Holding the Container
by T. Perry Bowers
Holding the Container is a concept you can apply to every aspect of your life: business, music or personal. Almost everything can be seen as a container. Your life, your marriage, your band, your business, your possessions: they are all containers. Events too – concerts, ceremonies, parties, performances: they’re containers.
Holding the container is about making sure the containers that really matter are solid. There is always some with leaks. Lately, I’ve been considering where the containers of my life are leaking.
For the most part, at the moment, my containers are strong. My business is going well. My home life is good. My band is progressing at a nice “well, we are in our forties” pace. My daily practices are solid. I just took another belt test in Aikido and I got my first buck with my bow this year. I’m still writing music, playing guitar and drums.
However, it hasn’t always been this way. I’ve gone through a personal bankruptcy. My marriage has seen some serious lows. My bands have broken up and stayed disbanded for long periods of time. I didn’t use to practice self-defense or the art of hunting – two things that now help plug the leaks in my containers.
I’ve managed to repair most of the leaks in my containers. For now they are holding water. I’m looking back and wondering how did I do that?
I count myself lucky for the way I was raised. My childhood wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t crazy. I know a few people who were raised in the midst of craziness. My parents got divorced when I was about eleven years old but they separated in a civil way and we went on with our lives.
I had good schooling. In high school I went to private schools and our teachers cared for their students. I had the opportunity to go to college. I traveled all over this country and abroad. By the time I was out of college, I had been blessed many times over with incredible opportunities.
Although I had to work through a few mentally traumatic circumstances in my childhood, my foundation was solid. This is a huge factor in my ability to keep my containers solid.
If you were raised in crazy you know it’s not that easy. It can take a person a whole lifetime to unravel crazy.
Another factor that helps me to avoid leaks is I have always been curious. I’ve asked myself, “how do I create balance?” – a curiosity that led me to the Origin Teachings of the Delicate Lodge. These teachings contain a series of medicine wheels that reference “wholeness.”
The wheels are the containers. Bowls, the earth, a sphere – everything that can be seen as a container can also be seen as a wheel. The terms are interchangeable.
The most basic medicine wheel is a compass. North, South, East and West are represented. In our tradition, the directions also represent something else.
For example the Wheel of the Human: In the East lives the spirit. In the South we have emotion. The West is the body and the North is the mind. I could discuss this wheel for days – its depth is immense, but it all comes back to “Holding the Container.”
This wheel represents you (the human) and it needs to be balanced. All of us have strengths and weaknesses. Some of us are very good at thinking (strong in our minds). But maybe we’re not so in touch with our emotions. If we pay too much attention to one part of the wheel (the mind) and not enough attention to another part (emotions) then there could be a break in our container – or in other words a leak!
I grew up in a time and in a family where we paid close attention to our emotions. My parents and teachers were children of the sixties. Peace, love, healing and listening to each other were the paradigms of the day.
When my parents got divorced I was continually asked, “how are you feeling?” It was seen as healthy to be aware of your feelings. And, of course it is. But feelings come and go, and I’ve found if I place too much value on the way I am feeling I can easily get stuck. If I let the feelings come and let them go, I am able to learn from them and move on.
Some have said being in a perfect state of peace reflects a perfect state of balance. Imagine you feel at peace. You’re not sad, not happy, just content. Spiritual teachers whom I respect a great deal have guided us towards this state of perfect peace.
I am finding, in order to get there, I need to have balance in my mind, body and spirit. I am working especially on my physical state of peace.
My whole life has come into more balance through studying a martial art. I am working on my physical well-being, while I am recognizing there is danger in this world. It’s not all peace and love.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “you create your own reality.” To a certain degree, I think this is true, but ever since the “new age” movement has taken root in our world, some people believe they can just wish bad people and negative circumstances out of their lives.
Unfortunately, no matter how much positive thinking you do, you will never totally eliminate the potential for violence in your life. If you take a walk in the wrong part of Chicago at the wrong time, no visualization or mantra of peace will protect you!
Part of being a good martial artist is to avoid walking in the wrong places, but anyone can be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The sooner we face the ugly truths in this world, the sooner we will find balance.
I eat meat. Eating meat is a violent act. Something has to die in order for me to live. (Actually even vegetables have to die if I consume them).
That’s why I hunt. I want to face the truth about what keeps me alive. I don’t want to be removed from the reality of death. I want to stare it in the face. It helps me to be present in my life and it helps me face my own death.
Most of us live sheltered lives. I like comfort just as much as the next guy, but in order for me to truly be comfortable, I have to engage in balancing myself and this means coming out of my comfort zones on a daily basis.
It’s like breathing for me. If I simply breathe normal breaths all of the time, I feel OK. if I do some cardiovascular exercise, I breathe more heavily for a short period of time, but when I come back to normal breath, it’s easier. It feels good.
The intensity of hunting and aikido and facing the ugly in this world is my cardio. When my heart stops racing and I feel safe again, I’m content. I’m not agitated or anxious. I’m at peace in my own container.