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Patterns and Imaginary Walls

Last week I had the joy of going to hear Michael Meade speak.  He is a mythologist who weaves folktales, myths, drumming, and singing into his wise talks about navigating complex times.  As always, as I listened to his words much stirred in me, some of which I am sure will appear in this space.  One story he shared was extraordinarily simple but has been living inside of me in surprising ways:

A woman once had a goldfish bowl and she enjoyed watching the fish swim around in its small space.  One day the goldfish bowl needed to be cleaned and so she filled the bathtub as a place to put the fish while she cleaned out its bowl.  She was surprised to notice that the fish stayed at one end of the bathtub, swimming only in small circles, about the size of the bowl it lives in.

A couple of days later I had my first chiropractor visit.  He examined me and said I needed some adjustments to my neck and shoulder area, but what happens is that at some point in our lives we have a trauma that causes us to go out of alignment.  We carry that pattern forward into our lives, even when we don’t need it anymore.  For years the body is used to holding itself in a particular way, and then the chiropractic adjustment shifts things back into alignment and the body becomes confused.  Even though it is closer to the way things should be in the body, it is different enough than the pattern that it feels off.  And so what usually happens is the body shifts back into its comfort zone, even though that may be causing the body pain. My chiropractor uses a technique to essentially re-educated the body and allow it to hold the adjustment so the body can heal.

So I am thinking during these last days of Lent, about the patterns I live in which no longer serve me, and am wondering where the invisible walls are that keep me from swimming in larger bodies of water than I currently do.  I am pondering the habits that have grown so comfortable that I can’t even see the ways I am limiting myself right now.  The vision beyond those walls is always an act of grace.  This is the grace I seek as I move toward Easter and the promise of new life.

What about you, dear readers?  Do you have patterns and walls you keep yourself confined to?  What might happen if instead of making that next turn in your small circle, you went straight instead and out into the wide open sea?  What might you discover there?

(photo taken at the Japanese garden here in Seattle)

© Christine Valters Paintner at Abbey of the Arts:
Transformative Living through Contemplative & Expressive Arts

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6 Responses

  1. Oh my, Christine~what a numinous goldfish…Once again, we walk the spiritual spiral together. These questions have been swirling about me lately. This morning I caught the following quote by Marianne Williamson:

    “Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that others won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do…as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

    Thank you for your light and presence…I’ve made so many changes in my life, and have seen that sometimes it takes a while for all the parts of me to catch up to my courage. Maybe that shallower end of the tub helps me to strengthen my muscles so I can handle the deeper end…thank you….Namaste~Kathy

  2. Christine –

    your story gathering and telling are wonderful, inspirational, refreshing. The goldfish, the chiropracter’s methods – such great visuals for how we do or don’t allow ourselves the freedom of life and of change. Thank you so much!

    Great challenging questions – from you and from Lucy!


  3. i love seeing your words in print after hearing them first hand. i pondered a similar question to “What might happen if instead of making that next turn in your small circle, you went straight instead and out into the wide open sea?” in my post this morning (before reading here) :-)

    My question: How might things be different for you if you let go of the trapeze and flung yourself into the unknown? xoxoxxo

  4. Yes, those darn creative blocks are definitely a part of the imaginary fortress! :-) You are most welcome kigen.

    Thanks Tess, can’t wait to hear your itinerary. :-)

  5. What a great story about the goldfish bowl, and your chiropracter. I’m just looking out into the wide open sea and imagining all kinds of delightful adventures.

  6. Christine, “imaginary walls,” a great way to understand creative blocks — since the “block” is imaginary too! And I’m still struggling to come up with an answer to your challenge that God is mixed up is all the stuff of “worldly things.” Thanks for the sharing, the provocation and delightful open-mindedness.