When I was 23, I started going to a therapist. I told no one before or after I went.
As I picked my hangnails, I’d sit across from this tall, self-assured man and struggle to articulate the dis-ease I felt inside. I wanted to fix this anxious feeling; the feeling that something was wrong with me. If he’d just tell me what to do, I’d follow his guidance, and I was sure the feeling would miraculously disappear, and everything would be ok.
So one day, while he was leaning back in his brown leather, swivel chair, with his long legs elegantly crossed, he casually told me what I needed to do:
“Marcela, you just need to be. Just be.”
That was it. Nothing more was forthcoming.
It was like someone had told me the holy grail was right there in front of me, and all I had to do was see it, but I couldn’t.
Ooof! I walked out of his office, just as lost and alone as I’d walked in, only now, I knew I was failing, because I had no idea how to attain this “just be” state, he so effortlessly offered, again and again.
Today there are almost as many ways of saying “just be”, as there are of trying to reach this elusive nirvana … just be present, centered, aligned, sit with your feelings, go with the flow, be in the here and now, don’t sweat the small stuff, be mindful, that’s just ego talking…
I can’t stand clichés. I mean, they sound good in the moment, but when it comes time to living them, it gets tricky and slips out of our grasp.
More than 3 decades later, I still couldn’t tell you how to “just be.” But I’ve delved into old shame, grief and rage, healed old wounds of hurt, and learned to trust the power and intelligence of my body, and here’s what I can share with you:
- Reconnecting to your body is fundamental – Your body holds all of who you are, so even if it’s just a few deep breaths, when life feels intense; walking in a fast, determined way, when you’re pissed off; or placing a hand on your chest, when you need to feel yourself and regain the ground underneath you, you’ll shift the story through your body. Start with simple things to develop a deep body connection. You’ll gain trust in your ability to heal and grow.
- Touching Earth – Every day, find a way to touch nature. Put your feet in the dirt, sit back against a tree, place your cheek on the grass, dip your feet into the ocean, pull weeds. And if this isn’t possible, take a moment, look out at nature, as you would a lover, and remember that nature is looking back at you. (Remember this when you go for a walk around your neighborhood or a swim in the ocean. It’s a complete turn on.) We can forget Earth is holding us, but she is, all the time.
- Moving your lower body – swivel your hips, shake your ass, kick your legs out. Put your hand on your low belly, caress your low back, say hello to your sex (I’ll leave the how up to you!). Here’s a soundtrack I’m currently in love with to get you moving. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/333xuRZr7WYZUlsXes8v5p?si=rIMLs2hyQwSJK9lPhAdbDg
- Respecting yourself – I know this is big, and I don’t say this lightly, but you’re in a relationship with yourself above all. Self-care doesn’t only mean going on retreat or booking a facial. You can cultivate it through the small choices and actions you take every day with food, rest, moments of pleasure, friendship, movement, how you spend your time. Are you nourishing yourself? Are there small acts you can take to support yourself more?
I’m not sure I’ll ever be satisfied with the answer, “just be,” but I do know the feeling of deep contentedness.
It often comes after intense personal work, teaching a workshop, writing, spending time with those I love, moving with others or when I’m diving in the ocean. I’m sure you have these things, too. Make a list. Carry it with you. It’s like a love letter of promises. Learning to shift things around in your life so you can keep more of these promises is the dance we’re dancing all the time.
And, if I were leaning back in a tall, swivel chair, legs crossed, doling out advice, I’d tell you to dance more. Just dance.