The Red Balloon

In a recent speech to a group of mostly non-mediators, I shared the story of an illness I went through in 1990, the intensive meditative ‘retreat’ I had during the nine months of my recovery, and how my book Tapping the Wisdom Within, A Guide to Joyous Living was written from that meditative expanded state.

As a prop for the speech, I used a red helium balloon to demonstrate the situation leading up to my illness. I had been overwhelmed with the responsibilities of trying to be all things to all people in my sphere: a good mom to my teenage children, a good daughter to my aging ill parents, a good wife to my husband, a good executive vice president for our company’s clients and employees. I was trying so hard to understand what it was that all of these people wanted me to be that I lost any sense of who I was. I only knew I was overwhelmed and exhausted.

The balloon, like me, was held up by a finite amount of energy, energy that was leaking. I held up another balloon I had purchased the day before. It was already flagging on the floor, having lost most of its helium overnight. I too was operating from a depleting source of energy. I was depending on will power, effort and determination to be the best I could be.

Just like the balloon, I was heading down, leaking energy. Like the balloon I was susceptible to sudden events that might hasten my deflation. For the balloon that sudden event was the existence of a pin. Pop! In my case it was the death of my mother, who was my dearest friend and the foundation of my life as I knew it. It was as if my world had lost its axis. And like that popped balloon in pieces on the floor, down I went, succumbing to chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome, and under doctor’s orders to quit my job.

The balloon seemed an effective prop to demonstrate how vulnerable I was. The pop was perhaps over the top, and could have caused heart attacks, but it certainly got the crowd’s attention! After the speech I received many enthusiastic responses, and it seemed that I was able to persuade many of them that they need to take quiet time for themselves to listen in to their own inner wisdom.

But several times people mentioned that they needed to re-inflate their balloons. While I am glad if that means they will be nourishing themselves, my analogy of the balloon was not to say we are balloons and we need to stop for a helium fill up every so often!

I was trying to convey that I had been functioning as if I were a balloon, reliant on a rapidly depleting source of energy. I had been unaware that I could access an infinite source of energy, that I wasn’t a balloon at all, wasn’t separate and vulnerable, but an expression of energy that is infinite and boundless. As are we all.

We can make a subtle shift of awareness to access this sense of being connected, not like Legos, separate but interlocking, but as energy – the buzzing life force — briefly communing in the form of a flower or a bird or me or you! The way an ocean wave rises and falls, all life forms rise and fall. Yet we are all one, all ‘water’ – even when being a cloud or a raindrop or an avalanche of snow — still inextricably one with life.

Though the balloon analogy wasn’t totally effective, it did what it needed to do by getting people’s attention. I wish some red balloon popping had gotten my attention back when I was feeling so overwhelmed trying so hard to be all things to all people. I wish I had been listening to myself when one day I said to a coworker, “I feel totally separate from myself.” I wish I had taken that as an invitation to question in about what was going on with me, instead of just laughing it off.

Perhaps reading this will remind you to listen for any messages that rise up from within you. The quiet wise whisper within always ready to guide you is patient, not pushy. It doesn’t tell you what you ‘should do’ or ‘must do’ or ‘have to do.’ It doesn’t insist on anything or set a deadline. It has no urgency. It’s never strident. That’s why it’s so important to provide a quiet solitary environment for it to be heard! It’s just a quiet patient voice that when asked what you need to know will most likely tell you, among other things: “I love you. I have always loved you. I will always love you.”

And really, when the infinite being-ness of life tells us that we are loved no matter what, then all sense of struggle to be something other than we are falls away. In its place an open-hearted peaceful love of life rises up to fully support us in whatever we do.

That’s what I wish for all beings. That’s what I wish for you.

Let me know your thoughts on this.

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