What does knowing OUR welcome point to? Where does our “welcome” come from? How much consideration do you give to YOUR welcome to YOUR Life?
During the last six years I’ve lived with, taught, co-created, worked with, learned with and taken care of a number of different homes and properties, in all kinds of circumstances, with all kinds of people, in six different countries, across cultures, languages, ethnicities, customs and personalities.
Many people have invited me into the heart of their families and friendships. It’s been a privilege to not only share my work with people from around the world, but also to share in other people’s lives, rhythms, tastes, particularities, brilliance, adventures and eccentricities. It has also been exhausting at times.
I’ve learned that I need to spend time alone, on the land, to recharge and to integrate the experiences and what is there for me to learn.A psychologist from India who lives in the United States and works with immigrants discovered how the fact of simply being in another country can be a source of easily-unrecognized stress, far beyond the obvious. One of the examples he gave was of a mailbox. Every country has a different shape, color and location of container corresponding to a mailbox. In the United States it’s a big, blue metal box on a street corner. In Belgium it’s a smallish, red metal box on the side of a building. In Brazil it’s a yellow box outside the post office itself. If you go by a mailbox or a fire hydrant in the place you grew up, such insignificant items of daily life elicit about zero demand on your nervous system. It’s a “non-item,” or “non-event,” so to speak.
If we’re in a country where we didn’t grow up, every time we go by a different mailbox it calls our attention in a way that it does not for a native person. For the native it’s just “a mailbox,” but for a non-native it’s “OH!…. yeah!…THAT is a ‘MAILBOX.’” And everything’s like that; the meaning of a smile, a laugh, a sigh, a kiss, a joke.
Even though I grew up traveling across cultures, ecosystems and ways of life since my earliest weeks of life, it’s only recently that I’ve become aware that there’s a neurological and energetic cost to me, as well.
What’s all this got to do with staying in our welcome?
In the last few years of living around the world I became sensitive to the question of “what is welcome to ME?” I grew up and have lived in so many countries, worked as a critical care and trauma nurse all over the States and some abroad, and done so many things, professionally and creatively, that I’ve spent most of my life adapting to, responding and contributing to other people’s situations.
Hand-in-hand with that came a certain insensitivity to my own real needs, limits and limitations. These last six years of traveling, living and teaching around the world woke me up, at times quite harshly, to the fact that I have limits.
We’ve made it normal for children to spend twelve years spending their days being under the total dominion and control of people they have virtually zero choice about.
Our lives often oscillate between submission and resistance. We either “go along to get along” or “put our foot down and assert ourselves.”
But welcome is neither of these. It’s of an entirely different temper. It comes from a place within, a very powerful, beautiful, wise, expansive and liberating center of knowing and of orienting ourselves.
Today I recognize this distinction and ask myself: “What about MY welcome?” Am I welcoming this experience or is it time for me to welcome myself into another experience? Am I welcoming this person or is it time to find some solitude?
Who teaches us to know and to stay in our welcome, in that place where our hearts open?
Three Cheyenne friends were the first people who showed me how they stayed in their welcome. They never explained themselves and, with me, they never said good-bye. Sometimes we’d spend a whole day together and then all of a sudden they’d just stand up and walk off. No drama, no good-byes.One day the eldest told me, “we stay in our hearts” as he patted his chest. He told me I was welcome to move with them whenever they moved, I only needed my own guidance. I was welcome. One day he explained to me that if we tune into our hearts we can FEEL our hearts open and close. Our heart is a compass, literally. It’s a center of electromagnetic intelligence and a brain. It’s actually the brain that organizes all the intelligent centers of the body and brings them into coherence.
He then told me a number of things about this heart-orientation that I may cover in another post, and about how his People relate to each other that I found utterly surprising; except for the fact that I got to live and experience them with my friends.
Since then, I have lived with a number of people and in communities around the world where people grow up living their welcome, starting as children. It was delightfully surprising to me to see highly-attuned, gracefully sociable communities emerge when the individuals composing them live their welcome and know and trust themselves as the compass to their well-being, instead of having to constantly negotiate their own will with some “authority” always lording it over them. Harmonic, mutually-attuned societies only emerge when the individuals composing them are allowed to grow in their harmonic, individual and mutual attunement naturally. We are designed to do this spontaneously, if our natural development is respected.
The latest findings in cardiology, especially with heart transplant patients who inherit memories and intellectual capacities from their donors, is revealing new dimensions of heart intelligence. For Westerners this comes as an “amazing revelation,” but the heart is not only capable of memory and intelligence; it leads us into coherence, a word which comes from the Latin com: “together” + herere: “to stick.” Our heart unifies intelligence in the measure that we allow it to flourish in the knowing of, and staying in, our welcome.
For many years now I’ve been living a life that I truly welcome; but there are catches. Sometimes, I’m challenged to recognize my habits, ingrained from very early on, to often be so concerned about whether I’m welcome to another person that I lose touch with my own welcome, this place in my chest that still knows electromagnetically, from being, and not just ideas about being… welcome.
