Raw, broken, beautiful…
“You can still your heart against any kind of trouble, any kind of horror, but the simple act of kindness from a complete stranger will unstitch you”
Chris Abani‘s mother
I come to the page today, raw, cheeks damp with tears and shakiness in my body – the kind that comes from unfamiliar feelings and territory, like well before one’s sea legs get under them.
I’m shattered, as I must be in this chrysalis of time. Who I will be is yet unknown – the words of the poet Rumi dance across my dendrites, “Being who you are means not being who you’ve been”…
I went to bed last night, disoriented from the experience of writing yesterday’s reflection. The recognition of my relationship to the developmental qualities of Receptivity, and its collective cousin, Reciprocity has been with me for some time, but I hadn’t realized that it was still in the “academic” or conceptual stage of assimilation. As I reverberated from my writing yesterday, and not just the writing, but the conversations of the day, and in fact the conversations and engagements that have been coming forward, the conversations and engagements and the care that have been coming forward, something began to shift, to come apart, to become vulnerable in the very muscles and fascia of my being.
I have been receptive to the idea of an anemia of Receptivity and Reciprocity (in a deep and wholly embodied sense), but I had yet to realize the texture of these things as material objects of observation in my felt experience. These ideas of a possible opportunity to grow into a greater fullness of self started in the head, and have undoubtedly dropped into the heart (hence the tears) and have truly begun their journey into the body.
Alexis called this afternoon to follow up on our conversations yesterday and a few short emails since. Asking how I was doing, he received the reply “raw, broken, beautiful…”
I fell asleep last night, easily enough, but woke about three and half hours later, stirring, uneasy, unable to fall asleep again. I was tired, soggy even, I couldn’t muster to sit up and meditate – though I tried, I fell again to the pillow. Restless and unsettled, I watched the hours trickle by until probably sometime near 4 AM when I lost consciousness and slumped back into a heavy sleep.
I stirred to the sounds of the house in the morning, but not until nearly 9 AM did I begin to stir myself. It was a groggy and heavy journey between texting Caitlin for my morning support, and actually greeting her with my ready presence.
“That’s funny, I thought your text meant you were ready to get up, not just ready for me to come in here and be prodded for stories while you continue to sleep.” She teased me. 🙂
Soggy, “yes,” I thought, I must apply myself, there is much to be done.
I rose only just in time for my morning meeting, managing to get most of my breakfast down before hand. In poetic synchronicity with the qualities of my lived experience, I was meeting for the first time the third member of our little creative band (this is the contract work I mentioned previously) who was up quite in the middle of her night, coming off of a webinar and making for our initial team engagement. It was a good and productive meeting, and delightful to get to know new friends and collaborators.
Wrapping up there, I was still under the illusion that this would be an ordinary Friday workday. I had a couple of tentative phone calls on my ledger, one with my brother, and another with a dear friend and teacher for many years, but otherwise a full schedule of tasks and activities, mundane, but creative and exciting.
Then it happened, that moment too far for the old self to contain…
“Hello, my friend. I’ve been swamped at work this week but saw your note. If you have a moment, could you call me so I can get an understanding of what’s happening and how I can help?”
The text came through from Eric. Eric is a new friend, just in the last couple of years or so, and always busy with a thousand wonderful things. While we’ve had just a few brief exchanges this year, probably constituting less than 100 words of communication by text and email, it was really last year late that we had some lengthier connection.
I couldn’t remember at first, what note he was talking about. My life right now is a flurry of communications, to do lists, action items, and brief information exchanges. Of course Eric had been hastily included in my recent broadcast of a conversation (the one from yesterday with Tyler and Dave) based on our previous conversations about leveraging our care context as a place for research and development.
Happy to hear from my friend, I set aside the general bookkeeping task and picked up the phone.
We started chatting, but just a few moments in, Eric said “I’m in the neighborhood, would it work if I just stop by?”
“That sounds great,” I said, “it will be fun to see you anyway :-).”
That was enough time to wrap up the bookkeeping and the rest of the weeks clerical financial effort. I could feel, but didn’t notice strongly, the shift in my body as I anticipated the move from mundane work engagement, to an orientation to the more informal relational context.
