The REAL playground.
While on a recent meditation retreat I had this incredibly clear visualization during one of my morning sits, almost like a lucid dream. I've had several experiences like this before over the years, but this one has really sweetened my practice!
I'll try to describe it. Here goes...
After a few minutes of meditating, a crystal clear image of a schoolyard playground popped into my mind. It looked just like the playgrounds that were all around me growing up in Queens. Tall metal fence. Handball courts. Concrete scribbled with colored chalk. Metal benches. Swings with that hard ass black rubber mat underneath just off to the side.
It was a beautiful, sunny day. Light blue skies. A few wispy clouds. Occasional car passing by.
In the playground were all these little sharons running around. Not "little girl" sharons but full grown, smaller versions of me.
It was noisy.
In the playground was "controlling sharon" telling everyone what to do.
There was "joyful sharon" running around hugging and kissing everyone.
There was "self-conscious sharon" worried what people were thinking about her.
There was "confident sharon" feeling totally at ease playing with everyone.
There was "judgmental sharon" evaluating and critiquing how everyone was playing.
There was "spiritual sharon" over in a corner contemplating the meaning of life.
There was "self-righteous sharon" telling the other sharons the right way to believe.
There was "open hearted sharon" feeling the pain of all the other sharons.
You get the picture. Lots of little sharons.
They were all running around, jumping, interacting, playing. Some were louder than others, some seemed to want more attention, some were anxious, some were happy, some indifferent.
Off to the side of the playground, laying in a cheap plastic lounge chair by the handball courts (not kidding) was big Sharon. She was relaxing peacefully, just watching them all play from a distance.
You could tell how much big Sharon loved them. She'd gaze over at each of them with what seemed like compassion, appreciation, acceptance. From time to time, big Sharon would get up from the lounge chair and stroll around the playground, making sure they weren't getting hurt, listening to them, smiling, savoring the entire experience.
Frequently one of the little sharons would become disruptive. Big Sharon would slowly walk over to that particular little sharon (e.g. controlling sharon) and, with a sweet tenderness ask her what she needed. After a few moments it was apparent little sharon felt reassured (maybe validated), and would then skip away to resume play with the other sharons.
Stay with me now...
A few minutes later I became aware of "something" that was watching this entire scene play out...watching the little sharons playing, watching big Sharon sitting in the lounge chair by the handball courts. Watching it all.
Just then a massive wave of peace filled my entire being, along with a deep relaxation and joy that's hard to put into words. I stayed with those sensations for a while, sorta basking in it for the rest of the meditation.
After that sit I shared the experience with my fellow meditators, and over the past few weeks I've been contemplating what it all could mean.
Where I've landed with it feels really profound and I've been revisiting the visualization often, sharing it with friends and coaching clients ever since. Maybe there is something of value here for you too.
The little sharons represent aspects of my personality, expressions of energy that reflect my inner dialogue. Controlling, anxious, joyful, self-conscious, judgmental, funny, loving, spiritual, and so on.
Big Sharon represents the wiser expression of me that taps into intuition and inspiration and reflects who I am underneath all the ego-centric manifestations.
So who was watching?
The witness was pure Awareness...that which I can't fully describe or capture in words but can only be experienced. Call it God, Spirit, Universal Energy, Life. It is pure, it's spacious, it's still. It's peace. It includes everything and needs nothing.
It is Love.
I've spent much of my adult life suffering from, working with what I'll call an existential heartache that's been with me for as long as I can remember, a deep sense that there is more to life than what I'm seeing in myself, in others, in the world I find myself in.
So often I'm craving an experience of what is real, direct, clear, pure, connective, authentic, fully felt...pure Love, Interbeing. Up until the past several years I just didn't have words for this free floating anxiety or for the waves of alternating sadness and bliss I feel in response to what seems like the most ordinary things.
What I've come to understand is that I can access and rest in this Witnessing Awareness and fully experience this Love...at any time. It waits patiently in the present moment.
I became a successful businesswoman but I couldn't find this experience in worldly success. I became a raging alcoholic but couldn't find it at the bottom of a bottle. I even became an ordained minister chasing this experience, but I didn't find it in the dogma of religion.
I found it in the wisdom of spiritual teachings and teachers who didn't prescribe truth to me but instead pointed me towards it, not as an intellectual exercise or as an inherited belief structure, but instead as a lived experience.
That's what my playground visualization was...a reminder of the truth of who I am. Of who we are.
I am that Witnessing Awareness AND I am big Sharon AND I am all those little sharons. I am all of it.
And so are you.
As my mindfulness practice deepens, I'm becoming more skillful at noticing the little sharons and asking them what they need instead of letting them run the show.
I'm also becoming more familiar with that sweet spaciousness that watches this all play out, that can hold it all.
And most importantly, I'm cultivating a self-compassion that can meet me wherever I am in the moment with kindness and patience and equanimity.
For me this is what the purest experience of Love feels like.
So I rest here as often as I can...and then play. And rest. And play.
Here I share things on my mind, in my experience that have been helpful for me. May they be helpful to you as well.