You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Running around the lake in my mountain neighborhood continues to be a moving meditation for me, a chance to encounter my friends at the lake and their dogs. This almost daily ritual has become a lifeline for me, a way to experience other human beings in kindness and joy during a pandemic. We know and greet one another. Having a place where almost everyone knows your name feels like belonging. I recognize these friends by their walk, dogs, faces, eyes peering over masks. The ducks, ducklings, geese, great blue herons, flowering trees, Eastern bluebirds, sunshine sparkling on the ripples in the water nourish every part of me. This lake surrounded by mountains of many shades of green feels like my soul’s home on earth.
As I eagerly anticipate travelling and reuniting with my adult children and beloved friends during the month of May, I have begun wondering about a through-line. What practices and people have gotten me through the challenges of not only the pandemic, but all the different difficult life circumstances I have endured? Many of these experiences took my breath away, caused my heart to pound, eyes to “freeze,” stomach to clench, hands to sweat, and leg muscles to ready themselves for a long run. How did I engage my imagination and heart to not only hold on for dear life, but transform my experience of being alive? What supported me moving through persistent uncertainty and turbulent waters?
Here’s what I’ve identified so far:
Optimistic, loving, hilarious people mean the world. The ones who love you no matter how many times you’ve slipped in the mud and face planted. They’ll laugh with you, help you laugh at yourself, extend a strong, warm hand and hold yours through thick and sh*&. My late Grandma Hope, special childhood friends, Mister Rogers, Carol Burnett, Tim Conway, Julie Andrews, and book characters like Pippi Longstocking top this list along with current beloved ones, my kids, my brother, countless authors of more amazing books, and new colleagues with whom I’ve formed meaningful connections during this last year on Zoom calls and LinkedIn–a through-line.
Movement. I must move my body. As a child, I pumped my legs on swings reaching my feet towards the clouds imagining I could soar free like a bird. I have run, hiked, walked, roller skated, swam, ice skated, jumped in leaves after I raked them, rode my bicycle, danced, rode a sled in the snow, dragged a sled with my children riding on it. Moving through yoga practice, tai chi short form became additional delights for my body. There’s a reason that individuals describe healing the emotional trauma pain body. We are not just brains or mindsets. We come with these magnificent bodies-legs, arms, feet, knees, necks, hands, torsos, hips, lips, elbows, knees, and toes! Moving that vibrantly, healthy body—a through-line.
Writing. As soon as I knew how to hold a pencil in my hand I began writing. Filling up journals, writing thank you letters, pouring out my anger on a page, penning what I’m grateful for in spiral notebooks, jotting down thoughts then wondering if they were true; scribbling out notes, ideas, fantasies, imaginative wishes, dreams, burning desires that never ever abandoned or betrayed me. And currently, the wonderful opportunity to be engaged with amazing writers in the BizCatalyst 360° community and Sacred Stories Publishing-a through-line.
Questioning Everything & Wondering I ask so many questions when I’m with other people and by myself. I wonder about things. I notice limiting beliefs and shred them. Curiosity, introspection, investigative pursuits often set me free on internal explorations, playful ponderings, and delightful imaginings. These practices open the door to self-discovery, creative expression—a through-line.
Listening and Singing Along to Music: I believe that my dad sang to me as a baby; his human, gentle voice, a gateway to the soothing experience of music. Singing and listening to all kinds of music brings comfort and inspiration. Certain songs will consistently be a catalyst for jumping to my feet and dancing. Music transports my whole self to wonderful memories, sometimes bittersweet ones. At times, I have taken breaks from certain songs or artists because of tinged associations that overwhelmed my already huge, Big Feels, aching heart. Singing, listening, dancing to music—a through-line.
Stillness, Quiet, the Breath: As a child, I cherished time at the public library, inside myself, and in the natural world. In these spaces, I found quiet, stillness, and calm. For several years I’ve been meditating daily and reap many benefits of this delicious practice of quieting the mind, going deep into that still point place, the seat of the soul where I feel connected to Love, Source, God, my Inner Quiet Charlotte. The Witness looks out at my life with nonjudgment. I can breathe through each experience as it unfolds and flows through my being, soul, and psyche, a spiritual evolution—a through-line.
Core Values: Knowing that the “soft animal of my body” relishes honesty, compassion, empathy, courage, grace, generosity, and love, I now experience these as internal anchors. I know what matters most in my life. Having lived in constant contrasts I learned that genuine kindness feels better than rage, that gentle presence feels better than prickly, hissy, critical energy, that calm feels better than terror, that smiling and laughing feel better than persistent whimpering or wailing-though I realize all emotional expressions are important. I know when, where, and with whom I can feel my Big Feels. I know not to harm myself or others with how intensely I might feel things. I know what I cherish—a through-line.
What about you? What are the through-lines that have brought you to this moment still alive, breathing, and being You? What kinds of practices and people have seen you through the pandemic and life difficulties? What supports you creating a flourishing life no matter what’s gone before you or going on around you?