Thursday, March 8, 2012

God's gaze of pure love

My paper version of a Venetian mask
Two things this week have captured my attention and, while they may seem unrelated, they have a similar lesson. The first is how we carry ourselves and use our bodies simply to walk. I am taking a walking class, which may sound silly, but the chiropractor has a lot to teach. And I, for one, have a lot of unhealthy, old patterns to break.

So, I've been practicing this full-body stride, arms and hips swinging, gliding side to side in what, at first, felt very exaggerated, but now seems more natural. Last week when one daughter, my husband and I were out on a walk – I was warned they would not slow for me – I hit a wonderful stride, not even noticing when I eclipsed them. My husband experienced a minor injury, but I wanted to keep my new-found pace. When I reached home, my older daughter said her friend had texted that I was power walking past. I laughed at the notion, but now see the truth. This more natural way of walking is empowering, forcing me to thrust my shoulders back and my heart forward. Gradually, my confidence is shifting as it feels good and I feel better in this new form.

Because of a shoulder injury, I have backed off yoga, trading it for walking and still swimming. I do errands on foot more and notice how others walk. Yesterday, I was aghast at an older man who never looked up, hunched his shoulders and constantly eyed the ground. I silently said a prayer because his posture said he had either been very hurt, suffered or has no self esteem, It really tugged at my heart. I suspect the man may have been younger than he appeared, his stance adding years.

My new walking teacher/chiropractor suggests that, in our culture, we are always moving forward, forcing our bodies, heads, necks and shoulders out of alignment. With some attention, I see that he is right. I understand, though, that an inward adjustment must happen first. I have been trying to live more in the moment. When I don't, I do notice my body shoves itself forward. Now that I am aware, it seems ridiculous. Pushing, pushing, pushing to get ahead somehow and neglecting to savor the now.

My creative project this week has been to design paper masks based on the Venetian long-nosed one I brought back from Venice to Lily. My nurture group's theme this week was "Stripped Naked," and I was playing with how best to facilitate opening to that. Here's the introduction that I offered:

We all dream that being somewhere naked is catastrophic. Nudity often is uncomfortable, unfamiliar and forces us to disrobe, hiding nothing and removing our [turtle] shell. It’s truth.
Shedding my masks, pretentions, ego and willfulness allows me to make my being my message. Lets my life speak. Lets us wear our truth nakedly for ALL to see. 
Like all else worthwhile, paring down and casting away the unnecessary occurs slowly, through many little steps and not one major cleanout. It’s progressions of nakedness.
It may be acquiring new skin after sloughing off, layer by layer, the old armor that makes us tough, numb and non-feeling. We outgrow the thick skin that has scabbed over buried wounds. Ultimately, we want nothing between ourselves and God. When my girls were infants and I’d bathe and hold them skin-to-skin, I thought of it as “naked to naked.” That’s how I feel best with God, when I truly experience her gaze of pure love and see myself as beloved. Those rare and fleeting glimpses are enough to hold me.
Pain is a stripping agent, forcing us to come to terms with our humanness. That discomfort stirs up what’s hidden and brings it to our attention.
Real nakedness is seeing ourselves truthfully and without judgment … through God’s untainted eyes. We must remove the glasses/perceptions/judgment of others that cloud our view.
So the idea of creating masks seemed a good way to chip away at our false selves. First, however, we focused on two queries, which assisted deep and powerful sharing:
• To what do I cling?
• What masks can I shatter or put down?
We discussed how hard it often is to put down those masks and traveled to the conclusion that becoming aware is the first, big step and casting them aside is the journey toward wholeness.
Then there was a wonderfully intense period of creativity when we made our masks, put them on and looked at each other. Our passion drove us past the usual stopping point, so I  asked each person to try in the coming week to look in the mirror (real or metaphorical) and see themselves with God's pure gaze of love.
If we could do that often enough, there would be  no need for walking classes, I do believe!

• How do I project myself in public?
• How can I pay attention to how I walk and what it may reveal about me?
• When have my physical and spiritual selves been in alignment?
• What does that look and feel like?
• What mask am I attempting to remove?


  1. In Zazen (and through asanas too, I presume) one becomes very aware of how greatly posture may contribute to spiritual pracise, and I think I dare say knowledge. Nakedness is key, of course, and I very much enjoy the idea of exploring the veils through art - physical, visual activity. Thanks!

  2. Thank you for stopping by and commenting, Nicholas. I think you hit the nail on the head as I am discovering or, maybe, remembering. Wish you were nearby and you could be in the group!
    -- Cathy