So, Chibi has a stomachache. (Note to new readers: Chibi means “little one” in Japanese. For this author it includes all children and inner kids, as well.) Chibi usually feels great on the weekends, but by Sunday night or maybe Monday or Tuesday, Chibi gets a stomachache. Or a headache. Or a backache. Let’s assume Chibi has been to the doctor for all kinds of tests and, huh, how weird, nothing is very wrong. “But something FEELS wrong,” says Chibi, “and I HURT!” Chibi takes the problem to Jizo, who is the protector of all living things, especially children.
Jizo tells Chibi: “Let’s pretend your stomach has a voice. What would it say if it could say anything at all and not get in trouble?”
“Anything?” Chibi asks. Jizo nods, hoping to awaken a sense of safety within the inner child, shoved far down into the unconscious mind.
“Take a few deep breaths into the pain and listen to its voice as you exhale. Here’s the clue: listen for if you are sad or angry, for a start,” Jizo suggests.
Chibi begins to breathe and suddenly starts crying — red-face and nose, big tears, shame burning on the inside. “I hate the way I look and I feel stupid in math… And Anna told me I should go on a diet because my stomach is FAT! Am I fat? Does my stomach hurt because it’s mad that I’m fat?!!?”
“First, you are not fat, but you are having a feeling. We’ll call it a fat feeling, okay?,” Jizo says. “Keep going, you are doing a good job! Just tell me anything else you feel right now. Absolutely anything. What else do you hate?” Jizo is so reassuring and calm and Chibi can feel the safety of the earth beneath her feet.
“I hate Anna, she’s a terrible best friend, she has four other best friends and they are all mean. I hate that a got a C in math. I feel like I have to be perfect for everybody, all the time.”
Jizo nods, full of compassion. “Your stomach has been doing a magic trick to keep these feelings and thoughts from arising. Now the magic Chibi show is over. Now, try to let me help you. Let me teach you to love your terrible, angry, hateful, imperfect self.”
Chibi is understandably skeptical and confused. “How can you help me do that?”
Jizo asks, “Well, how does your stomach feel since you told me how you feel?”
“No pain!” Chibi realizes. “Really, truly, no pain!”
Jizo holds Chibi safely, whispers in Chibi’s ear, “You stomach is like a smoke detector in your house… If your tummy starts to hurt again, tell it something like this: ‘Thank you for helping me see that I am having feelings I don’t want to feel because they seem so ugly.’ Thank your stomach for reminding you that you need to feel all your feelings, not just the pleasant, happy ones. Then, let yourself be all of yourself and not just the parts you think people will like. You don’t have to act on the feelings, you don’t have to share them with people who could be harmed by your words. You just get to feel them and let me hold you while you breathe deeply and relax and allow the thoughts and emotions to arise. Then, they will pass like weather moves through the sky.”
Jizo protects every living being. We need only trust there is ground beneath our feet, that we are safe to recognize tension and pain, anxiety and depression, as we stop bracing against what is. We learn to accept what is — only to learn that accepting something usually changes it — especially when it is anxiety-based. Our ego does not want us to be anxious, so it puts on the magic show that transforms our unwanted feelings into symptoms we can focus on. It thinks it is being helpful, but there are better ways of coping than illness and pain.
Let’s let go, together. Now. On the exhalation…