She’s wearing a Sherlock Holmes hat, the lady sitting next to me. A tweed coat all buttoned up and a fuzzy pink scarf. Her name is Eileen. She’s a tall, skinny Brit with wiry corkscrew curls and thick glasses. She reminds me of a long-legged, long-necked stork. An eccentric, kind, curious bird.
And I’ve been asked to “cradle” her. Are you bananas? I just met Eileen yesterday, she’s a bit of an odd duck, and I’ve never cradled anyone. What kind of wacko guided meditation is this?
I’m at a Declutter Your Soul retreat at Rivendell on Bowen Island, BC. We’re preparing our hearts, minds and spirits for Advent. It’s my first Anglican silent retreat, and my first experience with a cradling exercise. It’s supposed to offer deep relaxation, trust, reverence for life, and deeper levels of knowing.
And it does.
You Are More Good Than You Know
“Gently lift gently your partner’s arm and hand,” says the facilitator. “Cradle it, feel the weight of it… flex the elbow and wrist, note how the joints are hinged to permit variety of movement. Behold this arm as if you had never seen it before, as if you were a visitor from another world… Observe the articulation of bone and muscle … Turning the palm and fingers, note the intricacy of structure.”
But wait, there’s more:
“Open your awareness to the journey it has made in this present lifetime… how it opened like a flower when it emerged from the mother’s womb.… how it reached to explore and to do,” says the facilitator. “That hand learned to hold a spoon… to throw a ball… to write its name… to wipe tears… to give pleasure. There is nothing like it in all the universe.”
Suddenly I saw beneath the Sherlock Holmes hat, fuzzy pink scarf and tweed coat all buttoned up. I saw Eileen. Compassion, grace, kindness and love started to rise up in me. These long fingers and knobby knuckles were once a tiny baby’s soft hand, gently curled in a fist in her mother’s womb. This hand has dried tears, written love letters, filled out tax forms, thrown dirt on coffins and cradled little kittens.
Even better was cradling Eileen’s foot.
“Holding the foot, feel the sole, no hoof or heavy padding…. It is this being’s contact with the ground….” says the facilitator. “Feel that heel; when it kicked in the womb, that was what the parents first felt through the wall of the belly…. ‘See: there’s the baby’s heel.’ And such journeys that leg has been on since then… learning to take a step and then another… walking and falling and getting up again… then running, climbing, kicking a ball, pedaling a bike… a lot of adventures in that leg… and a lot of places it has taken your partner… into work places and sanctuaries, mountainsides and city streets… gotten tired… sore… still kept going.”
Wow. Eileen’s mom and dad felt this heel kick when she was in the womb! She is such a beautiful, amazing woman. She’s not a stork or an odd duck. She’s a child of God, fearfully and wonderfully made. She is one-of-a-kind, vulnerable, and quirky.
And so are you. You are more good than you know.
If you’re harsh and critical with yourself — if you tend to beat yourself up, obsess over mistakes or even hate yourself — take a look at The Cradling Exercise. You don’t need a partner. All you need is 20 minutes and the willingness to be still with God.
Just show up.
Eileen Tried Too Hard to Be Good…and Failed
“That felt so good,” breathed Eileen after our cradling exercise. “You are brilliant at this! I can’t do it the way you did. I don’t have it in me.”
While I was cradling her, she sensed my compassion, acceptance, kindness and love. Eileen felt it flowing through me into her hands and feet. All I did was hold her gently, listen to the voice, and let my heart and spirit open up. I simply saw her the way Jesus does.
She thought I was doing something special, that it came from inside me. But the truth is that I didn’t do anything. I just showed up and responded to the voice.
It was my turn to be cradled. Eileen tried hard to make me feel loved and accepted. Her long fingers nervously petted the top of my hand and fluttered around the soles of my feet. I felt her earnestness, her sincere desire to do this “right.” I also felt her insecurity and stress. I could feel how badly she wanted to succeed.
She tried so hard. Too hard. She let her anxiety and fear of failure lead the way. She tried not to disappoint me…and the only person she disappointed was herself.
You Are Good — Just the Way You Are
Stop trying so hard! Stop apologizing for saying or doing the wrong thing. Stop ruminating on the mistakes you made, or may have made, or probably will make. Stop dwelling on the past, stop peering anxiously into the future.
Learn how to see yourself as good. God created you exactly the way you are for a reason. You belong here — we need you! The world would not be the same without you.
We need you whole, healthy, and healing. We need you to know and accept how good you are. We need you to cradle yourself when you need to be cradled, to discipline yourself when you need to be disciplined, and to bravely show up the way God made you.
Growing deeper into the Father’s love is the only way! If you know Jesus, you know goodness. If you follow Him, you are more good than you will ever know. If you keep listening to the Spirit’s voice, your goodness and love will keep flowing out of you.
Allow yourself to rest in the thought that you are more good than you know. Stay there awhile. Let God heal the shame, guilt, and unworthiness.
Breathe in His goodness and love for you. Breathe yourself out.
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