Healed in Ebb, Healed in Flow
by Christy Croft
backdated to Gwyl Awst of 2011
I grew up in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Thirty years ago, it was less Myrtle “we have a Hard Rock Café and Planet Hollywood” Beach, but more a small touristy town loved by country southerners looking for a lower-cost vacation destination and runaway Canadians seeking a break from the late winter chills.
Although I grew up at the beach, I didn’t spend as much time by the ocean as you’d expect. In high school, I might have occasionally headed down to hang out with some friends, but for the most part, my oceanfront visits were in the evenings or at night, in the quiet, alone or with a friend or two. During the day, she was everyone else’s. At night, she was mine, and she comforted me. I’d lie in the sand by the dunes, and get lost in the continual cycle of sound. As the waves washed the shores clean from an overfull day, my own heart, often overcrowded with worries and pain, was made new.
In that time, my beach visits filled my mind with thoughts of getting away, going somewhere different, somewhere safe from a family that didn’t know how to love fully, openly, and gently. Inhaling the salty air, I’d dig my toes into the sand as I tried to find my hope—one day, my life would be different. I could plod on through until I found the space to chart my own course and shift the earth beneath me.
Years later, so much has changed. Now, I am the mom. I am the partner. Most importantly, I am the woman, the thinker, the creator, the nurturer, and the navigator for my own journey. Still, there remains a subtle sense that if I can just paddle harder, maybe I can break away from whatever hardships might be currently at play in my everyday life. Maybe I can become stronger, do more, fight harder. Maybe if I learn more, or get more training, or apply myself in ways I hadn’t previously considered, I can earn more, have more free time, be with my family more, struggle less, help more people, and feel more fulfilled. Unchecked and imbalanced, my desire to manifest my light fully into the world sometimes leads me to become critical of my current manifestations, particularly of the intermittent periods of apparent stagnation during which my life doesn’t seem to be moving consistently in the direction of my dreams. I grow impatient; I can be self-critical.
One of my favorite approaches for exploring my inner landscape is creative visualization, and I find myself continually drawn to visualizations involving water. One of my favorites is a simple imagining of the water washing away what I no longer need with each exhale, and bringing into my being health, wholeness, and peace with each inhale. It’s a helpful, simple, golden-oldie of a visualization, and one that comes so naturally to me now that I can no longer take a bath or shower, or even wash my hands, without connecting to the deeper ritual significance of such a common, ordinary act.
Then, last fall at a local festival, I taught a workshop that blended breath, imagery, and movement—essentially acting out a series of simple, repetitive visualizations to engage fully all of the senses in the creative healing process. In one of our visualizations, we didn’t just imagine ourselves washed and renewed by the waves of the sea; we became the waves of the sea—rolling with varying levels of intensity and friction toward the shore with each exhale, drawing back that energy into the sea with each inhale to regroup and renew. We were part of and expressing a beautiful cyclic energy whose momentary ebbs and flows, however eventful and powerful they might be or seem, were still only a small loop on the larger series of spirals that comprised the cycles of the tide, and of the moon, and of the sun. By remembering that this, this loop (whether abundance or seeming lack, health or sickness, joy or anxiety) is only one small loop on the journey of my life, and my life as I know it now is only one small loop on the journey of my soul, I gain perspective that gives the everyday happenings on my journey as a mom, employee, partner, and person less power over how I evaluate my spiritual successes or shortcomings.
Another valuable realization that came to me as a result of this visualization was an awareness that as I exhaled, crashing toward the shore, the bulk of the movement and activity occurred on the surface of the wave. During the inhale—the recharge, regroup, and regain portion of the cycle of the wave—the bulk of the movement felt like it was happening beneath the surface, in the undercurrent that pulls back wave, sand, and life forms to prepare to become a wave anew, once more charging toward the shore. When we are in flow, our actions and experiences will be visibly in motion toward a specific goal or outcome. But in order to flow fully, there must be times of ebb, when we are pulling back into ourselves to rebuild, shift focus, or change directions before the next period of flow. And while ebbing, we may appear to the outside world (and sometimes, to ourselves) to be stagnant or struggling when really, the action is there but just taking place under the surface of the visible reality of consensus experience—healing us, teaching us, strengthening us. Both have their value in the growth of spiritual and physical awareness—too long spent in either ebb or flow disrupts the rhythm of the cycle of productivity.
I think back now on my youthful fantasies of escape, and give thanks that I am free. While there are things in my life now that I would like to continue to see improved, I know that overall, life is good. I am where I am supposed to be. I am learning how to stop judging myself, little by little. I am learning to trust myself, to relax, to be. Most importantly, I am learning that the greatest blessing of the ocean isn’t in her dreamy ability to transport us away from where we are, to a place where our troubles can’t find us. Her greatest blessing lies in the awareness that there is nowhere we must go, nothing we must do, but that in learning to be, even as we ebb and flow like waves on the shore, we will be purified and strengthened for whatever joys, goals, and mysteries lie ahead. This isn’t to say that goals, aspirations, training, education, and intentional forward movement are bad or unnecessary. It’s simply an acknowledgment that there is value in the process of being, still and steady, even through the ebbs and flows that mysteriously awaken in us just what is needed, in perfect timing, as we journey forward.
Christy Croft became a Sister in Calan Gaeaf 2010. She lives with her husband and five children just outside of Chapel Hill, NC, where she spends her time working, homeschooling her children, teaching creative visualization, and writing. She has a degree in Religious Studies, is a graduate student in Liberal Studies, and writes at www.thesacredloom.com. A student of the Avalonian Cycle of Healing, she is grateful to the Sisterhood for the opportunity to walk such a powerful path with new sisters by her side.