This week I’ve been reading 12 Years A Slave, Solomon Northup’s powerful memoir of his experience as a free man of being drugged, kidnapped and sold into slavery in the pre-Civil War South of the United States. I am again struck by the capacity we humans have for both extreme brutality, and – even in the face of such brutal enslavement – extraordinary resilience of spirit.
While we may not be facing the extremes of this continuum, we often find ourselves controlled by what’s happening in our lives. Enslavement can come in many forms. As I’ve been reading and reflecting on this, I’ve also been remembering my Nanny Lotta.
Both Lotta and Solomon Northrup’s lives point to a deeper truth –
doesn’t have to determine our freedom.
Lotta and me
Lotta was a central figure in my life. She lived with our family in Barbados until I was 7. Though she needed to leave then and care for her own mother, our relationship continued over the years. The last time I saw her was on a trip back to Barbados – then as an adult woman with 3 children of my own. By then she was livng in a nursing home, and when the nurse who took me to her asked if she knew who I was, she looked at me, turned back to the nurse and said “How I couldn’t know who this is? I raised this child yuh know!”
Though she was frail (she told me this was the last time we would see each other in this life “because Lotta is going home”) her sense of being the voice of authority was as clear as ever. As I was leaving I went to put the chair I’d been sitting on where I thought it had come from. She thought differently, and insisted it be put where she believed it belonged, saying to me “Miss Mally, you do what Lotta tells you to do!”
Throughout the many challenges she’d faced over her long life, and even there in her ‘diminished’ state near the end of her life, her spirit was strong. She knew who she was and nothing in her external world could shake that.
To this day she inspires me to experience and share with others a deep commitment to the freedom both she and Solomon Northup so powerfully lived –
freedom in choosing our responses to life.
Alternative ways of responding to life as it ‘happens’ in each moment
What we can be certain about in our lives is what is in this moment. As humans we can’t ever be sure what will happen in the next. The unexpected or unanticipated can occur at any time. That’s as true today as it’s ever been.
Rudolf Bahro once said “When the forms of an old culture are dying, the new culture is created by a few people who are not afraid to be insecure.”
The question for me is not so much whether we’re afraid, but what we choose in the next moment. How do we respond when we find ourselves in that space of insecurity? Do we (in our human response) either Drift away from what’s happening, or slide down toward the bottom of the cone into Drama with its limited freedom and possibility? And how might we create an environment that supports us in choosing an Attentional Response in the face of insecurity?
The invitation is to be deepening our practice of scanning the environment – noticing, accepting, and nurturing ourselves (and others) through accessing the resources that are ALWAYS there for us. Then en-couraged in this way be empowered to co-create the world we envision.
Solomon Northup and Lotta would certainly use different language than I do, but what we have in common – and I invite you to reflect on this in your own lives – is the recognition that in ways that sometimes seem inexplicable, even in those moments where life seems most grim, we often find access to the resources we need.
In each moment, Life is supporting us in being the fullest expression of who we came here to be, calling us to add our unique contribution to the co-creation of life as we best envision it.
Of course we all know that as humans we are born, formed, and live in community, and those communities aren’t always hospitable.
Painfully, sometimes our formation has been at the hands of those who – for any number of reasons – spend much of their lives dancing around the persecutor, rescuer, victim, triangle down at the bottom of the cone of the Cycle of Learning and Growing. As young children with tender, open hearts, and immature nervous systems, we’ve all to varying extents been present to experiences that have left us with our own areas of hyper-sensitive reaction and response.
The ‘bad news’ is it’s these reactions and responses that get in the way of our freedom to choose our responses to life. The ‘good news’ is that as adults we now have the opportunity to re-write the meaning we’ve been making about those old stories.
As we practice becoming more deeply related with, and creating a safe container for the parts of us that were overwhelmed and whose reactive energy is still held in our bodies, we can be both powerful witness and wise mentor into the deeper truth. We can affirm them in their deep knowing of what was missing, and commit to learning what it means for us to engage in life more powerfully and authentically than we could then.
This is NOT a journey we take in isolation. We, in this community, are part of the Sea of Love that surrounds and supports each of us. While we are surely impacted by our external experiences, grounded in those deep ‘yesses’ of what we know to be true, and supported by Life and our (now wisely chosen) community, we can moment-by-moment more fully and freely take our place in the co-creative dance of life.
If you’re recognizing the desire in you for greater freedom, and are curious about this practice, here are some alternatives. On the Programs page of this site, you can sign up to download my eBook and receive these eNews articles by email. And on that same page, you can also click on the link to register for the no-cost At Home with Maralyn & Friends community calls. I’d love for you to consider joining us!