“But you can bury your past in the garden by the tulips, water it until it is so alive, it lets you go, and you belong to yourself again. When you belong to yourself again, remember that forgiveness is not a tidy grave, but a ready loyal knight kneeling before your royal heart.” – Andrea Gibson
A month ago today I was on the final day of 4 days and 4 nights spent in the wilderness, alone, fasting. For those of you who have not experienced a Vision Fast, sitting alone in the woods with nothing to distract you from yourself is a lot like handing a glittery invitation to all of your monsters, letting them know you’re having a 4-day slumber party and they’re all invited. They come in and make themselves at home, taking big gulps from the 4 gallons of water you’ve carried out with you and making themselves comfortable under the tarp that is serving as your only shelter. And so, with nowhere else to be, you talk. You listen. You argue. You fight. You cry. You surrender. You accept. You reject. You bury and cut away and take in and throw into the air. You dance. You come to know the texture of these monsters, the way their skin folds slightly at the corner of their mouth when they are telling you their story – the story they want you to believe is also your story. You listen to these stories with your whole being resting into the ground, being held by the earth and the words are familiar because they are stories you have, in fact, been telling yourself for years. Their stories are the ones that you have long held on to, stories by which you have defined yourself. Their stories are the ones that kept your voice hidden, tucked tightly into your socks, convinced that it was safer that way, easier that way. Their stories are the ones keeping you awake at night, watching the way the shadows of the moon move through the trees.
But the more you listen to these monters, the more and more those stories that they’re telling you start to sound like fables. The fundamental un-truth of them begins to get louder than the words themselves and under all the listening you start to hear another set of words, another story bubbling up. This story is tentative at first, testing the ground that it is stepping out on to make sure it’s solid. And once it is certain, it begins to get louder and louder until finally you have to strain to hear the monsters’ stories. It is then that you realize that you’re trying to hear these stories that have kept you small and in fact it might be easier to hear this one that is building in volume and momentum, that rings with a truth that you know in your bones like the soil beneath your feet. And with your naked self, you slip first one leg and then the other into this story, pull it up and button it around your waist. Both arms in and it slides down over your head and then your torso. And it is here, in the clear light of day, with a breeze rustling the nearby branches and encirlcing you with the sweet butterscotch scent of Ponderosa Pines, that you step into and claim this story. This is you. Not those loud and pushy monters, guzzling all your water and shoving each other for the best spot under the tarp. This. Clear. Strong. Capable. Unapologetic. This story that you wear with the utmost east, because fundamentally it is you. You claim your story. You claim yourself. And finally, again, you belong to yourself.
And in this belonging to yourself again, you are your own witness, your own cheerleader, your own critic, and your own lover. In the month that has passed since those sacred 4 days, I have stepped in the incorporation phase and that has involved a practice of unconditional embodiment. Wearing myself, owning myself, belonging to myself, embodying this vessel I am blessed with. And if I’m being honest, it isn’t always easy to connect to the blessing. Sometimes it’s just hard, hard to be in my body, hard to be in this world with all of its microagressions, hard to stay with myself. But I’m learning to listen, even when it’s hard, and to not force it but to practice remembering that story that demanded to be heard over the cacophony of monsters. That story that every cell in my body knows to be true. The story that is me.
It doesn’t take 4 days alone in the woods with no food to belong to yourself. It takes quiet. It takes patience. It takes staying with yourself, even when you want to leave. It takes listening, and listening deeper to get beneath those stories that keep you small. And so I invite you, too, to explore this space of unconditional embodiment, this space of listening and knowing and owning your story, this space of belonging to yourself. Even if only for 5 minutes every day. That is enough. You are enough. My hope is that, with this practice, you, I, we all begin to bring a little more of ourselves into the world.
To quote one of my wonderful guides, Pedro, “The world needs more of you in it!” I couldn’t agree more.