I have long believed in the idea that body is dense mind. Sometimes it is our default to get all caught up in our heads and operate in the world, leading with our cognitive powers. We think and plan and explain without paying much attention to that other part of us–until, we feel an upset stomach or a blinding headache, or an empty feeling in the pit of our stomach. These voices can tell us more clearly at times than words what we are really feeling and give us good guidance.
Today a dear friend is having a risky surgery. We talked yesterday by phone across the distance and went through all of the advantages of taking a chance for a better quality of life. It all made sense. We did not talk about the fear or the anxiety of it all. My mind was not ready to conjure the possibility of loss. Our words were only of hope.
This morning, the day of the surgery, I woke early, and bypassing my usual morning routine, walked out onto the roof garden and began to work. I tackled a forbidding and large, thorny bougainvillea bush that had not survived the winter cold and with a shears, began to pull out the long and tangled stems, one by one. The old thorns were fierce, and somehow the deeper I got into the shrub, the more peaceful I felt. I did not get one scratch, when usually I can’t escape dealing with this bush without at least a few wounds.
It occurred to me that my expression of fear was working itself out much better than words could ever do. Facing thorns and facing fears require all of us to risk pain if we are to come out clean. Courage is not about being fearless. It is about being all in, and trusting that our dense mind can help us when our thoughts come up short.