I'll give you a practical example from my own life, but you'll need to translate it for yourself...
I hold a lot with my jaw.
When I feel angry, I feel my jaw hold. When I feel afraid or anxious, I feel my jaw hold.
For most of my life, I wasn't aware of it. But recently I started to notice that after a long bout of fear or anger, my jaw would feel sore and tired, as if it had been working a lot. As I began to pay more attention, I started to notice my jaw begin to "hold on" during moments of fear, anger, anxiety, and painful memories. The more I paid attention, the more I noticed that I hold a lot with my jaw.
It's as if I’m trying to hold the world together with my jaw.
I'm sure there are other parts of me that hold in similar ways; the jaw is just the one I've been conscious of lately.
Or could it be that I was made aware? Could it be that my jaw finally got my attention? More specifically, could it be that an energy that often rises up in me during times of fear, anger, and anxiety, in a way that manifests as pain in my jaw, finally got my attention?
What is this energy that is trying to get my attention? Who is this energy?
I'm beginning to realize that there is a personality within this energy that rises up in these moments. The person is a child. It's me. A younger me, asking for some attention, some care, some reassurance, some support.
For so much of my life, when I would feel a pain like this — one that seemed to consistently come at the most inconvenient times — I would dismiss it. Ignore it. "That's stupid." And I would push through.
Would I do this for my own 5-year-old son, if he came to me afraid? Would I say, “that’s stupid,” and go back to whatever I was doing?
I’ve done it to myself.
And if I do it to myself, I am doing it to my son.
Our children don't just receive what we intentionally give to them; they receive what we give to ourselves. Ultimately, they grow up and treat themselves the way they learned one treats one's self, by watching us.
I do it to myself; I do it to my son.
This child inside of me has finally got my attention. He got it through pain — something I've spent my life trying to avoid, but something I'm learning has a purpose: to direct attention where it is most needed.
The most important place for my attention is here.
I am learning to pay attention to here.
I am learning that while this feels like the stupidest thing to do, to slow down and pay attention to a small voice inside while a bear is chasing me, slowing down and paying attention is the only way forward.
If I ignore the child long enough, the child will become louder. The pain must increase in order to get my attention, because this is the most important place for my attention right now.
Paradoxically, what I have found when I’ve slowed down is that, most of the time, maybe all of the time, there has not been a bear chasing me after all. As I slow down, I realize how much stronger I am than I thought I was. But my strength comes from a different place than I thought it would. And as I allow myself to receive this new strength from this deeper place, the child in me begins to feel seen, and safe. And as I begin to allow myself to give and receive this feeling of being seen and being tended to, not only do I receive the benefit, but the ones around me who I love begin to receive it, too.
The child in you may ask for attention in different ways. Maybe it's your hip. Or your stomach. Or your head. Or your throat. I do believe it manifests for all of us in our body. It’s there, asking for our attention. But we have to slow down and listen in order to hear it. We have to slow down even more to give it our attention. Even more to accept it. To support it. To love it. And once we've slowed down this much, we hit this point — I can't even find words to describe it, but it feels like balancing on a pin-point in time, space, and spirit... I think I can call it present.
I am here.
Then, something shifts in our body. Something opens. Like floodgates, releasing infinite depths of hope and water. It comes rushing in. We receive a deeper breath.
I can feel my jaw release. Not because I forced it open. It just let go.