The other day I had a call to make, one I dreaded. The person is perfectly kind on the surface but I knew, from past interactions, that afterward I would feel as if I’d donated blood. More than a pint. Much more. I debated not calling. How to get out of it? Or how to get something out of it?
The aftertaste is what stays with me longest. An action’s surface fills my mind while my body quietly takes it all in, buffeting or storing or absorbing the day, the room, the temperature, the vibe. My body chews and swallows. After, in the aftermath, I have afterthoughts and an aftertaste. Am I drained or energized? Has that action been lively or has it been yet another well-tailored penitential hair shirt from a closet full of hair shirts I’ve shimmied into year after year? I only know the poison of penance from its aftertaste.
My training in embodied mysticism cultivates a respectful, appreciative relationship to my body. Through my body I enter the mystic Center, the heart of deep inner peace and union, a door guilt and sin have never opened. Because of my Path, old punitive scripts now crash against interior self-kindness and no longer function smoothly. The ruts are disrupted, and I have to stop and decide whether or not I want to slog into that bramble patch over there. There is a moment to remember how I will feel afterward, all scratched up and bleeding.
I want to feel more interested in existence, my soul in tact, humming. More activated. More curious. Not depressed. Not discontented. If this is what I want, I seem to know well how to get it. Let’s get this phone call, this penance, this bad poison, over with and not do it anymore.
How did I get embroiled in a situation I have to get out of, interacting with people that leave a bad aftertaste? Because there is a soupçon of allure in the repugnance. Yes, the interaction with this person is coated with rancid but familiar goodness. Not real goodness, just being good. Not a good deed. Just a ‘good girl’. Every ‘good girl’ place in me has a bad aftertaste. Being a ‘good girl’ is, without question, a story of suffering, and suffering, I was taught early on, is good. It means I am confessing my sinfulness. (This antique parlance swims up.) I am a sinner, yes? Now, turn to God—the male one—for salvation. Voila! A ‘good girl’. With this script, I can be gotten to to do anything except enjoy my life. As a sane adult, I distrust coercive messages, but it takes more than a smattering of renunciation to resist this yummy poison.
I sat in church on Sunday mornings, a choir member, all dressed in a long cotton robe, the organ booming behind me, the polished communion rail with it gleaming brass knobs, and the silver goblet’s sharp lip, my friends tossing stealthy, comradely glances, opening my mouth to let my lungs carry music into the slate-cooled air…These were lovely things, things which my body loved, and into these lovely things not-so-lovely meanings burrowed. “We do not presume to come to this thy table, oh most merciful Father, trusting in our own righteousness, but in the manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy to gather the crumbs under thy table…” You think it is just religious theatre, but thorns got under my skin. Ever since, I’ve had a tangle.
Body has been waiting for a moment to call a conference. It’s so hard to get Mind to attend these meetings, but here we are. All in attendance. We have to go over this, she says. We have a phone call to make, so let’s review the years of unworthy-suffer-male-god-forgives-now-good-girl script. Woof! Being a good girl, a good dog, a suffering girl dog, lapping up the penitential poison. Sucks, yes? Yes. We are agreed.
After a whirling session, I once remarked that whirling is always a turning away and a turning toward. We turn. We turn away. We turn toward. In every turn. Whirling constantly incants to our bodies that our world is choice. I can, as adult, turn away from the habit of suffering. I choose now. I sit in my chair and breathe into the space, breathe myself back into my body, into gravity. Kindness to the self. I breathe. I feel my cells fill with the Moment. This chair, this gravity. These legs, these fingers, these eyes. The sound of snow falling.
This is not a contemplation about good and evil, or proper outcomes. It is about the process involved with making a decision—an embodied decision—and finding a right action. I look into the face of each action and know it will have an aftertaste. An action is not known fully until its aftertaste is tasted. That is part of it. Aftertaste helps me understand that an action is always more than its surface. It also warns me that I can never assume that my behavior will be sourced wholly from my chosen Path and free of habituated scripts. A discriminating, and ultimately successful, life requires knowing the inner forces that blindly drive us as well as our overtly desired goal.
Mind is not an enemy nor even to blame for mistaking its value in the over shape of human reality. That is Mind’s nature—a bit tunnel visioned, ego-centric. And why not? It is ego. A day like today, however, where Mind harmonizes with Body, is a triumph. Those are the conditions for entering the Moment, and I trust the wisdom I encounter in the Moment, the mystic Center. I find clarity in that place, and information about how to truthfully feel and act for the larger good of myself and others. From there I know well how to make the call.
How does your body help you make a decision?