In every way Cindy was soft. Her skin was like a baby’s, her hands soft and her hugs melted every person who had the fortune to receive them. Her heart, words and the way she moved through every moment of her days was a reflection of the tenderness of her being. People say the reason Cindy was so tender was because she had Down Syndrome. Because her genetic makeup was abnormal, she was simpler which allowed her heart and being to be open. I always believed only people with a certain kind of mental retardation could be that tender and open. I don’t believe it anymore. It’s possible to live open and soft. Freely allowing love in and out requires courage and an unconditional acceptance of who we are.
My partner, Neil Sicherman talks about how we all desperately want to be seen for who we are. He calls it ‘being completely out of the closet.’ He also says that being seen for who we really are is one of the most frightening things a human being encounters. We are deeply afraid to reveal the truth of our selves so we choose to keep parts of our self hidden, afraid of what will happen if we reveal the truth.
Years ago I spent some time learning how to paddle on the Nantahala river in the Western North Carolina mountains. As a beginner I was lucky to go through some Class 3 rapids easily. One day I smashed right into a rock and after that I seemed to hit every rock in the river. A friend pointed out that I was always looking at the boulders I was afraid to hit, so I ran right into them. He called it ‘Object Fixation’. When I figured that out and trusted enough to look where I wanted to go rather than where I feared, I could more easily maneuver the canoe around the boulders and flow down the river. My focus shifted to where I wanted to go rather than what I was most afraid of.
Early on in my teaching I was taught an invaluable lesson and it completely changed the way I have taught and worked with people. I realized that if I tell people what is wrong in their moving they will automatically focus on what is not working correctly and cause more of the problem. For the last 30 years I have realized the most important teaching I do is to reflect back to each person the truth I see so they can begin to see that in themselves. It is by far the most important aspect of my work. I rarely focus on what’s wrong. I encourage them to see and experience what is right and good about them shedding a light into a closet they may have hidden in for years. It is my job to show them the light I see in them and that light can become their beacon.
I made a decision after Cindy died to carry her light and gifts within me and to love as purely and simply as she did. Though I struggle, I make a conscious choice as often as possible to be kind and gentle with myself. I forgive myself more and realize that if I show up as the real me, I give others the opportunity to show up as the truth of who they are.
Carl Rogers, a Humanistic Psychologist said ‘the things we consider most personal are most general.’ We are the same. We feel the same. We have the same fears and needs and wants and we all are capable of love. First…..we need to love our selves fully. We need to forgive ourselves fully. We need to accept ourselves fully. We need to focus on where we are going, not the obstacles in the way and trust we will be carried where we most want to go. You and me the same. We can open the closet doors, allow love in and flow on the river of tenderness with one another till we arrive where we are intended to be.