in the late winter afternoon light yesterday
(Leah Campbell Badertscher, original 40×40 acrylic on canvas, more info here, All Rights Reserved)
A Lenten Pilgrimage, A Devotional Practice
Day 3: Offering Your Whole Heart
“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
A little story about the painting above. I started working on it (over a year ago, at least) from the place I described on Day 1 of this Pilgrimage – with the prayer “Let me remember that I am the vessel and not the source.”
In the beginning stages of the painting, I loved it. I felt an ease and great joy in working on it. I also liked it and enjoyed seeing how it was shaping up (which was, at that time, looking to be something entirely different than what you see above).
As it came closer to what felt like completion, however, I started to tense up. It was three in the morning, I’d been painting all night, and had to finish this painting by seven A.M. if I wanted it to be included in a book that was going to be featuring my work.
I could feel that I was tensing my jaw, holding my breath, my whole body felt constricted, and, worst of all, my heart felt cramped. That is not the place from which I like to work. I truly believe that the energy with which you work or create something will flow through to those you end up sharing it with. And in those moments, I knew I had crossed a line from just being open and loving the process to holding back and cramped because I was in “just try to finish it without screwing it up or ruining everything” mode. And that, my friends, is not the kind of energy or work I am about or want to share.
So, I took a break (which I didn’t think I had time for), went out to sit on the couch and breathe.
I thought about the line from Thomas Moore, “The way you do anything is the way you do everything.” In those moments that I was just painting, I was also, of course, living. And I knew I didn’t want to live my life “just trying not to screw it up or ruining everything.”
This brings me back to our conversation yesterday about needing to give up the things that are keeping you from the sacred. It seems like we devote so much time and energy trying to manage outcomes, avoid failure, avoid heartbreak, avoid the judgments of others’ - and good luck to us on all those fronts! What if, instead….
we just didn’t. We just stopped doing all that strategizing, micromanaging, and just stopped holding back.
What would be left? What would want to emerge, come forth, pour through us?
So in that moment on the couch at 3 AM, I realized I had this little opportunity. If I could find a way to just stop that holding back and unleash…how then would I paint?
How, then, would I live?
I sat there quietly and then the right feeling, the right words came to me, so I rushed back into my studio, poured a pool of dark paint onto my palette, and, with such deep earnesty and full-on commitment, painted these words right over the top of that precious painting I had been so worried about screwing up:
“MY WHOLE HEART (you have it.)”
And staying in that feeling of truly painting pouring from my heart, I finished the painting AWAKE (above) by morning. The fact that it has a rawness, imperfection, and “unfinishedness” (which I look at as “it still is open, going on living, I haven’t “ended” or “capped” it with some sort of painting equivalent of a period, sort of like Hilda Morley poems that I love) is something that I now recognize as vital to me and almost intentional, though without being on purpose. I gave the painting it’s start, but the possibility keeps going on…
MY WHOLE HEART (you have it)
THIS is so how I want to live. Not holding back, not trying to manipulate how I pour my heart and soul out to people and into my work so that I can somehow get the chips to always fall in my favor.
Letting go of that security, giving up holding back so that I can stay safe, is something I am wiling to sacrifice.
I want my experience of living and my offering to life to be my whole heartedness.
But I can’t have that, I can’t do that, if my skin is armor two feet thick (and flawless, mind you!) and my heart is locked in a bullet proof case.
You can’t have both.
And you deserve more than the struggle, confusion, heartache, exhaustion, and ultimately, futility, of trying to have both.
You – and Life – deserve and need your wholeheartedness.
Optional practice for today:
Draw a line vertically down the middle of a page.
Take a moment to call to mind a place in your life where you’d like to live wholeheartedly, and yet you find yourself pulling back, holding back, or maybe over thinking or overworking in order to make things “just right” or “perfect” or, even, “acceptable.”
Write it down that place where you’d like more wholeheartedness on the left hand side of your page.
Next, ask yourself what you are trying to protect with these actions?
Write that down on the right side of the page, opposite of the wholeheartedness answer.
Look at the two. Now you are going to choose. Either you tear the page in half and throw away the area in which you dream of wholeheartedness or you throw away the right-hand side, the things you do to keep yourself safe.
Take whichever side you decided to throw away and do throw it away (or burn it. Burning is always so much better- we are such ancient creatures and fire has such a primordial power. Burning sends a powerful message to parts of you that are deeper than levels of cognitive thought.)
Take the side you chose to keep and place it somewhere where you can see it everyday for the next forty days.
My whole heart – you have it.
Thank you for walking with me.
P.S. In the “throes of inspiration,” I was also moved to paint over those words, but you can still see some of them clearly, and others suggestedly, peeking through from beneath a few more layers of paint. You might not see it explicitly, but the intention I hope comes through loud and clear in the energy of the painting. I think it does.
One more shot and…Ha! I just realized for the first time that this painting is currently hanging above the couch where I had that middle of the night epiphany about it! I was going to make a joke about how the couch and painting don’t go together so….does anyone want to buy a couch? But (in my story, anyway) they DO go together! XO! -Leah