How do I show up as me?
In 2010 I sat in a circle of like hearted souls in the Owens Valley, California. I was training with the School of Lost Borders on their wilderness guide programme where spending time alone, with little shelter and fasting for four days and nights in the wild lands, was being taught.
Mostly the participants were Americans, I the only Brit. Often, I heard the term ‘showing up’. Allowing the flow and trusting in the process of the programme, I didn’t ask what they meant by it. I believed it to be an americanism and I gathered after the 3 weeks that it meant – being present.
However, and it’s a big however, it was not and is not exactly that. Well it is, but it’s much more besides – it is deeper, wider, broader and has vast implications too. For the next two years I contemplated ‘showing up’. Meaning, I lived it, experienced it, dreamt of it and offered my take on it to others that I worked with. They, like me took it on and slowly the experience of it’s meaning came. Through them, in all of me and even, in my dog. The fullness, complexity and simplicity of its meaning became clearer.
Well…..in my dog, it is that he is always being himself and is always ready. For example, if I were to come down from sleeping at 2am and say ‘walk’, he would do the odd ‘up dog and down dog’ stretch and then be patiently or not, waiting by the back door for the said walk. When he is not in this state of readiness, he is loose and being with whatever is in front of him. If I pick up the skin from his back, there is no physical resistance in his tissues, he is totally in the moment and relaxed. He is – in his way, showing up.
Yet part of the complexity of showing up comes, when we try to put words around what it actually is. That’s because showing up is mostly embodying fully what is felt, in the moment.
Council: Showing up as who I am
It is easier to explain when we place it within the context and structure of being ‘in Council’, meaning gathering in a circle with intent to share stories and experiences. However, even Council has more to it than just that. When we sit in Council it is to express – the whatever is going on with us. That requires listening. To others and an equally deep, inner listening to ourselves. To express our inner world takes courage.
It seems it has become dangerous to expose ourselves fully to others. To simply be with ourselves.Courage so that I would……sit and say from my heart, do or act out, sing or dance, what is moved inside me and it will be ok, alright, accepted and truly heard. In addition, no-one would try and fix me either.
Our initial Council experience is often the first opportunity that such deeply felt truths can be or are expressed and witnessed, without judgement. Equally, it could be the first time that we are listening deep enough to feel what is truly felt by ourselves, within all of ourselves too. Not just our thoughts but our passions, dreams, our intuition, instincts and our feelings, fuelled as they are by emotions and experience.
Courage isn’t talked about much in modern life. It seems it is somehow more relevant to historical times, when knights took to their horse to slay dragons, or to joust. Within the mythic world of story and legend, courage was a prerequisite for every act where danger was present or perceived to be. It seems it has become dangerous to expose ourselves fully to others. To be with the truth. To simply be with ourselves.
So often then, we withdraw our expression of how it is for us all round. It is especially in those hard life moments or periods of time, in the despairing slumps of energy or fear ridden anxieties, that we can keep within our dark internal world. Our dreams, even our joys are measured with societal, cultural or familial norms of what is acceptable, realistic. So all bottled up, it is as if we are silently on the rollercoaster of life, which is rather difficult to do in fact, unhealthy too. Of course it needs to be safe – our expression of what we feel. For us to even be prepared to allow the fullness of ourselves to flow. So knowing that what happens in a Council circle stays in the circle, is good and necessary.
The real me in real life
Yet in real life there is no circle. It is in this place, where we spend most of our time. It is here that ‘I’ want to show up the most. Be ‘me’, the spirit of me. Not a persona, or my mask to the world, but fully me, inside and out. With my so called flaws, and inadequacies as apparent as much as my love and laughter. I don’t want to deny what it is to be human, why would I?
Being human allows sensation. My response and reaction to the life that happens around me and within me. Be that weeping at a Caravaggio painting, bathing wild and free in a mountain stream, watching the sun rise and then set on the same day or seeing the smile on a toddlers face as she plays in a dirty puddle. Feelings that also provoke anger and despondency at political short sightedness, intolerance to difference or the manipulation of the media to news. Yes to feel, is what being human boils down to.
Often what stops us from showing up to what is felt, is whether it is appropriate for our culture, society and the situation we find ourselves in.
However, showing up does not mean doing what the hell we feel like as and when we feel like it, no. More that it is about being prepared, daring to be, when it is required or when we strongly feel, that I can, that I would – reveal myself to the world. Both the dark and light and that the world wont devour me in the process. That I consciously choose to show myself.
Show real courage: trust!
Unfortunately, the response cannot necessarily be guaranteed and that is very much the point. To go there and show ourselves, not knowing whether we would be consumed. Yet trusting that it will be ok, I am enough and that I will survive. That’s why we need courage.
There is no perfection, no right way, just being with the feelings and learning from experience.For it is trust that allows us to be with the truth. The truth, is incredibly freeing. So, to be with trust…… to experience what is happening and not trying to formulate a plan or an escape route. Because alternatively, instead of trusting we are in doubt or worse, with fear.
One of the biggest gifts of us showing up, is that it gives permission to those around us to show up too. It is then, where I see and hear that I am connected to others. Just as they are to me and that we share this beautiful commonality of feeling. It is then, when I can actually be the true spirit of me. All this is possible because I am prepared to be exposed, naked, vulnerable and therefore be seen and heard and because I am being courageous.
When I recently expressed my feelings about getting older and my own mobility due to a recent injury, it opened up a relationship between me and the others I showed up to. As well as it providing me an opportunity to show up to myself. The pain had me riddled with doubt. It had a paralysing effect on me mentally as I struggled with the reality of my increasing physical restrictions. What I heard from others who had equally experienced feelings of restriction, was an equality in our ‘bumbling along’ in life. That there is no perfection, no right way, no expectations of what I believe is necessary. Just being with the feelings as and when they come and importantly learning from the experience. I spent time alone, with their stories and reflecting on mine. I found some grace, which was beautiful, serene and very calming. I heard in both my words and theirs how it simply is and could be for others who are in far worse situations than I.
Yes, there is a grace and peace that can be found in showing up, among other states of being. In there is little attrition, just flow. A stunningly humble state and within which we can steadily reside. Showing up requires of us to be present and to possess a very small dollop of courage. Yet the effects are vast, tender and ultimately it allows my spirit it’s need to be honest, wild, at home and free.