Today again I am hardly myself.
It happens over and over.
It is heaven-sent.
It flows through me
like the blue wave.
Green leaves – you may believe this or not –
have once or twice
emerged from the tips of my fingers
deep in the woods,
in the reckless seizure of spring.
Though, of course, I also know that other song,
the sweet passion of one-ness.
Just yesterday I watched an ant crossing a path, through the
tumbled pine needles she toiled.
And I thought: she will never live another life but this one.
And I thought: if she lives her life with all her strength
is she not wonderful and wise?
And I continued this up the miraculous pyramid of everything
until I came to myself.
And still, even in these northern woods, on these hills of sand,
I have flown from the other window of myself
to become white heron, blue whale,
red fox, hedgehog.
Oh, sometimes already my body has felt like the body of a flower!
Sometimes already my heart is a red parrot, perched
among strange, dark trees, flapping and screaming.
Last weekend, I visited a Hindu temple nestled in the untouched mountains Creststone. The light from the setting sun was pouring through the windows onto shrines and the faces of the worshippers singing the same few words and tones over and over.
When I walk into many places of worship, I often don’t feel any spiritual energy. But on this day, I felt an attunement that I assume many of the singers felt. I felt like the red sky, the drums, the people, the old gorgeous temple, and the green scrubby hillside were all made up of the same stuff.
This instance of connection felt poignant because of the disconnection all around us. People I care about are being victimized by hate crimes and racism, facing impossible health care bills all alone, and those who appear ‘different’ are fighting to use their voice. These people are receiving a message from society and other people that they are separate. But we all leave ourselves and our lives on a daily basis by tuning out.
Feeling separate and disconnected is different from just having ‘alone time,’ and it is one of our greatest human struggles. When we’re depressed, anxious, or facing a daunting transition, we may feel completely unsupported and like others can’t understand.
We feel like the part of us that is struggling is unlovable. I felt so alone at points in my childhood that I didn’t even try to connect or make friends. Loneliness can make it feel too daunting to begin the task of trying to reconnect and re-engage with our lives.
When we’re cut off, how do we come back to the truth of our connection to each other and the world—how do we come back to feeling like we’re a part of a community, to something larger than ourselves? How do we feel like we belong to something in those moments when our entire body revolts?
As I walked through the temple and visited the Buddhist Stupas which stand out elegantly and proudly on the mountainside, I thought of this poem by Mary Oliver. Her words reminded me that connection is always there if we open to it.
We open to connection by softening towards ourselves, noticing what’s around us and inside of us, and being present. The line, “And I thought: if she lives her life with all her strength is she not wonderful and wise? And I continued this up the miraculous pyramid of everything until I came to myself,” is about noticing that we are just as worthy as every other being of love and compassion.
If our child were in pain, we would nurture her and show her she was cared for. We would let her talk to us, cry, and snuggle up with her favorite movie. We would see her as ‘wonderful and wise’ just because she lives. We would know that her sadness is a part of her growing, and we would reassure her that no feeling is permanent.
To see ourselves in this same way seems radical, reckless. Even noticing that we need love and nurturing seems uncomfortable. But it is far more reckless towards ourselves to ignore the girl inside us who needs comforting, and to buy into our unhelpful beliefs about our separateness.
The line: “Sometimes already my heart is a red parrot, perched among strange, dark trees, flapping and screaming, ” emphasizes that our feelings of separateness aren’t really just ours—they are also all of ours. We are all screaming in the dark trees from time to time. But we are also all growing green leaves from the tips of our fingers. Each of us has power and passion inside of us that is unique. In order to let our uniqueness out, we need to connect with our support.
Sometimes it is a long journey to noticing our own connection. We can turn our attention towards having compassion for ourselves and others, and we go to the places and people that make us feel connected. We can also remember that we are all made up of the same cells and atoms and desires and fears. The process of beginning to notice our connection is even more valuable than arriving at some state of enlightenment.
When we turn our attention towards knowing that we’re connected—by noticing our emotions, nurturing ourselves, and doing things we love—we can also begin to flap and scream in excitement at being alive.
No matter where you are, love is always here. Rilke says, “all this universe, to the furthest stars all beyond them, is your flesh, your fruit.” The windows of yourself are endless. They are beckoning for you to explore them.
Emma Kobil is a licensed professional counselor practicing in Denver, Colorado. Her philosophically informed therapeutic approach focuses on helping creative and perfectionist individuals practice self compassion. Learn more about Emma, or schedule an appointment, at mindfulcounselingdenver.com.