Free to Spiral

Free to Spiral

‘Mum, can we draw a picture together?’
I cross the room and join Joseph on the floor. He is sitting before an A3 sheet of butcher paper. I settle down beside him and cross my legs.

‘O.K…’ Joseph begins as he looks at me, ‘Let’s draw!’ He is smiling. His smile widens as I wordlessly pick up a crayon. As my hand approaches the butcher paper, it hesitates. Suddenly I feel very tired. I have no idea what to draw. I rest the crayon upon the most inconspicuous part of the blank page: the very bottom corner. Slowly I begin to draw a small and wonky rectangle. Then I draw an identically small and wonky rectangle trailing behind it.

Joseph leans over my picture with great interest.’What are you drawing mum?’ He asks.
‘Uh…it’s a, um…steam train.’ As I draw a wonky line to connect the two wonky rectangles I am already planning my exit. I don’t want to be here. He points at the first wonky rectangle.
‘What’s that?’
‘Uh’, I falter again, ‘The…engine?’
‘Where’s the cab?’ He asks.
The cab?!!?!
‘Here’, I lie, drawing a small square in the front bottom corner of the first rectangle.
‘No’, Joseph matter-of-factly replies, ‘That’s not where the cab goes’. He then draws a box behind the engine. ‘The cab goes here’.

I am keen to recover some degree of credibility and to save face before this steam train aficionado. I point to the second wobbly rectangle and lie again. ‘Here’s the coal carriage’ I say in a confident voice. But a four year old is not interested in such matters as credibility and saving face.
‘That’s not how you draw a steam train,’ is all he says.

And then it is as if an invisible switch is flicked. ‘I need a picture of a steam train,’ I hear myself think aloud. My voice is higher now and I am talking faster. ‘Then I will be able to draw this properly’. I ask Joseph to please go and find me a picture of a steam train in one of his books. But Joseph doesn’t get up. He doesn’t even move. It’s enough to break the spell. Suddenly I become aware of a subtle feeling of heaviness, of world weariness. It’s the echoes of that old thought: I am not good enough. Nothing I do is good enough.

What follows next is almost comical. Joseph picks up a crayon and as he leans forward he announces, ‘THIS is how you draw a steam train!’ His small hand hovers momentarily above the centre of the paper and then swoops down and begins to move in rapid circles. His hand is moving so fast that his whole body is now in motion.

He stops as suddenly as he began, and leans back. My heart is still beating from the wild and frenzied energy I have just witnessed. Referring to the thick scribble of a spiral that is now in the middle of the page, Joseph smiles a huge and beautiful smile at me and says, ‘This is the engine’. I stare at that scribble, mouth open. He picks up another crayon and scribbles now a wide and thick spiral, followed by a connecting long and thin vertical spiral. ‘And this is the cab’.

It is as if I have just been let in on a great cosmic joke. Without any effort, and from those wild scribbles, I can see a cab and an engine. Bloody hell…I can see a steam train! I’m not so sure it is with my eyes that I am seeing. As I look at the sheet of paper, I can feel that little steam train – that magnificent little steam train.

Suddenly it feels as if there is more space in my heart, my chest and arms. I am a wild bird whose cage has just been unlocked. My huge wings, which had always been too small for this cage, are unfolding, spreading out now into a vast and welcoming sky. I cannot stop smiling. Earlier, I thought I had no idea what to draw, but the truth was that I knew all along; it’s just that I believed I didn’t know the right way to draw.

This has been my long, at times rocky, road with self-expression. It’s not that I don’t know what to say, or to draw, or to write, or to move, or to sing. That has never been my issue. What’s been so hard has been the effort required to hold back all that wants to be expressed through me. Holding it back with the power of beliefs I have been carrying about what can and can’t be expressed and how it can and can’t be expressed. Rules, rules, so many rules…so many rules that I effectively ‘ruled it out’: ruled MY SELF out of life.

The quality of our emotional lives is also impacted by these rules. In my case, the emotional struggles I’ve experienced over the years have not come from the emotions themselves – emotions like despair, anger, grief, fury, fear – but the rules I’ve imbibed about emotions.

‘Women are to be quiet, gentle and understanding’
‘Spiritual people are to be trusting, peaceful and grateful’
‘In order to be loving, you must not express anger’

Such rules do not support a healthy emotional life because they are afraid of the emotions that are a part of life. Such rules are like the wooden rulers we used at school: straight, with a clear beginning and an end, and no deviation. You cannot draw a squiggly spiral with a ruler, any more than you can feel alive when your life is unconsciously lived by rules that don’t allow feelings. I am continuing in life to make peace with both the straight lines and the squiggles.

