Taking My Lizard for a Walk

The man who never alters his opinions is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.

– William Blake


This lizard is so lovely! She’s so iridescent and spectacular I feel a bit guilty sharing anything that would position her in a light that is negative.

Certainly, William Blake wasn’t thinking of this sweet reptile! He was pointing to the cold-blooded bottom-dwellers who crawl through the basement corridors of the mind. The judgmental dinosaur thoughts which have no interest in crawling into the sunlight and exposing themselves to what’s really going on.

Like it or not, our lizard brains are a part of us. Buried deep inside our heads, the limbic system isn’t going anywhere any time soon, which is why I’ve named mine. Ms. Lizzy is what I call her. With some light-hearted effort, I’m learning to see her as a friend and an ally. I’m altering my opinions and the story I tell myself about her.

Although she can be a bit over-zealous in her criticisms and isn’t very good at pausing in a world that is in a constant state of hyper-arousal, Ms. Lizzy willingly crawls out of her cave and into the sun when I’m gentle with her. All reptiles are heat-seekers. Things just have a way of going better when I help her feel safe in what she perceives as a cactus-filled universe.

Here in New Mexico, I’ve had my fair share of prickly moments, but even in the midst of my driest and thirstiest experiences in this desert, there’s more than enough beauty and sustenance.

Just the other night I attended a Slowing Down workshop at the Academy for the Love of Learning*, an amazing organization located in the midst of the high desert whose mission is to help us find wonder and awakening through learning. One could say it’s a place where hearts open in the warmth and beauty found in community.

Walking the campus warmed by the light of an impressionistic sunset, I held a glimmering strawberry in one hand and a chocolate truffle in the other.  It’s companion, a second truffle, was meeting its demise over a grateful tongue as I gazed at the half moon rising above me. A few delicious minutes later a sentry robin sang a deliriously syncopated pattern of indecipherable notes! Like the child I once was in a former world, I sucked in the aroma of strawberries playing hide and seek with the scent of dusty piñon. Every complaint Ms. Lizzy had when I stepped over the Academy’s threshold was serenaded away to a faraway place to the beat of a cicadan chorus.

There was more than enough – a miraculous overflowing of peace and reverence – which placed every facet of my being in a state of ease and acceptance. Even Ms. Lizzy, who was working overtime the last few weeks, slipped into the stream of experiential wonder and gratitude.

One thing’s certain, dinosaurs aren’t wired for mindful requests or gentle suggestions, and Ms. Lizzy can tango with the best of them. It’s not uncommon to hear her roar: YOU CAN’T AFFORD THIS TIME! YOU NEED TO WORK HARDER! YOU HAVE BUSINESS TO ATTEND TO, GIRRRLFRIEND! THE WORLD WILL END IF YOU DON’T… [ fill in your blank here !!!]

Clearly, she has no idea how to ask for it, but Ms.Lizzy needs frequent invitations to bask in the present moment. It’s up to me to discern her alarm bells and melodrama as signals for slowing down and taking time for paying attention to the things that matter most.

And, if I’m honest with myself, sometimes a gentle reminder is pretty easy to ignore. If Ms.Lizzy thinks I’m in danger, she cares enough to rattle and roar. Yes, there will always be times when I’m carried away on her conveyor belt of fearful hollerings, it’s part of the experience of being perfectly human. Yes, we’re all perfect.

So here’s my call to action!

Instead of thinking your Lizard Brain’s judgments and expectations of perfection are realistic or even remotely achievable, why not allow the idea of being perfectly human, just as you are in this very moment, slowly sink in and heal the self-inflicted scars that aren’t serving you?

And the next time your lizard brain raises it’s vocal cords into a hellacious chorus, try naming it! And then take her on a walk to a place of beauty–one that deeply touches you. With some strawberries and a couple of chocolate truffles in hand – who knows what might happen! You could find yourself overcome by the awareness of wholeness while surround by a flock of songbirds in a welcoming forest.

The world and all its beauty is calling you. Because the world and all its beauty is a part of you. 

For more information about the Academy for the Love of Learning and their beautiful work in the world, it’s easy to click here.  Feel free to leave a comment and join my newsletter below! 

Photo Credits:  Ms. Lizzy Visits Chaco Canyon by Susan J. Preston, Chaco Canyon, NM © 2019, all rights reserved
Technical: Fuji XT-2 | 55mm (XT 16-55mm f2.8 R LM WR) | 1/450 sec | f 8  | ISO 200


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