Tag Archives: words

Talking to Ourselves

Collecting my belongings after the close of one of my evening yoga classes, an adult student approaches me.

“Do you know what has helped me more than anything in your teachings?” she asks in a forthright manner.

“No,” I respond quietly, looking up from collecting my things.

“Your teaching about compassion toward the body—encouraging, coaxing, inviting and allowing the body to open in its own time,” she answers. I see her holding the removable brace her left hand requires. The brace reminds her not to overdo anything during her extended recuperation after tendon surgery.

Spirituality

She, like me, is a doer. She, like me, is a relatively impatient personality. I empathize with the extra frustration she has exhibited in class as she works through her relatively long period of convalescence. Yet, with her standing next to me, I notice the manner in which I have silently girded myself against what might be coming, because she is also a student capable of delivering swift, verbal feedback in real-time, without the blessing of any gentle or mercifully wordy cushioning preamble. And, even as she exhibits this trait, I—regrettably—see much of myself in her. The Mirror is always speaking.

Extending her hand toward me, she continues, “Look. I have been talking to my finger.” The digit, where the tendon has been reattached, is now level with my eyes. “Do you remember that one mental exercise you have us do in class where, when we are in a yoga posture, we first address the body with internal dialogue using harsh words and then switch to using encouraging internal speech?”

“Yes,” I nod in reply. Her hand is still poised before my eyes.

“Well, I have been using that mental exercise with my finger,” she proceeds. “Come on, finger. You can do it! I need you to curl forward. Now, straighten up! There you go. I know you can do this.”

I watch as her finger, in one slow shaky motion, moves through its paces. The human body is nothing short of a miracle. Our will, when properly placed, is yet another grace in action.

“That is amazing,” I murmur.

“Yes! It would not have been possible even a year ago. You gave me the mental approach I needed for the exercises prescribed by my physical therapist. I am told by the hospital staff that my finger is healing twice as fast when compared to the healing rates of most people who have had such a surgery.”

This is that for which I must give thanks.

University of Life

Sometimes the best lessons from our university days are those we learn outside of the classroom.  –Julian Lynn

On one long weekend while I was attending university, I travelled several hours to visit a close girlfriend’s family. They lived several hours away.

My friend possessed many talents and gifts, yet social affability was not one of them. It was confusing for me to watch the uncomfortable social situations she created through her general suspicion and caginess around other people. From my limited perspective, it was as though she had never really learned how to occupy the space Grace had granted her, choosing instead to alternate between insecurity and a rather intense, blustery indignity which rarely allowed her to shine or even simply relax and be herself in community.

Spirituality

As with almost all of the extended weekend visits I took during my college days, Friday night’s meet-and-greet with the family was more formal in nature than the rest of the weekend.  There was nothing during that initial phase of being introduced to my friend’s family that could explain her social awkwardness.

Then, as the sun rolled over onto Saturday morning, I lay in bed considering what I needed to get done in terms of homework that day. The guest room happened to be on the first floor of the home, and it was stationed adjacent to the kitchen. My door was ajar.

As I lay there in bed, contemplating plans for the day, I was amazed to overhear what I assumed to be old family verbal patterns reemerging. The conversation was nothing like those which had been in evidence the previous night.

As my girlfriend attempted to help her mother prepare breakfast in the kitchen, my friend was showered with an ongoing barrage of complaints about the nature of the kitchen’s layout, the inefficient manner in which my friend was attempting to help, how my friend’s contributions were somehow subpar. And, perhaps, most telling was the general prickly refrain, “You are always in the way.”

In defence of my friend’s right to exist, I remember muttering under my breath, “Why did you bother to have children, if you don’t even like them?” Then, becoming more philosphical about the situation, I asked myself the larger question: Why do people have children if they are only going to berate them verbally, withdraw their emotional support, as well as decry their very existence?

In some families, audio tracks are actually handed down generation to generation like a series of precious heirlooms when, in reality, it would have been better for everyone if these soundtracks had simply been erased. From my clients and students, I have learned that the lengthy process of erasure or overdubbing of these tracks can be a struggle. Not everything a parent “gifts” us is meant to be cherished or held onto. Not everything an adult or parent says is meant to go into a child’s psyche. So, if you are a parent, or an adult around children, choose your words carefully. You are on the air. This session is live. What you say is being recorded. The soundtrack you are laying down will be replayed. Words matter.

Spirituality & the Weight of Words

“Don’t move the way fear makes you move. Move the way love makes you move. Move the way joy makes you move.”

