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Discovering the True Self

A couple of weeks ago I had my first Thai massage session. It is different than traditional Swedish style massage in that you are fully clothed and lay on a mat.  The massage practitioner stretches your body in different directions to help release tension.  There is also a lot of rhythmic rocking so that the body relaxes deeply. While we were in the midst of the work, the woman who was giving me the massage commented that I surrendered very easily.  She said most people have a lot of resistance to complete relaxation and releasing into her hold.

The next day I went for a long morning walk, praying my prayer of openness along the way as is my practice.  Breathing in the gifts of autumn beauty, paying attention to where the invitation is for me in the moment. There was a gentle wind rushing the leaves from their branches, like flakes of gold and rust being brushed from an ancient piece of art.  They fluttered toward the ground and then danced in a circle together before finding a place of rest, a simple ritual celebrating their journey of transformation ahead.

I was reminded of kigen‘s comment on one of my autumn posts about autumn being the time the true color of the leaves is revealed. She wrote: “The new vibrant hues are the “original nature” so to speak of the leaf. The green leaf in spring is actually a masking of that original color by the influx of chlorophyll. When the chlorophyll is no longer secreted in autumn we see the true colors of the leaf.” I was very taken with this idea that in the surrender of autumn the true colors are revealed.  In our own places of surrender, those moments when we are stretched and asked to relinquish our hold on whatever it is we cling to, we often discover new dimensions of ourselves.

I found this quote by Richard Rohr at lucy’s blog: “Surrender is something that is done to us. You can’t pick ahead of time which dragon you’ll slay. The opportunity always sneaks up on you, and then all you can do is be ready.” I am intrigued by the idea that we do not surrender, but are surrendered by Another. All we can do is “be ready,” to prepare by practicing the art of letting go when the time is right, releasing our bodies into the arms of someone we trust, tending the rise and fall of breathing in and breathing out and recognizing that both are necessary for life. Sometimes the invitation is to let go of the very thoughts to which we cling and use to analyze the process of letting go itself.

William Johnston in his book Arise, My Love: Mysticism for a New Era writes “In this process, there is no discursive thinking. One lets go of all reasoning and imagining in order to enter into a new world of silence where with great joy one discovers one’s original face, one’s true self.” Which brings me back to those leaves. As they cascade into the world of silence, removing their mask, they reveal their true nature. What is that moment of joy like?  Do they recognize the face that has always been with them?

Autumn continues its call to me: surrender, surrender, surrender.  In between those whispers I hear another voice, even more gentle saying remember spring, but winter comes first. I continue practicing my surrender imperfectly, letting go of my thoughts that seize hold of the world, of what matters to me. In that space is silence.  I only catch the briefest of moments, fragile like the leaves that have scattered themselves in holy offering across the ground. Broken beneath the footsteps of a world in a hurry to get someplace else.

-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts

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5 Responses

  1. Thank you friends for your affirming and supportive words!

    kigen, I love the story about your cat, very moving imagery.

    SS, delighted to hear you are entering into LD!

    lucy, thank you for those closing words, they really moved me.

    thanks Dawn! what a wonderful image

  2. I could feel my breath deepening as I continued to read your musing on surrender and autumn. It is quiet a beautiful release that you describe.

  3. i love this post. shortly after reading it this morning i went outside for a walk and ended up staying home and playing in the leaves (well…raking them actually, but it felt playful). i hope you are having a wonderful weekend–full of surrender and yielding to what needs to be.

  4. Surrender – funny that I should read your post this a.m. when this word seems so appropriate to my prayers. Along with a beginning toe tap into your “Lectio Divina”…..the scripture from Luke spoke directly to me and to my needs of the day.

    The idea of the “true color” of leaves is a fascinating one that I don’t believe I remember hearing before (although I’m sure some early science teacher urged me to listen to the facts).

    Thanks for your sharing and for kigen’s as well!

  5. Christine, thanks for this post! Your story of yielding to the massage resonated with me. I have an elderly cat whose hind legs are not very strong, so that he can no longer stretch himself or use his scratching post. So after I feed him I take him in my arms and gently stretch his body, until he seems relaxed, and then I hold him in that position for a short time as if it were a yoga posture. He yields to the therapy so easily — it amazes me utterly! I wish that I could surrender, as you say, to the moment as completely, and to the help of others, as he does to me!