At a session one day, my beloved counselor asked me to gather rocks. All sizes, big and small, about a dozen of them and bring them back inside when I was done. These were going to represent the stories I tell myself. The biggest ones for the biggest stories, the smaller ones for the stories that carry less weight. I walked around her backyard and little rock garden, essentially stealing her decor, gathering up rocks that seemed to me to reflect some of these stories.
I brought them back inside in the plastic bag she had given me. She gently placed them in my lap (I may have grimaced a bit – they’re heavy!) and told me that I was to carry these around for awhile. Put them in a backpack, go for walks. Familiarize myself with them. Feel their very physical weight.
Oh. I hadn’t expected that. If I had I probably would have chosen slightly smaller rocks for some of these!
What are these stories and where do they come from? From the few weeks I’ve been working with her, my counselor has been able to pinpoint at least a dozen “stories” that make up my personal beliefs and from those beliefs shape the world around me and my interaction with it. We all have these stories although they vary from person to person. They come from everywhere, our family of origin, society, friends, colleagues, school, work, spouses, etc. We are bombarded with them since the moment we are born. And some we hold onto a bit too tightly. Some become heavier than others. This doesn’t mean that they are true though.
If society tells us through pictures and other means that skinny equals pretty and if I can objectively say that I don’t look like that skinny girl on the magazine then my psyche can very quickly come to the (wrong) conclusion that I must be ugly. That is a glaringly obvious example but nevertheless true for many people who struggle with body image issues. Most of our stories are a bit more subtle and finding their origin may take more work. Ultimately it is not as important to know the root of the story as to just know what the story is. But this is difficult too.
Finding these stories that we carry around with us can be a painful process. We reflect on our past, try to find patterns that continuously repeat for us. Maintaining presence and awareness is key to being able to hear the chatter that goes on just below the surface of our conscious thought. For me, a counselor is necessary. Someone that listens objectively and reflects what they hear, and then using a wide variety of tools, helps to look at each of the stories, determine if they are a story worth holding onto, or one that needs to be let go.
After a few weeks of counseling some deeply ingrained stories became very obvious to both she and I so she devised this little home work for me to get acquainted with them.
I took my rocks home and labeled them according to my feelings of what was “heaviest”. I made fear the heaviest one because it’s the one that always comes to mind and the one I feel that I am always trying to overcome. Then I put them all in a backpack and took off one sunny day on a walk down the Greenbelt.
The first thing I noticed was that those rocks were HEAVY! And lumpy and uncomfortable. I had positioned them in such a way that the weight was not distributed evenly and one side was heavier. I could feel the biggest rock pressing into my right hip. Basically, I was very uncomfortable and very AWARE of each and every one of them. But fear, being the biggest, was my first priority, so as I walked I reflected upon this idea of fear.
The rock representing fear was so obtuse in its presence, it’s weight, its pressure. Fear. What is it that I am (or have been) so afraid of? I’ve gone on about it now in several posts, but the fact is, I’ve DONE so many things that others wouldn’t dare. Sky-dived. Scuba-dived. (I’m a certified rescue diver.) Driven half-way across country alone. Traveled to Europe alone. That was all before I was 20! I moved to Alaska with my cat to marry my high school sweetheart. I’ve fallen in love. (The scariest thing of all some would say.) Every week I stand in front of 30+ people and open my heart and soul to share Yoga in the way that it comes through me. I’ve owned three businesses. I’ve had children. I’ve learned and continue to learn new skills with at least moderate success. So why the fear?
What occurred to me as I walked is that this belief isn’t even MINE. It was taught to me – by my culture, society, family etc… in one form or another. It could even belong to someone else – perhaps my grandmother on my father’s side. She had a lot of fears. Could I have picked it up from her – and sort of repeated it mindlessly? Much like a church-goer that doesn’t fully believe what is being preached, I heard it, I saw it lived out in others’ lives, but I didn’t actually believe it for myself. It doesn’t fit. I don’t actually act in accordance with that belief. I am constantly pushing myself to try new things, big and scary things. I have succeeded and I have failed. So why am I carrying it around and shouting it from the rooftops (or Facebook and Instagram anyway)?
As I walked I felt the muscles in my legs working harder than they would on a normal stroll. I felt strength. But with that a growing fatigue – mostly in my shoulders and back. My right ankle was starting to complain as was my left hip and foot. My shoulders were the worst as they are the least practiced at carrying extra weight. They were growing tired and my chest was beginning to cave in, my heart to sink. And isn’t that what fear does? It causes us to droop, to drag, to round over and protect our heart. Because what are we really afraid of but rejection? If we put ourselves out there – really go for it, we run the risk of someone (or everyone) not liking us or our work. We risk criticism. We expose our throat like a lamb at slaughter.
The fear can creep in as a seeming “logic”. Money. Time. Family commitments. Excuses.
So what if this fear that I thought I had is really excitement? What if it is there as a guide? A motivator? A compass… just that little thrill up my spine telling me “go there”.
Then set it down, lighten the load, and Fly.
Heart open and head thrown back.
I have many more stories to walk with however even in walking with this one, and then writing and processing it, I can already feel their weight lifting. I can see how many of them – perhaps all – are not mine. They don’t fit with my world view or my belief system. They don’t inspire me to do great things. They’ve been a heavy awkward burden and it is time to set them all down and walk away.
It is shining light upon our stories that allows them to be released and us to move more freely through the world, being our most authentic and beautiful self.
There are stories that I want to carry around though. Stories that give me strength, hope, peace, motivation, excitement. I have a feeling I’ll be exploring these in the near future.
What stories do you carry?