I’m going to talk today about the need to sometimes make things more solid…which sounds paradoxical given I wrote only yesterday about making things soft. And yet its a truism I’ve been noticing play out more and more often (and Matt Kahn talks about this a lot) that as soon as I get a grip on one construct of “the way things are”, I’m then forced to dismantle it before I have the chance to slip my shoes off and make myself cosy in there. Its like we have this old tendency to make each new hypothesis our next castle tower and yet our super-fast evolution now demands of us that we take those baby walls down long before they have the chance to form a stronghold we start defending (all over) again.
In my half sleep state today, I was working on the paradox (another one; this is going to be a powerful post) that all the challenges I have in my health are like stealth warriors that come in so soft, so fluid that they can’t even be pinned down or labelled before they have moved on to become something else entirely…which is the very nature of fibromyalgia and its close cousins. Never quite leaving enough of a footprint in the sand for doctors to gain a grip on what or why, these illnesses court the disparagement of naysayers who don’t even regard them as “real”. Devastating though they can be, these kinds of illness (which are getting ever more common and affect women more than men…) come in like a vapour through the window and, whilst they trigger off very real and severe symptoms, they move to another organ or tissue so rapidly that no sense can be made of them; they don’t even make you look unwell from the outside. They are harshness in a soft wrapper; so soft you can’t see it – what a package.
Then there are those other health challenges that garner all of our attention as a culture since their effects are more than visible. We have built up so much fear around this territory and the fact that our culture seems to have declared “war” on cancer is very interesting indeed in the context of what I am trying to share. I have a close friend who is working with her cancer diagnosis right now…in a whole new way…by making it soft and helping it to dissolve back into the light; which feels like exactly the right approach for cancer (to me) and I am in awe of the way she is transforming her own experience of it and thus for many others. Its yang energy (as is that aspect of cancer that starts as something intangible but which longs to express in form…) is the cellular equivalent of a fortress or an empire state gobbling up more and more territories to incorporate behind its stronghold. Softness is absolutely the way to go when seeking to find a new approach to healing this kind of entity; coaxing those walls down by feeling what lies soft and hurting behind those walls, longing to be included and brought out to the light. In such a scenario, not focusing on “what is going wrong” symptomatically is essential since there needs to be no extra bolstering of those brick walls, no further provocation by turning cancer into the hard-core enemy; rather, focusing on the transformation that is taking place, seeing the inner hurts, those aspects that have long felt ignored, and talking them down from their stance, persuading them out of their fortress to incorporate them back into the whole physical form.
Having a close friend going through all that when here I am with this least tangible of health circumstances has (in some sense) been a challenge in the way that challenge can so often provide the interface for our next biggest evolution; which is one of the many huge gifts of our friendship (and partnership as we bring new light to our diametrically opposite challenges). Initially, I felt like I was letting the side down to bring up how I was feeling (in horrendous pain!) when she is doing anything but talk about or make more of her physical challenges – especially when the invisibility of fibromyalgia always leaves you feeling like the hypochondriac – and so I found myself withdrawing for a few days until what I had going on had, hopefully, passed through. For almost a week now, I have been in immense pain, huge limitation in my body and there she is diligently keeping to all that is most uplifting about what is happening to her through all the weeks of her chemo; this dichotomy brought powerful new understanding to light through the vehicle of my mixed emotions and the light-bulb came on for me shortly after she had checked in to see how I was.
Suddenly, it was like I was holding the very raison d’etre for fibromyalgia-type illnesses in my hand and there was no surprise when I recognised in it the same old playground of yin and yang that has been my focus across literally every aspect of life these past few months. Because what I am dealing with in my own health feels like the exact polar opposite of what cancer is; being so fluid and flux as to be almost invisible, it demands of us that we take up the challenge of “seeing it” whatever way we can since it otherwise remains this relentless botheration in our life, tipping us over at will with not a word or a warning why. To even get a handle on recovery, I have had to seek to make solid what would otherwise remain stealth and this has forced me to “geek out” on my health in a way that has felt completely contrary to my impulse to be nothing if not soft and creative, shunning away the rational and the researched. Not only that but the sheer lack of research in this territory has forced me to recruit every left-brained skill I have in order to make sense of what has been happening to me, strapping together clues like a makeshift float with which to keep my head above water. Like riding a powerful wave in the ocean, I have been forced to construct for myself the sturdiest of surf boards and to endlessly refine it and then learn how to float on it, to crouch, to stand up and then to RIDE those waves as elegantly as I can…in order to have a “normal” life and to THRIVE in spite of these relentless currents that come in and up-end me.
