As I sit on my yoga mat on the rooftop of a local family-run hotel, I stare at the stars with immense gratitude. In moments where I am able to enjoy this space alone, I feel very connected to the nature around me. Even if this is not the carefully landscaped rooftop of a 5-star hotel, even if the floor is just concrete without embellishment of modern architecture, I feel there is so much to be grateful for. I am able to have this safe space to myself for a daily check-in with myself. It is a very important ritual in the process to find myself.
I have written on the topic of authenticity on and off. It is an ongoing journey, so it is often on my mind and in my body. To retrieve whatever truly is me or are me, I have to feel my way. Thinking alone has not gotten me there. In fact, it has carried me further and further away in a headspace dominated by logic, rationality and defenses. The following text conversation I had with a friend is a good summary of how I perceive the mind and body issue at this moment.
“[you said]your body as a child stored all the answers, and you are peeling back layers now to get to it. I was just now reading Jungian play therapy, it talked about how he believed children have a transcendent quality and be able to heal. I am not sure exactly what he meant, but in my mind it connected to what you said. perhaps at a level where just basic survival and being are concerned(without the beautiful yet distracting complexity the mind brings later on). We absolutely are much more connected to our authentic self at a young age. However, to survive in society, we learn to modify our instincts so we can follow rules, as it is necessary. But we also lose touch with that authenticity, emotionally uninhibited as a child, even if unable to express it. It appears to me that if the task after childhood and before midlife is to fully develop our prefrontal cortex, to communicate to others and carve out an identity in this world, the task after midlife is to reconnect with that authenticity. That authenticity is independent of all the extra factors, such anxiety due to career, resource building, others’ approval, that come from being in human society WHILE still living in human society. As Picasso once wrote(I saw in an exhibition in Japan) that it took him a lifetime to learn how to draw again like he did in his childhood.”
So in finding that authenticity, I must once again learn to feel like a child, only with the ability to control my impulses and communicate emotions absent in childhood. I must reconnect with that transcendent quality Jung talked about. What that means is, like anything else, still an ongoing exploration. Just like my own understanding of this issue is an evolving mental scheme. For now, it highlights the moment to moment presence childhood enjoys. Since the functionality of memory, planning, and abstract thinking are still underdeveloped, we as children were also free from the distraction those functions provide from the present moment.
So as I sit on my humble rooftop with the not so humble view of the stars, I try my best to shut off the mental noise. It is not easy. I find myself feeling it only in split seconds. However, as Ken Wilbur said in his book “No Boundary”, the minute I am reaching for it, I am also moving away from it. Therefore, I have also stopped judging the moments the mind is running its ongoing dialogue or calculator. Whenever there is a gap between those thoughts, I focus on the wind that is blowing on my face. In those moments, I often imagine my body merging with the clouds, the sun, the sea, or its disintegration under a bus or a knife. I know that sounds rather gruesome. However, to be entirely accepting of the potential of death at every moment and the fear of pain empowers me. It allows me to be fully present with the essence of this life: the immense joy and suffering that coexist in our human experience. There is the desire to live and the fear of death infused into each moment of this consciousness. That impacts every decision I make and every impulse I have. Being aware of them all and accepting all the feelings surrounding it, even if often contradictory, is part of accepting the natural order of things, and my own authentic presence as a part of it.
As I feel my way each day in the moments, I seek connection with self, my loved ones, and the universe. As a healer for my clients, I show up not as one with all the answers, but the one most accepting and comfortable with their and my not having it all figured out. In doing so, I maintain a balance in the search for knowledge within and without. To “maintain an equilibrium of energy flow between their inner and outer worlds” is a Jungian goal for child therapy. It also sounds like a healthy goal for all of us.
(not there yet, working on it:)