So I tune back in to the qualities of opening and of closing, in my chest, in my heart. When I find my heart closing, then I’m challenged to engage another part of my embodied intelligence; my will. That means to ACT, without justification or explanation.
True, full, embodied will is something profoundly crippled in schoolchildren forced to ask permission for something as personal and natural as using the bathroom, for example. When I say “true,” I am talking about something that is aligned, centered. We’ll come back to the will in other articles. The will is profoundly tied to our sense of BEING welcome and welcome to BE, in our bodies, in our lives, in this Planetary Place of Aliveness. These intelligences are either embodied and brought into the coherence of our Life-Logical Aliveness, or they are only ideas which we then try to get the body to submit to and act out.
Developing these Intelligences is done at the speed of LIFE, which is to say, we have to GROW them, and that means CELLULARLY, IN actual LIFE. We grow these skills as we practice them and stimulate the growth of the new connections that support them.
Notice the qualities of opening and closing in your chest and you’ll discover something truly fascinating.
You are not just a “person,” a word that comes from the Latin persona: “mask.” Many people only live as a self-styled mask of who and what we “think” we are and are trying to be. You are a 4 billion year old Living Wisdom System with extraordinary capacities to know connectively, coherently, bodily.
Everything you eat is jumping into you and now in-forming you, literally, and nourishing your cellular intelligence with theirs’. You are the place that plants, water and animals jump into the experience of being human – through your mouth! You are not just “you.” 90% of the cells inside our skin aren’t even human; they are unicellular organisms and the source of our intelligence and nourishment. They are as participant and essential to our experience as “we” are.
Aliveness is not just what we think “it” is. All of Aliveness is becoming the rest of Aliveness.
In people who have been acculturated to self-estrangement, to being a stranger to themselves, the heart becomes reduced to a center of a constrictive, enthusiastic, reactive, depressive emotionality that never allows itself to fully, bodily, sense-ably, FEEL-from-within. Many vacillate from being constantly on alert to being profoundly numbed out, but not really opening wide, sensibly, calmly. This comes from our experiences as children.
Go to a playground and listen to the different ways parents talk to their children, especially around emotions and feelings, which are not the same, and notice how and what you feel when certain tones of voice are used. Notice the different tones of voice different parents use with their children and what you feel. You will discover something. To “discover” means to “remove the cover.” Notice how often parents and caretakers change a child’s feelings into a totally different emotion. Then notice how children’s will is “managed.”
If you live in a place where there are ethnic neighborhoods or people of different ethnicities living there, observe different people, adults and children. Look. Listen. Notice what you feel, bodily, as you witness different people relating to and with their children.
We do these exercises to learn and to lead ourselves in ways that make us more alive and see contrasts and skill sets used by different people, AND to tune in, BODILY, to what we FEEL. More and more mothers are becoming aware of how they relate to their children and more and more are developing surprising wisdom and skill in working with their child’s nature instead of trying to make it obey and “breaking it in.” With awareness, we become creators and cultivators of our Aliveness, of our Natural Intelligences while, at the same time, paying skillful and broad attention to the dynamics at play in the contexts that surround us and the ones we grew up in.
We find a way to live with heart, a way of Knowing Our Welcome and Living It. We allow ourselves to feel. “Know Thyself” is the entry to the Temple of True Knowing.
Know Thyself by Observing, Feeling, Noticing Thyself.
In working with people around the world I have seen how many of us have some profound challenges in knowing our welcome. There’s an “Embodied Premise” in the West where many people do not feel welcome; in their bodies, in their families, even with their intimates. Many of the ways we relate in intimacy is a constant negotiation of welcome and unwelcome, belonging and abandonment. That is how many of us were raised by our mothers; under this punishment/reward system, where our welcome is always conditional and where the conditions often set us at odds with our own nature.
The imperial culture induces a split in being “welcome” to our authority figures or being welcome in our BEING. This is a very curious split, one which most members of the mainstream culture take as a given. I certainly did. I was very surprised when I first met and lived with people for whom this “given” is as shocking to them as its contrary is to us.
We can rediscover the nature, within ourselves, of our welcome and unwelcome, right here, inside, in our chest and whole body. If you discover that the feeling in your chest is unwelcome, then notice the bodily, sensory textures of “unwelcome” in as many details as possible. Does your chest feel tight? Maybe you have a sensation of having a knot in your stomach, or your jaw tenses. Now, take yourself to a place and experience where you are welcome – in your chest, in your belly, in your jaw; with feel-able, live-able welcome. Stay there for a while and really feel what welcome feels like. Discover these transitions in your body.
To be Alive is to be Welcome. To be adult is to be able to take ourselves and our people to the Places of our Welcome in ways that are Welcome. Sometimes becoming adult is a long journey. It is a good Journey, a worthwhile Journey. There is a place in the heart, in the chest that knows Welcome. Take yourself to this place. Then Journey in your Welcome.
Have a Good Journey!
That We May Live the Life We Love
And Love the Aliveness We Are.