We’re Safe Here, I Say (56)

I’m doing sitting practice on a Thursday morning in March. All the windows are open. I can hear the low hum of the swamp cooler in the back room, feel puffs of air against my skin. When I open my eyes the bougainvillea in the courtyard catches my heart. I close them again, take a long breath in, a long breath out. I feel a familiar tightness in my belly, like it might be messing with my breath. I stay with the feeling, sink deeper. All at once I know this part of me has been afraid for 59 years. The knowing floors me. I’m heartbroken for her. Her dedication humbles me, decades of being afraid on my behalf, wanting to keep me safe. I talk to her. I tell her how sorry I am she’s been afraid all these years and I didn’t know. I invite her to let go. I’ll be afraid again, I say, but you no longer need to hold it all the time. I am bowled over by her sheer strength, to have held this fear all my life. I cry, cradle my belly with my palms, my forearms, both sad and grateful for her sacrifice. I’ve known my fat was a way to protect myself, but this deepens my sense of this. Was my body trying to cocoon this ball of ancient fear, buffer her, maybe, so her efforts might be just a little easier? It’s okay now, I tell her. We’re safe here, I say. We’re safe here doing sitting practice beside the open sliding glass door, the house finch chattering in the courtyard. (Well, safe barring maybe an earthquake, I think.) I tell her she can come on duty now only as needed. You don’t need to do this all the time, I say. I don’t know if she can unfurl just like that, but I vow to remind her again and again. I am still made dumb by what she’s done, this gallantry, the immensity of this feat. It’s okay, I tell her again. It’s okay to rest now in between, I say. Rest, the way the deer’s body relaxes when the danger’s passed, the way she returns to ease, nibbles more grass. Rest, the way the white-crowned sparrows drop down one by one from the bougainvillea after I walk by, going back to eating seeds from the ground, talking music. Rest, I tell her. Sleep, even, if you can. I’ll be right here.

5 thoughts on “We’re Safe Here, I Say (56)

  1. “talking music.” : ) Riba, last thing needed here is science, so apologies in advance. Turns out the vagus nerve, which embraces most of our belly organs (and lungs, heart, etc.) has more efferent connections — sending messages to the brain — than any other cranial nerve. Long story short, the brain picks up a lot of info from our bellies. This has been a big learning for me, how to let the breath inform the belly which then informs the brain. I can’t sit like you do (lack the discipline) so I have to rely on breathing into my brain and letting that flow through the nerves down to the organs. This said, I finally came upon singing to myself, to my belly and all the rest. Simple tones, chanting to a younger “self.” Lullaby. Cradling. Yes, safe now.

  2. I’ve been hearing a lot (in the meditation world) about the heart sending messages to the brain. It is a fun time for mindfulness practice because there are now so many scientific studies that prove how effective it is. I didn’t know about the vagus nerve, and I have to admit most stuff like this seems to disappear for me like water evaporating. But I always enjoy it and appreciate it when I hear it!

    Singing is a great way to heal. I didn’t think of that the other day, but sometimes that has been ALL I could do, and I believe in it greatly. Taking a class right now where we focus on long slow breathing in sitting practice, so that is interesting, too.

    Thanks for your lovely note here, Laurie! Enjoy your weekend. :)

  3. The science can evade me too, Riba. In fact, I meant AFFerent (not efferent) nerves that connect between stomach and intestines, especially large intestines. fwiw. It’s interesting how, say, the heart-brain connection can be both literal and, uh, spiritual. : ) Thanks for your openness and welcoming reply. And weekend wishes. Same for you — almost Spring.

  4. then again, meant to say the afferents connect and send msgs. back to the brain (From “the gut.”)

  5. I don’t keep track of the details, but I understand that a person’s gut and heart are both sending messages to the brain. I think what I heard is they are actually sending more messages TO the brain than the other way around (more messages than the brain is sending to them). But I could be wrong about this. Like I said, I think it is cool that more and more “proof” is becoming available. ;-)

    And I am working on being able to receive messages, from my body or my heart (easier for me) or from unseen beings, too. :)

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