When I run through trees on rocky, rooted trails, over creeks, up and down canyons and mountainsides, with birdsong soundtrack, lungs pumping, inhaling Mother Nature’s exhale, happiness happens and inspiration comes alive. I get insights and revelations and creative ideas and I wonder why I don’t do more of the things that bring me alive.
When I lie on the earth next to the sweat lodge, sobbing openly after the searing, humbling, healing round, I finally remember: it’s okay to embrace this pain; it’s okay to ask for and receive help; it’s a relief to be broken open amidst my community; my soldiers can lay down their weapons and stop defending a fortress made of cardboard and empty, non-recyclable tetra boxes (I thought I’d finally found a use for those tetra boxes). And I wonder why I don’t let myself grieve more.
My Road to Compassion is one that allows me to stretch to my edges and sometimes peek beyond them, as long as I’m willing to ride along with Presence, Surrender, and Full Embrace (Full Embrace likes to drive). Sometimes it seems as though the road loops endlessly in a figure of eight, taking me through painful places, then through joyful ones, when I’m not getting stuck in the middle trying to avoid both. The more fully I embrace whatever the experience is, the harder it is to tell which one is joyful, which is painful, and which is stuck.
Vulnerability researcher Brene Brown discovered that people with addictions are just as likely to relapse after a joyful experience as after a painful one. We’ve been taught to fear feelings, full alive feelings, which is a damn shame since it’s also what we long for. It’s where the juice of life is. I’m going to start running or hiking or grieving with a pen and notebook because so often many ideas come to me when I do. Once I plunk myself down in front of this screen, my ideas, stories, insights, and revelations are usually off playing hide and seek or taking a nap.
Despite my desire to embrace my feelings, I get lost on the Road to Compassion and the feelings it passes through more often than I care to admit. I’ll insist that it’s my turn to drive, because I know where I’m going, and then get lost on old logging roads, overgrown with weeds and saplings, cut with large, muddy drainage ditches, climbing steeply up mountains with no obvious viewpoints. The logging roads often end at dubious-looking trails that are soon swallowed by thick bush. Still, I might push forward, crawling if I have to, until I’m lost in the thick of it, cursing my GPS. When I remember to call for Presence, Surrender, and Full Embrace, they always find me and show me again how to love the bush, the prickles, the mosquitoes, the dehydration, the budding leaves, the sunlight through the trees, the butterfly on my shoulder.
“The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.”