I sprawled awkwardly half in my seat and half out on a 17-hour flight to Singapore. My heart hurt from a recent loss and my body hurt … well … from 13 hours on a 17-hour flight to Singapore.
I cried under my sleep mask as thoughts and feelings from my loss drifted into my disoriented mind. My recent loss tapped into old, old loss, and I wept as I felt the sadness of unmet needs and a little girl’s longing for her father. It was as if my heart melted in my salty tears.
And so even though my body hurt from unsuccessful attempts to find sleeping postures that nurtured my internal organs and my limbs, I searched inside her for support. Could I lean on her at this time?
I longed for a feeling of safety, of uncomplicatedness, of refuge. I scanned my internal landscape for a somatic place that was not in physical or emotional pain. While that was a tough mission, I finally found a place in a horizontal line between my two shoulders, wedged between my collarbones and my scapulae. Here, supported by my new super-soft brown shawl as a cushion, my body was at ease. Far enough from my chest to be out of the heartache zone, but yet intimate enough to feel deep connection, this space in my body became my refuge.
I anchored my awareness in this place. My mind wandered regularly, but I brought it back to this place again and again. And as I did that patiently, kindly, with the kind of tolerance I would have for a toddler, my suffering started to ease. I found comfort in this horizontal space. I found a little haven of stillness that I could rest in.
In Buddhism we talk about taking refuge in the Buddha, the teachings (dharma) and the practicing community (sangha). It occurs to me that we might add more places of refuge to that list – so I add my dear body. With me my entire life, always doing the best she can to make me happy (even if she’s not successful sometimes), never abandoning me – when I can find a place in her that is free from emotional or physical pain, there I can rest. Like laying in the shade of a dear old willow tree by a river on a hot day, I can rest my soul in my internal landscape.
She offered loving arms and a place for my tears to sink in. Her love for me was unconditional. She required nothing in exchange. She didn’t judge. She just held.
My body is the only friend I can ever rely on. Every other relationship in my life is subject to all of those qualities of conditional things – they’re impermanent, they are not mine, and suffering arises because they cannot be successfully controlled to my liking for very long. While my body as a whole may not feel safe or healthy or uncomplicated, if I search enough, I can find a place in her that is. And that’s all I need. Like a child who has just one good adult influence in her life who gives her faith in humanity and a model for connection, my body can be the last bastion of intimacy and support.
This is Somatic Self-Compassion. SSC is not an idea or a formula or a theory – she is my autobiography and my life. She arises from my emergent self-wisdom (which we all have) as a resource for this complicated being to rest with. She is the recipe book in my heart’s kitchen. She is the bible at my hearth. And she is also a lush landscape inviting exploration. I hope I’ll see you there.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing
There is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
The world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the words “each other” doesn’t make any sense.
~Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi~
Suffering leads us to beautiy
The way thirst leads us to water.