Carrying the Bag of StuffA few years ago I was enrolled in a ten-week course titled Embodied Inquiry, held at the Ridhwan “Diamond Heart Approach” School in Berkeley, California. The objective of the course was to support and encourage participants to look with unattached curiosity into the patterns that drive their lives and how these patterns either support or inhibit the natural unfolding of healthy behavior.

The first lecture by our certified Diamond Heart teacher, Barbara, was centered on the concept of curiosity and how its expression was encouraged and/or discouraged in our families of origin as well as in the larger community in which we were raised. Intrigued by this, I began to actively look into the story of my curiosity. What was I allowed to be curious about? What not? I particularly resonated to a comment Barbara had made in support of this type of inner inquiry during our third class meeting: “The mind doesn’t always know the heart’s longing for truth. Be interested and curious about whatever shows up even if it is painful, which it frequently is, and you will be richly rewarded.”

During this inquiry session, we were instructed to get into groups of three and take turns presenting a monologue for 15 minutes on “The Story of My Curiosity.” When we hit a place that felt like a contraction—either in body or mind—we were to keep that awareness, to bring new energy and curiosity to any place where we felt stuck. There was no cross talking or discussion between us other than each speaker telling her story with the other two witnessing and holding space. Then we shared for another 15 minutes—again with no interruptions or discussion—about how it felt viscerally, emotionally, somatically and intellectually to tell our story.

Letting Go of Old Stuff

My own Embodied Inquiry monologue included some sadness and tears over events in my early life; therefore, my feelings of vulnerability were strong and not that pleasant to experience. However, my relief at having spoken my truth aloud in the presence of two attentive witnesses outweighed any feelings of negativity about the lesson. My real reward came the next morning when I awoke from a dream that illuminated some of the ways I’d been carrying and holding on to old “stuff.”

In the dream, “Letting Go of Old Stuff,”

A man (no one I know in waking reality) and I are together. We are attracted to one another, and he kisses me. In the next scene, we are running some kind of a retail store together. I go to the restroom to check my lipstick. I take my lipstick out of the large laundry sack-like bag I am carrying, put it in my purse, and leave the larger bag on a counter in the lounge area of the restroom. Later, as I’m applying color to my lips, the faces of female ancestors start showing up in the mirror—each section of my lips to which I apply color brings another face into vision as well as a memory about that person—interesting, because I do not consciously know anything about all but three of these women ancestors. Once I’ve finished applying the red lipstick there are dozens of their faces in the mirror going back many centuries. When I’m done, I go back to the lounge to retrieve my bag, but it is missing. I ask a girl I meet there if she has seen anyone with a bag that meets its description. As I ask this, I remember hearing laughter coming from the lounge while I had been applying lipstick. The girl replies that she hasn’t seen anyone. Now, I’m upset and say, “Great! My credit cards and ID, all gone!” Then, I realize that I still have my purse with everything I need, including credit cards and ID, in it. The only thing missing is the bag full of useless ‘stuff’ I’d been lugging around. There was nothing in it of real worth that I could recall. I feel relief as I walk back to the store that the attractive man and I own together. (EOD)

Later, while sharing the dream with my daughter Julie, I discover that she too has awakened that morning from a dream in which a bag she is carrying disappears from the bathroom where she has left it! However, in her dream, Julie had the feeling that something of value had been lost and that it was important to find the bag. That morning, as I thought about the meaning of our two dreams, it came to me that my daughter is at a different stage in the process of letting go and feels the need to carry her metaphorical bag of stuff further in her journey.

These combined events remind me of the importance to begin the practical application of keeping what is life affirming and letting go what is not so that this dream and meaningful coincidence will not lose their power to instruct. Also, because of this mutual dream sharing, the thought came to me that my own inner work  will help facilitate my daughter’s process and will in some way evolve our matrilineal line as well. The image of the women in the mirror is still strong in my mind’s eye. They are watching, instructing, and even learning from the stories that lead us to healing. As a reinforcement of that thought, I came across the poem by Jayne Relaford Brown a few days later:

Finding Her Here

I am becoming the woman I’ve wanted,

grey at the temples,

soft body, delighted,

cracked up by life

with a laugh that’s known bitter,

but, past it, got better,

knows she’s a survivor—

that whatever comes,

she can outlast it.

I am becoming a deep

         weathered basket.

I am becoming the woman I’ve longed for,

the motherly lover

with arms strong and tender,

the growing-up daughter

who blushes surprises.

I am becoming full moons

        and sunrises.

I find her becoming,

this woman I’ve wanted,

who knows she’ll encompass,

who knows she’s sufficient,

knows where she’s going

and travels with passion.

Who remembers she’s precious,

yet not at all scarce—

who knows she is plenty,

        plenty to share.

As meaningful coincidence would have it, just minutes after writing this blog post, I came across a quote by Jungian analyst and author, Monika Wikman, that I’d written in my journal several months ago. It exemplifies perfectly what I am trying to convey here:

“The wounded standpoint, when embodied, becomes the healing creative standpoint.”