Where cancer is the expression of something eminently tangible (yang) yet which started as something soft (yin), possibly an emotion…not necessarily from this lifetime…that wasn’t being heard thus it walled itself off in separation, fibromyalgia is already the soft, the fluid, the elusive, the ethereal feminine aspect with its fingers in everything yet I have to assume there is something yang at its core, like a hard-core driving it on with such relentless energy. What is its pain, what motivates it to be so elusive, so stealthy, so darn hard to pin down or persuade to surrender? What still fuels it when you feel like you have done all the inner work? Yes, it ducks and dives between different aspects of human biology, morphs constantly, changes form like it absolutely doesn’t want to be seen, to be pinned down, labeled, diagnosed or named…yet its impact can be devastating, horrible, so intrusively “there” that everything has to be stopped for it. Even its denial of definition feels like a shunning of the very words (yang) that would seek to pin it down, to rationalise or make a construct of it. How can something that makes you feel this much like you’ve been hit by a juggernaut be so very hard to pin down and recover from?
So for me my very survival has always felt, instinctively, like I need to counter this elusiveness with more solidity, more definition; the trial and error territory of all my many years feeling out what it is through the exploration of the void – all the things that it is not – that it manifest as. If fibromyalgia is like the Invisible Man wreaking havoc through the “house” of my body then I have been stood there throwing bags of flour at it for the longest time, trying to get a good look at its face. This, I see, is why I have kept hard at trying to feel it out long after I felt all the frowning disapproval of some of my spiritual friends who (I suspect) would have me try to think it away with more uplifting, less physically focused thoughts; no, something demanded that I keep at this activity of feeling it out in the physical domain since it wouldnt be in there if it didnt want me to give it the expression that it was lacking in the third-dimensional realm, would it? Something in me knew I had to find its edges in the same way someone dealing with cancer needs to melt their tumour’s edges right away to let out what wants to become more expansive. This isn’t a third-dimensional entity seeking to be returned to the multi-dimensional; this is a multi-dimensional aspect seeking to find its most comfortable place in 3D!
So I was brought to a juncture in my understanding and it begged the question, wouldn’t I do better to do what my friend is doing and to go in tenderly to enquire of fibromyalgia “what is it that makes you long to hide though you clearly want to be here doing what you do, seeking some kind of fly-by-night, hard-to-pin-down, ever altering expression? What would reassure you enough to make you want to be here in a less destructive, self-defeating way?” In an instant, I saw me in that description…wanting so much to be seen, to be heard, to express, to be known by others, to make friendships, etc etc and yet constantly shying away from anything that looks too much like structure or form, commitment, fame, timetables, definition, public appearance (the list goes on) in a way that is utterly self-defeating. I am like the little wren that I associate myself so closely with; she sings brighter, louder and more intricately than any other bird and yet she is just so tiny and brown (by intention) that she disappears into the garden, the most elusive and hard to pin down of them all; the consequence of which she is hardly there at all and most people don’t realise it is her that is singing!
In this I find – yet again – the feminine aspect and notice that she is hurting in proportion to her how invisible, unexpressed and unrepresented she is in the world. Why does she hide; perhaps because she finds the world as it is much too solid, too abrasive, for her liking, being used to all the flux and fluid of pure expression without any hard edges required. Perhaps she is working to drag the yang closer to her yin and create an interface that is much more evenly balanced in its partnership. This zone of interface between the yin and the yang has long been the point where we birthed and rebirthed our world into being, the evolutionary touch-down point of all we have created as a species thus far (and we all contain that same interface within ourselves, generating all of our own evolutions) and yet…my feeling is…she has never quite got used to expressing through the physical. The birth into solid form remains problematic for some very fundamental aspect of the feminine impulse and she’s still hurting deep inside (thus inside me) from so many failed experiments that left her feeling used and abused in the process. When that can be reconciled (no less the case for the yang; who carries his own pain) we find healing of some of our most prevalent health challenges as a species; and this is what people like us are busy working on, in a whole new way, from the inside out rather than the outside in.
