girl in the bubble

ub6jhhtThe bubble – an ephemeral object of childhood wonder – has become something to fear or avoid. It’s even something to be ashamed of. We fear the burst of the economic bubble and dread a collapsing housing bubble. We fret that we live in socio-political bubbles, apart from people of other skin colors, political beliefs, or income levels. This kind of bubble – the very reason the suburbs were invented – is now something to worry about at 3 AM.

…as though putting one foot in front of the other is never going to land me ahead but will more likely get me 5-feet backwards, because nothing I can do – not one single little decent thing – matters.

Awake at 3 am — not clever enough, behind on payments, dying, the polar bears, my 95 year old grandma in Florida, the air, my kids, dying.. The pain can be intense, right? There are days when I feel it pressing firmly on my sternum (that’s exactly where it is – not higher or lower). It can feel terrifying at times, but more so I experience it as a thick syrupy goop that makes me feel so tired, as though putting one foot in front of the other is never going to land me ahead but will more likely get me 5-feet backwards, because nothing I can do – not one single little decent thing – matters.

Ooh, just saying that is setting off that pain in my sternum!

So with regard to bubbles, I am holding two contradictory thoughts. The first is not only to stay in the bubble – without shame or regret – but to actualy make your bubble as beautiful as you can. Fill it with your friends and family and the art you most love; play gorgeous music and cook delicious food. Most especially, allow the bubble to be the place in which you can experience total stillness, where you can let your heart relax. Because this walking around in the “IT” is heavy and the heart feels that. So let yourself float and open yourself to beauty.

Does that sound like some hazy lazy dazy piece of crap?  It wasn’t so long ago that I’d agree with you. But just by way of experimentation, go take a long hot bath, play your favorite mellow music, read your favorite words, stare into the eyes of someone  you love, and then tell me you don’t feel a whole lot better! Like there’s actual hope!

Here’s the other side of my bubble equation:  You’ve got to leave the bubble.  It’s okay – you can come back to it. It’s right there – hasn’t popped. But you need to live with this gentler heart and your eyes full of beauty and then go out into the world and stare into the eyes of someone who is feeling cloudy or even, dare I say, defeated – maybe even someone who is full of anger.

How many of us have had some small transformational moment by being in the presence of someone whose heart is gentle, beautiful, and full? You can feel it – that kind of presence and contentment, that kind of love – it spills over. It splashes on to you a little if you’re standing nearby. It actually makes you a better person just by being close to such grace.

In February, when I was at a yoga training (those two words actually belittle the experience, but they’ll have to do for now), we spent time one evening staring into the eyes of people we’d only met in the past 48 hours and asking them, “Who are you?” We each had five minutes to speak, which seems way too short to explain your entire Self and yet embarrassingly long when you really don’t know where to begin … and with a stranger. We did it once — with the partner asking the phrase again and again any time we paused or stumbled. When we were done there was a sigh of relief around the room – Whew! that was interesting and hard! We did it! Until we realized that we were in a line and we were going to move down a person and start again. And again.

The responses, which you’d think would be repetitive, grew and morphed, turned corners and became increasingly vulnerable.

We did this exercise for close to an hour, though I don’t know for sure as time started to pull apart in unexpected ways. The responses, which you’d think would be repetitive, grew and morphed, turned corners and became increasingly vulnerable. By the end, I couldn’t remember much of what I shared, but I remembered a lot of what I heard. Heartbreaking things. Tenderness beyond imagination. Gentle hope. And the eyes! Staring into each person’s eyes while listening to them speak was a privilege that I hadn’t realized I was yearning for.

I shared this experience recently in a conversation group that I started. A group of six of us – most of whom had never met before – have been listening to a spiritual podcast once a month and meeting for lunch and conversation. The topics are tough – race, politics, religion. And we are a mixed bunch. All on the liberal side of the fence, I’d say, but gay and straight, white and black, Mennonite and Muslim. When I told them about the “Who are you?” exercise, they were touched by it, but the conversation quickly moved on. Toward the end of our hour together, however, a pause entered the room and grew, taking up more space. Without anyone announcing it, each of us took a few moments to look into the others’ eyes. One by one, we acknowledged each other.

This is was an exercise both in leaving the safety of my bubble – taking in the intimate gaze of these other people who I knew before only in the most perfunctory ways. But it was also a way of making my bubble larger and more beautiful. Allowing in the presence of others – their hearts, their fragility and strength. A gift primordial and precious.

It’s a turn-around jump shot
It’s everybody jump start
It’s every generation throws a hero up the pop charts
Medicine is magical and magical is art
The Boy in the Bubble
And the baby with the baboon heart

And I believe
These are the days of lasers in the jungle
Lasers in the jungle somewhere
Staccato signals of constant information
A loose affiliation of millionaires
And billionaires and baby
These are the days of miracle and wonder …

~ Paul Simon

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