Photo / Cristian Newman
I once lived in a small apartment cradled between a bay and some tall, green trees. Taped to one of its walls was a poem by Mary Oliver. I caught sight of it each time I walked from my bedroom to the kitchen.
One line of the poem took residence in my body and refused to leave me alone. I turned it within me for years, like a key.
Life moved onward past that small apartment, but every time I went on an adventure, in moments of sadness or in moments of insight, I recalled the line from that poem on the wall and marveled:
“You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”
The concept rocked me.
To just let the true, soft, intuitive, vulnerable nature of my being love what it loved.
Through many rounds of trial and error, I have learned that a human and the world are like two magnets.
The more I trust what softens me toward joy, the more I become attuned to the interplay between my magnet and the magnet of the world. I find that what I am seeking, as the great Rumi says, is also seeking me.
Conversely, the more I resist what softens me toward joy and ignore the pull, the more often the magnets - out of sync with each other - alter and trip up the frequency of my life.
Following the call of what we love can be challenging. Joy-judgment runs rampant, as well as the perception that ease and fluidity equals laziness.
We are told, in subtle and non-subtle ways, that if we're not stressing out about shit all the time, then we are not working hard enough.
Life can indeed be stressful. For so many people living in poverty and various other kinds of hostile circumstances - it is a constant fight to survive.
When those of us who are not battling daily to simply stay alive, become less attached to the perceived clout of struggle, and more attuned with our magnet, we begin moving with the force of heart aligned power. To have heart aligned power behind our actions - that is what the world is crying for. The world is crying for both the softening and the rising. The collective consciousness needs creatures who are activated by joy and by love.
For the rest of the week, for today, for the moment, this is what I recommend:
Notice the small things that you are drawn to.
Close your eyes and ask yourself what you would do with an entire day assigned to simply following your magnet.
Notice what pulls you. What are you lit on fire about, and how can you create a life that revolves around the fire instead of a life that keeps the fire at your periphery?
I am discovering how to live, day by day, in a way that works with the magnet instead of against it. I have to constantly remind myself to take off my armor so the pull can be felt. I have to break the barriers I have forged to protect myself. I have to dissolve the pretense of self-sacrifice I’ve used to fit into a society that finds God in martyrdom.
I have to melt it all into breath.
I have to remember that the frequency of joy feeds a collective sound and that sound is space.
The world needs this kind of noise. The world needs this kind of space.
It's one turn of the key away. Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
“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.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
I am a Portland, Oregon based writer, filmmaker and choreographer. I believe stories dissolve the grip of isolation and return us to each other.