As I feel into this more without using too many of the words that might frighten her off, fibromylagia feels like one giant expression of source, in its least embodied state, dragged by her hair into physicality, thus seeking some sort of interface with which to merge so that it can be known just a little in the three dimensional domain she’s been brought into…and yet she can’t quite find the right tools with which to express to her own exacting terms. She knows no “right” or “wrong” (which are human constructs) and so she uses whatever comes to hand in a way that I suspect is typical of the synesthete, where one sensory interface is just as good as another – and all utterly interchangeable – when it comes to experiencing and expressing what might otherwise remain extra-sensory. The dramatic and variable, extremely physical, sensory experiences that result – which can be nothing like what we expect in the physical domain – are deeply alarming and discordant to human existence. Offering more softness can pacify this urge for expression for a while (thus I can find peace for the hours upon hours that I paint or meditate) yet, in the end, these activities alone just feed her growing urge for even more tangible form; thus she uses my biology to give herself more edges. These episodes usually force even more expression to the surface of me…through writing about all the abstract ideas that my pain episodes generate into blogs…yet there can be a backlash as the words often feel too constraining, too much like an attempt to define or fence in what I sense I know about this thing or any other. She contracts if I dive too deeply into the writing, the word play and definition and so I am sent back to the drawing board again, time agter time. I suddenly see how this long-running interplay of yin and yang through the twin interfaces of my creativity and health has been the playground of my biggest ever evolution; a plea to rebalance through myself what is so out of balance in our world in general.
So how do I give her expression that unleashes but doesn’t daunt her (since she is currently going about it her own way and making us both pretty miserable)? Instead of cells and nerves to bash around with, I give her even more opportunity for creativity but also…I suspect…she needs some sort of form, some structure, a little more shape to play with than I have offered so far. She needs the kind of yang that allows her to be more of what she already is, like a cup or vessel within which she can be held in order to be even more of herself, through which she can express even more of her otherwise intangible essence (the strings that play to her notes), so that she doesn’t need body tissue as her primary interface any more. This slots perfectly with where my instincts have been taking me; towards introducing increased structure to my working day, more commitment, much more preparedness to intermingle with other people (yes, making actual time arrangements to see people in the flesh, something I have been avoiding) and playing with more technical or had-on versions of expression. With a smile, I notice how these are all things I have already lined up for my year: I’ve started a photography course, have a sculpture one-to-one scheduled, have taken up piano lessons and am making all sorts of arrangements to meet people, from all over the world, that I have only know “virtually” so far. While all of these things are pushing my limits in ways that feel daunting, none of them are taking me deeply out of my comfort zone and I can see how they are necessary. For so long, I’ve allowed my days to be absolute flux, to pick up paintbrushes on a whim, not committing to anything except the impulses of my art, keeping all my plans open-ended, protecting that fluidity in a way that was becoming its own deathly fortress, locking me away from life. Time to build a creative structure to my life…a supportive, open vessel that cups my creativity…enouraging my yin aspect to come out of hiding in ways that feel uncompromising to the divine that longs to be expressed and which leave the all-important vehicle of my body intact.
While pondering this topic, I brain-stormed a list of yin and yang qualities (and the many bridges in between them) as expressed in the familiar three-dimensional world we all know since they can remain such abstract concepts otherwise. I feel it is worth jotting that list down here…in its all inclusive version, including their many meeting points, since some of the items I mention (which include food, for instance) may seem bizarre…but not when you incorporate them into a health perspective. Seen like this, I can now appreciate how keeping the yin and yang aspects in perpetual balance has been the key to my recovery, pursued through changed to diet and lifestyle long before I saw them in such black and white terms.
I should add that neither of these columns is being presented here as “wrong” or “less than” since they both contain valid and evolutionary components of human experience (the yang aspect has been absolutely key to our evolution). Also (while I personify fibromyalgia as a “she” in this post and the yin is related to the female, the yang to the male), neither of these columns relate to gender since we all contain aspects of both (in varying ratios). Knowing that, it is worth considering that we are all, innately, seeking some sort of equilibrium between these factors and when we don’t achieve such balance in a conscious way, our health so-often takes over to seek redress to any imbalance by expressing this – very obviously – through the cells. This underlies my longstanding belief that illness is not something “bad” that we fall victim to but, rather, an inbuilt early warning system to point out to us when we are off-kilter so that we can get ourselves back into balance. It is a profound and powerful opportunity to heal at a much deeper than the cellular level so that life beyond recovery can become a whole new integrated and harmonious thing…a healing that is ripe to spill out into our world in general.