The power of a strong inner life…

6 Jul

It’s easy to imagine because I’ve seen it a thousand times in my head, a bit here, a fragment there; pieces of a grand puzzle coming together like a rainbow after a long storm, one color fitting snugly against the next, complementing the whole, yet amazing on its own. That’s how it is, this forest inside my head, the enchantment of the soul visualized by the mind’s eye, making it real.

I’ve been to the forest many times, beginning early in childhood when monsters came out from under the bed, their terrible teeth threatening to eat me alive.  I visited again during adolescence, those years of longing and drama.  The stillness I found amongst towering branches and the scent of deep pine wafting through tangled jasmine was the white knight whisking me away from turmoil, transporting me to a happier, more welcoming place.

Had it not been for the forest, I may not have survived the first twenty years of my first marriage with its intoxicating balance of delight and cruelty, and co-dependence so cavernous it erased every good thing that crossed its path.  But when I was 49, my body made the decision my mind had refused to make, as I stumbled into the kind of illness that consumes every ounce of strength and deliberate thought possible.  Suddenly my body was the tomb I was buried in. 

After the anger and grief, temperance set in, and I found in the midst of rubble, the most peaceful cave.  This silent, empty space was perfectly accommodating, seemingly knowing my needs before I’d consciously recognized and acknowledged them.  I dwelt in that space for three years, until one morning I heard the most delightful sound of a red bird singing on the window sill beside my bed, and his vibrant energy and contagious joy became the crutch I used to move from the cave into the forest of the outer realms of the world.

Pushing my weak body and placid mind, I moved forward, one step at a time.  But the cave of introspection and intuition had become part of me, so I brought it along ever conscious of its presence, and I used it like a self-help manual, or a book of new rules, rules written for and benefitting no one but me, and I called this newness of thought The Self Is and its code and content, The Requirements of Self-Is-Ness.

With renewed clarity of mind, I coaxed my body to do its part to save Self so that I might tell my children about this most amazing revelation I’d discovered within, the absolute fact that we can rid ourselves of the poisons that cripple us, that we can grow whole and find happiness within the boundaries of our own bodies simply by understanding the power we hold. 

I wanted to tell my daughters there are safe places that provide shelter when we become our own worst enemies, or when we allow the world to infect us with unhealthy ideas and role assignments, and how it is necessary first to go in in order to work ourselves out.  I wanted to tell them that the results of caring most tenderly for ourselves with absolute honesty and the tenderness we would afford a child, will carry us past any solution we may have previously imagined, because time spent in the cave is time spent unlearning, converting old assumptions and presumptions of implied fact into authentic personal truth

During the day, I worked to regain strength and balance.  When the time came I sought help from a neurological therapist who taught me how to create and integrate new tools for thinking into automatic responses.  We did this to improve my short term memory and to help me adjust to the loss of many memories of the past.  At home, I took on new tasks, trying confidence on as if it was an exotic new dress, and I embraced critical thinking in ways I’d never imagined before. 

I deliberately broke many status quo rules, as difficult as that was for me.  Friends and family either moved away from me, as if to avoid catching whatever madness had settled upon me, or gathered closer as a show of support for something fragile and young that was determined to live.

It was a difficult but satisfying process. At night I began building a house in my mind, deciding to return to the protective forest of my youth, using this technique like a new tool.  Building this house was a deliberate exercise, lasting an entire year. I began by mentally leaving home and then I imagined a beautiful green valley, lush and inviting.  Arriving in a car packed with sentimental belongings, none of which were particularly well suited for survival in the wild, yet each priceless thing, emotionally necessary, I began unpacking, moving each article into a back corner of an abandoned, leaking shack that I would soon transform into a comfortable home.

I can still see every item I’d packed for the journey, a foot pedal sewing machine, wooden bowls, blue glass, quilts and scraps for making more, good books, pen and paper, string and basic tools, and a seemingly endless supply of candles. 

This mental exercise strengthened my resolve as I built a home from scraps I imagined had been abandoned by another woman who had moved through her own personal forest, discarding possessions she no longer needed as she traveled forward.  In the end, what illness had taken away, newfound physical and mental health and deepening spirituality returned one hundred-fold.

Today I visit my cabin often; I sit on the porch under the stars, or drink coffee beneath the warmth of a quilt, and watch in perfect peace as storms pass outside.  Every day each of us is healing and growing at the same time; that’s what we do on this journey.  As for what comes next, I simply cannot say, but today is good, and that’s enough for me. 

There are so many paths leading home.  The lesson for me is learning to respect myself by caring for that timeless child within, and to listen to myself.  When I do these things, the daily practices of the Requirements of Self-Is-ness are easier to follow in spite of the clamor and chatter of those who confuse self-care with selfishness.

I believe personal forests are essential; without a quiet place to contemplate the pace of the world and it’s sharp, narrowing judgments, too much time is wasted feeling constricted or sad by our personal limitations.  I choose to live an active inner life, working to make my home in the physical world a better reflection of the healing forest in my mind, anchoring myself, providing safe passage for the infinite child who lives inside.  

 

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9 Responses to “The power of a strong inner life…”

  1. Archita July 6, 2013 at 11:22 am #

    Wow. There are so many paths leading home. That’s a very inspiring story and such a well written one. Take care 🙂

    • ittymac July 6, 2013 at 11:24 am #

      Thanks for being a loyal reader; your support is very important to me.

  2. losttaurus July 6, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    Well said.

  3. Lynette Whittenton July 6, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

    In many ways your post reminds me how connected we are. 49. The forest. The cabin in the woods. Thank you for hope. For being my friend.

    For this which I’ll take with me. “…there are safe places that provide shelter when we become our own worst enemies, or when we allow the world to infect us with unhealthy ideas and role assignments, and how it is necessary first to go in in order to work ourselves out.”

    • ittymac July 6, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

      We met soon after I’d built my cabin. You know how instrumental your kindness was in the beginning, and how beautifully mutual respect for each other grew into a friendship that has spanned 15 years. 😊

  4. theempathyqueen July 8, 2013 at 7:25 am #

    Itty, this is an extraordinary piece. The poetry of the writing itself, and the thoughts and ideas contained, are beautiful and worthwhile reading and rereading.

    • ittymac July 8, 2013 at 8:54 am #

      Thank you; that means a lot to me.

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