—Osho

Starting back to university after several years away, I find myself in an awkward social position. I am too old to be a typical university student and too young to be classified as an older, returning student. In addition to the issue of age, I am now married and the mother of a young child. As much as I want to be able to focus exclusively on my renewed studies, I also hope to find a few close friends among my new classmates.

Providence rewards my hope with a friend in the design studio, who is both my peer in age and who is also in a committed relationship.

Spirituality

Joan is from the Coast and was reared in an academic family. Thus, she is well bred and well spoken. We share artistic and intellectual exchanges full of wit and humor. And, because some of my time away from university was spent studying in the region of Joan’s upbringing, we share certain place references, which are not shared with anyone else in the art department. The commonalities that are part of our friendship also extend, to a certain degree, to our individual aesthetic preferences.

A number of semesters, a few dinner parties and several outings later, Joan and I find ourselves together in yet another class, when a new woman, Sarah, in her early forties joins our class.

Although completely untrained as an artist or designer, Sarah has been working as a paid, freelance graphic designer in the community. In terms of temperament, she is hesitant and quite insecure about her innate gifts as a designer and draughtsman, even though she clearly has the hand of a skilled, untrained draughtsman with an eye for design. Sarah creates simple, pleasing brochures which include her own drawings. Her return to school for more training is spurred on by a handful of clients who have been requesting more advanced work from her. She hopes that some additional training will help her grow her confidence and her innate artistic skills.

As the content of Sarah’s portfolio becomes known within the department, the rift between fine art and commercial art is laid bare. And, socially, a certain amount of distancing occurs between Sarah and the main body of traditional students.

For an already insecure soul, this not-so-subtle distancing can be acutely painful. In an attempt to close the growing space around this woman, I offer Sarah several olive-branch conversations, remembering how I felt when I first returned to university with no real sense of place. But, what I do not anticipate is the painful, under-the-breath verbal sniping that Joan is soon engaging in, as Joan and I sit working next to one another in the same class as Sarah.

My intellect understands that in many respects these women are experiential worlds apart, yet my heart is injured with each uncharitable statement, about Sarah or her work, issuing from Joan’s mouth. Finally, after two weeks of silence toward Joan’s uncharitable speech, I turn to face her—knowing that my stand may cost me a precious friendship.

“Open your heart, Joan,” I murmur emphatically. It is all that I can think to say. And, with this one statement, the verbal sniping comes to a complete stop.

For several weeks, there is a quiet between Joan and myself as I cocoon myself in my studio work and wonder how everything is going to work itself out. Then, as we near the end of semester, I learn that Joan has extended not only an olive branch, but an entire olive bough to Sarah.  After several weeks of getting to know one another and finding common ground, Joan has committed to looking after Sarah’s family pets while Sarah is on vacation with her family.

Words have weight, meaning and impact, whether words are directed toward us, at a situation, coming from us toward someone else or being applied by us to an external set of circumstances. Choosing our words with care shapes the manner in which we enter into a dialogue with the world around us—to mend relationships, take down barriers or change the course of someone’s life. All of us need to continue the practice choosing our words with an ear to our hearts and supreme care.

Words

Spirituality

Standing at the bottom of the Public Library’s flight of stairs to its back entrance, I wait my turn to ascend, as a tall, lean and distinguished man of African-American descent descends–one stair at a time.

There is a sense that time is infinite when you run on God’s time. And, I am running on God’s time today.

Having reached the bottom of the stairs, the gentleman comments to me, in way of apology, “I feel like an old man today with this limp.”

Catching his eye, underneath the baseball cap he is wearing over a neatly pressed set of bluejeans and an immaculately clean t-shirt, I volley, “That is one sexy limp.”

Chuckling, he replies, “Thank you for that.  That sure makes me feel good.”

Over my shoulder, I respond, “You have a good day, sir.”

Still ruminating on our exchange as I climb the stairs to the doorway, I hear him comment on his walk to his vehicle, “Mmmm, hmmm. You sure did make me feel good.”

As the door to the Library closes behind me, I consider how much goodwill our short exchange has generated, through the mere statement of a readily observable truth.  What that man does not know is just how much his kind words of gratitude have helped me, frosting the basic cake of my otherwise ordinary day.

As for the rest of my errands, I think I will be wearing frosting-sprinkles in my hair. So, if I seem a little more sparkly today, it is because of these kind words from a complete stranger.