Life Living Through Us: A Practice

There’s been a lot of attention in the past week or so to the phrase: letting life live through you. My dear friend Doug started this by naming his blog with this phrase, then citing the poem from which it originated. It’s a poem by Roger Keyes called “Hokusai Says,” which was introduced to many of us by Richard Strozzi-Heckler in our Strozzi Institute training. My favorite lines: “He says it doesn’t matter if you draw, or write books./… It matters that you care./It matters that you feel./It matters that you notice./It matters that life lives through you.”

Then just yesterday a colleague sent along a meditation with Tara Brach, and what is it named? Of course: “Letting Life Live Through You.” I just listened in and let myself be guided through this meditation, to see what Tara Brach’s idea of life living through felt like. In a meditation practice we can be encouraged to let life live through us, to surrender to the breath and to widen to the life. In doing so, we are naturally more alive to what is in us, to what surrounds us.

I think that this is, of course, brilliant advice, this letting life live through you. Yes, there is life living through us, even with a cancer diagnosis—maybe especially (ask Doug; ask Walker; ask countless of our loved ones). There is life always wanting to live through us, ready to live through us, dying to live through us. Is it that we just don’t know how to let it?

Yesterday I had some photography fun with my dear friend, Julie Claire. It was her birthday present to me—to take some current photographs of me to use as I wished. I wanted most of all to attempt to get a good serious shot. (I generally look ridiculous when I try to be serious—i.e., not letting life live through in the least.) We did pretty well. We had the backdrop of the El Rito hills, and of course the stream, the source itself—El Rito. How could we not find ways to let life live through in such an environment?

We felt the landscape. We felt each other. We laughed, talked, corresponded, moved. She snapped and snapped. I knew I also wanted a video of the kata I put together made up of several different “moves” from aikido bokken (wooden sword) work. So, of course Julie was up to that task, too. That’s where life took us; that’s where we went. After a fashion we found the right spot, momentum, flowtoo, one that allowed me free movement forward and back in the grass. And one that had a decent backdrop: the hills.

Life living through requires attention and practice, it seems. A kind of wide listening, a being-with. Having some intention and bringing our good presences to it. That is pretty much how the bokken kata came into being. I wanted a practice that required center and ground of me, that let me move strongly forward, but that also settled me into a wider sense of aliveness. The bokken or sword certainly does what it’s made to do: cut-through. And by engaging with it we can feel ourselves in a newfound clarity. The bokken literally creates the path.

It’s important to conjure practices that resonate with what it is you want to create in your life. With what matters most deeply to you. With your growth edge and with what you know you want to develop in order to meet your best self (and recognize her!). For some time (as in, many years) I have wanted my work in the world to match my inner desires, my strengths, my spirit, my capacity. There have been times when it has, but for many years I held a job that I didn’t feel was that kind of match. And as I have been able at last to let that job go, now I am faced with how to step into that same desire, that same match, but surrounded by spaciousness rather than a kind of constriction. Big order, I am finding.

So, in comes the bokken kata! As an aikido practitioner, I always loved the bokken in particular. What better practice than to put together a series of moves I’d learned in aikido, but in a new order, a new way. My intention for the practice is to build energy in my own body, my whole system, the kind of energy that can meet the desire I have to be in the world with all of myself. The moves I chose for the kata are a mix of overhead strikes (which open the heart/chest and provide a strong sense of cutting downward and through); a modified move I once learned in polarity training, which there was called the Ha! breath, which I modified as a feet-parallel stance with several strikes down on a loud out-breath (generating ki, moving out frustration and difficulty); one of my favorite strikes, which allows you to gather your in-breath for quite some time before moving into the strike on a strong out-breath (increasing one’s capacity to hold inspiration, then to powerfully bring it forth); and a move that consists of a strike followed right away by a thrust as you move in a forward direction (creating great momentum).

Before I step into the kata, I stand facing the open horizon, speak aloud my commitment or declaration, then move right into the kata. I might practice the kata several times in a morning or even throughout the day, depending on what I notice as I move through it. Maybe my moves are stilted or wobbly; maybe I say my commitment, but without the spirit of the words shining through. I practice the kata until my inner spirit is matched by my body moving through the landscape.

What always gets generated in this practice is clarity and an enormous surge of energy throughout my entire body. I can begin to believe that I can move in the world in this way. And I keep practicing my way into this belief. This is how somatic practice changes us—one day after another we are made new. We learn how to let life live through us.

7 comments to Life Living Through Us: A Practice

  • The blog reads beautifully, I hear your voice in my head as I read it.
    And, I love the video – all of it, words, motion, emotion…the aliveness.
    It is a powerful representation of the power in you and your commitment to practicing your commitment.
    Well done, friend.

  • Janet Gregorio

    How many times can I say how proud of you I am?
    Loved your voice, words, movement and most of all you!

  • Phyllis

    Thoughtful and thought-provoking blog entry, Renee, and well said.

    Love your Aikido kata. You look strong, confident, and decisive. You go!

  • Eloquent weaving of multiple threads: commitment, intention, somatic practice, change. Clearly presented and demonstrated, and powerfully offered. Beautifully done…
    Inspired to revisit my commitment and somatic practice and see if they scare me a little and are consistent with what I want to bring forth in the world.
    Thank you, Renee!!

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