I have a funny story to tell you. It’s kinda crass, in that it’s a story about intense bodily functions, so I’m putting that warning out there upfront so that you can proceed with caution.
I was in Santa Fe, New Mexico a while back. I was staying on a property several miles outside of town, in the high desert. I had taken to going for long two-hour walks exploring the desert landscape with crazy beautiful sunsets each night. I had been intensely sick for the previous month and unable to move much at all, so it felt wonderful to be better enough to go outside again.
I walked for about an hour, enjoying the feel of striding through the desert at a good pace. Taking in the scenery around me, the wide-open landscape. I got to about an hour’s walk away and turned around to head back. Not too long after turning around, I began to experience intense cramping in my stomach. It got worse and worse.
And then I felt it: the intense need to poop. I had to clamp shut so tight! Then it would pass. I started to have waves of muscular contractions. Intensely painful, and a growing sense of urgency arose.
At first, I thought I just needed to make it through the waves of contractions a few times, and it will sort itself out. I picked up my pace in between the waves.
But the contractions continued to get stronger and stronger. I had to stop when they came now, and bend over to put all my focus on keeping everything back there clamped shut!
My mind started to grasp around at everything, somewhat panicked. What could be done? There’s no Uber that could get here out in the desert in time. And there is no cover out here – only desert brush that won’t hide me from the road. I kept walking as fast as I could, in between the rolling waves of contractions trying to force a mounting volume of something out of me.
I kept searching the side of the road for somewhere I could hide. A hiding place where I could do my entirely uncivilized act of pooping in the desert, cleaning myself up with my underwear. But there was nowhere! Each bend in the road I turned around brought somebody’s house with giant windows looking right at me. Most of the scrub was only a few feet high, not tall enough to hide this 6’4″ pooping bear from sight.
I still had most of the hour walking left as I had to keep stopping, doubled over in overwhelming and excruciating pain. With each wave, the inevitability of what was about to happen began to dawn over me.
Finally it happened. With one intense contraction, I let go. Literally and figuratively.
There was an intense pleasure in giving in to a force much more powerful than I. A sense of total inevitability, choicelessness and submission.
And that’s when I felt a deep sense of love wash over me. Love for this body, for my humanity. For all the intellectualization, study, and learning that we do, we are still beasts of the earth, and this brings certain facts of physical reality to bear. We are not just mind, but mind-body, with needs and forces that can entirely overwhelm us in this physical reality, however intellectual we are.
This love I felt was shocking in how different it was to what I might have felt in years past. The extent of transformation to self-love was brought to light in this somewhat extreme situation. I know that in the past, my head would have been filled with self-hatred: what a disgusting person you are, look at you, literally shitting yourself. I would have been drowning in an ocean of self-blame. Here on the side of the road with my pants sagging, only deep love for myself and all humanity arose. Shame had no hold.
This is the most fundamental transformation there is, I believe. It is worth all the work necessary to achieve it (and for me, a lot of work was required). But, more than worth it.
Day by day, you may not see progress. But it’s when something intense happens – that’s when you can really see how much things have shifted.
So, if you’re on the path of self-love, if you’re on the path to try and escape the loud, critical voice inside your head that tells you that you are not enough, never good enough – keep going. One day at a time.
That should be enough, but my story didn’t end there – watch out, there’s more…
I kept walking, with the now heavy, warm feeling of my underwear being full of all that had just come out. Such an unusual feeling – not an experience I’d ever had before. I walked quickly, wanting to get home to clean up. There was a jauntiness in my step now, freed of the pain of the contractions. I walked like a strange cowboy as I tried to keep everything contained within my pants, swinging each leg forward without bending it too much.
Quite soon this changed. My stomach started contracting again. I thought: NO! It can’t possibly be happening again. Everything is already out, surely!?
But, yes, it was happening again. The contractions started up, wave after wave. I was certainly not going to try and look inside my pants, so I had no idea whether my underpants could hold a second release. The volume of the first was enormous, so I thought there couldn’t be too much left.
I was wrong. Very wrong.
The second one came with the same power as the first, impossible to resist any longer. And with that second one, I could feel the solid warmth going down the legs of my pants. A little terror came over me.
Now I just had to get home. Everything became fixated on getting back home as quickly as possible. I was walking as fast as I could, sweating, while still keeping up this strange gait, swinging one leg then the second.
At this stage there was nothing I could do. Even if there was somewhere to hide, I now had nothing to clean myself with. So all there was to do was to keep going and keep going, mile after mile, and hope that this second one was it.
I got within sight of the property and breathed a sigh of relief. And then the contractions started up again. I wondered how was this even possible, what more could there be? I discovered that when the entire contents of your colon wants to come out, this is a pretty significant volume. Even though I was within sight of the property, a third round arrived, this time pouring down my pant leg. I dared to glance behind me and saw that now I was leaving a trail of little spots, indicating that it had all reached my ankles and was coming out the bottom of my pants, over my shoes.
I turned into the driveway. I could hear voices, the family of the property owner playing in the dusk. I prayed that nobody would stop me as I passed and want to talk. I did not make it without a fourth extraction. A trail of little patties appeared on the floor behind me as I shuffled directly to the bathroom and finally, finally swung my legs over the edge and into the tub.
Now I could begin the process of transitioning from wild beast to civilized human again, involving a long process of progressively disrobing and cleansing for the rest of the evening.
Through it all, deep love is all I felt. Caring, kindness, and humanity.
So, my invitation to all of you on a journey of self-discovery and self-compassion is to keep training. Each day, one day at a time. And it’s to notice, when things are really shitty… how far you’ve come. You are beautiful, just as you are, and you are loved.