THE ISLAND OF MY LIFE
An Original Work of Nonfiction
By: David G. Yurth
Copyright All Rights Reserved
Between the time we learn to speak for ourselves, around the age of three or so, and the time we learn the rules of acceptable behavior imposed on us by the cultures we live in, we learn to give up our authenticity in exchange for physical and emotional safety. By the age of five or six, we have learned that the myths we have already made up about ourselves and the world we live in are so frightening that the only way to survive is to sell out. In short, very early in life we learn that we have no choice but to give up our authenticity in exchange for whatever measure of physical and emotional safety we can find.
Early on, we learn to fabricate the masks we wear throughout our lives. As we become older, as experience colors our view of ourselves and the way we interpret what happens to us, we become increasingly adept at building our masks. Before long, certainly before we reach adulthood, we have long ago forgotten who and what we really are. If you want to see dramatic evidence of how powerful this process is, visit a group of 3-5 year olds in any kind of gathering. Go to a birthday party or a Christmas celebration populated by children of this age. And while you witness their unbridled authenticity in action, observe what controlling adults do to strip that awesome power from them by inflicting them with guilt, shame, fear and punishment.
After you have done that, visit any first grade class in any public school in the Western world at the end of their first year. Within just a few weeks after the beginning of their first year in public schools, children already exhibit signs that they are losing their authenticity. By the end of the year their magical selves have already begun to fade behind the masks of enculturation. By the end of their first year in public schools, children typically exhibit all the behaviors of a generation whose life force has effectively been smothered. The brilliant light that used to shine from their eyes seldom, if ever, reappears so brightly.
Anyone who is fully actualized, who has succeeded in healing their own personal woundedness, is instantly recognizable. They look, act and behave more like a five year old than any kind of adult. They are filled with vitality and irrepressible exuberance. Wonder and awe emanate from the center of their Being, illuminating everything and everyone around them. The fact of the matter is that we are luminous beings, imbued with the latent, unrealized capacity to continuously co-create the universe. Instead of living this way, we dissipate our life force to perpetuate the woundedness that infects us.
Woundedness is a universal aspect of living and being in modern society. We can take comfort from knowing that this aspect of living is not inevitable, however. The last remaining vestiges of several original cultures demonstrate that the passage from infancy to childhood does not have to be marked by woundedness. The fact of the matter is that all of us are wounded, most of us far more deeply and seriously than we can imagine. The problem with knowing this is that we simply don’t get to vote about it. That’s just the way life is. Changing the way we think about it doesn’t alter it in any meaningful way, either. The process is far more complex and difficult to manage than that.
My notion about the process of going through mortality is that we are here to learn how to be whole. In my way of thinking, wholeness is not the product of a pristine or unaffected life. Rather, real wholeness is the product of surviving and learning how to integrate all manner of injury and joy so we can know first hand what it means to be wounded, what it means to be alive. Then, when we have come to know woundedness up close and personal, we have a chance to see it for what it really is – the most important gift of our lifetime. Jim Croce said it very well when he sang, “.ain’t no way to see the rainbow, baby, until you’ve felt the rain.”
Once we have been wounded, and only after we have learned how to correctly interpret it, can we go through the process of harnessing the intrinsic power of the experience to become fully actualized beings. If my notions about such things are correct, learning to heal woundedness gives us the personal power to heal the madness that defines modern life. We can choose to be whole. We can choose to make ourselves and each other safe. We can choose to dispense forgiveness and extend compassion without expectation.
In short, to the extent that we can find effective ways to heal our own woundedness, one person at a time, we can exert an irresistible healing power on the whole planet. This is why we do this work. There is no more important or sacred undertaking in all of life. This book has been written so we can learn to receive and dispense forgiveness in a way that ends the cycle of madness, cruelty and despair that plagues the planet. It is not simple and it is not easy. But for those of us who have chosen this path, it’s the only game in town.
