Stay Close to the Bone

 Photo by Julie Daley

Photo by Julie Daley

I’ve noticed something in my own journey to becoming more awake to my true nature. It’s really a journey of coming home — which can sound like a fancy thing, but in reality it’s not really fancy. It’s just waking up to a more real and true sense and experience of who you are — as a conscious human being.

There’s an essence about oneself, a sense of ‘-just-is-ness’. Essence as in a closeness to — an intimacy with — a truth of oneself. I language this as staying ‘close to the bone’ of one’s true nature. It’s a kind of ‘solidity’ of self that isn’t solid at all, but finds and knows itself as seemingly solid in human form. But more than this, the bones are a metaphor for deep knowing and understanding — not of the mental variety but rather of a kind of wisdom and intelligence inherent in all things.

This feels real to me as it bridges our nature as consciousness, itself, alive in the cells of a human body. Awake and alive, close to the bone, is close to home.

How do we navigate life close to the bone?

The more awake I become, the more aware I am of just how far away from myself I’ve been over the years of my life. Constantly looking ‘out there’ for approval. Constantly looking ‘out there’ for data on how to act, who to be, and even on what it is I love. A life spent not really aware at all of what it means to be close with myself, while at the same time aware of a sense of generally being away from myself, too.

One summer, I taught a group of gifted high school students who were enrolled in a summer course at Stanford University. I was teaching about doing what you love and when I asked them ‘What do you love?”, they looked at me rather skeptically. In response, I told them, “Not what you’ve been taught to love, but what you truly love.” This brought a look of relief and big smiles as they reconnected with what they loved when they were younger. Although they were only in high school and not that far away from childhood, they had already been taught that what they really loved wasn’t what they should love. They’ed already learned to substitute what was acceptable to love for what was organically true for them.

This happens to us all. When we are young, we just are what we are. But we’re not here long before we begin to develop beliefs, stories, and habits that take us away from an organic closeness to our own knowing. Eventually, we can venture so far away, we lose sight that there ever was an organic closeness.

What I now see is that it is by becoming more human and more real in the body — hence, close to the bone — that we return to this organic closeness, becoming more awake to our nature as both conscious awareness AND human being.

I realize that true awakening happens in the cells of matter, down and in as consciousness wakes up to being human and to the limitations that come with a human existence. As I write this, I feel a tremendous desire to touch and be touched. To embrace life and be embraced by life. To relate to and be related to. To know and be known. These are the ways I can feel my humanity awakening, the desire to know oneself in relation to, and in relationship with, another.

To live awake is to live the quiver of your own heart. This quiver begins to move when the heart becomes real again because one has been willing to feel all the ways the heart was closed. It is in a return to ‘feeling’ that the doorway to the deep heart is revealed once again.

And in the deep longing to be close to another, how easy it is to leave oneself to connect, in order to bridge that great divide. But there’s the rub, because if we leave ourselves we cannot ever really connect to another. That chasm can never be bridged by leaving oneself. We can only truly meet when we are each sovereign within ourselves.

Often, what we once thought was connection was really merging. Yet, when we truly connect with another we find that it is nothing at all like merging. Rather, it is two individuals meeting, touching, and knowing each other, truly. And, it is fleeting. We cannot stay connected in the way we often thought we could before, but through the touch of one to another, we feel the experience of being alive in that moment. And then, we once again find ourselves alone. Never alone forever, but in some way always alone. It is a dance we do all our lives.

Our connection as a human being is not meant to be a merging, it is meant to be an alive, fleeting knowing, meant to be an impermanence known more fully because of the nature of life itself and of the fleeting nature of the deep connection between the flesh and bones of our humanity.

To stay close to the bone is to stay with oneself, to be turned inward even when living outward. To be connected to something larger, formless, ancient sitting so close behind and within. It is in this learning to stay with and feeling all the way through, that we learn to navigate the world and create our lives from close to the bone. We make choices that come from that inner intelligence we can hear when we stay close to the bone. We come to know what our hearts long for when we stay close to the bone. And, we come to see how deeply interconnected we are to everything in this world by realizing how rooted we are when we stay close to the bone.

To be close to the bone is to be sovereign in our essential nature while at the same time fully accepting of our humanity. It is both/and.

Your bones know. Get close in and listen. Let yourself fall in and down, returning to what you’ve always known, returning home.