September 7, 2017

Disney’s Most Mindful Lesson: How our Lives come Full Circle.

The current soundtrack to my life includes “Circle of Life” from “The Lion King,” because a part of my life has come full circle.

I have the first line stuck in my head—“Nants ingonyama bagithi baba”—which translates to, “There comes the lion.”

Ironically, I don’t care much for Disney movies. But I am struck by the image of a lion.

I’m exploring my orientation to myself and womanhood through analogies and images of women in a natural habitat who travel in loyal packs, just like lions and wolves.

I feel empowered by the image of women taking on the world with the grace, poise, and fierceness these animals embody with the support of a pack.

My personification of a lion is timely because I’ve started reading Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés. She’s created a new lexicon to describe the female psyche by drawing parallels between the characteristics of wolves and women.

I’m still learning what it means to be a woman.

She writes, “A healthy woman is much like a wolf: robust, chock-full, strong life force, life-giving, territorially aware, inventive, loyal, roving.”

In my opinion, these characteristics also describe the behaviors of lions.

Like a broken record, these lyrics from “The Lion King” were playing in my mind while I was walking to a women’s meditation group, as I meandered through the streets of the concrete jungle I now call home.

My therapist facilitates this group. I started to attend this group as a way to diversify my growth and to further develop my mindfulness practice.

The group meets close to my former place of employment, the place where I had my first social work job after graduation—the catalyst for me entering therapy to process traumatic events in my life that were reflected in the work I was doing.

I thought this job was the worst thing to ever happen to me, which is significant considering my history of violence. I was so emotionally unsafe at this job for a host of reasons, so I felt forced into therapy.

At the recommendation of my mentor, who graciously bore witness to my suffering at this job, I began individual therapy and took a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course, where I continued to learn how to be a healthy woman by processing my history of abuse and neglect.

I used to call this experience a “rude awakening.” Now, I refer to my time working at the methadone clinic as a “necessary and healing awakening in disguise.”

Through therapy and mentorship, it became clear to me that I was not safe or healthy enough to continue working at the methadone clinic. I left after six months, thinking I would never return to that building on the corner.

A year and two months later, my life came full circle.

This women’s meditation group is down the block from the methadone clinic.

I arrive now at this women’s meditation group by taking the same bus to the same stop I did when I was working at the methadone clinic.

While walking home from a group session, I was reflecting on the circularity of attending the women’s meditation group—a crucial time for me to explore my womanhood in safety and concert with other women—a block away from where my journey of mindfulness and healing began.

With those lyrics still stuck in my head, I looked down at my sun tattoo on my left forearm as the sun was setting over Philadelphia.

I caught a glimpse of the orange and rose-hued sun set against the skyline. It was a particularly hot and humid Tuesday evening in July.

I got the sun tattoo in late March of this year to celebrate my transformation to date—namely, me publicly announcing that I had been raped—and to serve as a pictorial reminder of one of Pema Chödrön‘s quotes that I often reflect on.

She writes, “The sun only has one day. Acknowledging the preciousness of each day lets us reconnect with our basic joy.”

Or, on days when I’m feeling particularly poetic, I look at my sun tattoo, fondly think of Maya Angelou, and recite to myself, “Still, I rise.”

I finally fell in love with the process of transforming into my best self, a process that is cyclical, one that is not entirely complete, and one I can trust myself to show up for—no differently than I can trust the sun to rise every morning.

With each new day, illuminated by the sun’s warmth, we are afforded a fresh start and the opportunity to try (and try again). We have the chance to make new and different choices.

With each new day, the sun casts light on our darkest moments, guiding our paths toward enlightenment.

Disney’s most mindful life lesson is that, with each new day—as the song goes—we can choose to:

“Step into the sun [because] it’s the circle of life. And it moves us all. Through despair and hope, through faith and love ’til we find our place on the path unwinding in the circle, the circle of life.”


Author: Genevieve Marie Gellert
Image: YouTube screenshot
Editor: Leah Sugerman
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Callie Rushton

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