Standing on Bedrock Instead of Quicksand - Learning to Have Instead of Want
by Marie-Elizabeth Mali Dec 2, 2015
Imagine having exactly the relationship you want. Imagine feeling free in your body. Imagine having plenty of money. Imagine living in a beautiful house in the city, mountains, or beach - whatever your preference. Imagine being fulfilled in your career or parenting. Then, imagine what could happen next.
How quickly does your mind turn to, “But what if s/he leaves me?” Or, “My body won’t feel this good for long, I’m getting older.” Or, “The stock market and housing market could crash at any time.” Or, “I wonder when the next hurricane will hit.” Or, “Am I really relevant? I feel like life is passing me by.”
When I was sixteen, I sang “When I Fall in Love,” for my voice teacher. I’d practiced all week. At the end, she said I sang beautifully, one difficult phrase in particular. I replied that I hadn’t hit the high note well. She said, “If you spend your life focusing on the one note you hit wrong instead of the phrase you sang well, you’ll never be happy.”
I’m still learning how to have. How to let the way I do something be good enough as it is. How to stay upright in the awkward pose of imperfection. How to be happy without waiting for the other shoe to drop, for disaster to jump and mug me around the next dark corner.
I’ve often said that I’m wired for yearning, that it’s my homeostasis. Yearning is where the poems come from. Yearning makes me work hard to improve in everything I do. When I get what I want, my mind quickly looks for what’s missing, or for how I’ll lose it so I can return to yearning.
As if I’ll be less blindsided by loss if I keep a part of my mind on what’s missing. As if holding on to my failures, my missed notes, keeps me real. Waiting for loss robs me of the full enjoyment of what I have now and doesn’t mitigate the pain when loss comes. It has me brace my body against the next onslaught instead of staying open and ready to receive.
How delicious the taste of the chocolate bar found only at that shop in Brooklyn I visit twice a year.
If my identity is built around yearning, when a desire I have is fulfilled I have to sabotage it in order to have my identity stay intact. To live in fulfillment means to let my old identity die and create a new one organized around having instead of wanting. It means learning to stand on bedrock instead of sinking into yearning’s quicksand.
This is harder than it sounds, the grooves in the record of my mind worn deep by time.
When my boyfriend’s body is wrapped around mine in the morning in that half-asleep swoony state where all I feel is warmth, soft skin, and sheets, his still weight nestled perfectly into mine and a deep sigh of pleasure in my bones, it takes about 20 seconds for my mind to jump to what time we have to get up, the dog, breakfast, whether or not I’ll have a lot of pain, if he’ll leave me. It takes willpower to bring my mind back to my body at peace in that moment.
Most days my mind is way out beyond my body, scanning for danger. One of the things we learn through the practice of OM is to focus on sensation and let the body guide. The body knows. My animal sense feels out situations much more quickly than my cognitive mind, so the more connected I am to my body, the more quickly I know what I want and whether or not a situation feels right. My body provides a more accurate reflection of how well I am moving through life than my mind does.
My practice: To break the mental habit of creating a stay against loss by not fully allowing joy. To open my mouth and sing without worrying about whether or not each note is perfect. To keep bringing my mind back to bodily sensations. To let God be God and let myself be a glorious, grieving, grateful human.
(Photo Credit: Hoscos.com)