By Michelleanne Bradley
And I’m back.
I took a break. I had a lot going on, and I needed to get back to where I feel more like life looks like “chop wood, carry water” than running for the eye of the hurricane. I am not 100 percent back to level, but I can see the path from where I am now.
I had been working on the five remembrances practice, and suddenly, my dad had a stroke.
I had been working on the part about that we are of a nature to die, and I had this whole thing going on about losing my dog in February, and relationships with family members, and all of this work that needs to be done around death and preparation for that. Then just like a shot out of nowhere, my super strong Dad, and young for his 71 years (active on the property that he lives and works on, the job he refuses to quit because he likes to do it, and really does need the social interaction) has a stroke.
Of course, this was also between the time that we had our annual family visit, when I flew back to see the whole family with my nieces (who are old hat at travel with me) and for the first time with my nephew, who is four. It was a lot of good, and of course some really heart wrenching stuff…because balance.
And then was the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s for my grandmother—my mother’s mother—who at 93 remains a character and remembers the older stuff, if not so much on the recent (like what she had for dinner).
I have reached the point in my relationship to the teachings where I am simultaneously a constant beginner, and yet I rely on the muscle memory of close to 20 years of being a student to carry me through the moments of my days. I have pieces that I work on actively. I have a wicked temper when I feel like I am being lied to, or when someone tries to tell me something is patently false, be it from their own lack of information, or even worse, when they are too lazy to actually ask the questions to find out what is really going on. I have pieces that I know I need to set aside for when I am more ready to face the harder parts.
I practice because I am not yet where I fully want to be.
I have not gotten to the place in my life where I am fully able to let go of that which hinders me, and I strive every day to be that person who can embrace life fully with an undefended heart,* but most of all without fear.
The reason that I write about my practice is because I have found that we are all far more connected than we may realize, but we are too afraid to open up about where we are, what we have been through, and where we are going. We have absorbed too much of the “keeping up with the Joneses” philosophy and we concern ourselves over what other people think of us, and not being kind to ourselves.
I am profoundly guilty of having a constant reel running in my head that plays every criticism ever heard or said in my direction, and then it becomes magnified and darkened into something shameful, without context or recognition that like me, the people who laid their judgement like a lash, may have been wrapped in their own suffering.
My family is a great source of intense practice for me. I love them endlessly, but recognize that they were working with what they had, with what they learned—from their examples—and sometimes that shit just needs to come to a screaming fucking halt.
As I head into this year 2020, my practice intention is to remember what it feels like to be kind to myself. Where there is no muscle memory, build it until I am as comfortable with self-kindness as I am with remembering to return to my breath.
*Mary Stancavage is the queen of the teachings on Living with an Undefended Heart.