A turning point came when I began doing things as I felt moved to from within myself, rather than doing things as I had learnt that I ‘should’. For example, when I was pregnant I moved away from the meditation style I had learnt from teachers (sit still and in silence) and for the first time began to really trust my desires and inspiration during my daily meditation practice. I felt like a radical at the time! It was worth it. As I stopped following what I believed to be the sacrosanct rules about how to meditate, and instead trusted my own intuition – sometimes making sounds, sometimes dancing or swaying, singing, drawing, writing, visualising, imagining – I experienced a depth of ease, flow, joy, beauty and connection that had eluded me in the past with meditation. It’s not that I completely abandoned the ‘sit still and in silence’ style: that practice was also enriched for me by the other, but the difference was that I was now being moved by what felt true for me rather than being moved – or constrained – by rules.

In a similar vein, I have had so many rules regulating my desire to write and to share my writings. I could only write a book if it was a literary masterpiece! I could only write a spiritual memoir if I was spiritually awakened enough! That Sarah’s Circles even exists is a testament to the fact that it is becoming more important to me to express and share what’s inside me than to live in fear of being judged for my creations not being spiritually or technically ‘good enough’. So many judgements – of ourselves and of each other – are underpinned by a set of rules that shut us out of our own lives…that shut Love itself out.

I turn to Joseph and laugh with delight, ‘So this is how you draw a steam train?!…I can draw like THIS!’ Now I am unstoppable. Now I want to draw. I begin by drawing a series of tight spirals across the top of the paper, then roughly scribble thick bands extending out from either side of each of them.
‘What are they mum?’ Joseph asks.
‘Birds’. I reply without pausing. There is no hesitation now as I draw. All that matters now is this feeling sensation of no longer holding back what’s inside me. As I draw the birds, as my hand moves with knowing abandon – scribbles spiralling and growing on the page – I can feel the birds coming to life. We are free.

Now I am drawing long, fat and wide spirals in brown across the lower part of the paper. These are old trees. They will need deep roots. I knowingly move my hand in long strokes down and out, creating messy and strong markings that extend out from the base of each trunk, emanating out in every direction down into the earth. I am enjoying the sensation of drawing, of feeling this mighty river flowing through me. Without pause, I then pick up various shades of green and draw clusters of spirals on the tree trunk tops.

Before when I was drawing the steam train, I relegated myself to the bottom corner of the page. Now I am drawing anywhere I feel drawn to move on the page. I am no longer afraid to take up space, either literally or figuratively. Joseph is by my side. We are both drawing. The paper is big enough for us both.

Are you familiar with the expression, “Spiralling out of control”? What an interesting choice of words to describe a situation that is getting worse. I think it originally referred to a plane with a failed engine that is spiralling down from the sky, its fate worsening by the second. In my own life, the expression could well be used to describe a situation that is improving rather than worsening. It’s in the loss of control – the gradual willingness over time to let go of the judgements and self-righteousness embedded in my beliefs, perceptions, choices and behaviours – that I am recovering the very thing our controlling patterns are ultimately yearning for: Love.

That day as I drew with Joseph, he revealed to me with such playfulness and innocence another aspect of how I limit the freedom of my Heart, my Soul. In showing me a way to draw – to express – that didn’t play by the rules, my inner world opened up even more that day; quite literally, it opened up onto the A3 piece of butcher paper.

Dear Reader, I have a hunch that there is another way to live in the world. You’ve probably guessed by now that it is not to live by a set of rules created and handed down by others in fear. It is to live like this:

To persevere with the heartfelt desire to know ourselves. To spiral down into that warm and silent darkness within. To continue letting go of the world ‘outside’ and dare to dive ever more deeply into the world and the worlds within ourselves. To continue exploring these magnificent worlds within us, returning to the surface often with their shimmering treasures, that they may be expressed and shared with others. To keep finding the courage to live from that place within us, spurred on by the sheer enjoyment and delight of experiencing its treasures. To keep dancing, to keep singing, to keep creating, especially – especially – as everything is spiralling out of control.

As I sit here now, an image-feeling comes to me. I am dancing, spinning, with arms outstretched. I feel as if I am embracing the whole world with these arms. My face is an open smile, tilted up towards the sun. My chest is wide open and I can feel it being penetrated by the light of the sun. The sun’s power is warming me to the very core. I am like a whirling dervish, whirling in circles of circles of circles. I cannot stop smiling. I feel no fear. I am spiralling…I am spiralling…I am spiralling…I am dancing a forever dance.

It is my joy to share Sarah’s Circles – and your support is appreciated.

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