Now that the high of New Year’s greetings with friends and colleagues is passing, and you can still see the pristine, snowy ground of a new beginning, what did you say you really wanted to do? And by when? Have you gotten out of bed yet and begun . . . any part of this?
I’m thinking of Hildegarde von Bingen-- the renowned 12th-century mystic, artist, writer, composer, healer, and spiritual leader, living on the Rhine River in Germany-- who had her own call to action at age 42, thirty-four years after she began living in a convent and several years after she became its head prioress. Though active and successful in her religious community, she was often ill and laid up in bed, unable to speak or act.
What kept Hildegarde in bed-- and what did she really want to do? During her illnesses, she experienced amazing visions that she longed to express, but felt powerless to do so. She was literally silenced by the patriarchy of the church; and had no support to live out her true purpose, which was to express her deepest spiritual visions. Finally, it seems, she got sick of being sick and silenced. “Beaten down by many kinds of illnesses, I put my hand to writing. Once I did this . . . I received the strength to rise up from my sick bed, and under that power I continued to carry out the work....”
As a somatic therapist, I’ve often witnessed the way your body-- with symptoms severe enough to keep you lying low-- can force you to realize that you’re not doing what matters to you or not speaking with your true voice. Then you have the choice, as Hildegarde did, of lying in bed and giving up your power-- or heeding the symptoms as your wake-up call to take action on your own path to fulfillment.
Even more importantly, as Gregg Levoy notes in his book, Callings-- “When we sleep, we do not sleep alone. Some of the great myths-- Sleeping Beauty, for example-- speak about the truth that when we sleep, all around us also sleep.” So only when we awaken, can we support others and the whole world in their awakening. The simple act of getting out of bed and beginning to do what we know is important for us to do, consciously and compassionately, will have a very positive impact on our whole society.
Getting in touch with her own inner well of courage, Hildegarde sawher symptoms for the wake-up call they were and got out of bed to write with her true voice. It was then, in mid-life, that she went forward to live out her destiny as a creative and powerful political and spiritual force in her own time-- and to leave an incredible legacy of music, art, and writing whose beauty and power we still feel now.
So I’m curious--
- Is there anything keeping you in bed, not letting you live out the call of your spirit
and what you really want to be doing now?
- If so, what would inspire you to get out of bed and into your real, authentic life?
- How loud does your wake-up call need to be?
- What kind of support do you need to wake up and begin to do what is really
important to you, now?