the world now and I'm going to use my body to do this. Without this push out into the world, solid grounding doesn't take place. This is why I recommend a lot of leg and foot massage for breech babies or those birthed by Caesarean.

The other part of the Westernized birth process that mars our ability to establish roots and our right to be here, is the traditional medicalized birth. When babies are born, the most optimal scenario is to have them placed on the mother near her heart so they may establish a bonding connection. What we often see though is a newborn that is taken from the womb to be swabbed, cleaned and wrapped before being returned to the mother. This interferes with the important first grounding connections.

The other important part of that first skin-to-skin contact between mother and infant is the infant's first post-natal action of autonomy, that of "crawling" to the mother's breast to receive nourishment. Once again, the infant gets a sense of setting a goal (although unconscious at this point) and moving towards fulfilling it. Their focus on moving and sucking is strong and when left to its own natural progression, wires up the brain for a sense of grounding, focus and manifestation.

This process has been interrupted for most of us. Few of us experienced a non-invasive, natural birth. Fortunately, it can be supported and nurtured to develop through grounding exercises later on. And that's what I've been playing with lately. I've been doing things that get me back into my body. I laid on the floor this morning and worked with some very basic breathing and movement exercises. I was surprised to hear a very small voice screaming from within me, "I don't want to be here. It's not safe. I must escape." Yes. I hear you little voice. I hear you.

I am being patient with this voice and giving it a chance to be heard, as well as supporting it with grounding movements, eating root vegetables, spending time in nature and doing my best to create stable routines around sleep, meals and work. It's been a long time since I had a sense of routine, a sense of limitations.

Limitation has been a four-letter word for a very long time, closely linked with dogma, narrow-mindedness and slavery. I have thrown off so many limited constructs in order to gain my freedom. I have tested long-held beliefs in the fire and burned up those that no longer held true. Thank you, Kali. I have questioned who I am and why I'm here. I have floated around in my head, excavating and exploring, just as I have floated around life, excavating and exploring. This was my exercise of freedom. But even freedom needs limitations. Sometimes, to reach for the stars, you need to plant your feet firmly on the ground.

I have been reading Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self by Anodea Judith. Now, first, a little aside here. I find the chakra system an interesting system of metaphor for looking at the self and the world. Do I really believe that there are spinning wheels of light, chakras, hovering about my "auric field"? No. Does it matter if they exist or not? Not really. To be human is to engage with life through story. All thought is story. Whether you choose the metaphors of religion or science or astrology or Battlestar Galactica, you are creating a story through which you see and navigate the world. It is what it is.

So, Judith writes beautifully about the first chakra, also known as the root, or base, chakra, which is where we develop our sense of grounding, manifestation and our right to be here. She speaks of the necessity of limitations to bring our dreams to life:

"In order to manifest, we must be able to accept limitation. We have to be able to focus on what we want, to be specific about it. We have to be able to stick with it long enough for manifestation to occur...To become proficient at something, we have to practice it over and over again, limiting ourselves to that specific activity until we master it."

She also comments that a distorted view of freedom can hamper our ability to manifest, that an unrealistic attachment to our sense of freedom is "an unwillingness to accept limitation long enough to manifest our basic needs." I have experienced this to be true. While I have enjoyed living a simple life and the freedom that comes from not having a regular work schedule, I have also at times been confined to wondering how my basic needs would be met, wondering where my rent money is coming from and how I will buy groceries for the week. While these scenarios have allowed me to develop faith and resourcefulness, they have also trapped me in survival mode. I have tried to transcend limitation without first accepting that limitations can be both necessary and useful.

It has been awhile since I saw the value of limiting my focus towards a particular goal. It has been awhile since I even experienced focus at all. Interestingly, a month of Adderall use reminded me of this. A few weeks into the pharmaceutical experiment, my mind went, "Oh, so this is what focus feels like. I forgot about this." Incidentally, I'm also reading the book, Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life by Winifred Gallagher. It points to numerous studies showing how the brain uses focus to pursue and manifest goals, as well as regulate emotion, once again supporting the notion that what we see is what we get; what we put our attention on is what we create in our lives.

I used to be good at focus. I used to be good at a lot of things. I am slowly remembering this. I am allowing these forgotten bits of myself to come up for roll call as I get my mind, body and heart together to move forward with the life I want.

Remember that brain blip I've been consciously trying to figure out for the last year or so? The one that took me down in my teens and has impacted my life ever since? Well, I think a lot of what happened then is about this need for grounding. Somewhere along the way in life, perhaps as early as at my birth or even before, my body checked out on me, or rather I checked out of my body, out of this life. I never quite got the message that it was safe to be here. So, I went upwards into my heart, into my mind. I intellectualized, analyzed, and tried to love my way through things. But the body. I forgot about the body.

You'd think twenty years of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue would've reminded me about the body. You'd think that every heartbreak would've reminded me about the body. But I'm stubborn, and frankly, a little slow to learn sometimes and, to be gentle with myself, I'm only human and evolution takes time.

Miraculously, my body is still here, bearing with me, giving me quiet and not-so-quiet nudges that it wants to be heard, that it wants to be integrated with the mind and with the heart, and that it is indeed interested in helping me get to where I want to go. All I have to do is pay attention to it, ground it and give it some roots. From there, it's onward and upward.

Watch out world. Once I get this body grounded, there will be no stopping me. Booyah!

tall penguin

Edited to add: I think that's the longest post I've ever made here. Huh, who knew I had so much to say?


vanessa said...

Lovely post by a lovely woman. Thank you for sharing.

matt said...

Awesome. I guess the difference you speak of in focus is -- to focus on one thing, rather than focusing on the entire big picture, huh? :)

And grounding is definitely something I still work on..

Great writing and use of perspective. :)