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Quieter than Water

Little SimonWhat is a happy and healthy childhood? Did you have one? Did I? Did anyone?

Sure I remember moments of fun, adventures, being carefree, curious, open, playful, and given full permission to engage with the world on my own terms. Unfortunately, there weren’t many of them, whether in actual reality, or in my current memory. There are a lot more moments that I remember where I was restricted, stifled, held back, educated to follow rules, taught to avoid risks, follow authority or be punished, and generally growing up according to the Russian proverb of being “quieter than water, lower than grass.” It sounds even stricter than the “children should be seen and not heard” one, and it likely was.

Whether it was intentional or not, I don’t know. Memories can be interpreted in different ways, and choosing one meaning over another is not going to make a lot of difference to the way things were. After all, my parents had their own life baggage they carried with them, never thinking of looking into it, inquiring, or healing any of their past. They merely passed their ancestral gift to the next generation. Me. Probably like everyone else in their times, they were too busy trying to survive and make a living. Knowing what I know about their upbringing, I can understand some of their childhood traumas and wounds, how these played out in their lives and coloured their worldview. And, subsequently, mine too.

“Only the one who descends into the underworld, rescues the beloved.” – Soren Kierkegaard

Regardless of all that preamble, there is me and my experience. The suppressed innocence of a pure little being. The fear of authority. The lack of any emotional support, or any emotional language for that matter. The closed heart. The lack of trust in people.

Now, with this foundation, welcome to life.

We explore some of these themes and patterns of our lives with the participants of the Right Livelihood Quest. After all, how can one embrace the inquiry of “What has your life been preparing you for?”, without diving into their past, looking both into the moments of their shining light and the moments of deep darkness? The childhood wounds deeply impact our ways of showing up in the world, whether holding us back, or forcing us to prove to the rest of the world that we are not what the quiet voices of these wounds are whispering to us on a regular basis.

“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus

The healing that occurs is profound, when we face these quiet voices and explore the history and the meaning behind their messages. Like an old friend who has been with us for a very long time, these voices protect the little child from fully and openly experiencing the world again; they just don’t know that the child has grown and is now an adult. When we befriend the voices and open ourselves up to the memory and the experience of that childhood wound, fully and completely, feeling everything we might have been suppressing all these years, transformation occurs on a tangible and visceral level. We become free.

It was interesting, timely, and synchronistic that I entered this last Right Livelihood Quest shortly after coming back from visiting my parents; I call these my “yearly pilgrimages.” While they used to visit me here, they are aging and so the travels are now up to me. It is still challenging to be there, because of the duality of keeping my heart open while at the same time, protecting these childhood wounds of mine around those who inflicted them to begin with. Despite the years of my own healing journey, there is nothing like being with my parents for a week or so to trigger these past memories, voices, and wounds. Something was different this time though. Perhaps I am getting better at balancing this fine duality point. Perhaps it is the support of my beloved who was with me. It could also be that I am shifting into a whole new level of accepting them, and myself as a result.

“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” – Albert Camus

Ultimately, this is a journey of healing, of excavation, of reclaiming the innocent child. It is a journey for the brave, courageous participants of the Right Livelihood Quests – past, present, and future. It is a passageway, a doorway into true adulthood. It is but a chapter in our own love story. You get to write the rest.

Published in reflection