It’s been some time since I’ve seen above the clouds. Do you ever feel that way? Or maybe, even better, like you’re in some Tomb Raider or Avatar-like movie and after a long day of tracking and hiking, you finally decide to stop to check your surroundings? I’m reminded of a certain Hobbit film where Bilbo does just that in the dark forest of Mirkwood. In the middle of fear and uncertainty, Bilbo climbs up. Whereas before he looked up and found darkness, once he pops his head out of the canopy of leaves, he finds sunshine and a view for miles to see.
That’s me. I’m Bilbo, who forgets to climb up from time to time.
There’s a line from Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” poem (which is a favorite poem of mine) that says, “announcing its place in the family of things.” And that’s what I feel like this climb upwards is. You poke your head up above the leaves, and suddenly you know—I’m not alone. Or even one step farther: I’m a part of the family of things.
So what gets you out of the forest of Mirkwood? What gets you off of the proverbial “hamster wheel,” as they say?
I have a dear friend who is an intuitive healer and massage therapist (uh yeah, my friends are pretty great), who I called one time when I was deep in the forest. Mighta actually been being attacked by giant spiders at the time. Anyone else a LOTR junkie? Just me? Ok, continuing now. I was feeling really down and couldn’t explain it. I had done all of the healing self-care mumbo jumbo that I was supposed to do. I had meditated, analyzed it as objectively as possible, run myself a bath, and still, this horrible heaviness stayed with me. Here’s a paraphrase of how she encouraged me:
“You know when you’re really happy? You know when you just wake up, and everything’s good? What do you do with that? You don’t analyze it and turn it over and wonder why you’re happy, what’s causing it, and what that means about you as a person. You just let it happen. For some reason, when we get to more ‘negative emotions’ we don’t do that. We analyze it and ask why. Instead, sometimes we just need to sit with it—let it happen and know that it’ll pass eventually.”
So I can just experience sadness as a part of being human and that doesn’t mean I’m defective?
What she was telling me is that while self-care, questioning, and analyzing are great tools, they don’t necessarily help you see outside yourself to the bigger picture. Sometimes, yes, but not always. In fact, in my own experience, some of the “tools” only serve to distract or raise my anxiety levels.
So instead, how about we breathe and remember that no emotional state is permanent? How about we climb up to the treetops to listen to the sound of our own humanity? Perhaps, instead of cultivating evasive techniques for dealing with emotions that we don’t like, we can learn to allow them to flow through us and continue on their way.