Apropos, I suppose, I woke up this morning with James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” running through my head. The song appeared on his first album Back to Bedlam (named after a famous psychiatric hospital in England). Of course “bedlam” is descriptive of my anguished frustration and confusion as to “how can this keep happening” — these senseless murders of young children. With the tune playing through my mind as I came out of sleep, I was also well aware of the counterpoise necessary to rebalance myself after giving permission for that one voice to blow off some steam and heed the call to get loud.
I reflect that thirty-plus years ago, when I was 40, I started training in kung fu. At first it was simply a disciplined way to get exercise, but as I moved into the art, it became one of my deepest psychological journeys.
Early in my training, I was tasked with learning a series of moves: a straight punch to the face, an elbow to the chin, and knee to the groin (all with full control because that, in essence, was what we were training to have: control). I performed the move — quite well, I thought — with hardness. “Look at my warrior strength!!” my ego beamed.
My sifu stopped me and said, “Good, but now I want you to do it slowly and softly.” I looked at him, and I said, “Well, I can’t do that. That’s not who I am,” so ingrained in this persona that who “I was” was hard and strong and direct. But he was not going to argue with me; he gave me the choice to do it slowly and softly or to get on the ground and do 50 full-body pushups with my partner kicking me in the stomach on each plank. I kid you not, but without hesitation I dropped to the ground to do that instead of having to be soft.
My sifu, not expecting that to be my choice, stopped me. In essence, the choice changed to “do it soft and slow or end your training.” Because I felt “it” happening, I wanted to argue that I could not do “soft,” and I told to him, “I will cry if I have to do that.” He said, “That’s okay.” I replied, “No, it’s never okay to cry, especially in kung fu.” He chuckled and said, “It’s always okay to cry.”
A higher, wiser Self stepped up beside me (I now recognize it as the Spirt side of Mind/Body/Spirit) and “held” me while I went through that controlled move. And I cried. “Again,” my sifu said. Again, I did it softly and slowly, and I cried more deeply. “Again,” he said. And I sobbed as I touched feeling so scared and vulnerable in allowing myself to be soft. Through the following seven years of training in kung fu, my challenge was to learn to “yield,” to honor my yin energy, to find the balance between the yin and the yang. I achieved Brown Belt rank before arthritic issues at age 47 (probably the physical manifestation of years of hardness) ended my physical training.
Though most people move through life disguised and dressed in one persona (mine at that time was a hardened, closed-off warrior superwoman), if we become aware, we recognize we all have different voices, or selves, within us, each of which needs to be recognized and honored in order to free ourselves. It was during those years of training in kung fu, in my search to rebalance myself, I was privileged to be introduced to a wise woman and practitioner of Voice Dialogue, a process through which a person learns to identify and become aware of these different voices or selves in order to become a more balanced individual. Though far from practiced in the process myself, I recognized its importance in helping me achieve an emotional equipoise in my life.
Back in those days of kung fu, I had to learn to listen to this young, weak child that was never allowed to cry and that had to wear armor to get through life. Not only had that armor ceased to serve me, it had become destructive. Through kung fu — and Voice Dialogue and shamanic work, and eventually meditation — I got in touch with my world of archetypical energies that all serve me when in balance, but also can be destructive or hindering when one outshouts the other.
The Lover’s voice in James Blunt wrote and sang those beautiful songs. “You’re Beautiful” is an incredibly sad song about unrequited love, expressing the intense emotions of James Blunt when he saw his girlfriend with another man and he didn’t do anything about it (in the official video he jumps endlessly off a wall, down, down, down to …?).
Yesterday my Warrior ranted and played the bagpipes and banged on the drums of frustration. This morning, my Priest sat in silent meditation. In the bedlam of our “modern world,” I continue to listen for and await the voice of wisdom and spirit to illuminate the way.
May peace and love find us all and be the loudest voice and the brightest light to show the path forward in the bedlam of our world.