More Like a Barnacle, Less Like a Bee
By Mimi Simmons
When I was a young girl, my mother would regularly say, You are wound up like an eight-day clock! I’m sure, if I had been born in recent years instead of in 1946, a teacher or therapist would have had a ready diagnosis for me. I was either very calm or very busy. Very quiet or quite talkative. My uncle called me Windy. My mother liked to recite this poem to me: There was a little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead. When she was good she was very, very good. And when she was bad, she was horrid.
To not get ahead of myself. I’ve used my breath and mantras of my own making to slow down, to remind myself to be more fully present in this moment.
I am very good, but often I’m too quick to speak or interrupt. Years ago, I regularly scheduled days of silence when I would, if at all possible, not speak aloud. My daughter was seven or eight at the time and we would write notes to communicate. She understood what I was doing, as well as a child could, and we would cuddle and be physically close to stay feeling connected. While I haven’t taken a day of silence in many years, I still practice being centered. I’m too eager to jump to the next thought, the next thing.
I awake with ready energy, eager to get on with the day. I’m driven by this energy, seeing what needs to be done next and beginning to do it often before necessary. It’s often an effort to just stay present. To not get ahead of myself. I’ve used my breath and mantras of my own making to slow down, to remind myself to be more fully present in this moment. Once at the ocean, I watched a bee and recognized its movement as my own. My mental refrain became: More like a barnacle, less like a bee.
In Walking Each Other Home: Conversations on Loving and Dying, Ram Dass suggests being a “loving rock” when spending time with those who are in the process of dying. It’s such a great description of the state I aim for, simply being with myself and others. When I ground myself in my loving-rock nature, I use my energy more efficiently and am more patient. A better listener. A better observer. And it just feels good.
In movement therapy, this approach is called optimal tonus - using just the needed amount of energy for a task and no more. Nothing is wasted. Almost daily meditation for decades has helped me manage and balance my energy. But also, in meditation I don’t have to contain or control my energy. I can relax and freely expand.
I heard a yoga teacher once say that life is a balance between effort and grace. It takes both. We have to put in the effort but we also need to let go and allow grace. I am thankful for the energy I have and am grateful to let it go.