A dear friend, a midwife, once said to me that you can see the core of a woman’s makeup while she is in labor. All conditioning and social facades melt away when a woman is giving birth. Something primal is released. Bringing a child into this world is so all consuming that all that is left is a rawness within the mother’s presence.
I think this rawness can be observed too when we are faced with difficulties, particularly those of the unexpected and unknown. In these moments we are stripped of our filters – our cultural mythologies – leaving us vulnerable, raw, and unfiltered.
Coming to Costa Rica has been in many ways a stripping down to this basic state of being. We have experienced floods, earthquakes, tropical storms, scorpions, and the jungle at large. In being here, we have been thrown off our game, allowing us to see what lives underneath, at our core. Are we really as adaptable, positive and open to new things as we think? We can’t hide behind comfort here as much.
I have conversations with people in similar circumstances as ourselves and within the words spoken, I listen for the story that they spin about their experiences. I listen to the story that I spin as well. I am continually fascinated by all the tales – what is emphasized, what is forgotten, and what is exaggerated in the telling.
I can hear the difference between the individuals who, at their core, have a growth mindset and others who are trying to find it but struggle when vulnerability arises. What I do know is that at times, adapting and finding the silver lining, or the sweet within the sour of lemonade, makes me weary. There are some days when I feel up to the challenge of being here – when I feel open to embracing all the medicines of this place, knowing that on some level, growth and change is happening. At other times, I just want comfort, to be in a place where I feel safe and where things are known and familiar.
I believe this vacillation is normal and healthy. I think that in everything there needs to be times of exertion and then times of rest. Nature is a beautiful, direct example of this. The seasons… the flux between growth and dormancy. I am no different; being a part of nature as well, I also need times of rest and comfort to fortify myself for all the growth and change that is happening. The cultural myth that was fueled by the well-loved Descartes saying, “I think therefore I am,” reinforces the idea that the mind is the most evolved part of ourselves. With my mind I believe that I can control all the other aspects of my complicated self, including the wisdom of my body. For example, my body might call for rest but the mind urges that I need to work. When I remind myself to follow the natural flow of energy, which is more basic, more raw, and more important than anything my mind can configure, I no longer fight what is naturally-occuring within me. When I stop fighting, all of my being comes into sync.
I have come to understand that this flux between rest and exertion is the only way we can truly integrate and transform. Force of will and hard work will only take you so far – and if you are not careful, it will exhaust you. It is important to support the deep work of rejuvenation and the natural cycle of integration. We can only learn from history if we pause, center ourselves, and remember. We cannot learn by plowing ahead or by trying too hard. By tending to our natural rhythms and the body’s wisdom, we provide space for integration to occur. Pause, remember and re-remember.