We all see through lenses of our own first.
It’s the only way we know how to process the world.
Annie Leibovitz rocks my world.
The last time I visited Madame Tussaud’s on 42nd Street, I was pissed as bloody hell that “she” had been moved. Then I was even more pissed at myself for being pissed. Why? Because I know what it means to be generous and other people should get to see her depiction as well. It’s a good one.
Annie sees clearer through her lens. It’s one of the things I love about her. The world takes shape and begins to make sense. Light and shadow relate to one another in primary and essential ways and here’s what I love most: her willingness to wait. She goes to a site for a shot and she immediately discerns whether or not the timing or the lighting is “right.” When her intuition says it could be several hours before the “right light” will be there, she sits. And she waits. Until it comes.
This is a big teaching for me. Able to sense what could bring the greatest ripening to life, and able to wait for it without resentment or attachment, Annie is a teacher to me.
I might find myself getting cold or most certainly getting uncomfortable sitting or standing and waiting, given three hip surgeries. Yet she waits. With patience, perseverance, endurance. Like an Olympiad.
Already named a “living legend” and a “visionary,” Annie also knows humility.
I could go on and on about the things which move me about her, but here’s the thing, I only met her once, but I don’t know her. And anything that I would say about her, though truly honoring and lovely, is sheer and utter projection. If I spend time speaking or critiquing or dissecting her work with incisive skill, that is one thing. But to speak about her is precisely what I wish to speak about here.
It’s not my place.
It says more about me than anything else.
This is what we do. We do it all of the time.
Personally, I am committed to taking ownership around my projections and the shadow places which arise in me. When you get good at it, it’s really very liberating. For instance, I can actually laugh at myself when I see my shadow walking towards me and I find the conversations in my head quite hilarious.
“Oh, great! Just what I needed today! My NAZI friend is back. Beeeeeeautiful! As if I wasn’t nauseous enough already! What is she gonna toss my way today?”
That’s level one.
Then, I ask myself when or where I have ever behaved in a cruel and/or demeaning or heartless fashion. This one takes some digging in.
Soon I remember being 8 years-old and I recalled when my childhood friend waged a war against me. She managed to rally the entire school to gang up on me, and one particular weekend in Connecticut (which was far away from home for this native New Yorker) during a sleep-over, I picked up a bocce ball and I threw it at her! It was a heartless and terrible thing to do. And I ran to her immediately to make sure she was okay, because harming her was not what I wanted to do. I cried for the pain I almost caused her (I deliberately overshot the ball because I knew I had the capacity to do so). I cried for the pain she was causing me. And I just cried out for some negotiation of peace between the two of us.
Yogins go deeper.
About 5 months ago, I participated in a shadow workshop with two beloved teachers, Elena Brower and Kelly Morris. We did a deep meditation where we were asked to look directly into the eyes of the person who was our darkest shadow. Tears soaked my body as Kelly spoke lovingly and beautifully and I just breathed and stayed, step by step, with the work there was to do.
When the meditation was over, I realized what had happened was that I had had what is called an EXPLOSIVE SHADOW experience. And I also had a question. One I fully intended to couch in a way that would keep my issues very carefully and skillfully protected from being shared.
I raised my hand and I specifically addressed Kelly. I began slowly and I said, “when I look into the face of my deepest shadow, I realize that I cannot forgive myself.”
Elena interrupted and said, “Be specific, Jill.”
I held my hand out in front of my face and said, “Please. I need to take my time with this.”
“No.” she said, “say what you mean.”
I placed my hand on my heart and tears streamed down my face, “My deepest shadow is abandonment. And when I look at any moment in my life when or if I have ever abandoned anyone, and you saw, it happened today on the mat, when I pushed through the pain in my hip in Virabhadrasana I... and I can see maybe two other times in my -”
Elena interrupted, “YOUUUU WERE ABANDONED!!!!”
I went silent.
“Can you forgive yourself for what happened today?” she asked.
“You see this is where it starts.” she said. And we moved on.
There was a lot happening there. A lot of pain was stirring in me because this happened in front of a large group of people (and although I was not ashamed of the pain I was experiencing, when it comes to grief, I have learned that grieving in public is no longer good for my circuitry).
However, I also knew what was being passed on was a rich teaching, and Elena trusted that she could call me to this task even though she was fully aware that she hadn’t asked for my permission to do so.
What I feel Elena wanted people to see was that healing is possible in an INSTANT as long as one is willing to STOP TELLING ONESELF THE SAME DAMN STORY OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER. Had I sat there and said “but... but but... “ The exercise would have been a dismal, futile failure.
But without agreeing, an agreement had been made because the path of righteousness we have both agreed to is to give it up already, do the work and allow the healing to begin!
The other agreements I wish to make are as follows:
Know which lens you are choosing to see through and own it. Own it fully.
Apologize to those for the assumptions you make about them whether you are in communication with them or not.
Know that someone else’s life is none of your business.
Stay in your own life and stop the chatter about what others are doing or saying or wearing or whom they are praying to.
Enjoy the sexy men and women on screen you enjoy. And recognize that what you are able to see, you see because you inhabit those same qualities inside as well. The same goes for the ugliness. When you hate the person walking towards you, realize the same. You cannot see what you do not already possess inside.
So get busy working, or you’d better just keep trying to roll that ball up that darn hill.
The choice is yours.
The payoff is the joy of freedom.
Blessings. And L’Chaim! (That’s Hebrew for “TO LIFE!”)
It’s no irony that my Hebrew name is “Chaya.” (Whaddaya think, Madge?)