When describing the hypnopompic state of the brain between sleep and wakefulness, Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist C.S. Sherrington said in 1942, "It is as if the Milky Way entered upon some cosmic dance. Swiftly the head mass becomes an enchanted loom where millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern, always a meaningful pattern though never an abiding one, a shifting harmony of subpatterns."
"The mind is like a richly woven tapestry in which the colors are distilled from the experiences of the senses, and the design drawn from the convolutions of the intellect." -Carson McCullers
Throughout our lives, our subconscious mind is woven with the threads of our experiences, our relationships and conditioned behaviors. When we observe the tapestry of our own lives, we may notice the knots, colors and textures that interrupt the patterns, but with such intricate tangles of thread, how does our conscious mind begin to untangle them without undoing it entirely? Change can feel threatening and nigh to impossible.
Harvard neuroscientist Dr. Stephen M. Kosslyn says, "People think that sights, sounds and touch from the outside world constitute reality. But the brain constructs what it perceives on past experience."
Continuing with the metaphor, our conscious mind may want to redecorate its space, but though displaying a tapestry on a different wall may give us a new perspective, does it change the tapestry itself?
Dr. David Spiegel, Stanford psychiatrist, says, "Most of the time bottom-up information matches top-down expectation. But hypnosis is interesting, because it creates a mismatch. We imagine something different, so it is different."
When our minds are within the hypnotic state, when the "millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern", we can imagine our tapestry untangled and that "shifting harmony of subpatterns" can weave new patterns that match our ideals.
Try to imagine what your tapestry would look like if it matched your ideals. Pose it in the positive-what you would like it to be rather than what it is currently not. What materials and colors would you use? Would you utilize materials from your existing one? Which ones?
If you would like, you could translate this into a tangible practice by weaving something physical. Observe the activity with generosity and compassion for yourself, without expectation.
Since writing this post, I, after months of listening to and watching interviews, finally read Anita Moorjani's 'Dying To Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing'. I address some of its themes in my next blog post, but as I read it, some of her language reminded me of this post, and made me almost want to rewrite it entirely.
The main theme is of unconditional love of self and others, and she very frequently mentions the "tapestry of life". Here is a quote: "As I looked at the great tapestry that was the accumulation of my life up to that point, I was able to identify exactly what had brought me to where I was today. Just look at my life path! Why, oh why, have I always been so harsh with myself? Why was I always beating myself up? Why was I always forsaking myself? Why did I never stand up for myself and show the world the beauty of my soul? Why was I always suppressing my own intelligence and creativity to please others? I betrayed myself every time I said yes when I meant no! Why have I violated myself by always needing to seek approval from others just to be myself? Why haven't I followed my own beautiful heart and spoken my own truth? Why don't we realize this when we're in our physical bodies? How come I never knew that we're not supposed to be so tough on ourselves? I still felt myself completely enveloped in a sea of unconditional love and acceptance. I was able to look at myself with fresh eyes, and I saw that I was a beautiful being of the Universe. I understood that just the fact that I existed made me worthy of this tender regard."
As I read about her near-death experience and the lessons she learned about it, I couldn't help but think, every time she mentioned the tapestry of life, that my analogy of remaking our tapestry plays into the ego part of us that focuses on perfectionism. Are we wanting to redefine and make ourselves out of love and compassion for ourselves, or out of fear of not measuring up to a standard either self-imposed or imposed upon us? When considering the analogy I described above, let's take Anita's words to heart and recognize that whatever our tapestry is at this juncture in our lives, regardless of what is woven into it, it and we are worthy of the love and acceptance that we crave.