learning softness.

allow your stomach to soften.

I’ve been doing some meditation lately. It’s been crazy in my life, days rushing by without time to even open my agenda to keep track of what’s next. Long rehearsals and performance weekends, so many hours spent in the dressing room that it feels like I’ve never left. The scramble of final projects and final papers and final classes and final days of college. Graduation, not so much on the horizon as a few blocks away. Not nearly enough hours of sleep. Let’s just call it busy.

so, I meditate.

and I don’t really know anything about meditation, but I know that I need to do something to find a little calm or else I will absolutely lose my mind. like any good Millennial, I turned to the internet for information. There’s a website that does simple guided meditations. You select your preferred nature sound effects, the length of your meditation, and get ready for some mind-body centering in front of your laptop.

the soothing voice tells me to close my eyes, to assume a comfortable but correct posture, to let my palms rest on my thighs. To feel my back pressing against the wall. To release the tension in my shoulders. To become aware of my breathing. and then,

allow your stomach to soften.

I’ve heard it many times by now, but it still catches me by surprise. I obediently allow my stomach to soften, and then have to stifle the urge to suck it back in.

no one taught my body how to be soft.

this world, it demands hardness from my body. chiseled calves and sculpted arms and rock-hard abs. stone, this world requests. let my body be made of stone.

my body, it is flesh. but still I try, try for chiseled and sculpted and rock-hard and am surprised when I am told allow your stomach to soften and then suddenly, my body takes up more space than it used to.

and there I sit, feeling my back against the wall and my hands on my thighs and the rise and fall of my chest, trying to hold awareness of my body in my mind, and acutely aware of the extra inches of my stomach.

allow your stomach to soften.

the soothing voice tells me to be aware of my body, alive and present in this moment.

and so I am alive and present, accepting the extra inches and learning softness from my body.

alive and present and soft.

teach me how to root myself.

I want to be a tree

(solid

rooted

grounded

steady)

I want to sink my feet

down deep

in the earth

and stand

unmoving.

but I

am a bird

buffeted by the wind

fluttering after

shiny things

never

staying

still.

I want to be a tree.

I want my shade

to be a refuge

be a place of peace

I want my presence to

be an exhale

for you

but how can I

help you

breathe out

when I can

barely remember

to breathe in?

somewhere

somehow

my soul forgot

that the rise and fall and rest

is not just for lungs.

I want to be a tree

standing witness to

the rhythm of

days blending

seasons slowly shifting.

but I

am a squirrel

hastily burying nuts

trusting not in tomorrow

and then

forgetting

where I left them

facing the future with fear

frantic

I want

to be

a tree.

teach me

how to root myself.

but if I

for now

am a bird

I will find a branch

and cling tight

hoping that the heartbeat

(solid

steady)

of the bough

will bleed into my bones

and still

the racing

in my chest.