Throwing Stones

Old 04-02-2011, 07:57 PM
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Lightbulb Throwing Stones

At a time in my life when despair seemed the order of the day and my teeth ground in frustration at every passing sling and arrow, I talked to a friend of mine who had weathered, with grace and courage, some of the same challenges that I was going through. I asked her what to do.

"Throw stones." She advised me.

"Huh?" I said.

"It's an exercise, a ritual, an exorcism, if you will," she said. Since my friend is practical, tough, and clearheaded, I swallowed my skepticism and asked for details.

"It's called the resentment exercise, " she explained, " and I"ll share it with you, but you must promise to do all the steps involved. Just thinking about it isn't enough."

"Why?" I asked.

"Because the mind needs concrete evidence to rearrange its patterns, and the emotions need motion in order to do the same."

I dutifully promised.

It was like a recipe. It went like this:

Write down on a piece of paper all -all!- the frustrations and resentments you are filled with, past and present, trivial or catastrophic.

"All?" I inquired again in disbelief.

"Well," she said, "the first time I did this exercise, I couldn't bear to write down my feelings about my father's stroke, my mother's violent, uncontrollable Alzheimer's, or the book project that fell through after months of work." (She is a writer too) "Write down most of your resentments," she said. "You can tackle the major issues later, in a month or two, after you lighten the load."

It definitely needed lightening. But in my curious, stubborn fashion, my essential nature got the better of me, and I included everything on my list. I counted twenty-one hurts, angers, fears. How could anyone hold twenty-one resentments over the years? I told you I included everything.

"Number the resentments," advised my friend, "and then go to the store and buy a marking pen."

I did as I was told.

"Now," she said, "gather stones."


"Gather stones. Go out to the country or a park and gather stones." I didn't need to ask how many.

"Yes," she affirmed. "One stone for each numbered resentment on yur list. Mark each stone with a corresponding number. Then," she said, "you'll be ready. You'll be ready to throw your stones."

The day was stormy when I began to gather my stones, my list and marking pen clutched in my hand. I gathered them by color, weight, size, configuration. Not unlike, I reflected, the individual resentments on my list. I felt both foolish and mysterious. I was an ancient priestess gathering gifts to assuage the fates. The situation portended good.

Here was a rock for heartbreak-sharp and jagged with gray-blue veins running through it. Here was a heavy, slimy, misshapen stone. I knew what number I would write on it. Here were small stones of triviality. Here were stones of dark and deep. I gathered them all, twenty-one stones, each one discrete and different, each one a problem unresolved, each one an emotional universe.

I sat on the curb above the park, there, where the sere and wintry grass hugged a ravine full of brush. I sorted my stones. I marked my stones, white ink on dark rock. I consulted my list. I looked everywhere around me. There was noone one watching. Only me and my stones.

Then, slowly, carefully, ceremoniously, I began to throw my stones into the ravine, whispering their messages after them as they skidded down the hill. When I was finished, even the wind was still. There was only the echo of my voice on the air and the sound of my breath, gritty as grave, in my throat. I tore up the written list and scattered its strips into the ravine as well.

"No more," I said. "Done." I might have said more. But I noticed then that the gravel in my throat was gone. As was the heaviness in my gut. As was the pain in my right side that had plagued me with its insistent, incessant throbbing. As was the stone that had heretofore pierced my heart. I was lighter. I was clear. I was empty.

I called my friend. I told her about throwing stones. "I may have to repeat the experience in a few months," I told her. "There may be more."

"Of course," she said. "There's bound to be more." Her mother had just died, without recognizing the face of the daughter who had cared for her.

I offered to come to her area of the country to be with her. "We could," I ventured, "throw stones together."

"She began to cry. "Hurry," she said to me. "Bring stones. Bring lots and lots of stones."

----from Soulwork by Betty Clare Moffatt

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