peeling pain

“i came here to meet myself,  to close the yawning gap, the chasm of hope and reality.”  natalie goldberg


the layers began to peel after i had read her words last night, first in my sleep as i dreamed — some crazy dream where my children had been abducted by a group of unknown assailants asking for ransom. what was the ransom? i didn’t know; every time the phone rang, i would miss the call or get disconnected. and then, again, this morning during zazen, when my legs screamed, unable to hold the pose that my mind so desperately wanted to hold – the pose that i knew was part of the process that would open me to the unwavering witness.


breathe…breathe into the pain. watch the pain!


my mind tugged until the complete absence of feeling in my foot pronounce it dead. so, i let go of the rope, pulled out of pose and submitted to the torture of a thousand needles, vowing to sit in the back along the wall tomorrow – something else. monkey mind wandered to images of being swat in the back with a stick. back in pose! i kept my eyes closed tight!


yes, something else felt familiar here: an aching in my heart mingled with red hot moving up my throat, into my jaw – lips tight against my teeth – invading the cavity of my sinuses. familiar – this voice, “hey, look at me, i’m here too! looking for something – recognition, validation, absolution – desperately wanting to be seen by my revered teacher, natalie.


oh, but my heart! it just wanted to open and thank her for having the courage to peel her own layers, so that she could share this seed of freedom with us. this was the gift – the perennial reseeding – the moving forward, and releasing the words which continued to rise and flow as the layers were cultivated back.


this was what she was here to teach us – to impart to us – a pathway to opening, awareness.


what i was really beginning to understand was that we were purging the sludge – all the doubt, all the shame, all the blame, all the fear of all the stuff that waited on the outside – what it wanted from us and how it defined us. we were here to clear it all and with gratitude and compassion, to release our mind from its soldier’s post so that the it and the i could be simultaneous. this was going to take time – to unwind the cord that was constricting us, to untangle the knots that have formed from all the mistakes that we had made for which we had yet to forgive ourselves, acceptance.


and, my dream? what did it mean? i think it was a plea to regain the vision and view of my child – to fight for her – for her curiosity and her sense of discovery…for the spaciousness that would not be limited by the voice that asked, “am i good enough?” it wouldn’t even occur to her that she was unworthy. and how would i do that? i would answer that call and i would listen to the voice on the other side, the one that has always been trying to reach me.


yes, this was the space that my spirit longed to open to…the space reminding me that my being was pure – open, wonderfully unsure, free to be anything…to unfold to the possibility and magnitude of every moment.


and my layers, they needed to be peeled but also, they needed to be digested. to be willingly absorbed into my flesh and body, to accept every layer of suffering, every experience, every choice, every journey no matter how painful or laborious – to ingest it and have it become a part of the very fabric of my being and body – communion.


this resounds in my heart that it is all welcome; it’s all good, hands up in the air accept it all kinda’ good. not accepting is what forms the layers and, with each layer, we are impelled farther and farther away from our hearts, from our truth, from the divine and from this master piece of human existence.


…this means breathing into the red hot rising inside and watching the need to be seen – to be chosen, to feel worthy – and then, letting go of the story, allowing it to die as a new moment is born.





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