Fertile Edges & the Process of Adaptation in a New Land
Updated: Feb 21
Three weeks have passed since arriving in India and I have to say it has not been a smooth or comfortable transition. Not that I ever expected it to be, but the reality of experience in the here and now is always different to the imagined, so here I am in the actual. I want to share with you what it has been like so far to adapt to a culture and environment, so very different to my own, and I want to stress that the adaptation and challenge is always on the level of the human creature, the conditioned, habitual animal of the body that likes its' comforts and gets used to the predictability and routine of a familiar environment. There is a still and ever present awareness that the body is contained within that is the same here, there and wherever I go, and this is the place from which I am sharing.
Change really does becomes easier to accept when we can see the body-mind's story for what it truly is and understand the futility of giving it more attention than necessary. I understand now that the whole purpose of this life (at least here) is to live rooted in the unknown present in direct contact with this fertile edge where creativity lives and potential emerges.
It excludes nothing.
Is the place where intuition and awareness meet.
Out of which the poetry of life emerges.
The more rooted I am right here where I am, the natural curiosity and fascination that we often associate with a small child, arises from this vast field of potentiality beyond the conditioned mind. It is from this place I witness the process of adaptation take place and all the ways my human creature is challenged in the process. As I said, it has not been an easy transition, but when we understand that the experience of non-ease is just part of the journey of learning ease, like a continuum; then childlike curiosity and mature acceptance begin to emerge.
What I notice time and again when massive change takes place, is that often there is an experience of inner chaos, because the patterns, habits and tendencies that create the needs of the body-mind are no longer met. When this happens, it is like living with a family of three year olds. There is an inevitable deep dive into the discomfort and reactivity; the sensations of which are felt in present time in our bodies. Our animal (human body) is a creature of habit, just like any other animal it has preferences and expects certain conditions to be met, and just as a polar bear would need to learn how to adapt in the tropics, the same is true here. Meeting this inner chaos with the kind of tenderness a mother has towards her children is like saying a big YES to what is, as it is! So, rather than moving away or trying to control (which is what resistance is), feeling a YES in the body, even if the yes is a subtle openness underneath the many NOs, the chaos begins to find some coherence and this is the beginning of adaptation.
I remember many many years ago when I arrived in Germany for the first time. I was in my early twenties and was beginning a new life there with my husband to be. He had to work all day and I found myself alone and isolated in a small town on the border of Switzerland. No-one spoke English. I didn't have the language or the voice to express my needs so I repressed most of what I was feeling. I didn't know that it was normal to feel the way I did, and I had the belief that there was something wrong with 'me' because I was struggling. Now I know exactly what to say to my twenty-three-year-old self, and how I would support her to adapt to her new and strange place.
Meeting our experience as it is without pushing it away is essential. In the process of being with what is arising, orienting to the ground, the breath and place, allows for the navigation system (the heart and nervous system) to synchronize with the new environment. Just like an acupuncture needle placed in one spot can affect change in distal parts of a body, when we arrive somewhere new, it is like we are that needle, changing the entire energetic field.
When I first arrived, I found myself walking in the local park in the early morning. I noticed how my body wanted to feel the earth with bare feet and hands, and as I experienced the smell and feel of earth, its' texture and color, I noticed a landing as the breath, ground, sensation (smell, feel, sound, and sight) and environment became one lived and felt experience in my body. I took some time to stand, feel, breath and notice. I could feel a gentle and subtle calibration take place. It was like my system was receiving a kind of update; no thinking required. Even as I recall this memory, my body resonates with the same coherence and I can directly feel the nourishment of that experience. The language of the body is sensing, the more one can open to the colors, shapes, smells and sounds, the easier it is for the body to familiarize itself with its' new place.
There have been times during the night here where my body is writhing with discomfort, the breath is shallow and intense emotions are present. I have to say, this has become a common experience as I live more and more rooted in not knowing. The body carries many unconscious memories, traumas, and pain that there is no telling when they will be touched. I am grateful to now understand, that in the process of release and integration, I don't have to understand why or what. Instead, I let the process have me. I have found myself pacing like a lioness in a cage. Tears often come, sobbing tears at times and a need to fall apart, be messy, out of control and possibly even a little pathetic to the onlooker. It gets to be included, all of it! The key to saying YES to it though, is to notice breath, feel ground and let the attention rest there instead of the thinking mind. Because we are so habituated NOT to meet and allow the intensity of emotion (energy in motion) we believe we can think our way out; but we can't. The value of finding an energetic YES, of not turning away from what is moving, allows that which is being 'composted' to fall to the ground and meet its' end.
Finding a yes can be as simple as lying prone on the ground and allowing tears to fall, whilst noticing how the breath continues to move in and out. It can also be the simple act of looking around to notice where you are in space and time, again whilst noticing the breath. Miraculously, these simple acts help to regulate our systems and provide a sense of safety which is crucial for the human creature to thrive.
What I have learned over the years, is what the body-mind needs in order to feel safe and thrive. Really this has been the study of my life. At the very foundational level, the body needs stability. Just like a new born needs to feel the stability of its' mother's body, so too does our creature need stability, from the ground, another body, a tree ~ and when it finds it, then the breath can arrive and we are in some poetic way, woven into the mystery and magic of place.
The body likes predictability, routine and rhythm. Knowing this has really helped and I have found ways to create a sense of that in my new place. For example, I know that my instrument (body-mind) is much happier when I commit to a daily morning practice. Over the years and well before coming here, I have had a morning ritual of waking up my body which includes opening the channels of expression, strengthening and lengthening the muscles, aligning the bones, inviting the breath and more recently using my voice to clear and harmonize its' energy systems. It really doesn't matter what one does, it is the commitment itself that seems to provide the necessary structure and routine that the creature can lean on. The image of a river comes to mind, the structure of its' banks provides a stability without which its' water would leak out over the earth, evaporate and eventually dry up.
Presently as I write, I notice an inner peace, I feel the stability of the earth, my body's breath is ease-ful and present. I hear the birds, the sounds of other humans as they wake up and move into a new day. I see the clouds resting on the foothills of the Western Ghats and I see the green foliage of the plants and the trees. I can smell the sulfur of the bore water, and the scent of curry leaf and onion wafting from the kitchen. As I feel the moist cool air on my skin, I take a deep breath and know that right here, all is well.