My Diamond Approach group met in September and we explored the topic of appreciation. Have you ever felt an upwelling in your heart as you think about a person, appreciating him or her, or perhaps appreciating something they’ve done? Appreciation can cause an open warm feeling in the heart. It can be tender and sweet, light and delicate, or deeply yummy like a baby whose cheek or arm you’d like to bite.
At the DA weekend I was mostly resistant to feeling this kind of sensation. My heart was pretty closed, well-protected, and I felt like keeping it that way. As it happened, there were moments working with others where the vulnerability of the exploration we were doing just naturally caused my heart to open. In some case to myself, and in other cases to the other. But at the close of the weekend something happened that irritated me and that I allowed to close and harden my heart again. This is just the nature of the work! At the point in my inner journey that I’ve been occupying this year, I’ve been letting myself be hard, closed, irritated, or whatever is there, with a little bit of clear space around the experience that’s big enough to hold it. There is a gentleness about accepting my experience rather than rejecting it and trying to change it. There might be some self-indulgence too. But no one can force their heart to open.
Perhaps the recent DA weekend was still working in me the other morning when I read a 2006 article in the Globe and Mail, part of a stack of papers my friend Geoff Blake saved for me a few years ago, for use in starting fires in the wood stove. The article was about parents who send their kids to summer camp. It was somewhat sentimental and also humourous, about how parents enjoy having the time to themselves while the kids are gone, but worry about them until they know they’re having a good time. It made me remember that my parents sent me to summer camp one year. And suddenly, for the very first time in my life, I understood and appreciated how much my parents had made the focus of their lives caring for my sister and me (and later for two more sisters and a brother).
I’ve heard the Christian crap about honour thy parents, and due to various childhood events that hurt me I never bought it. I thought my parents did not deserve to be honoured. That they had failed me so utterly I would never forgive them. I’ve done a lot of work to get through this. Therapy, spiritual work, and wilderness work including vision quests and other nature retreats. I’ve made conscious choices to heal, and done a lot of that. But suddenly, this Sunday morning before Thanksgiving, I was able to understand and appreciate my parents in a new way. To open my heart and feel the love and caring they showed in their choices and actions as parents. I cried for a while, and moved by this experience, cried many times throughout the day.
Wow, so this is what it feels like to be a normal person who feels her parents cared for her! I feel moved by so many aspects of the parent-child relationship and bond. With this comes a feeling of fragility, though. A poignancy about knowing these relations all come to an end. My dad died in 2000, long before this understanding blossomed in me. I shared my appreciation with my mom though (on Thanksgiving Day), and, due to a friend’s mother dying recently, feel the tug of fear and loss that will come with my own mother’s death. (Unless I die first, of course.)
We are so fucking vulnerable as humans. I don’t know how we manage to stand it. I think closing down the heart a little is probably a pretty popular defense.
Anyway, in closing this musing about thanksgiving and appreciation, I want to mention a few other things I am thankful for.
- The black ghetto-blaster my sister Kim gave me in my early 20s. It has been working for several decades now! Lately I’ve been using it to listen to DA teacher Karen Johnson’s tapes on relationships while I do crunches. I feel grateful to Karen for the tapes, too.
- Our dear earth mother, for nourishing me from her body with the food and water I enjoy every day. And all the people who raise, transport, and sell the food. And myself for preparing it.
- My sister Katherine, for offering to come to Monkey Valley to spend my birthday with me.
- My cat Donald, for his companionship, purring, and never being fake with me. If he doesn’t want me to pick him up he growls. If he doesn’t want to come home, he stays out!
I could go on… I spent a lot of the day on Monday thinking about things I am grateful for. Probably the warm humanness that keeps us all struggling on, doing our best, is what moves me the most in this moment.
Thanks to you, too, for reading and having your own response to what I’ve written.