The candlelight flickers against the wall. The shadow-wings of the orchid dance like a moth in the halo of the flame. Steam rises from the bath and suspends in beads. I move my toes one by one against the enamel. My feet are pressed side by side beneath the taps. I marvel at their shape and dream lazily of all the places they have been. My eyes trace the muscles in my legs, the soft hills in my belly. The line of the scar above my pubic bone is still pink and raised. It glistens. The house is still, as is the night outside. The call of an owl carries across the veld. I had put my family to sleep, slowly and with care, and then crept downstairs to lay myself in this hot scented water beside a tiny lick of fire. I sink deeper, my knees part and my head tips back. My heart opens, and as I pour love on each arriving sense, I receive a little more…
We are often exhorted by culture and authority to give of ourselves. It’s generally regarded as a noble aspiration to give freely. We are also warned not to over-give, and let our waters run dry. Yet rarely do we talk of receiving. Pam Laricchia is the unschooling author of Living Joyfully, and she hosts weekly podcasts interviewing experienced unschoolers and answering listener questions. In response to a mother whose family had had a rough few months, and who wanted to lift the sad atmosphere of her home, Anne Ohmann said, ‘If we do the work to stay connected to even the smallest piece of light during challenging times, then that sliver of light that we let in can lead us to even more light.’ She went on to emphasize that we have to work ‘to walk in the direction of that light’ and find ways to widen the cracks that let the light in. Her advice on how she works towards this, is to ‘pay attention to things that feel like gifts’. Like blankets and sunbeams and tea and autumn colors. She advised this mother to ‘seek out things that are beautiful, that make you smile, that give you a feeling of love and comfort’ and then say out loud ‘I have received’.
For months her words stayed with me. Then yesterday, the leaves were burning. The smell was insistent, obnoxious. It needled into my brain as I trawled through all the urgent tasks awaiting me. My four-year-old stood at the door, calling me to come outside and play. ‘Just one more thing,’ I told her, and one more became another and another. Then the smoke began to creep into the room, rolling through the door, seeping around the window panes. It scratched its acrid fingernails at my skin. Then I chose to breath. I inhaled deep into my belly, and let it rise up into my shoulders, and stretch ross my collar bone. I exhaled, and walked to the door. I sat on the step with my arm around my daughter. We looked out at the trees. She said the smoke looked like the dust of a stampede, a herd of buffalo moving through our farm. I said it reminded me of a storm, sweeping across the desert. As we watched, it rose up between the branches to coat the final rays of the sun, who was putting himself to bed inside the orange-gold of the trees. The rays spun out in a full circle, sparkling like a star in a replete and perfect moment.
We can learn the art of receiving. It is a habit we can cultivate. Unschooling is a practice. It is based upon the more general practices of mindfulness and gratitude. Receiving too is a practice. My midnight bath ritual did not start out so lyrical. The kids had fallen asleep hours after I expected they would, and when I finally came downstairs, I walked into the bathroom, and saw the dirty laundry on the floor, and the muddy patch on the wall beneath the window where the cat jumps in. The copper pipes were crooked because we haven’t yet put in the brackets. The ceiling is unpainted, and bits of insulation stick out like cheeky tongues. I saw all this. Then I closed the door softly, lit a candle, and switched off the electric light. I opened the hot tap and dropped in a handful of bath salts. I peeled off my clothes, and as I sunk my body below the curling steam, I thought, ‘What a gift…’
This post was written in exchange for a massage and reiki session from Colleen of the Midlands House of Healing. Every month, as I take the road out of Howick, and watch the fields flatten out on either side, I breathe deep and prepare to receive. As the road winds, the fields climb into hills covered with indigenous forest, and the sky bends over gently to brush its lips against the rough outline of the trees. I see this and receive. My husband drives our car smoothly along the district tar, while my two children sleep in the back. I close my eyes, think of them, and I receive. We turn off the main road, and onto the dirt ribbon laid down in the pastures. As we bump closer, trees collect on either side, like angels flocking to witness a miracle. When we park, Colleen greets us openly and cheerfully, no matter her troubles, she brings joy and laughter to our meeting, and to the moment. I know, that day, she has risen at dawn, to say her prayers, cleanse herself, and receive energy directly from the source. She has a sacred connection, not with me, not with anyone else, but with that source. We all do, and if we work little by little to clear away the overgrowth and obstacles, we can receive until our cup runneth over.
Contact Colleen for a healing session on 084 603 0604.
Hello and welcome:) I am a South African artist and mama who believes in mindfulness and living on purpose. I love traveling, reading, yoga, leading our family business, and eating delicious food in beautiful places. And tea. I love tea. Pour yourself a cup and settle in for a read.