Ira called, as if the environment was reminding me to notice the shift. Glad to hear him, but knowing Eric’s arrival was imminent, I thanked him for the call and we agreed to catch up soon. My later call with Terri was on the books for 1 PM so Eric and I would have about 45 minutes together.
I think the way that I came away from the encounter had a lot to do with Eric’s capacities and proclivities for really getting after a question. The seemingly innocuous “how can I help” was an opening that can stir uncertainty in me, and I think in others, when I actually have to feel the vulnerability and Receptivity that the question invites.
It’s easy for some I think when asking that question and getting the response “I don’t know” to move quickly to evaluating the situation themselves and offering something that seems to them as though it will help.
Generally good enough, this I think can also miss the real need of the person we are seeking to assist. Oftentimes I think for others, I know it is so for me, when I don’t know what help will be of service to me in the situation, there is quite likely something to be discovered underneath my surface layer of feeling and cogitation. Eric, intelligently, or intuitively knew to move in this direction.
As our conversation progressed we explored the territory of “what would help” but from my perspective and dynamic that I think is unique to Eric’s capacities as a researcher and master of inquiry. The result of this was him surprising me with a number of suggestions of things that he volunteered to do himself, actually asking things from me for him to help me in ways that were not about directing me, but rather directing himself toward service.
He wrote an incredible synopsis, and sent it by email afterwards and I think I’ll touch on this more in a moment.
I want to return now to the call with Alexis that came about four hours later. “Raw, broken, beautiful…” You may recall was my opening reply. As Alexis and I explored this, Alexis brought us to the point of the question, “what is the doing in authentically receiving?”
Once again, the poet:
“The Sun Never Says
all this time
the sun never says to the earth,
“You owe me.”
with a love like that —
It lights the whole world.”
These words bubbled up in my memory in response to that phrase, “authentically receiving.”
Our old Sufi friend seems to be drawing our attention to the quality of generosity, an important prerequisite to the experience of receptivity. I wondered… What can the earth in this poem teach us about authentically receiving?
Alexis and I spoke a little further, and I jotted these words in my notes from the call:
“look at the bounty of life that springs forward from the body of the earth, when it authentically receives.”
Truly, in authentic receptivity, the earth takes that light from the sun, a solitary stream of photons, and makes of it’s self and that ingredient the sum balance of an incredible diversity of living creativity.
I suspect I am still at the stage of cognitively receiving this realization, but I WANT to receive authentically like that!
So back to the middle of the day… Like a messenger of light, Eric completes his task of the visit, accepts no tea or cookies for his troubles, and disappears again into his day, leaving me a little awestruck with his offers of kindness, and a few notes of my own of things to do. I turn my attention to the Zoom video and my great guide and good friend now for over two decades.
This is a conversation, quite esoteric, that has been profoundly important to me for over a year now, and these next 70 minutes from 1 PM until a little after two will be a precious gem in all eternity. (This is the World Peace Initiative portion of my 2020 vision board.) The sacred space of these conversations with Terri, just a handful each year, creates an otherworldly quality. There is an honest and simple friendship we share, and she has been on so many occasions my teacher and my guide, that this simple friendship has also many facets to the shine of its gem. This just to say that for those 70 minutes, I was in a sense apart from all of the various layers of work of my day. In another sense, it may have just been the deepest layers where I plumb the source and meaning of that work…
But it was the returning to this world from that journey upon which I found that moment too far. Eric summarized our conversation, and translated it into an email characterizing his experience, the intelligence he gathered around what seemed plausible and possible, and listing those things that he felt called to do in his own right in service to what he saw as value. This was indeed a robust kindness, but the shattering stroke to my old self came next when he listed in very plain and concrete ways, what he thought others might do as well.
The message wasn’t addressed just to me, but rather to me and 15 other friends in my community. As I mentioned in this posting, I’m not unfamiliar with loneliness, but illusions of separation like that seem to get kind of blasted, like water droplets on the hot griddle, in the face of such a public expression and call for collective support.
Yesterday I promised a part two to the exploration of Reciprocity. I still intend to give this, but today’s events remind me that, whatever it is I think I might have to say on the subject, I am very much still the student.
That shakiness in my body I mentioned on the outset of this thread, the tears drying on my cheeks, those are the feelings of a body not fully assimilated to the experience of receiving that generous light of the sun shining down with no sense at all of “You own me.”
God gets to know things, we just get to ask questions…