“’Ask me whether what I have done is my life.’ For some, those words will be nonsense, nothing more than a poet’s loose way with language and logic. Of course what I have done is my life! To what am I supposed to compare it? But for those, and I am one, the poet’s words will be precise, piercing, and disquieting. They remind me of moments when it is clear- if I have eyes to see- that the life I am living is not the same as the life that wants to live in me.”
-Parker J. Palmer, ‘Let Your Life Speak’ (pp. 1,2)
The author is referring to the poem ‘Ask Me’ by William Stafford, which describes the intangible of life, ebbs and flows in relationship, and sense of purpose. Both Stafford and Palmer warmly convey to the reader their solidarity. In a place where we try to manage the conflicts of uncertainty, their words are welcome impressions of unity.
Their offerings speak to a wish that many of us hold, the hope to feel a sense of ok-ness. We all want to be comforted from our pain and connected to our joy, this kind of “I’ll be ok once this happens,” thinking. Unfortunately, the more we engage in this kind of thinking, the outcome tends to be an experience of significant suffering.
There are all sorts of strategies that we employ when we are engaged in this thought. We read copious self-help books and exhaust many avenues of external guidance. We’re pretty sure that someone must have the key ingredient to end our suffering and reconnect us to our serenity- anyone outside of ourselves.
We’ve spent much of our lives creating our identities, who we are, what we do, our capabilities. We do this to give ourselves some sense of stability and grounding. Often, it’s keeping within the confines of this rigid thinking that prevents us from feeling grounded when we need it most. Kind of a catch 22, wouldn’t you say?
I encourage people to be curious about themselves, to listen to themselves. The more accessible we are to ourselves, the more accessible serenity is to us. Interestingly, a lot of people who come to see me have spent years avoiding themselves, not realizing that they have been running from the key to their very own peace. I’m not saying that it’s a mistake to ask others for help, to read self-help books, to explore your options, on the contrary. These tools can be incredibly useful. But tools don’t build the structure; you do.
To feel ok, we have to learn how to listen to ourselves.
So, how can you listen to yourself? First, quiet your mouth, your thoughts, and your body. Then, invite your innermost self to reveal itself to you. Essentially, you are allowing yourself to meet… yourself. Maybe it speaks first through a distracting body sensation, a racing thought, or an overwhelming feeling. It might be hard to make sense of it at first. You might experience fear or criticism of what you notice. Let it go. Keep going. Continue to make room for this voice. Giving yourself (and your self!) regular time, intention, and space will help you to understand what you need, how to soothe yourself, and to trust yourself. You will begin to “live the life that wants to live in you.”
Love and Be Loved,