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Soul Homecoming: Smell

Some say shadows are windows into another reality.

Here is a shadow for you, an entry place into my soul-- but do not suppose that it is dark there.

It takes light to produce the shadow, and I've just noticed what wasn't being illuminated, what was shadow. I've just begun to explore a world opened up by the absence of light.

It began deep in meditation, the kind where your body has become so heavy with relaxation, you feel sure that you will never be able to move again, and that you must be asleep. But you have the amazing sensation that a part of you remains awake.

It was during this time away from every day consciousness, a couple dozen months ago, that I had the strangest image come to me.

Along my house there is a bed of roses, and the image was of me crouching there among the roses, planted in my own garden. And like those unfortunate roses, I was devoid of vital nutrients and enough water, seeking crooked paths to the sun, out of the jungle, due to lack of tending.

Roses have always felt so high maintenance to me, what, with their beauty so revered by us humans, as we decorate our lives with them, mark precious moments with their scent.

But there are those damned thorns.

The diva of all plants. She will sing her way into our hearts, but she will not wince at the lacerations she gives you, as she demands your full attention, your full commitment of loyalty signed in blood, breathing up all the air around you, and crowding you off the stage. She takes up the entire spotlight, with no apologies, but rather with a sense of entitlement. And after all, she must be handled carefully. Just touching her blooms will bruise them.

You make room for her. You have no choice. You tend her with great care, until you can't give anymore. And somehow you believe that in that giving, you have found your salvation. Yet, the cost is high.

You become so depleted that it has been some time now since you've had scarce a bloom of your own.

So it was quite a shock during meditation, when the image was of me, crouched deep in my bed of roses, as a human rosebush.

A certain truth washed over me, that made no sense.

Something about me being a rosebush--but even that I could not quite own. I was not diva, although I did have my share of thorns, but I was the caretaker to the divas, the one with the shortage of blooms for quite some time.

Yet,I stood motionless next to the other rosebushes, in drought and famine, as one of them.

I couldn't understand what it meant. And yet, the image was so powerful, as if it held such an important message.

Over time, the image began to unfold its meaning, as I caught up to it.

I had spent my entire life tending others--the ones who seemed to be just on the brink of giving up, of collapsing, the ones who struggled so.

I put them first, never giving another thought about it.

These were the solemn vows I came in with, or acquired very early.

Only, my devotion to the 'broken', seemed to have little transformative effect--zero fixing power. In fact, it was usually the other way around. I usually just made things worse-- served only to make the problems more real, more defined, more enduring.

Yet, over and over, I found myself depleted. I found myself crowded out of my own life, by all those who appeared to need nourishment more than I. I continually stood back from the light, ushering others forward into it with a tender hand.

I honor this tender hand, as it has been a clue for me, to know another much greater hand, another kind of Love, that doesn't turn on its siren and rush to fix broken, but that allows for the difficult moments, and the beautiful ones, knowing how they fit together for the greatest of soul discovery; a hand that holds out for the sweetest taste of freedom.

Don't get me wrong. There were times when I knew I was starving, and I fought for my place at the feeding trough, literally and figuratively. But most of the time, I made sure to take as little as I could--just enough to survive.

So, the image of me as a rosebush took on many timbres over the past few years.

The unloving message was that I was full of thorns, a fearful creature--a diva taking up too much space.

But more so, what I couldn't deny, was distinct sensations as the rosebush in my garden, that I was feeble, uncared for. How my face wanted to turn to the sun, but how it couldn't find its way out of the shadow. My roots were shallow, unfed. They were dry, and barely keeping me upright. It was a sallow existence as a rosebush. There were no blooms, and there was a deep shame in this.

I remember prying myself back to the land of the living after that meditation, and wondering at so strong an image. Could I trust it? Would it lead me down a path of destruction, of destroying others by embarking on getting the necessary nutrients I was so deficient in? Would lifting up and out of shadow shade others who were trying to find their way to into sunlight?

Well, the short ending is that it doesn't seem that I had much of a choice. Whether I wanted to accept it or not, the course was set. Too much of me believed that it was possible that life could feel more alive, richer, softer, easier.

It was time to tend my own garden, my own roots. It was time to let go of the idea that I should use all of my resources to tend everyone else. No more giving warmth where it was wafting wastefully out an open door.

It has been a gentle process--this moving away from being the world's caretaker. Letting myself be shown those who can sit next to me in my rose garden in humble balance, sharing the nutrients in the soil, weaving paths with me toward the sun--not taking it all for themselves just to climb higher to leave me in shade. It has taken courage to ask for my share, and then dare to ask for more, as my perception of what is fair shifts and morphs, touched by possibility. And the most startling thing is the more I ask, the more it is given.

And as I rest in faith that it is okay for me to take up space in my life, others are giving way to let me in. Instead of remaining depleted, I am being fed and warmed. And as I am fed and warmed, I feed and warm. Oh, and it is received. How completely mind-boggling.

Seems there is plenty enough nutrients in the soil for all of us, and a thousand different paths to the sun, and pure joy in finding them together.

So what of those rosebushes that I once felt so responsible to tend?

Well, the beautiful thing is that without me there to make their problems so real, they've been able to muster their own creativity and find the precious nutrients they've needed to move out of starvation. They've begun to bear their own blossoms. And together with mine, the color, the splendor, the sheer variety, and the fragrance, is unlike any garden I could have ever imagined.

How lovely to be in awe of the blossoms of others, when you are filled with them yourself.

And one more thing of great importance. I notice that these blossoms are born not out of intense struggle, or obsessive attention to detail, nor any reaching or attaining any brand of perfection.

No, these blossoms are born of a self-love cultivated with courage, and following a deep knowing and trust that goodness and well-being abound and are available in great measure for all-- should they have the courage to heed the call, to take on the awesome and awe-inspiring responsibility to begin the process of opening to receive all that life has to offer.

In my case, it took drought and famine to finally begin the fight for a different kind of life. But, I believe the blossoms are much closer to the surface than that, just waiting for us to realize that we've had it all wrong. That sacrifice has never been anything but slow death. Certainly has never been something to be exalted.

Feed yourself, and you will feed many. Feed many and you will feed yourself. That is my motto now, but it always begins, with making sure that my heart is flourishing first.


  1. "Seems there is plenty enough nutrients in the soil for all of us, and a thousand different paths to the sun, and pure joy in finding them together."

    "How lovely to be in awe of the blossoms of others, when you are filled with them yourself."

    I could quote you all night. You are so gifted with words, my friend.

    It is beautiful to watch you blossom, my friend. I'm winking at you now...can you see me?

  2. Google still is recognizing me, so I am trying another way. What I want to say is bloom on, beautiful Brooke. Thank you for this parable that we can all take into our hearts!

  3. Beautiful Brooke,

    I have noticed that a couple of comments I wrote to you do not appear to have landed on your blog :(

    I think your writing is AMAZING. Each post you write takes me on a journey - I LOVED this one and I loved the one on the staircase.

    Thank you for sharing the carving of your soul.


  4. Your writing blows me away. Do I say that every time? This is my favorite sentence-

    And as I rest in faith that it is okay for me to take up space in my life, others are giving way to let me in.

    I am going to let that soak in my mind today. I needed to hear that. Thank you so much Brooke.

  5. I love what you say about how blossoms are born. I have found that striving usually produces very little. My life tends to bloom most with loving attention.


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