Some Soft Animal Kindness
For 7 weeks over the summer my husband and my 3 kids left our home in Scotland to visit his parents in Melbourne Australia. Geographically, our separation could not have been any greater.
Before they left I was full of plans – great grand ideas for how I would spend 7 whole weeks to myself. I moved in with my husband when I was 18, having never lived on my own before, so this would be my first experience of living alone in my entire 32 years. I was excited and terrified in equal measures.
But I made my plans regardless. I was going to do my yoga every morning and I was going to commit to a meditation practice. I was going to eat vegetarian food, go on silent retreat, take digital sabbaticals and go to bed at 8.30. I was, in short, going to become a skinny, meditating, yoga ninja who lived off green juice, incense smoke and silence.
And then they left. I waved goodbye to them at Glasgow airport’s departure lounge, staggered to the women’s toilets, locked myself in a cubicle and sobbed for around 20 minutes.
When I finally felt as though I had things under control, I called Julie.
Now Julie and I met through Twitter in 2008, a time when Twitter was a considerably quieter place and I could probably have named all the Scottish people tweeting on a regular basis. You know, a lot of people who deride social media claim that you can’t really know a person you meet online – that they somehow can’t be ‘real’ friends. I would say that Julie is not only a real friend, but a soul sister, a kindred spirit, and one of my heart’s best treasures.
So I called Julie. She was in the car with her lovely family, and her husband was driving through truly torrential rain to come and collect me from the airport terminal. They arrived shortly after and they scooped me up and whisked me away back to their home, where Julie then swaddled me in a blanket, fed me tea and chocolate and then persuaded me to stay overnight rather than travel back to an empty flat in the unrelenting rain.
Now, it’s not just the fact that Julie and her family rescued me from the airport, (although I appreciate that act of kindness more than my words can ever possibly say) but that throughout the summer, Julie ever so gently made me realise the many ways in which I was being hard on myself. If there was a way to endure an experience, I would find it. If there was a way to put everyone else’s needs before my own, I would take it. I had been in survival mode for such a long time that I no longer knew of any other way to be.
Over the next 7 weeks I spent a lot of time at Julie’s house. She introduced me to yoga nidra, reiki, indian head massage, right brain business planning and breakfast mocha milkshakes. But most of all, she introduced me to my soft animal. You’re familiar with that beautiful poem Wild Geese by Mary Oliver, right? The start of it begins like this…
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Julie’s greatest kindness was that she put me back in touch with the soft animal of my body so that I could move away from that place of self-inflicted hardship, of abstinence, of neglect. She showed me that life didn’t have to be that way – that it could be easy and soft and gentle and beautiful.
I now find myself asking the question, what does my soft animal love today? What would feel delicious? What would feel good?
Now, I’m not suggesting for one moment that I’m an entirely reformed character. I still catch myself on a daily basis making life as difficult for myself as possible. But I do now stop myself in that moment and try to adjust my thinking. My relationship with my own soft animal is only at the very earliest of stages, but it’s a relationship which would never have blossomed without Julie’s tender ministrations.
If I could leave you with any message from this post, any nugget of wisdom, it would be that the best kindness we can give ourselves is just to let the soft animal of our body love what it loves. Trust me – this kindness changes everything.
|A true lover of stories, Amy Palko spends her days reading, writing and dreaming… well, that is when she’s not being kept busy with her three children whom she home-educates! She is the creatrix behind Bloom by Moon, an online learning community of women exploring goddess myths and moon cycles through story, journalling, visualisation and creative exercise.|