Close your eyes. Take a few easy, nurturing breaths. Relax. Place your index finger on the artery on the side of your neck, just below your ear lobe. Not hard – just enough so you can feel your pulse there. Feel the blood pumping through your system. Notice its power. In your mind’s eye, watch it flow like a mighty river through your body. Picture yourself in a kayak, navigating your way through the tumultuous canyons and rapids of your inner landscape, Feel the ride. Feel the rapids. Feel the wind and water spray on your face and neck.
As you complete the final set of rapids, notice that the river before you is wider, calmer and smoother than before. At some point along the way, you will see a calm sandy beach. Push your kayak to this place, step out of your boat and walk up on the shore. Stand very still now. Be completely silent and totally alert. Listen to the sound of the wind and water. Notice the music playing in the distance, the drum beat of your heart as it pounds through the landscape. Walk up the bank and find a comfortable place to sit, where you can take in everything around you, far off into the distance, into infinity.
Notice everything about this place. The texture beneath you as you sit. The way the air smells. The way the light plays its tendrils across the landscape. Become so present in this place that it is as real to you as anything you have ever experienced in your life. Focus. Bear down. Remember everything. Every minute detail.
Notice how you feel. Notice that you are safe here. Notice how powerful you feel, how totally at home you are in this private, sacred place. Be in this place awhile.
After you have taken all this in, allow yourself to gradually come back into your body. Breathe comfortably now, and notice how it feels to breathe. Follow your breath as it flows through you. Slowly, move your eyes without opening them. Slowly, move your hands and feet. Slowly, gently, allow your consciousness to come back into the room and then gently open your eyes.
Before you do anything else, before you allow anything at all to distract you, pick up your journal and pen. Without thinking about it, write a fully detailed description of the place you have just visited. Describe it in sufficient detail so that any competent artist could paint a recognizable picture of this place. Leave nothing out. Recall every single detail and write it all down. If you need to draw, do it. When you are finished, close your journal and take a break.
Once you have recorded the vision of your place of ultimate safety and power, the next step is to convert what you have written in your journal to a real space in your world. This is the place you will go to whenever the work we are about to do together demands a place of safety. In workshop terms, defining and controlling each aspect of this refuge is called “controlling the space.” The most important thing any facilitator can do to create safety for participants is to carefully, thoroughly, deliberately control every single aspect of the space they work in.
In a very real way, the attention and energy you are willing to devote to this first important exercise will tell you how successful you can expect to be for the duration of this process. If you are willing to stop the merry-go-round of madness that drives your life so you can really take control of this process, you will quickly discover how truly powerful you can be when you focus your personal power on something that really matters to you. On the other hand, if you allow all your other personal considerations to get in the way, this will give you a warning signal. Consider what you are about to do in this context.
Make a list of all the variables you can control while designing and creating your own special, private place. Here’s a partial list to help you get started:
* Site: Some special place in your home, garden, park, neighborhood, etc. * Scene: Is there a view? Can a picture or graphic or other image(s) work? * Colors * Textures * Scents and Smells * Lighting/ Candles * Sounds: Music, chimes, bowls, birds, water, etc. * Seating and physical comfort * Temperature and Blankets/ Fans * Physical Isolation: Away from noise, distractions, interruptions, encroachments * Noises: Telephones, doorbells, cell phones, telephones, etc. * Food, Water, Drinks * Tissues, Towels * Sound System: Speakers, head phones, iPod, etc.
Other variables can be introduced to this list, but there is no way you can do this wrong. Learning what works best for you is the objective of this exercise. If you do the best you can to create and maintain this space, that must be sufficient. If you are not totally satisfied with the way this turns out, keep working at it until you are. Once you are in the space, all your energy will be needed to do the work, so no energy will be left over to worry about the space itself. It should be as removed from distractions as possible. Remember: this whole exercise is all about learning how to focus and control your inner energy reserves, so now is the time to begin taking control of this process.