A voice arises often in my meditation. And when the same phrase is repeated, quietly, periodically, urgently, I pause and write it down. I don’t ignore my Muse.
“There is a screaming child in the body of America,” she told me.
I knew there was a screaming child in my body. I know of the screaming (or whimpering) within the patients I work with, the people I travel beside on the path. No, the voice insisted, It is a screaming child in the body of America. Or maybe it’s a screaming adult. Something is screaming and getting silenced, of this I am certain.
It is screaming under the extra weight of life: body weight, work weight, clutter weight. It’s screaming under the busyness, under the medication and constant motion, the incessant distractions. We cannot sit still. Even when we do for a moment, we rocket off from the meditation cushion or yoga mat and into traffic, into multi-tasking, task upon task upon distraction upon noise upon task.
Bigger, better, more, hurry, the ego says, protecting us from the Feared Thing, the Anxiety Generator.
When we finally pause long enough, often enough, we find a Weeping Body, a Raging Body with a Big Voice. Do we listen? Rarely. Why? Too painful. The ego resists. The ego is not evil, it sees itself as a freedom fighter, keeping us from perceived pain. Once we are numbed, the screaming body conks out for a while. But it awakens again and again, begging for help. We drag it to the gym, to diets, to smoothies, to the next great remedy for craving.
I learned this first from J.D. Salinger in Franny & Zooey as a teenager, but it took me another four decades to Learn it. “The ego hankers.” Buddha said all suffering boiled down to craving from the place of I, Me and Mine. I thought that was a George Harrison song when I was a kid.
It’s the core of Buddha’s teaching. “I want, I want, I need, I need, I feel, so you should ______ and if you don’t, I will be unhappy.” Whether we were traumatized as children in our homes or school rooms, by bullies or best friends who turned away, whether it was a natural or man-made disaster, we all have varying degrees of Trauma Body and we are not listening. Even yoga has turned into rock’n’roll yoga-sculpt that is so loud that we can hear it in the studio next door.
Listening requires stopping, even for small bits of time. Rather like wash, rinse, repeat: Stop. Pause. Listen. Choose. Stop again. Wonder. Pause. Don’t act. The I Ching told me once, “Take no action or be prepared to be blind-sided.” I listened. To this day I am grateful I stopped, paused, listened and chose.
Please know it’s scary. Someone wrote to me the other day and said facing the fearful things was just too scary, even when couched in the idea of Jizo holding them safely. It seemed to be too big a challenge. But we don’t have to start with the most terrifying thing. If we are afraid of heights, spiders and people, perhaps we start by meditating on the idea of standing on the first step of a ladder, not forcing ourselves to to the top of a skyscraper to learn our lesson.
Courage is not the absence of fear, it is taking action or pausing in the face of fear and breathing in and out, in and out, until we become more and more whole, for the rest of our lives. Often there is no action to take, rather the “action” is allowing the urge to act to pass through us like weather. Sometimes, we do act, but we make fewer mistakes when we first take The Pause.
Wholeness is going to happen to most of us, it’s only a matter of how hard we fight it.